Saturday, March 27, 2004


Check out these breath-taking "Earth from Above" pictures! Amazing!

Friday, March 26, 2004

Get Salon!!

Every day I come across interesting, well-written, insightful articles on that remind me why the $30 annual subscription fee I paid is insanely low for the quality journalism I'm enjoying. Case in point, check out "A Tale of Two Miseries," an article by Gary Kamiya about life in the Middle East. Here are some excerpts.

"I have just spent two days with decent and intelligent people, Palestinians and Israelis, who because of the stupidity of their leaders and the shameful folly of my government are living a life I would not wish on a dog."

Life for the Palestinians:

"An Israeli military truck clatters by and I look up and for a second my eyes lock with those of a young soldier -- the kind of sensitive, skinny Jewish nerd with glasses I grew up with. What's a nice Jewish boy like you doing in a place like this? We ought to be playing hoops, you burning my ass with your slick fake to the hole and your automatic 17-foot J, or me turning you on to Nietzsche. History isn't supposed to come out like this. You deserve better, and so do these people you rule.
I met with Palestinian lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi, whose house is across the street from the Muqata. After a precise political analysis of the situation, this elegant and refined woman -- I believe she studied English literature -- gestured out across her well-appointed office in her nice modern building and said, 'We are in a state of collective pain and trauma constantly. Sitting here it's very deceptive. I'm traumatized. We all are. We need to step back, to have some normalcy, some semblance of real planning and serious thought. I have to steal the time to be able to think, to analyze, to write. Otherwise you're always in a mode of crisis management, in a mode of trying to overcome your own anger, your own sense of injustice, your own grievance, your own victimization. It's exhausting, it's debilitating. And yet I'm not the one whose house is demolished or children have been killed. My house has had to be renovated four times. We had our windows and doors blown in. We had the stones from the Muqata flying in. They destroyed the garden. And you have to keep rebuilding the garden, making your investment in life, as opposed to the death that you see. We keep planting trees on the sidewalk, and they keep uprooting them, and we keep replanting them. It's a battle, but you have to show that you have a commitment to life.'
Many of these things are of course of far greater significance than a simple checkpoint. But it is the checkpoint that I will remember, because it's the only one I lived, if only for half an hour. It will remain, for me, a small vision of hell, like an obscure background in a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Those silhouetted figures with guns, that smell of diesel fuel, the debris, the blank look of poor people fumbling for their papers, making their way home. One of the outer circles of hell, to be sure. But I felt in my bones it was not right. And as an American, I will carry that memory as a badge of shame. Because I pay for it, I support it. That soldier in the twilight is me."

Life for the Israelis:

"Thursday, 1 p.m. I am driving through the modern, Jewish part of Jerusalem, with Eilat Negev and Yehuda Koren, two Israeli authors and journalists. They point out where the 1967 borders of Jerusalem were, where the city expanded on what was Jordanian territory. They take me to their neighborhood of Gilo, where Palestinian sniper fire from across the valley forced the authorities to build a bulletproof wall. 'We used to jog here,' Yehuda says. 'Now we don't anymore.' From the hilltop you can see the nearby town of Bethlehem. 'We used to drive there, go shopping -- they had really good markets,' he says. 'That was six or seven years ago. We can't anymore. We wouldn't dare go there.'
Eilat and Yehuda say that making the simplest decisions, like where to eat, or whether to go out at all, involves agonizing calculations. I know a little what they feel from my few days of ignorance, parachuting in full paranoid regalia into Israel two days after the biggest escalation in the conflict in years, pouring a few drinks down before wandering around the Old City at night. But it isn't the same, of course. "It isn't about how good the food is, or is there parking," he says. 'It's all about whether you think a bomber will go there. So you try to think --"Should I go late?" But you can never be sure.'
The sheer number of suicide attacks has dulled Israeli attitudes, Eilat says. 'People used to call from Tel Aviv after a bombing to see if we were OK. Now they don't.' Nor do TV and radio any longer stop all their programming for special programs for a whole evening after a bombing: 'You can have a bus bombing at 8, and by 10 the Miss World pageant or whatever is on again,' Yehuda says. In a tiny country like Israel, where everybody knows everybody, this is a monumental change."

