Thursday, April 26, 2007

Catching Up: Stags Around The 'Sphere

Amber points to this post which references, kinda, the photo in this story here, and Stag/Veteran Adam Kokesh.

Thanks, Boalt Hall

For those who haven't heard the story so far: A Boalt Hall student posted a stupid, VT-inspired rant about deciding not to get up and rain gunfire on Hastings. Well, the post didn't disclose it was a Boalt student, but the Boalt student should've learned more about things like computers and IP addresses before posting. That rant resulted in the evacuation and closure of Hastings (overkill? you be the judge). Please, like we 'loiners didn't already have mental notes on how to escape from gunfire.

Anyway, the caring Boalt students association sends this message to the Hastings community:

To the U.C. Hastings College of Law community:

On behalf of students at Boalt Hall, we express our deep sympathy and sincere disapproval for the unfortunate events associated with the recent threat to the Hastings community.

Understanding the pressures common to our field of study, particularly at this stage in the academic year, we find what transpired to be particularly inappropriate. The collective discomfort on each of our campuses underscores our interdependence as students. We can only hope that this incident will strengthen the bond between our schools in the future. Please accept our sympathies.

Sincerely,

Boalt Hall Students Association
Yawn. Save it. Plus, how many multi-syllabic words does it take to issue a meaningless email? Whatevs. I want the name of the kid and, regardless of whether the closure was overkill, assurances that this ends his/her law career. Moral character app approval? I should hope not!

Oh - and it isn't because of the content of the message necessarily, though it was surely bone-headed, insensitive, immature, and pedestrian. It's because a Boalt student just had to go after Hastings rather than his/her own school. Because it isn't enough that the non-graded stars of the UC Law school universe are pretty much guaranteed a good paying job - being top 10 just wasn't satisfaction enough for you. Instead, a classist put-down of your non-rivals across the Bay was the only way to be funny.

Sad. Classless. Unwarranted. And a really telling indicator of a complete and utter lack of character.

Update: Boalt kinda sorta gets it, and manages to find a way to pat itself on the back. As ever, I believe that credit should be awarded sparingly, if ever, for doing what you are supposed to do:

April 25, 2007

To: Boalt Community

From: Dean Christopher Edley, Jr.

It has been a week since the distressing events involving a Boalt student’s threat —a hoax — against the community at Hastings College of the Law. I am writing to let you know that all our actions following the incident have been taken with the intention of securing the safety and well-being of our community and that at Hastings, while respecting the procedural rights of the student.

On Wednesday, April 25, 2007, the Law School filed a complaint with the U.C. Berkeley Judicial Affairs Office against the law student who claimed responsibility for posting the threat on a website. We, the administrative leadership of Boalt, believe that the student’s action is clearly in violation of a number of regulations detailed in the Student Code of Conduct. The case will be adjudicated by Judicial Affairs according to campus regulations. Those regulations prohibit us from disclosing the name of the student against whom we are proceeding.
Based on the facts as we understand them today, we have recommended expulsion. This is based not only on the intrinsic wrongfulness of the act itself, but also the disruption, turmoil and emotional toll on the Hastings community and, to a more limited extent, the Boalt community as well. I have received ample evidence of this through a great many emails, some of them painful to read.
This incident has once again confirmed for me the strength and qualities of the Boalt community. Even in this challenging circumstance, you have engaged in thoughtful and productive discussions. We should all take some pride in this, imperfect though we are.

Christopher Edley, Jr.
Professor of Law and Dean
Emotional toll? Oh yes, weepy and in fear, they were, I'm sure. Boalt misses the point, but at least they are taking some action. I'd almost feel sorry for the student who has now ended his/her legal career before starting it. And yet, I can't muster the energy to feel too badly for him/her.

Monday, April 23, 2007

90+ Days

Today is day 91. Still no action. Still more quiet in Service Center land than for past months' filers. Between 15% and 66% less action, depending on how you filter the available data.

What does an ulcer feel like, exactly?

Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George!



To my English readers: Happy St George's Day

Funny Of The Day

From this morning's Roundup:

And we close today with good news for alcoholic health freaks.

A fruity cocktail may not only be fun to drink but may count as health food, U.S. and Thai researchers said on Thursday.

