Thursday, February 24, 2005

Ken Lay, spread your golden wings...

...Sail on freedom's wind across the sky.
Great man, with your golden dreams
Flying free, flying high!

I'm not sure which is more significant, Ken Lay's trial date finally being set for 17 January 2006 or the fact that the story didn't appear in a search on CNN's main website. I learned about it from Yahoo's In the News box on its front page, and the story it links to is from the Associated Press. CNN relegated its story to the CNNMoney site, but when I checked back a few minutes after clicking on the front-page link to the Lay story, the link had been replaced by one to a Greenspan story.

My guess is ratings. CNN doesn't want to alienate conservative viewers, who would see pushing a story of this sort as pursuing a liberal agenda. And putting the pope's surgery at the top of the news is bound to attract more viewers.

But maybe my negative feelings about Dubya's administration and financial connections make it harder for me to see that CNN is actually being balanced in its reporting. Perhaps a story about the suspects in a white-collar crime that occurred in October 2001 who will finally go to trial in January 2006 should appear in the business section. Its newsworthiness isn't insignificant, but it's not front-page either. Without the presidential connection, it's just another Wall Street Journal story about the fall of another king of industry.

But a
column by CNN's Mark Shields yesterday makes the whole thing seem as much Pennsylvania Avenue as Wall Street. Shields writes that Lay personally contributed $100,000 to the Bush campaign and $100,000 to the inaugural and provided corporate jets on 14 occasions during the campaign. Lay met with Cheney on the Energy Task Force in 2001 and successfully prevented price caps from being imposed. The connection between the White House and this white-collar criminal seems to be as close as Kenny Boy's and Dubya's hands down in each other's pockets.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Wait wait, dude!

That's an end-of-broadcast-day graphic in the last panel. Is Get Fuzzy leaving the airwaves too?? Aww, mannn! First Calvin and Hobbes and now Get Fuzzy. I'm not sure I like this New World Order.

At least Doonesbury and Opus are still with us.


Bush family implicated in assassination attempt on Garry Trudeau.
4 minutes ago
The former First Lady... Read more.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Noah, we have a problem



Saturday, February 19, 2005

The star-spangled dish towel

Here's a bit of iconoclasm for you: I've been bothered for a while by the design of the American flag.

Too many stars, too many stripes. It's just too busy.

Whenever I see a long row of flags from different countries waving in the breeze, I'm reminded again that the flag of the U.S. does not fit in. The other flag
designs utilize larger areas of solid color and as a result are stronger, better designs. The U.S. flag's red and white awning stripes produce a pattern that's too jittery, and the white stripes dilute and lighten the red so much that the flag stands out awkwardly when flanked by the substantial greens and reds and golds of other flags.

When you think about it, don't the awning stripes remind you of a dish towel or a bedspread or, well, an awning? I understand how the flag evolved and how it was a product of its context. The designers modified the busy-ness of the British flag, with its superimposed red crosses separated from the blue field by thick white margins. But the design coherence created by the central intersection of the crosses was lost by making all the stripes parallel and thrusting into them a starkly contrasting upper-left quadrant, or "canton." So, to remedy that, I propose several stronger designs.

This design draws on the elegant simplicity of the European Union flag, with its ring of small gold stars over a solid blue field. By vertically dividing the field here into two colors, the design seems to illustrate "Out of the original colonies has evolved a nation deeply divided into red states and blue states."

Keeping the divided field, I replaced the small stars with larger stars representing the three branches of government which tenuously hold together the "separate but equal" red and blue states.

This design should be easy to accept because it keeps the current flag intact and simply enlarges a segment of it from the right edge of the canton.

This is another design which enlarges a segment of the existing flag, this time from the bottom edge of the canton.

Reducing the height of the white stripes creates an equals sign (=) from the red stripes.

An important consideration in flag design is how it appears at a distance. The current flag's red and white stripes are so small and intricate at a distance that they dissolve into pink. I doubt many people in the U.S. would consciously choose to be represented by a pink flag.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Scandale! The familiar fragrance from White House

Scandale! is a complex, sensual mix of earthy Halliburton contracts in Nigeria, Kuwait, Iran and Iraq playing against the airy freedom of Enron's Ken Lay, exotic Bin Laden family investments and the muskiness of Mary Cheney's closet. Warm infusions of a CIA operative disclosure, Medicare cost coverup, and voter elligibility irregularities illumine the dark, cool undertones of weapons of mass destruction, with sparkling top-notes of columnist and radio-commentator payments.

Plus, our gift to you: "Jeff Gannon" dogtags, free with every purchase.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Drifting leisurely along the

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I keep waiting for to add my book, Life Doesn't Always, to the Search Inside the Book program. Nearly two months ago I sent a copy of the book for them to scan and upload, but the cover-thumbnail caption still reads "Publishers: learn how customers can search inside this book." I wonder if 736 pages was too much for the scanner and he just tossed it into the paper-recycling bin, thinking that his supervisor would never find out.

