Thursday, July 27, 2006

MIDDLE EAST POLITICS

I despair of the worldview coming out of the Middle East these days. Of course, Lebanon is a mess. I really hope that the dogs of war can be leashed again there and soon. There’s definitely something to be said for the military (any military, IMHO) believing that that every problem is a nail that their hammer can fix. I wonder if Israel is at the limits of what military options can achieve. Of course, I’m not suggesting there was any other choice but to raise the stakes in Lebanon. Contrary to what the big fuss is about – rockets- I believe the stakes were raised for one reason alone: kidnapping. If the one-two punch of targeted kidnapping of Israeli soldiers in Gaza and the Lebanese border were tolerated, kidnapping would have become the new normative situation. This is what the state of Israel cannot, under any circumstances, tolerate. The price for such behavior must make this option be removed from the table by Hezbollah and Hamas. The limited rocket attacks could have continued to be tolerated in the interest of allowing the nascent Lebanese democracy to take hold. Pity the war-torn Lebanese normal people; they are hostages to the situation as are the Israelis. Shifting gears slightly, I can’t abide or understand any attempt to equalize Hezbollah, it’s leadership or tactics with that of Israel, a sovereign state with a proper chain of command and a healthy, vibrant public discourse on all aspects of its political actions -healthier even than, say, the U.S. To somehow insinuate that Israel is acting wantonly and immorally regarding her latest actions is to truly believe that Israel and the U.S., with their respective moral compasses, are as bloodthirsty and chauvinistic as the enemies who foisted the fight upon us.

IRAQ is a an unqualified mess. Civil society – in the capital at least- has been completely rendered asunder. Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear to me that the insurgency/terrorists/anarchists have won this battle: the have succeeded in turning Iraqi society against itself. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, the uranium has gone critical on this one, people. Whatever happens next in Baghdad would fall under the category of fixing what’s (very) broken and no longer preventing the fracture in the first place. Even the hawk Ralph Peters ponders whether Pandora can be put back into her box. Unfortunate. Let the blame game begin. While I support our President’s moral compass and feel he got the big picture right, Mr. Bush and his inner circle seems to lack the ability to adjust meaningfully to the situation on the ground. Of course, credit must be given to Iraqi (lack of) leadership as well for this, but the U.S. was in the unique position to recognize the vacuum and do something about it.

DEAN: I'm not neccesarily saying he's wrong, just that he's an idiot (for saying it). In a nutshell, Howard Dean is symptomatic of a Democratic party that can't get it's act together. Troubling. We need a healthy two-party system to survive and the inept Democratic party leadership isn't helping. It sometimes seems the rational wing of the DNC is waiting for Prince Obama to grow up. We can't wait that long, Rome is burning folks!

UPDATE: If you doubt the importance of transparency and healthy political discourse in society, here's an interesting contrast: An Arab "Peace" Demonstration (their left) vs. an Israeli peace demonstration.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

THE CLOSER

Watched an episode of “The Closer” last night on TNT. Overall, not a bad cop drama, but no new ground broken over the myriad other cop dramas available. Is the whole show designed to lead up to when Kyra Sedgewick’s character gets her suspects into the interrogation room and games them into giving themselves up? Clever, but not enough to keep me as a return viewer. In sum: good, but doesn’t rise above the crop for me to add it to my DVR program schedule.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

