Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Today is my last day at the University of New Haven, so I'm busy clearing out my print & electronic files. Don't know if I'll have another chance to post today, so I wanted to let folks know what has been happening.

This past Saturday (5/22) we had a combination 'farewell/graduation' party for Kristina and Devin. It was really nice with around 25 or so friends & family in attendance. Yesterday, Kristina graduated from Pace University with a B.A. in computer science. It was held at Radio City Music Hall and we had a nice time later at an Italian place in Hell's Kitchen. (Can't for the life of me remember the restaurant's name, something like Cara Mia?)

Tomorrow the moving men are supposed to show up at around 5:00am, because we want to be out and on the road by 9:00, this way we can be moved into the Brooklyn house and spend some time with Kristina and Devin. They are headed out to California on a 7:30am flight Friday.

Top that off with a job interview Friday at 11:00am and it has made for an exciting week!

I don't know, unless I have a few minutes later today, when I'll post next. We'll probably be busy unpacking stuff and I'll hardly have enough time to check my e-mail, let alone read or publish blogs.

Hope that you'll all keep your fingers crossed that the move goes well!
Great overview of the G.O.P.'s problems and the idea of a rebellion against G.W.As Bush Collapses, Can McCain Beat Kerry? Rob Kall has quotes and links to some relevant articles on the topic.

Monday, May 24, 2004

I've added Rob Kall's over on the left. All sorts of links to editorials and writings from the Progressive/Liberal side of things.

"Pessimism at its best is watchful skepticism."

The above is from this article by
Ron Rosenbaum in this week's New York Oberver column. I loved the quote so much that I wanted to post a link to the entire article, which I found reflects my outlook quite a bit. Being a Pessimist myself, I don't think that my worldview really is totally negative. I think it's the Optimist who doesn't want to face reality.

I mean, suppose this IS the best of all possible worlds? You can have my share!

Friday, May 21, 2004

Just finished another JOE BOB BRIGGS book review, so without further comment (except to say that some of my reviews can be seen over at the Joe Bob site, if you're interested).

Target Acquired, by Joel Narlock; reviewed by Steve Chaput
Published by Dorchester Publishing: ISBN – 0843952873

Before reading this book I had a basic understanding of what a UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) was. I’d seen photographs and video of the Predator in Afghanistan, supposedly used to hunt down members of Al Quida. After finishing Narlock’s novel I think I know more about them than I wanted to.

It’s apparent that these radio-controlled planes fascinate Narlock and he certainly does his best to make the reader aware of how important they are and will be in the future. Quite possibly this type of vehicle would make it possible for the military to minimize the use of human pilots in bombing and surveillance runs, only utilizing the Top Guns in those situations where the immediate response of a human pilot would be necessary.

The major problem with the story is that Narlock throws in so many characters, some briefly introduced and then dropped, that after a while you start to lose track. There is also the author’s tendency to be writing as if he is already casting the screen version. You have the two CIA agents, straight out of the X-FILES; Denzel Washington as the head of the Secret Service and the latest cute kid from some popular television sitcom playing the President’s son. Seriously, we’ve see this all before and Narlock does have the potential to rise above it.

The story follows the development team for the TIGER, a very, high-tech UAV which would work in almost any terrain (urban, desert and jungle), utilizing not only the latest surveillance innovations but capable of carrying a number of lethal armaments as well. The team is the usual group of brilliant, individuals who are forced by circumstances to work and live together. Just like in all such situations some of the folks just do not get along. There is also the distinct possibility, hinted at early on, that one or the group has a hidden agenda. When the TIGER finally goes off on an ‘independent’ mission, the book hits high velocity, with Narlock doing a nice job of finally bringing so many threads together.

Narlock generally moves his plot along and does a great job of making a few of his major characters very appealing. Unfortunately, he seems to lose focus when he brings in such technical information that you find yourself skimming ahead. This is only Narlock’s second novel and he shows that he has the chops to become much better. He just has to ease off on his fascination with the tech.

Three stars.

Hey, I liked it!

I'm reading this article on the amount of money the two major Presidential candidates have raised.iWon - News Personally, I think they have reached the point where they should just give $1 million dollars in cash to each voter. It wouldn't necessarily buy the vote of that person, but it would cut down on the number of polical commercials we had to sit through.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

I thought that folks might be interest in this piece MSNBC - Memos Reveal War Crimes Warnings. I mean we all know that this would never happen, since G.W. would offer pardons/clemency to all his underlings and the next President would be politically obligated to ensure that Bush did not even get near a courtroom. It would after all start a precedent for future administrations to actually be accountable.
I know that it's probably all over the Rec.arts groups and the Firesign Theatre Chats, but it was pretty cool to hear a FST reference on THE WEST WING last night.

