Thursday, May 26, 2005

Sexism in American Idol

All right, let me say that I did not see a single episode of American Idol this season. I saw the first season and the end of the second, but to be honest, the show just isn’t my thing. I end up feeling sort of bad for finding the auditions funny and would rather listen to my own taste of music song by professionals.

I do know that the final two contestants ended up being Bo Bice, a 29 year old rock singer, and Carrie Underwood, a 22 year old country singer. While most people I asked told me that this Bo fellow was the more talented contestant, I expected that Carrie would win. Why? Men will always be screwed by gender voting patterns in competitions such as these. Let me show you why…

1. Women are happy to support other women who they like or find talented. They want to vote for their “sisters” to do well.

2.Men will not vote for other men because they do not want to seem “gay” and hate other men doing better than them. They will vote for the hot girl, if they vote at all.

3.Many women will vote for the hot guy, but they are probably less than 50% of the female audience. Chicks before dicks, right?

All things being equal, the default condition is that there will always be more support for the female contestant than the male contestant.

I know that in the second season, it was down to two men and so one obviously won. This was an aberration caused by the two drawing most of those who vote for men, while the women split off the other votes, and it also had a race component to it. Also remember, I said “all things being equal.” When the talent difference is more pronounced, these biases are less likely to come into play.

Now, I know I did not watch this show much, but fans I propose this to seem to agree. Besides, American Idol is not the only popularity contest where this occurs. (Voting for leaders is different as biases leave lasting consequences for the country.)

Anyway, let me know what you think…
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Work Balance Ain't Free

It must be some sort of women in the workforce day either in this country or just at the New York Times building, since the two Op-Ed columnists focus their writing on its issues in their column. One was good: John Tierney’s, and one was worthless: Guest Columnist Matt Miller's column. (Viewing both columns requires free registration at nytimes.com.)

Let me address points raised in Miller’s, as Tierney speaks for himself:

For years I listened politely but inadequately, to judge from Jody's grumbling. Now, thanks to her persistence and my exhaustion, I've discovered I'm a feminist ("humanist," Jody corrects). They say spouses come to look like each other; maybe their convictions do, too. In any event, now that I've internalized this, I can help other men avoid my agonizing learning curve.

Here's the deal: this isn't a "women's" problem; it's a human problem. Yet for 30 years women have tried to crack this largely on their own, and one thing is clear: if the fight isn't joined by men (like me) who want a life, too, any solutions become "women's" solutions. A broader drive to redesign work will take a union-style consciousness that makes it safe for men who secretly want balance to say so.

First of all, I am very annoyed by the assertion that term “feminist” should be changed to “humanist”. I do not know how popular this is, but it is a very manipulative way of changing the argument. While feminist have often raised reasonable complaints in the past, they were never bringing them up in order to help both sexes. They might have believed that what benefits a woman, benefits the whole society, but they are only looking to maximize a woman’s position in the world.

Seriously, how often have feminists advocated for men to have equal rights in custody decisions? How about making women register for selective service? Bringing up spending on men’s health issues up to par with the spending on women’s health issues? Call a spade, a spade and stop acting like feminism has a goal of helping out anyone besides women. Not that this is bad, but it is the truth.

Miller continues…
Some call this "whining." Others like working 24/7. Still others assert that you can never change the nature of work near the top. But our corporate experience persuades us that change is inevitable. In a globalizing world, many senior jobs are already impossibly big. If they need to be restructured anyway (we're working on how), why not do so in ways that give folks the option to have a life? Skeptics should recall that everyone once "knew" that a weekend or a minimum wage would spell economic ruin, too.

This is where Miller becomes the most inane. Minimum wage and the weekend were added to our work lives before the economy had become so global. We now live in a global economy and any change in our work effort needs to be analyzed in this context. Miller also needs to realize that the top jobs will never allow for a good work-life balance. Simply put, the top jobs in our society will always go to the ones with the most talent and the highest commitment to the work longer and harder. If someone who can do this, choose not to, someone else will exploit the opportunity left behind. Miller is silly if he expects some sort of unified agreement among the nation’s “elite” to change the nature of the top jobs. Even if he was successful in this goal in this country, developing countries with a citizenry willing to work harder will soon surpass us economically.

Europe has tried to go down this road before. France and other countries created shorter work weeks and other government interference in order to make it easier for workers to have “balance.” What happened? America has maintained a consistently doubled growth rate and Europe has been left with spiraling unemployment. (Double-digit unemployment has not been seen in many years here, but is the norm in Europe.)

