Sunday, December 13, 2009

Media Theory

“Give a man a blog to read and he’ll have news for a day, teach a man to write a blog and he’ll have news for a lifetime.”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

History Repeats Itself 40 Years Later

In recent weeks, I have been notably disgusted by how much attention has been given to the death of a certain pop singer (whom I will not name). This person's death (fine, it's Michael Jackson, and I'm only writing it so this post will show up in Google Blog searches) overshadowed the scandal surrounding Gov. Sanford of South Carolina's sex scandal. I would like to take this time to mark the 40-year anniversary of one of America's greatest crimes. The following events took place in 1969:

Jul 18 A car driven by Senator Edward Kennedy runs off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island and submerges in water. His passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, drowns.

Jul 20 Mankind, represented by astronaut Neil Armstrong, steps onto the moon.

Ted Kennedy's offense is SIGNIFICANTLY WORSE than Sanford's, as he brought an innocent young woman to her grave, but it was obviously overshadowed by one of the most significant events of the 20th Century.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Awesome Movie Alert: Mohandas

I saw an AMAZING movie at the San Francisco International Film Festival tonight -- which made up for the crappy movie I saw last night. The masterpiece I saw is called Mohandas, and it comes from India. It plays like a mix between Kafka's The Trial, Ain't Easy Being Green, and Slumdog Millionaire. Go see it! Now!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Taco Bell Conundrum: Problem Solved!

With so many amazing, locally owned restaurants in my area, I always felt guilty whenever I had a craving for Taco Bell. But today, I again succumbed.

However, as I was handed my take-out bag (with its chicken burrito, nachos, chicken soft taco, and crunchy taco), I looked up as I thanked the man behind the counter. His nametag read "Juan Gomez, Manager/Owner."

In my 20+ years as a fast food eater, I have not once seen the proprietor or franchisee of a national fast food chain inside his or her own establishment. And beyond that, the fact that Juan Gomez physically served me, left me flabbergasted.

Was Juan's presence inside his Taco Bell the result of the economic downturn so he could pay for one fewer employee? Who knows?

Nonetheless, I can now return to Taco Bell without being racked with guilt, as I know that Juan Gomez is a real person whose livelihood depends on my consuming more of his fast food.



P.S. - My return to providing fast food commentary is strikingly similar to my writing during my first attempts at blogging in high school, when Upsaid.com/crocodilehunter (now defunct) was a major part of my life.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Quickie: Media Bias...

The media was very quick to jump all over former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) in the days prior to Election Day 2008 when he was convicted of several charges...However, in an astonishing turn of events, attorney general Eric Holder has requested that Stevens' conviction be overturned and all charges against him be dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct. And when I mean "media," I mean ALL MEDIA. This legal decision lacked major attention from liberal, conservative and "neutral" media.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Quandary in Sweden: Criminals in Med School

Few articles have made me more irate than the one I recently read in the New York Times about a Swedish convicted murderer who is currently attending medical school. My main gripe is that this student, who falsified his academic records, took the place of someone who is much more worthy and capable of becoming a medical doctor than he is. This article fails to highlight that only 3% of students who apply to medical school in Sweden are accepted, and this ex-con should not be one of the lucky few. I appreciated many of the comments that New York Times' readers shared, but the question here is not whether a convicted felon should be permitted to practice medicine, rather, the question is whether a taxpayer funded university should admit a completely unqualified applicant who also has a serious criminal record.

Friday, March 20, 2009

EllisIsland.org

I've been spending a significant amount of time lately working on my newest venture, MyTwoCensus.com, and that has inevitably brought the issue of immigration to mind quite frequently. For some reason, today I was compelled to visit EllisIsland.org and try to track down some relatives. I got my grandparents on the phone, live from Florida, and they spit out as many names as they could think of. Though there were several misspellings in the passenger manifests (after all, as Bill Bryson points out in his book Made in America, most of the people who worked at Ellis Island collecting data were recent immigrants themselves), I was still able to track down nearly every family member I sought. Who would have guessed that my passions for olive oil, wine, and seafood were in my genes? Apparently, Bitonto, Italy and Palo del Colle, Italy (two small villages a few miles from Bari on the Adriatic Sea) were where my ancestors emigrated from around the turn of the 20th Century? Some relatives were even listed multiple times, because they made trips to Italy to watch over business holdings, and then came back to America. As my grandpa put it, "Anyone with ten cents in his pocket could get on a ship in those days." I'm a history buff, so the site is pretty cool, especially because I liked viewing the info. about the specific ships that relatives came on. For instance, my great grandpa came to America on this ship:

Built for Inman & International Steamship Company, in 1889 and named City of Paris. Liverpool-New York service. World’s fastest ship 1889-92. Sold to American Line, in 1893 and renamed Paris. Southampton-New York service. Renamed USS Yale in 1898. Returned to American Line, in 1898 and reverted to Paris. Renamed Philadelphia in 1899. Renamed Harrisburg in 1917. Carried troops and supplies to Europe and then returned troops service. Known as USS Harrisburg. Returned to American Line, in 1919 and reverted to Philadelphia. Laid up 1920-22. Sold to New York-Naples Steamship Company, American flag, in 1922. New York-Naples service. Mutiny on first voyage and ship laid up at Naples. Scrapped as Genoa in 1923.


