Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Let's Make New Mammals!

Baby Zonkey Born In California

I vote we name it Debra since it's called zonkey.

A friend proposes we call it Ucos - Unholy Creature of Satan.

Usually people cross-breed organisms to make improvements in the original species.
But I'm not really sure what the greater benefit of combining a donkey and a zebra could be.

Apparently I have not been watching enough Animal Planet because this isn't the first time half zebra/half something else have been created. This site lists the official names of zebras crosssed with horses, ponies, and donkeys.

I think we've taken this top of the food chain thing one link too far.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Bush says Screw Geneva

I just received this link to Yahoo news from my friend via IM.

Good news: the heat is off from the global community over those pesky torture snapshots. Bush is above any and all formal and informal torture laws. In other words, he's giving the bird to the Geneva Conventions.

You have got to be kidding me.

The only semi-positive thing about this scenario is that Bush has, effectively, taken blame for it by saying, "Yeah you know what? I think it's okay. Nothing to see here folks, move along." If he had been a LEADER, national and international, he would have held the involved parties accountable for the kinds of anti-global community decisions they made.

In any other western nation, this would be enough to guarantee a loss in the Presidential elections. But here, Bush is still popular.

To condemn another country's leader for human rights abuses and then turn around and claim that you have the right to ignore basic human rights is to assure your slot in the Presidential Hall of Shame as the Most Hypocritical President in American History. What kind of "compassionate conservative" would allow this kind of heinous abuse to go on in OUR NAME? None.

Today we have seen the President's true colors. He's nothing of the goofy cartoon character we have made him out to be. No, he is, in fact, a hypocrite and a liar who takes our nation's great name in vain, and with that every name of every soldier who has ever fought and lived through or died in every war carried out in the name of the United States. And he knows exactly what he's doing. He has all along.

As a native citizen of this country, today I am both embarassed and ashamed. And although my apology doesn't mean much in terms of mending foreign relations at a head-of-state level, it's all I can do. I apologize to the entire world on behalf of the hypocritical and outrageous actions carried out in our name by the Bush Administration. Taking the nation's will in vain is the most un-American action imaginable.

To America: who can blame then, in the end, for associating us with the actions of our leaders? The democratic process is both a blessing and a burden -- with it comes responsibilities, like protesting when the popular vote is discounted by the interference of third parties. Vote. Speak up, listen, and think for yourselves. The truth is right in front of our faces, and it's not visible only to those in ivory towers. We must act. We must save OUR INDIVIDUAL global citizenships before we are cast out of the global community for guilt by association.

To the world: I'm sorry.

On Shady Magazines, Part III

The update on Raven: Humor for Men: Craigs List yanked the ad. It wasn't just the goofy reviews alone that did it... it was the weird way in which this was connected to that subscription fulfillment business that bothered me.

However, my curiosity remains, and therefore I think I'm going to have some fun with the "submissions." They want the funny? I will give them the funny, and out-phony them at the same time. I need a good male psuedonym for this, and I'll invite myself to a new and appropriate GMail account. Perhaps I will even MS Paint some "illustrations."

Yes, this is going to be fun.

Monday, June 21, 2004

On Shady Magazines, Part II

An hour and 46 minutes ago, in my last post, I mentioned a Craigs List ad for a magazine recruiting writers and other creative people. I also concluded that the magazine was, basically, fake.

I consulted a friend of mine who is much more entrenched in the publishing industry than I. From our IM conversation (he shall be known as "wiseman" to protect his identity):

wiseman: it's actually a fairly common but shady parctice
me: interesting.
me: what's the purpose of it?
wiseman: there will likely be some "favourable" reviews appearing from it on products near you soon
wiseman: part of a corporate hype machine
wiseman: oh man i work in publishing ... it's rife
wiseman: well when it comes to sales alls fair in love, war and marketing
me: that's nuts.
me: so
me: what of the craigslist post then?
me: i mean, it sounds like something worth notifying craigslist about.
wiseman: oh they want writers
wiseman: they might even do a print run
wiseman: but it's very likely a marketing organ

Upon wiseman's advice, I did a whois query on the domain name. It is owned by a man named Zane Valenti and hosted by by Automated Resources Group, Inc., who handle marketing, PR AND web hosting. Oh, and don't forget SUBSCRIPTION FULFILLMENT. And the only hit google gave me on Mr. Zane Valenti is a reader review someone named Zane Valenti posted about another web hosting company in 2003.

Let the PR propaganda machine churn! I have an idea... I'm going to start a company that offers all of these great things in terms of fulfillment, and I'm going to invent a phony magazine to offer testimonials regarding the efficacy of my company's fulfillment products!

So what to do next... call the hosting company, notify craigslist, or try to contact Mr. Valenti himself through the emails listed for Raven magazine submissions?

