Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Kirk’s Movie Review - The Machinist By: Kirk bage

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In his most high-profile feature to date, founder of Nomad films and relatively inexperienced helmsman, Brad Anderson, tries to deliver something with the spine-tingle of a Hitchcock and the savvy of a Fight Club or a Memento - and fails admirably on both counts. The problem is that he underestimates his audience, signposting plot devices too blatantly and embellishing scenes that would have been better served with stillness and eerie silence with melodramatic music and flashback imagery. You can see what he aspires to, and there are promising moments in the washed out cinematography and use of character, but ultimately you are left feeling (and it's a familiar feeling) that this could have been so much better in the right hands. What is notable, of course, is Christian Bale, and the fact that he lost X amount of weight to do the role. Man, he wasn't messing around! More bone than flesh, and reminiscent of a prisoner of war, he creates a striking, haunting, disturbing image that stays with you long after the DVD has been returned. And it's not just his physical aspect that is startling - it's a terrific performance of a man lost in paranoia, guilt and sleeplessness: every time his eyelids droop, we find ourselves begging the Gods of cinema to let the poor fucker nod off for a bit. But no. Just a shame then that with this much (some would say psychotic) commitment he didn't get a better film to surround him. It was nice to see Jennifer Jason Leigh again (she doesn't make enough films), and she was fine, but the supporting cast never seemed more than extras in a horror film (the appearance of Michael Ironside, for one, is never a good sign). I just felt that every time it got interesting and approached new territory it shied away just as quickly and subsided into the mediocre, badly scripted, or just plain daft. Worthy of a remake, but God, please don't make Batman go on that diet again!!! 6/10

A Global Bunch of Rachael Rays By: Becks & Posh

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Around the World in $40 Days

Recently I asked people if they would like to come up with their own versions of Rachael Ray's $40 A Day for the latest edition of Dine & Dish. There was fantastic response with 33 entries from all over the world. Each one of these entries is absolutely amazing. I hope you manage to read through them all. Take your time, you'll need it...

Rachael starts her worldwide journey in Knoxville Tennessee where she manages to spend $37.64 on some delicious sounding food: She starts at the Waffle House for breakfast before heading out for lunch and an unusual, but certainly interesting sounding, walnut gorgonzola pizza as well as blue chip nachos from the quirkily named Tomato Head. In the evening Rachael heads off for a mildly spicy night out and a tempting thai feast from Kashmir Indian Restaurant.

When Rachael is in LA, California, it's all about what she doesn't eat, rather than what she does eat. It's all about her figure. Less is more. She starts with a simple coffee at Urth Caffé, heads to Porta Via for a half panini and a half salad at lunch time. She saves the evening for rock'n'roll, star spotting, pizzas and martini at Jones Hollywood.

Is it always snowy in Cambridge, MA? Someone living in that neck of the woods probably wouldn't be too sorry if Rachael froze over so she could never open her mouth again. Until that happens, Rachael will be eating very well in Massachusetts: She starts with a slice of Upper Crust Pizza, and follows that with a coffee from Darwins where the hazelnut and other flavoured syrups are gratis. After a lot of walking around and a nap, Rachael pigs out on a decadent sounding lobster sandwich from Alive and Kicking and fried chicken from the Coast Cafe. What a pig our Rachael is. The only space left, after that mountain of filling food, is for a couple of cocktails at Middlesex. Rachael ends her busy day 35 cents under budget.

Next up Rachael is in the Cleveland area where she starts her day by eating jerk chicken at a Caribbean Hungarian restaurant called Monica's. From there, Rachael's off to have fun , popcorn and frozen custard at the Euclid Beach Park where the Beach Boys played in 1964, long before Rachael was born. From frozen custard to Hot Sauce Williams, next stop is for ribs and chicken wings. Rachael has a couple of dollars left in the budget so she heads off to the North Union Farmers Market for strawberry filled Amish fry pie. Now that sounds like a sweet ending.

When Rachael visited Oakland, CA, she was pretty cheap. In fact she could have included a 20% tip and remained in budget. She started her day with a chocolatine from La Farine. For lunch Rachael opted for a Bahn Mi from Cam Huong which she washed down with a drink and dessert in one - Vietnamese Iced Coffee with Pearls from the cutely named Sweet Booth. With her budget almost intact Rachael headed off to Luka's Tap Room for a feast of burger, beer and chocolate cake. By the end of the night, Rachael is still in the money, having only spent $33 total.

Rachael is jumping all over the place these days. West Coast, East Coast, this girl is flying! Next stop is Syracuse, NY where our Rachael starts the day at Lucky Moon Cafe with a delicious sounding breakfast of omelette, tuscan toast and jasmine tea, cooked for her personally by one of the owners no less. I hope Rachael isn't using her position to get preferential treatment! Rachael is a girl after my own heart - she chooses to take lunch at the organic Elderberry Pond Farm where the burgers look amazing. And as if that wasn't enough, she pigs out on a raspberry and almond tart too. You'd think she would have run out of space in her belly and change in her purse, but no! Rachael still room for a catfish burrito, cornbread and salad from Alto Cinco. Wow! All for $39!

Next stop London, England. Rachael is going all international on us and making me home sick at the same time. But, phew, the price of things in England! It's daylight robbery. Rachael reminds us that to eat well in England, as Somerset Maugham said, eat breakfast three times a day and so she starts with a classic English Breakfast at Café Olympic, E15. As if I wasn't salivating enough already, she then heads to S and M Café in Spitalfields and has Bangers & Mash with gravy. Oh my. And to torture me enough even more, Rachael then heads to Brick Lane, and New Tayyab, for a spicy feast. Oh, how I wish I could be there too, preferably on a different day to Ms Ray and definitely with sterling, rather than dollars, in in my bank account. Rachael spent just five pence under £22.00, the equivalent to $40.

Staying away from the USA a little while longer, Rachael's next stop is Singapore where she can get S$66 for her forty US. Ya Kun is her breakfast stop for a traditional morning meal of soft boiled egg, toast and coffee. At lunchtime she settles for a variety of Japanese food from Ichiban Boshi, including sake head miso soup. (Sake meaning salmon in this instance). Dinner includes no less than four desserts. After both savoury and sweet crepes at Le P'tit Breton, Rachael heads to Bakerzin for raspberry panna cotta, lychee espuma, and hot chocolate shooter with housemade chocolate ice cream. She comes in way under budget, but after all that sugar, do you think Rachael will be able to describe herself as a Skinny Chef and keep a straight face?

Rachael is getting homesick, so she nips back to her homeland and a visit to Portsmouth, VA and Waffle World for a cheap filling breakfast. Lunch is a sandwich, and coffee, at Rachael's friends' place, The Daily Grind. For dinner we have a choice of two. Because I work in the movie business, I'll opt for the Commodore Theater, where I can eat Fish'n'Chips and watch films at the same time!

Rachael is a little bit fond of San Francisco it would seem. She just keeps coming back because she can't quite make up her mind about the Bay Area's best eats. Pastores is a place I hadn't heard of, but will be trying soon. The Huevos Rancheros look so good. There isn't a San Franciscan who hasn't heard about the Bahn Mi from Saigon Sandwich. The only person who hasn't actually tried them, however, is probably me. I am determined to change that as soon as my job moves to the city next week. I tried to go to Isa recently, but they had closed for a vacation. Rachael had better luck when she was in town and she positively raves about the $22.25 Prix fixe. Lots of beau-ti-ful food options, coming in under budget with tips and tax included.

Spokane, Washington. Have you heard of it? The more I read about it, the more I want to visit. I am kind of bummed that Rachael got there before me to sample the delights of the 'Tasty Triangle', an area around St John's Cathedral. Photographic evidence of a dark chocolate and orange scone from BitterSweet Bakery will make you drool. After that, pay your penance with a healthy bright and vibrant mix of salads for lunch at Lindaman's. The indulgent streak is revisited again for dinner, at Paprika, where Rachael manages to squeeze a grilled steak fillet with port wine reduction into her belly and her budget.

For her next call, Rachael decides to try LA, CA again, this time from a wildly different standpoint. She starts at Millie's for an obscenely decadent stack of six pancakes layered with cream cheese and strawberries. Does she really need to eat for the rest of the day? Apparently yes, so she stops off at Label's Table Deli for the best smoked turkey sandwich on rye in the City. Even before dinner it seems Rachael is famished to she stops off at Wholefoods for a little snack of a Spicy tuna bowl. At least it sounds healthy! Finally, before the day is over, Rachael finds room for dinner. Off to Mulholland Grill she goes, to graze on Caesar salad and gnocchi. Oh no! But she's gone over the budge by a few dollars. Naughty Rachael. What punishment shall we deliver her? I'll take votes. Wink, wink.

