Sunday, December 31, 2006

It'd Be Animal Cruelty To Keep The Cat Bagged Any Longer


Observant readers should be able to figure out the most important detail in this photo taken a few days ago along London's festive Regent Street.

Slower readers should use their cursor to highlight the hidden clue here: I suppose it's time to start a new Phoblog spin-off - Phiancee.

(p.s. As far as I know, only one person in my office ever reads this site - so if you are reading it, and are reading it after I've added this note, don't spill the beans, I'll just let people know when I get back.)

(p.p.s. The ring in the photo is a decoy - the real one was in the shop getting sized.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

28 Is A Magic Number

I will be spending the last half of my sister's 30th birthday and the first half of my 28th birthday on an airplane. Those who know me know I LOVE spending any time at all on an airplane.

Rob pointed out that 28 is a really cool number, mathematically speaking. It is a perfect number, as it so happens. And you thought only the ones divisible by 5 or 10 were any fun.

Blogging will be light while I'm on vacation and across the pond. But have a fabulous Christmas and a Happy New Year!

'YMCA loses its lease on Catalina's Camp Fox'

This is a real shame - though not surprising. Not that it ties directly to the problems discussed in the article, but Glendale always staffed their camps poorly - primarily with 15 year olds I could never distinguish from campers. A combination of mismanagement and island politics lost the Y access to White's Landing and now Fox - the jewel in Glendale's camping crown. I'm saddened because of the loss to San Pedro Peninsula, and YMCA camping generally, but not necessarily sad for Glendale.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ahoy! Maritime Post Ahead

From the Chron, a story about a couple of Ferries that mysteriously turned up in the Carquinez Strait in November. Fitting, since it was just over a year ago that I wrapped up my law school days with my Maritime Law exam.

There's a sort of exquisite sadness in abandoned ships, moored hopelessly to old pilings; romantic, like the mothball fleet just a bit up-stream.

What Do You Even Say To This?

From the Chron:

In the letter, [Virginia Congressman Virgil] Goode wrote, "The Muslim representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Jon Stewart's Comeback In 5 . . . 4 . . .

A shocking headline: Most Americans Have Had Premarital Sex

An astounding 95% of Americans - even women born way back in the 40s, says the article - have engaged in pre-marital sex. Older generations just weren't as open about it. Or perhaps TV wasn't. Regardless, the study is touted as yet another reason Bush's abstinence-only programs are silly.

However you feel about the main subject of this article and study, I hope you noted the following paragraphs (READER WARNING: irony or hypocrisy sensitive readers may wish to skip this part):

Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defended the abstinence-only approach for teenagers.

"One of its values is to help young people delay the onset of sexual activity," he said. "The longer one delays, the fewer lifetime sex partners they have, and the less the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease."

He insisted there was no federal mission against premarital sex among adults.

"Absolutely not," Horn said. "The Bush administration does not believe the government should be regulating or stigmatizing the behavior of adults."
Really? The administration doesn't believe in regulating or stigmatizing the behavior of adults? Of ANY adults?

I'm having a rather difficult time believing that statement.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Phoblog 5 Second Song Review

Regina Spektor's "Fidelity" rocks. After the song closed an ep of Veronica Mars, I had the have it. Then it got some local radio play. I've yet to tire of it. Catchy, fun, quirky, musically interesting. Go get it.

Best. Wiki. Find. Ever.

I weep in awe of this lovely sentence's exquisite grammar:

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Yes, dear readers, it IS a complete sentence.

And you may ask yourself-well...how did I get here?: misplaced modifier > Garden path sentence > Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Damn, I love me some language.

Law, Photography, And Britney

Any story linking the three above elements demands a post: 'Perez Hilton takes their best shots'

(h/t Cybele at Metroblogging LA)

BTW: the blogger in question says this about the lawsuit:

"If the law says I am wrong, if a jury of my peers says they think my actions are wrong, then I will listen to them. But I don't think they will. Especially if they see that the person who is suing me admitted she is suing me because I am arrogant. A judge would dismiss that."
Actually, no, I don't think a judge would. Because in this case, the arrogance in question stems from his attitude toward a company's repeated request for compliance. In fact, I'm guessing arrogance causes many, many lawsuits. In remedies, I'm pretty sure arrogance D = punitive damages for P, no?