I am not saying that giving up the highest career success for a happier and more enjoyable family life is wrong. I actually think it is admirable in a lot of ways. But anyone expecting a better balance without a cost is fooling themselves. Life is full of trade-offs and choices and this will never change.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Sports Radio, Judges, Devil Rays

Better Sports Radio

The only good radio sports shows are the ones where the host refuses to take phone calls. Tony Kornheiser is one of the few that limits listener interaction to pre-screened emails. Stopping nervous yahoos’ rants always improves the quality of a show.

By the way, I recently discovered a source of the humorous sound bites that Kornheiser uses on the show. Many are worth a listen. Today I also found the source of his “and boom goes the dynamite” bit. The line was the highlight of a Ball State sportscast full of lowlights. See the video here. I feel for the guy as I am sure my college radio performances weren’t always too impressive.

Judicial Filibuster Controversy

It is rather amazing that the fourteen senior and centrist senators were able to reach a compromise on the filibuster issue. The situation was the definition of a zero-sum game and so the only motivation was limiting partnership and minimizing the risk of failure. Time will tell whether this agreement will stick when the stakes are as high as a Supreme Court nominee.

End the Devil Ray Experiment

Usually I hate throwing a team’s fans under the bus especially since my beloved Buffalo Bills always have the risk of leaving Western New York for greener pastures. However, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays are truly a waste of a franchise slot. Their stadium stinks, their attendance is awful and they never win. Perhaps richer ownership would change things, but I have my doubts that Tampa is enough of a baseball town for that to make much difference. The worst thing about the franchise is the name: Devil Rays? Whatever happened to birds, socks and menacing mammals?

In general, there is too much to do in Florida and it is too hot and sticky to have baseball succeed outside of crippling the product in a dome.
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Monday, May 23, 2005

Football Chants at Baseball Games

I drove all the way down from upstate New York to Baltimore this weekend join friends in seeing my beloved Orioles play the Phillies on Sunday. Needless to say I was disappointed with the fact that the Orioles lost, but the most annoying thing about the game were the Phillies fans there. Throughout the entire game, and especially once it became clear they were going to win, the Philadelphia fans started chanting "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!" over and over again. Leaving the stadium, the fans yelled it at any dejected, passing Orioles fan they saw.

Isn't it the height of lameness to make football chants during a baseball game? Doesn't this officially make Philadelphia the home of the worst fans in sports? Although chants of "dry heave" never took hold in response, I was consoled by the fact that Philadelphia had peaked with Ben Franklin and had done little since. (At least Baltimore's urban blight gets it attention on shows like Homicide and the Wire.)

Of note to Baltimorians, there is a real risk that the Triple Crown will stop being held in the city. Despite the fact that the Preakness has been held in the city for 130 years, the owners of the event are angered by the lack of revenue-producing slot machines at the track. Read all about in the New York Post.
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Friday, May 20, 2005

Interleague Play Begins!

Major League Baseball’s interleague-play starts up again today, making it eight straight year for Selig’s schedule wrinkle. Only one game, Rockies v. Pirates, does not involve a match-up between a team from the AL and a team from the NL. When interleague play first started, the novelty was pretty exciting. Finally, fans for teams in each league could see the star players and the top teams from the other league.

Personally, I have always had mixed feelings about interleague play. While I find the regional rivalries interesting, I always thought that segregated league-play added much more mystique to the World Series and to baseball in general when the teams did not play each other the rest of the season. Unlike other sports where there were “conferences” which did little but differentiate the playoffs, baseball had both different rules and separate play in each of its leagues.

My reservations about it aside, the clear problem with interleague play is the lack of natural regional rivals for many of the teams in the league. It has become worse since the Expos moved from Montreal to become the Washington Nationals. While this year’s schedule has not accommodated this change, the relocation ends two major natural rivalries for interleague play. How? Well now the Philies and the Orioles is broken up in favor of the Orioles and the Nationals. Toronto no longer has a Canadian team to compete against. The Blue Jays and the Phillies will not be alone without a natural rival as you can see in my break down.

