Thursday, July 29, 2004

Um, this is hilarious...

Quoted from Salon (again) about Lou DiNatale, a Democratic political analyst on the New England Cable News network about how enthralled he was with Barack Obama's speech on Tuesday evening:

"DiNatale had been less than thrilled by Howard Dean's oratory minutes before, and proceeded to marvel at the disparity of the Dems' trotting out the lackluster Dean only to turn around and 'crank out this guy Osama.' Not since 'maybe Cuomo in the '80s'" DiNatale continued to gush in his thick Boston twang, had he seen a speaker so compelling as 'this guy Osama.'"
The pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats, but I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the Stars and Stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
--Barack Obama, July 27, Democratic National Convention Keynote Speech

What a great way to put it.
Dick Cheney has been reaping more harm than good for the Bush Administration lately--that is even more harm than usual.

Last month he told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to "go f--k yourself" on the Senate floor.  Despite the incredible inappropriateness of the comment, not to mention the ridiculousness that Cheney would harbor so much hostility towards Leahy, one of the most easy-going and apparently friendly of senators, the Vermont Democratic party has managed to turn the incident into fodder for its voters.  According to, they have created a campaign t-shirt where on the front it says "Annoy Dick Cheney, Vote Pat Leahy 2004," and on the back it has a cartoon known as the Young Republican:

The right-wing owned-Washington Times had an interesting way of reporting the Dick Cheney comment, paraphrasing that Cheney told Leahy "to perform an anatomical sexual impossibility." If only those had been Cheney's exact words.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Alright, final thing about "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (for this week, at least)

I just wanted to post a link about the unintended benefits of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" in exonerating a wrongfully convicted man from death row before I delete the link from my instant messenger profile.

Video footage of a "Curb" episode that was filmed at a Los Angeles Dodgers game included frames of the incarcerated Juan Catalan, who had been accused of murdering a 16-year old, Martha Puebla, though he had defended his innocence with the alibi that he was at the baseball game with his daughter.  Before Catalan's lawyer, Todd Melnik found out that HBO had footage from the episode, he had pored unsuccessfully through Dodger Vision and Fox Sports tapes without finding a distinct image of Catalan.  Indeed, the frames on the "Curb" footage proved the truth of Catalan's alibi, as the time codes on the film indicated that the time that Catalan was at the game made it impossible for him to have been present at the time of the murder of Martha Puebla.

Larry David said of the exonerating footage, “I tell people that I’ve now done one decent thing in my life, albeit inadvertently.”  I love this man.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

What better person to speak about how George W. Bush has taken advantage of the goodwill that the international community (by and large) expressed towards the U.S. after the September 11 attacks than Jimmy Carter.  Carter himself has enlisted in many ambitious endeavors that bring goodwill to the world, especially through his organization, the Carter Center, which helps to oversee elections around the world to make sure they run smoothly.  Recently, for instance, the center completed a round of oversight in Indonesia.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter gives a thoughtful speech about America's troubled international situation.

Well, with people as accomplished and distinguished as Carter, I sometimes like to imagine them in incredibly profane, normal situations; so this evening, after the convention, I thought to myself, do you think Jimmy Carter has ever eaten Doritos?  I think the answer to this question must be yes.  Given all of the social functions tht Carter has been to where there has been food available and he has been hungry, Doritos must have been an option at a few.  Still, he probably doesn't eat them regularly; I would be almost certain he doesn't buy them.  Even so, Jimmy Carter has to have eaten Doritos at a few points here and there.  He took on the oil crisis of the 1970s, he helped negotiate peace between Egypt and Israel, he oversees elections in nascent democracies throughout the world, and yes, I am willing to bet he has eaten a few small bags of Doritos.

Doritos, which I would bet former President Carter has eaten, perhaps for lack of a better option or perhaps to indulge on a rare occasion when the snack is available at a social function.

Also, may I just point out how cohesive the Democratic party is right now?  As someone observed earlier this week, the only thing George W. Bush repaired in his promise to be a "uniter not a divider" was the fracticiousness of the Democratic Party.  Tonight, Jimmy Carter, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton spoke as the headliners (Carter was noticeably absent from the convention of 1996 where Clinton was nominated for his second term); when the only progressive/moderate/conservative Democrat who is dissenting from the ranks is Zell Miller of Georgia, this party is doing pretty well.  Still, unlike the Republican National Party's current belief that to be united, a party must think and vote in lockstep (see for instance, the vote master himself, House Majority Leader and incredibly right-leaning Tom Delay), the Democratic party has a history of productive (and yes, sometimes unproductive) debate that has helped to continuously improve the party and its responsiveness to voters.  Still, being united against beating Bush is truly the most practical option right now if any wing of the party wants to achieve its goals.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

One last thing about "Curb Your Enthusiasm."  I just need to point out how this line--
 Larry David: I'll have a vanilla... one of those vanilla bullshit things. You know, whatever you want, some vanilla bullshit latte cappa thing. Whatever you got.
--where Larry is ordering at a coffe shop from the "Shaq" episode of Curb pretty much sums up the Starbucks culture of today.  It's such a simple yet brilliant exchange.

