Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sharing is Caring, Part 2

One of those glorious lessons you learn in your younger days is that sharing is caring. Apparently the US intelligence community is still working on this lesson.

In a previous post, I decried the lack of information sharing in the intelligence community, where intelligence is a cross between a valuable currency and a hot potato that needs to be passed around. Now with the advent of underpants bomber, we discover that someone either A) hasn't been sharing enough or B) hasn't been using what's actually been made available.

The security business relies on information. No information and security becomes some sort of haphazard game of tag in a dark room. You might actually tag someone, but you're also probably just going to randomly run into them in the process and wide up with a bloody nose as the person who's it rolls up and tags you.

Thankfully the guy was busted before he could get the contraption up and running. Nevertheless, the fact that it went that far should be yet another impetus to get everyone in government on the same page.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Epic Win

I'm probably not going out on too big of a limb here when I state that American Idol is probably one of the worst things to happen to television other than perhaps the end of The Wire or the existence of CSI: Miami. But what makes American Idol especially heinous (besides releasing Paula Abdul on the world instead of keeping her occupied where her damage was limited) is their effect on music.

American Idol more or less encourages the banal blandness that kills music. Most every time a music genre has taken a dive is due to becoming generic. Edginess is what drives music. If it loses the edge or just gets ruthlessly copied by money-making schemes (like American Idol) then there is a severe problem.

Now this attitude might stem from listening to way too much punk rock, or more specifically, that one time last week where I did nothing but drink coffee and listen to the Dead Kennedys while writing papers. Nonetheless, I can call them like I see them. There's a wide difference between yawn-inspiring bores like Carrie Underwood (who came out of the American Idol cookie-cutter machine) and artists like Lady Gaga who apparently take inspiration from Dr. Seuss, Marvin the Martian, and whatever damage is incurred after a semester at NYU.

Like serious damage incurred at NYU

And so this week I was proud of the Brits for rebelling against the system that continuously feeds them drivel and blandness that would make gruel taste like curry. Through a fairly effective campaign organized through Facebook by Joe and Tracy Morter, the British people managed to get Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" to the top of the charts to beat Joe McElderry's "The Climb." While I'm not the biggest fan of Rage Against the Machine in the world, I still respect them more than some cheesed up, processed product that is propped up by some blithering American Idol-like show. Facebook is useful after all.

The force of righteousness, powered by Zach de la Rocha's hair.

The force of evil. Trust me, there's evil in there.

Something similar should happen in the United States. There might be arguments for the fact that maybe people actually like Miley Cyrus's "Party in the USA." These are probably the same people who think that Sarah Palin advanced women's rights, so we can pretty much ascertain the weight of their opinion. There are probably hordes of other people like that in Britain; this is the nation that gave the world Oasis. But nonetheless, it would prove a point to the folks in charge of the music industry to find better acts and to perhaps think a bit more about expanding their repertoire.

Also, Paul McCartney thought it was cool, so I guess it's a good idea.
"Yeah, I love Rage Against the Machine as much as this cigar."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stop Ruining My State

The one good thing that I hope the Jersey Shore series can show people is that the image of New Jersey is being ruined by people who flock there from other parts of the United States, namely Staten Island. (Sidebar: If you want to see a special on the visitors from Philadelphia, just watch an Animal Planet special on apes or something and pretend there's a beach.) It's them who give the image that the rest of the bozos come up with about New Jersey that the sane and normal people have to live with.

That isn't to say that there are the fair share of bozos and nilly-headed space-using wastes of life that float around the area. There are plenty. I can go retrieve a picture from my high school yearbook if you need proof. What adds to the hilarity is the uproar that they actually protest the "negative" portrayal shown on Jersey Shore. If you check out the Facebook group "MTV Jersey Shore is a disgrace to the Jersey Shore and its inhabitants" you'd probably see plenty of people that embody the sad stereotype that they are protesting against. Just check out some of them who have their pictures available. I've seen some that rarely have a picture outside of a bar and rarely doing anything actually intellectual. Pro-tip folks: if you've ever actually taken a deep look at your sad life, you've probably realized that A) you probably have a crippling headache because that took all the brain cells in your vodka-tonic soaked mind to think about and B) your life is that vacant and superficial.

So that being said, I tried to watch the show juiced up on coffee. This did not last long due to the fact that my attention span was fairly short and I was too jittery to sit still and type. So I put that off, got to other things, and forgot about it. But now that there was a mass snow storm and shopping was out of the question, I decided to pour a glass for myself and provide some analysis of MTV's masterpiece, Jersey Shore.

But of course, I had difficulty sitting through the first minute of the show. The first minute. I could not sit through sixty seconds. That's the amount of time that it take Peyton Manning to throw a touchdown and also somehow set up his team to be in field goal range, and I couldn't sit through watching twenty-something life rejects and their life drama.

Oh snap...your unattached guy left with some unattached girl who left because, you, another unattached girl, had gotten some dude's phone number. This is why I cannot take anything that happens seriously on this show. And it is quite funny that they actually take such things so seriously. I mean, I'm a jittery person and I don't even find myself bothered with the crap they bother themselves with. Granted, I do more in a day than "work" at a t-shirt shop, but nonetheless...

Pro-tip, Sammi: the phrase is "knock a bitch out" or "knock a bitch down," not "knock a bitch up." I'm pretty sure that phrase and ability is only reserved for males. The women's movement can only go so far, and I'm sure if they saw this show, it was not what they had in mind for the future of women.

Judging by how much I'm laughing at the misery Ronnie and Sammi are experiencing at this point, I might qualify as a sociopath. I usually don't take pleasure in people's misery...okay, not this much pleasure. But to actually take their "relationship" seriously is preposterous. The amount of tears they shed isn't anywhere near the amount I've shed when I realized my first fantasy football team wasn't going to make it through the season. I've probably had closer relationships with lady who works at the Administration building cafe. These people investing so much emotion into what are more or less glorified hook-up opportunities bring me irreverent amusement. That or it tells me that I'm soulless and have a heart made of ice formed from the tears of children.

Pro-tip Situation and Vinny: try not to pick up chicks that require a ride home from one of their mothers. Just saying that's a good policy to avoid statutory or a very angry father busting your head in.

MTV is doing an excellent job selling the whole Ronnie-Sammi relationship thing. Except I'm not buying it at all. I was probably right and have a heart of ice.

Ha ha at MTV with the fireworks while Ronnie and Sammi were sweating up the sheets. And what's with the term "smushed?" Come on, folks, get creative.

I wonder if the guys on this show have actually had a deep thought in their lifetime. Somehow they felt that the needed to "freshen up" their tan and haircuts, and go to the gym. I can understand the gym; that's not a bad idea. Haircuts and a tan? I'm pretty sure that mocha hue that you're sporting isn't less mocha-like than it was a few months ago.

"Mike would bang a Gatorade bottle if it had a pulse at this point." Oh snap. It's on, son.

Watching them dance sometimes is like watching a Discovery Channel program on an exotic nation. They even have a routine for the fist pump, which involves hitting the ground to "feel the beat" or whatever.

Snookie can't walk back in her heels. What really possesses girls to go out and party in heels? You know there is a high chance of not being able to walk straight, much less in heels. What's the point of wearing them if you know that they'll torture you? If you really look good, you'll look good regardless of whether or not you're wearing heels or flats. Might I suggest flats? It'd make the walk a lot easier. Plus, you won't be one of the masses walking around carrying your heels while stumbling around in your bare feet. As someone who's wandered around in Adams Morgan a couple of times, I've more or less discerned that it's better for all parties involved.

When you have to say "I think his/her name is...", that should be a major red flag. At least get the name straight.

Man...pizza looks good. I can't believe that I'm fantasizing about those huge Adams Morgan pizzas now. I never thought I'd say that, but damn, those slices of pizza were good. And I'm a major pizza snob.

Two guys, four girls...such a dilemma. Other dilemma: Saying "more cuter." Then again, if your nickname is "The Situation," we're not exactly expecting much out of you. And we're not expecting you to actually not be shallow either.

I love the use of war terms here. "Grenade," "heavy fire," and "bulletproof vest" apparently are all terms you can use while you're hooking up. While as a war nerd, I think it's somewhat interesting and hilarious, nonetheless, the metaphors are lost at this point.

"You better call me." "I will." Ha...yeah right. And I'm the King of Great Britain. I wouldn't be waiting by the phone for that phone call, ma'am.

If your first step to "growing up" is on an MTV show, you really have to step up the "growing up" process a bit. I figure that there'd be some steps you'd be taking at your age to adulthood.

"Typical fraternity college losers." And what are you doing with your life, my friend? I don't think you're doing much better.

