Tilting at Treadmills

Friday, April 30, 2010

Arizona Immigration Mad-Libs

Perusing Wikipedia (like I do) in regards to the recent Arizona immigration flap, I looked up Gov. Jan Brewer and then her predecessor and current head of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. I came across this section of her page:

Right-wing extremism memo controversy

Napolitano was the subject of controversy after a Department of Homeland Security threat assessment report initiated during the administration of George W. Bush, entitled "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment," was made public in April 2009. The report suggested several factors, including the election of the first black or mixed race President in the person of Barack Obama, perceived future gun control measures, illegal immigration, the economic downturn beginning in 2008, the abortion controversy, and disgruntled military veterans' possible vulnerability to recruitment efforts by extremist groups as potential risk factors regarding right-wing extremism recruitment.

On April 16, 2009, the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, filed suit against DHS on behalf of controversial radio talk show host and political commentator Michael Savage, executive director of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform Gregg Cunningham, and Iraqi War Marine veteran Kevin Murray. Savage stated that the document "encourages law enforcement officers throughout the nation to target and report citizens to federal officials as suspicious right-wing extremists and potential terrorists because of their political beliefs."

(sources for those quotes can be found on the bottom of the Wiki page)

Savage's quote at the end of the passage got to me, and now I'd like to play Mad-Libs. Here's the original quote, taken from www.wnd.com, 9/25/09:

"The lawsuit further claims DHS encouraged law enforcement officers throughout the nation to target and report citizens to federal officials as suspicious rightwing extremists and potential terrorists because of their political beliefs."

Now it's my turn:

"The [law] further [requires] law enforcement officers throughout [Arizona] to target and report [anyone] to federal officials as suspicious [immigrants] and potential terrorists because of their [ethnicity or country of origin]."

For a second, let's forget about the immigration "debate," and let's look at simple Logic 101 structure here: in this case, the dangers of suspicion are cited as unlawful and overreaching, but for some reason, one side has every right to be suspicious, and the other side is considered trampling on freedom. According to Michael Savage, you're not allowed to be suspicious of anyone being a right-wing extremist with a large arsenal; according to many on the right, you ARE allowed to be suspicious of anyone who looks different of being an illegal immigrant. I like consistency, but this ain't it.

Back to the issue itself, this game says something about the line of reasoning used by supporters who claim this law isn't based on race nor lead to racial profiling. However, the law is pretty clear that in order to arrest someone on these grounds, they can do as little as look like a certain type of people, which is the very definition of racial profiling. Should someone forget their passport or proof of status at home, should someone's accent be thick enough, should seem foreign enough, they are subject to arrest. To paraphrase Seth Meyers, since when has the phrase "WHERE ARE YOUR PAPERS?" ever been a heroic, patriotic call?

There are a number on the right who are not extremists by any means and look down upon this law and its constitutionality like the rest of the country. Reports are coming in of Chiefs of Police and other law enforcement personnel that are refusing to enforce this debacle. That sort of unity shows growing opinion, if not for immigrants, then at least with the idea that some actions go too far. It lends credence and validity to complaints around the country; you're likelier to listen to points made by those that are generally on your side, rather than the opposition. At least these conservatives are consistent. I’d like to think that they would like a much more peaceful resolution to the immigration debate. We’re a country of variety and diversity, not a country for the fringe, or one lone state.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Filipinas = Solution to Ending Middle-Aged Virginity (blaargh)

I don't know if this article is serious or not, but either way, it's in pretty bad taste.

Cheryl Lavin through Mark: End Your 45-year Cold Streak, Find a Filipina Wife

Here are some thoughts:

1. According to "Mark," American women care too much about sex. So much so that he won't have sex with them. Filipinas don't care about sex. If Filipinas don't care about sex, then they're zombies in bed. As if Filipinas enjoyed sex less than women in other countries! That's pretty darn offensive. And gross.

2. If you're in your mid-forties and still a virgin, the...re's probably a good reason for that.

3. "Mark" is definitely not taking into account factors such as poverty and race-induced status, like the desire to take whatever you can get.

