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Nominal Me

I'm falling in love with my camera and taking photos everywhere I go. That, combined with my passions for politics, sports, religion and other things we all agree on, makes this blog persist.

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Location: Astoria, New York, United States

I'm born in Manhattan and raised in Queens.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Gays Bring Christians, Muslims, and Jews Together

What can bring Muslim cleric Abdel Salem Menasra (left), Archbishop Aristarchos, of the Greek Orthodox Holy Land Patriarchate (second from left), Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah (middle), Israeli chief Sephardic rabbi Shlomo Amar (second from right), and Chief Ashkenaki rabbi Yehuda Metzger (far right, together in agreement?

Yesterday, Wednesday, March 30, 2005, after nearly 1500 years of fighting, three major religions of the world have united in a common cause: gay people. American evangelicals and Jews are getting into the mix as well.

In a joint press conference, at a hotel in Jerusalem, Israel's chief rabbis, the heads of three Christian faiths in the Holy Land and a senior Islamic cleric made an unprecedented joint stand Wednesday against plans to hold an international gay festival in Jerusalem this summer.

The subject of gays and Christianity have been covered here in the past, but I really don't see that as the story here.

It's the fact that these guys got into the same room to agree on anything. It is truly historic and monumental.

Is this the beginning of world peace among the world's faiths, with gays and lesbians being sacrificed for it?

Probably not.

Let's face it, these guys probably couldn't agree on what to have for dinner (especially on Fridays), much less on a point of theology.

Yet their dislike of homosexuality is something in their shared Abrahamic tradition, most likely due to its (at least 3000 years ago) paganistic connotations.

But this meeting, which in of itself is a good thing (aside from the issue involved), is a truly spectacular thing. It was a breakthrough in the last century for the Catholics and the Orthodox church to meet and discuss things, much less meeting amongst representatives of other faith traditions -- at least among the theologically conservative.

Liberal branches of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish faiths have had a dialogue for some time.

What does this mean for 21st Century religion?

Perhaps, the real schism between faiths will become more of an conservative-liberal split, rather than a Jewish-Muslim one.

But is that better or worse?

God knows.

Other Science, Religion, and Philosophy

Check out this cool anti-tobacco website/blog.

Terri Schiavo has a blog. Check it out here.

Terri is also on Myspace. There really are some sick, creative, people out there.

Do woman make the first move?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Retro Moment: Primary Colors

One can see how much things have changed by watching the 1998 political comedy Primary Colors, starring John Travolta and Emma Thompson.

Within 15 minutes of the movie, the Bill Clinton-esque Governor Jack Stanton (Travolta) has already told a lie (about his family) and has cheated on his wife (with school teacher Mary Anne Walsh, played by the West Wing's Allison Janney).

The movie however is centered around campaign staffer Henry Burton (Adrian Lester), and the cast of characters that includes a James Carville redneck type, played by Billy Bob Thornton.

But the real star is Emma Thompson, who plays, unofficially, Hillary Clinton. In her very first scene she rips into her husband, yet in the next shows her charm and polish. Throughout the movie she steals scenes in a way that could be a portent of things to come in 2008.

The movie's biggest failing is that it's too accurate: not necessarily of the Clinton campaign in '92, but of the pace and feel of political campaign life. Most people who saw it seemed unimpressed, and most of the film's humor went over their heads and the characters seemed unbelievable. As a former campaign worker however, however, I think it is brilliant. The crazy characters are dead on, and the silly situations quite common.

Midway in the movie, the idea of "opposition research" is discussed probably for the first time in an American film, and the hard nosed researcher played by Kathy Bates is on the mark. There is no ideal of campaign life, in a comedic way, the hard stuff is given the spotlight.

But in watching the movie today, what you can really see is how much America has changed since September 11th. Today's issues, such as global terrorism, are not even implied. The movie varies from talking about important issues like jobs to seemingly shallow ones like the candidate's extramarital affairs.

But in doing so, this movie really nails the decade of the 90s perfectly, promoting faux liberalism for the sake of self-centered people winning. If this movie was a drama, it would have been very controversial.

Instead, few people took it seriously. It's a shame, as there was no movie that really captured the 1990s like this one.

Primary Colors and the 1992 Clinton Campaign

Buy Primary Colors

Buy the book Primary Colors, which is even better than the movie. Here is chapter one.

