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Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Taking "trick-or-treating" to the next level (or rather just a different level), a new phenomenon has been on the rise, called "trunk-or-treating". You may have heard something about it in the human interest section of the news, or maybe have even participated in it. The question mostly being asked is, "What do you think about trunk-or-treating?" Frankly, I'm torn.

It's a good idea, in theory, but like all things that are good in theory, I'm not willing to trust it further than I can throw it. And since it's virtually impossible to throw an abstract concept, I obviously don't trust it very much.

In "trick-or-treating", children go from door to door in their neighborhood, knocking on the doors and positing the choice of dishing out treats or possibly getting tricked. The homeowner, usually preferring not to be tricked later in the night, doles out candy bars that are admittedly NOT a "fun size" - and the process continues down the street. In fact, it usually continues until someone passes out (from sleep deprivation or diabetic shock) or the haul is too large to physically move and the children must be picked up - preferably with some kind of crane or forklift.

In "trunk-or-treating", the rules change. Instead of lying in wait at the door of their homes, the candy offerings are poured into the trunk of the car and all of the cars meet in one spot for the neighborhood. Then children come to this parking lot candy buffet and visit all of the trunks. That's it.

Again, I am completely torn on this issue. The side of me that loves the idea is the child inside of me, who is currently cackling at the prospect of a "parking lot candy buffet". The side of me that is most against it is the adult inside of me, who is among the population deemed "too old" to be wandering about town in a disguise in attempts to not have to pay for candy, but rather has to pay for candy that will be doled out to your snot-nosed offspring. For him, the notion of making it EASIER for children to find my candy and eat it is one that I am not on board with at all.

Cue the "in my day" speech, possibly involving walking five miles uphill (both ways) just for one of those horrible white baggies of doorstop-kin marshmallows that tasted as bad as every other sense warned you about them.

Now that the demons in me have subsided, I will admit that it's not TOTALLY a horrible idea. I can see that for rural towns, where visiting four houses might actually entail walking five miles, a chance for everyone to get together in one place and have a celebration for the holiday and have the chance to have your kids actually get some candy - that sounds like an acceptable idea. But again, good in theory rarely means it's good in practice.

My concern is that most times you hear about these trunk-or-treat parties/events, they're taking place at CHURCHES. Not only that, but in the same sentence you'll often hear SOMETHING religious or with a religious theme, or even just the words "Veggie Tales". My concern is that the church is trying to steal away this holiday! To the religious, anything that promotes the slightest bit of happiness in relation to anything non-Jesus (be it a witch, zombie, or Thomas the Tank Engine) is something that must be stopped or captured and then brainwashed into oblivion. Mixing churches with Hallowe'en is like trying to have your bachelor's party at your grandmother's house - with her in it.

My other concern is the creepy tone set by the words themselves. With "trick-or-treat", you know what the two options are. "Give me a treat, or I will commit some kind of trick on you." With this new "trunk-or-treat" concept, what's at stake? Are they going to lock children in a trunk when they run out of candy? Just from a language standpoint, it's confusing and admittedly creepy-sounding.

Also, what are childless male adults supposed to do? We already get enough guff from society as a whole if we even take the slightest interest in anything related to children. Something tells me that if parents knew beforehand which houses on a block were inhabited by single male adults without children, they would specifically wanr their children to avoid those houses. Nevermind the fact that the intentions of my ilk are just to hand out candy to children - we're already seen as "predators" and "sociopaths" and "red flags" to parents. Something tells me that an adult male with no children, like myself, would get the crap beat out of him for showing up in a parking lot with a trunkload of candy - even if everything took place in plain sight of the parents.

What it all boils down to is that I'm really not all that into the trunk-or-treating concept. I think it's dangerous to the holiday itself, in spirit and in tradition. Would I recommend it to rural areas? Sure. Nothing makes the night easier for parents and children alike than meeting up, getting it all over with and doing minimal walking. Would I recommend it to children? Sure. Nothing beats a 500-foot walk in a parking lot to secure a huge sugar haul instead of the 5-mile-uphill-in-the-snow-both-ways walks of my day. Would I recommend it to true fans of Hallowe'en, who know the history of the day itself (including why I always spell it with an apostrophe) and live to decorate and spook and share the true experiences of this delightfully-devilish nighttime adventure? Not a chance.

And in return for an offering of Boo Berry, I'd gladly share some of my tales...

(The trunk-or-treating "ritual")

Read more!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Letter to RedEye: Nas and the N-Word

It's been a while, so I decided to respond to one of today's RedEye's reader response boxes. The article was about some rapper named Nas who decided his next album's title was going to be "NIGGER". This has, obviously, turned heads and raised eyebrows and [verb]ed many [other body part]s. So the question was whether or not this was an acceptable move to make. After all, the rapper is just making a statement that just because the NAACP holds a ceremonial burial for a word, that doesn't mean it's dead. Not by a long shot. He sees it as empowering. Many kind of see it as nothing but hateful and/or stupid.

Here's my response:

Nas has every right to use that word as the title of his album. Words are just ways we convey ideas, and thankfully we can't control people's ideas the way that we seem to be attempting to control people's words. Sometimes I wonder what ever happened to this "Freedom of Speech" concept I learned about all throughout my education. You can't just banish or bury a word because you don't like the ideas it's conveying (whether or not it's conveying that exact idea you dislike). I still recall hearing that when they tried to banish one form of that word, people started replacing it with "ninja" instead. Are you going to banish that word and all its history and culture just because someone used it to possibly convey an idea of racism?

Frankly, I'm more upset over everyone hiding behind the term "N-word" instead of just saying it. Didn't Harry Potter just spend seven years of his fictional life trying to teach us that saying "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" only increased Voldemort's power over people? So why is it that nobody's allowed to use "That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Spelled", even if only to discuss it sensibly? We need to stop fighting the tool of lanugage and start fighting the real culprits - the ideas of racism and hatred that create the need for these words to be expressed. In the end though, I'd rather have people using words to express these ideas than actions.

