Friday, June 29, 2007

Still Lining Up

Want a Wii? Come early and get in line - Yahoo! News

Nearly a year in, people are still waiting to buy a Wii. Folks at Nintendo must be wondering if maybe $299 would have been a better price for the system.

I bought mine for $217 with tax, as I've discussed in the past, and didn't wait in line. But, contrary to what mothers everywhere tell their children, not having to work for it didn't make me appreciate my Wii any less. Just this week I've been honing my skills at boxing, the most difficult of the games within Wii Sports, while taking Jonii, a Mii of Jon's who recently arrived on my console, into the 2000+ stratosphere in tennis in three days of play. (My own Mii, simply named Richard, has topped 2100.) And working up quite a sweat, too!

So, if you're on the fence about the Wii, know this: It's been worth every penny I paid for it and then some!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"That's Why They're Called Business Socks"

I haven't started watching any of HBO's flurry of new, post-Sopranos era shows yet, but this video has me thinking I may need to check out Flight of the Conchords. It's understatedly hilarious.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Too Gay to Handle

Mingle2 - What's My Blog Rated? Find Out Your Film Rating

I guess this shouldn't surprise me:

Online Dating

But the reason for the rating did: "This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:
  • gay (20x)
  • death (3x)
  • hell (2x)
  • dead (1x)"
Scary, huh?

Health Care, Gay Marriage--and War?

New Poll Finds That Young Americans Are Leaning Left - New York Times

I'm a bit confused by this poll on the attitudes of people my age. Apparently, Americans ages 17-29 are "more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion."

What? So young Americans can read the writing on the wall regarding the failure of private health insurance, are fair-minded enough to allow gay marriage, and feel more charitable than I do about letting people into the country (although the pollsters didn't ask about illegal immigrants, because the NYT apparently pretends, as a habit, that this distinction makes no difference). And yet young people think the war is going well? This revelation made me curious about the actual numbers behind the article assertions, so I dug a little deeper.

And the data buried beneath this supposedly meaningful story aren't as pretty as the headline. On gay issues, for instance, the left-leaning young are surprisingly illiberal. More youngsters believe being gay is a choice--43% to 34%--and 70% of them think that most people they know wouldn't vote for a gay or lesbian for president. (74% think the folks they know wouldn't vote for someone who has used cocaine--maybe they haven't heard of Barack Obama, not to mention our current president.)

Results like these make me glad to be aging out of the constraints of the survey soon. Sadly, the people whose opinions are reflected by this survey are the same people I'll be working with and living around for the rest of my life.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Think of the Children

Scholars urge Bush to ban use of torture - Politics -

This story makes me smile:
President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States.
Imagine that. In their moment of triumph--being honored for their achievements by the man who holds the office that makes him the most powerful person in the world--these students had the wherewithal--and the chutzpah!--to present him with a letter that contained these words:
We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants.
America's adults appear not to care that Bush and Cheney have thrown our moral high ground out the window. Heartening to know at least a few of our children don't feel the same.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wonderful Meal

A lot can go right during one lunch. While I was eating a Lean Cuisine, a judge ruled that Scooter Libby has to go to jail during his appeal. If Bush doesn't pardon him now, Libby better start practicing his shiv-carving skills.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, the fight over same-sex marriage is over. Four years after the big victory was first won, it is secure now that legislators have voted down, by a tally of more than 3-1 as required, a proposed amendment to ban equal marriage in the state. It would have gone before voters in 2008; now it goes poof! instead. Hard to imagine that, having lost this round, the bigots will be back again to try to get the amendment on the 2012 ballot, but either way--for now all is well!

Unique Combination

How Harry Potter really ends. - By Dan Kois - Slate Magazine

I've just searched my office in vain. In an office filled with both Sopranos fans and Harry Potter addicts, I appear to be the only person in the middle of the venn diagram--a devoted partisan of both. And so I share the above link with you, in hopes that someone else will understand just how insanely hilarious the proposed ending to the HP series--written to echo the abrupt conclusion of The Sopranos--is. I think it's the little details--the Yule Ball, the Pumpkin Pasties, the thin beard--that make this work. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wrong Issue

During last week's Republican debate, Wolf Blitzer asked any GOPer on the stage to speak up if he supported changing the military's don't ask, don't tell policy to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly. His invitation was left unopened; nary a Republican, even Ron Paul, spoke up. Meanwhile, every Democrat, when offered the same invite, raised a hand to indicate that he or she favored a change.

It's nice to know who our "friends" are, I suppose, and who would prefer that we be shot down for holding hands in public in America rather than defending our country in uniform somewhere else. But I have to ask: Why is this the issue on which Democrats have decided to unite in our favor?

