Monday, January 29, 2007

'This Is HUGE'

Everything I needed to know I learned from The Daily Show: a report on Fox News reporting that Obama attended a Muslim school or received some sort of Muslim instruction when he was a kid. CNN explored and uncovered an average coeducational grade school in Indonesia.

While we're uncovering things - why don't I just admit right now that when I was in the sixth grade (that's age 12 or so for my UK readers), I willingly sat through and participated in Arshad's mom's presentation on Islam. Yes, for 4 days during our history hour, we were taught about Islam and Muslim cultural traditions. As if there weren't already enough skeletons in my political closet. Woe is me.

Fox News makes me feel dirty for being American.

Cross-Cultural Commercials, Comedy

PhoPhiance points out this smashing set of "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" commercials from the UK featuring two of our favorite comedians, Mitchell and Web.

Check 'em out. They're numberwang.

Also fun: musings on whether Bill Gates's visit to tonight's Daily Show might give us a PC Showdown as TDS John Hodgman takes on PC John Hodgman.

Why People Are Afraid Of Their Government

Last year, the implementation (or lack thereof) of the IMBRA added months to nearly 10,000 couples trying to process K-1 Fiance Visas. This year, a new federal law has pulled the rug out from married filers living abroad who previously had the advantage of Direct Consular Filing. Well, DCF is no more:

In any case in which a post has already accepted an I-130 from a petitioner but has not yet issued a visa, post must forward the petition to the appropriate USCIS overseas office as "not clearly approvable." We are working with USCIS and will provide subsequent guidance on processing I-600 petitions and previously approved I-130 petitions. CA recognizes that this change may cause difficulties and encourages posts to advise their resident American citizen communities that new procedures are in place so that they may plan ahead. End Summary.
For novice immigration lawyers out there, this means that people so far along in the process they already had interviews scheduled (interview = ability to count the days to reunification on two hands max, in most cases), have had their interviews cancelled and their applications forwarded back to the US and to - say it isn't so - the Department of Homeland Security. I can only imagine the heartbreak.

Of course, there's no clear answer on how this new law, the Adam Walsh Protection Act, really translates for all cases in all countries. Maybe some consulates will still allow for direct filing. Maybe some won't. The one certainty: full-employment for immigration attorneys.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

I'm No Actor

And I never would be. I could take an acting class and act. But I still wouldn't be an actor.

I'd be an actress.

I'd also never be a comedian. I'd be a comedienne.

I'm watching the SAG awards and it opened with AA style confessions from a selection of talent, each ending with "I am [your name here] and I am an actor." Of the several women who shared stories of their thespian roots, only one, Shirley Jones, said "I am an actrees." Even Jada Pinkett Smith, who said from her first production of Wizard of Oz at age 3, she wanted only to be an "actress" said "I am an actor."

Here's my beef: I get that female thespians are seeking Hollywood parity and have decided that a good way to help that struggle is to reclassify themselves with their male peers. But that reasoning is predicated on a belief that identifying something as feminine - or just female - in nature makes it per se inferior. Why is an actress less than an actor? Why is the term actor more worthy of respect than the word actress? The chances of rising to positions of power in Hollywood - on screen - don't seem as gender-dependent as in other fields (like comedy, which I'll get to in a minute). Off-camera, sure, that glass ceiling may be cracking, but it's still there. But studio executive doesn't come in gender-specific variations (not like we call people studio executors and executrixes - is that how that is made plural? whatever). So what gives? Be a damn actress if you want to be. Or be an actor - but not because you think the word will entitle you to increased respect. If they want to get you down, the lack of "-ress" won't stop them.