Next Rachael nips over to Hartford, CT, for some delicious sounding whole wheat flour and wheat germ pancakes. She recommends the chocolate chip pancake with side of home fries and orange juice from Mo's Midtown. As a visiting celebrity, Rachael can't resist taking lunch with former Hartford Mayor, at Mayor Mike's. An ooey-gooey and oh-so-good pesto grilled cheese with lots of trimmings is the thing that attracts her attention. Come the evening, Rachael heads off to Agave Grill for Guacamole, cheese enchiladas and a half-price house margarita on the rocks. A day's worth of fine dining comes to an end exactly on budget.

Back in San Francisco again, just to double-check whether or not she made the best choices on her previous visit, Rachael starts her day at the fabulous Tartine for the best damn frangipane croissant outside of Paris and a coffee. For lunch she tries Yank Sing, for the famous but pricey Dim Sum which is so delicious, its worth the spend. A Frog Hollow peach tides her over until dinner when she heads to the Mission and La Taqueria for pork carnitas taco with avocado, a vegetarian bean and cheese taco with avocado and a small sweet-sour tamarindo drink. All of the day's goodies total $38.70 which seems like a bargain for so much tasty sounding food.

A quick flight back down to Los Angeles, this time Rachael has her beau in tow. She wants to see if she can feed two people in the City of Angels without blowing more than 40 bucks. She ends up doing her mom and dad proud, budget wise. They start at Gilbert's for a hangover breakfast of huevos con chorizo and menudo. Not for the faint of heart - Menudo consists of tripe and other cow parts bathed in a spicy red broth with hominy, onions, peppers and other condiments. Lee's Sandwiches serve Bahn Mi, which are proving to be popular wherever Rachael goes. They also have Western-style sandwiches available so everyone is happy. When it's time for dinner, Rachael and her man head for Sam Woo BBQ, for noodles, rock cod, rice and free tea. At the end of the day they still have $3.60 left between them. What excellent house-keeping skills!

Next stop is Berkeley, CA, where two different days of dining options are tested out. Day one starts with a pastry and latte from Caffe Trieste and continues with a Turkish buffet lunch from Bosphorus. For dinner, new kid on the block, Sea Salt, is the destination where Rachael dines on oysters, clam chowder and a pint of Anchor Steam. At the end of the day she is well under budget with 5 bucks to spare.

On day two in the San Pablo Avenue area, Rachael begins with a Cafe Fanny latte, granola, fresh fruit and yoghurt before heading to Everett and Jones for a lunch of sliced beef and soda. Next Rachael has a Mexican snack at Casa Latina. For her final Berkeley meal she heads back to Caffe Trieste for salad, pizza and a nice glass of red wine. Who would have known there is so much good food to be had in such a small area of town.

After zipping all over the States, Rachael fancies a trip down under, to Sydney, Australia. Because the exchange rate is on her side, she decides to try and eat on AUS$40 which is only about thirty bucks whilst sticking in the downtown area of Sydney. A Big Breakfast starts the day at Una's: Bacon, sausages, eggs, rosti, toast and tomato, oh yes, it sounds totally scrumptious. So Rachael's lunch is a little lighter - Grilled dory fillets with salad and chips plus firm, tasty and achingly fresh sashimi from Peter's. Phew, that sounds sublime. You know me, I love Indian food. Seems Rachael does too. So for dinner she heads off to Maya Masala for pani puri chaat, onion rawa paneer dosa and a sweet and syrupy Indian dessert. Oh wow, out of my way, Rachael, I'm heading to Oz right this very second.

It looks like Rachael will make room in Sydney for me, by jetting off across the Australian countryside to Adelaide. Phat Coffee is the first stop, for a coffee and a magnificent Ham Cheese and Tomato Croissant. Oh! Sushi is a brief lunch stop and the final meal of the day is The ‘Steed where Rachael indulges in an interesting sounding Pork Puff Pastry Parcel and a jug of Cooper's Ale, all comfortably under the $40 mark.

Rachael just can't keep away from San Francisco for more than about 5 minutes. Yes, she's back again, because she just can't get enough of Tartine. This time round it's a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino that gets her all excited. It's not her first trip to Saigon Sandwich either. I am beginning to think Rachael is a Bahn Mi addict. Rachael's visit coincides with a rare San Francisco sighting. A Ray of sunshine peeps out from behind the fog and so she finds an excuse to go and eat ice cream, from Mitchell's, of course. Where else? But the real reason Ms Ray had to return to my fair city, is to check out Delfina's new Pizzeria. Does she like it? Salsiccia pizza and Montepulciano says she does. She still has enough change to stop at Tartine on the way home and pick up a croissant for tomorrows breakfast. What a gutsy lady.

Rachael still wonders if she has done San Francisco enough justice. She'd like to see it from a Frenchman's perspective. What would he eat? He'd get to Delanghe Bakery at 7 am for warm croissants, that's what he'd do. Rachael can't decide between a plain one or a hazelnut raspberry, they both sound sooo good. Next on the menu is a whole black pepper sauce crab from Batavia Garden, yes, a whole one just for Rachael. To end her French-style day in San Francisco Rachael would venture to Chapeau! for the $25 prix fixe. The whole day sounds like one long good idea.

Rachael's plane gets delayed so she has to stay in San Francisco for one more day. What's it to be this time she wonders? Are there still enough options for her to dine well in SF? Instead of pastries, Rachael starts her day with a steaming bowl of clam chowder from Swan's Oyster Depot . It might sound strange, but just remember how foggy and cold it can be here in the Summer. For lunch she heads to one of my favourites, The Helmand, for an all-you-can-eat Afghan buffet. You might think Rachael would be full by now, but Hawthorne Lane is calling where, between 4 and 6 pm Happy Hour Bar Bites are all $3.50. Bargain munching options washed down with a G & T. Because dinner was so early, Rachael needs a late night dessert snack which she finds in the form of Black Glutinous Rice in Mango & Coconut Juice with Extra Mango at Creations Dessert House and she still has 75 cents in her pocket at the end of the night.

Rachael finally escapes California for Northern Virginia where she confirms her reputation as Queen of cheap eats by starting her $40 day with a Royal Restaurant breakfast. Determined not to let her regal status get the better of her, Rachael's next stop is The Italian Store where she'll get a good sub but no niceties whatsoever from the staff. She doesn't really mind, though, because she has an extra special treat in store for the evening. Rachael heads off to what is widely considered one of the best restaurants in NV, 2941, where eating from the Tapas on the Terrace menu means she finishes the day exactly on budget. Bravo!

The sparkling seas and waving palm trees are calling Rachael from Santa Barbara. The D'Angelo Pastry ham and cheese croissants are practically screaming Rachael's name. (She missed out on them last time she was in SB). Rachael already knows about the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company and so she heads there again, for lunch. To tide herself over, until dinner she stops at Anna's Bakery for a chocolate cookie snack. It's been too long since she had any raw fish so Rachael heads off the main drag to dine at Ichiban Sushi finishing her day 15 cents under budget.

It's time for another trip abroad with Rachael jetting off, this time, to Pune, Maharshtra, India! $40 would feed a family for a month in this part of the world so, instead, Rachael decides to meet the challenge on about $4 instead. So much food for so little money: Tasty sounding Coconut Uttapam from Madhuban, Chelo Kabab with rice and tomatoes from King's Restaurant, and Chicken and naan from the Sardar Tandoori stall. I wish I could go to India and learn about real Indian food.

Back in the US, Rachael heads up to Seattle . First stop of course, is the wonderful Pike Place Market and breakfast just opposite at Le Panier. Staying in the market area, lunch is a shrimp cocktail and water from Jack's Fish Spot. Next up on the itinerary is happy hour. For this Rachael heads off to Elliott's Oyster House for the cheapest ever oysters and a martini. I am just amazed she still has over $20 left for dinner. For that meal Rachael heads to Brasa for a lamb burger and a glass of wine. A perfect end to a a thrifty day of eating.

I reckon that the day Rachael heads to San Juan Island, Washington, will be the day she loses her job. There are some entertaining people in these parts and our Ms Ray is going to have a hard time competing. She could always drown any sorrows in food. For breakfast, lavender lemonade and cake from the local farmer's market is a good suggestion. Lunch could be spring rolls, pad thai and and beer at the Golden Triangle. The day should end at Madrona Bar & Grill for something thick and meaty. I'll say no more...

Rachael suddenly realizes she left something personal in her Seattle hotel room so she heads back to try and pick it up. Whilst there she decides to record another $40 A Day show. This time she gets her breakfast of a roly-poly bun and some coffee from the Macrina Bakery. Bruschettina at Ballard Farmers Market sounds like the perfect lunch stop where they have some interesting sounding toppings, like chickpeas and octopus, for their bruschetta. After an afternoon pick-me-up at El Diablo Coffee Company, Rachael is ready for dinner. For this she heads to Chinook’s for a very fancy-sounding alder planked Alaskan silver salmon. Yum.

Columbus, Ohio is the next destination, starting with breakfast from Jack & Benny's. Rachael hasn't had a Bento Box in a while and she is asking herself why not? They are so great, especially the ones from Tyfoon. There is enough money and space left for a slap up dinner at The Burgundy Room. What is there not to like about beef carpaccio and rich cheese tortellini with pulled duck leg confit and a small glass Haven's Bourriquot? Shouldn't that be Heaven?!