Natural Interleague Rivalries:


AL East/NL East:
Mets/Yankees
Orioles/Nationals
Devil Rays/ Marlins

Left Out in Cold: Blue Jays, Braves, Red Sox and Phillies

AL Central/NL Central:

Indians/Reds
Cubs/White Sox
Royals/Cardinals
Twins/Brewers

Left Out in Cold: Pirates, Tigers

**Out of Division Rivalry:
Astros (NL Central) and Rangers (NL West)**

AL West/NL West:
A’s/Giants
Padres/Diamondbacks
Dodgers/Angels

Left out in Cold: Rockies and Marinners
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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Money and Marriage

Before women were likely to actively pursue careers, the idea of marriage being a partnership had a very strong hold among most people. The man might earn money, but the woman's contribution was not devalued and so money was spent as if both members of the couple contributed to it equally. A man did not earn money for himself; he earned it for his family.

Now that women are often pursuing careers with almost equal vigor as men, finances in marriage seems to have changed as well. With both members of the family earning money, there seems to be this idea that it's much better for each spouse to seperate their money from one another. While I do not think it is a bad idea for both parties to have some personal set-aside for emergencies, I wonder whether it is really all that great to view marriage as nothing more than a romantic relationship with little in the way of an economic partnership.

Despite the fact that for a third of relationships the woman outearns the man, both men and women see men as natural providers. If a man earns the lionshare of the money, funds seem to be put into a shared pool. Women seem less willing to do this with their job no matter what percentage of household funds they generate. Women are giving some of THEIR money to help out the family. Men are automatically working to put food on the table for the FAMILY. In younger generations there seems less of this, but it is still there.

I am not saying that women are less generous, but there seems to be an interesting interplay when it comes to finances. Men are automatically going to give up their money, but women are less likely to do so. Not all of this comes from women, it seems. Men are much more likely to decline financial assistance from their wife and take pride in providing nice things to their family. Sometimes even if women went to act as men normally do, their husbands stop them.

I am wondering what people think of this and whether I am just imaginging this phenonmenon. For me, as I soon begin to start a family, the idea of not providing for my wife and my children no matter what my wife does is unthinkable. I would feel like hardly a man and ashamed if I could not provide for my family regardless of whether my wife could pick up the slack. I think if you talk to most men, they would feel the same way.

I wonder is this biological, societal or a combination? Women still care about how succesful a potential husband is so it's not just some patriarchal norm that only men hold on to.

I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts.
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

ESPN of Arcadia

CBS Cancels Joan of Arcadia:

I was not a regular watcher of Arcadia, but my mother was and I have to say that the show was much better than you would expect. Unfortunately for its fans, the show ended after just two seasons. First off, I think there is a lot more inane crap out there and I am not sure why CBS felt such a need to change its lineup for a night (Friday) that will always do poorly in the ratings. That aside, it was pretty lame that the justification for cutting a lot of shows on CBS was to skew younger as if people without money are somehow better for advertisers. On the cancellation of Joan of Arcadia, Les Moonves had the lame quote of the day in the AP story on CBS’ new schedule:

CBS is trying two supernatural stories on Friday nights. "Threshold" features a team of experts called in when the Navy discovers aliens have landed in the Atlantic Ocean. Hewitt's "Ghost Whisperer," reminiscent of NBC's "Medium," is about a woman who conveys messages from dead people to the living.

"I think talking to ghosts may skew younger than talking to God," Moonves said.


Apparently, a show focusing on a teenage girl does not skew young enough…


ESPN Needs Competition:

There is one main reason why I watch SportsCenter: the game highlights. More often now, though, the show gets larger and larger but spends less and less time on showing the actual highlights of games. Instead, SportsCenter breaks down each and every controversial story to death, does fluff pieces on popular stars, spends maybe five minutes of interesting and original analysis and wastes time on lame catch-phrases like “boo-yah” and “cooler than the other side of the pillow.” Yeah, I remember being in high school in the late 90s and hearing Stuart Scott come up with those phrases and he still uses them 8 years later. A couple of lame phrases has probably generated a seven-figure salary for the guy and he’s still milking them. I wish both ESPN and him would move on to better things.

SportsCenter certainly does show highlights, but they are focused mainly on the biggest games or the games with the largest markets involved. You a first-place Orioles fan and you want to see the Orioles-Royals game? Well despite the fact of it being a great game, you have to wade through almost an hour of crap before they even get to it. The show is an hour or more long but the highlights are even shorter than they were when the show was just thirty minutes!

