Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Land Down Under

Qantas and Air New Zealand have recently confirmed that they do not allow men to be seated next to unaccompanied minors on their flights. This policy is ridiculous, of course. Airplanes offer no privacy and very little personal space (at least in coach). If that's not enough to stop the most unrepentant child molester, the possibility of getting beaten senseless by a mob of angry passengers probably is. If Qantas and Air New Zealand really care about the safety of their passengers, why stop there? Men also have been know to molest grown women. Why not seat all of the men in one cabin and all of the women and children in another? I'm not denying that molestation is not a serious issue, but I think that treating all men as potential child molesters is insulting and an extreme overreaction.

I don't want to get on men's movement kind of rant here, but as a man, I often consciously avoid making eye contact with or showing any interest in children I encounter in daily life out of the fear that the parents might mistake me for some kind of pervert. I'm probably overreacting, but policies like the unaccompanied minor rule reinforce the idea that men are not to be trusted with children who are not their kin.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Yeah Boyee

I'm going to have to disagree with AdFreak's evaluation of Miller Lite's latest commercial. If you watched at least five minutes of NFL football yesterday, you probably know what I'm talking about. The commercial takes place in a courtroom, where the never-ending debate over which beer tastes better (Bud Light or Miller Lite) is being settled at trial. The expert witness on the stand is none other than Flavor Flav. As soon as I spotted Flav on the stand, I started trying to figure out how they were going to work his trademark catchphrase "yeah boyee" into the commercial. Spoiler Alert: They manage to squeeze in the requisite "yeah boyee" at the very end, when Flav and the attorney representing Miller Lite exclaim it in unison over the judge striking down an objection from Bud Light's legal defense team. The commercial wasn't funny and it was painfully obvious that the ad writers came up with the idea of getting Flavor Flav to say "yeah boyee" in a commercial first, then built the rest of the script around that. That being said, I still think Miller Lite tastes better than Bud Light.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Underground Railroad

When you think of the underground railroad, one of the places that comes to mind is Upstate New York. Harriet Tubman lived most of her adult life outside of Syracuse and many escaped slaves passed through the area on their way to freedom in Canada. When you think about a more literal underground railroad, you have to think of New York City and its hundreds of miles of subterranean railway. I was unaware of this until I saw a poster for a screening of The End of the Line in the men's room at Clark's Ale House, but the city of Rochester, New York used to have a subway system. As the documentary states, Rochester is the smallest American city to ever build and abandon a subway system. I'm not exactly sure why the abandonment disclaimer is included. Is there a smaller city that has yet to abandon it's subway system? Were cities like Boston or San Francisco smaller when they built their subways than Rochester was when it built its subway in 1927? I'm not going to make it to the screening of The End of the Line, since it's out in a suburb of Rochester, but I'd really like to see it sometime.

The Minutemen

I don't often agree with Cal Thomas, but I do give him credit for saying what he thinks, even if what he's thinking doesn't necessarily jive with what prominent conservatives are thinking. He takes on illegal immigration in his latest column. Thomas argues that illegal immigration is destroying our history, language, culture, and faith. I don't really buy into this argument at all. I don't see why social conservatives have any reason to be appalled by the culture and faith of most illegal immigrants. Most of them are coming into the US from heavily Catholic countries where so-called traditional family values are very strong. Language is a common concern of a lot of people. The anti immigration camp likes to tell stories about how immigrants from Latin America are not making any effort to learn English, while people who favor some sort of immigration reform generally downplay this figure and assert that almost all immigrant children are fluent in English. It is true that current immigrants to the US, either legal or illegal, are much more likely to retain their native language and perhaps other aspects of their native cultures than the immigrants from the early 20th century. My maternal grandmother doesn't know a lick of Polish, despite the fact that her parents settled in the US only a few years before she was born. Today's first-generation immigrants are more likely to be bilingual. I think that this is a good thing and I have seen no evidence that retention of native languages diminishes anyone's ability to integrate into American culture.

It's really hard for me to get behind the idea that the current wave of immigration that is going on is any different than any of the others that have cascaded across the US over the past 200 years. People have been getting worked up about immigration ever since people who looked, spoke, or prayed slightly differently than the majority started showing up en masse on our shores. In all cases to date, those worries have proven to be unfounded. I don't think that the US is in any danger of seeing street riots like the kind that have been spreading across France. Our culture is somehow uniquely designed to accept immigrants from around the world and at all socioeconomic levels and turn them into Americans. Until you can convince me that the great American sausage-making machine is broken, I'm going to have trouble buying into any of these arguments.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Rock n' Roll, Part 3

Garry Glitter, who's stadium anthem "Rock n' Roll, Part 2" is still a fixture at sporting events around the world, is in trouble with the law again. From the looks of it, Glitter's underage sex habit has once again gotten the best of him. So far, I don't think there have been any calls to yank "Rock n' Roll, Part 2" off of the public address systems of the world. I think that's the right idea. I think music should be judged based on the merits of the song alone. Some might argue that the more we listen to "Rock n' Roll, Part 2", the more royalties Glitter has to finance his deviant lifestyle. I would argue that if Glitter is in fact a pedophile, he'd still be one even if had no money. I think that if someone decided to launch of boycott of stadiums that play "Rock n' Roll, Part 2", they would certainly raise awareness of Garry Glitter, who is far from a household name despite the ubiquity of his song. As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity, so a move like that would probably actually help him out.