I know, I know--the ability to serve in the country's military is a cherished opportunity to serve. But shouldn't the nation deserve our defense before we rise to provide it? It's all well and good that Democrats have finally decided that a gay man or lesbian is fit to defend the country. But why should we decide to do so?

They've put things in the wrong order. The first step to first-class citizenship isn't being offered the chance to take a bullet for the team. It's being made an equal member of the team, one who can't be fired from a job, military or civilian, simply for being gay. It's being offered the same rights and privileges as other Americans, including the right to form a lasting relationship that the government will recognize. It's knowing that if you leave a partner behind when you serve, he or she will receive the same benefits as anyone else's left-behind spouse, both while you're overseas and in the unfortunate event of your death. Until these basic rights are guaranteed, I don't care whether we're asking or telling: I am telling you, I am not going. And neither should other gays and lesbians. When a Democrat brings forward serious legislation to end don't ask, don't tell, he or she should, at the very least, include:
  • a repeal of the provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that forbids the federal government to recognize gay marriages, along with a requirement that it recognize any marriage or marriage-like institution into which states allow their citizens to enter, and apply that recognition to the tax system, Social Security, etc.;
  • the full provisions of the employment non-discrimination act, with protections for housing as well;
  • hate-crime language that makes gays and lesbians a protected class along with racial minorities;
  • and language that would create parity between the immigration law for same and opposite sex couples.
Is this so much to ask before we serve the country?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Moving On

Big Love - TV - Review - New York Times

Enough ink and bits have been spilled over the ending of The Sopranos in the last 20 hours to keep even the fastest reader busy until autumn. But if you'd rather recover from your Bobby Bacala-sized TV hangover with some hair of the dog, I've got good news: Big Love is back tonight, and it's a really good show. Virginia Heffernan has the scoop:
It’s ingenious, HBO’s latest dark joke, and it investigates the same theme of family separatism that “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under” did. But let’s not kid ourselves. The quality of “Big Love” doesn’t even matter, does it?

The truth is, we have no choice but to watch, at least during this difficult time. “Big Love” is like Nicorette or Methadone. With the lights out on “The Sopranos,” and “Six Feet Under” a distant memory, we’re dope-sick, hard up for the bliss of great serialized fiction. A widespread tremor can already be detected among television viewers, and the street price of even midgrade drama has jumped.

So unless we rediscover novels or fresh air, we’re going to be watching some “Big Love” this summer.

If you're just jumping in now, DVR tonight's first episode and take a quick trip through the first season on DVD or, perhaps, On Demand (Comcast had the entire series available there when I checked last week). It's only an hour a week, after all--you'll still have plenty of time for novels and fresh air.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Out, Out

‘Grey’s’ says so long to Isaiah Washington - Television -

It's a bad day to be a homophobe! First Isaiah Washington loses his job on Grey's Anatomy, and while he may be "mad as hell," I'm pleasantly surprised. Combined with T.R. Knight's pay raise this week, Grey's has sent a very positive message.

And just now it's being announced that Peter Pace, who compared being gay to committing adultery, is losing his job as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The reason given was that after six years as chair or vice-chair, Pace's re-confirmation hearings would have been contentious and focused on the past, and I'm sure that's true. But still, to see him go so soon after his buffoonish comments is pleasing.

What gay-bashing prominent figure will be next?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wanted: Trader Joe's in Schaumburg

A month or so ago, I filled out a little online suggestion form on the Trader Joe's Web site, asking the company to add a store in Schaumburg, Illinois. It occurs to me, though, that I may not be the only person who has had this thought. So I encourage anyone who has come across this site in his or her own quest to find out if Trader Joe's has plans to open a Schaumburg location to contact the company, as I did, and ask it to open one.

Where? I suggested two spots. One, with high visibility, is the site of the recently closed Tower Records on Golf Road. It has lots of windows, which appear to be a TJ priority. The other will be available soon; CompUSA, right down the road, is also on its way out in a strip that includes a World Market. Seems like a perfect match, doesn't it?

Why Schaumburg? Because it's the center of a little economic unit with tons of traffic. Almost 100,000 people work within a few miles of the two locations I've proposed, and tens of thousands more live just beyond the businesses that employ them. On weekends Woodfield is a shopping magnet; on weekdays the store would be filled with lunch-break shoppers picking up a sandwich or soup for now and a bottle of wine or bag of chips for later. It'd be hopping after work, too, as folks on their way home would have a convenient stop-off.

Why Trader Joe's? Cheap, good wine. Three-layer hummus worth the bad breath it causes. Pita chips. Spicy soy and flaxseed chips. Sourdough bread with millet and flaxseed. Roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Smooth and Mellow coffee. Mango sauce. Karat cake. Organic peanut butter granola bars. Fresh salsa. Frozen meals that heat in seven minutes on the stove. Red curry sauce. Double Rainbow coffee ice cream. If you have one nearby and haven't ventured in, know that I go far out of my way to make a stop every week or two. But--a note to the Trader Joe's exec who finds this post someday--I'd visit more, and buy more, if you were down the street!