Now, for comedians/comediennes, the distinction may have a substantive as well as an illustrative usage. The same argument applies from above: presuming that using the feminine version of the word decreases its value or respectability is offensive nonsense. However, when it comes to funny, men get more respect. They get more stand-up specials. They get more HBO specials. They get to be correspondants on the Daily Show more often. Guys are cooler, funnier. Of course they aren't really cooler or funnier, but they are allowed to be and are reinforced as such much more often. This is why a mediocre talent like Sarah Silverman gets a show and an abundance of ink spilled over her (oh, and I totally mean that in a vulgar way, because that's what they do) in Entertainment Weekly. Well, to be more specific, Sarah Silverman gets it because she's *pretty* and funny - and usually only fat or ugly girls get to be that funny.

(That's a gross generalization - there are many gorgeous comediennes, but I still have a point.)

I digress.

The message here: actress isn't a slur. Neither is comedienne. I'd rather be either than an actor or comedian.

I'm No Actor

And I never would be. I could take an acting class and act. But I still wouldn't be an actor.

I'd be an actress.

I'd also never be a comedian. I'd be a comedienne.

I'm watching the SAG awards and it opened with AA style confessions from a selection of talent, each ending with "I am [your name here] and I am an actor." Of the several women who shared stories of their thespian roots, only one, Shirley Jones, said "I am an actrees." Even Jada Pinkett Smith, who said from her first production of Wizard of Oz at age 3, she wanted only to be an "actress" said "I am an actor."

Here's my beef: I get that female thespians are seeking Hollywood parity and have decided that a good way to help that struggle is to reclassify themselves with their male peers. But that reasoning is predicated on a belief that identifying something as feminine - or just female - in nature makes it per se inferior. Why is an actress less than an actor? Why is the term actor more worthy of respect than the word actress? The chances of rising to positions of power in Hollywood - on screen - don't seem as gender-dependent as in other fields (like comedy, which I'll get to in a minute). Off-camera, sure, that glass ceiling may be cracking, but it's still there. But studio executive doesn't come in gender-specific variations (not like we call people studio executors and executrixes - is that how that is made plural? whatever). So what gives? Be a damn actress if you want to be. Or be an actor - but not because you think the word will entitle you to increased respect. If they want to get you down, the lack of "-ress" won't stop them.

Now, for comedians/comediennes, the distinction may have a substantive as well as an illustrative usage. The same argument applies from above: presuming that using the feminine version of the word decreases its value or respectability is offensive nonsense. However, when it comes to funny, men get more respect. They get more stand-up specials. They get more HBO specials. They get to be correspondants on the Daily Show more often. Guys are cooler, funnier. Of course they aren't really cooler or funnier, but they are allowed to be and are reinforced as such much more often. This is why a mediocre talent like Sarah Silverman gets a show and an abundance of ink spilled over her (oh, and I totally mean that in a vulgar way, because that's what they do) in Entertainment Weekly. Well, to be more specific, Sarah Silverman gets it because she's *pretty* and funny - and usually only fat or ugly girls get to be that funny.

(That's a gross generalization - there are many gorgeous comediennes, but I still have a point.)

I digress.

The message here: actress isn't a slur. Neither is comedienne. I'd rather be either than an actor or comedian.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Gonna Lead The Party Like It's 1988

Biden to Kick Off Presidential Campaign

Dude, seriously? You voted for the war and your time has come and gone. I really liked you too. No, seriously, I recall watching you on Congressional panels - Anita Hill maybe? - and I thought, that guy is cool. But that was long ago. Obama is too green. You are too - what's the opposite of green? That's what you are.

Baby, Bottles

I want to ralph, and it's not because of too much wine.

I think the NYT was the first place I saw an article on the growing "concern" over modern mom playdates. Yes, we've got 12% by volume worth of trouble aging in suburbia, moms are having a glass of wine while their kids play together.

I'll pause now while you don your bonnet and apron, brush the dust off your gray poplin, and shine your shoe buckle. The right attire will probably help you sit in judgment more attentively.

What brings this up today? A Today show segment (was this show EVER better than it is now, or has there been a gradual/rapid descent into In Touch territory?):

about the practice of serving alcohol alongside juice boxes at these gatherings. Wine is usually the beverage of choice, but martinis and cosmopolitans are not unheard of — depending on the assembled moms and what kind of a day they've had
The "practice" of serving alcohol? Substitute crack and heroin for martinis and cosmos and you'll get a better impression of the alarmism latent in that lede.