Oh, and before you call me a hypocrite for saying "N-word" - I'm pretty sure this wouldn't get printed if I spelled it out just to make the point.

Aaron Samuels, 24, Bridgeport

As always, I'll keep you all informed if it gets printed. I doubt it, but it's worth trying.

Besides, I just wanted to get something new printed with my age now as 24... Read more!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Birthday Musings!

I know, this has absolutely nothing to do with anti-PETA slogans or illegal immigration debate (if you can call one man shouting and fuming about something one-sidedly a "debate") - but I took a day off from writing blogs (on purpose, unlike the days where I simply forget or have no time) and wanted to share some information about my birthday.

Yes, it was my "golden birthday" - the birthday where the age you are turning is the day in the month of your birthdate.

So since it was October 24th - it's pretty obvious how old I am today.

Here's some information on this day in history:

Historical Events:

October 24th, 1861 - The First Transcontinental Telegraph line across the United States is completed, spelling the end for the 18-month-old Pony Express.

October 24th, 1901 - Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to go over Niagra Falls in a barrel.

October 24th, 1911 - Orville Wright remained in the air 9 minutes and 45 seconds in a glider at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina setting a new world record that stood for 10 years.

October 24th, 1917 - The day of the Russian revolution, The Red Revolution.

October 24th, 1926 - Harry Houdini's last performance, which was at the Garrick Theatre in Detroit, Michigan.

October 24th, 1929 - "Black Thursday" stock market crash on the New York Stock Exchange.

October 24th, 1935 - Italy invades Ethiopia.

October 24th, 1945 - Founding of the United Nations.

October 24th, 1947 - Walt Disney testifies to the House Un-American Activities Committee, naming Disney employees he believes to be communists.

October 24th, 1973 - Yom Kippur War ends.

October 24th, 2003 - Concorde makes its last commercial flight.

Shared Birthdays:

10/24/1632 - Anton van Leeuwenhoek, Dutch microbiologist

10/24/1855 - James S. Sherman, Vice President of the United States

10/24/1887 - Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, Queen of Spain

10/24/1891 - Rafael Molina-Trujillo, President of the Dominican Republic

10/24/1915 - Roger Milliken, American millionaire

10/24/1930 - The Big Bopper, American singer

10/24/1930 - Sultan Ahmad Shah, King of Malaysia

10/24/1947 - Kevin Kline, American actor

10/24/1981 - Tila Tequila, American model

10/24/1984 - Kaela Kimura, Japanese model and singer

People Who Died on My Birthday:

10/24/1537 - Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII of England

10/24/1601 - Tycho Brahe, Danish astronomer

10/24/1669 - William Prynne, English Puritan leader

10/24/1852 - Daniel Webster, American lawyer and politician

10/24/1944 - Louis Renault, French automobile manufacturer

10/24/1957 - Christian Dior, French fashion designer

10/24/1972 - Jackie Robinson, baseball player

10/24/1991 - Gene Roddenberry, American television producer

10/24/1997 - Don Messick, American voice actor

10/24/2005 - Rosa Parks, American civil rights activist

All in all, it's a weird day. And United Nations Day, officially. And the anniversary of "Black Thursday". Still can't believe how many important people died on my birthday. I advise everyone to take a few moments and Wikipedia their own birthday. You just might learn something interesting...


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dumbledore is Gay.

For those of you who haven't read the Harry Potter series up until the end of Book Seven - I advise you take the title with a grain of salt, as though I'm just some internet jerk who's poking fun at Harry Potter fans. Go on, run along then and maybe pick up the series and put a little magic in your dreary life.

Seriously. Spoilers ahead.

Not joking. Spoileriffic.

Okay, you're been warned.

Yes, Dumbledore is indeed gay. This isn't some introspective nitpickery from re-reading the whole series eleventy times or anything - it's straight from the horse's mouth. Okay, well, the horse's creator's mouth.

J.K. Rowling recently had an interview at Carnegie Hall, answering questions from select people and sweepstakes winners and such. One of the questions was "Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?" I leave you to read the response of Rowling herself:

My truthful answer to you... I always thought of Dumbledore as gay. [ovation.] ... Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was. To an extent, do we say it excused Dumbledore a little more because falling in love can blind us to an extend, but he met someone as brilliant as he was, and rather like Bellatrix he was very drawn to this brilliant person, and horribly, terribly let down by him. Yeah, that's how i always saw Dumbledore. In fact, recently I was in a script read through for the sixth film, and they had Dumbledore saying a line to Harry early in the script saying 'I knew a girl once, whose hair'... [laughter]. I had to write a little note in the margin and slide it along to the scriptwriter, 'Dumbledore's gay!' [laughter] If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!

And then, after a follow-up question that turned out to be thanks for the Dumbledore answer, J.K. Rowling said:

You needed something to keep you going for the next 10 years! Oh, my god, the fan fiction now, eh?

By the way, please spare me the fan-fiction. While I enjoy the thought of steamy romance based on fictional characters and the action they were never scripted to take part in, something is just too unsettling in my mind regarding the minutia of old gay wizard sex. No offense to the homosexuals, or elderly, or wizards (I suppose) - but I really would prefer not to read about it.

So what other awe-inspiring things were revealed by the author regarding her seven books and what things transpired before and after the stories themselves?

Neville finds love.

Hagrid does not.

Secrets are finally revealed about Dumbledore's brother and the "inappropriate charms" he used on a goat.

Petunia wanted to be a witch.

Yes, Death Eaters were a lot like German Nazis.

Sorry, the wizarding world doesn't employ werewolves.

Oh, and Snape? There's discussion about Snape.