It used to be that at 11 you had an alternative when it came to sports. At times the show was called CNN Sports Night or part of the CNNSI network, but the thirty-minute, serious highlight run-through ensured that you had an alternative to the hype and bluster usually found on ESPN. Now that CNNSI is gone, CNN has stopped trying to do sports in this matter. Here’s to hoping that they or some other network starts a show that is strictly about showing the highlights and only the highlights for all the games in all the major sports leagues.
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Newsweek Riots

Over a dozen have died in riots since the Middle-Eastern media got hold of a small Newsweek report that claimed that a Guantanamo Bay guard flushed the Koran down the toilet in order to psychologically break a prisoner there. The story was based on a single, anonymous source who later retracted the story to the original journalist. While Newsweek has now retracted the story, the damage to our country’s reputation in that region at such a crucial time is far from repaired. Considering how cynical hate-mongers view all American institutions, including the press, I doubt that they will view Newsweek retraction as anything more than a pressure from the government to hide the truth.

There seems little evidence that the original story is true. Even it is true, it seems clear that it was the product of an overzealous interrogation officer desperately trying to gain critical intelligence. In either case, I do not think this disaster should be pinned on the Bush Administration. Still, this does not mean that the White House should be satisfied just pressuring Newsweek to “do more.” Despite the fact that Bush has expressed sincere respect for Islam in the past, he should go in front of the camera, make sure Al Jeezera is covering his speech, and say how much both he and America care about being respectful to the world’s second largest religion. He should say how if he ever has reason to believe any government official really acted in such a way, he would investigate the matter fully and severely punish the person responsible.

For many in the Muslim world, this will do little to address their anger. But even if such a speech does not achieve this goal fully, the hope for a partial victory should be enough to motivate Bush here. Many will respect the fact that he takes the issue seriously enough to speak personally on it. He should do this sooner, rather than later. Every passing moment will lessen the maximum effect such a move would cause.
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Monday, May 16, 2005

Television, Fascism, Baseball

Television: Committed and The Contender Absent This Fall

There is no justice at NBC as two of my favorite shows on that network, Committed and The Contender, are left out of the network’s Fall TV schedule. I am not sure whether this means that both of these shows are gone forever, but I think this is almost certainly true for Committed. The Contender might come back as a mid-season show I suppose, but there’s no word on that so I am not holding my breath. For now, I will enjoy the last two episodes of the show that made boxing truly interesting to me. Even non-sports fans enjoyed the show when they gave it a chance, but apparently not enough people did. I would recommend catching the next to last episode coming up this Sunday for those who have yet to give the show a shot.

Fascism: Enough with the Name Calling Already


Public comments like the ones George Lucas made, about how his movie mirrors current events, makes me even less likely to want to see his latest Star Wars episode anytime soon. Disagreements over foreign policy and harsh criticism of the Bush administration are more than fine with me. However, I do find the reckless use of the word fascism to be hypocritical. Call a liberal a “communist” and there are screams of McCarthyism and complaints that you are poisoning political discourse. Make unsubstantiated labels of "fascist" on the current president and you are cheered both abroad and in faculty lounges across the country. For most people, supporting Fascism is a far greater evil, but yet the label's use by those on the Left is widely accepted.

Baseball: Give Some Love for the Orioles

That aside, there is a far greater injustice happening today and that involves baseball media coverage. Now, I understand that the Red Sox and the Yankees represent two very large media markets. I also understand that the their recent increased rivalry and the fact that they have the two highest payrolls in baseball make them interesting to even the most casual baseball fan. It is outrageous, though, that baseball coverage focuses almost exclusively on those two teams along with the steroid scandal. The teams with the two best records in the league, the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox, faced each other in a very tightly contested and exciting four-game set.

Did this get any serious national coverage? No! It apparently was far more important to make note of the Red Sox and Yankees beating up on the bottom of the AL West than it was to cover two teams doing better than them so far. When anyone covers the Orioles at all, they usually fail to mention that they have done better than the Red Sox and the Yankees. Instead, they just focus on Sosa thinking he is the big story. The reality is that the Orioles have the AL MVP with Shortstop Miguel Tejada on their team as well as one of the best young pitchers in baseball with Erik Bedard but the media hardly or MLB PR hardly ever points out this fact.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Some Rituals Just Suck, Sorry

According to the New York Times, many African villages have a clensing ritual after a man's death whereby one of the dead man's relatives must have sex with his widow. Apparently, some politicians are now trying to curb this practice due to the high rates of HIV infection in many African countries.