But would you let a sitter do it? No, morons, most sitters aren't even 21. Jenny Sixteenyearold shouldn't be drinking when she's with my kids or when she's by herself. Plus, she's a paid employee (and remember, when she's a suburban teenager, under-the-table tax free payment is fine. Make sure she's not not-from-around-here though, especially if you're up for appointed office). I don't drink at the office. Neither should a sitter or nanny.

But what if a kid gets hurt? Who drives to the hospital? Oh, how about any of the moms described in the story who have, like A glass of wine. Not three. Not ten. Not the bottle. As adults, I'm going to assume they can monitor themselves and drink responsibly. Because if they can't, I don't think the playdate drinking is what we have to worry about here.

What if mom has a glass of wine over dinner and junior stabs himself with a fork! Dear god, can you imagine.

And what about the example we're setting for our children? We're showing them that booze is okay. That drinking to unwind is acceptable. That drinking socially is something mommy has no trouble with. Clearly, the better way to go is to hide all alcohol and never consume the fruit of the vine in front of the fruit of your loins.

Yes, far better that we cultivate kids like those of an acquaintance: that pre-teen becomes agitated and fearful of her safety if mom has a drink at a social event. Mom! Don't drink! That's not good for you. Is mom a lush? No, of course not. But I think we can all agree that having a child fear and misunderstand alcohol is a much better way to prepare her for college and rush week.

I mean, really, are we going to start judging women for this? What about dad cracking one open on the weekend. Is he watching the kids then? Better not. Drink or watch the kids. My grandmother had a glass of wine every single afternoon of her life. It was a lovely Rhine that paired well with Oprah. If my mom was at the store, should Nana have chucked the Chuck and shielded us from a beverage that even Jesus consumed? Apparently.

Not once in any of these stories have women been calling themselves or others alcoholics. Nor have they appeared to be alcoholics. Or drunk. Or even tipsy. But the scary language is there, between each line, running the course of the discussion like legs on a fine Syrah. What a rancorous bouquet on this vintage fear, indeed. All of these mothers are on the brink of ruining their children. Of course, if any story mentioned the consumption of white zin, I might agree.

Perhaps most off-putting: this is a story that, as PTN says, assumes that we care about a problem that only a few people actually are lucky enough to have (like these people's woes). Oh no - upper middle class women, after battling for the right to get both into and out of the office now have to fight for their right to Shiraz. Boo-freakin-hoo. Keep drinking, ladies. No one really cares. Especially not your kids.

Ah, America: you can take the pilgrims of the boat, but you can NEVER get them off the wagon.

You Can Tell A Lot About Someone By They Shoes

Lunch times during my BarBri class were a bit like lunch times during the UN School on The Critic. All of us were either from another country, currently dating, or had previously dated someone from a foreign country. Since we were studying law - a lot of it irrelevant and rooted in another country's (England, I'm lookin' at you) - we frequently became engrossed in discussions on comparative law and policy. (Partly because it is fascinating, especially when there are first-hand perspectives at the table, and partly because anything, ANYTHING, is better than your fifth PR practice essay of the day, or the prospect of returning to a meeting room and filling out another 100 MBE questions)

My friend Avi, who's off doing fascinating things like trying war crimes cases in Africa (makes your job seem boring, no?), frequently discussed the ways in which economic policy dictated the entire tenor of a place. The value placed on the movement of goods and currency determined familial relationships to an extent largely ignored except in overlooked column inches in the FT or WSJ. Despite attending a college where such things were discussed and acknowledged, I largely ignored - and continue to - the ways in which public policy infects and directs our daily lives.

But then there are the really compelling reminders that jump up and smack you in the face. What smacked me today? Two words: Premium Processing.