*On an unrelated sad economic note, the place where I won quizzo last week, SF's Valley Tavern, has discontinued quizzo, effective immediately. Shucks.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Would it be the same for you and me? Probably not.

For the past 24 hours, news of NFL players becoming lost in a boating accident off the Florida coast has dominated headlines. But I wonder if a group of teachers, or nurses, or social services workers found themselves in the same situation, would the Coast Guard make such a grand effort to find them? Would this story dominate the media? Probably not.

America has assigned a high status to certain individuals that has even affected how taxpayer money is spent. For example, when John F. Kennedy Jr.'s private plane went down in 1999, President Clinton assigned dozens of U.S. Navy aircraft and vessels to comb a large area of New England waters in a search and rescue effort, spending many millions of dollars, even though Kennedy was merely a private citizen. If an American serviceman fell overboard from a ship, you can be sure that the nation would spend a fraction only a fraction of the cost of the Kennedy search to find him.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Death of the mainstream media...

In the past week, America has learned of the sudden collapse of many forms of mainstream media. While I lament this, I believe that mainstream news sources have been digging their own graves in one specific aspect of their coverage: Profiles of individuals who have been adversely affected by the current recession.

If I read another story about a family with 9 kids whose sole income provider was laid off from his job at a tool manufacturing plant, and then found a part-time work as a janitor, only to be laid off again, I think I'll blow my top.

These stories all take for granted that every individual who is laid off is a not only an excellent worker, but also an excellent human being. Even when the economy is great, people get fired for not performing at certain levels and laid off when their jobs are made redundant. Do journalists acknowledge that prior to the "downturn," some unqualified people were being grossly overpaid at their jobs? Not in any article that I've read.

I know what you're thinking: Was there one article that caused this outlandish outburst from me? Absolutely. Here it is, today's #1 most e-mailed article from the New York Times.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How to fix the economy: Pizza

Last night, I accepted an invitation from Evan Goldin to meet him at Goat Hill Pizza in SF's Potrero Hill. Admittedly, I wasn't in the mood for pizza, especially not all-you-can-eat pizza ($10.95, only on Monday), but I said that if Goat Hill Pizza received a four-star average rating on Yelp, then I would attend. And sure enough, it did.

I am not a snob, but I always tell people that outside of the New York Metropolitan Area, Italy, and other locales along the Mediterranean, there is rarely top quality pizza in this world. I have never had a slice in California that rivals any pizza in New York. If Goat Hill Pizza was in Oceanside, New York (my home town, and home to at least a dozen amazing pizzerias), it would be out of business in a heartbeat, and ostensibly receive a one-star rating on Yelp. Don't get me wrong, it's pretty good pizza by California standards, but come on, what century are we living in?

This realization makes me recall a time in 2007 when I drove from Virginia to Washington with Jared Flatow. On the ride, we listened to economist/columnist Paul Krugman (of Nobel Prize and New York Times fame) discuss British food before the 1990s. It was quite simple: The British were well known for having food that tasted horrible, wasn't fresh, and lacked variety. Krugman attributed this to the fact that not enough British people traveled abroad and tried other more delectable cuisines. Thus, there was no demand, or should I say no outcry, back in the British Isles for better food. Once the Brits started traveling abroad more frequently (and ravaged other nations with their boisterous stag parties in the process...) they immediately knew that their own cuisine was terrible. They demanded more than canned peas for dinner, and they were willing to pay for this. Soon, the competition got more tough, and today, Britain (at least in London) has many excellent cuisines. Don't get me wrong, British cuisine on the whole is still sub-par compared to the rest of the world, but if you've got the dough, you can get the best food in the world in London, and for everyone else, average meal is far better than it was 20, 30, or 50 years ago.

Such a change needs to happen with pizza in America. There's no reason why Oceanside, New York should have ten times better pizza than a metropolis like San Francisco. Will it take someone flying out pizza from Brooklyn every day to make West Coast pizza worthy? Perhaps, but this is the time for a Pizzapreneur to do just that.