In the hours after James Mbewe was laid to rest three years ago, in an unmarked grave not far from here, his 23-year-old wife, Fanny, neither mourned him nor accepted visits from sympathizers. Instead, she hid in his sister's hut, hoping that the rest of her in-laws would not find her.

But they hunted her down, she said, and insisted that if she refused to exorcise her dead husband's spirit, she would be blamed every time a villager died. So she put her two small children to bed and then forced herself to have sex with James's cousin.


Man, I had no idea that this was praticed. I do not care how traditional this and how much this is part of their culture. And I really do not care if I sound insensitive or jingoistic by condemning it. Simply put, this practice is retarded without the risk of AIDS. What man would be keen on having his wife screwed by some idiot cousin right after his funeral? What kind of woman would want to be raped right after her husband died? Certainly not me. It surprises me that this ritual has survived for so long. Perhaps AIDS will put the final nail in its coffin. Let's hope so.
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Baseball and the Secret Service

The baseball diamond was designed to benefit right-handers. Having base runners run counter-clockwise means that the infield positions left of first have a better throwing angle if they are right-handed. In general, fielding is easier or a wash in every position on the field. But batting is a different story…

Right-handed hitters have an advantage in that they pull the ball away from the base they are heading towards, but that’s the only possible advantage they have. Left-handers start out closer to first and pull the ball away from the runners in scoring-position. Left-handers are overrepresented in baseball thus skewing any result, but I wonder if there is a significant difference in batting averages and RBI numbers between right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters. Is one handedness more successful in one statistic than the other? Probably not, but it would be interesting to find out.

During today’s terrorist scare in DC, Whitehouse Spokesman Scott McClellan said that the President was bike-riding in a wildlife preserve in Maryland. I wonder… how much the security for Bush disturbs the people already there. If the visit is unannounced, perhaps the Secret Service relies on surprise to protect our president. Perhaps the Secret Service can provide a secure environment without removing everyone from the area.

Anyway…

I was just listening to the radio when a public service ad came on the air. It started talking about how fun it was playing with some dog. Then all of a sudden it’s like too bad you are in a wheelchair and didn’t wear your seatbelt, jerk. Seems rather cruel and a bit of a non-sequitor, but I suppose that makes it memorable.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Death Penalty: No Easy Solution

New York State, my home state, looks like it will no longer effectively have the death penalty, at least for the foreseeable future. Back in 1994, when George Pataki unexpectedly beat Mario Cuomo for governor, bringing back the death penalty was a centerpiece for his campaign. At the time, both the Democratic Assembly and the Republican Senate had repeatedly passed death penalty legislation only to have Mario Cuomo veto it. It was clear that majority of the state was behind it, and Pataki was true to his word when he took office, signing the bill early in 1995. Recently, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the statute was invalid on some technicality, sending it back to the legislature for a rewrite.

Now the Democratic Assembly is balking, saying they now oppose the death penalty. The crime rate is down and so concerns about executing an innocent man are outweighing limited public outcry. The funny thing is that there has not been an execution in New York State since the death penalty was added. So on the face of it, this debate seems moot. Except it isn’t…

Personally, I am conflicted when it comes to the death penalty. I have some moral qualms about it, but there are so many horrendous rape and murders where the perpetrator deserves death, in my opinion. So I therefore support its limited use. Opponents of the death penalty will often offer the public the following alternatives: death penalty or life without parole. The public, seeing the choice presented in this light, often will take the more “compassionate” choice and say they prefer life without parole. What’s wrong with that, you say? Let me tell you…

One of the most underreported realities is how often cases are decided prematurely with a plea bargain. A plea bargain only works if both the prosecution and the defense extract some value from the deal. The prosecution is often willing to offer a reduced charge or sentence so that they can avoid the risk of a surprise verdict and the expense of trial. The defense, on the other hand, might be willing to give up their chance of getting off, if they know they will face a lighter punishment. When there is the possibility of a death sentence, a defendant will be willing to negotiate life without parole.

Without the death sentence, what will be negotiated? Life without parole suddenly becomes twenty-five years and a twenty year old brutal murderer gets out in time for his midlife crisis. Also, what do you do when that serial killer hits your state? Obviously society wants to punish the mass-murderer worse than the one-timer, but how can you differentiate? Without the option of an execution, you can either allow the man who murders one off with twenty-five years and save the life sentence for the worst murderers or you can treat the murders the same. Neither option seems satisfying to me. We want to punish murderers severely, but we also want to punish the worst offenders more harshly. Having the maximum being life without parole does not address both goals.

