December 30, 2006

Saddam Hussein has been executed

According to several Arabic news sources.

So what's the over-under on when it shows up on Youtube? An ironic twist, no? This time it'll be us who get to watch the execution of an Islamic terrorist...

Expect to hear all sorts of scholarly pontificating and hand wringing from the old world on the subject of whether executions should be broadcast, what images if any should be shown via the mainstream media outlets, what impact this will have on our children, etc... meanwhile, the entire thing, uncensored, will be available for download within a week or so.

December 29, 2006

Tomorrow Begins Today... Great Start for Edwards

John Edwards, up to his knees in the still ravaged 9th Ward of New Orleans, set the tone for the coming Presidential campaign with what I believe was a smart and effective message. Though I don’t think highly of his chances, he’s done us all a great service by so intelligently framing the debate early, powerfully, and nobly.

Eschewing the standard trappings of a campaign announcement, Edward’s message -- which is essentially to get off your ass and DO something -- was instead delivered while he was off his ass doing something in New Orleans. His call to action, reminiscent of Kennedy’s inaugural request to ask not what your country can do for you, stands in stark contrast to the removed, out of touch Imperial Presidency of GWB. While Bush has asked you to work harder and sacrifice so he can spend your money as he best saw fit, Edwards, with youthful energy and enthusiasm, in blue jeans and with sleeves rolled up rather than in a fancy suit behind a podium, was instead a man of the people who was offering to work for them, and alongside them.

Edward’s “Tomorrow Begins Today” campaign website states that he’s in favor of universal health care, strengthening the middle class, leading the fight against global warming while reducing our dependency on oil, and providing moral leadership for the world. Specifically, he states that we cannot wait until the next President is sworn in two years from now, but we must start today. I think he very wisely gauged the national disdain for the narcissistic personality cult that politics has become in recent years. By redefining leadership as matching action with belief, and by reaching out directly to the voters and skipping the mainstream media circuses of more traditional campaign announcements, Edwards has aligned himself with the public’s perception of what kind of leader will best succeed where Bush has failed.

I consider this a brilliant strategy as it makes use of the vast and roiling resentment many Americans feel toward the current occupant of the White House today, not waiting until November of 2008. His “change starts now” approach, whether that change is for Edwards or for someone else, suddenly offers an outlet toward instant gratification and will resonate with the more than 60% of Americans who don’t presently approve of Bush.

Edwards has begun the effort to channel our national anger – and the predictable almost certain anger to come over the next two years – and will require that the Republicans respond and defend all that they haven’t done as well as what they have done poorly. For instance, it will no longer be enough for Republicans to defend the choice to go to Iraq by saying “You voted too!” as they did in 2004. Edwards rallies the “what have you done for me lately” crowd, much to the detriment of the GOP who have very few laurels on which to rest.

The 2008 campaign is now about something more than us vs. them, or the even more nebulous good vs. evil. Now it’s about action vs. inaction, and that’s a hell of a concrete foundation for the Democrats, who have been so harshly accused of having nothing new to offer for so long.

This stance has the additional benefit of wresting the moral authority from the far-right Republicans. Whereas the GOP had successfully positioned themselves as the more righteous of the two parties while discussing abortion and homosexuality, Edwards has begun changing the moral axis on which the conversation will revolve. Rather than the prurient sexuality of the liberal left, which the righteous right themselves nullified with their own deviant displays, instead we’ll be talking about the idleness and wicked ways of the do-nothing 109th congress and the inability to take effective action in Iraq and New Orleans, and against the more and more obvious reality of global warming. Edward’s opening shot has begun re-framing the morality issue in favor of change, with a new model: the vibrant, vigorous Democrats who stand opposed to the feeble, paralyzed Republicans; diligence, humility, and forbearance vs. sloth, gluttony, and the sin of pride. Now those are some moral issues I can get behind.

In every contest where there is only one winner there are still many roles to play, and several candidates may do great service to their party and the nation in their unsuccessful bids for the Democratic nomination. I believe Edwards is one of those candidates who will be remembered fondly and highly appreciated though he will ultimately not be our President-Elect in 2008. Yet none the less Edward’s early efforts will play an important role in setting our national expectation of what qualities our next leader should possess. For the Democrats it is a great start, and well begun is half done, as some famous dead white man once said.