For those of you who don't watch the NBC drama, Josh Lyman (played by Bradley Whitford)was meeting an unknown contact in a German bar. When the man sitting across from the table leaves, Josh says into his phone that he's beginning to get a "Nick Danger" feeling about the place. I almost jumped up when he said it.

Just a passing remark, but it is nice for this FST fan to know that there are others out there still making the 'inside jokes.'

Shoes for industry!
So okay,I'm going through my morning e-mail in my account and find this in the Entertainment newsletter. This is for a new 'unscripted series" called THE SWAP.

** "On this show two married women switch places with one another for 10 days, living with the other's family and taking on the other woman's household duties. At the end of the 10 days, the families get together to discuss what they experienced., I'm going through my morning e-mail in my account and find this in the Entertainment newsletter."**

ABC bought the U.S. rights to this British 'reality show' and hope to get it up and running for the fall season. They've changed the name from "Wife Swap", but otherwise the concept is the same. According the the newsletter and a few other articles I found online this show is extremely popular "across the pond."

Personally, I can't begin to list the number of ways in which this is WRONG! Going beyond any sexual tension which may arise (and you know that in some cases there will be some, even if the production crew has to edit it in) what kind of therapy are the children going to need?

Sadly, I'm probably curious enough to actually tune in for at least a few minutes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Just had to make a few comments re: The Draft, since I've just read Mark Evanier's column on the topic over on his site.

Back in 1968, when I turned eighteen, I was as afraid as any of my friends about going to Vietnam. Still the idea of taking off for Canada never appealed to me, though I don't at this point of my life, deny that the thought didn't cross my mind. But who the Hell did I know in Canada?

Anyway, since I had been a kid my father (a WWII U.S. Navy vet) continually made it clear that as his son I was pretty much destined to follow in his (and his brother George's) footsteps. So a week after my eighteenth b-day I found myself walking into the Selective Service Office at the main Post Office in Norwich, CT.

Immediately after filling out my paperwork, I walked down the hall and into the office of the Navy Recruiter. He was more than happy to sign me up for 'delayed enlistment', which meant that I would have between 3-6 months before I was actually called up.

Nice surprise to get a call a month later from this same smiling First Class Petty Officer telling me that I was scheduled to report two days later to Whitehall Street in New York City, where I would be enlisted. The rest, as they say, is history!

While several of my high school friends did receive 'deferments' I never resented them for that. They were going to college or had legitimate medical reasons for not being called up. I actually received my Draft Letter while attending Navy Boot Camp at the Great Lakes, IL Recruit Training Command.

Basically, I have no problem with the draft, although I do believe that changes should be made to make it a fairer program. There should also be an option for people to do non-military related work in the public sector, allowing these folks to gain many of the same benefits which those who choose the Armed Forces receive.

It goes without saying that the women & men who are serving in uniform are underpaid, insufficiently equipped and ill-rewarded when their terms of enlistment are over. As does Evanier, I think that the members of the Armed Forces should be receiving pay equal or at least near that of people working in related areas in civilian life. If this means a few less B-1 bombers or nuclear subs (because we all know that Al Queda has a fleet of subs just waiting to slip into the coastal waters when our guard is down), well the contractors, lobbyists and Congress folks with their hands out will have to do with a bit less.

I'm sure that folks can shoot holes in my thinking and feel free to do so. It is my blog, though, and I'll rant when I want to.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Just caught an online report that actor Tony Randall has passed away. Two different articles list his age as either 83 or 84 yrs. I had read that Mr. Randall underwent some surgery last year, but there is no cause of death listed in either article.

Most of us know Randall from the brilliant job he did on the TV show THE ODD COUPLE as Felix(playing opposite Jack Klugman as Oscar). The show was based on the Neil Simon play, which was also adapted as a wonderful film with Jack Lemon and Walter Matheau in the starring roles.

Randall often came off as rather pompous, but he seemed to have a good sense of humor when he appeared frequently on the David Letterman show.