You'll probably have to read the article to find out about all of those things. I just thought I needed to pass along this information to my fellow Potter fans who might not have been aware of this revelation at Carnegie Hall (as I had not been, until I read it on Fark and had to click the link to see if it was true, or just some internet jerk who might as been poking fun at Harry Potter fans, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post).

So read, enjoy, and if you feel like waiting around for the flood of Dumbledore-based fanfiction, be my guest.

You're just not getting any of it from me.

(The "J.K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall" Transcripts) Read more!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Absinthe Makes a Legal Comeback!

It's a cloudy green liquid with an equally-foggy past, swirling its way around the artists of olden days, back before absinthe was outlawed - as it has remained for about 95 years.

Well, soon a new era of absinthe may be upon us. Veridian Spirits of New York has figured out how to produce the liquor without the FDA-regulated problems that led to its illegal status. The new version of absinthe is bottled as Lucid Absinthe Superieure and will soon have partners in no-longer-crime. Here's the scoop:

Absinthe gets its distinctive flavor from the herbs anise and fennel, with which it is distilled, and its name from a third herb called grande wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), which contains the compound thujone. The amount of thujone, once considered to cause hallucinations or epilepsy, is regulated in the United States. Lucid's maker found a way to distill Lucid so that it contains less than 10 parts per million of thujone, which the government considers "thujone-free".

So for those of you hard-core absinthers, this loss of thujone-related craziness may mean a loss of interest, since it's no longer the official mind-blowing concoction shared in the past by Hemingway, Degas, Zola, Wilde, Picasso and Van Gogh (it's rumored that absinthe led to the ear-chopping that made him more famous). Still, while the Green Fairy made have lost a bit of the magic it once had, this new generation of absinthe liquors is imbibed in the same traditional magical methods.

For those of you who, like me before reading these articles, don't know anything about absinthe - there is a special method to preparing it for consumption. Fountains are involved. Typically, the rather-strong liquor itself is extremely bitter, containing no sugars in its production. To make up for this, many prepare their drinks in a very specific way. You put your measure of absinthe in the glass (many absinthe-specific glasses have a bulb at the bottom for one ounce of absinthe), and then place a sugar cube on a slotted spoon and pour water over the sugar cube, adding it to the drink until the cloudy concoction is at your specific level of dilution and less-bitterness. Bars used to have water fountains specifically for this purpose (and for preparing multiple drinks, quickly). I've also seen another method, which involves setting the sugar cube on fire and letting the melting sugar drip through the spoon and into the drink. I guess this is for purists who want to sweeten the drink without weakening it with water.

While, like with any illegal substance, underground groups and clubs have been making and sharing original absinthe since its banishment almost 100 years ago, this addition of legal versions is opening the mystique of the green liquor to bars and clubs (like Lumen here in Chicago). Many who plan on stocking these new absinthe bottles have installed classic water fountains. The real wonder is in the new drinks being created by these bars. Many are opting for new-age drinks, like absinthe and Red Bull. A few are paying homage to Hemingway and his "Death in the Afternoon Cocktail" - one ounce of absinthe and adding iced champagne until it reaches the "desired milkiness". There's also a martini drink called "Starry Night" which contains absinthe, Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka, a simple syrup and star anise floating on top as garnish. Whether it's as sophisticated as that martini or new "absinthe-minded shooters" which are shot glasses with one part absinthe and one part simple syrup, there's a new world of cloudy green alcoholic beverages that will be available for consumption - if you can handle the price.

Lucid is slowly making its way with availability across the country, but bottles are going for $59.99 for each 750-ml bottle. There are a few more producers of newer "thujone-free" versions of absinthe, but bottles are also in the $50-60 range. I don't have any information on what absinthe-inspired cocktails are being priced at, but I would assume it's proportional to the bottles. Expect it to be on the higher end of the price list; after all, the Lucid version is 124-proof!

Please remember to drink responsibly, and always wear safety goggles when burning sugar cubes on slotted spoons over cloudy liquors!

"Got tight last night on absinthe. Did knife tricks." - Ernest Hemingway

(One article about new absinthe)
(Another article, with history and methodology)

Read more!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ParkMagic or ParkNonsense?

There are 33,000 parking meters on the streets in the city of Chicago. I remember a simpler time, when you pulled up to a meter, whucked in a few quarters to throw time on the clock as needed, and went about your business. You didn't want to come back rushing to feed the meter, so you erred on the side of caution and maybe put in a little extra to make sure you have the time. You finish your business, come back to your car, and while for a second you lament the cents wasted with 12 minutes left on the meter, you consider those pennies better than the amount of a parking ticket, and consider it a charitable gift to whomever pulls their car in during the next 12 minutes.

If you think this "simpler time" is present day, you're sorely mistaken. Welcome to the ParkMagic era.

ParkMagic is an Ireland-based company with a U.S. site in Michigan. Basically the program entails a beeper-looking device that you buy and initially load with $15 or more. As you pull up to a parking meter, you then call this number, punch in your beeper information and the zone of your meter (yes, there are ZONES now, more on that in a minute), and it downloads to your beeper with a countdown instead of the meter. Now, instead of running to the meter to feed it more, you dash to your cellphone to call back up and dial in more money. Supposedly in the future, if this becomes mainstream, you'll be able to receive e-mails of traffic and availability as well as RECEIVE calls from your meter when it's close to expiring.

Some people may see this as a vast improvement, mostly because they don't need quarters anymore. I see it as nothing but a nuisance and digital nonsense.

For starters, the ZONES. I already am loathed at the idea that the city can just decree that just for arriving in the city and wanting to do business and stimulate the economy, you must pay for the privilege of leaving your car. We really are just a few steps away from tolls just to enter the precious city space. Sorry, city, but you're just slabs of pavement and asphalt and hobo urine - so GET OVER YOURSELF and just let me park the damned car. There used to be a STANDARD rate of coinage in a meter in relation to time allowed to park there. Now there are ZONES, from 1 to 6, which dictate how much time a quarter (oh, I'm sorry - 25 electronic cents) will get you. Zone 1 allows five whole minutes, Zone 2 is ten, Zone 3 is fifteen, Zone 4 is twenty, Zone 5 is thirty and Zone 6 allows for an hour.