What the US can do:

"But both the Palestinians and the Israelis I talked to agreed that there was one party who could break the deadlock: the United States. 'It's like two people fighting,' Yehuda said. 'You need someone from the outside to step in and break it up.' Every Palestinian I talked to agreed -- but most had become so despairing of a reasonable U.S. policy that they didn't even bother to bring it up. Clearly they'd grown weary of grasping at vain hopes. Mention of Bush brought a bitter grimace, sometimes the dark smile of a gunfighter. This man is detested."

Right now gift memberships are only $20 and include the following freebies: 6-month subscription to New York Review of Books, 1-year subscription to Wired, 1-year subscription to US News and World Report (which is a piece of shit, but the other freebies are well worth $20 though), and a bunch of more benefits. Let me know if you want to join.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The Office

I just watched the first six episodes of the BBC show "The Office." It's simply brilliant. The characters can be so deliciously evil and despicable and yet completely endearing. I love how the British can deliver such raunchy humor, full of clever sexual innuendos, without falling back on lazy cuss words.

Some choice quotes taken from a fan community on Orkut:

David: "At one time or another, every bloke here in the office has woken up at the crack of Dawn [the receptionist]."

David: "Well, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that Neil will be taking over both branches, and some of you will lose your jobs. Those of you who are kept on will have to relocate to Swindon, if you wanna stay. I know, gutting. On a more positive note, the good news is, I’ve been promoted, so....every cloud... You’re still thinking about the bad news aren’t you?"

David: "There are some things I would never laugh about. Like the handicapped. There's nothing funny about them. You know, someone's walking down the street and they see a little handicapped and they go 'ooh you're not able bodied'. Well I say 'You know, at least that little handicapped feller is able-minded'....Unless of course they're not; you can't really tell with the wheelchair ones.'"

Gareth: "People look at me, they say he's tough, he was in the army he's gonna be hard, by the book. But I am caring, and sensitive. Isn't Schindler's list a brilliant film?"

Gareth: "He put my stapler in the jelly again!"

Sunday, March 21, 2004


Instead of "there's a new weapon," the anchorwoman said, "There's a new whooping."

Oh the Memories

While walking past Dynasty, the fancy Chinese restaurant (bet you don't hear those three words together very often) on 48th and Lexington, I smiled as I reminisced the first and only time I dined in at that place. At the time, I had just moved to New York from California and Josh was the only person I knew relatively well, so I arranged to have lunch with him to catch up since we hadn't seen each other for a while. On the recommendation of my coworker, we went to Dynasty.

After we strolled in and checked out all the celebrity pictures on the wall (Arnold, Jet, Chow-Yun Fat, Clinton, just to name a few), as well as the classy decor, we were led to a table. We were both surprised to see all the $20 entrees listed on the menu. Now, Josh is one cheap bastard when it comes to food (nothing wrong with that of course). On top of that, he didn't have a steady job because he was about to start med school soon. Earlier on he had talked excitedly about the $40 (or was it $60) he made after having his blood drawn as part of the screening process for a drug clinical trial. He went all the way to Jersey to do this presceening and hoped to be admitted into the clinical trial so he could spend several days in the hospital being injected with this new experimental blood-thinning (or was it coagulating) drug. He was willing to go through all this for some amount like $1200, which of course isn't chump change, but I don't think I could have put up with all the discomforts and risks.

The bill came out to be around $25 per person. I felt like the biggest jack ass in the world and offered to pay for everything since I suggested this place. Of course, Josh didn't allow me and paid off his share with his blood money.

Now I feel a tinge of guilt every time I walk past Dynasty. On the other hand, I also find the whole incident extremely funny. I probably shouldn't bring this up when I ask Josh for free medical advice in 4 years.