After all this hard work, Rachael jets off to Honolulu, Hawaii, for hard-earned vacation. Chocolate cream stuffed Malasadas from Leonard's Bakery are sugary dough balls which are a sweet, cheap deal. A healthier lunch is in order so Rachael heads off to the noisy, local bowling alley where they serve steaming bowls of Oxtail soup spiced with cilantro at the Kapiolani Coffee Shop. For an afternoon treat, Rachael fancies custard with green tea ice and lots of syrup. She finds it at Waiola. The best find of her trip is Sunrise, a Japanese restaurant that serves the freshest fish at rock bottom prices. Rachael could get quite used to this way of life.

It's time to go home, back to New York. After spending so much on her holiday, Rachael decides to find a day of eats under $25. Everything she munches on throughout the day sounds irresistible. The simplicity of a $1 slice pizza bianca at Sullivan Street Bakery, the great value of a vietnamese sandwich from Bahn Mi So 1, the indulgence of piggy pudding from Sugar Sweet Sunshine, it all sounds marvelous. But that's not the end of it, Rachael is really showing her sweet tooth. What next? A chocolate mudslide cookie from Jacques Torres and then a mexican style bun from the Golden Dragon Boat Cafe and Bakery. Something to drink next - how about a bubble tea from Green Tea Cafe? Dumpling might be a word that could be used to describe Rachael after eating all that, but what? She still has room for more? More dumplings that is - so she heads off to Shanghai Cafe for exactly that. Phew, Rachael is so now full she can hardly speak.

She doesn't utter another word until she arrives in Novato, Marin, CA. She's not really in a breakfast mood but she stops of at Skully's for a plain croissant and a coffee, finding it to be surprisingly good. Lunch is just as cheap - at Quezada Market - where she fills up on Tamales and coconut juice. Novato. So far, so good. Kitchen does a Prix-Fixe menu for just $15, so that is where Rachael decides to eat her evening meal. Three courses and a glass of wine, Rachael has discovered how to do Novato quite well, and way under budget to boot.

San Francisco is only a 30 minute drive down the 101, so Rachael figures she can head back in that direction one more time. She stops off at Larkspur on the way and Tabla on the way for soup and corn fritters. Next destination is Liberty Cafe to the South of the city for some of the best Eggs Florentine in town. She ends her day at Ti Couz slurping on a blackberry cocktail and indulging in her favourite cheese mushroom and almond crepe. She's full, but oh so satisfied, if only you could see the smile on her face.

I think Rachael deserves a little time off. It's time to sneak off to LA for some serious partying to celebrate the end of this $40 a series. The next day, even with a hangover, Rachael shows her dedication to food by dragging herself out of bed to get to the farmers market where she starts the rehydration process on free samples of pomegranate juice. Now she's not actually working, Rachael shows where her real priorities lie. She heads over to Casa del Mar for the hair of the dog - a $12 bloody Mary. In need of more liquid refreshment, Rachael hurries to Lula, for their 7 day a week happy hour, and a couple of margaritas at $3 a pop. Yes. I did say two. Finally Rachael visits Blowfish for an animal-style roll which she washes down with an Absolut Citron lemon and soda and the $40 is spent. Lucky Rachael, she certainly does lead a most Delicious Life.

Iraqi Breakup Inevitable? Bt: The Political Heretic

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I've been saying it for a while now (or at least the last three weeks) but two news analysis articles, one in today's Washington Post and the other in today's New York Times , acknowledges our president's declining influence in Iraq. The Sunnis rejected the latest compromises as expected because they believe Kurd and Shi'ite negotiators are carving Iraq and its oil resources up while leaving the Sunnis with an economically deprived, land-locked weak autonomous state in central Iraq. Neoconservative New York Times' columnist David Brooks signs on to the view of those who say Iraq was always a fiction that was only held together by colonial powers and ruthless tyrants. This constitution, they say, reflects the reality we should be embracing.

I don't know if Iraq's eventual split-up was inevitable. Iraq was a fiction but so was the United States. The thirteen original states no doubt united to overthrow our British sovereigns but their differences and suspicions kept them from binding themselves together in anything more than a loose confederation for several years. The Iraqis are no doubt divided by religion, ethnicity and language and we weren't but that is largely irrelevant. The differences and between Quaker and Anglican, large and small state, or between rural and trade state may seem petty now but they were extremely important to the residents who guarded their cherished freedoms then.

Enlightened self-interest eventually brought them to unite behind one banner. Their more powerful neighbors, the British, French, and Spanish empires, still threatened their freedoms and any hope of one day becoming a viable state required difficult negotiations.

Whether the Iraqis will unite behind one banner I do not know but the president's inability and increasing unwillingness to persuade the Kurds and Shi'ites to unite behind a stronger federal system not unlike ours or the Swiss Confederation will lead to their country's undoing and we will pay the price.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Fantasy Football : By Kirk Bage

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Another great way to to keep yourself busy with something relatively meaningless is to play in a fantasy sports league. This year has been more organized than others and we managed to put together a small "friends and enemies" league on the original Fantasy Football site - Fantasy League Classic.

The idea is to spend an imaginary budget on a squad of 16 players you believe will out-score, out-defend and basically outclass all opposition in the premiership. With weekly, monthly and season long prizes at stake it is worth paying attention and doing your homework on who is and who isn't in form. For the long run I've taken a few chances on some unproven players: Arsenal's Cesc Fabregas is my big tip to come of age in the midfield area, while £7.5m signing for Boro, Aiyegbeni Yakuba (pictured) carries the responsibility of lead striker. It has always been my philosophy (as you can only have a maximum of 2 players from each team) to use your choices from the top teams in defense, as they are likely to concede less goals - i.e. Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool all figure in a formation that has done OK at this early stage.

It seems that there are about 35000 paid up players this year so it will be tough to compete - but there is nothing a football fan likes more than being right, and this is the perfect chance to prove it. Another reason that Saturday is the most fun day of the week... Come on lads...

I saw Richard Stallman, and all I got was a keyring and a sticker : By Sashi

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RMS in his infamous St iGNUtious costume

I first heard about the Seminar on Software Freedom and Danger of Software Patents from Screenshots. I registered at the link provided and managed to rope my colleagues in as well (which wasn’t difficult, considering they were all GNU/Linux enthusiasts as well).

We got to UM’s Computer Science and IT Faculty around 1.30 pm (the seminar was to kick off at 2) and after being directed to the Lecture Hall, we parked our rear ends at a spot towards the back of the hall.

I was hoping to see some familiar faces in the small crowd - and I did. There was local hacker legend - and one of the co-founders of Project Petaling Street - Dinesh Nair, who was accompanied by Prema, and there was also the unmistakable (tall) figure of the /ShaolinTiger himself.

I did introduce myself to ShaolinTiger - just to see if I could take him on - but I don’t think I made any impression. In any case, I’m pretty sure I can defeat him in a fight.*

Anyway, before the much-awaited talk by RMS, we were subjected to a brief presentation on the local MyOSS open-source community, followed by an unfortunately boring presentation by MAMPU. (The reason I found it boring was because I’d been to another free and open-source software (FOSS) seminar a few months back, and was subjected to the exact same presentation - complete with near-identical slides too.)

Finally, RMS took the stage and began talking about the dangers of software patents. Before he started, he pointed out that he would divide his talk into two parts: the first part would be non-controversial, while the second would be quite the opposite. Software patents fell under the first part.

I don’t want to rehash everything he said - primarily because I don’t think I can do his thoughts justice. I do heartily recommend that you check out the Wikipedia page on him - a comprehensive list of almost everything you want to know about him and his principles and beliefs.

Mainly though, he spoke on how software patents can cripple and kill software innovation, the problems faced by many software developers in the US in developing new algorithms and programs, the challenges faced by the GNU developers and how big corporations push for software patenting in order to enrich themselves.

The second part of his talk definitely generated more heat, though. He started by explaining his four levels of freedom in relation to software:

the freedom to run the program for any purpose (called “freedom 0)
the freedom to study and modify the program (”freedom 1)
the freedom to copy the program so you can help your neighbor (”freedom 2)
the freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (”freedom 3)

from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_software

And then he goes on to call on people to stop using non-free software, because it’s not just about saving money etc, but it’s about the fundamental aspects of freedom that’s at stake here. As he says, when people stop caring about freedom, they lose it.

There was also this moment when he discussed his reasons for beginning the GNU project, and he calls it a moral compulsion: It’s like seeing someone drowning, and if you know how to swim, and if the guy drowning is not Bush, then he must jump in to rescue the victim. It’s just the right thing to do.

Oh, and at the end, Stallman sold some keyrings for RM 50 and gave away a lot of “GNU & Linux” stickers. He even gave autographs - some got charged for it too, if they didn’t buy anything - but since I’ve never been keen on autographs of any kind, I didn’t get one.

And that’s a wrap.

OK, I’m hungry now, so off to lunch….