Yes, for an extra $1000 or so, you can get that foreign worker here faster. You cannot, however, pay extra to get your spouse, fiance, child, mother, or sister in any faster.

Now, in many ways, that's a good thing. Though I have a feeling that with enough money, you can grease all government wheels, I don't want immigration processes to become a means-game where the rich get reunited and the poor get (more) screwed (than they already are).

There's enough CMC and latent conservative in me to understand why a strong economy is important: why we need to poach qualified workers from elsewhere, or reward smart, able, necessary people with faster entry into this country.

But goddamn it, I'd be $10,000 if they added an expedited process option to I-129Fs as well as I-129s. Without the F, we're, uh, well, F-ed anyway.

Back to my original point: we base a lot of family law - foster care and adoption - on the preservation of the family unit. And, to be fair, immigration policy also prefers familial ties over basic interest in becoming American. But it isn't enough. It isn't efficient. It is barely tolerable. And I'm only at step 1 and maybe a half.

I wish we could reprioritize things.

Alternatively, I wish I had moved in with Sandra in Vermont. Kids, don't live in California or any of about half the territory of the United States, because man, is that visa service center impacted. And from what I hear (this probably means little to the uninitiated), two USCIS have closed to I-129F (fiancee) and I-130 (spousal) visas and are now re-routing all applications to California. That leaves little Vermont to fly through applications and process people faster. Thanks, USCIS. Thanks. I only hope I squeaked mine in under the wire in California.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

'N.J. Warns: Don't Eat Squirrel Near Dump'

Because 'Oil and Petrochemical Refinery State' wouldn't fit on a license plate?

Cry Me A Red-State River

The Chron reports: After majority rams through 'Six for '06' bills, Republicans are exasperated and angry

Well boo-freakin-hoo.

I got 4 numbers for you:

1.
9.
9.
4.


For my non-American readers, note that "rammed through important legislation" means "had the requisite number of votes to pass a proposal and did so."

Why Are We Still Bowing To The Demands Of Nebraska, Again?

It's like the West Wing debates, right? Where is he on ethanol subsidies?

For one, I'm tired of the politically driven corn craze. It's expensive and doesn't solve the bigger problems. If you need a diesel powered tractor and other polluting energy to get energy from corn, is it worth it?

No, of course not. But got forbid we anger the Cornhusker State.

And I love Nebraska. But this is a foolish ploy that fixes nothing and gives Bush bogus credit.

Dumbest Celebrity 'Rehab' Ever

'Grey's' Isaiah Washington Going to Rehab

To which the only response is: Seriously?

Seriously.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Super Ship, Super Bug

Stomach flu sickened hundreds of passengers on Queen Elizabeth

Nearly 17% of passengers aboard, along with 28 crew, came down with norovirus.

The rise in norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships, in rest homes and prisons, has made a lot of news this year. I can't help but wonder if the constant herculian efforts to disinfect everything in these type of communal places has led to noroviruses getting stronger and therefore more resistant to the same disinfection efforts that created them.

Ick.

Commas Really Are That Important, Though

Life for adultery? Is that as criminal as what we continue to do to representative government and the proper role of statutory interpretation?

John Jacobs, an appellate defense attorney based in Detroit, said Murphy's footnote took strict, literal interpretation to its logical conclusion: If judges could not apply common sense, legislators' poorly worded laws could have bizarre ramifications.

"If you give that much power to legislators, they had better be right," Jacobs said. "Every comma had better be right."
But wouldn't it be nice if they tried just a little to get every comma right? And unrelated to the interpretation question, but related to the primary subject - the possible criminality (possible? wait, no, it IS criminal in Michigan) of adultery - can we get into a discussion about how we'll allow adultery but not view it as a threat to marriage? At least not as much of a threat to marriage as, say, marriage apparently is a threat to marriage?

The snozzberries taste like snozzberries

Parse this:

Excerpts from the exchange between Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Jan. 17:

Gonzales: There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There's a prohibition against taking it away. ...