On Ireland, Nader, and Shady Magazines

Thanks to a nod from a buddy at, the people are reading. I should make an effort to update this blog more frequently and continue to write about things with a big more social weight than what I had for breakfast (which, for the record, is usually nothing) and the other trivial information I tend to note in my LiveJournal. I will do my best... just keep reading!

In the news today, Ralph Nader has announced his running mate selection for the upcoming presidential election. From the Nader for President 2004 press release:
Peter Camejo (64) is a financier, businessman, political activist, environmentalist, author and one of the founders of the socially responsible investment movement. Camejo is Chair of the Board of Progressive Asset Management of California an investment firm he founded in 1987. Mr. Camejo is a first generation American of Venezuelan decent who was born in New York in 1939. He has fought for social and environmental justice since his teens. He marched in Selma, Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rallied for migrant farm workers and was active against the war in Vietnam. His most recent run for office was as a Green Party candidate in the gubernatorial recall election in California. His participation in the debates in that election resulted in him speaking to a worldwide audience.

"Camejo shares my concerns for economic and social justice as well as the urgent need to protect our environment. He recognizes the disparity of treatment between the rich and poor in the United States as well as the negative impact of corporate control of our government on our environment, health care, working conditions, democracy and culture. Camejo has also been a long-term opponent of the war and occupation in Iraq and the lock-step pro-Israel policy of the United States when it comes to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli issue," noted Nader. "His work in advancing socially responsible investment shows his understanding of how we can work within our economic system to advance social justice. Finally, Peter has shown himself to be skilled in political debate and I look forward to seeing him debate Vice President Cheney and Senator’ Kerry’s running mate."

Active in the environmental movement, Mr. Camejo has served as a member of the Board of Directors of EarthShare in the early 1990s – a coalition of over 40 major environmental groups—and on the Council for Responsible Public Investment which he founded. He also helped form the Environmental Justice Fund, to finance and unify environmentalists of color. From 1999 to 2002, served for three years as a county-appointed trustee of the three billion dollar Contra Costa County Employees Retirement Association. In the early 1990s, he was appointed by the Lt. Governor of Hawaii to be an advisor to the Hawaii Capital Stewardship Forum. He is the author of "The SRI Advantage- Why Socially Responsible Investing Has Outperformed Financially" (2001), "Racism Revolution Reaction 1861-1877," (1976) as well as other books.

Allow the conjecture to begin. Did Nader choose a mainstay in the realm of environmental activism in order to draw support from the Green Party? Is this a tactical move, hoping that the Green Party officially call him "their" candidate so that he can more easily get on ballots? Probably.

Additionally, The Boston Globe reports that anti-American sentiment in Ireland has been mounting throughout the course of the last four years which, coincidentally, happens to be the term of the Bush presidency. Go figure. According to former Dublin bureau chief Kevin Cullen, "There were about 10,000 demonstrators when Reagan visited Ireland; Irish police say they are preparing for at least 10 times that number next week." We have a few more months left before the November elections. I'm taking bets now on how many more foreign relationships the Bush Administration can damage before election day.

In completely unrelated news, if you've ever found Maxim too boring, the Onion too "bland," and Playboy too outdated, or if you long for the days of Spy and National Lampoon, or if you wish you could carry the comedy stylings of the likes of MAD TV, Howard Stern, and South Park with you at all times, then apparently Raven: Humor for Men is the magazine for you. I have neither heard of this magazine nor have I seen it on a newsstand anywhere, and the website isn't terribly informative. I discovered this little gem via my newest obsession, Craigs List. The CL post sounded intriguing, so I checked out their website, and found a page containing samples (possibly not safe for work, if your boss likes to peer over your shoulder intensely). But it's shady. There is no information like the name of the publisher or even a general contact number. There are, however, a bunch of quotes from the likes of Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair. I searched the New Republic site for Mr. Glass's supposed review and, as I suspected, turned up no results, made-up reporting or otherwise. And there is no such person as David Manning listed on the staff page of Ridgefield Press. After doing a little further investigation into Mr. Manning, I found this article on E! Online. According to the 2001 E! article, David Manning is a fake critic previously used by Sony to boost their films with favorable ratings. He is fictional. You can subscribe to Raven magazine online, but the website shows no phone number for subscription/circulation sales. I decided a Google search might tell me more, but all I got were a bunch of links to goth blogs and forums. So I Googled the parent company, Energize Media, Inc. and learned only that "energize media" is an overused marketing phrase. In short, I don't think this magazine really even exists. Are people so pathetic that they'd pull a prank like this just to fish for stories to tack their name on and send to other publications? And, more importantly, are there people out there who have subscribed to this seemingly non-existent magazine? Or is this all part of finding "funny" writers?