* No, I can’t.**
** Yes, I can. Don’t be defeatist.***
*** Defeatist?? The guy’s a freakin’ giant!! The best I can do is kick his balls and run like hell!****
**** So who says you gotta fight fair?

Pindeldyboz: By Rob Williams

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What better way to leave NYC than with another publication?!

Yes, I have gotten a story accepted for publication by the literary magazine "Pindeldyboz"!!

Issue #6, which should be out in the fall (October? Nov?).

Hurray! It took me about 4 or 5 years to get anything published here so now that iIm leaving it's such a sweet goodbye present.

Pindeldyboz is excellent--I loved issue 4 with the mouse (hamster?) looking like it's poking its head out of the issue.

Pindeldyboz (or Pboz for short) editors have included Entertainment Weekly and Village Voice writer Whitney Pastorek, and currently New School MFA-er Alison Weaver (the lovely person who accepted my story!), and Kristin McGonigle.

Some of Pboz's past contributors include one of my faves, Dan Kennedy ("Loser Goes First")--I blogged about his book a few months back, Maud Newton, Tara Wray, Amanda Eyre Ward,Thisbe Nissen, Jessica Anthony among many others.

My fellow Columbian bud and amazing writer Felicia Sullivan is also appearing in the magazine with me! It was Felicia, in fact, who recommended I send something to Pboz. Thanks Felicia!

So there you go. Another publication (and in a straight mag no less! *not to lessen the importance of my other publications', but it is good to branch out once in a while, right?).

I’m going to try to blog again before we leave (on Aug. 31) for California!

It's been great these last few weeks, saying goodbye (sometimes 3 and 4 times...) to friends, fellow writers, mentors, beer buddies (like vestal mcintyre, manuel munoz).

Friday night was Aaron Hamburger's goodbye party and I got to re-connect with a friend, Marcela, from Columbia (she's an editor at Publishers Weekly) and her lovely fiancé John Beckman (author of "The Winter Zoo").

Wow. I've had a great time here in NYC. A tough time, but a great one. I wouldn't change a thing (well... maybe a couple of small things...). But most amazingly, I’ve surrounded myself with some of the greatest minds and hearts--and learned so much from my fellow writers.

This was an experience iIll never forget. I know I’ll be back.

Wish You Could Own a Runway Design? By Christine

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I enjoy viewing the designers’ lines on the catwalk every season, but I never considered owning a runway design due to price and accessibility. Fortunately, I’ve discovered a site that deals with both of these barriers.

As I was surfing the net for Chloé’s current handbag designs, I was redirected to a site called Net-a-Porter (nice spin on pret a porter). I was surprised to find scads of designer labels at half price. All my faves were represented - Narciso Rodriguez (for outfits), Jimmy Choo (shoes) and Chloé (bags).

Many of the designs listed have a ‘classic’ shape which means that they would be a wise investment - lasting for years to come. Many variations on the ‘little black dress’ are shown. Every woman should own a couple of good pieces, and Net-a-Porter offers this chance.

Normally, Narciso dresses will run in the range of $1200.00 - $2500.00 per dress, but one can get these same dresses, on sale, at Net-a-Porter for as low as $495.00! Jimmy Choo sandals with charms are on sale for $285 (from $575). Moschino knee high black leather boots are going for $493.00 (from $795.00) and one can pick up a Marc Jacobs leather bag for $924.00 (from $1320.00)

This site also makes suggestions as to what accessories would go well with the item one is interested in. I selected a Burberry Crinkle Chiffon dress from the menu and received this prompt, As seen on the runway. A beautiful style for evening which looks great worn under a little cardigan to create contrast between the knit and chiffon. Shown here with Pedro Garcia shoes and Erickson Beamon bracelet. 100% silk, lining: 65% acetate, 35% polyamide. Dry clean only. Sizing is Italian. (Both the Garcia shoes and the Beamon bracelet are live links that take one to the item.)

The only downside to this site is that it is a first come, first serve situation. One has to monitor the site weekly to see what items are being made available. As well, the sizes are for those on the ‘light’ side. An XXL on the catwalk equates to a size 12 in ‘real life’.

Overall, this site is definitely worth a look!


The New Way to Tote Books: Submitted by Christine

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I came across a great idea to replace those high school and university backbreaking book bags. Garnet Hill has introduced a collapsible, sturdy, well-designed canvas basket with a lightweight aluminum frame and rubber-padded handle. Not only does the tote collapse flat for easy storage, but it also holds up to 55 pounds of school supplies. The carryall can be purchased online (see link) for a reasonable price of $30. The tote was introduced by Garnet Hill this year in black and khaki and has been selling extremely well; so well that the company has expanded their line to include various colours such as Periwinkle, Kiwi, Orange and Red (shown).

Garnet Hill

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Dry - A Memoir by Lezah

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Two of my favourite words in the English language are “free” and “book”, and when you put them together to make the phrase “free book” – they're even better! This year, I started the summer off with a huge pile of free books that I have been ploughing my way through. There’s one book, however, that I just kept shifting to the bottom of the pile each time it came up to the top, though. I looked at the title and picture on the front, and figured, “Huh, a book about a drunk.” Not really subject matter that interests me…

Anyway, last weekend I was reading a newspaper article about the author, Augusten X. Burroughs, who is being sued by his adoptive family. They claim he portrayed them unfairly and incorrectly in his book, ‘Running with Scissors’. A couple of days after reading this article, I happened to notice that the book I’d spent the summer shuffling to the bottom of the pile was actually Augusten Burrough’s other book, ‘Dry’. My bad! I started reading it immediately – and am sorry, so very sorry, that I hadn’t started it sooner.

In a word, it’s great. And, it’s also true. Burroughs wrote ‘Dry’ prior to ‘Running with Scissor’ but, for some reason, it was published after; it chronicles Burroughs’s life after he’d escaped the chaos of his adolescence – the experiences upon which he based ‘Running with Scissors’.

In ‘Dry’, Burroughs is in his mid-twenties and earning $200,000+ a year in advertising - despite being completely uneducated. He’s gay, his best friend is HIV positive and alcohol is interfering with his life; so much so that his employer stages an intervention and ships him off to rehab. In Minnesota. For a month.

The only way Burroughs can convince himself to go to rehab (because, of course, he’s NOT an alcoholic – oh no!), is to imagine what the hospital is like:

A discrete, Frank Lloyd Wright-ish compound surrounded mysteriously from public view by a tasteful wall of trimmed boxwood trees. Ian Schrager, of course, created the interior. Spare rooms, sun-drenched, with firm mattresses and white, 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets. … I imagine polished linoleum floors. (By allowing this one clinical detail into my fantasy, I believe I will be allowed all the other details I envision.) Nurses will be far too holistic and nurturing to wear white polyester; they will wear, perhaps, tailored hemp smocks and when they are backlit by one of the many floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lily pond, I will see the outline of their lean, athletic legs.
There will be a large pool. I will forgive its heavy chlorination. I will understand. This is a hospital, after all.

The reality, of course, is nothing like his advertising agency-inspired fictions – too bad for Augusten.

The book takes us through Burroughs’s stint in rehab, where he meets his roommate and new best friend, Hayden, and back to the “real” world as he’s released from rehab and attempts to create a new, alcohol-free life for himself, which involves cleaning out his liquor-bottle-filled apartment, signing up for group therapy, and joining AA. We see his struggles as he returns to work and tries to maintain his sobriety in spite of the pressures he encounters (including sabotage and the latest advertising account, which, ironically, is for a beer company). Likewise, Burroughs works hard to cope with his relationships: we see Pighead, his HIV positive former boyfriend; Hayden, his new roommate and rehab buddy, who tries to act as his conscience; and Foster, the gorgeous crackhead he meets in group therapy.

Burrough’s writing is so insightful, so humorous, so cynical it made me wish I was him, in spite of his flawed life. One of my favourite exchanges is when Hayden learns that Burroughs is becoming involved with Foster (a big no-no in group therapy):

“You’re at the crack addict’s apartment? Having a little sandwich?” he says. From the tone of his voice, you’d think I’d just told him I was hanging out at a playground wearing a NAMBLA T-shirt.

Now, when I read that, it made me pause for a moment: NAMBLA, I thought? Hmmm, sounds … familiar. And then it came to me: North American Man-Boy Love Association. Ha! Now, that’s funny! Anyone who can make gay pedophilia funny, well – he’s my guy! And why in the hell did I know that tidbit of information, anyway? I’m not gay – I’m not a man – or a boy – or even a vice cop! But Burroughs has a curious way of making you introspective, of making you look at your own life, your own relationships, your own issues, and thinking to yourself, this is not what it should be. Things can be better – much better.

This is a fantastically written book – certainly one of the best I’ve read this year. It made me want to go out and join AA myself – and I don’t even drink!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Dave's Music Corner By David Dedrick

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Well, after a long lay off, I’m back. This is just Confessions of a Mad Record Collector with a pithier title - being a more honest reflection of my massive ego and the fact that I discuss both records and cds. There’s no theme to this week’s entries - just a lot of good stuff I’ve been listening to lately.