Two things only the people anxiously desire...

Depending on whom you listen to, Saddam Hussein is scheduled to hang either this weekend or next month.

While it’s been said that his execution would make a brilliant comeback for CBS, who will finally return to the airwaves with a Superbowl halftime show three years after uncovering Janet Jackson’s weapon of mass destruction, I suspect that the timing may have more to do with this year’s State of the Union address...

End of year wrap-up

The past two weeks have been great. Though as a ski trip, my holiday to Ontario was a total bust (thank you, global warming) it was never the less a nice, relaxing break. And this week at work has been quiet and charming, leaving me with a sense of calm for the first time since June, really. The dating life proceeds apace, with ups and downs, but more up than down. And I’ve managed to make it through another Christmas season without ending up in jail for strangling one of the many – MANY – people who just cried out for a good strangling over the past few weeks. There is nothing like the Christmas season to inspire people to be the exact type of annoying that goes furthest right up my ass, and truly I expect one year to just snap. But not this year my friends… not this year.

Ontario was a lovely summer wonderland, where I biked and hiked and rode horseback in jeans and t-shirt, just like it was a lovely September day. Except it wasn’t. It was the end of December, the longest day of the year, and it was supposed to be cold and snowy. I knew I was taking a risk planning a trip early in the season, but I thought the distance north would mitigate that danger, while I also counted on our powerful modern snow making abilities. A strategic gamble.

As I left the airport and saw there was no snow on the ground, I wasn’t worried, because I knew I was heading up to the mountains where there was sure to be plenty. But an hour later as I approached the bare, brown mountains, I knew I was in for some trouble. They can’t actually make snow when it’s warm, and it was 45 – 55 degrees and had been raining the week before. The mountain actually closed, the first time they’ve ever done that, because they just couldn’t keep even one trail covered enough to make it worth anyone’s while.

I felt for the poor people whose livelihood depends on the ski season, though it wasn’t enough to make me sit there – the only customer in the bar – for “Live Band Night.” When I saw I was expected to carry the responsibilities of an entire audience alone, I turned right around and walked out. I did my part for the Canadian economy all week long, but damned if I was gonna sit there to be serenaded.

Despite my fears that traveling Christmas weekend would be nightmarish, I made it through the airport and home relatively easily, and just in time to be blindsided by my current ladyfriend, Amy. Apparently sometime between when I left and when I got home she decided we needed to clarify our relationship. As in all conversations with upset women, when they say we need to talk, of course they mean “you need to say the one thing that will make me feel better, but you damn well better not accidentally say any of the hundreds of things that will upset me.” I fumbled around with mild assistance from her until I finally sussed out what was bothering her. She was looking for some reassurance that things were proceeding well between us, and I had failed to provide any.

Though I waffled a bit during our initial conversation, I think I successfully provided some of what she was looking for when we had dinner a day later. Actually, I was very surprised by the whole thing because to be frank – and I told her this – I really didn’t think she liked me all that much. I had the distinct impression that she was of the mind that “this is fine for now, whatever it is” but I had no inkling that she was thinking we had long-term potential. We are comfortable and enjoy each other’s company, but she and I certainly aren’t experiencing a whirlwind romance. So I was caught off-guard by her sudden concern about the state of our relationship and whether it was growing.

Taking new relationships too fast has ruined several promising ones in my past, yet while I’m trying to slow things down, I find myself dating women who feel very strongly that they need to speed things up. Not that Amy is that way, this weekend not withstanding she's pretty laid back. I’m talking more generally about single woman age 35-40 - they are often in a hell of a hurry. So while I’m willing to just let it be what it is I don’t expect her to be equally sanguine, and the result is the odd and uncomfortable turn we appeared to have taken.

But we had a very nice dinner and were talking openly and easily with one another. At one point, when we were both getting a little frustrated, she said “I know I’m expecting you to know exactly how you feel about me when I don’t even know how I feel about you.” Once she said that, the tension deflated nicely, and there was room for both of us to just be ok with how things were.

