Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shake, Rattle, And Keep Typing

Doug Johnson pointed me to this blog post which rounds-up the first-hand reports from yesterday's quake.

No, not just any reports.

What else happens on a Tuesday towards the end of July?

The California Bar Exam.

True to form and all urban legends, testing at all SoCal centers continued on schedule.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Instant Lane Increase

How can CalTrans add extra lanes to some of the areas most crowded and sluggish freeways without spending a dime or disrupting traffic further? Simple! Allow people to buy their way into the carpool lanes. Now, instead of 3 blocked lanes, we can have four or five!

Wonder if there'll be room between the Priuses.

At least this unifies my view of carpool-lane-purpose with a former boss's: I said they were to ease congestion by getting cars off the road and he said they were to help improve air quality. Now we both lose!

And We're Not Even THAT Late Yet

Please, people, it's still July. We've made it to September before without a budget and look, we still exist.

What I don't understand is how everyone goes amnesiac on June 30 every year.

We're kinda late more often than not. Yeah, it's a pain. Yeah, we could use some process reform. Hey, what if we just changed the deadline? Altered our fiscal year to match, say, the Feds?

'Analysis: Thursday's outcry from state workers over pay may be just what governor wanted'

Really? You don't say.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Today In Blake Gottesman News

CMC Non-grad and Harvard MBA-er Blake Gottesman is back in the news.

He's back in the White House as . . .

Bush's deputy chief of staff.

And I know his hair is looking great.

Reader and tipster JG asks whether Blake is now CMC's most powerful, er, alumnus? Almost alumnus? Person we'll claim anyway? JG notes that the deputy chief of staff may not be super powerful, but once the Dems took back Congress, David Dreier got bumped back to ranking member, not chair, of Rules.

So, wow. High-five, Blake.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lawyer Line Of The Week

And in a non-snarky way, too.

There's nothing necessarily remarkable about this story of a fired flight attendant's award, except that I found her attorney's sound bite particularly brilliant:

Her case shows that "psychological evaluations cannot be used as a surgical tool to cut out employees from a 30-year career, to silence them," Anderson said after the verdict, which followed a two-week trial.
You don't even need to read the article, now, do you? Clever without being corny. Memorable in the right way.

It's a persuassive writing must-do that's pretty hard to pull off: boiling your case down to a sentence.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

'Immigrants Eager to Vote Sue to Hasten Citizenship'

Novel, but I'm not sure they have . . . standing? An available remedy? Something. Insert appropriate term of art here.

Though, if this sort of suit somehow forces the Administration to again fund USCIS above its regular, fee-driven budget (no taxpayer money currently goes toward immigration and naturalization - it's a self-sufficient agency), they go for it.

'Cause a green card would be nice. No rush or anything. Y'all just take your time, USCIS.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And If It Doctor's Like A Quack?

A Placerville chiropractor has assumed the awesome responsibility of making a city, region, and all McCain supporters look super stupid by displaying a sign saying "If it quacks like a duck: Saddam Hussein, Barack H Obama, Osama bin Laden:"

"I haven't said anything outlandish about Obama. I haven't threatened him. I haven't said he is Muslim," Saxton said.

"But if you compare the names, they are all Arabic. And I'm simply saying that if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, chances are it's a duck."
One of the best parts is that this sign hangs on the not-really-a-doctor's office sign. And he's trying to sell his practice. How would you value his goodwill in that sale?

I hate that this article, and associated comments, touches on the First Amendment aspects of the issue.

Let's not slack off on the bigger problem while we repeat tired chestnuts about disagreement over what someone says but our willingness to defend to the death his right to say it.

I would never defend this guy.

I don't make it a habit to defend liars, the ignorant, or the plain stupid.

There should be no implied right to be an idiot. Whatever God you believe in gave you brains and hopes you'll use them. Actions like this deserve scorn, not misplaced Constitutional congratulations.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Which Country Still Has Voters - And Candidates - Who Appreciate Satire? Are They Accepting New Residents?