The Degifter That Keeps On Giving

I found this story very interesting. Basically, a guy who donated $100 to Syracuse mayor Matt Driscoll's re-election campaign committee now wants to degift that money. The article really doesn't really explain why he wants to degift the money. It says that he is disappointed by Driscoll's performance. If that's the case, he probably should have tried to degift this donation before Driscoll was re-elected last week.

I can't image that there is really any legal basis for this action. Once you donate money to an organization, I don't think you have any legal recourse if you later decide that your donation wasn't such a great idea. You certainly have a legal recourse if the organization to whom you donated doesn't use the money in the way that they said they would, but that doesn't seem to be the case here.

The kicker is that this guy has already successfully degifted a $550 donation that he made to Driscoll's campaign last year. I have no idea why Driscoll would have accepted another campaign donation from this guy after that incident. I'm sure that the only reason the campaign refunded his gifts was to shut him up. If there is a nationwide do not accept donations from list, hopefully, Strodel's name is on it.

Snow Day

We got our first snowfall last night. They are calling for another 1-3" before it's all done. I have to say that I do enjoy the snow, despite all of the problems that it can cause.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Paradigm Shift

Every one in a while, you come across something that really changes the way you see and understand events in the world. These kind of moments may make some people feel uncomfortable, but I have always welcomed them and the new understanding that they have brought me. It seems like I've been experiencing a lot of these events lately. Perhaps I have the blogosphere to thank for this. Today's moment came from the Christian Science Monitor, via Andrew Sullivan. In this opinion piece, Bruce Bawer offers up an explanation for the unrest in France. The arguments he makes are mostly things that I have heard before, but he puts them together in a way that really changed my perception of European societies and race relations.

I had always had this notion that race relations were largely an American problem. Western European societies didn't seem to have these kinds of problems. I was familiar with all of the black entertainers who left segregated America to play to packed houses in European capitals, and assumed that Europeans must have a more enlightened attitude towards race relations than us. Over the years, my opinions about these things have become more nuanced, but I kept falling back to this baseline in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. The riots in France and the terrorist bombings in London have really opened up a new window into the state of racial and cultural relations in Europe.

As an American, I find the situation in Europe hard to understand. I've met Americans who hail from all over the world, many of whom have maintained various aspects of their native cultures. I've visited ethnic neighborhoods in many American cities where I couldn't read a lot of the signs or understand most of the people were saying, but I've never felt like I was in some strange land. Even if European countries decide to become more accepting of foreigners than they currently are, I don't see how any of them could be as accepting as America simply because our culture has been built on the idea of welcoming immigrants from around the world and turning them into Americans for so long.

The interesting and scary part of the situation in Europe is that a not insignificant portion of the Muslim population wishes to be segregated. I'm not sure how much of this is due to the fact that they know that not even their children will be considered full-fledged citizens of their adopted country and how much is due to their desire for religious purity. The riots in France look similar to the waves of urban riots that spread across this country during the late 1960s. There does not appear to be an accompanying non-violent civil rights movement within the Muslim communities of Europe. This surplus of rage and deficit of hope does not bode well for anyone.

The steps that European countries take to deal with this problem will shed a lot of light on the ongoing debate over the root causes of terrorism in the Muslim community. Will support dry up for radical clerics in Europe if young Muslim immigrants start to join the workforces and civil societies of their new homelands as some have suggested? Will it take a movement of reformers from within the Muslim community to redefine what it means to be a Muslim in Europe to put an end to the radicalization and self-segregation? Will European countries give up and close up their borders before either of these possibilities is allowed to run its course?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Radiator Days

I took this picture on Sunday in Boston. This is the first used radiator dealership I've ever come across. This picture really shows what is great about digital photography. Before digital photography, I would've been much more reluctant to take a picture of a bunch of radiators, or some whimsical graffiti, or an unintentionally hilarious billboard, or a whole list of other things that don't seem worthy of preserving on film. Now that I don't have to worry about wasting film on seemingly trivial things, I can snap away at anything that catches my attention. I have found that the pictures I enjoy the most aren't always the ones that seemed like great pictures when I took them. Every once in a while, I get lucky and manage to take a beautiful shot of an iconic building, mountain, body of water, etc. Everything else is pretty hit-or-miss, even when the subject is something spectacular. I often enjoy pictures that capture something unexpected and even unintentional more than yet another mediocre shot of the Grand Canyon. The radiator dealership certainly falls into this category. The danger, of course, is that I'll stop taking pictures of anything but oddities.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Shock the Monkey