We’ll see what 2007 brings. I’ve a number of predictions for 2007, both personal and political, which I’ll write up sometime and post. You won’t see any 2006 wrap-up though, everyone else is doing that, you don’t need mine.

Have a healthy and happy new year everyone!

December 28, 2006

Disturbed by this on so many levels...

And yet, I kinda like it too.

If you close your eyes and just listen, it's a pretty decent rendition. But watching it... it's just wrong.

December 27, 2006

Do you like Pizza? And Beer?

Gerald Ford doesn't get a lot of historical credit. Compared to recent Presidential giants who for good or ill had a tremendous impact on the country and the world, it's easy to consider Ford, who was elected to neither the Presidency nor the Vice Presidency, as not much of a President. His pardoning of Nixon a month after Nixon's resignation is believed to have been the primary cause of Ford's loss to Jimmy Carter in 1976, and the "Ford to City: Drop Dead" Daily News cover, his pratfalls, his early patronage of the two great evils, his choice of Bob Dole as his running mate, and the official declaration of our loss in the Vietnam war on his watch all combine to leave a person with a less than satisfying portrait of the national leader he became.

Even your trusty Chief of Staff, in one of his very first political opinions as a young Deputy Chief, said plainly and with great confidence as the 1976 elections approached that people should vote for Jimmy Carter because a new President was always better than the same old one. (Ever the optimist was I... until 2000, when that theory was roundly disproved.)

Yet none the less nowadays I think fondly of the man, who with unassuming ways, lack of pretension, and collegial down home country goodness was the ideal breath of fresh air in the wake of the shadowy, sultry Machiavellian strategies of his predecessor. Ford's honest affability helped to forestall the great national temper-tantrum that was brewing, diffusing the rhetoric, diffusing the anger, allowing for a broad American exhale. No one likes the taste of Pepto Bismol but it sure soothes an upset stomach, and Ford with his calm, confident assumption of national command I believe was just the medicine a volatile and upset nation needed.

And regardless of his merits, I would remind you of the two attempted assassinations in less than 3 weeks in September of 1975. I say that if you're President enough that people are trying to shoot you for it, you're President enough for me.

December 17, 2006

Rambling thoughts while I wait for my plane…

The first few minutes I’ve had in quite some time, to sit, relax, and reflect on the past few weeks. Somehow or another December turned into a whirlwind of activity, and now as I wait for my flight to board I'm taking advantage of one of the first few moments I’ve had to write without having anything more important to do. Or rather, there’s a great deal I could be doing if I had internet access, but in fact as I write this I’m offline. It’s a terrible thing being offline.

For years I would turn on the tv or the radio first thing when I wake up, and I would do many things with the constant hum of the mainstream media droning in the background. Is it some primitive desire to feel a part of the larger community manifesting; that while I live in a city of eight million I turn the tv on so I don’t feel alone?

I’ve never liked feeling isolated, from the news in particular. When explaining these sentiments to my friend Craig one day, he summed up the feeling as not wanting to miss anything. “You have the tv on in case there’s an emergency?” he once asked me. Not necessarily an emergency, but certainly breaking news -- I subscribe to several different news alert services, and get flashes via email and cell phone text messages, and I check newsfeeds every time I pass by a computer screen, all to ensure I'm current.

Sitting here offline makes me a little crazy… thankfully I still have my blackberry going. But what the hell is with the lack of free wireless internet access? I’ve had certain opinions forming over the past few years, wildly influenced by the extraordinary amount of time I’ve spent browsing the internet during the same time period, and my thoughts on our civilization and what will be most important to us in the immediate future fall into one of two essential categories: our access to information, and the editorial control over the information we access. Whether it’s issues of privacy, digital rights management, copyright and intellectual property concerns, net-neutrality, AT&T’s re-consolidation and cooperation with the NSA, or even something simple as free wireless internet access, I’m hypersensitive to the presumptions made by both commercial enterprises and consumers regarding our place in society.

Specifically, I am highly conscious of the amount of time we spend each day being marketed to, sold to, and outright lied to in the pursuit of our income. I’m very aware of the commercialization of our society, and how the pursuit of sponsorship dollars has impacted our daily lives. What began with stadium naming rights and other sports-related patronage has insidiously metastasized into all areas of our daily lives, and I worry about what that does to us. Or specifically, I worry that I know just what that does - that we are being conditioned to be zombie-consumers, conditioned to be wage slaves selling our soul to the company store.