If technology of today is any indicator, parking at a Zone 1 meter will mean that within 60 seconds, you'll need to be dialing in the number again to go through the menus and wait time due to call volume in order to ensure that your next 5-minute payment goes through before your meter runs out.

Of course, I'm sure that you can pay for more than 5 minutes at a time, but my point stands. Ten seconds to whuck in change, versus four minutes of phone menus to hope that everything works right and your beeper registers your payment.

Here's where a big truckload of nonsense comes into play: everyone is treating this like the city of Chicago is LOSING money somehow on these meters and that the new system will fix everything.

First off, the city starts LOSING money because now a share of the parking meter revenue gets split with ParkMagic. Doesn't anyone know business anymore? The more people you bring in on a deal, the more partners you have to share the profits with. Try watching ONE heist film and then tell me it's a smart idea to bring in some new jackass who wants a cut of the money. He'll probably shoot you and take YOUR cut, too. *shakes fist at ParkMagic* I'm not falling for that one again!!!

Secondly, too much emphasis is being put on cents and minutes and LIES. Take this quote from the ParkMagic CEO: "People pay for one hour. If they come back in an hour and fifteen minutes and get a ticket, they feel bad about it. If they don't get a ticket, the city has just lost 25 percent of an hour [worth of revenue]." Okay, assuming that you're willing to nitpick over the fact that the city loses that fifteen minutes in revenue (eight cents), that needs to be compared to the FREE money that the city gets from overpaying at a meter and leaving before time expires. You can't simply argue that it doesn't count, because someone else will pull into that spot and NOT pay money because time's still on the meter; we're using the same logic of "if that thing happens in this way" like the failure to issue a ticket, and the city hasn't even LOST money because the meter is fed and that's money for the city no matter whose car is parked there.

It's also a foolish idea to base this on the failure to issue tickets, which we ALL know is NOT the case. Even at a rate of two tickets per hour, I have a feeling that this revenue for the city not only pays for the meter agent's wages for the hour, but also counteracts all of those missed-eight-cents meters. I'm also pretty sure that more than two tickets are written per hour by each agent.

Thirdly, doesn't this go against everything that our politicians have been talking about? I may not have the best memory in the world, but wasn't it not too long ago that my favorite nemesis alderman was trying to ban radar detectors because they could be used to warn drivers of speed cameras? Didn't that alderman admit, point blank, that all of those tickets weren't just something that brought in revenue for the city - they were downright PART OF THE BUDGET?

So how is it that the aldermen are fine with this ParkMagic program? They lose money from the meters because the new partner gets a cut, and they're admittedly welcoming in a system that would potentially reduce the number of meter-related parking tickets by a drastic amount. Something just really doesn't seem right here. I mean, it seems completely right if you're a driver in the city of Chicago - which is what's baffling me. Maybe I'm just not used to programs potentially helping actual citizens (I mean, until the lack of ticket money creates a deficit that needs to be made up for by inevitably creating higher taxes).

I can't shake the feeling that this will bite us all in the ass.

Of course, I could be wrong. I don't even drive or own a car...

(The article about ParkMagic)

Read more!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Noose Nuisance

So apparently the new "fad" for the news world and idiots around the country is the noose. The incident in Jena apparently was the spark that ignited the moronic cavalcade of noose-related stories popping up, even though the Jena 6 incident really had nothing to do with a noose.

Yes, earlier that year, three white kids hung nooses from trees and were unfairly let off with a warning.

Nothing to do with the fact that six black kids beat up a white kid and jailarity ensued and then Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton got in the mix. And whenever those two start speaking out, they fan the flames of hatred as well. I don't like to think of myself as a bigot or a racist - but when those two start with their claptrap and outcries and demands, I have to admit that my personal view of their race diminishes proportionately with the size of the ruckus they're creating.

Not surprisingly, others must feel the same way I do (well, maybe a hundredfold worse, since I'd never do anything that a jury would consider a "hate crime" against a race) - because nooses are popping up all over the news stories now. Let's take a quick look:

Yes, you probably heard about the professor who had a noose put on her door.

Get a bunch of college liberals riled up, and the media won't be too far behind. Hilariously enough (if you can find humor in the situation, and I apparently can) - the professor, Madonna Constantine, wasn't even around that day. Another professor found it on Constantine's door, and went to find Constantine's research partner. They went and found security, and eventually called the professor so she wouldn't be startled the next time she went to work.

The uproar caused a march from Teachers College (the education grad school branch of Columbia University) down to the main Columbia campus, and a quote from one of the marchers just kind of made me angry and laugh at the same time.

"Teachers College student Nicole Woodard told them she wasn't surprised by the noose incident because she believes the college lacks racial diversity. "When I walk into a class of 100 students and can count on my fingers how many look like me, that's a problem," said Woodard, who is black. Teachers College, which was founded in 1887 and is the nation's largest grad school for education, has a student body that is 12% black, 11% Asian-American and 7% Hispanic."

Putting those sentences together makes it look like Woodard has twelve fingers. And if the statistics are trying to suggest that the school is indeed not diverse (or "racially homogenized"), I hope that people take into account the fact that it's a grad school for education majors. There are fewer minority teachers than ever, both in the major while trying to get their teaching certification, and in the profession - since there's a higher rate of minorities failing the teaching exams than white students.

They're actually considering "affirmative action" to get TEACHERS rather than STUDENTS into the schools.

But I digress, let's move on to a lesser-known news story involving a noose:

While working on the completion of a new Home Depot store in Illinois, a construction worker saw a noose made of a foam packaging material hanging in the garden center area.