4. Hold on a sec: you say the women you've been with only wanted sex so you remained a virgin, but you go to the Philippines for sex anyway? I'm gonna take a guess and say those women from your past weren't Filipinas.

5. You use women to fill an emotional gap, while women use you to get out of the country. Either way, that's kinda screwed up.

6. Two words: Sexual Colonialism.

7. "I know that there are many Filipino women who would like very much to meet a nice American man and take care of him." -- while we're at it, let's put down Filipino men, too! "What you need is an AMERICAN."

8. While there are definitely differences that should be explored in any multicultural relationship, doing so from a position of power and privilege over the other is definitely not the way to go.

9. This will be said more than once: "WOMAN! Stay in the kitchen and make me some of dat dere lumpia!"

10. "Many of the women I met when I was there can't understand why American people are so fixated with having sex. There's no divorce over there, and the biggest reason for that is because they value positive personal qualities like honesty, loyalty and sincerity in one's actions over how outgoing and charming a person is." -- Let's completely forget the number of people who won't leave due to family or societal pressures, even if they're the victims of theft, dishonesty, infidelity, and domestic abuse.

To say that I'm disappointed in what's traditionally Chicago's major progressive paper would be an understatement. I'm planning on writing a letter to the Sun-Times and Cheryl Levin soon along these lines:

"Dear Sun-Times,

Please do not promote any more outdated ideas about: submissive Asian women, encouraging people to take advantage of different cultures for sexual pleasure, and/or to make up for their poor social development and self-esteem through exotic gratification.

The 21st Century"


Before I published this post, I wrote an earlier draft on facebook. Travis had this to say about Levin's column:

"Why would a serious journalist, ironically or otherwise, post this as a valid option? Also: I love this man's presupposition that his inability to have a long-term relationship with an American woman was because they're such whores and they can't appreciate how special he is. I doubt that's the issue. She should have pseudonymed him Dick instead of Mark."

I responded:

"^Good point about "Dick." :)

Clearly the guy doesn't want to address the real issues as to why he's been celibate for this long. And celibacy isn't necessarily a bad thing either, and yet he chooses (that's right, chooses) to use "advice" as a way of framing his latent needs of exoticism and his desire to feel superior to someone (in this case, all Filipino men as a whole)."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Surprise Vs. Saturation

Above: the greatest endgame play ever

In last night's episode of Glee, our heroic football team is scoreless and on the verge of defeat with scant seconds ticking down. The quarterback Finn Hudson gets the genius idea to pull off one heck of a surprise which is just enough to score a game-winning touchdown. Inspired by this show of creativity, the coach sends in Kurt Hummel, Finn's fellow Glee Clubber and flamboyantly unlikely teammate for the field goal kick. Our heroes win the game, Finn is congratulated for his unconventional strategy, and Kurt has won so much of his father's approval that he becomes confident enough to confess a secret to him.

I know all this because of Facebook. I fetched the video from Huffington Post (yes, I'm a leftist moderate. Deal with it). Rest assured, the team dancing to Single Ladies is hilarious enough. But I had quite a number of friends who just couldn't stop talking about the scene (and rightfully so). I've heard tales of friends with goosebumps that their favorite song was used to unique and full effect, whereas I was on duty and couldn't watch it.

I haven't seen the full episode yet. I don't know if there was foreshadowing for the audacious play, but if there was, then expecting the routine would be a credit and reward for the audience figuring it out. If there was no foreshadowing, then just the unexpected explosion of music would cement the warm absurdity. Both forms of surprise would be great. I wonder just what the surprise would have felt like had I watched the show and become engrossed with it. It's one thing to read about something that's already happened, but to see something special unfold before your very eyes? That's the magic of TV, film, theatre, etc.

