Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Darfur has officially frozen over

Angelina Jolie, fresh off her official adoption of the nation of Namibia, has set her sights on loftier goals, writing an op-ed in the Washington Post advocating intervention to stop the conflict in Darfur.

Yes, that's right, the Washington Post. A publication that actually has a crease in the middle that you have to unfold in order to read it. Presumably, the op-ed doesn't contain a sidebar enumerating her top 10 favorite cures for dysentery.

Read the op-ed here.

Biblical Wednesday IV

Fortuna has chosen a particularly choice quotation for today's Biblical Wednesday. We are blessed with a passage from the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostle, to be precise. It is, in many ways, the Only Built 4 Cuban Linx of the Christian texts (or should I say Only Built 4 Cuban Linx is the Acts of the Apostle of the Wu-Gambino collective?) in that its narrative is the most cinematic and visceral.

Here, we do not have the incessant drone of St. Paul, firing off his bulls and letters to various gentiles like the Epheisians, or Gallatians, and most odiously, to the Corinthians (twice!), hectoring us about the risen Christ and all that. No, this book, much like a Hollywood blockbuster, is instead a sequel to the Gospel of Luke, expounding on how, after Jesus got capped, the Apostle-mafia brought the ruckus to the Roman Empire. This is the book Michael Bay would have written if he ever decided to go biblical. And the following quotation captures the action-packed, ghetto-fabulous flavor of this book; specifically how a Saint (I think it is Paul) gets into a rumble with some disrespecting, playa-hating Grecians:

And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Acts 9:29.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is there a de facto national flat tax?

This article alleges that if one takes into consideration all the taxes we pay, including federal and state income tax, payroll, property, and sales, no matter which income bracket you find yourself in, you pay a marginal tax rate of about 40%.

Pretty interesting article. Read it here. [Hat-tip to Metafilter]

Monday, February 26, 2007

I-Tunes Catches A Piano Plagiarist

Pianist Joyce Hatto was known as a middling pianist until, in 1989, she released a Liszt album that began, what was then thought to be, one of the greatest late career renaissances in classical music history. She later expanded her repertoire to cover the entirety of Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Schubert, Schumann, Messiaen, and Prokofiev (making the breadth of her recordings larger than any but a handful of pianists). Her playing was particularly astounding, because her style would adapt and change with each performance, as if she became a different person for each piece. This has been revealed to be more true than previously realized.

A reader of the magazine Gramaphone reported that after attempting to play one of Hatto's recordings in his computer, his I-Tunes program identified the CD as an album recorded by Laszlo Simon, a Hungarian pianist. After listening to both, a critic from the magazine discovered that the recordings were identical. After further investigations, it has turned out that every single album she released since 1989 were rip-offs of recordings made by less established and younger performers. And this from a pianist once called "the greatest living pianist almost no one has heard of."

To read more, read here.

The Gramophone Magazine Expose is here.

[Hat-tip to Arts and Letters Daily]

AB's Blog Post

Since, as many of you know, AB refuses to start a blog, I have taken it upon myself to do the dirty work for her. The post comprises of a series of top 10 lists related towards Jewish-American life. Here is a sample:

Top 7 Jews Who Tried to Be Goyim
7. Karl Marx
6. Benjamin Disraeli
5. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
4. Bob Irsay
3. Arthur Hays Sulzberger
2. Bob Dylan
1. George Allen

For more, click here.

Strom Thurmond's Family Once Owned Sharpton's Kin

Ex-segregationist and Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond's ancestor, Julia Thurmond, allegedly owned Coleman Sharpton, the great-grandfather of the Reverend Al Sharpton.

Strange but true. The article is here. [Hat-tip to Metafilter].

Sharpton's reaction to the news is here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Taxgirl Blog

For all you lovers of the Internal Revenue Code, this is a link to a relatively highly regarded tax blog written by a Philadelphia tax attorney. I looked at it quickly, and though I understand some of it, the breadth of the blog's coverage goes beyond the Raytheon replacement rule or the definition of gross income, so I am at a loss. For those of you who are more attuned to these issues:

The blog is here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Photograph of the Day

Forest Park (sometime in November-December 2006).

The Wonders of Bread

As all of you have heard by now, I made Pound Cake. Here is a photograph for those who did not have an opportunity to taste such this apotheosis of sensory delectation.

On a lighter note, Conan O'Brien has a conversation with Cornell professor and Bread expert Steven Kaplan. I can't make a direct link, but just click on the link "Bread Expert" to see the segment. [Hat-tip to Metafilter]

The clip is here.

Read here for Professor Kaplan's review of several baguettes.