The death penalty or life without parole? The choice is not as simple as it may seem.
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Monday, May 09, 2005

Madame President

Apparently, ABC is going ahead with a show where Geena Davis plays the first female president of the United States. You might as well do this now before Hilary Clinton plays the role of the first viable hopeful in 2008. Seriously, I expect that a woman will take the role before a minority does. Women slightly outnumber men in this country and women are usually more likely to support the members of their gender. You can see that in shows like American Idol. Women will support other women because they are “pretty” and “talented.” At the same time, they will support men they think are cute. Men on the other hand see no value in supporting other men they do not know. They just want to see the hot girls win.

Now I hope that people take the choice of president a little more seriously, but I think a tinge of this trend still exists in the most serious of votes. Personally, I fine with a well-qualified women eventually becoming president. I will not, however, support one just for the novelty of it. She has to truly be better than the man against which she is competing. I also hope Clinton does not become the first to do so. I dread her selection for no other reason than I am sick of this dynastic trend with the presidency. Could we please have someone unrelated to a president win again? Well, at least Democrat Joe Klein agrees.
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Baltic Giacomo

A lot has been said about the controversy over Bush’s remarks regarding the Baltic States (Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia) and how they were betrayed by the Allies after World War II. Vladimir Putin is upset at yet another move by the White House to criticize actions by Russia both past and present. The honest truth is that American screwed over a number of countries after World War II. All of Eastern Europe was effective annexed by the Soviet Union if not officially at least effectively. The Allies simply could not or would not do anything about it. The Baltic States got the worst brand of treatment: Stalin wanted to turn the areas ethnically Russian or at least mixed. To do this, he forced the movement of thousands to a million of residents to Siberia. Needless to say a huge proportion died, adding to Stalin’s murder tool which eventually far exceeded Hitler’s.

Personally, I always thought the cheapness of the Baltic Avenue property in Monopoly was always a bitter slap in the face for the small nations.



I had no idea who would win the Kentucky Derby since I am not much of a horse racing fan. I did figure, however, that Bellamy Road would fail in the clutch. Whenever I watch the race the favorite always seems to falter. At the same time, just about every year the experts make note of this fact but then claim that this year will be different and that this favorite is special. If you picked the first three horses, rather difficult to do, you would have made almost a million dollars on a $1 bet. With only 20 horses in the race, this pay-out shows how much a long-shot the place, show and finish were.
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Friday, May 06, 2005

Firemen, Silent Cal, Muppets

Oklahoma sure has a regrettable origin. President Jackson sends the Five Civilized Tribes on the infamous trail of tears from Georgia to Oklahoma’s future footprint. Some argued that once moved there, these tribes could eventually be the bulk of an eventual Indian State with senators and a state bird. Eventually, some powerful folks decided that even Oklahoma was too fertile for the Indians to hog and so Uncle Sam sent the Indians packing and settlers moved right in. Yeah, this is probably not the most shining moment in American history.

If we are going to put Reagan on a piece of currency, let’s do the 20, not the ten-spot. I mean, fuck Jackson! The guy looks like Beaker from the Muppets with gray hair.

Where’s New Orleans? I got a battle to win!




Since this blog is beginning to resemble an 8th grade social studies class, I am suddenly sitting here thinking about my own trials and tribulations when I was just a young lad. There were some bright moments during my social studies stint: like when I was able to get war criminals off as an attorney for a mock trial, but there were some more regrettable experiences as well…

A substitute asked us to write a brief paragraph that said who our favorite president was and why. I figured most folks would choose the regulars: Washington, Lincoln, FDR, JFK. Not me… I said Calvin Coolidge because of his economy of words. I recounted the story of the woman who told Silent Cal he could get him to say more than three words. My man’s response: “you lose.” That’s golden and as good a reason as any to admire a world leader. Well, the sub disagreed and wrote all over it with big, red letters saying that I had made a terrible choice and supported it with pathetic reasoning. Broke, my poor young heart…

***

Usually the people most into an open marriage are either naïve or sociopaths who cannot love. I have feeling that Jennifer Wilbanks will soon be making this request due to one of these two characteristics. Why? Well, apparently she needs her firemen fix and her fiancé isn’t satisfying these burning needs.
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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Now, the Most Overrated...