Adding ethanol -- the type of alcohol found in rum, vodka, tequila and other spirits -- boosted the antioxidant nutrients in strawberries and blackberries, the researchers found."

It also will boost your standing in the Iowa straw poll by four points.

"Any colored fruit might be made even more healthful with the addition of a splash of alcohol, they report in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Why I Didn't Overreach For A House

A Chron writer says we shouldn't be bailing out subprime lenders or borrowers - and, thinking about the way we've been financing houses lately, I tend to agree. Lenders really do seem keen on getting would-be buyers into a house regardless of the risk. I met with one broker awhile ago and by the time he finished massaging the numbers, I was nearly a homeowner. But buying a home would've been a really bad idea - even if I didn't mind eating nothing but raman for the foreseeable future.

'Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald dies of cancer in Carson'

Sad news.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Catch And Release

"New-media culture challenges limits of journalism ethics"

The debate: new media's call for open airing in a world of Web 2.0 access vs. not giving scary murders airtime and victory in death.

The conclusion: release a tiny, edited bit, and then mount high horse of restraint. Tell the world, if you were unlucky enough not to have received Cho's press kit, "We see no reason to continue assaulting the public with these disturbing and demented images. We reserve the right to resume airing them as news warrants." (Ah, Fox, bastion of good taste.)

Yes, keep it away. Filter, edit, compile, and give us a highlights reel.

Because it is far better to limit our exposure to violence to that which is provided for entertainment value, full of guns, scrubbed of realistic bleeding. That way it is fake. Safe. Consequence-free. Don't let the kids lose sleep over the real dangers, but continue to let them believe that guns don't kill people, and in this case, don't show the person that kills people either.

Do your best to wrestle opacity from the jaws of transparency.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

[Tumbleweeds Rolling Past]

Over the past few months (86 days, to be more precise), I've been monitoring the processing times for I-129F petitions (quick review: that's the first part of the K1 visa process) on several petitioner-run websites that compile data submitted by petitioners. The official site published by USCIS is rubbish. It's always 6 months behind the current month, a CYA manner of cutting down on angry phone calls from weepy petitioners, as it tracks the absolute last-in-lines of any month. In reality, processing times are around 2.9 months. (.pdf download full of good data bits on the process)

And just a reminder - that 2.9 means about 3 - 3.5 for CSC, TSC, and NSC filers, and about .5 - 1 for VSC filers. Lest we forget.

As we move through calendar pages, it's been a fairly dependable wave of action - swelling at the start of the month, and cresting toward the middle to end of the month - with approvals splashing through for petitions filed about, yeah, 2.9 months prior. November filers passed through in January-February, December filers came through in February-March, and so on.

As a January filer, I've been looking forward to April with bated breath and a pounding heart.

April, now 19 days old, has seen shockingly little movement. By March 18, some 73% of December filers (and I recognize the limits of data collected anecdotally by a self-selecting website) had received approval.

As of April 15, only between 33% and 37% of January filers have been approved and moved on to the promised land of the State Department.

For the last 7-10 days, we have seen, at most, 2 approvals.

Now, due to the nature of the way data is gathered, it's possible, and I'd like to believe likely, that approvals are flying out the door, but chaos theory has resulted in those approvals going to the people NOT donating their data for the cause. There are thousands of filers, but just a teensy fraction of them make up the sample from which we work. Then again, it would be just as unlikely for past months' data to come from a statistically significant number of lucky-arsed filers.

Anyone out there with access to actual statistics, broken down to the day, which I'm sure USCIS has, feel free to leak them anytime.

The more troubling conclusion to be drawn from what we've seen (or not seen) in the past week, is that things have slowed down considerably at the California Service Center. The question is, of course, why, other than because I filed in January and Murphy's Law is f-ing with me.

Publisher's note: I have never, ever, before so fervently hoped to have a post become quickly outdated as I am fervently hoping right now. I would like nothing better than to update this post in the next 24 hours with some indication of life from CSC, be it with regards to my petition or of anyone else's. I can't wait for the point at which I can block this waiting out, like a marathoner blocks miles 18 through 23, or a law student blocks the bar.

We've Just Gone Meta

Va. Tech Gunman Sent Material to NBC

In between the first and second bouts of gunfire, the gunman posted source material to NBC.