He decided not to return to work at the store, for safety reasons, and nobody reported the incident until the following Monday, since during the weekend a racial slur had been spraypainted inside the store by vandals.

And let's not forget the student who has since apologized for his actions:

The high-schooler drove around the parking lot of his high school with a noose hanging from his rear-view mirror and a Confederate flag hanging inside his vehicle.

It's still not known if he was suspended or expelled from his school - he hasn't been there since his arrest for disorderly conduct. He has since made a public apology and asked for forgiveness, which has currently been widely accepted by those he offended.

So what does all this mean?

Frankly, I think it means that too many people are giving this symbol way too much power over their lives and emotions.

It's just another example of words and symbols and ideas being STOLEN by racial groups. They get to claim it as their own, it belongs to nobody else. They're the only ones who can use it in a non-threatening manner, and they're the only ones who get to feel threatened by it. Anything else is "racism" to them.

Back in the day, my fraternity was the victim of this "stolen symbol syndrome" - we hosted a party and the flier had the word "ghetto" on it. The party was a costume party and you can undoubtedly guess the theme. While I had little problem with the fact that a few select individuals felt offended by the nature or theme of the party, I was dismayed and offended to hear that a few black females were offended by our use of the word "ghetto" and wrote a formal complaint to the college administration. They claimed it was THEIR WORD and we weren't allowed to use it, especially in such a manner, because it offended them.

I won't go into the many many logical arguments of how the word itself is NOT something entirely owned by African-Americans - I'm pretty sure I've done that before. What I will go into is how it relates to black people and nooses. Just like the whole "ghetto" story, I will admit that for a period of time, nooses were used in lynchings directed at black people, predominantly in the South. However, practically in the same breath, people should be reminded that it wasn't JUST black people who were the victims of lynchings. And then in the NEXT breath, people should be reminded that the noose is a symbol of death - of unbiased and impartial death.

Unless every suicide in the history of mankind that involved a noose was committed by a black person - which it certainly wasn't - there should not be this immediate decision that any noose you view is an attack on that race. Are you seriously going to try and convince me that the hanging of Saddam Hussein was offensive to black people because "that's THEIR terrible death symbol"?

A noose hanging on someone's door shouldn't be seen as anything other than "I want you dead." Just because it was hanging on a black professor's door, why does that automatically mean that it was saying "I want you dead, [n-word]"?

Is it right to hang a symbol of death on someone's property to symbolically state that you wish they were dead? Not really.

Does that automatically make it a racial issue? Not really.

Does that automatically make it a hate crime? Sure, but only in the sense that you probably hate someone if you wish they were dead - not necessarily hating them because of race or religion or something.

All I'm really trying to say is that we spend too much time attributing extra emotions to things that already HAVE emotions attributed to them. There's a lot of hate involved when you display a death implement to someone in hopes that they will get the message and die already. But that hate doesn't need EXTRA emotions like racial bias and sex discrimination and ethnic cleansing or anything tacked on to make it WORSE. It's already BAD. We KNOW that.

Maybe instead of trying to find extra hatred in the world by digging deeper into open wounds, we can try and find more love and compassion and forgiveness to alleviate some of the tension and create LESS hatred in the world that needs to be overanalyzed by the media.

And to avoid ending on a sappy-made-for-TV notion, I'll end by saying that "no noose is good noose."

(The Columbia teacher noose)
(The Home Depot noose)
(The high school noose)

Read more!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Deadly Marathon: Who's to Blame?

I am not a marathon runner. That is one of the biggest reasons you did not see me in the Chicago Marathon - or anywhere near it, for that matter. Another reason would be that it was 88 degrees outside. Call me a product of bad parenting if you will, but my policy is that if it's hot and icky outside - I stay inside where it's cool and refuse to "go out and play." I'm sure that there are even more reasons why I didn't attend the marathon (as a participant or supporter), but those main two seem like explanation enough.

Not surprisingly, I was safer in my air-conditioned room than those who were out in the heat - especially if they were also running in a marathon. 315 of the runners required an ambulance to be removed from the course. Five of them wound up in the hospital as of Sunday night. One runner died. While the death is tragic (unless you were his enemy, which I am not, but I guess that if you were you wouldn't think of it as "tragic"), there's apparently going to be an autopsy to figure out if the death was a result of the heat, or a heart problem, or a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Since the news has not reported anything about a gunshot wound, I feel it's safe to eliminate that third possibility. Still, you never know.

So who is to blame? Anytime a tragic death - or a mass-emergency with over three hundred needing medical care or hospitalization - occurs, fingers have to start pointing. It's our nature. So where are the index fingers collectively drawing our attention?

Several are pointing at the City of Chicago. It's pretty easy, since the word "Chicago" is on all of the memorabilia you could find at the Chicago Marathon. Runners and spectators are blaming Chicago for not providing enough water or enough water stations for the runners. They say that on such a hot day, drinks stations should have been set up at every single mile on the 26.2-mile course, rather than the 15 stations set up every mile or two. The runners were vocal about claims that all of the water stations "were out or really low" on water and Gatorade.

Chicago points its finger right back, particularly at the jackasses who were in the marathon. Shawn Platt, a senior vice president of sponsor LaSalle Bank, said that each of the stations had been outfitted with over 50,000 servings of water and over 35,000 servings of Gatorade. "We checked with all the aid stations, and the amount of water was adequate. We had thousands of thousands of gallons of water," said Platt. The problem, he claimed, was partially about distribution - the bottlenecking at the dispensation tables caused delays and distress, while at the same time he pointed the finger at runners making up for the delay by taking cups two or three at a time, faster than volunteers could fill the cups to replace them.

Several marathon participants and even more spectators decided to point their fingers at the race officials, saying that the weather was too inclimate for marathoning and should have been cancelled at the outright. Also, after failing to cancel it before it started, they point their fingers even harder and say that it should have been cancelled earlier - before all of the people started collapsing and requiring ambulances and the opening of fire hydrants.