And then there's the scene where Snookie gets socked in the face. MTV probably shouldn't have used it as a selling point for the show. That is a given. Also glad that they took the time to display a message about abuse to women. Glad that they could sneak a meaningful message into the show.

And that ends the show and the review. Hope you enjoyed that diatribe. See you whenever I feel like reviewing the next episode.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Jersey Shore Review

After "watching" the first two installations of the show Jersey Shore on MTV, I figured a few things out:
1) I more or less got the idea of the show -> the Real World in NJ
2) I have to keep watching it and commenting on it for the, er, good of the public
3) I want to keep up with it
4) I want to take a break from the pile of work I'm doing and not think an intelligent thought for about an hour.

So here we go again, except now I've been guzzling coffee for a while since it is that time of the year when projects and finals are swirling in the air. I imagine the assessment that follows will be perhaps a bit different. So sit back, relax, tell the children to go to bed, and enjoy my running account of the show:

Oh, joy. The morning afterward. I've honestly never seen guys with hair that well-coiffed in the morning, shirtless, in the kitchen and eating cereal. Then again, I don't really seek out shirtless men in kitchens eating cereal.

It really is hard to try to sit through the show in one sitting without pausing for at least a beverage refresh. The sheer idiocy of the "characters" is sometimes too much to handle.

I suppose I'm not the only one who found the irony of Nicole wearing a ballcap that says "Pornstar in Training" while literally sucking on a pickle. I do not make this shit up. Go right now to the show page (the link is at the top of the post) and fast-forward it to 4 minutes. I wonder what she wants the world to think when she sits on the couch and talks about sucking the juice out of pickles. At least she's got big glasses to protect her eyes.

What is with the "sensitive" "relationship" music? Did we forget who these people are and where we are? I suppose so.

I love the manufacturing of drama. But I suppose it has to be interesting. I'm sure a documentary on my hunt for free beer at a party would not be the most scintillating hour of television.

The boyfriend whose girlfriend cheated on her is visiting. Hooray for more manufactured drama.

So the "crew" decides to go to Headliners, which apparently is yet another loud ass place with lots of lights and fake tans. Angelina and her friends, who came to visit, are there where Angelina's boyfriend will meet them. Once there, amidst the loud music and other stuff, Angelina and her boyfriend Mike sit down and have a drink at the bar...which somehow later escalates into the two breaking up. Wonderful.

[Sidebar: We later learn that her boyfriend is going through a divorce. I think a good idea for the future is to wait until the divorce is final. Just saying.]

While there, Nicole runs into some dude she hooked up with named Mike (not the same Mike that Angelina broke up with). At this point, I discover that Nicole has the facial complexion of a cardboard box. Is it healthy to be that tan? I hope it's fake, as I don't think brown spray paint is that harmful.

I really have to doubt the actual basic reasoning skills of JWoww or whatever the hell her name is. Does she know at this point that she is on a television show and that, unless her boyfriend doesn't have cable or the internet, he's going to find out someway that his girlfriend was getting frisky with some tanned-ass gel-laden dude? Then again, they didn't exactly assemble brain surgeons here.

Emotional disturbances suck, but I'm pretty sure you really don't have to be fully functional to work at a T-Shirt shop on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. Of course, Angelina's boyfriend breaking up with her is so much for her to handle that she can't show up to her job and mope. Instead, she cooks up the worst "I'm sick" excuse known to mankind. I've seen better excuse making in my four years of college. This whole situation exposes the level of brattiness that Angelina possesses...and also the level of sheer idiocy and stupidity.

At this point is when I finally understand what the t-shirt shop has to do with the entire thing. I believe that the guy who owns the shop also owns the house they live in, so the rent payment is the cast working for the guy at the T-shirt shop. It makes more sense now. Thank you Angelina for clearing that up.

And the inevitable finally happens: Jenny's boyfriend finally breaks up with her. Or so we think.

Around this point, I got unbelievably, uh, "tired" and decided that reading and working on the pile of papers that I had to turn in was important. So I stopped watching. Plus I think I was out of scotch.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Guests in Your Own Home

In the film The Good Shepherd, there is a scene where Edward Wilson, Matt Damon's character, meets with Joseph Palmi, played by Joe Pesci (and based on real-life mafia figure Sam Giancana) on what is ostentatiously a Florida beach home. They're sitting around and talking on the shore and discussing possible machinations for the CIA and whatnot with that Fidel fella in Cuba. Eventually Palmi asks Wilson:

Let me ask you something... we Italians, we got our families, and we got the church; the Irish, they have the homeland, Jews their tradition; even the niggers, they got their music. What about you people, Mr. Wilson, what do you have?

To which Wilson cooly responds:

The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.

When I first saw the film, it was a slightly chuckle-worthy moment. It was probably the most brazen demonstration of WASP privilege I've seen in a movie. Other than that, I haven't thought about it much.

Earlier today, I wrote a post about the attacks on Pearl Harbor that happened 68 years this day. Some of the responses I have gotten about the post compare it to the Enola Gay controversy and warn me about "looking at things from the Japanese side" and the problem that whole debacle faced.

Hold up...I'm a bit confused here. The Japanese side? I was under the impression that I was writing about Americans in that post, not the Japanese. I didn't mention anything involving the Japanese naval aviators who were involved in the bombing or the Japanese admiral in charge of it. I was discussing the effects of what happened to Americans as a result of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Sure, they were of Japanese descent, but does that really diminish their American "credentials?" Many of them had been born in the United States and some had even been second generation. I was in no way advocating for the Japanese when I was writing about the Japanese-Americans.

After being notified that I misinterpreted a tongue in cheek remark on the internet (sorry dude), it really got me thinking. Why was such a nerve touched off in me? I'm pretty sure I get more offensive remarks on my facebook wall daily or comments on my status that would probably horrify a nun into combusting. And yet, I raised an eyebrow over something that was totally meant seriously. Why?

Perhaps that it reminded me that some people think that a portion of the population in the United States, including me, might possibly never be fully welcomed by some people into the paradigm known as "America." I can speak without the slightest trace of a foreign accent (or hell, adapt a Baltimore or southern accent), slug as many Budweisers as I want, and watch football as much as I want and yet I will still be looked at first as a foreigner and not as a full American. Even though I am an American citizen by birth, my loyalties will always be questioned by some. Of course, we are also deeply worried about the loyalties of Irish-Americans and their ties to Ireland as well, so I suppose it's not all that bad.

Some people might be a bit irritated when I advocate for the Asian-American position in discussions. I myself find myself somewhat irritated at times, as I feel that I have lost many of my ties to that community. Nevertheless, I am reminded by others that is not the case and that I remain part of that grouping, no matter what I think. As such, I must continually advocate for the Asian-American view, if only to remind people that yes, we might be Asians, but we are Americans nonetheless, just like everyone else. The United States is our home as well, and we intend to stick around.

The Other Side of the Coin

Today, as I hope most of you out there know, is Pearl Harbor Day. I suggest you look it up if you haven't. There most certainly will be commemorations in local newspapers getting the memories of veterans down in print. Flags will be lowers to half-staff to honor those who died on that day. Yet as we honor those who gave their lives that day, perhaps we are also forgetting another group of people who would see their lives utterly destroyed by the events of Pearl Harbor: that of the Japanese who lived in the United States.

Japanese-Americans were already having a rough go at it since the 1906 Gentleman's Agreement, an informal agreement between Japan and the US to restrict Japanese migration to the US, and the Immigration Act of 1924, which banned Asians from immigrating to the US entirely. These were just indications of the general dislike, to put it mildly, that the "native" Americans had for the Japanese newcomers.

Then Pearl Harbor came along. The Japanese had been maligned in the press and by government officials in the prior years due to atrocities in China, but Pearl Harbor really kicked it into high gear. Calls for the internment and displacement of the Japanese were immediately raised by so-called "loyal" Americans. Apparently in the minds of many of them, the Japanese were not Americans and instead enemies loyal to their "home country." (Note: 2/3 of the Japanese on the West Coast at this time were born in the US). On Febrary 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, giving the military the authority to round up enemy aliens they thought would pose a threat to the safety of the United States.

Imagine the swirl of emotions that many of the Japanese felt at the time. Many of them did not question the fact that they were Americans. Americans of Japanese descent, of course, but Japanese nonetheless. Merely months later for some, their lives were being turned upside down in the name of "national security," in which there was little to no evidence that any of them participated in such shenanigans.

This does not mean we should discount those who died at Pearl Harbor and those there who worked to save who they could. Nevertheless, we should also understand and look beyond the immediate event to see the larger tragedy at work.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Show Review

As someone who grew up in New Jersey, you deal with a lot of crap. Not only from within the state of New Jersey, but also outside the state. You either survive Jersey or you wind up crushed and defeated. Or buried in the Meadowlands.