Rest in peace, Mr. Randall.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Speaking of the Center for Defense Information, just today the CDI has released a transcript of a speech given by retired Gen. Anthony Zinni to a CDI Board meeting. In the speech Gen. Zinni (former Commander of the U.S. Central Command outlined "10 Mistakes History Will Record" about the war in Iraq. These mistakes began during the early planning stages of the war and continued through the occupation.

As I said in my previous post, the CDI is not some 'left-wing think tank' which the Administration can easily dismiss. These folks know what they are talking about!
The Center for Defense Information was established by a number of retired military officers and people knowledgeable in matters of the Armed Forces. Unlike many of the folks I've linked to they are certainly not what you would call 'progressive', at least not as an organization. A look at the members of the group will show you that their main interest is that the military in this country be used properly and be equipped correctly.

As a Vietnam Era vet myself, I've never been a believer that the U.S. should simply do away with the military. I think I've read enough history and experienced enough in my fifty plus years to know that every country does indeed need a military to protect itself. On the other hand, I guess you could put me among those who lean towards a more 'hands off' attitude on foreign policy. While we should be willing to aid those countries who request military aid from us (and not for the suppression of their own people's demands for rights), the American people have for too along allowed the administrations in power (both Democrat & Republican) to use the men and women of the military as pawns in whatever power games they have decided to play.

CDI looks at the realistic needs and capabilities of the Armed Forces and allows people to make clear judgments. The link is over there, FYI, as are all the others.
Another fantastic, if disturbing article by Seymour Hersh, in this week's New Yorker. Hersh is THE journalist most on top of this situation. Probably close to Numero Uno on the Bush 'to do' list, should they survive all this into another term. I'd make sure my taxes were in order, if I was Hersh. :-)

Also see that CNN has reported the car-bombing of the current Iraqi Governing Council President. I don't know if I'd like to have my name published if I was next in line for that gig. Kind of like the current head of Hamas not wanting his name to get out to the press.

Here in Connecticut, folks are waiting to hear from the Attorney General on the legality of 'gay marriage' in the Nutmeg State. There were a few hundred pro & anti protesters in Hartford yesterday, who had to be evacuated when somebody placed an 'unknown canister' in plain sight. Somebody was apparently arrested, but what was in the canister and why he did it remains unknown at this point.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Spent part of yesterday at a wedding, drinking and eating much more than I should. We had a nice time, but those things always make me way more sentamental than I normally am. Anyway, it all got me to thinking.

About twenty years ago, I was serving my last re-enlistment onboard a ship stationed out of Earle, NJ. I was corresponding with the gal who put out the newsletter, INSIDE JOKE. In one letter she actually invited me to her place for dinner.

Long story/short, there have been a lot of ups and down in those two decades of friendship. Sickness & health and all those things in between. Still I'm happy to say that we can still call ourselves friends.

Here's to the lovely Elayne! Hope we get to spend some Food Fest time together next year. :-)

Friday, May 14, 2004

A few days ago I posted a link to an article which discussed the abuses which occured at Abu Ghraib, in the context of the famous Stanford Prison experiments. In that case, students were randomly selected to play either prison inmate or guard. The study was supposed to last about two weeks, but had to be cut short when the student 'guards' began brutalizing the 'inmates.'

In this article in Slate, Prof. Philip Zimbardo, the designer of the original experiment, states that he believes this is so, while writer William Saletan feels that it doesn't come close.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

I had the morning off today and having packed away all the videos & DVDs for the upcoming move I was flipping around the channels searching for something of interest. AMC is running a tribute to Spencer Tracy and they ran a film today which I'd never seen before.

MALAYA stars Tracy and James/Jimmy Stewart in a rather odd departure for the two of them. Filmed in 1949, the movie takes place in WWII on the Japanese-held island. Stewart is a 'down-on-his-luck' reporter who actually got his one time friend Tracy sent to federal prison. When Stewart's brother is killed in the war, he conceives of this plan to smuggle much needed raw rubber to the U.S. Unfortunately, the only guy with the connections and abilities to set this up is Tracy.

Besides these two gents, we get Sydney Greenstreet as the shady (hard to believe, huh?) barowner known as The Dutchman, the always smiling and 'up for anything' Gilbert Roland (doing a great job and obviously having fun as Romano) and the lovely Valetina Cortese (doing her very best Marlene Dietrich). Hell, Lionel Barrymore even shows up for about three minutes for no apparent reason whatsoever.