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Method Man & Redman: the Sitcom

Just when I didn't think television could get any more ridiculous, Fox outdoes every ill-conceived reality show (except for The Swan) with a new sitcom.

Picture the following: two of the toughest and most well-known hip hop stars living in a mansion in New Jersey with a geeky Steve Urkle-like sidekick and, worst of all, a laugh track. That's basically "Method & Red," the new Fox show featuring Method Man and Redman.

These guys are one of those celebrity duos with awesome chemistry. Their 1999 album "Blackout" is in this white girl's opinion one of the best hip hop albums of the last 10 years. And when the two appear in a movie, it's usually good for a mindless laugh or five. So when I heard the sitcom was coming out, I was a little excited. I knew it wouldn't be comedic genius, but I thought it might at least make me giggle.

I am seriously disappointed.

The plot of last night's series premiere went as follows:
Method Man and Redman move into a rich, white neighborhood in suburban New Jersey. They buy their mansion because Method Man has made a promise to his mother. The neighbors, led by an overzealous and nagging realtor, decide to vote the hip hop stars out of the neighborhood. Method Man and Redman attempt to woo the neighbors with fruitcakes. In the end, the neighbors vote to give them the boot until the Norman Bates-esque neighbor stands up in their defense. (While distributing fruitcakes, Redman helped said neighbor lift said neighbor's father out of the bathtub.) The neighbors realize the error of their racist ways and let Method Man, Redman, and Method Man's mother stay in the house.

Obviously, with the FCC on a rampage, scenes featuring the duo smoking blunts won't be welcome. But there has to be a way for this show to not suck so horribly. And there must exist some writer creative enough to steer them from recreating the entire series of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The rich-white-people-fearing-black-people-in-their-hoity-toity-neighborhood thing was worn out by Will Smith, but my objection has nothing to do with rehashing of the stereotype. It's with the addressing a stereotype the exact same way everyone else does. As a huge fan of Lenny Bruce, I believe that the more often we are forced to confront stereotypes and bullshit, the more likely it is that society will be able to move away from such things. However, the show's writing is weak and lacking in wit and the situations are far from original, leaving it devoid of any useful social commentary. It's nothing different, and it's stupid.

My only constructive suggestion, aside from hiring a whole new team of intelligent writers, is to get rid of the laugh track. It's unnatural and distracting, especially when the main characters are these guys. They're above canned laughter, and there's no rule that says a sitcom must be adorned with a laugh track. Take a cue from a successful and funny Fox sitcom, "Arrested Development," and trash the lame laughs.

Barry Garron's Reuter's review offers a more favorable opinion: TV Review: "Method & Red"
The review written by Vince Horiuchi, TV Columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune, is much more critical -- of both Fox and this show: TV: Fox's trio of new comedies settle for appealing to simple minds

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Abso-Blooming-lutely Special Centenary

If you've never read James Joyce's Ulysses, you are not alone. Sadly, most people haven't, even though it one of the greatest literary works of the 20th Century. It's so great that I drunkenly spent $17 on a 1961 print of the book last weekend.

It's a novel with episodes based on Homer's Odyssey, only instead of being a journey over years in ancient Greece, it takes place on one day in Dublin: June 16, 1904. It follows Leopold Bloom as he goes through a normal day in Dublin and is rich with puns, allusions, and some of the most revolutionary stream of consciousness writing I've ever seen. Dublin has put together an incredible festival: Celebrations mark Joyce centenary, but there are local celebrations all over the world, including one in San Francisco at O'Reilly's in North Beach. Even Google recognizes the day -- check out the Joyce-inspired logo on

The BBC has a great piece up today, Cheat's Guide to James Joyce's Ulysses. It's funny if you've read the book, and helpful if you haven't.

So have a gorgonzola sandwich and some burgundy, and celebrate the anniversary of a fictional adventure through Joyce's Dublin.

While I'm being literary, I think another BBC article is worth noting: Oprah helps Tolstoy top book list. That's right, since Oprah chose Anna Karenina for her Book Club, suddenly housewives are running out to buy their copies.

I wonder if Tolstoy would have reacted to the addition of his book to Oprah's list the way Jonathan Franzen did when Oprah wanted to include The Corrections on her book club list. He didn't want to be considered "Middle Brow" and threw a fit in the media. Franzen's objections were strange, considering Oprah promotes Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison like it's her job. But I understand why he wouldn't want his book to be included on a reading list whose target is not the literary community, unless the Literati has suddenly become a collective of housewives and talk show lovers.

I'm pretty sure that Tolstoy would not have been happy to see his book sales skyrocket on the NY Times best-seller list at the behest of a TV talk show host. As a friend put it, "he would see it as the betrayal of mother russia and the nobel serfs and crush oprah and her cosy media empire."