MTV is now airing Jersey Shore, one of their cheesy "reality" "shows." Think something like The Real World on the shore and you get the idea. They somehow got the idea to find a half dozen of probably the most airheaded and vapid nimrods you could find on the face of the earth, tan 'em up, and stick 'em in a shore summer house. More or less these are the guys that inspired the "New Haircut" viral video on YouTube, and the girls on the show...well, they probably just sat in Belmar or outside Club Abyss in Hazlet to get inspiration on the appropriate personalities to target.

When I first heard about this, I thought, "FUCK THIS BULLSHIT." (Sorry if the kids saw that.) It seemed like MTV had decided to reach further in the stupid barrel to find ideas for their show. No way I was going to patronize and further their cause by allowing my very "important" clout to further their machinations.

But then I gave it a thought and figured, "Eh, it'd be interesting." What changed this besides a glass of scotch? Well, another glass of scotch and the sheer irony of the acrimony surrounding the entire show.

Checking my news feed on Facebook, it was amusing to see the irritation by some regarding the Jersey Shore series. After having seen the "trailer" for the show, it was a bit scary how familiar some of the "personalities" in the show were to me. These people made up a surprisingly large demographic of the mouthbreathers that I grew up with back home in New Jersey. It was like spending time after-hours with the bleary-eyed dimwits that populated my summer microeconomics class at Brookdale Community College. And they were complaining about being shown "inaccurately" or "misrepresented."

As a result, I decided to watch the show. Unfortunately, my roommate was occupying the couch and the television watching various sports, so I decided the best alternative was to sit in my room, read a few articles for class, and have a drink or two. I also decided in that time period that I should also write a review/synopsis of the show. However, at the time of this writing, I did not catch the first hour, so the review presented to you will be fairly incomplete. To further exacerbate the issue, I had a few drinks while watching the show, so things are a bit fuzzy.

So more or less they collected a bunch of twenty-something dipshits from the tri-state area...okay, really just New Jersey, Staten Island, and some random dude from Rhode Island...and stuck them all in a house, where they seem to be drinking a lot, having a good time, and making full use of the hot tub. This is a show on MTV.

Lest you think that they're sitting around and whistle-dicking it, they're actually working in a T-shirt shop on the shore. What responsibility. It's hilarious to watch them actually trying to sell the cheesy ass t-shirts that are peddled by the various stores. I'm pretty sure a salesman is not going to convince me to buy some retarded ass shirt with some sentence of phrase that was amusing before I graduated middle school.

When they're not working at the t-shirt shop, they're doing the usual MTV show schtick. They get drunk (apparently their favorite pregame drink is some vodka punch they make in the house), hook up, fight, argue, all that good stuff. Now before you think it's one incestuous pool of people getting to know each other, they bring other random dudes back to the house. One hilarious episode in the part I saw involved a guy one of the "guidettes" brought home. ("Guidette" is a word they use. Don't sue me.) He managed to vomit on the lovely Astroturf like floor of the porch/balcony but also give the side of the house the business. Way to go. Hooray for MTV.

While the chronological details of the show are a bit fuzzy due to the fact that I decided my enjoyment of the show would be heightened by a few glasses of scotch, the fact remains that the show is hilarious in the overly manufacture drama that is typical of MTV shows. Plus, these folks are more or less cartoon characters. Cartoon characters that I went to high school with, but cartoon characters nonetheless.

Watching the show led me to believe that the folks in the giant MTV towers (or perhaps the section at Viacom reserved for MTV) have a set formula that they follow for every one of their damn shows. Jersey Shore is no different. Conflict brews in the part I saw over the issue of one of the overly tanned meatheads getting friendly with one of the "guidettes" that another overly tanned meathead is pining for or whatever the meathead equivalent is for that sort of emotion. What a shocker. Watching it unfold didn't really elicit anything like empathy from me, only a few very well deserved chuckles.

Now the show is honestly probably ironic comedy at its best. Anyone who takes it seriously probably has a bit of an over-reactive temperament. Word is that the anti-defamation folks representing the Italian community in New Jersey weren't too happy about it. In that case, I'm sure they're all up in Nintendo's business right now over not only Mario and Luigi, but also that Waluigi character. Maybe some representatives of the RAF should be suing the Peanuts folks for their misrepresentation of the fighter pilots during the First World War as a bunch of incompetent beagles.

But then again, there's nothing to be proud of here. New Jersey has gotten a bad rap, mostly due to the trash from the city and also the apes from Philadelphia (city of brotherly love my ass) who run up on the shore and decide to ruin it for everyone else. Now we have a televised series entitled "Jersey Shore" with a cast of idiots who are mostly not even from New Jersey. In fact, there is only one person, Sammy "Sweetheart", who is from New Jersey (Hazlet to be exact). This is a prime example of how New Jersey's image has more or less been tarnished by the unwashed masses that flood the place during the summer. Of course, there are plenty of other dopes and animal-brained humanoids running around to keep the dickwad coffers full, but the shoebies and bennies aren't helping.

So will I continue watching? Sure. Will I really care? Not really. Do I like drinking scotch? Hell yeah.

[Note: might be edited once first airing is fully viewed.]

Friday, November 20, 2009

Blacks and the Bosox

Most baseball fans know about Jackie Robinson and the integration of the major leagues (or at least I would hope so) and also know that the major league teams more or less started mining, for lack of a better word, the Negro Leagues for talent, and there was plenty to be had.

Which is why I'm fairly curious about owner Tom Yawkey's stance on having African American ballplayers on the Red Sox. In a Verb Plow post (a blog run by Glenn Stout), he unearths a quote from Yawkey himself in a Sports Illustrated article about the difficulties the Red Sox had in fielding a winning team during the late 1940s and 1950s. (The Red Sox won the pennant in 1946 and would not repeat that accomplishment until 1967.) This quote is deemed the "smoking gun" in proving that Yawkey was probably not the most pro-African American fellow out there.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the quote is the following:

"...we scouted them right along, but we didn't want one because he was a Negro. We wanted a ballplayer."

(Read the whole story about the Red Sox's troubles here.)

Now someone out there has got to explain how two folks named Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays were not deemed ballplayers, as both tried out for the Red Sox. Perhaps one can make the argument that this judgment is made in hindsight, but nonetheless anyone who witnessed the Negro Leaguers play (especially against the all-white teams of the era) could see that these were special, if not talented, baseball players. I honestly have no clue how he could have made that judgment. Bad scouts? Possibility. Racism?

About that. At first glance, the quote really doesn't speak to the point of "I RAGINGLY HATE BLACK PEOPLE," but it doesn't exactly make good baseball or even logical sense either. Again, the African American ballplayers from the Negro Leagues were mostly fully capable baseball players who could hold their own (in varying degrees) in the major leagues. And even though he had somewhat of a point in not signing and ol' random Negro Leaguer, the fact remains that how he was not able to find any black ballplayer worth his salt is beyond me.

Another part of the quote from Yawkey lends some credence to the notion that perhaps he harbored some racist tendencies. He refers to them as "clannish" and rumors that the Red Sox were not signing black players spread like wildfire among the black players and the Red Sox were (no pun intended) blackballed in the community. Stout addresses this part of the quote in the following paragraphs:

The notion that an African American ballplayer in the late 1940s and 1950s would turn down an offer to sign with any major league team over any issue, even money, sounded spurious to me, and in a survey of the Negro League history books that I have in my possession, I could find no such accounting. But I wanted to be sure.

I contacted my friend Lawrence Hogan, a Professor of History at Union College in New Jersey, one of the foremost Negro League historians in the country and the author of Shades of Glory, published by National Geographic and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, a book which has been referred to as a definitive history of Black baseball in America. In an e-mail I asked him, “Are you aware of any Negro League players, from the time Robinson signed to the late 1950s, who turned down offers from major league teams to remain in the Negro Leagues?” I asked specifically if he had ever heard of such a claim in regard to a player refusing to sign with the Red Sox.

The answer is no. Wrote Hogan, “I have never heard even the slightest suggestion of either thing you mention happening. I am sure there were players good enough to be signed who were not because of the glacial pace of integration. But I can ot imagine any Negro League player turning down an offer, other than on the normal personal grounds of not enough money being offered, or wanting to get on with life in a non-baseball way.”

It's pretty silly to think that apparently all the African American ballplayers would somehow all join forces and not play for the one team. It's even sillier to think that every single one of them would somehow have knowledge and stand in solidarity.