Various Artists - Goofy Greats (K-Tel, ?)

No, I didn’t just find this; I’ve owned it for quite awhile now. I just dug it out because I love it so much. I was first given this set in Grade Three or Four and I can’t imagine why. It’s possible I asked for it - it was “Advertised on TV” after all! As a collection of novelty songs, it actually holds up amazingly well and it never fails to amaze me how much this collection has informed my musical sensibilities. It has garage rock: the Standells’ “Dirty Water” and the Trashmen with “Surfin’ Bird”; bubblegum: the Ohio Express’s “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” and the 1910 Fruitgum Co.’s “1-2-3 Redlight”; early seventies Euro-pop with the George Baker Selection’s odd “Little Green Bag”; and just plain weirdness like the Fendermen’s absolutely insane “Mule Skinner Blues”. There’s not even a nostalgia factor to this music, as I was too young to have ever heard it on the radio - to me it stands as strong as the day it was recorded. I often wonder who programmed the K-Tel collections; they’re always well put together. I’m sure anyone reading this who loves music has, if not Goofy Greats, at least a couple of K-Tel records in their collection. Speaking of bubblegum...

1910 Fruitgum Co. - 1,2,3 Red Light (Buddah, 1968)

...and I was. In the late ‘60’s, possibly as a reaction to rock’s burgeoning heaviosity, a newer, simpler pop style became all the rage with everyone’s younger sisters. Bands like The Ohio Express, The Lemon Pipers and the 1910 Fruitgum Co. filled the airwaves with their insistent tunes and artless lyrics, often based in children’s games or evocations of candy - two things very much in the hearts of pre-teens. Of course, in most cases, there was no actual group - just a conglomeration of studio musicians and singers hired to knock out these songs, written like Brill Building songs in the early sixties. But to describe something as artless doesn’t mean it’s not art. I wonder if there will be listeners for today’s manufactured pop - those who didn’t grow up with it and have no nostalgic memories of it. To me, the new pop is too busy; with the layers and layers of beats and synths and everything else all polished to a glossy sheen - just like the singers - and the lyrics are far too cynical and over-sexed to have any sentimental appeal to the jaded music listener of the future. Besides containing the instant classic “1,2,3 Red Light”, the band does a hip cover of Dylan’s “The Mighty Quinn” as well as a great song called “The Song Song”, which succeeds in mentioning all the hit songs of 1968. Also worth a listen is “Shirley Applegate” - a love song from a ten-year old to an eight-year old.

Bob Dylan - Shot of Love (Columbia, 1981)

Well, I just can’t seem to not link these albums together. Speaking of “The Mighty Quinn”, here’s the Mighty Bob with the last album of his “high and mighty, yeah, I’m talking to you, you sinners” Christian trilogy, which comprises Slow Train Coming, Saved and this album. Despite the overt - or should I say, over the top - Christianity that informs these albums, I like them all just fine. It’s strange: you read all these negative things about Dylan’s later albums and then when you actually hear them, you enjoy them completely and wonder what the hell these carpers were listening to. Perhaps that’s the problem with being such a thoroughly bootlegged artist like Bob Dylan. No one is reviewing what is, only what could have been. Stand out tracks: “Shot of Love”, “Heart of Mine”, “Property of Jesus”, “Lenny Bruce”, “Dead Man, Dead Man” and the epically great “Every Grain of Sand”, which is as close as the hardline Dylan ever came to ecumenicism.

The Bells - Studio A (Polydor, 1972)

This is a Canadian group based in Toronto, I assume, like ninety-nine per cent of the groups that got recording contracts in Canada in the early seventies. They’re a country-folky-hokey act with most of the songs played somewhat dolorously until the final knees-up: “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin’ On”. All of the songs are covers, which probably explains why I’d never heard of the group before coming across this record. They do a cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Me and My Arrow” - that’s what caught my eye - but it’s played so langourously that its woozy charm is lost. There’s a nice medley of Gordon Lightfoot songs (“Did She Mention My Name”, If You Could Read My Mind” and “Cotton Jenny”) and Lennon’s “Oh,My Love. It’s not a terrible record, just not a terribly original record. What blows my mind is the cover. A picture of what looks like a church or a church hall stripped of its seating with the band’s footwear laying on a parquet floor. The cover elaborately opens like two little doors, revealing the band sitting on the same floor (and, yes, they have their shoes back on). Such excess for a bunch of nobodies!

Badfinger - Badfinger (Warner Bros., 1974)

Here’s a band whose story will make you weep: signed by the Beatles to Apple Records; renamed by Paul McCartney; first hit “Come And Get It” written for the band by Paul McCartney; a top ten hit on both sides of the Atlantic with “No Matter What” (Def Leppard have done an execrable cover of it recently), and all to no avail. They couldn’t seem to capitalise on their hits or the hits others had with their songs (Nilsson had a huge hit with “Without You”). They were badly mismanaged - a drunken stork could have done a better job, quite frankly, and there may have been some financial hanky-panky. Finally, after years of money trouble and rock’n’roll-related health problems, key songwriter Pete Ham hung himself, only to be followed a few years later by the other main songwriter Tom Evans (same problems; same method). Whoo! Rock and roll!

This album, their first for Warners after the halcyon Apple days, is better than snobby, big-assed music critics give it credit for. This is the band the word “beatlesque” was invented for so there’s lots of wonderful power pop plus Joey Molland’s harder rocking songs, which are really good too (especially “Andy Norris”). There’s also a weird funky song by Pete Ham disturbingly entitled “Matted Hamm”

Crikey! This band played on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, Lennon’s Imagine and Ringo’s super “It Don’t Come Easy”. Woulda, shoulda, coulda!

I just finished reading Howard Soune’s excellent biography of Bob Dylan “Down the Highway”, so next I check in, this’ll probably be pretty Dylan-heavy. Catch you on the B-side!

The Aristocrats, (2005, dir. by Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette) By David Dedrick

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Featuring: Jason Alexander, Shelley Berman, Lewis Black, David Brenner, Drew Carey, George Carlin, Tim Conway, Andy Dick, Phyllis Diller, Joe Franklin, Judy Gold, Whoopi Goldberg, Gilbert Gottfried, Eric Idle, Eddie Izzard, Richard Lewis, Bill Maher, Howie Mandel, Merrill Markoe, Jackie "The Joke Man" Martling, Michael McKean, Larry Miller, Martin Mull, Kevin Nealon, The Onion editorial staff, Penn & Teller, Emo Philips, Kevin Pollak, Andy Richter, Don Rickles, Chris Rock, Bob Saget, Harry Shearer, the Smothers Brothers, David Steinberg, Jon Stewart, Larry Storch, Rip Taylor, Dave Thomas, Peter Tilden, Bruce Vilanch, Fred Willard, Robin Williams, Steven Wright.

I saw this film on its opening weekend, but I was prevented from writing about it by a bout of dysentery I picked up after a month of working the swing shift at a Mexican burrito factory…

Every so often a piece of art comes along that must fight the weight of societal disapproval and censorship. Such historic battles as Joyce’s Ulysses or Miller’s Tropic of Cancer against the US postal system or the original Bad News Bears versus the parents in my neighbourhood come to mind.

The Aristocrats is a shot across the bow against the current climate of censorship and conservative values that is trying so hard to crush both the arts and free speech these days. In the United States this film is not even rated – bypassing the bunch of phoney-baloney, hypocritical, two-faced creeps that pass for a censorship board in America. I believe it’s rated 18A here in Canada – meaning you have to be eighteen or older to see this film without adult supervision. There are no shocking visuals in this film - well, Bob Saget really close-up and Steven Wright’s hairline; the shock value is all in the words. This is a movie that’s all about words. It’s a celebration of words and the absolute mastery comedians have of language.

It’s a simple joke. Have you heard it? A guy walks into a talent agent’s office and says, “Have I got an act for you!” He then proceeds to describe a family act (usually made up of father, mother, sister, brother, grandma and pet dog) of unheard of viciousness and depravity; more often than not involving elements of incest, bestiality, sado-masochism, vomiting, urination, defecation - and the accompanying coprophilia - necrophilia, murder, suicide…yes, it does tend to go on. At the end of the joke, the agent, understandably shocked, asks the guy the name of the act. “The Aristocrats!” he says.

The joke isn’t very funny. The humour lies in its performance. I didn’t count, but apparently there are over 100 comedians in this movie; most of them very well known, if not by name then at least by face. I have to admit I went to this movie not expecting much. “A bunch of comedians telling the same joke over and over?” I asked myself. “Oy vey!” However, not everyone tells the entire joke and there are so many variations of it that it’s impossible to get bored of it. Even when it’s told in its entirety, it’s interrupted by cuts to other comedians. (There’s a mime version of it! He performs it! In public!) It’s fascinating to see each comedian take the joke and make it his own. Some tell it straight, others deconstruct it. The concept is so flexible; everyone can have his way with it. I guess that’s what makes the joke work; it’s both bad and good.