MovieWeb: Primary Colors

Primary Colors movie review.

Other Retro Moments

Monday, March 28, 2005

MySpace, For Spam

For no particular reason, I started a Myspace page, which allowed me to connect with people I've been in contact with on a regular basis anyway.

This is with one exception, a woman who attended my college and knew a friend of mine.

That being said, I really haven't gotten much out of it. I am getting two "friend" requests a day...apparently as part of a spam scam.

It's usually from a 19-22 year old who is totally hot, at least according to the profile that goes along with the photo. The request has seemingly gone out to at least 2000 other people as well, making me feel less than special.

It's sort of one of those "if it's too good to be true, then it is" kind of things.

So now that I'm on Myspace, can someone tell me what the point is? I don't need this thing to get spam, I'm good at getting that on my own.

Other Looking At Things

Janet doesn't want to go to her high school reunion

How does religion and soil relate? Read it here.

Looks like Terri Schiavo was never allowed a PET or MRI scan, her husband wouldn't allow it, so says this website. On the other hand, this blogger says Terri is not in pain, and the husband is doing the right thing.

Is Iraq turning the corner?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Good Friday 2005

Shortly after Good Friday services yesterday, I walked over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Randomly walking around, I was struck by a painting titled "The Entombment," painted in 1554 by Moretto da Brescia (Alessandro Bonvicino).

It is the perfect Good Friday paining. There is pain, darkness, and defeat. There is no hint of the victory over death that is to come -- for on that day those who loved him and who saw the sight of Jesus dying felt none.

In Latin below is inscribed the words "Obedient until death," and along with the pale, lifeless body of Christ shows the real human sacrifice he made.

St. John, on the bottom left, seems stunned. All of his hopes and dreams of a Messiah are dashed, while Mary Magdalene on the lower right seems both angry and depressed. Both cling to Jesus, wishing for some miracle to come.

The anguish on Mary, the mother of Jesus is clear as she holds his son tightly. This was not what she had in mind for him, or for us.

With the three crosses in the distance, it is dark, gloomy, and hopeless.

It would have hardly been called a Good Friday then.

Other Science, Religion, and Philosophy Artricles

More on da Brescia

Other works by da Brescia

Thursday, March 24, 2005

It's Put Up or Shut Up Time For New York City

New York can have a Super Bowl.

New York City, do you care about your future? You have a bird in hand...the chance for a Super Bowl. All you have to do is build a stadium.

This is the kind of event that is tailored-made for the greatest city in the world, unless we stop investing in ourself.

It's time to build the stadium.

Hell if Al Sharpton and Rudy Giuliani can agree on something, it must be good.

According to the New York Times, the stadium is expected to bring jobs to New York, some specifically targeted at minority contractors, which helped get Sharpton and other African American community leaders on board:

"I said, 'I will support you tomorrow morning in general if you agree to sit down and let us, at your expense, write a minority business plan,' " said James Heyliger II, the president of the Association of Minority Enterprises of New York Inc., a trade group.

The plan to which the Jets agreed - and put in writing - created a loan fund to help minority businesses that win work on the project; a training program to help minority-owned construction businesses form in the first place; and an outreach program to help such firms win access to bonding firms. Mr. Heyliger said it was a breakthrough, coming after complaints that minority businesses had made little headway in the downtown rebuilding effort.

Just do it! Now or never. Believe New York. Believe.

More Politics


Till death do us part? Not anymore. At least not in Florida.
No-Fault Death: Terri Schiavo and the Absurdity of Marriage Laws

Terri Schiavo and marriage. Despite a large number of liberal Democrats fighting the starvation, it is over, the Supreme Court won't hear the case.

Although, the George W. Bush who was Governor of Texas supported a law that would allow this sort of thing.

Mosh Girl! (Warning, not safe for work)

What is Goth?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Will Tech TV Cost Diaz Her Celebrity Status?

According to one Website, Cameron Diaz technology may have her go the way of Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton.

OnHD.tv has two odd top ten lists: the best and worst looking celebrities on HDTV. Anna Kournikova apparently looks the hottest, while Diaz is ranked the #1 loser.

According to the list:

The actress has had a terrible acne problem since high school; her cheeks and forehead are littered with unfortunate pockmarks. Ms. Diaz seems like a different person in HDTV; she looks more like a Charlie than an Angel.