It is important to also note that most teams did not immediately jump on the sign African American ballplayers boat. Only three teams debuted an African-American ballplayer the same year that Jackie Robinson debuted, and a large number of the teams in existence at the time debuted their first African-American player during the years 1950-54. Yawkey was not exactly the quickest guy to the trend, but then again, the rest of the owners weren't either. (In the interest of parity to make sure I don't get any anti-Yankees comments, the Bronx Bombers debuted Elston Howard on 14 Apr 1955, a little more than two years before the Red Sox debuted Pumpsie Green.)

I would like to see more about Yawkey in order to accuse him of being a racist dickwad. One quote does not make him or break him. But it sure is a building block in the case against him.

In Response

In this blog post by the esteemed Jamie Harrison, he lists the 10 Best States for Lovers of American History. Number 10 on the list is the great state of New Jersey. While he makes a pretty good case for its inclusion on the list, I think it should be ranked higher in its significance. Why? Well, I'll tell you.

1) Trenton was a major turning point for the Continental Army

If Washington doesn't win at Trenton, well, we'd all be like those Canadians up north and nominally part of the British crown now. Trenton was a major and the first victory for the Continentals. They had been more or less routed and decimated at every battle Washington fought up to that point. But this sneak attack that took place the day after Christmas Day against the fairly hungover Hessians (talk about Santa leaving a piece of coal in your stocking) proved to be a huge morale booster and kept parts of the Continental Army together that would've simply melted away. The historical importance of the Battle of Trenton cannot be dimiminished.

2) Ellis Island, NEW JERSEY

In 1998, the Supreme Court ruled that the vast majority of the island was formed after the cessation of the original territory to New York was not covered by that cessation and that it was indeed part of New Jersey. As such, Ellis Island is a grossly important part of a large number of American's lives. Many an immigrant was shuffled through the building in their first moments on the shores of the United States...which were New Jersey shores, I might add. It's a great place to visit and learn a bit about what great-grandfather Giuseppe experienced when he first saw his new home.

3) That Thomas Edison dude.

The Wizard of Menlo Park set up shop in New Jersey and there are a few museums dedicated to him and his work. This is the guy who invented the light bulb, record player, and the motion picture (to put it very simply). Imagine not having any of those at your next party. West Orange, New Jersey and Edison, New Jersey both have museums and monuments dedicated to this great man.

So as you see, New Jersey is quite the sight for great parts of American history. While it probably does not rival places like Washington DC, it still should be given more credit in its role in shaping the nation. In conclusion, New Jersey fucking rules.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Question

Academia is a funny thing. Somehow you're being "productive" even though you're more or less a drain on society at best. You're busy all the time, and the only thing it rewards you with is a crippling coffee habit that puts the majority of government workers to shame. One would also hope that you are studying something that piques your interest. If not, well, enjoy the slow ride to hell.

These factors often lead people, including me, to lie in bed staring off into space wondering "What is the damned point of all this? Am I wasting my time?"

Every time I ask myself this question, I then think about the alternatives. What the heck would I be doing if I wasn't "being a student" or "pursing further education in the hopes I will achieve a salary that freshly minted bachelor's graduates at Lockheed Martin would sneer at?"

The answer turns out to be "nothing more glamorous than what I'm doing right now." Seriously. What sort of grand plan would I be pursuing at this moment? Not like there are a cornucopia of options out there. At best, I would most likely be living with my parents and sulking around while working a retail job. At worst, I'd probably be living with my parents and unemployed like it was my job.

In the end, however, this is what I wanted to do for a while. I wanted to study history. I could've been like every other wonk in IT and solely concentrated on that and possibly picked up more useful things like a certificate in Network Administration or a minor in computer science. Instead, I picked up history because I liked it and it would keep me from going completely and utterly insane while listening to some of the mouth-breathing glassy-eyed wastes of space in my classes express their "opinions." Plus, there are career options. It looks like most of my professors are not sitting in their offices counting out their food stamps. I'm sure museums need someone to watch the interns. And hell, it was interesting and I found that I was kind of good at it. Why not pursue it?

Sometimes I'm more troubled by the fact that I sit around and question whether or not I'm wasting my time than the actual answer. Shouldn't I just know?, I wonder. But then I realize that wondering doesn't mean crap if you don't come up with an answer. Crises are simple sound and fury signifying nothing if they don't produce a useful plan of action. I simply don't bother with them. There are too many readings to do and too many cups of coffee to slug.

Wondering is not a terrible thing. Asking yourself questions like "Do I really want to do this?" serve a purpose. But if you decide that it's worth it to walk through hell, well, keep on going.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Kid in Me

Probably the most crushing news I've heard recently is that Weezer is indeed not coming to my school in favor of playing some big radio station event in DC.

Now most people out there probably think, "Big fucking deal." These people are also probably the people who haven't felt the spirit of Christmas or haven't had a human emotion since they saw Fido get hit by the redneck neighbor's Ford F-150.

But to me, it is. As one of my previous posts discussed, I've got a soft spot for the folks that brought us the joy of looking like Buddy Holly and not caring about what people say about you.

As a 13 year old, there wasn't a lot going on for me, other than dicking around and finding the joy in kicking rocks. I more or less took being a peckerwood to an art form. Compared to what I "do" with my "time," I'm living the high life right now reading journal articles and sipping on scotch.

Looking back at everything, it was some sort of luck that I discovered Weezer. I have no idea how I found the first Weezer album I bought (it was the Green one, if you need to know the details), but I was thankful I did. Finally there was a group of musicians that did not look cool at all. I mean, just take a look at this:

Would you invite kids that look like this to a party?

Seriously, do these guys look like the coolest dudes on the block? Hell no. Hell freaking no.

And yet, these guys were fairly successful rock stars. (Yes, the bassist of that group kinda went nuts and fell out of the band, but three out of four isn't bad.) And look at them; they're complete dorks. Listen to their songs; it's about more or less being a inept dork caged by yourself with no way out or just the suck of life. And they make no qualms about singing about how uncool they are. I mean, they mention Dungeons and Dragons in one of their songs. How awesomely dorky is that?

Over time, I sort of forgot about them. I had discovered The Clash and got into thinking, "Boy, Joe Strummer is a hard ass and I want to be like him when I grow up" or some nonsense like that while I'm mentally mailing it in during calculus.

Of course, when I saw that Weezer concert at the end of the summer, it all came back. All those years of just being frustrated and groping and grasping at things in life I could never had came back, brought to the forefront by a lead singer and band which I could relate to. Honestly, while I am a diehard fan of the Clash, it's sort of folly that I can relate all the time to a bunch of hardasses whith fairly rough credentials. Meanwhile, I can easily see the kindred spirits in a group of squares on a stage playing rock music. Because I'm one of them.

So I hope this past summer isn't the last time I get to see them. I hope to one day be able to see them again. At least now I know the kid in me hasn't died yet. And he'll be happy too.

Friday, October 2, 2009


It's a strange thing feeling alone in a crowd. It's an awkward feeling as you wander through a crowd on their way to get a burrito or a slice of pizza feeling like you're some lost kite tossed to the winds.

I was walking back from a late class and I felt the bizarre feeling of nothingness flow through my veins. Yes, there was physical blood flowing through them (if there wasn't, this would be a post entitled "I had an aneurysm"). But I didn't feel any life flowing through me at that exact moment. And yet, I was still moving. It was a strange listlessness as I was more or less blowing through life.

Sometimes it might be because I'm trying to put some actual meaning behind why I do what I do, why I get up in the morning, why I go to class, why I do virtually anything. And when I don't find anything, it doesn't gel with my motivational theory of how people go through the daily motions of life. I've already discounted the absence of a reason because A) it's uncomfortable to think about that and B) if there was no reason, I would've mailed it in years ago. I've more or less written it off as a reason that cannot be explained nor or even in the future.

Nonetheless, sometimes I think it's because there's something missing. Something to give me a purpose in my listless wandering around. Something to give it some sort of structure or at least guidance. Raison d'être, if you will. But it also seems some sort of folly to try to chase it down. Instead, it'll find its way to me one way or another.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


If the death of Michael Jackson taught me one thing, it's that people will feel sentimental for some of the dopiest things. Okay, Michael Jackson made some hit records and made friends with the local children, but he also more or less represented a gross commercialization of the music industry that made the majority of mainstream music about as thrilling and exciting as the weak tea they serve at the nursing home on Sunday afternoons. It was only then that hordes of his "fans" came out of the woodwork, most of whom would've easily cracked the K-Mart joke a week earlier.

Billy Mays death further reinforced that notion. It's sad that he died (I mean, it's sad when anyone passes), but seriously folks: he was an INFOMERCIAL "STAR." Star of infomercials you probably barely watched or cared about.