So of course, several more marathon participants are pointing their fingers at the race officials, saying that the marathon should NOT have been cancelled because they didn't get to finish and the whole thing kind of becomes a moot point, I suppose. Honestly, I don't think anyone was really stopping them from continuing to run, but people left the watering stations and I guess when the race is cancelled, police escorts and barricades function less and bus routes possibly were routed back to their original statuses.

So now that we've taken a look around the room and watched all the fingers pointed at one another, I think it's time to spin the camera my way and see where my digit's directing:

My finger's pointed straight at you - the runners.

For those runners complaining that it was Chicago's fault for the man who died while running - you can suck an egg. The autopsy showed that it wasn't the heat at all, but rather a heart-valve condition known as mitral valve prolapse. It's common, and usually harmless, but it was the cause of his death.

This goes way beyond the runners who are pointing fingers at others, because every runner not pointing a finger at themselves is just in denial. You do NOT participate in a marathon without practice and training. And if my calculations are correct, it's been pretty damned hot for the last three or four months at LEAST. Are you ALL seriously telling me that you trained for this marathon in the heat, having to provide your OWN water, but when it's time for the big day, you can blame your shortcomings on OTHERS?

Again, I'm no runner. But I'm full of enough common sense to know that any activity you participate in at this high level, you already KNOW the dangers and risks and you take PRECAUTIONS accordingly. You don't play in the NFL and then throw a hissy fit when your arm gets fractured from a powerful tackle. If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

But it doesn't stop there - I'm especially pointing my finger at the JACKASS runners. When all of the water station attendants were being questioned in the huge water-shortage inquisition, you know what almost all of them had to say? "We had the water. We were trying to get the water out. But runners were taking more than one cup at a time, injuring each other to scramble for cups faster than we could put them out, and then were WASTING the water by dumping it on themselves instead of DRINKING it." Drinking water is for drinking - mist systems and sponges that were set up were supposed to be for that kind of stuff.

If I were one of the people in charge of this marathon, here's what my response would have been:

I'd mail each and every one of the 40,000 runners a package. Inside the package would be a big bottle of Ice Mountain and a photo of me displaying my middle finger. The photo's caption: "Thanks for participating in the Chicago Marathon. Here's your fucking water."

(The runner who died)
(Someone else who fucking GETS IT!) Read more!

Friday, October 05, 2007

PETA vs CraigsList

Apparently not satisfied with targets as large as Michael Moore, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears or even the NBA, PETA has decided to take a blind stab at something possibly bigger than all of them combined:

PETA is going after CraigsList.

For those of you unfamiliar to the series of tubes we call "the internets" - CraigsList.com is a huge internet site known for classified ads of all varieties. While it's most popular for personal ads, selling an eBay's worth of items and job offers - we're already aware of the darker side of anything large and internet-based.

The spam, porn site links and scams are one thing. You're pretty much going to encounter those anywhere. Recently, CraigsList has hit big in the media spotlight regarding "erotic services" ads and linking them directly to prostitution rings. But I digress, because PETA doesn't give a damn about PEOPLE being treated ethically, just ANIMALS (and maybe one of these days, they'll realize that human beings are animals as well).

PETA is attacking the website for their allowing of "free to good home" ads for people who wish to give their pets to others.

You know, those "cruel individuals" who'd rather spend the effort to find a new home for their pets instead of tossing them into the street or dumping them at an animal shelter.

PETA is claiming that the practice of giving away pets online should be banned from CraigsList because of one incident of an animal-abuser who admitted that at least one of the three cats he tortured and mutilated was obtained through CraigsList.

While I'm sure that this is NOT an isolated incident and that more than one animal-abuser has probably acquired an animal from CraigsList - I'm willing to venture a safe bet that it's a very small percentage when compared to those who acquire a pet thanks to CraigsList and DON'T wind up torturing or abusing the animal. That's like saying that if ONE serial rapist/killer targeted his potential victims through speed-dating events, we should ban all speed-dating because it enables serial rapists/killers. The logic itself doesn't even make sense.

You know what logic DOES seem probable in this scenario?

PETA just doesn't want you to own pets. PETA would rather kill them.

No, seriously. All of these people who want to give their pet to a good home, for free, obviously do not want their pet or can no longer own their pet. If they're banned from trying to advertise and give away their pet, odds are it will wind up on the streets or in a shelter. And we all know what PETA does to animals on the streets and in shelters.

PETA "rescues" them. By which I mean PETA takes the animals in, and over 90% of them are killed by PETA members.

Heck, they've even admitted to owning puppy-killing deathmobiles! Vans driven by PETA employees who go to shelters, pick up a few puppies and kitties, euthanise them with lethal injections IN THE VAN, and then dump the dead bodies in nearby DUMPSTERS.

Oh, but let's not allow people to give their pets to good homes and avoid the shelters! That would lead to crazy things like happy people with new pets and fewer animals for PETA to kill!

Now that I'm done with my logic-process of PETA preferring to kill animals than have them find good homes, I'll go back to the issue at hand - PETA thinking that CraigsList banning the use of their site to give away pets would mean less ability for animal-abusers to have access to animals. The way I see it, people (generally) CARE about their pets. That's why they put "good home" in their ads - because they don't want their pet to go to a person who might BE an animal-abuser. What's really causing the problem is when people post all of that, but don't really care about who their pet goes to. They don't bother meeting or talking to the person who wants to adopt their pet until the switch is made. The question is: if these non-caring people weren't allowed to post on CraigsList to give away their animal, wouldn't the animal just wind up on the street or in a shelter, where there's both little chance of it finding a good home and just as much chance of it winding up the victim of an animal-abuser? I mean, animal-abusers get their animals from SOMEWHERE - and I'm pretty sure most of them get pets through shelters. Or animals they find on the street.