The Passion of the Gore

This Washington Post article describes Gore's renaissance as the Jimmy Carter of vice-presidents and failed presidential candidates. Certainly, no one would have thought seven years ago that Al Gore would become the most respected elder statesman of the Democratic party. In what the Post article describes as his "slide-show," the article talks about Gore's documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth" and the roadshow that returned Gore to national prominence. It also ponders whether the renewed interest in Gore has to do with the man's reignited passion for the environment or a change in the national "zeitgeist" with respect to global warming.

And of course, the most impressive perk about Gore's come-back is that he is now on a first name basis with Ludacris. (So, does he call him Cris or Luda?).

Read it here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

NYU Immigrant Hunt

The College Republicans at my alma mater, NYU, has decided to sponsor an "illegal immigrant hunt" in Washington Square. Apparently, contestants search through a crowd looking for the illegal immigrant (who is in fact an actor), and if the person is found, the winner gets a modest cash prize. Ostensibly, this is meant to bring attention to a forgotten issue wholly neglected by the left wing media and other p.c. politicians. Obviously they succeeded, since this debacle apparently merited a New York Times blog post.

The blog post about this is here.

Addendum: The New York Times has an article about the "hunt" here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Biblical Wednesday III

In celebration of Ash Wednesday, Fortuna has decided to pick a verse which is a model of brevity and wit. Truly, this verse truly reflects the spirit of the Lenten season, an event as holy and miraculous as when David Copperfield made a Boeing 747 disappear on live television:

From Exodus 19:25:

So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them.

What I Thought Was The Best Film of 2006

Tonight, I saw Babel with certain individuals, and in my mind it was fairly mediocre. The movie consists of four tenuously connected plot arcs filmed with dialogue in 5 distinct languages (I include the signing as one of the languages). The movie was 2+ hours long, haphazardly lurching from one storyline to the next, leaving me intermittently bored and peeved. The camerawork suffers from the faux-verite style in vogue for the past several years, making liberal use of jump cuts, handheld camera shake, and unnecessary zooms to replicate the urban-documentary feel that other films, such as City of God, have used to better effect.

Despite being a "foreign" film, it was also infected with the Hollywood obsession with close-up. At least 80% of the shots were close-ups, with the average shot length probably less than 3 seconds. Occasionally there would be a painterly establishing shot of either Mexican or Moroccan desert, or some clouds to mix it up a bit, but more often than not the film consisted of silent heads staring mutely into the camera, occasionally emoting via a grimace or a lone tear trickling down a cheek, and uttering a quiet moan of despair. There was hardly ever a medium shot of people interacting with each other or their environment, allowing the viewer the time to look around and focus on something he would want to focus on, rather than having the director immediately cut to a close-up and compel the viewer to focus on what he wanted to focus on.

To sum it up, the film was extremely didactic. First, its preaching about the unfairness of the current immigration regime or America's morbid obsession over terrorism and foreigners was cliche. The issues were already decided by the director (e.g. border guards and American tourists are jerks) without presenting any countervailing facts or ideas to allow viewer to decide the question for himself. Moreover, despite its "gritty" "verite" cinetamatography, the editing's reliance on montage was pure varnished Hollywood, leading the viewer along so nothing was shown besides the particular object or facial expression the director wanted us to see, and therefore ineluctably imposing on the viewer specific conclusions about the characters and issues that the film raises.

Don't get me wrong, I love montage as much as the next person, when used correctly. (e.g. Passion of Joan of Arc, Battleship Potemkin, Godfather), but it shouldn't be used in such a didactic manner.

Anyway, for Best Films of 2006, I would go with Cache (even though it was made in 2005), which spoke far more persuasively about issues of both race and immigration than Babel. However, since it technically is a 2005 film (though not released "widely" in American until 2006), and considering how dreary the film landscape was this year, I would say the best film of 2006 that I have seen so far is:

Casino Royale. (as pure a film as a good kung-fu flick).

George Takei responds to Tim Hardaway

George Takei, Sulu from Star Trek, and a gay activist, releases a response to Tim Hardaway, who recently made several anti-gay remarks.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lunar New Years Post: MSG and Umami

In celebration of the lunar New Years today, I am posting this Op-Ed from the New York Times in praise of MSG and the concentration of umami it offers. It basically questions the current orthodoxy against MSG in light of current research that cast a relatively innocuous light on the additive. I guess the best argument against the idea that MSG is deleterious is that if that was true, than wouldn't a billion people in Asia right now suffer so-called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome?"

The op-ed is here.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Paglia is Back

I pulled this off Metafilter: Camille Paglia, humanities maven and cultural gadfly, has returned to Salon, and plans on writing a regular column. On her reasons for her return:

"I had certainly assumed the Web was surfeited with more than enough material, but evidently many others beside myself find the partisan polarization of the blogosphere numbingly predictable and its prose too often slapdash, fragmentary or drearily prolix."