I heard about this on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me this weekend. It's a service that for the low fee of $10, will call you or anybody else and make monkey noises over the phone. I'm not really surprised that such a service is available, but $10 seems like a pretty high price to pay someone to make monkey sounds over the phone. You're not even talking to a real monkey, after all. Of course, if their service starts to get popular, you know someone is going to create an offshore monkey phone callcenter so they can undercut monkeyphonecall.com on price.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Missing the Point

I have been reading about conservative religious groups organizing boycotts for at least the past fifteen years. I can't recall any of their campaigns actually hurting the companies that they have targeted or persuading them to change their policies. I'm only mentioning their latest campaign because this one hits a little bit closer to home. The latest target of their ire is the American Girl doll company, because of a $50,000 donation that they made to the Girls, Inc. charity to support science, math, and athletic programs. While I'm sure that their are some religious conservatives who are opposed to educating girls, the main reason that they have organized their latest boycott is because Girls, Inc. is pro-choice and accepting of homosexuals.

Michelle is involved with the local chapter of Girls, Inc. Fortunately, none of this nonsense has affected their chapter. I doubt that this boycott is going to have any effect on American Girl or Girls, Inc. The religious right is remarkably adept at manufacturing outrage and at missing the point, but this seems like a stretch even by their standards. A multi-billion dollar company (American Girl is part of Mattel) donates a pittance to a charity that spends the overwhelming majority of its time and money helping young girls develop academic, personal, and leadership skills and the religious right is up in arms over a couple statements on their website that conflict with their religious beliefs.

If you're looking to stick it to the religious right and you have some young girls on your holiday shopping list, you may want to head over to your nearest American Girl authorized retailer.

Extreme Makeover

If you're a Blogger blogger, and you're looking for a way to spruce up your blog, check out Blogger Templates. That's where I found the cool new look for Data Janitor. They have a lot of cheesy templates available, but there are some pretty neat looking ones as well. In case you're curious, I choose the Powell Street template.

You Do Not Want to be Odor

I haven't posted in a while, so I'm going to take a couple of minutes to weigh in on an issue that I'm pretending not to care about, namely, the Terrell Owens saga. I'm not going to feign outrage over his actions, nor am I going to criticize the Eagles, his agent, the media, society, the NFL, or anyone else. I am going to criticize Right Guard deodorant for their stupid commercial where a bunch of college-aged guys are playing the fabled playground game "Red Rover" with Owens. In their version of the game, the human chain represents Right Guard Xtreme Sport Deodorant and Owens represents odor. I have no problem with their analogy, however hackneyed it may be, but in order to call Owens into their game, they yell out: "Red Rover, Red Rover, send T.O. over." This sentence difficult to speak, and listen to for that matter, due to the glottal stops between T, O, and over. It also breaks the rhythm of the classic Red Rover call.

The canonical form of the Red Rover call is "Red Rover, Red Rover, Send (two-syllable name) right over." Had they stuck with this form and called out "... send T.O. right over" it would be easier to say (assuming they removed glottal stop between T and O) and in the proper form. If they felt that they needed to deviate from the standard form, saying "send Terrell over" or "send Owens over" would have been better alternatives from a rhythmic standpoint. Of course, they had to say T.O. because T.O. is not just a nickname, it's a brand and the commercial was as much an advertisement for T.O. as it was for deodorant.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Derek Zoolander Centre For Kids for Can't Read Good

Former NHL head coach Jacques Demers, who guided the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1993, admitted today that he never learned how to read. The details of Demers illiteracy are spelled out in his new biography. One interesting detail is how Demers, who is originally from Montreal and speaks both French and English, used his bilingualism as a way to hide his illiteracy. When someone asked him to read something in English, he would decline and say he's better at reading French, and vice versa. Francophone visitors can read more here.

Tip o' the toque: Dusty Young

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates

This weekend, I saw someone driving around town with a sign on their car promoting a candidate for Congress. I was surprised to see this since this is not a congressional election year and because in last year's congressional election, the representative for the 25th district in New York ran without any major party opposition. I checked out the website of the putative Democratic candidate for Congress, Ken Howland today. I can't say that I was very impressed with Howland's resume, website or positions. His editing skills, however, are the most troubling. He copied Michael Bednarik's position on the war in Iraq verbatim from the Bednarik for Congress 2006 website, including the following sentence:
By promoting national defense rather than international offense, Badnarik would bring home our troops from the over 130 countries where the U.S. Military currently maintains a presence, and subsequently secure America more than any current plan offered by the Democrats and Republicans.

Had Howland been smart enough to change 'Bednarik' to 'Howland', I never would have noticed this. There may be some more content copied over from Bednarik's website. The "Our Positions" sidebar has a lot of the same topics as the Bednarik's sidebar. Of course, Howland's positions don't link to anything, so perhaps he's working on copying some more of Bednarik's content over to his site.