Which all means that no matter what, animal-abusers are going to find animals. So it makes no sense whatsoever to try and limit one of those possible pathways, especially when it does so much more benefit than potential harm to the animals. I personally have friends who have found pets thanks to CraigsList - and they did so from caring people who interviewed them and talked to them before making the official switch.

So CraigsList - keep up the great work! Keep allowing pet owners to find new homes for their pets and letting them have the ability to choose who gets to adopt them.

And PETA - go find another target for your terrorist organization! Every animal given a good home by CraigsList is another animal that never has to see the inside of a shelter and run the risk of getting picked up by your puppy-killing deathmobile!

(PETA's press release about CraigsList)

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

How NOT to Sue a Church

The Rev. Luis Alfredo Rios, a priest at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, might not always be on his game. That's a given. But it was when Angel Llavona decided to take his opinions to the next level that things apparently started getting out of hand. He called up the reverend on his church line and left the following message:

"Father Rios, this is Angel Llavona. I attended mass on Sunday and I have seen poor homilies, but yesterday broke all records."

Feeling offended, or perhaps wanting to hear opinions from the rest of his audience, Rios decided to play the message for his Sunday mass, adding:

"This is the person in charge of religious education here last year. That's why it is no surprise to me [that] we had the kind of religious education we had. That's why we didn't get altar boys. What should we do? Should we send him to hell or to another parish?"

After all, Llavona, a teacher at a high school in Des Plaines, did indeed serve as a volunteer with the parish's religious education program from September of 2005 to April of 2006. And while I could certainly attempt to make a few altar-boy-related jokes, I will refuse to do so - since I'm totally in favor of the church on this one. Especially because of what Llavona decided to do about being publicly outed as a jerk who complained to the preacher.

He sued. Not only did he sue Rev. Rios, he's also suing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford - because somehow in his mind, the diocese is legally responsible for anything that any of their priests decide to do. So what, pray tell (no pun intended), is he suing for?

Llavona claims in the lawsuit filed this week in McHenry County that he was defamed and suffered "immediate emotional distress, embarrassment and humiliation." Llavona says the humiliation forced him to change parishes. He is seeking a minimum of $50,000 in damages.

That's when I became enraged, reading the article. While I'm the first one in line to say that the Catholic Church is loaded with parishoner money and is always willing to part with chunks of it to keep things settled, especially out-of-court, there are things you sue over and things that you do NOT sue over. Getting molested as a child? Go ahead and sue. Being kicked out for discriminatory reasons? Maybe you can get away with it - the case is in the details. Being a jerk and then getting called out for being a jerk? Suck it up and move on, buddy!

That in mind, this guy COULD have had a case - he just chose the WRONG case. He's decided to wimp out and beg for "you made me feel bad" money, which he should never get a penny for. You don't get to act like a jerk and then sue for monetary compensation when your actions are made known and everyone knows you're a jerk. If the guy had punched the priest in the face over the sermon's failures, and all the priest did (rather than sue for assault and battery) was tell the congregation, "Oh, my black eye? Angel Llavona punched me because he thought my sermon sucked" - Llavona would STILL have no case over the fact that he decided to switch parishes and was ratted out for being a jerk.

What Llavona COULD have argued was that he called the Reverend on his church line, expecting the privacy associated with the confidentiality laws applying between religious leaders and followers. Although it was in no way a "confession" (the usual conversation those laws apply to) - the law might be swayed on his side in a case of breaking confidentiality.

The only other thing that gets me irked about this (which has no legal grounds) is that it seems like the priest was commenting that he (and the congregation) had the power to send Llavona to hell. That just seems a little blasphemous in my mind. I'm pretty sure that in the Catholic faith, it's God who makes that decision, not an angry priest or a congregation. The afterlife is not determined through a democratic process. Also, it's contradictory that a priest is supposed to hear confessions and offer absolution for sins, and this one aired those sins and treated them as unforgivable.

Nevertheless - Llavona, you should be asking for an apology, not a sum of money. You suffered no monetary damages through these actions, which were all your fault for being a jackass anyway. What you should really be doing is making a case to the Catholic Diocese about removing a priest who would do un-priestly things like what Reverend Luis Alfredo Rios did.

Even so, I'm going to side with Rios and the Catholic Church on this impending lawsuit of uselessness and avarice.

Of course, I'm Jewish. So take this all with a grain of salt. And a margarita. L'chaim!

(The article about the lawsuit)

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Shows to Miss

With all of the Fall premieres going on, new TV shows are popping up everywhere. Some, like Reaper or Chuck, are getting rave reviews and bringing something new to the television world. Okay, well maybe not "new" because everything's pretty much already been done, for the most part and to a degree. After all, (and those of you who watch South Park probably know this already,) when you get right down to it, anything really humorous means that The Simpsons probably already did it.

So with that in mind, what out there is invading our airwaves with mindless feces that would make you want to wash your eyes out with soap?

Here are a few things I've been picking up on:

Dr. Steve-O: I can already hear some of you saying "whaaaaa?" - and you'd be right. On first glance, it looks like the Jackass jackass is creating yet another spinoff, since apparently all of his Jackass money and spinoff Wildboyz money had probably all gone right down the toilet from hospital bills and vaccinations and antidotes. So you might be thinking, "Okay, what's the new show about? What new wacky ways will Steve-O degrade himself and injure himself on the airwaves of MTV?"

Wrong. Not MTV. This new show is on the USA Network.

Seriously. Not kidding you. U-S-f*ckin'-A.

Okay, so maybe they're just going to tone things down a little, but certainly it's still just Steve-O running around and doing stupid things, right? "Dr. Steve-O" makes it sound like he's going to be involving some weird medical equipment and probably sticking them in orifices! Well, hate to disappoint you, but here's the show's premise:

"Dr. Steve-O" will be going around the nation to "de-wussify wimps, nerds and couch potatoes." And of course, rather than sitting and talking about it, Steve-O will be setting up hilarious stunts and demented dares which he'll be calling "extreme attitude adjustments" - participants will be selected on behalf of pleas from girlfriends, mothers, and friends to want to hire Steve-O for his dewussification services.