And now we have the ultimate point-counterpoint in notable deaths today. On one hand, we have Patrick Swayze, star of Dirty Dancing and...um...well, I'm sure he did some other things too other than getting "Hungry Eyes" stuck in my head. Oh, and Ghost. Yeah...some contribution to mankind. I'm pretty sure we can all get by in our pitiful lives if either of those two movies weren't made. Oh, and that crappy Wong Foo movie, the trailers of which left several questions for anyone my age at that time. Talk about unnecessary "cultural" "contributions." Thank god for kitsch, huh?

And then you have some dude named Norman Borlaug, possibly one of the most important men in the last fifty years to grace the earth. Um...wait...who?

Norman Borlaug. You know, the guy who saved nearly a billion lives with new strains of wheat that helped lift countries in the Third World out of starvation and misery. You know, actually important stuff that people should care about (at least more so than bubblegum pop, annoying infomercials, and dancing in a dirty fashion).

Whoa whoa whoa...this guy did? Why haven't we heard about him?

Well, maybe if you turn off VH1's "I Love this Decade for Really Insignificant Reasons due to Kitsch," you'll learn that he earned one of those neat Nobel Peace Prize things in 1970 -- you know, that thing that Martin Luther King Jr., Woodrow Wilson, Mother Teresa, and Dag Hammarskjöld have won. He also won the Congressional Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. India (one of the nations he essentially saved) honored him with their second highest civilian honor. How many people do you know that can claim all of those awards?

And yet, he still remains a mystery to most Americans. Why? Beats me. I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that we've all remained blissfully ignorant about the plight of much of the world while we force developing nations to adhere to standards that shackle them in poverty in the pretentious, full-bellied name of "environmentalism."

But that's another post for another day. I'd rather not tarnish the memory of Mr. Borlaug with that sort of diatribe. But I'll leave you with a quote.

“Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dear Old Me

This past weekend I managed (due to the serendipity of the gods or something equally ridiculous) to see Weezer at the Virgin Free Fest. That was probably the most existential I've ever felt without a few scotches in me. As I was rocking out, screaming my ass off, and singing along to most every song they played, I got to thinking about how pumped 13 year old me would've been to see Weezer live in concert. I concluded that 13 year old me would've said "bullshit and snow will fall in hell, you old fogey" and he would've been right about me being an old fogey and I would've shook my cane and told him about the joys of eight track tapes.

In all seriousness, I would've responded with the following letter.

"Dear 13 Year Old Me,

I know life sucks pretty hardcore at this moment. Trust me, I still remember at my 'old' age. And while I'd like to tell you that things will be amazingly improved 9 years later, things haven't really smoothed out. Anyone who's trying to convince you otherwise is just telling you that so you'd feel better and don't do something incredibly stupid. It's still going to be a rough go and you'll be thrown for loops you couldn't image. While it's going to suck, you'll be reinforcing that lesson that you've been learning over and over: you're the only person out there you can depend on. You're the only one who can guarantee that you'll be the #1 priority on their lists. Everyone else is gamble, and you're putting yourself on the line each and every time. Chances are that you're running a pretty high risk each and every time.

That tech thing you've been dreaming about? Give it up. Your reasons for doing it are complete crap. You're not going to fulfill that dream you've had for years about showing up all those mouth-breathing nimrods who made sure that you remembered how low you stood in the pecking order. Just quit on that. You'll discover that passion for history is the way to go, especially if you'd like to reduce the misery quotient. You got enough that's weighing on your mind all the time; don't waste any brainpower on something you quite frankly suck at. That malarkey about 'doing what you love?' They're not moronic hippies; they're right. I wished I realized this earlier and saved a bit of confusion and frustration. Wasting your time just to show up those morons isn't worth the time.

Get used to playing second fiddle. You'll realize that there's someone out there always better than you and to chase them is akin to trying to catch the wind. Don't worry about trying to beat out the competition. Just work on being the best you can absolutely be and completely disregard what everyone else is doing.

A corollary to the previous paragraph is that you're going to be playing with a shorter deck than everyone else. That is a fact that you'll think about more than you'd like, but it's something that's not going to change, no matter how you will it so.

You're time isn't always now; it's always going to be the future. Part of me (the old, grumpy man) says that's crap; the optimistic me (it's somewhere in my soul) says to keep holding out, no matter how difficult it's going to get (and it's going to get rough).

You're probably not going to like the future you at that age. That's fine. At times I wonder what I'm doing. Nine years later, you'll find that you've lost faith in most of humanity. This will trouble you, but after 9 years of sheer and utter bullshit, you're going to start to lose faith in your fellow man to be a genuinely good person. You're going to hold out hope for the most irrational reasons, only to realize that it was a waste of time and you probably should've been doing something else with your life.

You'll find people that you're somewhat comfortable with. However, you're going to get the sense that you're not really with it the entire time, and you're an outsider. At this point in your life, you're used to such sentiments and don't really dwell upon it. Still, the constant discomfort is quite irritating and you wish you could've done it differently. But you can't, so the only thing to do is to live through the constant discomfort.

All is not doom and gloom. You'll have a bit more freedom and you will meet some genuine people who'll stick with you, despite your thoughts that they'll turn and the drop of the hat. You'll pick up new skills that will (god willing) be helpful at some point. Also, you will see Weezer in concert. That won't make up for a lot of the bullshit you've dealt with, but the cathartic experience helps.

Future you."

P.S. Profanity is implied.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The River

Is a dream a lie if it don't come true or is it something worse?

I'm a big Bruce Springsteen fan and I was listening to "The River" when that lyric came up. "The River" discusses a man who has to let go of his dreams due to the circumstances of his existence. Many of us live with that. We'd all love to be the awesome people that we think we are, but in all honestly, we're all a bunch of middling failures in the grand scheme of things. And no, I'm not exempting myself from this category and looking at you with hoity-toity disdain as I'm puffing away on a pipe and swirling my scotch in a glass; I'm in the same sinking boat as all of you folks.

Nevertheless, calling it a lie is a harsh way of putting it. Of course you have to let go of certain dreams at some point in your life. But does that mean that anything that doesn't pan out exactly when you want to mean that your dream is a lie?

We all live with disconnects with reality. Honestly, it's probably what keeps most, if not all, of us sane. Reality is a gritty, grim place. A few dreams here and there to doll up the place doesn't hurt too much. But it's when you've completely blinded yourself with those dreams and lost touch with reality that something is up. There comes a point when you have to accept the circumstances handed to you and figure it out from there.

Even still, you shouldn't fully give up on your dreams. Keep at least one alive; it's part of what makes us human. And if you're not human, then what are you?


Senatory Edward "Ted" Kennedy succumbed to brain cancer late last night at the age of 77 years, leaving behind a long, storied career in politics.

The list of accomplishments under his name would be so long that I'd have to dedicate a massive series of blog posts just to fully discuss them all, so I'll leave that to professional historians. One of the most notable accomplishments he will be remembered for is his work in civil rights, as theGrio notes.

However, there is one issue that is over-looked in that discussion and that is his stance on desegregation busing. Busing caused all sorts of problems most everywhere it was tried and took existing issues and served as a catalyst to make them major headaches. Many of the proponents of busing, Kennedy included, had children in private school where they would be unaffected by the decisions on busing.

This remains an issue as areas where busing was implemented saw fairly well-functioning school districts fall to pieces as those who could move out to avoid busing (whites) did so while those who couldn't (minorities) had to make do with whatever was left. Entire school districts were ruined by this policy. Prince George's County in Maryland was totally transformed by this change and now not only suffers from the problems in the school districts but also now has a crime rate higher than that of neighboring DC.

Now don't get me wrong: I did agree with some of Ted Kennedy's views. But let's not be so quick to make him a saint and a messiah, especially of race relations.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

64 Checkered Squares

I used to play chess quite a bit when I was much younger man. I played for my high school (I was that cool) and it was one of the few things I could hold my own in from time to time. Like most games, you learn a lot about yourself as a person and about life.

As a youngster, I had real difficulty sorting through how life worked. I just couldn't put it together to save my life. As such, I grasped for anything that I could use as a model. Chess somehow managed to fit. It was logical, which meant that it had comprehensible reasons for everything. There were definite rules that were inflexible that reduced variation. An opponent sat across from me, something that I felt was present at all times in life.

Once I've aged a bit, I've learned that things aren't like chess at all. You can't go around looking at logic for the answers to everything. People are driven by other things. This is what distinguishes us from the silicon machines we use to write and respond to blog posts. And because of this, making all the right moves 100% of the time doesn't guarantee victory, something which I've learned, often through the hard way.

It's something hard to reconcile, since a logical and refined world is easier to comprehend and sort through. As someone who has no clue about the rules of engagement, it's like grasping at straws or trying to devise a strategy for a game of which the rules are not defined.

