Thursday, November 24, 2005

Numbers Game: 60,000,000 to 3

Here are a few random thoughts and facts that I have decided to distract myself with instead of writing one of my three essays due in the next week.

- Everyone thinks they could save the government a bunch of money if they got into office and eliminated bureaucracy and corruption. Both things exist in government and I have no doubt that a bit of it here and there could be eliminated. However, the amount would be inconsequential. Any platform which thinks they can drastically alter the budget based on these two planks is flat-out lying, unless they provide a detailed plan of exactly what they’ll eliminate and how this will not harm that department’s overall operations. Then again, when you read that the US spent $60 million on Ken Starr’s investigation of President Clinton, you begin to wonder. By the way, only $723,000 was spent investigating and indicting Tom DeLay.

- Next time someone tells you that the Iraqi War is going well, just quote them the statistic that 42% of Iraqis think it is justified to kill American troops. That’s basically half the nation. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I still love seeing the Dick Cheney clip where he says, “I honestly think we’ll be greeted as liberators.”

- Not only do 43 million Americans not have healthcare insurance, but medical costs are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States, with over 500,000 people a year going bankrupt from medical bills. I think the situation as it exists right now in is the US is unethical and I do not support adopting any sort of US-style system in Canada. That does not mean that the system completely without benefits, though, as it does have some advantages.

- Canada ranks among the top three leaders in aid (it didn’t specify, but I assume in total terms) in only three countries in the world: Turkey, Cameroon and Gabon. I know we are likely dealing with absolute figures, but it’s still surprising that it’s only three nations of over 100 that receive aid. This is further evidence of fundamental problems with Canadian aid, in my opinion.

- In looking nostalgically at Canada’s heyday of diplomacy in the 1950’s we’re going to consult The Economist. In 1953 it wrote, “If it permissible to generalize about the diplomatic service of any country, it is probably true to say that the representatives of Canada exercise an influence and enjoy a prestige out of all reasonable proportion to the size of their country or the power they wield…But, when all of this is said, a more important reason lies in the personal quality of the men themselves.” Furthermore, in 1967 The Economist wrote, “The community of nations has learned it needs an active Canada: as an intermediary in Commonwealth disputes, and in wider ones that range ex-imperial powers against former dependencies.”

Friday, November 18, 2005

Chris Klein is a Jerk

Is any celebrity more of a jerk than Chris Klein? This interview from Elle magazine (courtesy of MSN) would be great satire if it was done in jest, but I don’t think Klein is that smart. Nevertheless, it’s still funny.

Whether through overcompensation or overconfidence, Klein, who dated Holmes for five years, spews some doltish doozies during the sit-down, beginning with whether there's a favorite meal he prepares to win over his dates.

"I don't need food to impress, man," boasts the cocky American Pie C-lister. "It's a flash of a smile and a nice conversation. And at the end of the day, she's cooking the food."

Chris, 26, a self-described "alpha heterosexual" who only dates "8 to 10's," also reveals how displeased he is if a woman he's seeing gains a few pounds.

"I'm not tolerant of that at all," declares the actor, who says he has no problem telling his swollen squeeze to shape up.

"When a woman isn't feeling good about herself and you combine that with her period, eventually she'll ask you if you like her body," he pontificates. "You have to say no."

Klein then rejects the interviewer's suggestion that "they're just looking for you to say, 'You look beautiful to me, honey.'" "If they do, it's placating," he scoffs. "I don't placate."

Given this attitude, it's not surprising when he admits the "worst thing" a woman ever said to him was, "You're a [expletive that rhymes with 'brass pole']."

As he recalls, "The time it really hurt was when a stranger said it. I was just trying to tell this chick to get lost. I try to treat all women with respect whether they're pretty or ugly. I want to be nice and be like, 'Wow, thanks for the attention. But get out of my face.'"

A few other gentlemanly gems from the chat include Chris describing wooing a woman as a "predator-prey situation" and admitting he stays "very closed off until a woman deserves to know me completely."

Asked if this approach makes it tough for potential partners to unravel the enigma that is Chris Klein, he sneers, "Hey, man, I'm not here to hold hands and babysit. She's got to come to the table with something."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bad Evening Explained in Detail

Okay, since I’ve had a couple of requests for the story of Friday night, I’ll divulge. Me and my buddy got dragged to a club and neither of us are really club people. I tried to explain this to the group at large, but they insisted we come. Against our better judgement we acquiesced and both basically stood there as everyone danced to the deafening music. I can handle bars or clubs with a drinking area, but this one had neither of those and we were both pretty fed up within 15 minutes.