It's pretty much the EXACT OPPOSITE of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Instead of sophisticated guys taking tactless men and training them in elegance and style, this show has a jackass taking wusses and torturing them into manliness - I think?

No matter how you slice it, I just don't think the show will be worth it. The stunts may be entertaining (whatever they'll allow to air on the USA Network), but it's all just a testosterone-fueled ripoff of Dr. Phil. There are just too many therapy shows on TV right now, between asinine weight-loss series and "starting over" programs and "let's either talk about your problems or send you to a boot camp to scare you straight" drivel. Enough. The last thing we need is a guy who sticks leeches on his eye and ties fireworks to his penis telling men how to behave. Frankly, I'd rather just have a few more wusses around.

Cavemen: Oh goodie, an entire television series dedicated to one-liner commercial characters!! How can this POSSIBLY go wrong??

According to reports and what very little actual information there is on the show, since the pilot is still unfinished and probably being rewritten again due to writers committing actual suicide instead of just the career suicide of having their name attached to this monstrocity would undoubtedly bring.

Odds are it will attempt to stray from "ha ha you think we're dumb because we're cavemen but we're really not we're totally smart lol kthxbye" and will go for the faux-comedic route of "we're different and it's funny because we have to assimilate and it's going to be awkward!"

Been there. Done that. If you're really interested in a "fish out of water" type of series with old and overplayed jokes, why don't you just go watch reruns of Mork & Mindy or maybe 3rd Rock from the Sun - hell, you could even watch The Jeffersons and get your dosage of "we're different and it's awkward" that way! No need to drag out another two-episode show (that's when it will inevitably be cancelled) just for the end result of an "I told you so."

That's all I'm willing to speculate on for right now. Expect a few more editions of this as the Fall Season really picks up. (Maybe even a good-show list!)

(Proof that I'm not lying about this Dr. Steve-O show)

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Monday, October 01, 2007

McDonald's Causes Better Eating Habits Than Subway!

And no, I'm not talking about the wussification of McDonald's with the inclusion of salads and parfaits and whatnot. I'm talking about good ol' fashioned Big Macs versus Subway and their Italian sub sandwiches. And you wouldn't believe it, but the Big Macs led to better eating habits than the Subway options. The researcher uses terms like "health halo" for Subway and "health shadow" for McDonald's, but what it all comes down to is that you don't have a freaking clue what's healthy for you and what's not, so you base your guess on asinine advertisements and screw yourself over in the end.

Super Size Me, Jared!

Jared and his whiny little commercials about how all McDonald's food is bad for you and Subway is nothing but sweet angel food that reduces your waistline simply by cramming it down your throat. We've all seen them. So here's what this researcher did: he gave 46 graduate students a coupon for a McDonald's Big Mac, which at the time had about 600 calories, or a Subway 12-inch Italian sub with meat, cheese and mayonnaise, which had about 900 calories. The students weren't told the number of calories in their sandwiches. Participants also were given a menu and asked to indicate what extras they would like to order, if anything.

Thanks to the "health halo" - these students thought that since they made the "right decision" by opting for Subway, and decided to reward themselves for it with what they probably assumed was a caloric difference - ordering cookies and sodas and whatnot. Those with the Subway coupon ended up ordering a meal with an average 1,011 calories. Those with the McDonald's coupon got meals with an average of 648 calories.

Following those lines of logic, in a second test, the calorie count of the coupons were set even at about 600 calories. Not surprisingly, people ate more snacks later in the day if they had eaten a Subway sandwich than a Big Mac. I personally would have liked to see a little interview data about which coupon option left the participant feeling more full or more satisfied. Perhaps the extra snacking isn't JUST due to the "health halo" of thinking you can spare the calories because you ate healthier - maybe it's just that they were hungry again in less time because it was less filling. I personally feel hungier again earlier in the day after eating Subway than I do after eating McDonald's.

More research was indeed done in these studies, though not my idea of fullness. These questions were about guessing how many calories had been consumed, trying to prove that the "health halo" indeed was a culprit. Could the average person accurately guess how many calories they'd consumed at McDonald's or Subway?

Brian Wansink and colleagues interviewed more than 500 people after they had eaten lunches at either Subway or McDonald's. The scientists also analyzed the calories in 320 meals that included a main dish, side order and beverage. Those meals ranged from turkey sandwiches and Italian subs with chips and soda to cheeseburgers or Big Macs with fries and beverages. People who consumed about 1,327 calories at a meal underestimated the calories by an average of 484 at McDonald's and 681 at Subway. That's a 36% margin of error at McDonald's, compared to a 51% margin of error at Subway.

"There's a double curse to the health halo because you grossly underestimate the calories, and you overeat afterward because you think you deserve it," Wansink says.

Okay, so McDonald's isn't actually "healthier" than Subway. I'll still give you that. I'm sure that fat content and sodium levels are probably way worse at McDonald's than they are in the Subway alternatives, even if you're chowing down the same amount of pure calories. But odds are that you're STILL going to screw that up if you're using your little Subway "health halo" to scarf down junk food later on because you think you deserve the treat for "eating healthy". In the end, your eating habits will IMPROVE if you eat bad food and ADMIT that you're eating bad food. Admitting to delving into a guilty pleasure means you'll feel GUILTY about it and will eat LESS afterwards or make it up some other way. On the other hand, eating health halo food can have MORE calories and leave you feeling like you deserve MORE food because of it.

Accept the science, and stop trusting Jared and his stupid commercials.

McDonald's leads to better eating habits than Subway. Chew on THAT, Jared!

And yes, he'd probably want some fries with that.

(Article with the research)

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