If the rise of high definition television does hurt her standing, she won't be the first celebrity casualty of technology. Sound, color, and widescreen movies have represented touch challenges for artists and actors.

Silent movie legend Charlie Chaplain was one of them, sort of.

"Talkies are spoiling the oldest art in the world- the art of pantomime," Chaplain would say. "They are ruining the great beauty of silence. They are defeating the meaning of the screen."

Chaplain had ownership of most of his work through United Artists, so he was not harmed financially. But his popularity took at hit in a somewhat related way, as while audiences loved his physical comedy, few people really cared what he had to say. His closing speech in his 1940 talkie "The Great Dictator" was seen as a letdown. Chaplain, for all his talents, could not adapt to the new aesthetic of talking.

We remember him today as a silent film star, even though he worked well past that time period.

Will we remember the Diaz of "There's Something About Mary," and avoid the HDTV version?

Will she, and the other nine celebrities on the list, go into limbo now that we can get a closer look at them?

More Looking At Things

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Ignorance Is Strength

"Ignorance is strength" wrote George Orwell in his famous book 1984. He was of course doing social commentary when he wrote it in his dire 1949 novel.

Robert Block of the Wall Street Journal writes news however, and his article today entitled "Information Incognito" mirrors the absurd predictions of Orwell years ago.

He writes:

Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, the federal government has advised airplane pilots against flying near 100 nuclear power plants around the country or they will be forced down by fighter jets. But pilots say there's a hitch in the instructions: aviation security officials refuse to disclose the precise location of the plants because they consider that "SSI" -- Sensitive Security Information.

"The message is; 'please don't fly there, but we can't tell you where there is,' " says Melissa Rudinger of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a trade group representing 60% of American pilots.

The SSI classification has its roots in aviation, created in 1993 during the Clinton administration. However, in a post September 11th world, the laws were modified, according to Bruce Schneier:

In 1993, the U.S. government created a new classification of information -- Sensitive Security Information -- that was exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. The information under this category, as defined by a D.C. court, was limited to information related to the safety of air passengers. This was greatly expanded in 2002, when Congress deleted two words, "air" and "passengers," and changed "safety" to "security." Currently, there's a lot of information covered under this umbrella.

Block's Journal article demonstrates the new application of this law:

The pilots' experience underscores one of the great policy clashes of the early 21st century: the War on Terror vs. the Information Age. In the 3½ years since al Qaeda operatives studied commercial airlines schedules in preparation for flying jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Bush administration has moved aggressively to keep once-easily accessible data under wraps. Some of that information could well be of use to would-be terrorists, but keeping other information secret strikes some observers as absurd.

For example, when a top Federal Aviation Administration official testified last year before the 9/11 commission, his remarks were broadcast live nationally. But when the administration included a transcript in a recent report on threats to commercial airliners, the testimony was heavily edited. "How do you redact something that is part of the public record?" asked Rep. Carolyn Maloney, (D., N.Y.) at a recent hearing on the problems of government overclassification. Among the specific words blacked out were the seemingly innocuous phrase: "we are hearing this, this, this, this and this."

Government officials could not explain why the words were withheld, other than to note that they were designated SSI.

Is this reasonable or is this paranoia? Has September 11th taught us that we should be careful about who gets information, or that government agencies don't share enough of it?

This sort of classification makes sense, as a more militaristic classification system would guarantee that almost no one on the ground fighting terrorism can get to it, but it does seem to have all of the pitfalls of any government organization.

Is this evil? Is this 1984?

Probably not.

It's probably just government, which has a hard time doing anything right, doing the best it can.

While not evil, at the same time, if you're going to tell a pilot not to fly near something, you're going to have to tell them which areas to avoid.

More Politics

Schneier on Security

The OMB notes SSI

Coalition of Journalists for Open Government

SSI Information has been stolen

The OMB has been asked to audit SSI

Monday, March 21, 2005

I'm Mad About March Madness

My NCAA tournament bracket is about as good as toilet paper right now.

My prediction for the final: Syracuse over Wake Forest. Both are already eliminated from the pool. UConn and Illinois were my other two final four picks, with the latter being the only one in the tournament.

While it appears the selection committee did a good job picking the number one seeds, one has to wonder what the hell happened for all of the other rankings. It also makes me wonder what the point of the regular season is, if teams that are marginal suddenly become one of the best sixteen in the country.