Most importantly, the film is funny. At one point, I took a sip of pop and then had to spend half a minute laughing with my mouth closed or I would have gagged on it or sent it spraying all over the baseball cap wearing homeys in front of me. Speaking of those guys, my initial thought when I saw them was, “Wrong theatre, dudes. The Dukes of Hazzard is that way.” When one of the guys joined his buddies in the theatre and said, “What movie is this again?” I thought, “Oh, brother.” And one other took a cell phone call as the movie started; I was ready to run from the theatre screaming. Five minutes into the movie though and they were hooked – as was I.

I can guarantee that this movie isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoy the odd dirty joke and are ready to have everything you thought good and decent shredded, soiled and jumped up and down on in front of you, then I can heartily recommend it. Oh, and there’s an old man and an old woman sitting together in a rest home. The old woman turns to the old man and says, “I bet I can guess how old you are.” The old man says, “Okay, how old am I?” She reaches over and unzips his fly; she then puts her hand into his pants and feels around a bit. “You’re eight-seven,” she says. “That’s incredible,” he says. “How did you guess?” And she says, “You told me yesterday."

Link: http://www.thearistocrats.com/
Link: http://www.thinkfilmcompany.com/films/thearistocrats/

Upcoming Concerts By Lezah

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After a fairly dry (in many senses of the word) summer, there look to be a lot of good shows coming up in the Vancouver area over the next couple of weeks. Here’s a partial list:

Brian Wilson (Aug. 29, Queen Elizabeth Theatre): the legendary Wilson is touring ‘Smile’ which was voted onto many ‘Best of…’ lists this year.

Garbage (Aug. 30, Commodore): Grammy Award-nominated pop group, hailing from the US.

New York Dolls (Sept. 1, Commodore): only two of the original guys from the band are still in the land of the living, but these are the gents that kick-started the whole punk thing. Quincy Gold and Black Halos open.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (Sept. 2, Richards): Paul Weller-type pop rock from NYC; the British press is raving about this band.

Terminal City Block Party (Victory Square, Sept. 5): this free concert runs from 1-8 pm and features Pink Mountaintops, p:ano, Ladyhawk, Calamalka, the Book of Lists, Christa Min, Fond of Tigers and DJ Sipreano.

Oasis (Sept.8, GM Place) apologies, as I’ve never been an Oasis fan, but Jet and Kasabian are opening – they’re not too bad; maybe you could go and just leave early?

Indie Music Video Festival (Sept. 9, Railway Club): Precious Feathers and the Weather appear live; also featured are 40 rarely-seen indie-music videos collected from all over the globe.

The Bravery (Sept. 11, Richards): yet another NYC-based ‘80s-style electro-pop band.

Black Mountain (Sept. 13, Richards): of the famous Vancouver collective; fresh off the Coldplay tour. S.T.R.E.E.T.S. and Christa Min open.

Antony and the Johnsons (Sept. 15, St. Andrews Wesley Church): this is the perfect setting to see this very theatrical crooner – another NYC-based singer that the UK music press is crazy about.

New Pornographers (Sept. 23, Commodore): Vancouver heroes who we don’t get to see play often enough; with Destroyer and Immaculate Machine.

The Killers (Oct. 13, Pacific Coliseum): saw them last year at the much-smaller Commodore – they were good. And you don’t get too many decent bands that call Vegas home…

Bauhaus (Oct. 20, Centre for the Performing Arts): if you can still remember the ‘80s, then maybe this is the show for you – the band returns with its original line-up… and I believe Bela Lugosi is still dead.

Canned Hamm (Oct. 29, Railway Club) ‘Lil Hamm and Big Hamm, the kings of disco-pop, will make you laugh, make you cry and dance uncomfortably close to you. Promises to be fun. Come on, everyone, after me: “Seafood taco!! Ay yai yai yai yai!!”

Thunderbird Summer Festival Horse Show By Lezah

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If you’re in the Vancouver area this weekend and looking for something a little different to do with yourself, well – how about going to see a horse show?

Yes indeed, running from August 24 to August 28 at the Thunderbird Show Park in Langley (near the junction of 248th Street and Telegraph Trail) is the province’s biggest horse show. With competitors coming from all over North America, there are six rings going non-stop from 8 am to late afternoon over the next five days.

Thunderbird Show Park is home base for two-time Olympian Laura Balisky. Her father, George Tidball, is founder of the Keg Restaurant chain, so it’s no surprise that Sunday’s feature jumper class is the $50,000 Keg Steak House and Bar 4’9” Grand Prix class. Competition promises to be fierce.

Fashion Trend Alert By Lezah

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Here are some trends that have been appearing for the upcoming fall/winter collections:

- Milan is showing a jet set or international flavour in the clothing lines: Asian, Greek and African inspired clothes have all been shown, with animal prints and safari-inspired outfits appearing in many collections.

- Paris goes casual with denim: D & G were combining denim and lace; Louis Vuitton combined denim and logos; Dior showed sparkling denim; and Marc Jacobs featured big, casual denim coats.

Pacific National Exhibition By Lezah

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Sound familiar? If so, then you’ve probably ridden the wooden roller coaster at the Pacific National Exhibition, or PNE. Now, that old wooden roller coaster has been there for fifty-odd years now, and I’m not sure what’s more terrifying – the actual ride, or looking down at the weathered planks that appear to be haphazardly nailed up, which are in fact the only things that are keeping you suspended hundreds of feet up in the air as you rocket around at speeds that feel as though they’re in excess of 100 miles an hour.

Being that this is, in fact, a wooden roller coast, and one of the few originals left, it is a ride that many people travel from all over the world to ride. Just a few hundred yards away is a much more modern corkscrew coaster – but the line-ups are always longest at the old wooden roller coaster. And I’m always right there in line – every year, I have to go ride the old roller coaster. Hopefully you’ll be able to give it a shot, too. Everyone needs a little adrenaline kick and here’s a good wholesome one for you to try.

The PNE is running through Labour Day this year.

Once Again The Panhandle By Laurence Simon

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image from today.reuters.co.uk

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Katrina has been projected to hit the Florida panhandle.

The Florida panhandle's gotten a lot of beatings in recent memory from tropical storms and hurricanes.

I'd like to think that anything that's stood this long will keep standing through another one of these things, but Nature has a funny way of rolling the dice different with each throw.

After a brief stint in Miami, I'm sure the same breathless and brainless idiot-in-a-rainslicker coverage from MSNBC, CNN, and FOX will begin again in a day or two.

I wonder how the news consultants tell their clients to train for this kind of thing. Do they wire them up, throw a poncho over them, and then tell them to just babble incoherently for a minute or so in the shower while someone makes OOGAH BOOGAH motions throwing things around the bathroom.

"The winds have picked up to a hundred miles per hour, and the National Weather Service has said that- LOOK OUT FOR THAT TOILET ROLL DISPENSER! Did you get that? Did you get that?"

Soon, Hurricane Season will be over. Sharks will stop attacking swimmers and marine biologists. Even Natalee Holloway might be found.

The News Cycle rolls on, occasionally over the feet of those watching it.

A decent rider would stop and make sure your toes aren’t broken. Instead, you're told that you're fat, have high cholesterol, bladder problems, need to get out of debt quickly, should get cheaper car insurance, drink a cola beverage, see a lame movie with lots of special effects, and so on.

The great thing about books is that they never have a ticker at the bottom and I've yet to be interrupted for Breaking News while reading them.

Shedding Pounds

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Laurence’s Home

By Laurence Simon

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Down to 217.

Every time I think of grabbing a candy bar or pigging out on garbage, I check my Live Journal and make something healthy.

Rice with Beneful "butter" stuff.
Grilled peppers, potatoes, and onions.
Hummus and pita bread.
Blended fruit and ice drink. (I'll stick this in the recipe box)
Salad, salad, salad.
High-protein fish.

I haven't had fried fast food in a while. Three pints and the Irish nachos and the pizza have been the harshest on my system, and even that was for an esteemed and most welcome guest.

I know I should do this in moderation, but moderation always leads to excess. My militancy on diet drives my wife nuts now and then, but I think she's gotten used to the fact that it's 100 or 0, black or white, good or evil with me. That "extremes" song by Billy Joel describes me to a T.

My biggest fear is that with Deskmerc out next week, I may backslide during lunch and go all pig-out. I may just need to call someone for half an hour each lunch to drive them nuts with my food-neuroses.

Limon - Valencia Street - Mission San Francisco - CA By Becks & Posh

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Limon 524 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 415.252.0918
This is a copy of my latest article for SFist in which I eat my way around the Bay Area in alphabetical order. This week we are on the letter L.'

You know how it is - sometimes you hear so much buzz about a restaurant, you are not quite sure why you still haven't tried it. The more good things that are written, and whispered, about it, the more you wonder how much of it is hype and how much of the adoration is truly deserved. In the back of your mind you keep meaning to get your butt down to the Mission District to try out this talked about place, but you never quite seem to get yourself into the right gear. Eventually you let somebody else take control of your dining choices and the next thing you know, you are off for a girls night out... at Limon.