Psst, Mr. Obama, have you not heard my comedy rule #1? "That's not funny" is never an acceptable response to humor.

So this magazine cover is tasteless and offensive? I think y'all are missing the point.



What's tasteless and offensive is Fox News calling a, frankly, tired new-age high-five a "terrorist fist jab." Offensive is linking "Obama" and "Osama" because they're only one letter apart. Offensive is the source material for this SATIRICAL cover art.

Satire.

sat·ire /ˈsætaɪər/ [sat-ahyuhr]
–noun
1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.

Get a grip kids.

That goes for you too, Michelle and Barack.

His spokesman, Bill Burton, said: "The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create," Burton said. "But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."
Ugh. I don't see it as tasteless and offensive, I see it as a satirical blasting of the crap that's been thrown at the campaign. And presume my stupidity as a voter that I can't interpret satire as such.

If there's one thing I hate, it's knee-jerk, wide-eyed, falsely innocent condemnation which acts solely to blow things out of proportion. It's "that's not funny" writ large.

The message, from both camps and from the MSM: Dear America, you're too stupid to get this. You shouldn't have been shown this. Some of you won't get it. Some of you will continue to be ignorant asses who think Obama was sworn in on a Koran because you're narrow-minded, sheep-like thugs for whom the best life has to offer is a cold Miller and maybe, someday, a trip to Epcot or maybe that new Olive Garden that opened next to the WallMart. Yes, let's bring in the worst of all American stereotypes.

We're nasty, brutish, short, and worst of all, humorless morons.

Someone gets it:

But Art Spiegelman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and former New Yorker staffer, was baffled that much of the negative reaction to the cartoon was coming from Obama supporters on liberal blogs.

"They sound so elitist," Spiegelman told The Chronicle. "The essence of what they're saying is, 'I get it, but I don't trust the people in Kansas to get it.' But isn't that what the whole hope and change thing is supposed to be about? That they will get it."
In calling us idiots and denouncing the cartoon for what it doesn't do, Obama is playing right back into the number one Bad Thing For American Leaders To Be: Elitist.

Democrats: Getting in our own way since 2000.

Waffling With Language Causes Big Problems For Belgium

Belgium government collapses, King holds talks

There's a headline I don't really expect to see coming out of western Europe. Do you?

So Belgium might split along language lines. How crazy is that?

Of course, it also illustrates the importance of linguistic unity. Depending on how you look at it, I suppose.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Plausibly Racist Comic Not So Funny After All

I'm not sure I can make it through the rest of the Last Comic Standing season. It's a badly done show. And the people aren't that funny. Or the editors are super unfunny.

Anyway - so, after half-watching some of the preliminary rounds (thanks to an itchy fast-forward trigger finger), imagine my surprise to catch up with last night's episode this evening.

After however many weeks in however many cities of auditions . . . . After however many rounds in Vegas to narrow the field to the top twelve. . . . Out of an entire country of would be stand-up stars . . . . Do you know how many of the top 12 wishfulls were women?

Guess.

No really, guess.

F$%!%£* TWO.

You're telling me in ALL OF AMERICA - no wait, the imported some unfunny Brits as well - they could find only TWO WOMEN WHO MADE THE CUT?

Forget the characters: that's unfucking believable. And you know I dislike F-bombing on a family blog.

And do you know who the two women were? One is legitimately funny, and I don't want to Elle-Woods her, but she's The Hot Girl. She's funnier than Sarah Silverman. But homegirl works the cute, tomboy, perky-boob shirts for her gigs. Hey, whatever, at least she's talented.

And do you know who the OTHER GIRL was?

Our racist Asian-dreamgirl-stereotype who's stage bit tonight was just more of the same Asians look the same! Everyone has an Asian girl fetish! No one dates and Asian guy! bullshit that wasn't funny during the Vegas round. And she delivered such with her pigtails and fuck-me-boots and wide-eyed, innocent act that brought me perilously close to putting my fist through the television.