All right, so I previously talked about the states that I thought were the most underrated. Now, though, in honor of the British election that's going on today, I have decided to go negative and talk about the ones that are most overrated. Besides, I try to put up something every business day and my body is so wired on Sudafed tablets, that my creativity is at an all-time low. Anyway, so let me explain this list. Basically, I disqualified any of the big three: California, Texas and New York. Why? Well, they are too controversial. It is hard for me to say that they are overrated when their very rating can be so opposite among each half of the country. Now, to the list!

Colorado: Yes the weather is great: snow, but not cold for very long below the peaks and mildly warm temperatures in the summer. Yes, Denver is an all right city and they have great skiing if that’s what you are into. Still, take away Denver and Coors bear, what else do you got in the state? Without Denver, the state is just like Wyoming and with the same boring shape: natural beauty that includes mountains and national parks. Want skiing? There’s plenty in Utah. Didn’t they have the Olympics there in 2002? Colorado is a great state, but its reputation far exceeds what it deserves.

Nevada: The only thing that this state has to offer is desert and gambling. Gambling is already legal in the majority of the states somewhere and desert sucks unless living things depress you. They do have legal prostitution in some places, which is good for some people, I suppose, but the love affair with the state and the city of Las Vegas is way over blown. Probably would not have been on this list twenty years ago…

Massachusetts:
Boston is suddenly hip again. The Red Sox, the gay marriage, the low murder rate, the Patriots, the accent… everything about Boston is in. It shouldn't be. The Red Sox’s championship was overrated. No one seems to care that Chicago has TWO TEAMS that have not won a World Series since before 1918. Tom Brady is an ass hat and the low murder rate has been replaced by an abnormally high rate of rape along with low income residents being priced out of the state. What about the rest of the state? Cape Cod is all right, but Maine blows the state away in natural wonder.*


*(Okay maybe this is just borne out of my hatred for the Red Sox and Patriots since they are rivals to my Orioles and Bills but my statement still stands.)
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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Most Underrated States

When I was driving from New Jersey to DC last month, I had to take quick trip through Delaware (it ended up being four times along on the way back due to a phantom accident on the Delaware Memorial Bridge or whatever that large bridge is caused). During this stint in the southern Constitution State, I started to think about how many people don’t give that small state a second thought. Well, the view of the state from I-95 did not impress me and the smell emanating from the factories around the highway hardly succeeded in luring me into a side trip to the rest of the state… Nevertheless, I am sure that there is much to see and do in the south and east of the state. Anyway, what I am getting at is that there are a lot of states that get little press, are forgotten or just have a really bad reputation. I think people often unfairly malign these states more so than needed. At the same time, there are many states that get way too much hype and do not completely live up to it. To help correct this reputation gap, I decided to come up with a quick list of the states I think are the most underrated. I am happy to learn what you all think.

My List of Underrated States (In No Particular Order):

Maine: This state has long been hampered by its humble beginnings. Originally part of Massachusetts, it did not become its own state until the Missouri Compromise of the 1820s. When most people think of New England, they forget the former bell-weather state but it has great natural beauty and the second most-visited national park in Acadia. Besides its natural beauty, Maine features friendly small towns, small farms and the honor of being the setting for just about every Stephen King book.

Idaho: To be honest, this is one of the few states that I have not personally set foot in. Still, it seems like people always forget this states unless they are purchasing potatoes. But besides its successful agriculture industry, Idaho also boasts beautiful natural beauty that includes mountain peaks and green sweeps of rolling hills. Need I also mention the awesome blue Astro-Turf at Boise State’s football stadium? Didn’t think so…

New Jersey: The smelly factories in the north, the Sopranos, and the suburban sprawl has unfairly ruined this state’s reputation. People forget the pleasant shore, the natural beauty to the west and south of the state and the plentiful supply of Olive Gardens, Applebees and Chili’s restaurants.

Honorable Mention: West Virginia, Kentucky and Michigan

Maybe I will do a list of the most overrated at a later time…
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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Now Who's the Ignorant One?

One of the last acceptable forms of elitism and prejudice is the kind used against southern or rural whites, usually poor ones. For many people from the North East or the West Coast of the country, speaking with a southern or Appalachian twang is shorthand for being stupid, racist and inbred. The terms “hick”, “redneck” and “hillbilly” are acceptable insults to hurl at poor whites, especially the ones who might be ungrateful enough to disagree with your political persuasion. This bothers me as it seems to indicate that those who often are saying they wish to help the poor are very willing to hold the majority of the unfortunate with elitist contempt because they share their skin-color. Little is actually done in America for the rural poor and I wonder if this is because the product of urban poverty (higher crime rates) affects the urban elite the most. This elite comprises can often be the most vocal advocates for those with lower incomes. Basically, perhaps the poor who live in “fly-over country” do not affect the urban elite as much and thus are not worth helping.