Then again, who would really want to live a life that could be boiled down to 64 checkered squares?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Ride

Yesterday, I rode a bus route I hadn't ridden for a while. I avoided it because of what triggers I was afraid it would bring up. Nevertheless, necessity won out and I succumbed. As I was riding, I started to feel nothing. It wasn't numbness; it was just simple apathy. And that felt great.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Important Stuff

In these tumultuous days, one of the most pressing issues in the nation is...the college football system? Wait, really? Well, apparently it's important enough that Congress has to get involved. That's right: Congress is going to hold hearings on the BCS system.

Quite frankly, it is a ridiculously dumb system. The manual ranks up there in the list of national secrets. However it's worked out it favors a few of the college football divisions and leaves the rest out. So if you're in one division and do kind of okay, you'll outrank a team that has a perfect record (and possibly a much better team) but is stuck in a division that is not as "notable" (whatever that word means in this context). There are have been several examples of this in recent history; Utah in 2008 and Boise State a few years back.

Now there have been several arguments about why they shouldn't change the system, too many and too moronic to list out. The simple fact remains that Division I football is one of the major college sports that does not have a playoff. In fact, most of the other sports and Division II and III football have playoffs, and I don't see a mass collapse there. Basketball, for example, seems to eke out a meager existence with it's playoff. Don't see why football can't.

What's even dumber than the system is the fact that Congress has to get involved. Seriously folks; the system is so blatantly idiotic that a sixteen year old (namely me) figured it out after trying to divine the formula for the rankings (it was a very slow weekend and I had just finished my math homework and was still in a mathematics mood). And now Senator Orrin Hatch (representing Utah, the state with one of the teams that got the shaft) has brought this to attention, citing violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Law. And while this has been a problem for years, it's not exactly the most pressing issue we've got to deal with in the nation.

At least it's good they're "attempting" to "fix" the "problem." If they can resolve this, health-care, the financial crisis, Iraq, etc. should be a piece of cake, right?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Put Your Pants Back On, Partner

if you've been following the news, you will have noticed a few things. For one, mother nature won't shut the freaking faucet off on the East Coast of the United States. But perhaps the biggest piece of international news that's made the headlines is the ruckus up in Iran.

Iran, to say the least, has been "pretty interesting" (that's my analysis of the situation) in recent history. Ever since we sniffed communism on Mossadegh in the 1950s, the very spiky ball that is current Iran was set in motion.

Everyone has heard that story and the story of the 1979 revolution, where a group of people decided the best way to make friends with the world was to storm an embassy. Everyone remember the extremism. It is interesting to note, like many other revolutions, that the initial period before the fundamentalists took over saw much participation by moderates who were very much in favor of the Western ideals of democracy and basic liberties seen in many western states.

Other revolutions have functioned fairly similarly. The French Revolution was mostly dominated in the intermediate stages by the Girondins, a moderate group of middle-class folks who were in favor of some change, but not the wild shenanigans that would come later. People forget that the Russian Revolution didn't just spring from a dictatorial tsarist regime to a dictatorial communist regime without some sort of "in-between" period. It's not like everyone was all about the more extreme communist system.

So let's not get too excited about Iran here. The fan's still on, and the shit's still in the bucket.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Introspective Pigeonholing, or Why Can't an Asian Study Whitey Too?

Everyone knows the various stereotypes within academia; for example, the math, science, and engineering departments are all filled with Asians and Indians.

However, you can find similar pigeonholing within academic disciplines. For example, a black person is supposed to be teaching something about African or African-American history, while an Asian person is supposed to be teaching Asian history.

I can understand it if its the case, but what if you simply don't care to study it? I've come across people who can't get over the fact that their advisers simply try to shepherd them into the "appropriate" minority field of study. I remember coming across a woman who faced the same frustrations. Apparently because she was a woman, the expectation was that she would study women's history, which was not the case.

Some people try to dress it up as "knowing the subject of study well" and "knowing the audience" but what they fail to realize is that some people would rather just study old dead white dudes. Sometimes old dead white dudes with guns.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Graduation Report

So even though I technically could've participated, I chose not to wear a funny hat and mumu and walk across a stage to shake hands with some dude for photo opportunities. Instead, I sat with the supporters in the cheap seats.

The day started out how it usually does: I didn't want to get up. I woke up initially at ten in a failed attempt to "beat the traffic," which wound up being an effort to sleep in until 11:30 AM, at which point I called my friend (codename: the Rock) to give me a ride. He picked me up shortly after, and we made our way to Charm City.

Well, it wasn't that easy. There was various piles of traffic littering the road. Apparently there's a lot to do in Charm City on a weekday during the middle of the workday. Who knows. There was an accident, so that would explain part of it. We watched the clock as we tried to make it in time to find halfway decent seats.

After finally making it into the city, me and the Rock were now on the quest to find parking and also the venue. It was quite an adventure, filled with wrong turns, expletives, and wondering where in the lord's green earth we'd wandered into. We eventually found parking at a ritzy hotel that would cost us whatever money we had left on our person, shoved in pocket corners and the bottoms of our shoes. Thankfully, this hotel was right across the street from the venue.

After making the perilous journey across the street (don't laugh until you've crossed some city streets) we made it inside. We discovered that apparently we weren't the only people who cared enough to come to this graduation. Apparently the people at our school have relatives who care and possibly some friends. We weren't the only one. After examining the situation, the Rock and I decide to go into the stands and watch from the back center. Centered, but afar. Story of my life.

We managed to get most of the "procession," i.e. the marching of students. Then the whole pre-show stuff started, with the national anthem and other such necessities. The one thing interesting about the whole thing was the fact that there was a sad attempt to do the Baltimore "O" during the anthem. Look it up. It's an actual thing they do. Weirdos.

So that was done and over with and the college president spoke. He's a charismatic fellow, so if he read a shopping list, most people would think "OH HELL YEAH BOLOGNA!!!" After that, the valedictorian spoke. I have never heard something more generic and dull since I read my last shopping list. It was probably the most generic statement one could have made about college. Thankfully, the speech lasted only 7 minutes, a period of time that probably wasn't useful to me anyway, so I wasn't too irritated by the loss.

There were a few of the "stand if you do [x] and let's give 'em a hand" moments. Apparently the entirety of the history department (save a certain reporter, who was in the stands) stood up when the President wanted to honor the future teachers. Tough economic times.

Honorary degrees were given to people who've "achieved things." This must make the Ph.Ds who slaved away at their degrees very jealous of these folks who are just handed the degree.

Then eventually we got to the people walking across the stage deal. We waited for our friend (alias "Mr. Too Big for Society") to walk across the stage. However, since the majors were listed alphabetically, he was stuck somewhere towards the end of the pack. I sat around and watched and waited for some of my other compatriots to let them know how much I really cared about them.

When Mr. Too Big for Society finally walked across the stage, I finally used all the energy I had been building up and using those vocal chords I'd been warming up for this moment. Cue the Michael Jordan intro music. I shouted "hard wood" as loud as I could. So the exact moment can be summarized by the following

"HARD WOOD!!!!!"

Yep. Screamed that out loud in public. Probably should've checked for children, pregnant women, and priests in the area, but it was too late. They just saw some maniac freak out and scream "hard wood" in public. It was great.

After that, it wound down. I increasingly got bored, thirsty, and hungry at the same time. I took a few breaks. The rest is a blur.

So that is the commencement that I did not participate in but nevertheless attended to at least make someone's day just a little bit more uncomfortable.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Legend of the China Specialist

Some people are not qualified to do certain things. For example, I am most certainly not qualified to pitch for the New York Yankees (although judging from the game on Saturday, April 18, 2009, I'm going to start to limber up my arm just in case they need someone...but that's another blog post). And a lot of people are not qualified to comment on national affairs.

In that category is Jackie Chan. Jackie Chan is qualified to do a lot of things. He can "act," (dispelling the notion that English skills are necessary for any Asian to succeed in the United States), sing, and now he's apparently a qualified analyst on what sort of government the Chinese people need.

Recently, since apparently carrying the Olympic torch bestows powers I never knew about, Jackie Chan felt qualified to commentate about democracy in the "People's" "Republic" of China. And apparently, the Chinese people aren't ready to handle democracy and "need to be controlled."

Yes, the Chinese, the folks who brought you such great things as paper, gunpowder, chopsticks, printing, and the majority of your local university's computer science department, can't handle democracy because they're too busy...I don't freaking know.

Seriously, dude. Your reasoning is because Taiwan and Hong Kong are "chaotic." Right...yeah...and what the hell is Pakistan? Or Somalia, for that matter? Or this guy's 21st birthday party?

Let's take a look at the facts: Hong Kong is fairly freaking tame, despite what John Woo's movies say about it. It's a bit rough around the edges sometimes, but what city isn't? And it's not like it's being toppled by a coup d'etat every week or so. Nor is Taiwan. The "troubles" they've been having are fairly negligible compared to the actual chaos occuring in other nations.