They had the finalists vote, Survivor-style, about who would face potential elimination. Except - twist! - they showed everyone's secret footage to the group. Awkward! So little Esther Ku who's I'm-the-cutest schtick and nails-on-chalkboard laugh was driving the others nuts gets far and away the most votes. But, she gets to take two other acts with her to the three comics enter, one comic leaves elimination.

Here's were we get our first post-Clintonian-era, bitches-taking-each-other-down moment. Ku told the other girl she wouldn't vote for her. The other girl said, I won't vote for you either. But of course she did. So Ku took her along to the show, along with another funny, original (if not really stand-up) act.

I figured I would get DVR space back when the girls knocked each other out and the guys with guitars double act sailed through.

But again, either clever editing or straight up vote fixing saw my heroine make it through while Ku, deservingly, came in dead last.

So, at least the super-offensive option is gone, but c'mon if you were only going to have two girls, why waste a slot on Ms. Ku?

Two women. Just Two. Two. Out of 12. Out of 13 if you count that one act was two dudes.

Two.

Such bullshit.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wall-E Sends The Right Message. Don't Be A Fat Head About It

Harkening back to my previous post about comedic targets and comedian identities, I'm going to slightly relate this post about the predictable fat-pride backlash to the GIANT humans in Pixar's Wall-E.

Slate burns the film's reliance on tire stereotypes that fat people are fat because they got fat, rather than because they were doomed to fat at birth by genetic fiat:

So what is this powerful and profound message? Wall-E tells us that if we don't change the way we live, we'll all get really fat and destroy the world.

. . . .Let me raise a voice of dissent. Wall-E is an innovative and visually stunning film, but the "satire" it draws is simple-minded. It plays off the easy analogy between obesity and ecological catastrophe, pushing the notion that Western culture has sickened both our bodies and our planet with the same disease of affluence. According to this lazy logic, a fat body stands in for a distended culture: We gain weight and the Earth suffers. If only society could get off its big, fat ass and go on a diet!

But the metaphor only works if you believe familiar myths about the overweight: They're weak-willed, indolent, and stupid. Sure enough, that's how Pixar depicts the future of humanity. The people in Wall-E drink "cupcakes-in-a-cup," they never exercise, and if they happen to fall off their hovering chairs, they thrash around like babies until a robot helps them up. They watch TV all day long and can barely read.
Well, yes, in the MOVIE, the fat people are fat because they did all those things. In real life, people can become fat because they do all those thing. People are fat because they are doing all those things.

Some fat people work out compulsively and still can't shake the weight. So I've heard.

I don't buy that there's a huge number of those people though. Many people are not naturally twigs. Hello, meet me, your blogger.

But I used to be fat. (And because I was, the inner scared me has a hard time saying "used to" because I'm still not thin, and it's a constant struggle.) Even if you think I'm fat now, I can assure you, I used to be fatter.

And then I stopped being so because I got off my ass - literally - and changed things.

Again, some, few unfortunate souls won't slim down. But many can.

And I think Pixar's genius was in presenting a sci-fi future that fits our current pant size exactly.

This is the biggest bullshit statement of them all:

It ought to go without saying that this stereotype of the "obese lifestyle" is simply false. How fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes than with your behavior. As much as 80 percent of the variation in human body weight can be explained by differences in our DNA. (Your height is similarly heritable.) That is to say, it may not matter that much whether you eat salads or drink "cupcakes-in-a-cup," whether you bike everywhere or fly around in a Barcalounger. If you have a propensity to become obese, there's only so much that can be done about it.
Pedophiles have a propensity to kiddie-fiddle, but we still think they should modify their behavior for the good of society, right?

Bad analogy, I know.

The Slate writer, however, misses the Wall-E constructs, uh, construction. It's clearly shown on screen how these future Earthlings brought on their own sloth. They didn't have to leave Earth because they got fat. They got fat because they wore Earth out and had to leave. And got bored. After 700 years on a spaceship, it's understandable.