So when an airport, which could easily provide free wireless access for its customers (and even limit it to only its customers through the use of boarding pass number-based logins, for instance) instead chooses to charge $9.95 a day, that frustrates the crap out of me. In my mind, it’s the equivalent of a restaurant charging for a glass of water. There are some things which I believe should be understood amongst civilized peoples, some things which I believe come as part of the “being a human” package here in the industrialized west: every human is entitled to clean drinking water free of charge, and in the 21st century, we should have free internet access already.

Now, I’m not saying we're all entitled to ubiquitous, powerful broadband; it doesn’t have to be premium service, and if you want to make a buck, then there’s where you make it -- in the upgrade from the basic free service to the better, stronger, faster pay service. No, what I'm taking issue with is the insistence on nickel-and-diming us to death, on earning a penny on every exchange, on treating us as perma-customers instead of fellow citizens wherever possible, that’s what makes me nuts. There are some things that should be done because everyone benefits when they are done, and not every interaction should be a seen as a profit-making opportunity.

But back to my travel… as much as I’d like to be able to bash the TSA and go on a rant about privacy and the loss of our rights and freedoms, this is my second flight this month and so far they’ve been nothing but professional and kind to me despite my being less than charming to them. All the horror stories I’ve read about recently on the ‘Net have prepared me for rough treatment, but I’ve seen nothing of the kind. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if they’d stick the kid who’s screaming his head off right now into one of those gray bins and x-ray the crap out of him until he quiets the fuck down, but even screaming children don’t appear to rile them up, which I just can’t understand… But anyway, despite dealing with my last minute change of plans as to which bags are being checked, the TSA has been professional and courteous and most importantly, efficient. I can’t complain, which of course gives me something to complain about, because I hate not being able to complain.

Just goes to show you, we can adapt to anything. I often reflect on what life might have been like for our grandparents who lived in a time when people could walk right into buildings without showing id, when they could stroll right onto airplanes (while smoking, no less) without having to shuffle through a metal detector with belt in one hand, holding their pants up with the other, their shoes being x-rayed separately for their protection...

I love living in the 21st century, and I’m in awe of modern-day miracles like laser eye surgery, but at what cost? I wax reflective on simpler times...

“Mister, you can conquer the air… but the clouds will smell like gasoline, and the birds will lose their wonder…” – Lawrence and Lee, Inherit the Wind

Eh, who am I kidding? Simpler times, yet I can’t go two hours without checking my email.

December 16, 2006

Where have I been?

It feels like I've been running around non-stop since Thanksgiving, and looking back at the calendar, that's actually closer to truth than an exaggeration. Two different volleyball teams, travel for work, training, friends visiting from San Fran, company holiday party... if you're wondering why I haven't posted, that's the story. Life being lived. Also, there's some Dan-news as well...

For several weeks now I've been seeing a lovely lady named Amy, whom I met off We both started somewhat hesitantly, but over time we've grown more comfortable with one another, and are starting to find a nice balance between how busy we each are and making time for... you know... making time.

Two Saturdays ago we had planned on spending a few hours together, when she sheepishly suggested a way to spend the entire day. She knew of a quaint little town up north of the city, where there was this Buddhist temple and it was a pretty drive, and maybe we should do that? It was our first big datey-date, and she very charmingly suggested it with that "it's totally ok if you don't want any part of it, but in case you might..." kinda thing going. I said "Sure, as long as we're not going antiquing or anything." That was of course met with complete silence. "We are, aren't we?" I asked. "Um... yes?" she responded.

Armed with my satellite radio and caffeinated beverages, we set off around noon on the hour long drive up into the Catskills. A fun and pleasant drive with nice conversation, as we began to loosen up around each other. Mostly Amy talked and I listened, which totally works for me. I like it when I'm not required to hold up any part of the conversation, for while I can be a chatty fellow, it's nice to not have to be so. I've a history of dating women who can hold up both ends of a conversation on their own, and while none of those relationships have worked out, I'm sure it's not because of that quality...