The space, in the heart of the Mission, is open and bright, lively and buzzing. The cool mandarin and lime coloured walls splashed with huge paintings are slick, modern and smart without being overly showy.
It's noisy and hectic downstairs so prepare to be in a lively mood. Our hispanic waiter, who started us off with an intriguing sounding, but too sweet, purple corn juice blended with cinnamon, apple and pineapple was funny, engaging, knowledgeable and charming as he guided us through the menu and answered our questions.

We were almost full before the appetizers even arrived because we couldn't stop eating the oily, irresistible foccacia that kept our mouths from doing any serious girls' night nattering. Expecting a similar reaction to the bread on our second visit a few weeks later, we were disappointed that this time it was dry, pale and lacking the flavour it has previously displayed. Oh well, at least we could catch up on the gossip instead.

So we wondered, does the novelty of 'new' wear off on a second visit to any restaurant? We have often been blown away on an initial dining experience, only to find a subsequent return less exciting. On our second visit to Limon, the tuna tartar, mixed with diced pears, roasted bell peppers, pine nuts and sesame oil aji amarillo vinaigrette, for example, was good, but somehow not quite the strong favourite it had been the first time round. Sometimes we wish we could experience two review visits side by side and compare a forkful of food from one, then the other, just to be sure.

One thing we are quite sure about, however, is that the Lomo Saltado, a traditional Peruvian dish of Top Sirloin slices with onions, tomatoes and fries, served with a side of rice. The succulent meat tastes overwhelmingly buttery, in a very good way. Fries, cut thick so you are in no doubt they are made of potato and not in the slightest bit crispy are not what you might expect. But if, like us, you have any sympathies towards English food whatsoever, you'll love the way they are soaking in the tomato gravy, getting all soggy and sopping up the flavours. We would return for this one dish over and over again.

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We'd be even more likely to return if they sub us, as they so kindly did on our second visit, the stir fried coconut rice from the side of the Pargo Rojo, a deep fried whole red snapper basket (pictured above). Although it doesn't actually pair in the slightest bit well with the steak, this rice is so sweet and crave-inducing and the accompanying rocoto curry sauce is so mouthwatering, we would be tempted to order this, the most expensive dish on the menu, again, even though the fish itself tastes like fried cardboard. It looks pretty though, so perhaps we could take it home as a gift for a neighbour (or their cat) and simply indulge in the vegetarian components of the dish instead? It would probably be the world's most expensive plate of rice but it's almost good enough to be worth it.

PS This review was Back for Seconds

PPS. What is my problem - I find it much harder to write a restaurant review when everything is just fine and nothing interesting or out of the ordinary happens. Usually 'things' happen to me which can become a focus of my writing. When they don't, then, well, I think I just get a bit lost along the way...

Pat Robertson’s Stupid Remarks - A Setback in the War on Terror By The Political Heretic

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On Monday Christian Right activist and television broadcaster Pat Robertson called on United States Special Froces to kill Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.The leftist leader of the oil-rich South American country is a known adversary of ours. President Chavez aligns himself with the communist dictator in Cuba, Fidel Castro, and has on several occasions accused us of trying to remove him from power.

Pat Robertson, however, went further than that on his show "The 700 Club" two days ago. He said Mr. Chavez would like to serve as a "launching pad" for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism, two charges that so far are unsubstantiated and he since the Venezuelan president talks about our assassination attempts we should prove him right and get rid of him. It would, in his view, save lives to remove him covertly than through a war as we did with Saddam Hussein.

I admittedly would have enjoyed to poke some fun at this known adversary of mine. This blogger, as a gay man, finds some delight whenever Christian Right activists like Pat Robertson makes a fool of him or herself. As the editorial board for The Washington Post notes, Mr. Robertson has made a fool of himself before. He said God would punish Florida with some hurricanes if Disneyworld, Orlando hosted gay pride events, wished for the nuclear bombing of our own State Department, nodded in agreement when fellow right-wing nut Reverend Jerry Falwell said God "lifted the veil" for the World Trade Center bombings (because we are a hedonistic country that tolerates abortion, feminism and gays) and wished enough ill will to force some liberal and moderate Supreme Court justices into retirement (the editorial board forgot to mention that one)

Mr. Robertson's latest journey into stupidity cannot be dismissed or laughed off so easily. The president, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and a spokesperson for the State Department have distanced themselves from Pat Robertson's remarks. Pat Robertson himself, realizing how grossly irresponsible his remarks were, at first attempted to deny suggestions that he called for the Venezuelan president's assassination (oh yes, there are other ways to "take a person out" but only if you don't use the word "assassination" in the same or preceding sentence) but has since apologized for words "spoken in frustration."
But the damage was done. The editorial board writers for The Washington Post say he gave Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a rhetorical gift and indeed he has. Few would make the distinction between the words of a private citizen and the words of the administration spokespersons when he is perceived to speak for a significant part of the president's voter base. And given that our first amendment freedoms far surpass that of even our staunchest and most democratic of allies, those who do not live in our country may not even think that such a distinction is allowed.

Mr. Chavez can, as the editorial board writers note, "confirm" the worst of his "suspicions", and use that to portray us as an imperalist-driven hegemon that the other Latin American countries should regard with suspicion. Fidel Castro, no doubt, will do the same.

The damage extends way beyond Latin America, however, for Al Qaeda could use his statements as a rallying point as would the Sunni insurgents who are calling for our withdrawal from Iraq. They now have a new weapon in their arsenal. Since we have failed to locate the very "weapons of mass destruction" that justified our invasion of their country to begin with, Islamic fundamentalists and former Baathists will use his comments to cast further suspicions on our motives for removing Saddam Hussein. Iran's new radical president could use the remarks as a pretext from withdrawing from future talks on nuclear weapons, and the North Korean dictator may use these statements to confirm his paranoia regarding our supposed efforts to to topple his government.

Mr. Robertson could not apologize enough for his statements. In calling for Mr. Chavez' assassination he reminded the United States' adversaries of and perhaps confirmed, the worst of their suspicions towards our foreign policy. The president's supporters no doubt must repudiate Mr. Robertson for his grossly irresponsible remarks but the loyal opposition must as well. Whether we agree with the president's strategy or not, Mr. Robertson cast in doubt our motives in this war on terror. President Bush's term in office (and consequently his strategy for waging this war on terror) will come to an end in two years, but the suspicions harbored by the leaders in the "Third World" developing countries and potential allies in future endeavors will linger on.

Merely a Link to a Free Speech Column By The Political Heretic

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Richard Cohen surprises me, comes out of his partisan shell and swings against hate crime legislation.

"I do not find it hard to believe that the accused in both cases may be first-class bigots. I just find it beside the point. Beating someone with baseball bats and iron pipes has long been against the law. Assault is a crime. Battery is a crime. Murder in all its gradations is a crime. What does it matter what words are spoken in the course of the crime? Is the injury to the victim greater?

Ah, but we are told it is not only the injury to the victim that matters but the injury to the community as well. A hate crime affects an entire group. I suppose sometimes it does. But so does ordinary crime. When a rapist is loose in a particular neighborhood, all women are affected. When criminals stalk the park, everyone keeps out. In that sense, hate crimes just affect a different -- or another -- group. I understand. But it is a dangerous concept. It punishes speech. It punishes thought. It punishes on account of the word blurted out in the heat of the moment -- maybe not an indication of bigotry but merely what comes to mind when the mind itself is engulfed with rage."
- Richard Cohen

Holy Google, Batman! By Sashi

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So now, in addition to Google search, Google mail, Google desktop, Google blogs, Google ads, Google Earth, etc… we have another new buzz-product joining Google’s beta family: Google Talk.

Do people even remember a time when Google was a misspelled word for ‘googol‘?

It’s not so much that so many Google stuff is being lapped up and hyped by so many people, it’s that Google has embedded itself so deeply in to our (i.e. the ones who’re lucky enough to be connected to the web) collective consciousness, that it’s not a brand name anymore, but a verb.

We don’t search anymore - we google.

Right now, googling simply means looking something up on the net. Who knows, in years - decades - to come, it might mean a heck of a lot more….

“Bon voyage! Don’t forget to googletalk me when you get there!”

“When you reach Times Square, google around for a tall building covered in glass. My office is inside…”

“Why is your bed so untidy, young man? Google it THIS INSTANT!”

“A young couple were detained today by a policeman in Ipoh for googling suggestively in a public area.”

“Are you out of your googling mind? You googling idiot! GOOGLE OFF!”

And so on…

Any more examples/possibilities?

Kirk Bage's Movie Review - The Life Aquatic

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By Kirk Bage

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What do a three legged dog, a Portuguese Bowie fan and Willem Dafoe with a German accent have in common? Welcome to the world of Wes Anderson - the modern day epitome of that fine line between a genius and a lunatic.