Specter: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. The Constitution says you can't take it away except in cases of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there's an invasion or rebellion?

Gonzales: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas. Doesn't say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except...

Specter: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.

Source: Senate Judiciary Committee transcript
Excuse me - there's a small white rabbit running over there and I feel compelled to chase it right down its damn hole.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

'Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure'

You'll certainly be hearing that line again in the post-game review. Another likely candidate, with regard to immigration reform - that we'll fix the status of the millions currently present and out-of-status/illegal/whatever "without animosity and without amnesty." What's left after you take those two time-tested tools off the table? My only requirement - don't change a goddamn thing until our K1 visa processes. Seriously. I live in fear of the same situation faced by thousands of couples last year. If you've been there, you know the shudders these two acronyms bring: IMBRA and RFE. Don't do it, please, I'm begging you for inaction now, more than ever.

Also of particular note: "Design and establish a voluntary civilian reserve core?" If it functions like our military reserve, why do we need it? because we've shipped out those that signed up as reservists? because we're out of active duty service men and women? Why not just fix what's wrong so we get qualified recruits? This guy will privatize ANYTHING.

Love the shout-outs to an naturalized African NBA player and the founder of the Baby Einstein company. Wow. Baby Einstein. And I'm not shortchanging her accomplishments. Hell, since Disney bought her out, I'm guessing I should be really, really jealous.

The pagentry is awesome to behold. Pomp aided by a particular set of circumstances. It has always been this way, of course. Or at least since the dawn of the television age and the golden afternoon of C-SPAN.

We are a decent, honorable, resilient country. If you google resilient, you find: "The capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards to adapt, by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure. This is determined by the degree to which the social system is capable of organizing itself to increase its capacity for learning from past disasters for better future protection and to improve risk reduction measures."

Are we capable of such? Truly?

And as able as was the President in tonight's speech, never forget, he's still the S.O.B. that's led us down a dangerous and uncertain path. No amount of warm and fuzzy closure-laden talk will change that. Ever. We shall never forget, indeed.

P.S. About 4.5 minutes after the end of the speech, a commentator mentions that Obama has already released a press release on some of Bush's proposals. Why bother giving the speech at all? Let's skip it next time and get straight to the reax.

'Madame Speaker'

Unexpectedly, those words, announcing the president's arrival in tonight's joint session of Congress, moved me. I teared up a bit.

And since it will be mentioned anyway - not necessarily wrongly - Nancy P is wearing a fetching pistachio-colored suit. The person I can't identify, however, is Legs McGee in the front row wearing a pink suit that hits above the knee. Whoever it is, she's probably too old for an above the knee skirt.

I fear I make have jumped the blog-shark with that last statement from thoughtful political analyst to fluffy, pointless commentator. But fear not. I'll get to the speech-snark soon enough.

Fair Use And Bowler Hats

Via b.la, this piece on Boing Boing: LACMA's Magritte exhibit - an installation celebrating fair use (Warhol borrows from Magritte, countless artists build on and take from his iconic apples, hats, and cigars, or not-cigars), yet forbids photography.

The ironic relationship of content and policy is striking. Seems like something to check out. Magritte is possibly my favorite artist - and I'm a seasoned musuem photo thief - so this just screams "LACMA Challenge 2007."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Excuse Me While I Nerd Out For A Moment

But for anyone who is a fan of either: Doctor Who becomes one of the Heroes this evening.

That is all.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Tesco, Here? But Will They Sell The Good Crisps?

A reader sends a tip on this LAT article about a new grocery competitor that seems to be MIA.

So, Brit giant Tesco is going to move west across the pond? Fabulous - now we'll never have to move back!

This Link Is Against Everything I Stand For

This is the first - and I hope only - time I like to a m*space page. I don't even want to type it out, see?

But in an effort to spread this jewel in a sea of bad sketch comedy, and to enable me to incorporate more of its lines into my daily life, I present to you, Natalie Portman's SNL Jamba Juice sketch.