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Information Overload and the Coulter Pledge

'Have you no sense of decency, sir?': 50 years ago, Army-McCarthy hearings were TV milestone

Fifty years ago today, before a live national television audience, Attorney Joseph Welch uttered the famous words, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you no sense of decency?" As the gallery burst into applause, a clueless Senator Joseph McCarthy looked at his sidekick in Pinko-hunting, the legendary walking paradox Roy Cohn, confused and blissfully unaware that this televised moment was the beginning of the end.
Media scholar Ben Bagdikian covered the hearings as a reporter for The Providence (Rhode Island) Journal-Bulletin.

"McCarthy was an important part of post-World War II history as television became a major instrument of American politics, with all of its sins and advantages," says Bagdikian, now 84.

The hearings, he adds, "were the first demonstration of how melodrama in politics was made for television. The hearings were great drama, and television ate it up."

As the first nationally televised congressional inquiry, it set the stage for TV-political co-productions to come, including the Watergate, Iran-Contra and Thomas-Hill hearings. In each case, the enabling presence of TV cameras did more than cover the event. TV also drove it.

Like Watergate's Sam Ervin or Iran-Contra's Oliver North, the Army-McCarthy hearings boasted a colorful cast of characters, and none more so than McCarthy and Welch. As any viewer could see, they were a study in contrasts: the erudite, patrician Welch vs. McCarthy, a roughneck who gloried in his lack of refinement.

"I felt that if the public could see just how McCarthy operated, they would understand just how ridiculous a figure he really was," the late ABC network President Leonard Goldenson wrote in his 1991 memoir, explaining his decision to air the hearings gavel-to-gavel.

News by radio and newspaper didn't convince the public of McCarthy's ruthlessness, but a live telecast did, at a cost of $600,000 to a struggling network, ABC. The cost was great to the network, but the benefit to the nation was greater. McCarthy stopped in his tracks.

We take it for granted that we can watch live broadcasts of Senate Committee inquiries and Commission hearings live and replayed over and over again on C-Span. We take it so for granted -- if that's even a phrase I can use -- that no one wants to watch C-Span "because it's boring."

Yesterday I found myself home from work, sick, lying on the couch with the remote in my hand. I channel surfed, as I do most sick days, and came to C-Span, where Ashcroft was testifying before a committee. I tried to watch for a few minutes, but I found the man so irritating that I just couldn't stay tuned in. I flipped away. When I got near the news channels, I felt a sudden twinge of panic pass over my body, and I flipped through them quickly, trying not to let the crawl suck me in. And only today, when I read this article about the McCarthy telecast, did I realize why we take our access to government processess for granted: INFORMATION OVERLOAD.

Yes, I've come to the conclusion that too much information can, in fact, be a very bad thing. It's only June and I can't wait for the election to be over, even though I understand that we've only just begun (cue Barbara Streisand).

Without the 24 hour news networks and unfettered access to Internet news sites, perhaps more people would sit down and watch national decision makers defend bad decisions before committees. Perhaps more Americans would have noticed that Rumsfeld was not upset over the abuse, but over the fact that the media released the pictures to the public before he could develop a proper spin strategy or suppress them altogether. There's so much we see, but so much we miss simply because of the amount of information thrown our way. We have to make choices now. We can choose to listen to Rush Limabaugh or we can choose to listen to Al Franken. We can choose to read the Washington Post or we can choose to watch Fox News. In order to truly grasp the big picture, however, we'd have to synthesize every single media outlet, and that's simply impossible. So we choose what we want to hear and tune everyone else out. In the process, we stop viewing the world clearly and start watching helplessly through media filters. And sometimes we can't stand to hear any of it at all, and apathy sets in.

Taking the McCarthy anniversary in a different direction...
Apparently there's a movement, on the right, of people who believe that "McCarthyism" is little more than liberals crying wolf. Ann Coulter included her spin on the liberal conspiracy in a book boldy called Treason. I think that, like Holocaust deniers, it's important to listen to why they believe what they believe, but not really think too hard about it. That's why I plan to read all of Ann Coulter's books. That's right. Every single one. I will become enraged and likely slam the books shut; I will scream and yell at the pages; but I feel that before I talk any more about how insane I think she is, it's important for me to understand her better. I refuse to buy them, for obvious reasons. Thank goodness for libraries. At least if Ashcroft ever decides to check my library records, he'll get an entirely different impression of me than if he actually checked my book collection.

McCarthyism happened. People's careers and lives were smeared by a foolish attempt to pinpoint Communists within America. If people like Ann Coulter would stop stereotyping liberals, we'd all get along so much better.