Furthermore, let's take a look at how you've benefitted from a free world. Much of the money you've made, Mr. Chan, has been made in countries where freedom and democracy are thriving. Just letting you know. Heck, had you not been from Hong Kong, it might've been very very different for you.

And what would you suggest? Mao didn't exactly work out for China in the long run. And what do you base your judgement on? Hong Kong and Taiwan are about as chaotic as a dim sum brunch.

Maybe it's time to go back to making Shanghai Mornings or whatever it is you do.

Friday, April 3, 2009

No More Mr. Nice Guy?

I'm a big fan of two things: history and not doing a damn thing. Thankfully, there's the internet for people like me. One of the my favorite sites to peruse when I'm busy accomplishing both is Cracked, a site like Mental Floss with some videos and also more snarky attitude that hints of 4Chan (if you can call what you find on 4Chan "snarky attitude). Perhaps the best way to put it is that it's less hipster.

They, like Mental Floss, have lists of stuff that tell you about some really neat stuff. One of the lists that I came across during my hourly perusal of the site is entitled "6 Historical Villains Who Were OK Guys." Go ahead and read it, and I'll let you know what I think.

6) Genghis Khan

He was a pretty nasty dude, but considering where he came from (a combination of Baltimore and the Great Plains but with funny Asian dudes on horses), you really can't expect him to be some cuddly Barney-like object. But many people don't give him credit for things that are really freaking important. One example is diplomatic immunity. Beforehand, it was a occupation that could literally cause headaches, and by headaches I mean losing your head. Genghis Khan had a enough of these shenanigans and decided that the next punk-asses to give his diplomats any lip/a blade on the neck would be taken to the hole. Eventually this evolved to the charming folks at the UN sitting with headphones, totally not thinking about how the cops will totally kick their asses.

5) Benedict Arnold

They hit this one on the nail. I do have a bone to pick with their portrayal of the invasion of Canada. It was a stupid idea that didn't work (and didn't work the second time either) and probably shouldn't have been executed in the first place.

The mention of the alliance with France also is sort of misleading. Many, if not all, of the major figures in the revolution had some combat experience with the French.

4) Antonio Salieri

Whatever pauper's grave Mozart was buried in, all the copies of Amadeus and any mention of the film should be put in there with it. Granted, Mozart probably was some sort of flamboyant show off (a cross between that chick from Poison and Rick James). But that doesn't mean you have to do some movies that takes history and warps it into something else.

3) King John

They're giving him a lot of leeway here. King John wasn't the sharpest pencil in the box, which they state. But that doesn't excuse the fun times he stirred up. I mean, when was the last time you managed to get an entire nation on the blacklist because you were an idiot?

The Magna Carta was fairly momentous, but it wasn't some amazing document that gave everyone equal rights and a white picket fence to put in front of their hovel. Not so. Cracked did a good job in pointing out that while it was a momentous occasion in the field of governments creating written documents to limit themselves, it wasn't that much of a victory over oppression.

They also bring up a good point about Richard I. For all intensive purposes, Richard I was a pretty bad king. He barely spent any of his time in England, instead devoting it to running around the Holy Land. And don't whip out some half-assed management theory about "managing through absence."

2) Captain William Bligh

Life in the British Navy sucked, and there's no other reason to believe differently in the case of the Bounty. Sailors get real pissy a lot of the time too. Plus, there's not much I know about the story, so I'll just gloss over it.

1) Edward I

Edward I was an amazing king. Compare what England was like under his rule with what it was like under his father, Henry III, and you'll see why. Thanks to Braveheart, this conception has been messed up.

Edward II, his son, was a total moron. He was about as much of a bumbling idiot as John was, and he made it look bad. His father tried setting it up as well as he could (including hooking him up with the hottest woman in Christendom at the time), but it all went to hell. Guess this competency thing skips a generation every once in a while.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Party's Over

Being from the metropolitan New York area, the extravagant wealth of Wall Street wasn't some distant imagination of mine but something visible and tangible that I could see and (hopefully) one day experience first hand. Seeing it on the news everyday and meeting the fathers of friends who wore sharp suits and ties with crisp leather briefcases was a brief enough taste to make me want more...and to believe that I could not only taste it but even take a hearty bite.

As I grew up and the economy stalled and entered a dive it hasn't gotten out of yet, it became fairly evident that the extravagant wealth located on Wall Street was further than I previously believed, at least mentally. After a certain point, it was about as far from me as it was from the storekeeper in Lawrence, Kansas.

Reading the financial news sometimes makes a few of Shakespeare's tragedies downright cheery. I was only an infant when the last economically induced tragedy occurred on Wall Street. Even that didn't manage to leave such a wide swath of destruction. The current economic downturn now has seen the collapse of firms on Wall Street that had withstood several ups and downs, multiple terrorist attacks, the dot-com boom and bust. But due to some lending shenanigans, all of that is prologue.

Gone too are dreams and hopes of millions of Americans. There was a time when many thousands of people could have made a realistic play to be one of the multiple hordes on Wall Street, maybe even one of those who could have multiple homes only a Long Island Expressway ride apart. Now even the mere notion of being able to be a peon on the Great Wealthy Way has evaporated into the same air that retirements and dream homes and futures evaporated into.

Perhaps this is just a reminder for all of us that whatever rock we sit on, no matter how solid or adaptable, is never there permanently. It is only a matter of time before the winds of time and the streams of circumstances wash it away.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wash Your Pants

For another account of the following events, check it out here.

So I'm in my room studying for an exam. Next thing you know, my friend knocks on my door and says "My friend (let's call him "Jackson") just posted on his Facebook status that he's in the engineering building and some tall nerdy dude just turned on a computer and is watching porn." I thought, "Hm...that's odd." My friend adds, "I commented 'pics or it didn't happen' and he replied 'he's still doing it.'"

The first instinct isn't "Fucking ew." The first instinct is "INVESTIGATE." I promptly change into street clothes and put on shoes as fast as I can. I grab my digital camera.

We rush outside. We try to work out the quickest way there. We figure it out and head that way. On the way there, we run into a guy (let's call him "Johnny") outside the engineering building where the lab is smoking a cigarette. He says, "Hey, what's up?" We quickly and hurriedly reply "Uh...we're real busy. Catch you later."

On the way to the lab, my friend jokingly says "What if it was 'Johnny?'" I dismiss this. When we get there, "Jackson" tells us, in some graphic detail (too graphic for this somewhat family blog) what he did and where he did it. I see the computer he was at.

Why is this important? Because here, when you leave your terminal for a while and you're still logged in, the computer "locks" and it says "This computer has been locked by [so and so]."

So naturally, when I see the exact computer, I immediately think "A-HA! I can see who it is!" So I walk over to check it out to see who it is, out of curiosity. And I see the name. No. It's..."Johnny." No. No. The guy we saw outside smoking a cigarette. No. No. No. A guy my friend and I BOTH KNOW. No. No. No. NO!!!

I am not prepared for this. I was expecting some pale mouthbreather that you'd see outside the lone adult movie theater in the Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore on a Sunday afternoon wearing a trench coat and rubber boots, or perhaps one of those guys on To Catch a Predator. That I could've expected. This...this is too too much for me.

Bells and whistles are going off in my head like none other. It's like freaking Notre Dame in Paris during a wedding up there. I have information that I can't just divulge. I can't just belt out "'Johnny' was just squeezing the cream out of his eclair" in public. No. I must privately tell my friends the ridiculous mind-blowing news.

Then, all of a sudden, "Johnny" comes back into the computer lab. Oh no. Johnny sees me at his terminal. I have the information and my friend, "Jackson," and "Jackson's" friend don't have the information. I have to make it back. I am caught snooping for evidence. This cannot go down with me. It must be known.

"Hey," I think. "I think he might not have noticed me. I can make a break for it." Which is what I did. "Johnny" took a step. I took a step. "Johnny" took a step. I took a step. We match each other step for step.

I manage to get back just as he gets to his terminal. The horror and shock engulfs me. This man had been touching himself in public inches from where I had just stood. A man that I know. The look of horror on my friend's face is evident as well.

We promptly leave to go outside and proceed to giggle our asses off. We recount our own "touching" stories. I mention I saw some fellow watch porn on his laptop in class while there was a film being shown.

When we return, "Johnny" is at it again. The video chat is fully on. There's some scantily clad ho on the screen doing things. His eyes are glued to the gyrations and self-caresses on the screen. I watch in horror and amusement. He gets excited and starts giggling himself. I can't stop laughing and giggling. I snort in a futile effort to stifle my amusement. I cough to cover it up. My throat is sore.