Heyyyy Jamba Jamba!

Forgive me.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Excellent

An enthusiastic Phoblog endorsement for The Office. I didn't think they could do - but over this season (starting last season), they've hit their stride, found their pacing, and become, in a word, brilliant.

Nothing better exemplifies this subtle perfection than tonight's episode in which - spoiler alert - Michael rescuse Dwight from Staples. He storms purposefully into the store and all I could think was - please play "Love lift us up where we belong."

And they did. Quietly. Muzakly. In the background. But there it was.

Exquisite.

And: Note to Scrubs - the musical was cool and you did it well enough, but for anyone who has seen "Once More With Feeling" (I don't have to name the show if you recognize that episode title), well, sorry, it just wasn't that great. Remember that episode when you switched to a traditional 4-camera format? THAT was genius. The Scoobies beat you to the punch on the song-and-dance. Bummer.

Can't Help Thinking This Is A Real, Real Bad Idea

Not necessarily a brand new development, as it's been going on for a few years, but scientists now say they have a better understanding of the 1918 Spanish flu that killed 50 million people because they reverse-engineered themselves back a copy of the 1918 virus.

Don't worry though, there are only two copies of the virus, one at the CDC in Atlanta and one in Canadian government lab in Manitoba.

I'm sure they'll be just fine there.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Obama Runs: Point/Counterpoint

So, Barack Obama is in it to win it in '08.

Point: Senator Obama, I'd like you to meet Senator Edwards, another one-term wonder who thought his charm and personality would carry him from the hill to the White House. Turns out, not so much.

Counterpoint: Senator Obama, I'd like you to meet Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., your predecessor in the Diversity-Darling-Child-of-the-Democratic-Party Club. He missed his shot, perhaps waited past his superstar shelf date, and didn't move to the upper house. Lesson: strike while the fire is hot.

Of course, buried between the point and the counterpoint is the glaring, uncomfortable subject of race in America. Obama is certainly what should be the face - or at least a face - of America. But then again, the dust-up over what was widely considered a racially charged ad again Harold Ford, Jr. during his bid for the U.S. Senate illustrates either our continuing national reluctance to get out of the white male rut - or our PR-hyped inability to refrain from focusing on race to begin with (and by that I mean the minority opinion - and by minority I mean, less widely held, not minority - that the anti-Ford ad was not playing to old stereotypes. Or at least not stereotypes younger generations, or geographically removed people, would pick up on).

It's messy - I think we can agree on that. But I will be curious to see how race actually plays out, and how the racial melodrama so beloved by the MSM plays out - don't confuse the two. One is real, one is really manufactured. Neither will be appreciated.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Fightin' Words For Lager Louts

And others.

This morning I mistakenly watched part of the Today Show, especially painful this week as it looks back on its rich history - its Barbara Walters and Jane Pauley years - with Meredith sitting inelegantly at the table. For a few days I thought she might surprise me, but no, no, she's really awful.

I should say too, this post was better the first time I wrote it, before a downed WiFi ate it. I digress.

Today, Mer interviewed Madonna. Big star. Smallllll interviewer. Madonna endured uneven pacing, insipid, pointless questions with the kind of tired, patient ire only a diva of her caliber could hint at without losing public support. She seemed at turns baffled and bemused at the questions. But then she said something that lost her all the points I'd given her for having to sit through the interview. While answering a truly stupid question about whether she was hounded by the press in gossip-obsessed London, Madonna explained the fascination by putting it in context. Sort of. It's a small country, she explained "with one city . . ."

Now, I adore London, make no mistake - but as a part-time, or at least honorary, resident of another, existing English town, I must object. As would, I'm guessing, residents of Sheffield, York, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool . . . .

Dems To Take Over Denver In '08

Inside scoop is that the Dems will choose Denver for their '08 convention - a demographically smart choice, as well as a geographically convenient one for Cali Dems. I'd imagine United Airlines, which has a hub in the mile-high city, appreciates the choice as well.

You read it here first.