The TV Guide gives the film only two stars, but I thought it was better than that. I mean, it was certainly predictable (with an ending that appears tacked on to make folks feel better, I guess) but it's nice to see some good actors doing something a little bit different. Also, some of the dialogue given to Tracy with in his scenes with Cortese is nothing but poetic. Oh, and if you get offended by the nationalistic and somewhat racist portrayal of Japanese, remember when the film was made. Steve Bob says check it out.
So Donald Rumsfeld goes over to Iraq and finally visits the prison where the photographs were taken. I guess this makes things all better. Oh, and he announces that we're going to build a new prison nearby where the same prisoners we really haven't been abusing will have better conditions. Bet that makes them feel a hell of a lot better about us,huh?

I didn't see the news conference but apparently some of the soldiers had some questions that the Secretary of Defense didn't (or wouldn't) answer. Guess those guys will be looking at K.P. for a while! Don't want to embarrass the brass, after all.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Whether you call it retaliation or escalation, the beheading in Iraq of an American citizen really shouldn't come as a surprise. That's not to say that I am not shocked by the incident, but it is further proof (if we needed any) that the Bush administration had no understanding of Arab culture. It is biblical, in the 'eye for an eye' sense.

There was a report I read the other day that there has been a call for British female soldiers to be captured and held as concubines. Where does this sort of thing stop and when does the President finally take responsibility for getting us involved.
I hope I'm not the only one who caught this article (thanks to Slate) from the Baltimore Sun. It deals with the up-coming courtmartials of some of those soldiers involved in the Abu Ghraib prison situation.

It appears that the Pentagon (pushed no doubt by the same folks circling the wagons around Rumsfeld) to hurry along the courtmartial of several of the soldiers, even turning it into a media event. Sadly, it looks like the administration is going to try and destroy the lives of various enlisted men & women in order to cover their own butts.

I spent close to ten years in the Navy, over half of that working in the ship's office of several warships. I've seen first hand how 'military justice' is metered out. The most vivid recollection is seeing a non-com being stripped of his rank (demoted) for an accident which was all but caused by the actions of a Lt. Commander. Naturally, the officers closed ranks on this and even though a sailor lost his life (not to mention thousands of dollars in damage to two naval vessels) the court martial found the enlisted man was at fault.

I expect this to happen in spades with the men and women who found themselves in those photographs. Wisely the higher ups remained both behind the camera lens and (in the case of the Secretary of Defense) 'out of the loop.'

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Man,it always freaks me out when Blogger suddenly decides to change the layout of everything!!

Anyway, just read on Mark Evanier's column that Alan King has passed away. I remember watching King on Johnny Carson, Ed Sullivan and just about every other old variety show.
He always seemed angry,which i guess was his persona. I mean, he was funny but i always had the feeling that he might not be the most pleasant guy in person.

If I remember correctly Elayne and I caught King at the Toyota Comedy Festival back in '96. Am i right on that? I recall he was the MC and actually did a pretty good job, handing the show over to younger comedians.

It really is sad that so many of the legends of the comedy world seem to be passing and so few of the modern ones will have the sort of staying power the greats had.

R.I.P. funny man (to coin a phrase)
I've had a few interesting conversations this past weekends with friends and family about the situation in Iraq. Naturally, I come from a far more liberal/progressive frame of mind from just about all of them. Still it is fascinating how many folks are of the opinion that what happened to the Iraqi prisoners was justified, because of 9/11 and the attacks on American troops (and civilian contractors).

On the surface I can understand the old 'eye for an eye' mindset, but we are afterall supposed to be over there to show 'those people' what democracy and America are all about. Stooping to 'their level' doesn't really seem like type of thing that will do anyone any good.

Okay, cards on the table. I really wouldn't have a problem with the usual loud music, 24-hour bright lights sort of thing. "Keeping the prisoner off balance" stuff that just about every nation does to some extent to POWs. On the other hand, physical abuse to the point of death, humiliation and ridicule don't appear to me to serve any purpose other than making those individuals hate their jailers. You can bet that once these people are released, assisting the 'coalition' is not going to be high on their 'to do' list.

Even without the photographs we've seen so far (and even Rumsfeld says that there is worse to be seen) I can't understand why every American isn't horrified and demanding that this entire administration step down. Not going to happen, but can you imagine what the GOP and the media would have done had this occurred under Clinton?
For the second year, I'm taking part in a study on "Involuntary Autobiographical Memory." It's quite interesting and also nice to get paid a few bucks for doing what comes natural. We all have these 'flashbacks' to moments in our past, some of which can be intensely vivid. We actually relive those moments, often with emotions mirroring those we felt at the time.