Second biggest bullshit statement:

That's not to say that our circumstances can't lead us to gain weight. But there's little evidence that overeating causes obesity on an individual level and no real reason to think that anyone can lose a lot of weight by dieting. (Most of us fluctuate around a natural "set point.")
Um, how do you figure? Two people can eat the same plate of food, everyday for a year. One may be fat, one may be thin. To that extent, I suppose, yes, you can read the data as correlative and not causal. However, if you know that your body tends to hold the bad stuff longer, because of genetics, etc, then why don't you change what's on your plate? If two people eat a tub of peanut butter and one dies of anaphylactic shock, we don't congratulate the dead guy for pursuing his right to eat the same thing as everyone else.

I can't eat what other people eat. If I do, I get fatter than they do. This sucks when my naturally svelte husband chows down on his third chocolate biscuit of the day and I really want to join him. But he stays svelte, I absolutely do not.

Maybe the problem is that these fat-defenders have turned "overeating" into a universal amount of food. But what is overeating for me and what is overeating for someone else can be vastly different.

If someone suffering from an honestly medically-induced weight problem feels bad after watching Wall-E, they should buck up, knowing that they are not the target of Wall-E's call to action.

For the rest of us, who have to rationalize what we eat and at time seek comfort in the notion that it's not our fault we carry extra weight - well, we should feel bad if our behaviors are as wasteful as the Buy N Large shopping Wall-E humans.

If we're not helping create a future of literal garbage sky-scrapers, then we should also buck up and recognize that Wall-E's message is to stop trashing our planet. It really isn't that much about our bodies. That damages comes later, after we've run out of environment to ruin.

Widely Applicable

This column about the natural tension caused when the "them" becomes "us" could have easily been written about Clinton as well. Or any non-historically-presidential group.

Beertastrophe?

Is Stella snagging our brews? After reports that this deal was tanking, this article makes it seem more likely that our Clydesdales are about to go Euro.

So what of the recent commercials touting the true-blue American-ness of Bud and all Bud products, workers, execs, etc?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Food Science, And Back To Math

Who knows enough about baking to improv some cookies, asks one blogger, after reading a tasty NYT article about what it is about chocolate chip cookies that makes them so damn perfect.

Improving cooking, sure, anyone can come up with a decent chicken and pasta dish. But baking requires some basic chemistry. I've never improvised a baked dish. Now I kinda want to try though.

In college, thanks to my time in the Ath kitchen, I picked up a wee understanding of the difference between baking powder and baking soda, what you use when and why, and what cream of tartar is for. The pastry chef could eat any cookie from anywhere and tell you what was missing or overly-present. That amazed me.

Science! It goes best with an ice cold glass of milk.

'8th-graders face algebra mandate '

Good, eighth graders should be expected to learn algebra. High school seniors should be expected to learn calculus for that matter.

And draft a basic business letter using correct grammar.

That would be awesome, no?

According to the article, many are "outraged" at this new expectation. It's unfair to expect youngsters to learn the "notoriously difficult subject without a massive infusion of cash to pay for books, computer programs, and more class time and more qualified teachers."

If there were EVER a subject that required no materials, it's math. A pen and an overhead projector or a chalkboard and some chalk are pretty much all you need. If the math teachers we have now can't teach algebra, then fire them.

Full disclosure: I SUCKED at algebra. I probably still do. But I was still done with calculus before I reached the end of high school. But it wasn't brain surgery. A little heightened expectations might be good for our kids.

Math is critical. And kids, you WILL use algebra in your daily life. You, reader, do already.

I hate when people whine about math being haaaard. It's not. We're just lazy.

This mandate will probably never take hold or never be enforced in a way that gives us a generation of leading Californian mathematicians and scientists, but wouldn't that be great?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What's Funny?

A friend sent me this clip yesterday. While viewing it, I thought three things:

1.) Hey, a funny lady comic!
2.) Hey a funny lady Latino comic!
3.) Hey a funny lady Latino comic riffing accurately about visiting a predominately Vietnamese nail salon.