Of course, it's hard to be surprised these days in an age of spoilers and rapid information thanks to Twitter and 24 hour news and Facebook. For me, that's not too much of a problem. Rather, my problem isn't so much that there's too much information, but that there's enough information to rob the initial joy of finding something out for yourself. If there's a show that only you watch, or if you investigate something and only you find the conclusion, there's a certain pride in telling others about it, so that they might learn or take part in what makes you enjoy what you found. On some metatextual level, reading about it on Facebook doesn't seem like your friend told you, it seems like Facebook told you. It's a layer that removes part of the fun, I think. In some strange twist, because of that removed layer, I can't really fault anyone for the spoiler, either. These days how do you tell people anymore and retain that sense of discovery?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ode to Spot

(image from DeviantArt)
Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature,
An endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature;
Your visual, olfactory, and auditory senses
Contribute to your hunting skills and natural defenses.

I find myself intrigued by your subvocal oscillations,
A singular development of cat communications
That obviates your basic hedonistic predilection
For a rhythmic stroking of your fur to demonstrate affection.

A tail is quite essential for your acrobatic talents;
You would not be so agile if you lacked its counterbalance.
And when not being utilized to aid in locomotion,
It often serves to illustrate the state of your emotion.

O Spot, the complex levels of behavior you display
Connote a fairly well-developed cognitive array.
And though you are not sentient, Spot, and do not comprehend,
I nonetheless consider you a true and valued friend.
-- Lt. Cmdr. Data

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And Now, Parking Tickets!

(Hey, why not?)

The following excerpt is from Time Out Chicago (week of 8/20/09). I've given tips (or rather, venting sessions) about rules of the highway and proper driving procedure. As a change of pace, this article provides some insider tips about parking tickets. This should be especially useful since the city's much aligned (and, let's face it, horribly run) privatized parking deal with LAZ. Also of note, parking by the lake won't be free anymore by the end of the summer, which makes the article even more helpful.


Former City Parking-Enforcement Officer

About 2.6 million parking tickets are written annually in Chicago, and only 10 percent are contested. That’s a shame, says Sheldon Zeiger, the former city hearing officer who wrote and published Stick it to your ticket (12.95), a guide to demystifying the battle against tyrannical parking fines. “All the citizen needs to do in his defense is reduce the case to 50/50, and the hearing officer should dismiss it, “Zeiger says.

As soon as you spot the orange slip on your car, don’t toss it into your glove compartment. Zeiger suggests a little crime-scene investigating. “Was the ticket written properly? Did the officer write down the right location? The right plate number? The right make? Did he put the right time? Let’s say there’s a real problem with the location – the officer wrote down the 200 block of Halsted but you were parked on the 300 block of Halsted. Right there you can contest the ticket and say, ‘Look, the ticket wasn’t written correctly on its face.’ A lot of tickets are dismissed for that reason.”

If all the basic ID information is correct, look at the explanation for the ticket. You might realize you’re being ticketed for a sign violation but there aren’t any signs there or they’re obscured, “ Zeiger says. Now, you can begin forming your defense—gathering evidence and witnesses. “Take photos with your cell phone and ask members of your party to sign a notarized statement.”

Your defense should not be based on excuses. In deciding more than 100,000 parking-ticket cases over 15 years, Zeiger says he’s heard of everying from variations on the Good Samaritan (“I was reading to the blind. How could you ticket me?”) to claims of sexual blackmail (“The officer tried to pick me up and when I said no, he gave me a ticket”). “Excuses never work,” Zeiger says, “but proof does.”


Bad Luck Trends Help Us All

Just looking over the 8/20 edition of the Sun-Times, we have:

-a 20 year old suspect randomly attacking Tom Barrett, who just happens to be mayor of Milwaukee

-two men attacking firefighter Matt Jones in a spot right on a CPD patrol route

-a man scarfing down a sandwich and sloppily licking his fingers after each bite, perhaps unknowingly conversing with nationally-syndicated columnist and critic Richard Roeper

Three stories and three chance encounters. In each instance, the anonymous perpetrator had no idea that he was basically committing these acts while around public (actual or eventual) figures. While it's true that one should pretty much be on good behavior everytime they're out and about, it's doubly more important when you realize that you never know who you'll meet some day. Beating up a mayor and a firefighter could bring about extra charges that wouldn't normally come from attacking a regular joe, but then again, you don't really know who's a regular joe and who's not. The solution to this problem is simple: treat everyone as if they're not.