Getting It. Not Getting It.

More on a bill to extend domestic partnership rights to heterosexual couples from the Bee (via The Roundup). I can't decide if I get the theories underlying the proposal or not. More likely, I get it, I just respectfully disagree with it. Maybe it's just my Claremont roots that cause this sort of statement to bother me:

"If it came down to health insurance or no health insurance, we would probably go and get married," Cordeiro said. "But that's not a reason to get married, in my opinion. Marriage is a very personal experience. I just don't think the state should do things that influence people's decision to get married or not."
Sadly, the point of establishing the state (a state) to begin with is, at least in part, classically speaking, to vest in a body the ability to set standards by which we define and govern civilized society.

Obviously, I'm not implying that cohabitating couples are uncivilized. I'm not even necessarily arguing against Migden's bill from a moral standpoint. I have a feeling I'd rather not take the same positions as some of the organizations on record opposing the proposal. I also think that limiting talking points on marriage to its effect on child-rearing is narrow-minded. Marriage, socially, religiously, and even biologically, is about reproduction, but it's also about a host of other factors - many of which have benefits to the larger community.

There are so many conflicting quotations in news coverage of this issue. The one above is troubling. Also irksome, the apt yet quickly tiring rebuttal that divorce devalues marriage more than marriage equality. This is true. But when non-married cohabitants remark that divorce is to blame, I can't help but wonder, well, why aren't you married? Worried about divorce? Like it's something that happens to you, such as a fender-bender or a sudden illness?

If you want the benefits and protections of marriage, why not get married? The word, the very notion and weight attached to it is SO SCARY you just can't do it? You don't want a wedding cake but you do want to eat it too?

And at the end of the day, I still say this cheapens the goal of marriage equality - that is to say, the effort to recognize as legitimate homosexual love - to institutionalize it in marriage. If "cheapen" is too strong a word for you, try "makes more difficult." I don't believe it adds anything to the notion of equality and could do more harm than good on countless fronts.

By the way - I think this bill also creates a foolish chance to re-argue the merits of domestic partnership law as it current exists - the only almost-fair alternative available to same-sex couples. As it is, comments out there in the 'sphere and even attending the article linked above, make arguments for this bill based on support for domestic partnership rights for homosexuals. But that's not what the bill is about, is it? Of course not. Again, if this really were a savvy way to alter the nomenclature of civil unions, then perhaps I'd be more supportive. But I think it's a messy way of doing business.

Get married or deal with the potential drawbacks of refraining from the legal contract. Because you can, dammit.

Second thought: is this an ultra-savvy way to bring get the marriage equality issue into the courts again? Think of it this way: you create something that walks, talks, smells, and quacks like marriage. Hetero couples can enter into either and reap the same benefits. So why can same-sex couples have access only to the separately named, equal institution? A slight spin on the possible motive questioned above.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Things That Make Me Sad: 'Age Compression'

From a Chron article on the battle between Barbie and Bratz dolls:

Like many parents, Yaffe will be weighing a multitude of toy choices during the holiday shopping season. While she personally doesn't love the Bratz, she won't stop buying them. "As much as you want to hide and protect your child from questionable influences, you live in San Francisco," she says. "You want to expose them to everything."

But the choice between Bratz and Barbie is more than just kid stuff. Over the past five years, the toy industry has been watching an epic catfight: Mattel Corp.'s Barbie, the world's most successful toy by any standard, has been battling MGA Entertainment's heavy-lidded, scantily-dressed Bratz to hold onto its dominance in the doll world. . . .

But the popularity of the sexy Bratz and Barbie's move to recapture younger consumers by emphasizing fairies and princesses underscore two sides of the cultural phenomenon known to sociologists as "age compression" and to toy industry marketers as "KGOY," or Kids Growing Older Younger.
Let's leave aside that Yaffe woman's confusion over what "parenting" is . . . the Bratz dolls are pretty awful. And I know "Math is Hard" Barbie is hardly the doll to look up to. But she was less slutty, no?