I said we should stick around for nearly an hour because they insisted we come, so we did. But we got fed up pretty quickly and left as soon as I felt it was okay. We decided to go eat, so we went to a shwarma place a few blocks away. We ordered our meal and enjoyed it, having good conversation as any pair of friends would do. It was 2 AM and a few drunken people came in and ordered and left.

As my friend finished his meal (I was still eating) a group of four drunken guys walked in. They all looked to be in their early twenties (could have been late teens) and were big guys; they weren’t football-lineman broad, but they definitely had that sort of build.

The first guy walks by our table and says, “Hey, are you two gay?” Seeing he’s drunk and wanting to avoid trouble, neither of us responds.

As the first guy walks up to the counter a second guy detours to our table and says, “Yeah, do you like guys?” Neither of us responds and he stops at our table. He says something else to the same effect, and again we just sit there, figuring he’ll move on.

Keep in mind at this point we’ve not said anything to them or to each other since they’ve come in the door. However, this drunken lout picks up the napkin dispenser and tosses it at my friend’s head. In disbelief Jason says, “Are you joking me?”

The guy then takes Jason’s plate and bats that at him. Without hesitation he then picks up the table and tips it onto Jason, all the while yelling at us, “You wanna take it outside? You wanna take it outside?”

One of the two drunken guys who hasn’t accosted us then begins pushing his friend away, telling him to smarten up or something up. His friend is yelling that we were calling him gay and that he had to take care of us.

Meanwhile, the two cooks at the restaurant make their way from behind the counter towards our table to break up this potential fight. As it as a Lebanese restaurant we assue both of the guys are Lebanese, and their complexion would support that assumption. As the first one passes the customer side of the customer counter the first drunken guy (who walked up there after first yelling at us) grabs his skullcap off the guy’s head.

He then begins to shake it in the air tauntingly as the cook turns around. As he does the drunken guy stops and says, “Oh wait, that was offensive.” (So the shaking was offensive, but not the grabbing it off his head in the first place. Or the rest of their behaviour in the restaurant.) He then proceeds to sit down on the table nearest the counter. In his drunken state he doesn’t realise it has a leg in the middle, but no middle support; thus, as he sits down he sends the table flipping over and he kind of stumbles, but manages to avoid falling flat on his back, which would have been hilarious.

The second sober friend escorts this guy outside as the first sober one has literally pushed the other drunken guy outside, who is still yelling at Jason and I. The restaurateur makes sure they leave the store, but they hover on the sidewalk. They seem to leave, but a minute or two later the second drunk (the homophobe) burst into the store and begins spluttering some apology to the Lebanese cooks saying, “You make great food. You don’t deserve this.” One of the sober guys comes to get him and drags him outside, as the first drunk (the racist) is still literally being pushed away from the restaurant by the other sober friend.

Now, in the end, neither Jason nor I was hurt and things weren’t too bad. We were both verbally attacked for enjoying a meal together as friends, which is something I’ve done hundreds of times with countless male friends in my life, but neither of us was hurt.

However, these guys were clearly looking for a fight and if their sober friends had had a bit more to drink at the last place, maybe they wouldn’t have stopped a fight. Also, if they were unwilling or slower to respond things could have got ugly fast. These guys were all considerably bigger and stronger than Jason and I and we would have been beaten up pretty fast. Furthermore, we can both be smartasses if the mood strikes us, and we can also egg each other on. If either of us had resisted the urge to bite our tongue and had snapped a comeback at then, which we found out later that we were each close to doing, then maybe the soberer friends wouldn’t have stopped the pair of complete drunks (and maybe would have joined in) and we could easily have wound up pretty badly hurt very quickly.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bad Evening

Well, I had a terrible evening. Firstly, I learned that Arrested Development is apparently going to bite the bullet after this season. From AP:

It looks like curtains, too, for Fox's comedy "Arrested Development," which never translated its Emmy Award and critical raves into a broader popularity.

Fox didn't announce the end of the show, but said it wouldn't order a full season's worth of 22 episodes. Barring a miraculous turnaround, that usually means a series is kaput.