I am not looking to condemn people who act in this way because they just don’t know any better. I just want people who try to generalize about people with a certain skin color from a certain area, think the next time these insults pop up in their heads. The fact is that some who speak with an accent are just as smart or smarter than you. Some are rich, some are poor, and some are middle class. Some may be slightly racist some are less racist than you are. Those who demonstrate morally repugnant behavior should be condemned just as same as someone from your region should be. The key is to remember not to generalize about someone because he speaks in a more “folksy” manner and shares a skin color you are ashamed to share. We are all just people, aren’t we?

All right, that’s enough preaching for today.
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Monday, May 02, 2005

Left-Behind Ring Not a Clue?

Not to obsess about the whole "Runaway Bride" story of Jennifer Wilbanks, but a brief aside in the latest AP update on the story puzzles me:

"Just because we haven't walked down the aisle, just because we haven't stood in front of 500 people and said our I Do's, my commitment before God to her was the day I bought that ring and put it on her finger, and I'm not backing down from that," John Mason said Monday in an interview with Fox News' Hannity & Colmes show....

Mason said he has given the 32-year-old Wilbanks her ring back - she had left it at the house - and said they still planned to marry.

All right, now I realize that many assumed the worst when she had not called after several days; people assumed that it wouldn't be cold-feet otherwise. However, shouldn't the left-behind wedding ring been a clue that she intended to run away from her commitment? Now, I never wore an engagement ring, but I thought that women usually avoided taking rings off as much as possible. Jogging doesn't seem to need ringless hands, but what do I know.

If someone can explain this, please do so.
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Jumping to Conclusions...

I am sure that all of you heard about the story of Jennifer Wilbanks. The bride-to-be Wilbanks was about to get married in a lavish ceremony, but decided instead to bolt from her commitments and vanish without explanation. As this story exploded on to the national scene, many media types and many armchair experts speculated that the fiancé was another Scott Peterson or Scott Hacking, murdering his significant other because he wished to free himself from the “chains” of commitment. It turns out that we were wrong: Jennifer Wilbanks irrationally responded to her own fears of marriage and put her family and the community through a horrendous rollercoaster of worry and fear. The likely six-figure wedding was postponed and thousands of dollars worth of police resources were wasted in efforts to find her.

I am not trying to judge Wilbanks too harshly. I am glad that she turned out to be safe and sound, but think she was rather selfish to run away from her problems and put her family and community through so much pain and trouble. Still, it does not surprise me that someone feeling a helpless victim of momentum might feel desperate enough to finally snap and run away (at least she did not physically harm anyone). So, I think she should be eventually forgiven. If I was her husband-to-be, however, I would be a bit leery of still going through with the marriage.

Wow, Blanket Jackson really grew up fast!


In the end, what really rankles my feathers is how although people were not unreasonable to suspect the husband, it does not seem like many have apologized to him for such a terrible accusation. Yes, he was a little reluctant to go through a lie detector test, but any prudent person should be: lie-detectors are so prone to false-positives that they are usually inadmissible in court. They are only allowed as a way to further an investigation, nothing more. John Mason, her fiancé, knew he did not do anything to Wilbanks so he probably was just worried that he might be falsely implicated if the worse came true. The truth is that he was the one who was screwed and that he did nothing wrong. Still, I doubt many will try their best to make it up to him. Certainly, Mason shouldn’t be holding his breath if he expects the tabloids to send him a fruit basket.

This all reminds me of Richard Jewel. The Olympic security guard saved many lives in the 1996 Olympics bombing in Atlanta. For awhile, they hailed him as a hero, but the FBI soon made a dubious leap to the conclusion that Jewel, being such a “loser”, likely contrived the bombing in order to make himself famous. Eventually, after all the sordid details had been made public (including his pornographic collection) and Law & Order rip-from-the-headlines episodes, the FBI eventually realized that Jewel was innocent. So Jewel’s name was cleared, but his legitimate status of hero was taken away from him. He forever remains a late-night punch line, robbed of the honor he deserves. He deserved better…
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