The article quotes one 11 year old who likes Bratz because "they look real." Google them. See what you think. Personally, I kind of want to weep a little:

MGA Entertainment, which made a series of handheld electronic games prior to Bratz, gives credit for the dolls' success to the company's willingness to absorb and reflect what girls say they want in a fashion doll. Company President Isaac Larian created the doll on the advice of his daughter. Bratz have heavily made-up faces and puffy lips. They are slightly shorter and wider than Barbies, with smaller breasts, although the size of their heads relative to their bodies echoes the underfed look of young stars such as Lindsay Lohan and Nicole Richie, who have often been singled out as looking as if they have an eating disorder.
Yeah, a bit. Like the old, sickening Steve Madden print ads with completely distorted, somehow deemed attractive, girl-like figures.

My years as both a camper and camp counselor showed me firsthand this age compression. Where as my peer group waited until junior high camp (age 13 and above, which is still a bit on the younger side) for dances. By the time I was a counselor, all our kids attended dances - from age 7 or so on. The older kids got to stay later, but they all went. They still do, I'm sure. It wouldn't have been such a problem, except that some 11 year old girls are interested in boys and some are not. And the ones who are not should not have been made to feel wrong for being, well, 11. But they were. Mostly by other counselors who were, themselve, emotionally immature and over-sexualized teen agers. My poor girls - the ones who were happy to dance, but needed no partners, were so miserable by the time the dance rolled around. I tried to provide an alternative to my co-counselor's boy-craze-baiting words of match-making encouragement. But those poor girls.

I wonder if my kids will even have a chance.

Sac Housing Market Tanks; Renters Shake Fists In Frustration

This renter, anyway: It's a buyer's market in Sacramento:

Sellers, both individual homeowners in the resale market and builders pushing new homes, are finding the only way to make sales is to cut prices. And that is precisely what is happening. The median price for an existing home in Sacramento fell 4.2 percent to $345,000 in November from $360,000 in 2005, while the median price for a new home fell 14.6 percent to $395,250.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Apparently Some Do Need - Or Want - Some Stinking Badges

If you've been following the recent dust-up over an Assemblymember's alleged giving of fake badges (shiny metal ones) to various supporters, you might want to check out the LAT's Political Muscle blog for more on the back story. Especially since the member in question has labeled the Assemblyman in charge of the investigation "the most racist legislator [he has] encountered in over 40 years."

If you know the investigating member, you know how a) false and b) insulting that charge is.

This isn't going to end well.

BTW: the post title is kind of misleading - since this post clearly picks up in the middle of the story. But c'mon, really, was there any other possible title? Can you think of the word "badges" without busting a Sierra Madre? I didn't think so.

What's Fair For The Goose Costs The Gander $320+

So, as we've learned this week, Iceland has some crazy naming processes - including, by the way, a prohibition on native born citizens taking their spouses name. A prohibition!

Of course, views on marital name-changing in America are considerably different. Don't take your husband's name? Have a nice holiday dinner discussing that one. Take your husband's name and no one will care except your feminist friends and maybe your inner roaring woman.

But what if hubby wants to take your name? In California, women simply fill out the marriage certificate with hubby's name. Men? You're going to court, dude, and publishing your intended name change, and explaining to a judge why doing so doesn't make you an emasculated pansy. I think this deserves some legal action, don't you? Cue the ACLU.

Six states allow men to take women's names the same as women take men's names in marriage. Rather shockingly, we ain't one of 'em. Paging the California State Legislature. . . .

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gloden Globe Nominations

Leonardo gets two in the same category, as does Clint Eastwood, in the list of nominations for the 64th annual Golden Globe Awards.

But Borat doesn't deserve a Best Comedy nod.

As for TV: HBO's Big Love gets a chance at best drama, along with Grey's, 24, Lost, and the only worthy contender, Heroes. While Love is conceptually edgy, it never really gets anywhere - and its mixed messaging isn't a mark of contentious drama, it's a mark of immobilized writers.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

'Blogging to Peak in 2007'

Really?

Hell, I peaked ages ago.