It's kind of like the hockey playoffs now, with the regular season meaning almost nothing.

I guess I'll root for Duke and Oklahoma State, with J.J. Redick and JamesOn Curry being the only two remaining players in the whole tournament I've ever heard of.

And I'm taking odds on Texas Tech's Bobby Knight having a breakdown on the court this weekend.

What a crazy weekend in basketball.

More Sports


Here's a blogger that talks about bad blogs. Take this as you will

Looking for some Schiavo Merchandise?

Here's a great street sign.

The new Star Wars movie looks good.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy Coon-Up The Irish Day

Today is America's last true accepted and encouraged celebration of an ethnic stereotype.

It's St. Patrick's Day, and Americans will be "Irish for a Day" by binge drinking, puking, and making general jerks of themselves.

I doubt this is what St. Patrick had in mind when he brought Christianity to Ireland.

The Irish have a fine legacy in civics, the arts, culture, etc., yet the average non-Irish idiot uses the day to kill their brain cells.

Enough already. It's a religious holiday. If you want to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, say a prayer for world peace or something, or at the very least buy a U2 album and forgive African debt.

Why is it that Americans allow the ethnic stereotype of a drunken Irishman to persist? In a land of political correctness, how is this still encouraged and celebrated?

Would New York allow a parade where white people wear blackface during Black History Month? I doubt it.


Related sites:
Other Looking At Things

St. Patrick's Day

The History Channel on St. Patrick's Day

What Dublin is doing.

What's going on in Chicago.

Paul Katcher agrees (sort of)

Ogre on St. Patrick's Day

Friday, March 11, 2005

Dealing With Terrorism

The war on terror is forcing us to ask a lot of tough questions.

Should we torture suspected terrorists? It seems clear that this is outside our ideals, if not our laws. The U.S. has often chosen to interrogate suspects outside of the U.S., in some cases "dealing" with them out of the country. Today's Wall Street Journal editorial page used this as an example today:

It happens that in the spring of 1996, the government of Sudan offered to deliver Osama bin Laden (then living in Khartoum) into U.S. custody. The Clinton Administration was aware of the threat bin Laden posed, but it worried it didn't yet have sufficient information to indict him on terrorism charges in court. Instead, the U.S. sought to have the Saudis take bin Laden and behead him.

"In the United States, we have this thing called the Constitution, so to bring him here is to bring him into the justice system," Mr. [Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy] Berger told the Washington Post in October 2001. "I don't think that was our first choice. Our first choice was to send him someplace where justice is more 'streamlined.'" In the event, the Saudis were in no mood to take bin Laden, Mr. Berger did not press the matter, and bin Laden left for Afghanistan on a chartered plane.

Here, we had a chance to kill the man that organized the September 11th attacks. Perhaps, if we had killed him then, they never would have happened. Did our morals and ideals allow the death of thousands of Americans? If so, should we reconsider them?

To make an omelet, you have to crack some eggs, right?

It's not a what if question according to the Journal:

Keep in mind that al Qaeda detainees enter U.S. custody trained to deal with U.S. interrogators, and well aware of our legal limitations. U.S. forces have found al Qaeda training manuals that explain in detail what they can expect. This removes the most powerful tool any interrogator can have in dealing with detainees, which is the anxiety that comes with uncertainty. The prospect of rendition creates that uncertainty.

Or our ideals of fairness worth the risks? If the U.S. began ignoring due process and human rights, would we even want to live here anymore?

Is this all a lose-lose proposition?

More Politics

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Water, War, Sneakers, and TJ

Mankind is always finding newer and better reasons to wage war. The Wall Street Journal this morning has a story on a perfectly good new reason: fresh water supply. Will water become the new oil?

The Journal's David Wessel writes:

As the world population has tripled during the past century, the use of water has increased sevenfold. The Aral Sea in Central Asia, tapped relentlessly for agriculture, has 60% less water than it did 30 years ago. Lake Chad in West Africa is 1/20th its 1970s size. The Colorado River, the Rio Grande, the Indus in India and Pakistan and the Yellow River in China no longer consistently reach the sea.

The World Commission on Water predicts water use will increase 50% during the next 30 years and bemoans "the gloomy arithmetic of water." Others project that a decade from now 40% of the world's population -- three billion people -- will live in countries that hydrologists classify as "water stressed."