As we drove around, working our way through Dutchess county, we came across a little glass-blowing shop and I picked up a nice piece and bought Amy a cute little flowery girlie thing that girls like and men are baffled by. And eventually we found our way to the Buddhist temple.

Amy made a good call about this place, it was terrific. A very large complex with a library, dormitories, bridges and benches and quiet walks and serenity and all the good bits one likes on a trip out of the city. We worked our way about the place, and marveled at the architecture and the giant Buddhas (Amy pointed out there was a particular resemblance between Buddha and myself, a sentiment I decided was a compliment) and we wandered aimlessly awash in religiosity in the midst of Christmastime, yet a religiosity that wasn't Christmasy.

We followed up the temple visit with a nice walk through the town of Cold Spring, and yes, I went antiquing. It was more fun than I expected it would be, I suspect because there was such an unfathomable mass of other people's crap to look through that it transcended boring and became solidly fascinating. And exploring the anonymous history of others brought up some interesting things about each other to talk about as well, so I can't help but think it was a pretty good date-thing to do.

We had a very nice dinner in Cold Spring, then headed back to New York. A lovely day, a lovely date.

After one brief day at work that following Monday, I went into two days of training, and then immediately flew to Los Angeles for some meetings with our west coast folks. This past week has been all about volleyball, and a class I'm taking, and Friday night was our company Holiday party which I always really enjoy. Saturday I spent the day with my family celebrating Hanukah, and Sunday I head to Ontario for a week of skiing...

December 15, 2006

Shaka, when the walls fell...

Alas, though it was a stellar season, it was not *our* season and my volleyball team lost in the semi-finals. We had a terrific record, and played exceptionally well, and I'm proud of us - but we're not going to be the divisional champions...

December 12, 2006

Important Volleyball-related news

Thousands and thousands of emails came in today to request I provide regular updates on the volleyball playoffs. Thousands. So I'll tell you, but only because the hue and cry was so overwhelming.

We totally won. You know why? Cause we're awesome. First game was 15 - 2 us, the second game was like 15-9 us. Next is the semi finals on Thursday...

Oh, what is that? How many points did Dan serve for in game one? Ya, that would be 15. Yes, 15 points, which is sometimes referred to as "all of them."

This is an artist's representation of my serve tonight. It's a metaphor.

December 11, 2006

By the way...

Volleyball playoffs this week, super busy with work... posts coming, but not tonight. Can I just say though, for the record and in all seriousness, there are few artists/performers whom I have higher respect for than Julie Andrews.

I mean, sure, William Shatner is as far as I'm concerned a national treasure and can do no wrong. Do you hear me? NO WRONG. But what I like about him is how he is so brilliant at being a parody of himself.

With Julie Andrews, it's just a pure, honest magical ability to evoke. I'm sitting here watching Mary Poppins, and she just couldn't be more brilliant. And her Guenevere in Camelot, her Eliza in My Fair Lady... Victor Victoria? Come on, Victor Victoria for chrissakes?

There are few living performers I have as much reverence and respect for than Julie Andrews. As Chris Rock said so brilliantly a few years back, there are celebrities, and there are stars. Julie Andrews is the latter; famous for being extraordinarily good at what she does, and not merely for being famous.

She's due to receive a lifetime achievement award next year from the Screen Actors Guild. I don't think there could possibly be enough accolades for the woman who sang the soundtrack of our childhoods for three generations.

I suspect she must be as sick of being called classy as Shatner is of being called the greatest actor of all time. The only thing I can think of that's better than either Julie Andrews or William Shatner would be a movie or show featuring both of them.

December 10, 2006

Dan-approved powerpoint humor:

Back to Cali... Cali...

Wow, where the hell has Dan been?

Last week was crazy busy for me, and this one looks like it will be as well. Both work, and also after-work evening activities are keeping me from writing all about work and my after-work evening activities...

But updates are a-coming!


December 01, 2006

How can you not want this guy to be your President?

Gore Planning To Release Uncensored An Inconvenient Truth DVD:
"Global Warming Gone Wild" and "hot glacier on glacier action..."

Huffpost has it -