As for the finger-licking man by Roeper? That's just gross, man. It may not be a crime, but it's annoying and sick, and getting publicized like that is punishment that fits the crime. *blech!*

Friday, August 14, 2009

Downe and Very Out

Above: Bruno, clearly happy that I'm reviewing his film

Three out of four stars

I didn’t know quite what to expect when I walked into the theater to watch Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest endeavor Bruno. The film starts out innocently enough: the audience gets a quick setup of trendy Austrian fashion reporter Bruno (he repeatedly claims he is 19 years old, but is played by 37 year old Cohen) as well as a sodomy-filled montage with his boyfriend Diesel (Clifford Bañagale), which wisely yet disturbingly sets the tone for the film’s wildly preposterous characters and equally ridiculous segments. As one of the elite names of the Austrian fashion scene, we get to see just a taste of his fame until scandal erupts and he loses everything he values – money, Diesel, and most importantly, fame.

With this temporary setback, Bruno embarks on a quest to become big in Hollywood with his faithful and somewhat smitten assistant’s assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten). We see many attempts of Bruno being earnestly resourceful and creative but committing one faux pas after another. From acting to talk show hosting to adopting a modern accessory, his lack of scale and comprehension constantly get him into trouble when he interviews real people, and his leaps of logic repeatedly get him into situations that would be dangerous only for a person like Bruno.

Remarkably, for all of Bruno’s personal failings, there is no shortage of Hollywood cameos. With the amount of pain and effort Bruno puts into his ill-conceived plans, it would be heartbreaking to see him not encounter these names. Though things never go according to plan, the cameos bring about an air of legitimacy to his quest and help endear Bruno to the audience.

The film is 82 minutes long, but there are definitely no boring spots. There are a few segments that are downright painful to watch, but much of the film’s humor derives from Bruno’s fake antics and his victims’ very-real reactions, in classic Borat-style, for a dynamic one-two punch. Sacha Baron Cohen does an admirable job of adlibbing in order to elicit certain responses from those on screen, and something must be said of just how gutsy a performer he is. Cohen as Bruno is met with hostility and Cohen gives you something of a dual surprise: how at times he manages to stand his ground for the sake of the joke and, in other times, just how quickly he can run for dear life. Apparently, Cohen employs a relentless philosophy in which it is better for the film to keep the audience’s attention at all times, no matter the cost. No one watching this film will catch their breath.

Cohen’s previous film Borat was about exposing America’s latent xenophobia and anti-immigration attitudes, and Bruno seeks to question America’s homophobia in the same style. Had the story in Bruno been stronger, I would have considered it a detriment as it follows roughly the same formula as Borat, right down to the conflict with the loyal sidekick. However, since there is not much of a story and the true charm of the film comes from the segments themselves, I am willing to let the similarities slide. Rather, while Bruno admirably seeks to push the envelope in order to further explore the homophobic attitudes and/or self-absorbed naiveté of America’s citizens, some segments accomplish this goal while others seem to do nothing else but to provoke whatever victim had the misfortune of running into Cohen. Bruno’s agent, for example, doesn’t come across as malicious or anti-Gay, but just as an object for Cohen to antagonize. Compare that interaction with the gay conversion preachers, who would be the ideal target for the subject matter, and the film comes across as uneven in that regard.

Despite the lack of consistency, the jokes and gags flow from within the context of the segments because the punch lines come from the victims themselves, with Cohen only providing the push. The old adage of “You can’t make this stuff up” certainly rings true, and these displays of honesty cut through plenty of false sincerity that only actors could give. While seeking the truth is always a hazard in some way, Bruno just barely gets away by the skin of his teeth. If there’s one thing everybody loves in a film, it’s a harrowing escape.