ANTI-FOLK

This morning I played connect the dots. Follow along: I’m reading about Microsoft’s pending new music arrival “Zune” that will directly target the iPod juggernaut. The article on news.com specifically mentions a whimsical teaser site for Zune, which I dutifully visit. The site is cute, but the tune playing, “Us” by Regina Spektor, is catchy. I’m hooked. Her voice sounds a lot like Bjork’s. I google Regina Spektor. It turns out Ms. Spektor is a Russian-Jewish √©migr√© from New York City. Wikipedia says that she has prodigious songwriting talent and –as is often the case with former Soviets- possesses excellent classical chops and musical parents. I’m listening to the full version of “Us” and “Survival Guide to Soviet Kitsch” on her website now. (Click on the video section of the site.) For some reason (actually, I know the reason, can you guess?) I wonder if Ms. Spektor and Mila Kunis have ever met. Reading her wikipedia page, I see that there’s something called the “New York Anti-folk scene.” There’s an anti folk movement? I need to read more about this! Well, there’s a link to the anti-folk wikipedia page. And, of course, the obligatory antifolk.net. (I suppose antifolk.com would be too deliciously ironic.) This is fascinating. I think I may delve into this musical genre some more. Stay tuned…

Friday, July 14, 2006

BIRD 911

Prompted by this vignette.

Unfortunately, bird rescue never worked for me. When I was nine, I tried to save a baby sparrow that I found. I even called the Bronx Zoo (THE zoo if you live in New York) for tips on how to feed it. When it died I was so devastated that my Dad (OB"M) promised me I could have a parakeet for my tenth birthday if I so wanted one. [Parenting lesson: insist on a cooling off period before pet ownership for a child.] On the day of my birthday (around six months later) I made him take me to the pet store (Erev Shabbos) and we bought Sir Chirpalot. He lived five years and died about a month after my Dad passed away.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

WORST PREDICTIONS COME TRUE

When the current crisis in Israel and Gaza erupted, I feared that kidnapping would become the preferred new terror tactic. This morning it appears that the nightmare has become true. My predictions: For Israel to make any impact regarding the Lebanon affair, they'll have to push through the border area which is a no man's land controlled by Hizbullah into the Lebanese heartland, where the government holds sway. That's the only way to pressure Lebanon into reigning in Hezbollah, which by Michael Totten's accounts (if memory serves) most Lebanese regard as the crazy cousin that they let roam free in the border area and try to ignore.

BOOK TITLES

I've had a longstanding fascination with a fictitious book title I made up many years ago: The Rapes of Grath. I haven't been able to come up with a treatment (industry speak for basic script plotline) but I've always been in love with the title. I've just added a new title (sans plot) to my repertoire: Neil Before God. Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, July 10, 2006

TWO WORDS REDUX

So, this weekend my lower right quadrant (of my mouth) started aching and even I, layman that I am, could clearly see a hole in my molar that I could drive a car through. Sigh, time to visit the dentist again. After much injecting of the novocaine and drilling of the enamel, the verdict was in: yet another root canal -this one even more severe than the first. Apparently, the decay was so bad under an old filling that, when done, the tooth will end below the gumline, neccesitating some reconstructive gum surgery to prepare for an eventual crown after the pulpectomy is done. I feel like the unlucky homeowner that starts having his bathroom replaced only to learn that -natch- the floorbeams are cracked and need to be replaced (true story, that, ask my Mom.) Then the contractor leaves with a gaping hole in the living room ceiling with a beautiful vantage point of porcelain, only to disappear for three weeks without a forwarding number. (Same true story.) When I'm done I at least hope the good doctor has the decency to name a wing in his office after me. Or tell his kids who paid for their fancy tuition.

FUNNYMEN

He's alive, and I chuckle whenever I see his picture. He's dead, and he's missed. (Hat Tip: Digg.)

VERY COOL: NASA footage of shuttle rocketing away from discarded booster from booster POV (point of view)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

ZOOTOPIA

Took my family to the Queens Zoo yesterday. Nice little park. The theme for the park seems to be endangered species, which is a bit of a downer. For some reason there seemed to be more going on with the local fauna than the animals on display, which were mostly dozing in the noon heat. Except for the sheep, that is. They were lining up with military precision for some mysterious reason and bleating away. The rabbits and birds hiding in the bushes, though, were far more animated. Behold the amazing Oreo Cow!

YOU CAN'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP DEPT.: Brooklyn: Crowd Attacks Driver After Accident (NYTimes, free registration req'd. Article will/may expire.)