Just My Luck

From today's Roundup:

And finally, USC fans can rest easy. They may have squandered any hopes of a national championship by choking against UCLA, but at least they'll get to see some llamas. "Llamas have waited 15 years to appear in the Rose Parade. On New Year's Day, 18 of the animals and their owners will stroll down Colorado Boulevard. Joan Selby, a member of the Llama Association of Southern California, sent the original application to the parade committee 15 years ago."

"Paul Holman, president and chairman of the board of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, said he has been told llamas had not been allowed in the parade because horses fear them and react as if the llamas were predators."
Friends of Phoblog know my love of the noble llama. Can't believe I'll likely miss them this year! Unfair.

My Funny Friend In the Showdown Of The Century

If you're in LA next week - check this out - a celebrity comic death match: Indians vs. Jews

My good and extremely funny friend, Sanjay Shah, is playing for the Indians.

How?

Study: Circumcision reduces HIV risk

This article would be fascinating if it weren't missing, like, the point. I'm guessing there is a correlational, rather than causational relationship here.

Ah - wait, here's an article that seems to care more:

Why circumcision should offer some protection is not well understood, but researchers know that the part of the foreskin that is removed in the operation is rich in Langerhans cells that the virus strongly attaches to. "HIV has to gain access to the body and to do that it binds to particular cell types," Dr Puren said. "By removing the skin that contains those cells, you remove the tissue the virus would normally bind to." Similar trials are ongoing in Kenya and Uganda and are expected to end within the next year.
Of course, like, condoms probably work even better than just changing men's physical characteristics, but whatever. Do you think it will be easier to educate men to go under the knife than to use a condom? Or wait, is it one of those scare tactic things that makes safe sex suddenly look way more attractive?

Random Icelandic Fact Of The Day

Who knew:

Iceland has strict naming regulations, and a name that has not before been used in Icelandic must meet the approval of the Naming Committee before it can be used. The Committee assesses whether or not the name meets the grammatical requirements of the complex Icelandic language, which conjugates nouns as well as verbs.
And Icelanders also don't use the same surname system we use - they go the patronym route. And you thought Bjork was the craziest thing out of Iceland.

To Catch A Killer, A Catchy Name

So maybe you've heard about bodies recently turning up in eastern England. Well, it so happens that "eastern England" in this case is Rob's hometown of Ipswich. Or, even more precisely defined: bodies have turned up in his village of Copdock and in various other villages and towns that I've either been to or through in my travels.

Crazy.

There seem to be two monikers duking it out in headlines: The Ipswich Ripper vs. The Suffolk Strangler. (Ipswich is Suffolk's county town - like the seat of Suffolk county government.) Since I haven't read any mention of ripping, the strangler name, and its alliterative pairing with Suffolk makes more sense. Yet in the perverse, celebrity-seeking UK, I'm wondering if some Ipswichians aren't a bit disappointed to think of this dubious claim to fame credited to the whole county.

The girls, all prostitutes supposedly, disppeared from Ipswich's red light district. I had no idea there was such an area in Ipswich. I've wandered around most of the town center - er, centre - and it just isn't that big. Rob said it's located by the football stadium - which was also near-enough to my gym. I still find it baffling. I don't think "England" when I hear the term "red light district." Who knew.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Required Reading: The UK And us

This NYT piece captures in a handful of paragraphs what Kate Fox so admirably tackles in Watching the English (also a recommended read and possibly the most fun you'll have with cultural anthropology - ever). The piece addresses the fundamental cultural differences between the US and England (England is more specific and proper here than using the terms "Britain" or "the UK" because the article is speaking to English ways, not necessarily Welsh or Scottish ways. Plus, the English know, to a certainty, that there is a difference) - our penchant for talking openly and vulgarly about money; our need to know what you do (as in, for employment); our unyielding need to take ourselves and everything about ourselves deathly seriously.

Also of note: the article's gentle jibe at the American tendency to endow the English with excess credibility and intelligence based solely on their cute and sexy accents.