Paglia's fairly bizarre politically, but I do love this description of Barack Obama:

"I love the way Barack Obama has nimbly upstaged the ponderous Hillary machine. It's a Bette Davis/Joan Crawford bitch fest! But Obama's effusive gusts of generalities irritate me; it's all sizzle and no steak right now. He needs seasoning: 2012 may be his year."

And, the piece de resistance: her eulogy to Anna Nicole Smith:

"Never mind the pills -- which put Smith into a hypnotic, seductive Candy Darling haze. The real problem was that the broad, Technicolor comedic films in which Smith might have thrived are no longer made -- except in Bollywood. The declining, glamorous studio system that created Monroe and her imitator Mansfield is long gone. Smith had genuine talent but no place to put it. Oddly, with her aimless hejira over, she has attained permanent star status in the pictorial dynasty of doomed blond sex symbols. We're sure to go mad with the dogged omnipresence of her story, but Anna Nicole is here to stay." [NB. She isn't sarcastic].

The full article is here.

The French New Wave Is Like A Hamburger... is self-referential and narcissistic.

The thought popped in my head just now because I was debating whether I was going to watch Pickpocket. But, it is already quarter to eleven, and I'm thinking of going to sleep soon. Anyways, French cinema is sort of like Hollywood... there hasn't been a really great French film since au hasard Balthazar (a year later, Godard released Week-End, his last good movie, and I don't like Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer, or Resnais that much). Except, instead of heading straight to gutter like Hollywood, it kind of got stuck high up in the drainage pipe, getting stagnant, turgid, and coated with a thin film of algae and scum.

Of course, Jean-Pierre Melville is the exception to the rule. (Le Samourai was awesome).

Great French Films:
La Regle du Jeu (1937)
Bob Le Flambeur (1955)
Au hasard Balthazar (1966)
Bande a part (1964)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fox's Daily Show

I read this article in Slate about Fox's new satirical news show, "The 1/2 Hour News Hour." I don't know what to say. The show differs from Comedy Central's "Daily Show" in numerous ways. These include:

1. A fair and balanced viewpoint.
2. The use of a canned laugh track
3. A conservative viewpoint. (See #1).
4. The use of a male AND female anchor (thus being more progressive).
5. Dispensing with humor.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

IP Post 2: Google Found to Violate Belgian Copyright Laws

A Belgian court has found Google liable for copyright infringement. However, it isn't because of YouTube.

Google News, a web service that indexes articles from various newspapers and magazines, contains links to the web versions of these publications. The Belgian Court has found that these web links to the articles, when made without the express permission of these publications, constitute copyright infringement.

Currently pending is a similar suit in the French Court, filed against Google by Agence France-Presse. Since the Belgian legal system is so similar to the French system, it now appears likely that Google will also lose their French case. Furthermore, since Belgium is a member of the European Union, this precedent can also spread throughout the EU.

But, since I am not in Belgium, and since I laugh at Belgian Copyright laws, I shall link you, my readers, to this article here.

Addendum: The name of the Belgian newpaper publisher is Copiepresse. [Hat-tip to Superelectric.]

IP Post 1: Obama Bin Laden Trademark Denied

Floridian Alexandre Batlle's application to trademark the name "Obama Bin Laden" was denied by the Patent and Trademark Office last Tuesday. Allegedly, the mark "Obama Bin Laden" is a play on the name of Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D), a candidate for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, and Osama Bin Laden, the alleged leader of Al Qaeda, terrorist mastermind, and inspiration for a thousand 24 episodes and myriad rip-offs of said TV show.

Karen Bush, a lawyer for the Office gave three reasons for the denial: laws barring the creation of "scandalous" trademarks, prohibitions against "false associations," and the lack of consent from either Sen. Barack Obama and Osama Bin Laden to use their names. A copy of the rejection letter can be found here. [Courtesy of The Smoking Gun].

Mr. Batlle has said that the denial of the trademark will not deter him, and that he will forge forward (sans trademark) in producing T-shirts, mugs, and various other forms of knick knacks and kitsch with this cheeky image emblazoned on them.

Mr. Batlle's website is here.

Hat-tip to New York Times, their article is here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Biblical Wednesday II

We celebrate today's Biblical Wednesday by delving into the mysteries of faith, and ponder these wise and inscrutable words as if peering through a mirror darkly. Today's reading, as picked by Fortuna, is Nehemiah 12:38-39.
And the other company of them that gave thanks went over against them, and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall, from beyond the tower of the furnaces even unto the broad wall;

And from above the gate of E'phra-im, and above the old gate, and above the fish gate, and the tower of Ha-nan'e-el, and the tower of Me'ah, even unto the sheep gate: and they stood still in the prison gate.