Sit a moment with me and wonder at the meaning of it all. Way meta, dude. Way meta.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Of YouTube And The Law

As the school year winds down and the newest crop of JDs get ready for the bar, and barbri, I offer this, though I hate bringing up bar stuff here. But funny is funny. And that stuff is funny.

Well, it won't be funny to the uninitiated. But someday, young grasshoppers. Someday . . . .

An Argument About Movie Violence, Not An Argument About Movie Violence

So the shooter was a creepy loner who creeped people out. Raise your hand if you just flashed to the kid in your creative writing class who wrote f-ed up s that made you kinda move your chair away. Okay, good.

A student who attended Virginia Tech last fall provided obscenity- and violence-laced screenplays that he said Cho wrote as part of a playwriting class they both took. One was about a fight between a stepson and his stepfather, and involved throwing of hammers and attacks with a chainsaw. Another was about students fantasizing about stalking and killing a teacher who sexually molested them.

"When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of," former classmate Ian McFarlane, now an AOL employee, wrote in a blog posted on an AOL Web site. He said he and other students "were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter."
Who hasn't made bell-tower gallows jokes about creepy kids. Hell, a guy I became sort of odd friends with wore all black and creeped people out, but I think he did it for fun. Wonder where he is today . . . smart dude. But I digress.

You can check out the plays here. They're kinda creepy, I guess. Mostly they just suck. No insight. No stunningly created, original violence. Just banal, American-Psycho lite derivative material, by way of a Lifetime MOW.

Here's the thing though - a strong theme throughout coverage so far has been foreshadowing and warning, and the consequences of ignoring the former and failing to issue the latter. People feel bad now for not calling the kid out. Makes sense. But what could they have done more than what was done?

And what of Grindhouse? Or a lot of American cinema? I'm not saying violent cinema causes violence. I'm saying people have written crazier crap and they get rave reviews. This kid's crap was just crap. How many bad screenplays get circulated? Should we be concerned about people who write and dream up that kind of stuff? Oh, but it's an homage when Tarantino does it, right? So it's cool?

I think this goes back to my previous comments about guns and cops and why people listen and what is deeply seeded here in America that gets us to this point. What is it with us? What goes wrong?

'Campus Shootings Draw World Scrutiny'

This article touches on the fundamental difference in the way cultures view firearms, but doesn't get too much more involved than quoting some selected world news outlets and websites.

One of the many reasons I appreciate my fiance is that his being in my life has given me both a reason and a method with which to evaluate my own culture and nationality.

Something that sprang to mind while reading this article: police in Britain don't carry guns. Yes, yes, you see some at airports that do, and clearly, some forces are armed, but beat cops don't. No guns. No guns? Really? I am still baffled by this, because all I can think in response is "but why do the people listen to them?"

If that doesn't make you rethink the validity of some pretty major American mores, I'm not sure what will.



p.s. I think it's important to watch the meta-levels of this story progress. From the earliest hours, commenters on news sites (Chronicle - you should be damned for opening up hard news, blog style, on your news/blog cross over, for it encourages a miasma of misinformed rage, ignorance, and hate) lept at the low-hanging fruit of gun-control battle cries, on both sides of the issue.

And today we learn he was a permanent resident - a green-card holder - from South Korea. Ohhh, goody. Because adding an immigration angle to this story makes it so much more pundit-worthy, doesn't it? Why, the collective stiffy at Fox News alone must be staggering. For so many reasons, I want to crawl under the covers and wait until the next celebrity divorce cleans up the front pages.

Friday, April 13, 2007

One Down, A Dial's Worth To Go

With Imus Gone, Critics Turning to Rap, cries one SF Chron headline. For some reason, this passage really bothers me:

Cultural critic, author and columnist Stanley Crouch, a longtime foe of rap music, suspected the Imus ordeal would galvanize young black women across the country. He said a key moment was when the Rutgers players appeared at a news conference this week — poised, dignified and defying stereotypes seen in rap videos and "dumb" comedies.

"When the public got to see these women, what they were, it was kind of shocking," Crouch said. "It made accepting the denigration not quite as comfortable as it had been for far too long."
Because they were assuming what instead? This is and is not the point here. The problem was never really that the words were said about women who were in no way ho-ish. The problem was that they were said. And the larger problem, of course, is that a lot worse is being said at this very moment on iPods, cell phone ringtones, and radios across the country.