The book is made up of 13 episode scripts comprising the first season of a gay drama series. I describe writing it in "
Contemplating the Muslim Experience in America" and "Fiat Libri."

Here! Networks, one of the new gay cable-TV networks, is considering the drama series for development. They requested the pilot-episode script and a treatment of the remaining scripts a couple of months ago. I keep sending them little email reminders, like a joke referring to the central character ("An Amishman walks into a bar...") or a picture of a traffic greenlight. No response, but no rejection email either.

A quote from the book appropriate for today:
Who the heck was Valentine and what does he have to do with lace and chocolate for non-Catholics?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Dissecting a feral Irshad

My email to "SirBratty," GayArabs list owner:

Kind Sir!

Thanks so much for your reply! It really means a lot. I admittedly was kind of bummed out (Do they still say that? It probably dates back to the early 90s, or even the late 80s.) when you didn't answer my question about being included in the group hugz. I thought "Eh, the hugs are meant just for family." But I also was aware that my question could have been interpreted with a sexual meaning and I understood your not responding in that context. Anyway, thanks for the big smile and the group hug. I do think you should hold off on the "sweetheart" until you have a look at the picture of the grizzled old guy on my
Yahoo profile. :-)

As far as how you feel about Irshad Manji personally... (If you're not interested in discussing her, I understand. But if you do want to continue a discussion between friends about a controversial topic, read on.) It seems that people have been telling you exaggerated things about her lifestyle. However, all I know about her is what I've read in the book
The Trouble With Islam. It may be that she actually is a witch who eats puppies or something and she presents a very artificial, cleaned-up image of herself in her book. I don't know. I have only the book as a reference. But, in the book itself, she's advocating a way of life that isn't much different than what you described: an Imam abruptly answers NO...NO GOOD and leaves you hanging there clueless, and you want to say to him "When somene asks for help, provide alternative ways or thoughts that might be a source of comfort. Don't shut the door in my face." Thinking like that seems to be exactly what Irshad wants you to do. As I understand the book, she's trying to get Muslims to stop passively accepting the rude brush-off from the Imam who doesn't like the question he's been asked. It's the passive conformity that she's trying to change.

Maybe going back to her book would be useful? I don't know. I'd recommend skipping the letter to fellow Muslims at the beginning of the book. Reading the letter, I get the feeling that she has jumped into the middle of the argument. She hits the ground running and immediately starts swatting at everything, and it could be that a lot of Muslims never get past page 3 because of it. Her approach could use a lot more easing gently in before grabbing both horns of a controversial topic. But as far as Irshad being a person who advocates the destruction of Islam and the adoption of an if-it-feels-good-do-it lifestyle, I don't see that in the book.

If you're wondering about the reason I joined GayArabs, I'm definitely not looking for sex. (I'm actually one of those rare guys who don't like sex, but...that's another Yahoo group.) I'm just there to learn. Someday I'd like to have a Muslim friend or two in Los Angeles to have long, rambling discussions with, but that's a luxury. Learning from the posts on GayArabs is quite interesting.

(Quick shoulder-squeeze)


Bonzo DaBrat wrote:
You are more than welcome to join us any time you like sweet heart. And thank you for your contribution. I'm actually glad that you mentioned that topic because I'm a bit curious about what other people think about her work. From all spects, not just religion..!! Life!!!

Irshad has definitely stepped up, at least for herself, because she strongly believes in her purpose in life; to enlighten or educate and may be take a chance and put the Arab culture under the spot light facing homosexuality and by doing that she is sending signals for the Muslim community including its leaders to take an action and get their lazy buns and come up with some way we -gay people- can live comfortably finding ways to reconcile homosexuality with our Arab culture or even Islam.

Please allow me to rephrase what I said cuz I think I have managed to confuse myself too.. heheeh.. Think of it this way, when you so seek your best friend for advise, doesn't that friend extend his/her arms to you and hold you and try to help you by showing you how you can be strong and how you can ride this hardship wave then land safely and enjoy the beach ?? Wouldn't a best friend do that ? Well, here is the problem, when we go to our Imams or Mosques, what we get is NO..NO GOOD.. that is it.. They say no, no good and leave you hanging there clueless. Like "talk to that hand".. Deep inside of you, you wanna say "When somene asks for help, provide alternative ways or thoughts that might be source of comfort. Don't shut the door at my face and treat me like that because you have a political agenda that is nothing but "victimizing" gay people. Happens everywhere even in the US. Gay politics is a soar point in the US and so it in many different countries.

So, what Irshad is doing in a way is good because she is forcing those "leaders" to speak up and even start a conversation and find how we can live in our own home land and not suffer because we are gay. now THAT is great!! I admire a person who would take that step and start digging for the truth knowing that he/she will face "piles" of hardships down the line.