Despite Emmys, guest stars and critical acclaim, the ratings are even lower this season than last and I know Fox was hesitant to order a third season, so I’m not optimistic of any surprising change of events. I do not get how people not only don’t watch the show, but how others watch it and don’t like. Maybe it’s an acquired sense of humour, but everyone in my house loves it and so do a ton of people I know.

I am dead tired (I’ve been up for 21 hours following 3 hours of sleep) so I won't go into the full details, but I came extremely close today to being beaten up by violent drunken racist homophobes. It was kind of frightening how quickly things escalated (and then luckily calmed down because of the two sober guys in the group pushing the others outside) and how one wrong move could have landed the two of us in the hospital. Events like this remind me how much I hate a significant number of university students and of how little faith I have in a lot of humanity. We’re all okay, but considering how we did literally nothing and got things thrown at us, it makes you wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t been able to stop myself from making a smartass remark.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Inviting Outside Criticism

This is one of the best ideas I’ve heard for a newspaper in a while. Apparently, the L.A. Times has started a new feature where once a week a member of the public can publish a column criticising the Times’ coverage of some issue. As someone who has a lot of beefs with various newspapers and their coverage of issues, I think it’s a great idea. Furthermore, it’s a great idea in general to allow someone to have a platform in which they can go against the accepted ideology the newspaper has.

It’s a somewhat-limited platform, for sure, and it’s not going to solve the “problem” to give someone one column a year in which to offer an alternate opinion. Nevertheless, it allows the public the chance to get involved with the newspaper, to have a real avenue to respond to what the newspaper is saying (something letters to the editor don’t provide in a satisfactory sense) and it encourages dialogue, which is hardly ever a bad thing.

Of course, I stumbled across this in a column relating to baseball, but it’s still worth the read. I’ll post some highlights, and keep in mind both Plaschke and Simers cover sports for the Times, the former specifically covers the L.A. Dodgers.

As every long-suffering sports fan in this town knows all too well, "the Los Angeles media" is unfortunately synonymous with the Sports section of the paper you are holding. Especially its two loud-mouthed, value-subtracting columnists, Plaschke and T.J. Simers.

The two have had it in for DePodesta since his first day on the job. Plaschke greeted the new GM by calling him a "computer nerd," "webmaster," "General," "Bill Gates," a "kid who relies on equations" and "speaks in megabytes" … and that was just in his first column. Simers immediately declared that the "Dodgers Come Up Short on New General Manager," and he has spent the time since vacillating between "Google Boy" and "Computer Boy" for a nickname. (The Times' Sports section, apparently, is still produced via typewriter and carrier pigeon.)

Taunts and strong opinions come with the territory — they're columnists, after all! — but in their zeal to discredit DePodesta and the management philosophy he represents, Plaschke and Co. forgot a fundamental journalistic duty: to have some idea about what they're talking about.


Plaschke also snorted: "To fill shoes once worn by Branch Rickey and Al Campanis, should McCourt really have hired a 31-year-old who had never been to Dodger Stadium?"

Rickey became a manager (which back in 1913 meant general manager as well) … at age 31! Brian Cashman, the New York Yankees GM with three World Series rings and eight consecutive playoff appearances, took over the job at age … 30! Theo Epstein, also 31, just stepped down as Boston GM after three consecutive playoff appearances and a World Series victory of his own.


The worst part isn't that the columnists' complaints about DePodesta are wrong, it's that they're often right. (Or at least, that I agree with them.) The young GM was painfully lacking in people-management skills and made a bunch of questionable moves. But if Southern Californians want an intelligent discussion of these issues, one where the truth matters more than either clumsy insults about "spreadsheets" or smooching Tommy Lasorda's behind, they know where to go: the Web. Maybe that's why Plaschke hates the Internet so much: People there are doing his job, only better.

If you’re curious, here is a link to a previous column criticising the newspaper’s coverage of public schools and here is one criticising how the Times portrayed the Cindy Sheehan story.

In discussing the article afterwards, Welch said this piece was the most heavily-aimed at particular columnists of the 10 or so columns in the series the Times has published. Welch is a fine writer and one of the smartest Dodger fans on the internet and it’s great to see him deservedly trashing one of the most idiotic writers in the field, Bill Plaschke. I wonder if Plaschke will acknowledge what was written in any of his upcoming columns. I highly doubt it.

However, I do hope other newspapers follow the lead of the Times and institute this as a regular feature. It’s not a solution to the many of the problems with print journalism these days, but it’s a start.