Let's clarify my point above with this bit:

Some defenders of rap music and hip-hop culture, such as the pioneering mogul Russell Simmons, deny any connection between Imus and hip-hop. They describe rap lyrics as reflections of the violent, drug-plagued, hopeless environments that many rappers come from. Instead of criticizing rappers, defenders say, critics should improve their reality.

"Comparing Don Imus' language with hip-hop artists' poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mindset that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship," Simmons said in a statement Friday.

The superstar rapper Snoop Dogg also denied any connection to Imus. "(Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports," he told MTV.com. "We're talking about hos that's in the 'hood that ain't doing s--- that's trying to get a n---- for his money."
Ah, so the problem for some, then, isn't that Imus said it. The problem is that the women were not, in fact, "nappy-headed hos." Had they been non-college educated, or if they still resided in one of a handful of deeply urban zip codes, then, boys, go nuts.

And no one here - at least I'm not - is talking censorship. It's more a matter of asking just what in the hell they (those profiting from milkshakes, lady lumps, hos, pimps, slapping bitches up, etc) are thinking.

Some hip-hop is absolutely a reflection of a painful environment that needs all the light upon it possible. But c'mon now, we all watch MTV, right? We've seen the cribs and the rides and the trappings afforded the successful bootstrappers who've made it out of the ghetto. And the gals they sing about? Just Jenny's from the block? Memories of hos? Nah. Don't buy it for a second. These are everywomen than still exist as a frame of reference and a handy shorthand. Are they asking for their fat-kid-loved-cake and to eat it too? Seems so - because a large cross-section of lauded and well-compensated hip-hop stars make extra cash from showcasing their wealth - all blinged, rimmed, and flossed nearly nonstop on a variety of music channels - but we're still afford credibility to their street-bred personas? I'm all for remembering your roots, but try celebrating what you've achieved rather than what you've escaped.

In the final analysis, there's very little intellectual honesty present in any discussion of the Imus incident and its fallout - including the now beat-late coverage of corporate pimped misogyny and whether, gee, we might need to take a look at that.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dwight Makes Me Feel Better

"When you land, try to land like an 8 year old. These bouncy castles are not designed for adults."

Good comedy always makes me feel a little bit better.

Day 80

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To review, if you live in Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts,New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, U.S. Virgin Islands, Virginia or West Virginia, you have less than 30 days' wait. (13 States, 1 district, and 2 territories)

If you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee or Texas, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii or Nevada, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin or Wyoming, you have about 86 - 121 days' wait. (37 States, 1 territory)

Seem fair.

Do you care?

Probably not. Especially not if you're a MOC, apparently.

Think it took a long time to scroll down this far? Try living it.

[/Today's policy Immigration U.S. about rant]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Girly Man, Girly Car

From this morning's Roundup:

From our It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp Files, Kate Folmar reports, " Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is hooking up with the MTV reality show "Pimp My Ride" for a special Earth Day episode that he hopes will boost the street cred of low-emission cars.

"Typically, the program features everyday people who have their trashed rides tricked out into bling-mobiles with built-in espresso machines or lava lamps. But for this episode, the crew will transform a 1965 Chevy Impala into a clean, green biodiesel machine.

"Efforts to reduce global warming and build a hydrogen highway helped parlay Schwarzenegger to an easy re-election last fall. But putt down the 405 Freeway in a Prius? That's not how the gov rolls.

"The April 22 episode of "Pimp My Ride" will show that "biofuel is not like some wimpy, feminine car, like a hybrid," Schwarzenegger said in the current Newsweek cover article. "Because the muscle guys, they have this thing: `I don't want to be seen in the little feminine car.'"
The little feminine car? Something about this quotation seems wrong to me. Any pushback? Wrist-slapping? Waiting, waiting . . . . .

Friday, April 06, 2007

And Now, The BBC America Report

BBC America to drop 'dated' Benny Hill

Finally.