If Bill Murray in a red bobble hat and flippers doesn't immediately make you chuckle, then the weird and wonderful tale of over-the-hill oceanographer / adventurer Steve Zissou is not for you. If, however, Anderson's previous works: Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums filled you with wonder and a rediscovered sense of values long lost, then, despite its wayward script you will love this. I am a big fan of Anderson's best traits - his minute attention to detail, that leave his films almost overwhelmingly produced; his impeccable taste and sense of film music (including his collaboration with composer Mark Mothersbaugh, again in top form here); his sense of juvenile fun; the range of interesting characters he creates to inhabit his off-centre worlds, and the use of some of the best actors around to bring it all to life! Murray and Defoe I've mentioned - and both are excellent, especially the latter who sends himself up in the most beautifully subtle way - but there is also Anderson ever present Owen Wilson, the amazingly diverse Cate Blanchett, the underused Noah Taylor, Jeff Goldblum, Anjelica Huston and, for good measure, a deliciously daffy cameo from Michael Gambon!

How does he do it on an arthouse budget? The answer must simply be that Hollywood's best are falling over themselves to work with him - and why not? Even though I felt this was weaker than both Rushmore and the Tenenbaums, both in story and emotional impact, there are brief scenes and snatches of dialogue that just light you up! It's one of those things that you either ‘get’ or you don't, and therefore I can completely forgive the many bad reviews it got on initial release - But trust me - on DVD this has enough energy and pure creativity per frame to keep it a cult classic for generations. A filmmaker, not at the very top of his game, but certainly one in the highest echelon of "ones to watch". 7/10

The Michael Owen Saga By Sashi

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Aizuddin isn’t the only one glued to news updates on the Owen transfer saga.

From the first moment when Owen left Liverpool to join Real Madrid, I harbored secret hopes that he would return eventually to Anfield - kinda like how Rushie returned from a single-season spell at Juventus back in 1988.

Now, after a single - yet reasonably successful for a regular benchwarmer - season at Real, Owen’s coming back to England. Of this, there can be no longer any doubt.

Real want to cash in on player sales to recoup some of their outlay on recent Brazilian imports. And Owen will be the one to sacrifice. He has accepted this. He is moving. But where to?

Caroline Cheese (BBC) points out the clever game being played by Michael Owen and (presumably) his advisors.

His press statements have had the general effect of keeping everybody happy and yet on tenterhooks.

And his most recent statement - where he quite clearly indicates that his preferred destination is Liverpool, while Newcastle would only be a second-choice LOAN option - has had the effect of galvanizing supporters from both clubs.

Newcastle, as we have observed this season, are having a bit of a problem finding the goal. Since the laws of football prevent players stopping in the middle of the game to ask for directions, Newcastle manager Graeme Souness has decided it would be a better, albeit very expensive, option to sign a player who could find the back of the net while moonwalking backwards blindfolded.

The transfer fee mooted by Newcastle’s “dynamic” *snigger* duo is believed to be in the region of £ 17 million, breaking their previous club - and one-time world - record for a transfer fee.

And if Owen was to sign up with the Toon Army, he is very likely to find himself in the starting line-up quite regularly, possibly partnering the grand old master Shearer himself.

But you know what? I’m not so sure that a Shearer-Owen partnership would be very fruitful - not now, anyway. The little-and-large routine might have worked a few years ago, but I’m beginning to think that Shearer has passed his prime now. He should have retired like he said last season. He’s entering Sheringham-territory now - although there is no doubting his inspirational value for the club, and maybe for that reason alone, he is worth keeping at the club for a season or two.

But as a strike partner for Owen, I suspect Newcastle need someone else - which might explain their decision in purchasing Albert Luquefrom Deportivo for £ 9.5 million.

And in case Owen decides to skip Newcastle’s offer, at least the Magpies will have a new striker anyway.

But what of Liverpool? Owen’s admission that he wants to return to Anfield has undoubtedly put Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez in a tight spot. He has stated time and again that his preferred targets are a centre-back and a right-winger. And with Cisse, Morientes, Crouch, and Sinama-Pongolle on the roll call, another striker is not a major priority.

Or is it? Those of us who have been watching the Reds’ performances recently will be slightly worried at our own strike problems. The fact that our leading goal scorer is a midfielder (Stevie G) points to the inability of our strikeforce to get in the groove. But of course, it is still early days, and most strike pairings require some time before the players gel. But is that a risk worth taking? Especially with the transfer window closing on 31st August, after which all speculation and wishful thinking and 20/20 hindsight becomes moot, at least until January.

Lyon boss and Liverpool managerial alumni Gerard Houllier has already expressed his interest in Cisse, and has money to burn following the sale of Essien to Chelski. And it is possible that only by selling a striker can Rafa move for another striker.

Indeed, The Times are reporting that Liverpool CEO has already had discussions with two French clubs over a possible Cisse transfer deal.

Seriously, I like Cisse and all, but I can’t wait forever for him to find the net. Besides, it’s becoming clearer that the Cisse-Morro combo isn’t working too well. Too bad Crouch is out injured, so we can’t fully determine how well he works with the other strikers, although initial reports of his performances during the Champions League qualifiers have been encouraging.

If Rafa does succumb to the supporters’ (and apparently the board of directors‘) wishes and makes a move for Owen, there are still many factors to consider and loose ends to tie up: the type of transfer (permanent, loan), transfer fee (if any), wage packet, etc.

And all this will have to be sorted out by 31st August.

So let’s get a move on, Rafa. Bring the boy man home. Let’s give him something to celebrate this Merdeka…


Newcastle chief in Owen ultimatum[BBC Sport]

Time running out for Owen deal - Toon chief [Soccernet]

Magpies on brink of Luque signing [BBC Sport]

Inside Michael’s mind [BBC Sport]

Liverpool ready for approach to rescue Owen [The Independent]

Liverpool might gamble on Owen [The Telegraph]

Parry steps up chase for Owen with Cissé offer[The Times UK]

Liverpool finally break cover for Owen[The Guardian]

Mike’s Musings - The Rock Alarm

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By Mike

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For me, there is no sound more unappealing than the sound of an electric alarm clock. I know that there are many different alarms with many different tones of varying degrees of abrasiveness, but they all sound the same to me.

They all sound like handicapped robots.
Who are upset about something.
I can't deal with this.

That's why I use a radio alarm; there are more variables.
Whether you are aware of it or not, the course of your day can be drastically altered depending on what song is playing the exact moment you wake up.

A great song will always get you up immediately.
"I can't hit Snooze. not during 'Don't Fear the Reaper'!"
Ever roll out of bed playing air guitar?
It's a good feeling.

Sometimes you'll luck out and catch a string of great tunes.
Just last week I was awakened by The Cars' 'Just What I Needed', one of my favorite songs. This alone would've resulted in some excellent wakeage, but the fact that it was followed by the new Foo Fighters song, which was followed by Mountain's 'Mississippi Queen' which was immediately and awesomely followed by Van Halen's 'Hot For Teacher', made for one of the more triumphant mornings I've had in quite some time.

Of course, there's also the dark end of the rock alarm spectrum.
A shitty song right off the bat can put a serious taint on what might have been a fresh and exciting new day.

Usually when this happens I smack the alarm with a cranky, hung over vengeance, sometimes unplugging it from the wall and causing me to sleep (unsoundly) for several more hours. The Barenaked Ladies have caused me to be late for work more than once. and let's say it's (worse case scenario) Bob Fucking Seger, I'll stay in bed all goddamned day, hating the world and everything in it. I'd actually prefer the squealing of mistreated handicapped robots to Bob Fucking Seger.
But hey, sometimes these things happen.

And sometimes you get the middle ground and wake up to a commercial or a weather report or some bland, inconsequential crap rockers like Creedbox 20 or something.

These may not affect your day the way 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' would, but hey, at least you're awake.

The point is it's the luck of the draw and it's all terribly exciting so get out there and start living dammit.

Awesomely yours,

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

NAACP Needs a New Title By Laurence Simon

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I was tinkering with anIFOC Newsstorywhen it hit me. NAACP stands for "The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People."

Yeah, I know, that's not a new thing. But not only is "colored" considered a politically incorrect and racist term in some circles, it's also incorrect. As George Carlin once pointed out, everybody has a color. And based on the various meetings and rallies I've seen (and one or two I've attended), the focus tends to be on a single range of heritage and culture we sometimes conveniently label as a "race."

So it's time to dump the "Colored" part of that acronym. Kiss it goodbye.

Furthermore, the name of the organization is too long. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. That's three junk words in the title that don't appear in the acronym. Kinda sloppy, don't you think?

However, everybody has their bookmarks and email addresses set for naacp.org. Don't want to mess that up. It's on a lot of letterhead and bumper stickers and probably a tattoo or three.

Ever have a tattoo changed? I've heard it's painful, and I don't want this process to be painful. I want to make it liberating, bold, and fresh.


So the challenge today is to come up with a respectful change of the acronym's meaning that also tightens it down to five words, one for each letter in the acronym.

Mine is:
National African-American Civic Partnership

Some variants I came up with:
National African-American Creators of Potential
National African-American Council of Partners