I love coffee and cafes as much, if not more, than the next guy, but I think this above picture is indicative of the "vanilla bullshit" aspect of the cafe industry.

A Curb Your Enthusiasm Moment

The best birthday gift that I have received in some time has been the Season One DVDs of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" which my brother gave me (and my family and friends--it really is a gift to all who share in its brilliance).  For the first month of the summer, with no homework or other obligations to tie up my time, I spent just about every minute that I was at home (besides sleeping) watching CYE.  This is how great a show it is.  Anyhow, as a result of this devoted viewing, I have internalized the attention to detail that frames Larry David's approach to social situations, to the point where I tend to instinctively apply the Larry David procedure of dissecting an awkward social encounter.

Some of Larry David's most socially uncomfortable situations occur between himself and the fictional parents of his manager, Jeff Greene.  Here is Larry with Jeff's mother, played by Mina Colb.  In this episode, he accidentally fondled her breast.

One particularly Curb Your Enthusiasm-worthy moment occurred last night at a party.  As my friend and I were rounding up people to leave this affair, a guy entered the kitchen with a box of pizza.  Not having eaten much earlier in the night, I got excited about the pizza, as this exchange will show,
Me: Is that pizza?
Friendly guy: Yes, but it's all gone.
Me: Oh that's too bad, because I was going to tell you that I would have paid for a slice of that pizza.
Friendly guy: Well, here's a secret: there's another box of pizza on top of the refrigerator.

Understandably, I went to the refrigerator and got a slice of pizza.  It was so good that I went back to get another for the walk.  As we were about to leave though, I got stopped,
Angry Girl: Where did you get that pizza?
Me: Um...on top of the refrigerator.
Angry Girl: Who told you that you could have that?
Me: I mean some guy just said there was pizza on the refrigerator.  I can pay you for it.
Angry Girl: Whatever. Forget about it. (Angrily exits what was a most enjoyable conversation).

The item of contention: the flair up occurred over a mere two slices of Papa John's pizza. 

  Of course, after that I felt pretty bad, but I have to say, the beauty of being indoctrinated with CYE is that it lends a new angle of observation to these generally unpleasant situations.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Thursday, July 22, 2004

I want to own a restaurant called Belle Salvador.  It would be a fusion of French and South American food, particularly food from...well El Salvador!




Belle Salvador!

Keeping tabs on Diet Coke thefts

Now that I am working at Northwestern for the summer, I feel that it is imperative that I take advantage of the free food that lies often unnoticed in various locations throughout the campus, food for symposiums, conferences, gatherings, etc. 

My special goal is to steal as many cans of diet coke--my favorite beverage--as  I can.

So far I'm at five.

Four from the McCormick Tribune Center (there must be a conference this week), and one from the Block Cinema Moving Picture exhibit opening, though this one was technically not stolen because I volunteer at Block and thus am authorized.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A 'Millennium' even more overrated than Y2K?

Millennium Park, Chicago's huge public works project that began construction in 1998 finally opened last weekend to great fanfare.  The park is a private-public initiative--about half its funds came from public dollars and the other half came from wealthy donors like Oprah Winfrey, the Pritzkers (proud namesakes of the Jay Pritzker Pavillion), and the park's head fundraiser, former Sara Lee CEO John Bryan.     

Construction of Gehry's pavillion
Millennium Park is certainly a feat in many ways.  First of all, it turned a former unsightly and unproductive railyard into a grand public space.  It also advances Chicago's already solid reputation as a city that welcomes and inspires architectural grandeur of many styles and origins.  Among the architectural contributions to the park: Jaume Plensa's Crown Fountain, Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate" sculpture--known far and wide as The Bean, and Frank Gehry's musical pavillian and great lawn.  As Chicago Tribune architectural critic Blair Camin desribes it, the pavillion appears "with its stainless steel shells suggesting waves of sound washing over the audience" (A no place transformed into a grand space ; What was once a gritty, blighted site is now home to a glistening, cultural spectacle that delivers joy to its visitors).   Kamin's review of the park unfortunately is a bit over-the-top.  He has very few criticisms of the park.  I only hope for the City of Chicago's sake that they commission him to right the Millennium Park offical brochure. 
"Cloud Gate," aka The Bean, has received much attention, much of it positive.  The Chicago Tribune has been an especially avid booster of the Bean, writing overly cute articles about its naming process (Naming the Bean) with descriptions like this one of how the sculpture "lures, mystifies and delights visitors with its fun-house distortion game" (picture caption).
Millennium Park reminds me a lot of Chicago's Worlds Columbian Exposition of 1893.  It seems a very conflicted public work, just as the 1893 fair was.  While architect and planner Daniel Burnham and the other distinguished architects who he won over to the project sought to create an overwhelming set of neo-classical structures that would introduce the rest of the world to Chicago's status as a first class city, landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (who designed Central Park, among many, many other projects) wanted to create a natural and publicly accomodating fairground. 
The Peristyle: one of Millennium Park's successes
Millenium Park suffers the Burnham-Olmsted conflict.  On the one hand, it is open for the public, with architecture is not merely cold and detached from its landscape--as "Cloud Gate" and the fountain suggest, but rather the public space is enhanced and encouraged by the architecture.  However, the park also seems to have an air of iconoclasm about it--more a monument to Frank Gehry and Jay Pritzker than to the city.  Of course, these men and the park's other patrons should be honored for their irreplaceable contribution, but since the public contributed 270 million to the park, can't there be a pavillion named after the people of Chicago?  Should are public spaces be monuments to individuals or monuments to the beauty and excitement of public-spiritded works of art?