It's adding shows like Torchwood and Hollyoaks (lucky us), but still no mention of getting things to air sooner over here. Hello! Life on Mars already midway through its second series. What are you waiting for?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Everyone's A [Tiresome] Critic

I was alerted today to a New Republic story about why David Sedaris is a big fat liar. One wonders if TNR takes this sort of thing extra seriously, having found itself living in a big (Stephen) Glass house, not so very long ago. Why must Sedaris be exposed? For making stuff funnier in his funny stories:

He admitted that he had pumped up the Dix episode to tell a funnier yarn and that the juicy details with Clarence didn't take place.

That seems beyond the boundaries of comic exaggeration. It's fine to use absurdly embellished descriptions for laughs--this is an essential tool for any humorist. If I write, "I was so hungover, I threw up my own skeleton," you know I'm kidding. It's not fine to pretend--in a long and detailed scene--that you performed outlandish, dangerous tasks at a mental hospital when you didn't.

And Sedaris definitely didn't. When I asked him about his duties at Dix, he said, in that gentle voice so many people know and love, "It would have been more like helping set up parties." That cleared it up. Everything in Naked was true, except for the parts that weren't.
Yeah, and? This isn't that fake-druggy guy (James Frey) that Oprah held up as a model of redemption and then had to publically discipline for telling fibs and not having such a hard-knock life after all. David Sedaris is a essayist. A humorist essayist at that. He tells funny, semi-autobiographical short stories based on his life experiences, made punchier for your pleasure. And for this he deserves how much ink in TNR? Now, the TNR writer specifically states is ISN'T going the Frey route, yet he does "fact-chec[k]" four of Sedaris's books. Fact-check? Seriously?

TNR man says that he, like many Sedaris readers, found himself wondering if it were all true.

I have never wondered.

I have never cared.

Because truth - literal, fact-checkable truth - isn't the point of Sedaris's work. Any thoughtful reader should know that after their first Sedaris story.

None of the arguments made in the TNR piece resonate with me. They don't change my mind about Sedaris, nor about the genre in which he exists. I find them sad, tiresome, argumentative, without foundation, merit, or point, and down-right silly.

On the humor defense:

I imagine Sedaris's defenders would argue that, since it's just humor, none of this is a big deal. But humor is powerful stuff--in Glass's fabrications, the faked humor was often the only thing his stories had going for them--and writers reap tangible rewards when they present their humor as nonfiction. Things that seem stupid as fiction somehow seem hilarious if they're perceived to be real.
Humor is absolutely powerful. But all humor is neither equal nor intended to the same ends. If the Daily Show fabricated the stories on which it bases its jokes, would it be as funny, powerful, or credible a show? No. When elements are added, they are clearly added. Mostly, however, the humor derives particularly from the veracity of the underlying subject. Sedaris, however, isn't seeking to enlighten your political views, move public policy, shine a light on darkened corners or governmental action, or any such thing.

Whether Sedaris understands the difference between fiction and nonfiction is moot at this point--he could label his next book "hallucinations" and it would sell--but the principle still matters. The editors and radio producers who packaged Sedaris's earlier work certainly understood the difference. They knew that, in our time, nonfiction is bankable in ways that fiction is not. What bugs me is that they milked the term for all its value, while laughing off any of the ethical requirements it entails.
Wrong, wrong wrong.

What principle?

And who died and made this dude the defender of the rest of the Sedaris family? Not to mention of our own, apparently weak minds?

This whole thing is an excellent companion to VoteForTheWorst.com - the site encouraging people to keep scary Sanjaya around as long as possible on American Idol. Their purported purpose is to draw back the curtain on a carefully crafted Hollywood production that's about ratings and advertising dollars, not solely vocal talent.

Well duh.

We should encourage more independent thought and discourage the trend to paint humanity as a fragile, impressionable victim of forces beyond its control. Excercise some judgment and apply a bit of analysis to the world around you, I beg you.

At least I now know what to do with all the TNR subscription solicitations I get.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Day 70

As of today, it has been 70 days since I received my first notice of action from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The second notice could come in the next 7 days, the next 14 days, the next 30 days, or the next 60 days. Or the next whenever-the-f-the-agency-feels-like-issuing-it days.

If I lived in a state covered by the Vermont Service Center, I could've been approved under their average processing times approximately 3-times over.

Equal access to government services? Fair process? Seem wrong?

Word from one congressional office is "the times are different because they are different and they are not planning on changing the process any time soon."

I LOVE responsive government!