Water being a part of war is actually centuries old, but in this century even the most conservative hawk sees the precious item as a cause of war.

Concerns are growing. Perhaps alternative energy is not the biggest pathway to peace on Earth...limited water is.

Sneaker Ads Bash Pro Athletes

Joe Pereira of the Wall Street Journal notes that New Balance, a sneaker company with 13% of the market share, has come out with a risky ad campaign that bashes pro athletes:

New Balance's surge began in 1992, when, with only 3% of the market, it launched its "Endorsed by No One" campaign in an industry that even then was paying top stars millions to plug sneaker brands.

But that effort didn't take on professional sports directly, the way "Love or Money" does. Suggesting that National Basketball Association stars are lazy is a risky strategy, as the professionals and their big-name friends in sneakerdom could wind up attacking New Balance in turn.

Will the backlash against athletes translate into sneaker sales? Perhaps, especially among more conservative consumers rebelling against the NBA's lawless/hip hop mentality it is accused of promoting.

Americans with a red-state mentality may find another reason to buy the company's shoes, it's about as America-first as you can get, according to Pereira:

The company spends relatively little on promotion, in part because it can't afford much. But it also keeps its budget lean to compensate for high manufacturing costs. Approximately 40% of its shoes are assembled at five U.S. factories, where workers are paid an average of $13 per hour, plus benefits. Nike and Reebok, by contrast, import almost their entire shoe inventories from factories in Asia.

TJ's Greatest Hits

Check out a reel of TJ Allard's newest reel. He's had some great moments on Good Day Live, which was recently cancelled.

More Looking At Things

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Food, Hip Hop, and Guns in the News Today

This cartoon in the New York Daily News caught my eye today. Is this racially charged, or is the hip-hop gun violence the modern day blackface? The newspaper put itself out on a limb today.

The same newspaper noted that the landlord of New York hip-hop radio station Hot 97 has banned "Posses" from the building. Is this racially charged discrimination, or just reasonable safety precautions?

In other news, McDonalds is on the offensive about the health value of its food. Apparently, Americans are fat not because they eat at McDonalds, but because they are lazy coutch potatoes, or in other words, they don't exercise enough. Daily News columnist Michael Daly blasts the company, citing Bill Clinton and numerous McDonalds executives as being examples of their folly. Whether you like McDonalds or not, this is one column worth reading. McDonalds, to its credit, does have an extensive Q&A of related subjects available on its website.

More Looking At Things

Monday, March 07, 2005

When Blogging Gets Boring

For the past couple of days, I've gotten totally bored with blogging.

It's not anyone's fault. The synapses in my brain just haven't been clicking. Let's face it, if I'm bored with my own thoughts, then I imagine you'd be too.

Plus, I've been having some bandwidth issues at my new apartment, and I'm waiting for Time Warner cable to fix everything.

Nevertheless, I'm going to give this a shot again with a slight reformat. I'll probably have one major post a week, with daily updates. If you're a daily reader, just scroll down every day to see what minor things have caught my eye lately.


Dr. Strangejazz seems to think that as a white man, I should be up in arms about the Tuskegee experiment, something I had never heard of before. Check out his rant here. By the way, he's been picking up the slack for me in the blogging world, and his game has been stepped up considerably.

Here's a great post about how credit card companies can screw you.

Janet finally showed us what she looks like. This was a fun contest.

The Wake-Forest and North Carolina wins were thrilling to watch yesterday. I'm really looking forward to March Madness now.


Cablevision's doublsspeak propaganda is in full effect today. Articles in both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times today demonstrate the perils of allowing a company to have too much power. The Journal reports today that Michael Bair, the president of MSG Networks, recently sent Time Warner Cable a letter stating that if an agreement on payments for Knicks and Mets games wasn't reached by midnight last night that Time Warner would be infringing on Cablevision's copyrights if it continued broadcasting the networks. This is while the MSG and Fox Sports networks have been running ads alluding to the fact that Time Warner wants to take the sports teams away from viewers. It looks like this has more to do with Cablevision than anything else.

The New York Times has a story by Jim Rutenberg stating that Cablevision has banned pro-West Side stadium ads on its networks, and has been presuring other TV stations not to run the ads as well. How is that for free speech? It looks like Cablevision is trying to be New York monopoly.

Meanwhile, Hans Bethe, one of the creators of the atomic bomb, died.

More Personal Stuff