One last note: with Illinois' and Chicago's current budget crisis (yesterday, for instance, the CTA was saying it might cut routes and raise fares because of a huge deficit in its budget), Millennium Park should not have received as much public financing as it did.  Even if it began in 1998, when states were experiencing surpluses and other financial boons, the city would only be irresponsible not to consider that a deficit could be just around the corner.  I don't know about you, but I could do without The Bean if it meant more investment in the city's public schools and transportation system.

Name Recognition in Political Candidacy

When the media-fueled frenzy of a Mike Ditka candidacy for U.S. Senator of Illinois ended last week with Ditka announcing that he would not run, I let out a sigh of relief. 

Still, my brief respite from bad news ended later that week when I read that California Governor, former body builder, and still-movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger called that state's Democrats "girlie men" for not passing his budget.  Schwarzenegger has capitalized on his easy recognition as a movie star in his campaign and in his tenure as governor of California.  On the campaign trail, he integrated many of his well known movie lines into his public appearances, such as this comment on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno:" "I can promise you that when I go to Sacramento, I will pump up Sacramento." 

I think it can be easily argued that Arnold got elected as governor because of his huge celebrity status, despite several accusations that he had fondled and sexually harassed various women over the course of his career, and despite that both of his Democratic opponents, Grey Davis and Cruz Bustamante, were far more experienced.  (Ironically, Schwarzenegger's allusions to his body builder status are derived from a recurring sketch that "Saturday Night Live" cast members Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon performed, where the men poke fun at the body builder type, clearly inspired by Schwarzenegger.  Basically, Arnold in using the language of these characters, is cheerfully acknowledging a skit that makes fun of him).

Which brings me back to Ditka: had Mike Ditka declared his candidacy, he would be running against Barack Obama, a man who was editor of the Harvard Law Review, a community organizer, a scholar and professor, and a senator representing the Hyde Park area of Chicago in Illinois.  To run Ditka would risk this man who has a history of saying and doing obnoxious things, owning a restaurant, and coaching football, win as Arnold did, on his easy name recognition, over the incredibly qualified and well-liked Obama.  My opinion is that Ditka would not have had a chance; Obama is just too fundamentally appealing, but it was an insult to the importance of public office to suggest him over other more qualified candidates in the first place. 

Illinois avoided catastrophe, but unfortunately, California endures their's, day by day by day...

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Because I can't think of anything else to do after college

I've finally figured out what I want to do after college, so I can perhaps stop throwing around the whole "probably law school" phrase as carelessly as I do now.  I want to get a masters or PhD in public policy.  The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs is a tall order, one might suggest.  I might answer, yes.  Kareem Abdul-Jabar heights, Manute Bol even.  As the old saying goes, aim high.  Oh, and before this graduate school plan, I would live in California for one or two years.  I'm writing this down because I'm in danger of forgetting if I don't.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Need Someone Who Can Blow Up Large Balloons, this Tuesday (Uptown)...

I have discovered the funniest thing: subject headings for jobs. I was looking in the "et cetera" job categories late this evening (early this morning) and found some choice job availabilities, such as:

-need fulltime BODYGUARD for family (North Suburbs)
-i need to photograph a Mexican-American grandma (Hyde Park)
-Have you just had surgery (knee, shoulder, chest,lung, spine,abdomen)? (Done By Mail)
-Enrique Iglesias look a like (Chicago)
-Help me sell my cubs t-shirts on game days only (wrigleyville)
-Need Help Changing My Bike Tires! (bucktown)

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Almost immediately after John Kerry named North Carolina Senator John Edwards as his nominee for Vice President of the U.S., Republican party leaders declared Edwards and the Edwards and Kerry ticket as a whole too liberal. This is a charge that they've used against the Democrats since what... Walter Mondale's run in 1984? If this vague attack is all the Republicans have up their sleeve, Kerry and Edwards are in a good spot.  I have to say of this campaign strategy is that it's quite sad that the Republicans have to dust off the same tagline, but they certainly have little valuable policy initiatives to offer, so I guess what should we expect?