Looking Ahead

Slate: Death of 'The Sopranos' -

While the link above is a discussion of The Sopranos, I've really posted it to ask an unrelated question inspired by it. Timothy Noah, whose writing I often enjoy, says something here that rings false for me, and I want to know if others feel the same. In trying to blow off a question asking him to predict the fate of certain characters, he writes:
I've tried to avoid predictions, and focus instead on responding to the series as it unfolds. When you're reading a novel you don't pause to predict out loud what you think is going to happen. You press on with fascination to see how the author is going to end it, and to assess how well he or she pulls it off.
I don't know about you--that's why I'm asking--but I do pause and "predict out loud" what I think will happen. "Oh no, she's going to die," or, "I bet the baby is his," or, "those two will end up together."

And why not? In fact, I would argue that it's a disservice to the author NOT to look ahead and try to guess what will happen. If you have no expectations, how can the author shock and surprise you by subverting them? How can a writer lead you down a path that fulfills your desires for the characters if you don't stop to think about what could, and should, happen to them? I know I'm reading a really good book when I can't help but react verbally to it, laughing out loud, predicting out loud, gasping when things go awry. I did it today while reading over lunch (with my office door shut, mind you) and knew I was engaged in my current reading material.

What do you think? Is Noah right, or is it natural--and desirable--to think ahead and predict how events in the book you're reading will unfold?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Oprah's On

Last night I did something I haven't done since college. I watched Oprah.

I had recorded the show to see Cormac McCarthy talk about The Road, but as luck would have it Michael Moore was also on the show, and I got to see several clips of Sicko. I'm paid not to like insurance companies very much, but Moore's argument that there is no place for a profit motive in health care should prove compelling to a lot of people.

Oprah's interview with McCarthy, however, wasn't very compelling. In fact, I was surprised to discover that for all her cultural primacy, Oprah isn't especially good at what she does. Her speech included several bizarre accents, as if she were reading from a teleprompter and didn't know the words she was reading. And the interview itself was quite odd. When McCarthy told Oprah that he hadn't minded being dirt poor for part of his life, and that he didn't care much how well his books sold, the billionaire striver in her seemed not to know what to do.

She also didn't really get into the book at all. I understand that she can't assume everyone watching has read it, but other than getting McCarthy to recollect a moment years ago that provided the impetus for his writing, Oprah pretty much left the book itself alone. She touched on a few themes, sure, but I would have liked to see McCarthy talk more about the levels on which it can be read. He also might have pushed her off the ledge of specificity; my reading of the book was that much of what went before and all of what comes after it are meant to be somewhat opaque. I am sure, though, that the movie version, already in the works, will insert all manner of detail and thus get the mood of the thing completely wrong.

In any case, despite her flaws as an interviewer I have to give Oprah credit. She may not be the best at discussing books, but she often makes bang-up choices. Her next pick, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, is one of my top ten books of the new millennium (along with The Corrections, another Oprah pick). If you haven't read it, now's the time!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Off the Hook

Some of you who have been reading the blog for a while may have deduced by now that going to Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts is one of the few pre-planned events in the life of this happy gay couple. Mostly we operate out of habit or on the spur of the moment, which is sometimes frustrating for a planner like me but also leads to unexpected bliss from time to time.

Now I understand how my other half feels about being pestered to make plans, though. For two months or more, the CSO has been calling me, trying to get me to commit to a subscription package for 2007-2008. While there is a series we both think looks reasonably good (Saturday C, for those of you who are interested), we're not ready to pull the trigger--and may never be.

But telling the CSO rep that is nigh-on impossible. Believe me--I tried. She'd ask if she should call back in a week. "No, I don't think we'll have time to make a decision by then," I'd say. "Two weeks?" she'd brightly respond, but that question mark at the end was strictly for grammar--she'd be calling whether I wanted her to or not.

Through it all, what has annoyed me the most is that she persistently refers to my other half as "your wife." From the first time I said "We need time to discuss it," that's been her line: "Have you and your wife had a chance to decide which concerts you'd like to attend?" Tonight, finally, enough was too much. When she asked that question to open our call, I said, "First, my 'wife' is a man. Second, we still haven't had a chance to decide what to do; he works long hours." She was clearly a bit flummoxed, but give the gal credit; within two seconds she was asking--without any pause to apologize for her ongoing mis-assumption, mind you--"Should I call you back in a week?"

I said no, by the way. We can order our tickets online. On our timetable.