Memory at the movies...

Within a 24 span I viewed Oscar nominees The Reader and Waltz With Bashir. Both films featured the concept of memory as a central theme. However, I came out of The Reader thinking that it was a terrible film, whereas I loved Waltz with Bashir. The Reader failed to create a single protagonist, and it lacked coherence as it told its story of love, tragedy, justice, and war. Waltz with Bashir succeeded in nearly every area that disappointed me in The Reader. Besides presenting a documentary in the most innovative fashion that I've seen in years, Waltz with Bashir analyzed the potential inaccuracies of memory in a most vivid and unique way. I am still shocked that The Reader was nominated for Best Picture while The Wrestler was snubbed, but that's another story for another day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

One Trick Pony

It took me a while to get around to seeing The Wrestler, despite ridiculously positive reviews from Mr. Fiebach and Mr. Schaffer, but two days ago I succumbed. I went in with high expectations, but I loved it. It was long, everlasting love.

My reason for not viewing holding out to see this film was simple: I hate wrestling. During the course of my lifetime, I've watched perhaps four minutes of the WWF on television. I still think about all the idiots at Oceanside Middle School who waltzed around with "Stone Cold Steve Austin - 316" t-shirts. Call me an elitist, but even then, I thought those kids were all losers. The closest I've ever come to professional wrestling was asking my mother to buy me a Ric Flair Wrestling Buddy doll, when, as a five-year-old, I sought to release my anger on something other than my baby sister.

*Upon reading Flair's Wikipedia page, I am saddened to learn that he still wrestles at age 60...sounds like The Wrestler wasn't all fiction.

Maybe I'm giving The Wrestler too much credit, but I saw many parallels between this film and Sunset Boulevard. I can picture Mickey Rourke saying, "I am big. It's the WWF that got small!"

Now, having seen this movie, I am appalled that it wasn't nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Mickey Rourke better win for Best Actor, otherwise those old farts at The Academy should lace up their boots and fight me in the ring.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ambulance Chasers

For the past week, I've been immersed in the book A Civil Action. Some parts of this award-winning work of non-fiction have given me a new degree of respect for lawyers, specifically lawyers who specialize in personal injury. The main reason for this is that personal injury lawyers oftentimes take on cases for zero upfront pay, gambling that a jury will rule in their favor, or more likely, that they will be able to settle with the defendant.

Just when I began to think that personal injury lawyers provided essential services to those in need, I came across a CNN article about a drunk man who lost his leg when a New York City subway ran him over after he fell into the tracks. For this idiot, Dustin Dibble, 25, I have no sympathy, as blood tests confirmed that he consumed more than twice the legal limit of alcohol prior to falling onto the tracks. And now a New York jury has awarded him more than two million dollars.

MTA, you better appeal this one, and you better appeal it good, because I don't know too many New Yorkers who want to see their tax dollars going toward paying yet another criminal who games the system.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

GGP=The best of the best!

I'm a parks guy. I love parks. This obsession started with trips to Oceanside Park (walking paths, marine nature reserve, tennis courts, and hockey rink), Baldwin Park (great slides and sprinkler systems), and Lido Beach Town Park (old school wooden beachfront playground) as a kid. By my teenage years I found myself frolicking in my favorite domestic (Central Park and Fairmount Park) and foreign (Phoenix Park - Dublin) and Park Guell - Barcelona) municipal parks. However, just two days ago, on my first "run" (read: stop-and-go-waddle-jog) around SF, I immediately headed five blocks south from my Inner Richmond enclave to Golden Gate Park. I was quickly blown away with this place. In my opinion, Golden Gate Park has the best landscape architecture and facilities of any park that I've ever visited. Plus, the fairly new frolf course - I only learned of the existence of this phenomenon when I noticed a "Beware of flying discs" sign - is off the hook. I don't use that phrase lightly. It's so off the hook that I noticed a foursome out with their advice-dishing caddie and a pushcart that held multiple Frisbees. Anyone up for 18 holes?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Don't call it Frisco!

I was advised by my dear friend and former colleague Evan Goldin, a life-long Bay Area resident (except for his 4 years at Penn) to never refer to San Francisco as "San Fran" or "Frisco." Only "the city" or "SF" are legitimate abbreviations for this town. This took me by surprise, as Jack Kerouac called it Frisco no less than six dozen times in On The Road, and he seems like he'd be an authority on the art of nomenclature. But since I can't consult with Jack from beyond the grade, I guess I'll have to listen to my former editor instead.