Sarah Lyall frames the piece on the recent dust-up over allegedly misinterpreted comments from Gwyneth Paltrow praising the Brits for being more intelligent and civilized than Americans. She probably said something fairly close - and meant it - but it loses something in translation because of her rather poor diction. Though they seemingly value leisure and non-workplace pursuits less than the rest of Europe, the English still place most things above their careers. It isn't that they don't value hard work - they just don't devalue vacations or non-career interests and subjects - a subtle, but important key to understanding the English culture. The disinterest in (or at least, disinclination to) discussing money matters is, perhaps, a mark of civility, as it implies one needn't worry about the basics of life (food, shelter, etc) and can turn one's mind to loftier concerns.

The English cultural focus outside the workplace, then, isn't a mark of intelligence per se, but it is a mark of what I'd call smarts.

Lyall's piece lauds the English penchant for furious, fun, and quick debate - citing the witty and deadly-quick House of Commons debates that mark English statesmanship, noting that Tony Blair's erudite explanation of the need for action in Iraq certainly won over uncertain Americans because of his careful, artfully articulate presentation.

I would only disagree with Lyall on two points. First, she paints the English attitude towards alcohol as more European than American. While pub culture is certainly a hallmark of Englishness (so sayeth Ms. Fox), in England, as in America, drinking is still done for a reason - celebration, marking of some event, etc - rather than consumed because you should have something at the table to wash down all that pasta, etc. Certainly, the lubricated pub discussion is a sight to behold, but I associate leisurely, mid-week, wine-soaked dinners with Europe, not England. (There, see, I split you up - happy now, my .co.uk reading friends?)

Second - she closes with a quotation urging Gwynnie P to recognize the virtue of each culture. I say: Ms. Martin, if you like the English way of doing things more, then you go with it. I'm not sure I don't like many English methods better myself (with the glaring exception of English bacon). Watering down an otherwise fun exercise in cultural comparisons with "ah, but don't we all have fine points of which to boast" is boring and anathema to the thematic underpinnings of the article itself.

To clarify your assignment: read the article and, if it piques your interest, get Kate Fox's book and try to find someone capable of conversing about more than his job or income.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Two Item Review

On Casino Royale:

1.) Daniel Craig does an admirable job filling Bond's dinner jacket, and an even more admirable job taking it off, however

2.) James Bond should not, I repeat, should not ever, even for a moment, drive a Ford Mondeo.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

'There it is, take it back'

Owens River allowed to go with the Los Angeles flow

Not sure if Owens Valley will buy the "message of friendship and gratitude" part, but hey, returning a 20th of the natural volume is a start.

(By the way, I'm not saying LA should stop using Owens Valley water. I also thing un-damming Hetch Hetchy is a stupid idea. That's my pragmatism-beats-ill-conceived-revisionist-environmentalism statement of the day.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Look Out, Statesmen In The Room

That was a truly remarkable press conference from the Iraq Study Group. Did you see it.

Which is the more likely headline:

Our ship of state has hit rough waters.
or

A new diplomatic offensive.

Watching the presentation, I couldn't help but wonder at the dignity of the process, the statesmanship of the group's chairs. With every journo's question answered, I got the feeling the underlying message was a clear: "it's time to be grown-ups now. We will talk with our enemies. Enough is enough. It's not that we disdain you or your work, we just no longer have time for it."

White House reaction should be interesting - as well as the inaction, which is sure to follow. Regardless, for a brief moment this morning, Washington was hushed by honesty. Things are bad. Here are some suggestions for making them better. But make no mistake, many things beyond our control could make this report irrelevant. And most importantly, even if everything remains the same, it may be too late.

We've broken a country. It's nice to admit it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Some Good News, But It Needs To Get Better

More than just some good news, today's report that Kati Kim and her two children were found alive and well in the Oregon mountains was great. It was miraculous.

But James Kim, who ventured out to look for help, has yet to be found.

Please pray for him.

Strange Bedfellows, Non Bedfellows

One State Senator may soon introduce a bill to grant domestic partnership rights to heterosexual couples whose therapists have yet to solve their commitment issues.

Naturally, the Campaign for Children and Families guy is already apoplectic over the notion.

I'm not saying the state should invalidate anyone's notion of a family unit. But at a certain point, when the real deal is available, why create a watered down version? Especially when so many people who want the real deal can't have it?