Anyway, for two weeks I have been keeping a journal of when these 'autobiographical memories' occur. The hardest part is trying to figure out what the 'cue' was in each case, which of course is one of the things the study is trying to discover.

No particular reason for mentioning this at this time, but I knew that I'd probably forget to mention it all if I didn't get it down while thinking about it.

I guess it's sort of like a 'dream journal' which I've never kept, but do know folks who have done so almost religiously. A former gal pal was pretty fanatical about it, often doing drawings or comic strips based on her dreams. Then again this lady was an odd one in just about all things she did, obsessive in one way or another in her relationships and what she did.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Eighteen years ago I was working for Brown & Wood (the firm actually had a longer name which I can't recall right now, but B&W was how we all referred to the place), which was a law firm in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. About a month or so before I had an interview with Brooklyn Public Library, but had not heard back. Then sometime in May they contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in a position.

Here I am today sitting in Grand Army Plaza (BPL's central branch) and have just left the Human Resources office, where I filled in an application to return. Man, who'd have thunk it, huh?

I have to be honest and say that i really had no intention of ever returning here, but circumstances being as they are it seemed like a good idea. I don't think I burned too may bridges behind me, so fingers crossed. I could do the job of public librarian in my sleep, but it really isn't my goal at this point in my career. Still if it pays the bills and gives me some free time to play on line it can't be all bad. :-)

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Over on DEMOCRATIC UNDERGROUND there's a fascinating article by the Plaid Adder on the situation at Abu Ghraib. I recall mentions of the Stanford Prison Experiment and the well-known Milgram study from my college Psych classes, but it is scary how both mirror what seems to have happened in Iraq.

The article does have a link to the now widely seen pictures, but if you haven't seen them yet (and I don't know how anybody could have watched television the past few days and not seem some) they are disturbing, so be warned.

I was taken aback by the author's comparison of the prison photos to pornography, but upon thinking about the situation find that he (or she, since I don't know the actual identity of the Plaid Adder) does have a valid point. What is the purpose of taking the photographs if not to share with others some disturbing 'thrill'. Brrr Best not to think too much on that!
You'll need to subscribe to read this editorial in the Washington Post but it does sum up the reasons that Congress should begin investigating just what is happening in those prisons in Iraq. It also points out, as if that needed to be done, that the Bush administration was aware of these problems months ago.

Oh, it also mentions (again, as if we didn't know) that G.W. doesn't actually read much of anything. All those damn facts just get in the way. At least Reagan was sort of charming when he'd admit to a failing like this. Bush just seems smug.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Another busy weekend, some packing and the beginning of finals, here at UNH, all combined to prevent me from taking some time to post. My apologies to the two or three folks who actually look in here.

Donna and lost a few hours of our lives the past few nights watching 10.5 on NBC. Personally, there's nothing I enjoy more than a good disaster movie. Okay, I like those 'nature takes revenge' films (which can also be disaster movies, but generally involved insects or some kind of animal taking their turn as chief predator, with mankind on the foodchain) that SCI FI always has on Saturdays. Oh, and slasher films are pretty high up on my list of favorite genres, too. I guess 'disaster movies' are among the TOP 5, but I digress.

Anyway, Irwin Allen was king of that sort of thing back in the'60s & '70s, but just about all the networks (major and minor) have found that folks love to see unemployed actors (often one-time TV or movie fixtures) getting drown, tossed into lava or killed in one way or the other. Generally, it looks like the make-up guy tossed dust on their clothes and didn't comb the star's hair, thus indicating that these poor souls have been through hell.

NBC seems to have spend hundreds of dollars on third-string celebs, minature models of various California landmarks and hairspray for one-time NYPD BLUE cutie, Kim Delaney. Delaney gets the lead (which means plenty of meaningful closeups and appears in the teasers before each commercial break), with Fred Ward (who did have a film career at one point) and the other Bridges brother, Bo (as the President of the United States, possibly regretting giving up sniffing glue on this particular day). Parts of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle all fall down go boom as the west coast slips into the sea.

I've probably spent way too much time discussing what in the end was sloppy and obvious, but as I said in the beginning. I actually enjoy this sort of thing. Pretty sad, huh?