It was all funny because it was true.

But is that okay? The comic, Anjelah Johnson, adopted a very well-done Vietnamese accent and captured at least my most frequent manicure experience.

I couldn't help, though, but recall an episode of Last Comic Standing from a week or two ago. (Pause: I've never watched Comic before. I'm not sure it's worth the time. They seem to pass over the funny people and promote the Guy With The British Accent because Brits are funnier. Duh. [Sorry love!])

A comic on the show had a prop bit. It was a bit Carrot Top and not very inspired, but earned a few chuckles. At one point, though, while doing his version of a WWII movie, the comic put on a pair of glasses with slanty eyes in them and a headband with the Japanese flag on it. Yeah, it was a bit of a "really?" moment. He probably could've conveyed the same joke withOUT the slanty eyes. And the judges told him as much, chastising him for his racist characterizations.

Move ahead about twenty minutes in the show and we have a younger, Korean American dressed as an animae babe come to life. Pigtails, school girl skirt, hooker boots, knee socks, the whole nine. Her bit was about . . . . Koreans! When she went to Korea to see family, she got in the wrong car nine times. Because they don't only look alike to white people!

HAR!

Wait, what?

So the judges tell her she's funny and fresh and only one - the guy from Law & Order - says something along the lines of "it's legal" to use race if you're in the minority you're mocking.

Is it?

My husband, constantly in awe of Americans' need to be Something-American (Italian-, Irish-, Jewish-, African-, etc) practically levitated from the couch in frustration and confusion. How is it okay for the walking stereotype to get away with stuff we'd pillory a white dude for saying?

So now we're back to Ms. Johnson. She's a Latina. Or Hispanic or Mexican-American or something-American. But her bit plays on Vietnamese. She's in no way playing to a stereotype that I think is negative. The Vietnamese salon workers she creates on stage aren't dumb, etc, they're just pushy business women with accented voices who are probably talking sh*t about you to their fellow manicurists in their native language. Is that bad?

So, if you're a "minority" can you mock all minorities, or just your own?

Do you have to be visibly in the minority to do it? How about me? My last name indicates one thing, but the blinding white skin and freckles convey another. Which groups can I mock?

Or is the line drawn in the way we treat these outgroups in comedy? Mocking to exclude? Mocking to celebrate? Mocking to include? (It can be done!)

What if she gave the manicurist a Southern accent and filled the character with "y'alls" and "darlins" or made her lower-class? Think "Legally Blonde." Is THAT okay?

That's a lot of thought from just one YouTube clip.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

'Widow pleads for death penalty'

Understandable grief and yet . . .

Danielle Bologna said the district attorney needs to realize the enormity of the crime in this case.

"Seeking the death penalty, this will make a statement so people won't just kill families for no reason," said Bologna, who is left to raise a son and daughter on her own. "They have the power to stop this. They have to stop with the excuses - this is not her family, this is my family. '
People don't just kill families for no reason. The man who shot these three people wasn't thinking "phew, thank god we're in San Francisco, where I know Kamala Harris will stick to her principles so at least the worst I face is life in prison." Who knows what he thought, but I doubt he considered any consequnces whatsoever, to him, to his victims, their family, the city.

I'm not sure where I stand on the death penalty these days, but I can't say I fault Kamala Harris for being honest from the start: she won't seek the death penalty. Period. The city elected her knowing this. And beyond that, does more killing make these family members less dead? There's no punishment appropriate for the crime here. A true eye-for-an-eye treatment would require his family be killed, not him, right? Would he care that much about that? Would he even make the connection?

I've always admired Kamala Harris for maintaining her principles in the face of serious criticism.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

If He Didn't, I'd Have A Hell Of A Hard Time Voting For Him

Obama opposes California same-sex marriage ban, which McCain supports

Newsom was right to support equal marriage in 2004, Obama is right to do it today.

I'd rather lose for something than win at the expense of this fundamental right.