And if you think about it, most of the great leaders who spoke the truth faced harsh reaction as a consequence. Ask Prophets Mohammed (PBUH), Jesus (PBUH) and Moses (PBUH) and so many other leaders..even political ones. They all believed in their cause. So I admire her courageous steps, I'm just afraid she is not using a way of life that I would feel comfortable with, neither believe in it. If that made any sense at all ?!!..hehhe.. anyway.. that's what I think.. talk to you later babes.. (group hugz)

GayArabs List Owner

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa God

I have yet to meet a person with deep faith who isn't smug. It baffles me. Striving to be Christlike or to closely follow the teachings of the Prophet or to deeply understand the Torah...results in smugness? I don't get the connection.

Here's a test: Say "There is no God" to a person of deep faith. The response invariably will be a beatific smile and a patient, condescending expression. The person will say something like "But the evidence is all around you." If you respond with "But the evidence all around us generally points away from the existence of God rather than toward it" and try to back it up with a few details from astronomy, geology or quantum physics, the believer will simply become more serene and patient. Press the issue with a lot of details from science and introduce some logical reasoning, and the believer simply pities you, his or her expression reading You poor dummy. The evidence is all around you but you're too dumb to see it. I'm smart enough to have found God. I could help you find Him, but you're too dumb to let me.


I imagine exchanges like that occurred numerous times between fans and the
evangelical volunteers at the Super Bowl on Sunday.

But it would seem more credible to me if deep faith produced humbleness rather than gentle arrogance. And honest appraisal instead of serene confidence. Any intelligent person should be able to accept that faith is "faith" precisely because its tenets can't be proven. Smugly asserting that every belief has already been proven doesn't seem realistic.

My suspicion is that people have a deep need for the identity that a faith provides. It's not what the faith teaches, it's who the faith allows the believer to be. People belong to a religion because the belonging is important to them, not because there is a compelling logic to the beliefs. If they were to discard that "membership," they would feel like orphans with no identity, no connections to anyone else.

I recently learned about Julia Sweeney's one-woman show,
Letting Go of God, at the Hudson Backstage Theater in Los Angeles. At first I thought it was impossible that there was a show about atheism/agnosticism and that the title must refer to not holding onto God so tightly but taking steps on one's own while God hovers nearby. But after reading about it on the website, I see that it really does mean no longer believing in God. In the following quote from a review, the last sentence, "It's because I take you so seriously that I can't bring myself to believe in you," really resonates with me.

Kendt noted that "the humbly sage Sweeney has needling questions that can't be swatted away... While she scores some easy, flawlessly deadpan laughs at the expense of Mormonism, Deepak Chopra, astrology and Catholicism, the tradition she says she was happily raised in, she is after much bigger game than cheap disdain. As she says to an imaginary God she's at last parting with near show's end: 'It's because I take you so seriously that I can't bring myself to believe in you.'"

That is it exactly. If the devout Christian, Muslim, Jew were to take his faith absolutely seriously, gentle arrogance and serene confidence would not be the result.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The ripple effect from the West Bank

Since the Palestinian conflict seems to be the actual epicenter of most Arab conflicts, perhaps the cease-fire agreed to by Abbas and Sharon today will have a ripple effect that will reach Baghdad.

However, CNN's
Ben Wedeman says that
any hopes of a breakthrough could easily be shattered by a wrong move. There is fear on both sides that a suicide bombing, a killing, any sort of incident, could throw the budding diplomatic thaw into the deep freeze.

I do wonder whether the soldiers on both sides will be able to let go. The peace following a war can be a traumatic time for soldiers. Many (most?) have a hard time adapting to the dullness of ordinary life after the intensity of combat. It would be tragically ironic if nothing more than simple, addictive adrenaline keeps the conflict going.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

If Jesus returned during the Super Bowl

I hear howling. It's drifting in through my closed window from the other apartment buildings nearby. The game is still on.

Now, what I want to know is, if Jesus' return occurred during a particularly important play in the fourth quarter, what would the fans do? Would there be a huge collective "Awwwww" heard throughout the land? What would the players do, the ones who kneel in prayer after a touchdown? Christ splits open the sky just as a crucial play begins that could potentially decide the outcome of the game, and the players look skyward and shout "Wait! Wait! Just let us finish this play, okay?"

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

American graffiti in Liberty Square

Of all the animatronic figures in the Hall of Presidents in Disney World, I wonder if Dubya's is the most vandalized. I wouldn't be surprised if he averages about three eggs per month.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Will Disney close Canada at Epcot?

If Canada joins Belgium and the Netherlands in legalizing same-sex marriages, will Disney shut down the Canada pavilion at Epcot? I know a lot of visitors will boycott the attraction if the legislation passes. I can easily picture mothers pushing strollers quickly past the attraction in a huff, one shoulder up and their nose pointed up and away from the architectural replicas and gardens, as if they can't fathom the disgrace Canada has brought upon itself. Perhaps to prevent guests from being upset by the mere sight of the attraction, Disney will plant a grove of huge pine trees overnight to obscure it. Suddenly—poof!—Canada's gone.

You really think it's unlikely? When Paul Reubens was arrested in 1991, Pee Wee Herman vanished from Disney-MGM Studios. Poof!

For more information, go to
Canadians for Equal Marriage. For more of what I think about the defense-of-marriage issue, take a look at my other blog.