Linguistics aside, I left the City of Angels two days ago, and arrived promptly in SF's Inner Richmond district by 1:30. The trip up the I-5 was smooth and uneventful, save for my early inability to keep the trunk of the RSX closed at the start of my journey and my two near-heart attacks when California Highway Patrolman quickly entered the road from the median immediately after I passed, each time to nab some other hardened speedster, and thankfully not me.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I love the Bay Area. It is everything that L.A. is not. Less pollution. Nicer people. Better weather (for my liking). Shorter commutes. Good public transportation. All in all, it's a great quality of life.

I moved into the apartment of my good friend from Birthright, Mike Fiebach. The apartment is great, because it's just 1.5 blocks from Geary, a wide boulevard that runs the length of the city that's filled with my three favorite urban necessities: shops, eateries, and people.

Some of you may know that I recently contemplated teaching English in China. I no longer have this dream, as I now live half a block from Clement Street, which is a pan-Asian enclave in the middle of SF. I can literally walk out my door and find myself with a choice of 500 Asian restaurants, bakeries, markets, and specialty shops. I already went on a dim sum crawl, trying small dishes at a half dozen of the places at my doorstep.

Immediately after my arrival, I did a Masta Cleanse of the room that I'm living in, as it had enough dust to nearly kill me. Other than these particle issues (and the fact that the security conscious dude I'm subletting from keeps a shredder, ax, and massive doorstop in his room for protection), everything was perfect. Soon, this will be home.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The art of self publishing...

I just came across this New York Times article about self-publishing. Less than two weeks ago, I self published my first novel, aptly titled The Age of Me. With shipping and handling, it cost me $15 to print one copy of this 300 page work of literary genius. This book is still not ready for widespread publication, as I must seriously edit its content (it was written 1.5 years ago when I was half the writer I am today...and twice as humble too), but I soon intend to continue using the self-publishing apparatus to build a following. The main difference between most self-publishers and me is that I am a writer by trade, whereas many people are writing their book for one occasion and one person (themselves). Thus, my plan is to use my self-published work to attract the attention of literary agents and publishers, while most self-publishers view the publication of their work as the end of their creative process.

Though The Age of Me isn't ready yet, I recently started selling my epic documentary film, Ain't Easy Being Green (about the ever-so-corrupt 2006 Pennsylvania Senate race) on Amazon using their partner site, Createspace. This site was very simple to use and within a few weeks, my film was ready to be sold. Traditionally, filmmakers collect only 10-15% of the sale price of an item when it's sold through a distributor, but this number soars to more than 55% when self-published. Thus, when self-publishing, one needs to sell five times fewer units to make a comparable profit. Something about cutting out the middle man feels lovely, especially in the case of Ain't Easy, a film whose very theme is to create change using nontraditional methods.

Viva La Self-Publishing Revolution!

Friday, January 23, 2009

My thoughts on the Oscar nods...

I have some major criticism of this year's Oscar nominees, or rather the people who selected them.

Here are my thoughts:

1. As a political film buff, I think Frost/Nixon was disappointing. It was not Ron Howard's best work, and I thought it lacked suspense and drama. It does NOT deserve a Best Picture nod. Frank Langella does deserve his Best Actor nomination, but that's about it for this flick...

2. The same goes for Milk. The plot was sub-par, especially during the repetitive first half of this movie. This should NOT have been nominated for Best Picture or Best Original Screenplay when a future classic like Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona, which is written with much more originality, was far better. Sean Penn definitely deserves his nomination for Best Actor, but that's it for this one.

3. The Best Animation category is silly. Wall-E should DESTROY the competition. Perhaps it should have been nominated for Best Picture rather then Best Animated Flick...

4. Javier Bardem deserves to be nominated for SOMETHING for Vicky Christina Barcelona.

5. The Dark Knight should have been nominated for Best Picture. Yup!

6. In a typical year, Phillip Seymour Hoffman should easily win the Best Supporting Actor award for Doubt, but he won't this year because Heath Ledger is competing against him. Hoffman should have been placed in the Best Actor category as his role was more than just "supporting."

7. After taking tremendous risks by filming on the streets of India, my boy Danny Boyle BETTER win Best Director.

8. Happy-Go-Lucky was a great film...why was it only nominated for one award? Sally Hawkins deserves a Best Actress nomination.

A very well written op-ed, considering he's a dictator...

As I was scrolling through some New York Times op-ed pieces, I was surprised to see one written by Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan "leader" (read: dictator) who was shunned as a terrorist by America for many years only to have diplomatic relations become more normalized within the past few years. While Qaddafi's ideas are articulated with good logic in this piece, I disagree with his view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts can be resolved by creating a one-state solution. My fear is that if a one-state solution ever comes to be, radical Islamists will do everything they can do destroy the Jews who live in the region.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009