Another stranger is party to what is going on. "Johnny" is to this stranger's right hand side as he's, um, well, stretching the Johnson out. He hasn't looked to his right in about an hour. He looks horrified. I feel sympathy for him.

I decide to try to get a picture. Problem is that the camera makes noise when it takes a picture. So I step out of the lab to turn on the silent mode. I take a test picture of a sign. Quiet as a pin dropping. Perfect. I am going to win some sort of unofficial Pulitzer for this. Or at least have it put on CollegeHumor.

I go inside to try for the perfect angle without being too obvious to anyone else. I jostle, I fidget, I maneuver any which way to get the perfect angle of what's going on. No such luck. I just got cheated out of the image of the week: a dude yanking his doodle in public. My career as a photojournalist got cut short by my desire to remain incognito, much like some wildlife expert in the savanna, observing the wildlife in as undisturbed of an environment as possible.

Eventually "Johnny" gets wise to our leering eyes, and he throws up MATLAB as a cover. Just tosses it up and acts like he's working, when in actuality he's just moving the mouse around and pretending to work as a stalling tactic so he can go back to "Fantasy Sparkles" get her groove on in cyberspace. We sit there for a bit longer, and me and my friend decide to leave.

My friend and I are in amazement that the guy would continue to patron the virtual services of that nature even after he was clearly busted, literally, with his pants down. We both know that "Johnny" has a computer in his room.

Now I have watched a New York Giants game on the school computers. That was when my laptop was busted. But I don't exactly look at dirty pictures on the computers, nor do I decide to unzip and let it fly.

This leaves us with the only conclusion: he's gone from weird fucking dude to...public pervert.

Now do not question my morals here. I just put myself on the line for the public good. You're welcome.

Which leaves us with this question: How much was he paying for this?

(some identities changed to protect the real people. yes this happened. you cannot make shit like this up.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not for Teacher

Even though I grew up in what was becoming more and more a white collar town (some would say the town would be "white trash with money," which is also true), there are some solidly blue-collar roots in the town. The local chapter of the Teamster's Union (Local 469) is based in the next town over. Many of the residents remember their parents or grandparents working in factories in the big cities and talking about the unions.

But perhaps the biggest union in the town is the teachers' union. This is mostly due to the fact that there are 12 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, and 2 high schools for the entire town for a grand total of 17 schools (i.e. tons of teachers). And while there were some sizable wealthy number of people who lived in the town, the majority of the town sent their children to the public schools as they provided a decent education.

As such, the teacher's union had some decently potent power. And as we all know, power corrupts, and potent power corrupts potently. The union eventually decided twice during my time in the K-12 system to go on strike because the town wanted to bring the level of benefits somewhere near the level of reality. The first time wasn't so bad as they managed to find enough substitutes to keep things somewhere near functional (well, as functional as one could when you see your English teacher outside with a sandwich board sign).

The second time is when hell not only broke loose but also busted out his buddies. Not only did they go on strike for a week, but schools were shut down as well. Furthermore, it was a day by day basis, so you really couldn't plan for it until you saw the morning news. In addition, since it is against the law where I'm from for teachers to strike, they got arrested. While there was the whole shtick of "oh, we're just doing what MLK did" (yes, they tossed that line out), it was interesting to see [Teacher X] who yelled at you in recess in an orange jumpsuit and leg chains.

What I got out of the whole ordeal (besides funny stories to tell the kids in neighboring towns) was a bit of wariness about unions. I understood their place in the world, but sometimes it just gets out of hand and the purpose gets lost in megalomaniac's pipe dream and delusions of grandeur. And once that happens, well, you're just about as bad as the employers.

As such, when the news about Obama stiffing it to the teachers by telling them that they actually (like real people) had to earn their keep by *gasp* doing a good job, I felt somewhat proud of the guy. I mailed it in through the majority of K-12 education and had the teachers been actually rewarded for actually doing a good job, perhaps I would've actually learned more in school rather than outside of school watching TV, reading books, and playing video games.

The rest of us in the real world have to live by that standard. If we do a good job, we get rewarded, and if we've simply been mailing it in, we don't get rewarded and sometimes we get punished. There are reports that in some places, it's damn near impossible to fire some teachers for offenses that would find me out on my ass before I could think "organized labor." I fail to see what's wrong with that.

Furthermore, with a few exceptions, the people that I have seen going into education are less than, um, "intellectually stimulating" and as such, I'm pretty sure a good kick in the ass/some motivation to actually step it up a few notches in meaningful ways wouldn't hurt.

Then again, I'm pretty sure some time in leg shackles and an orange jumpsuit would perhaps part the same message as well.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


The Cold War was a pretty hairy time for most people in the world, especially if you lived in an area outside of Europe and its subsidiaries and the United States. Personal freedoms were quashed in many parts of the world in the name of stopping communism and (oddly enough) defending the free world. Human rights abuses occurred in nations ranging from Argentina to Zaire, all in the name of "freedom."

The beginning of a horrific and much too long chapter of the Republic of China's history during this time starts on February 28, 1947. The day previous, a riot had broken out after police apprehended a 40 year old widow for illegally selling cigarettes. The police had been less that civil in their handling of the situation, and the widow was pistol whipped. The surrounding crowd of Taiwanese were not so thrilled at the Chinese cops' show of force and made it clear that they didn't approve. They began to chase the cops and the cops fired back.

For a month afterward, the Taiwanese were able to seize control of the island. ROC officials declared a state of martial law to no avail at that point. On March 8, ROC troops landed on the island and began a nationwide crackdown on dissenters. It was not until 1987 that martial law and what became known as the White Terror ended.

It is still a subject that is not widely discussed in Taiwan. A reparation system has been set up by the government to set up funds for restitution for the victims or relatives of victims involved in the incident. Due to the fact that many Taiwanese have been fairly quiet on the subject, many people who were victimized are less than thrilled about coming forward about it and those relatives eligible might not even know about the involvement.

There is some openness about the incident now. A plaque commemorates the exact location of where the shooting took place. There is a memorial to the incident outside of the Presidential Office in Taipei. It's a fitting place to put it to remind the president about what happens when government steps too far for too long.

There is also a park in Taipei named 228 Memorial Park. The park, built as Taihoku Park by the Japanese and renamed Taipei New Park by the Chinese, was the center for broadcasting by the main authorities. The park recently had its name changed to commemorate the incident on February 28. Considering the fact that the park has had so much surrounding it that represented repression and restriction, it is sort of a dramatic irony that the park has become a spot where gay men meet. In fact, it was the starting point of the first and second Taiwan Gay Pride parades in 2003 and 2004.

Just to think...an incident of oppression lent its name to a park where people start marching from in a display of their freedom and individuality. Now that's progress.

Monday, February 9, 2009


This weekend, due to a hangover, my Indian friend, my white friend, and I (I'm Asian, just to clarify) sauntered into a Vietnamese restaurant to score some beef noodle soup. Afterward, we went into a nearby Indian grocery because apparently they have some really awesome mango juice. I made the quip that we were a walking joke at the point ("So a white guy, an Indian, and an Asian walk into an Indian grocery...").

We go in (I pick up a guava juice, for the record) and we go to the register. When we get to the register, the cashier (an Indian guy, if you forgot it was an Indian grocery) asked us how much the juice was. We didn't know, so he asked the other cashier (also Indian) what the price was on the juice. The other cashier said it was 99 cents. My Indian friend immediately agreed. The cashier immediate did one of those Russell Peters examples of "typical Indian behavior" and immediately did a finger wag and said "No no no no no no. It is not 99 cents. No no no no." He eventually ran back himself and checked the price. For the record, the price was $1.40.

Later that same weekend, my friend and I go to some bar in Halethorpe. Now this should've sent bells going off in my head. Halethorpe...bar...this isn't exactly going to be the Library Bar in LA or the Hudson Hotel Library Bar in NYC. But I thought "Hm...vaguely Irish name, must be an Irish bar. Can't be too bad, right?"

We show up to the place. There was a motorcycle outside what appeared to be a former residence that somehow scored a liquor license through some sort of coercion and rustling up of the local sheriff by some biker gang. I saw a motorcycle outside. Naturally, I thought to myself, "Hm...I wonder if there are any Asians in there" (I'm Asian, if you forgot already). My friend and I walked in and lo and behold there were no Asians. Instead, there were just several white people of the, um, upscale Appalachia variety looking at us. I don't know who they were staring at more: the young, clean cut college student or the Chinaman who was ruining their white haven. It didn't help that there was also some dude with a Confederate flag embroidered on his leather jacket. He probably owned the motorcycle outside. Thankfully, I was not the victim of a good ol' America Fuck Yeah moment gone wrong.