Clearly, as we read these words, the Lord is asking us: which gate shall our thanks reverberate in? The prison gate, the fish gate, or the sheep gate? O Fortuna, upon which tower should we direct our supplications?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Etymology of Chocolate City

The term "Chocolate City" was first used by Washington, D.C. DJs during the 1970s because of DC's black majority. The term though was popularized by the funk band, Parliament, when they used it as a title for their 1975 album.

The Wikipedia entry on Chocolate City is here.

A post about the term "Chocolate City," and Charles Nagin use of the term to describe New Orleans is here.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Korean Fried Chicken

This is just a throwaway post continuing my recent predilection for chicken. Korean fried chicken is apparently gaining some cachet in New York right now, and the New York Times even wrote an expose about this phenomenon. (You can read the article here.) As a child, I was generally unaware of this phenomenon, though my grandmother did make fried chicken wings smothered in a sweet-spicy sauce that I had always enjoyed. I also remembered eating fried chicken in Seoul back in '88, principally with regards to the sandwich bag of pickled radish and fried chicken feet.

Anyway, the primary difference between Korean fried chicken and Southern fried is that the Korean version is fried in two steps--cooked once and then left to sit for a while, and then cooked again to finish it, which apparently results in a thinner, crackly crust. This is of course in sharp contrast with the thicker, crunchy crust you get from the Southern style, which requires a longer cooking time, and hence tends to result in a greasier chicken.

To read more about Korean Fried Chicken in Korea, a blog post about the subject can be read here.

(N.B. Photo by The Daily Kimchi)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Correction: The Actual Name of the Hindu Monkey God

I wish to correct an error I made in my last post, "Biblical Wednesday." The name of the Hindu Monkey God is actually Hanuman, who was a boon companion of Rama, an avatar of the god Vishnu. Hanuman assisted Rama with his war against the Rakshasa king Ravana and helped to rescue Rama's consort, Sita. The full story can be found in the Hindu epic The Ramayama.

A biography about Hanuman's life and exploits can be found here.

PS: An avatar is an earthly embodiment of a god. Other famous avatars include Krishna, Jesus Christ, and the illusionist David Copperfield.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Biblical Wednesday

Since today is my midweek day off, and I have nothing to do, I have decided to inaugurate a new feature for Media Dump. I have decided to consult the greatest repository of wisdom and spirituality that has ever alighted upon this Earth: the King James Bible (vastly wiser than either the Vulgate, Gnostic Gospels, or Chicken Soup for the Soul).

However, with so much wisdom parceled out in nice, tidy chunks of verse, I must rhetorically ask myself, which quotation should I quote? I have decided to rely on Fortuna, the third greatest of deities (behind both the Father and the Hindu monkey god Rama, but just beating out the Holy Spirit), and will randomly open the bible and place my finger on the verse. So without further ado, this week's verse, 1 Corinthians 1:32:

"Now the sons of Ke-tu'rah, Abraham's concubine: she bare Zim'ran, and Jok'shan, and Me'dan, and Mid'i-an, and Ish'bak, and Shu'ah. And the sons of Jok'shan; She'ba, and De'dan."

Can't you feel your spiritual quotient rising?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

News Flash: Haggard Now "Completely Heterosexual"

Disgraced evangelical Ted Haggard has been pronounced "completely heterosexual" after three weeks of intensive therapy. When Mr. Haggard's predilection for male "a-noose" was outed several months ago, Mr. Haggard was purged from his ministry of his 14,000 member New Life Church and the presidency of the National Association of Evangelicals. He has said, and has been encouraged by the evangelical community, that he will now pursue "secular work" and possibly pursue a master degree in psychology. He was also encouraged to leave Colorado Springs, CO, the location of his former church. "It's hard to heal in Colorado Spring right now. It is like an open wound. He [Mr. Haggard] needs to get somewhere where he can get the wound healed," the Rev. Mike Ware, one of Mr. Haggard's therapist, said.

The rest of the article is here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

To Be Both Clean and Articulate

The Times has this little piece about prominent African Americans who are displeased that prominent European Americans (i.e. a certain senator from Delaware) express complete bewilderment and shock when they encounter a black person who conjugates the verb "to be" while speaking.

The article continues by forcefully arguing that there have been articulate African Americans prior to the advent of Barack Obama, and that indeed, even some of the past black presidential candidates, including Al Sharpton, could qualify as being "articulate." It concludes by stating that perhaps subtle bigotry and racial condescension exists in America, which is, of course, obviously absurd. After all, this is Black History Month, isn't it? How can bigotry exist when an entire MONTH is dedicated to black history?

The article is here.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Mysteries of General Tso

This article explores the origins of the pinnacle of Hunan Chinese Cuisine--General Tso's Chicken. Surprisingly, General Tso, a fearless 19th Century Chinese Warlord, had very little to do with his eponymous chicken. Indeed, it is unlikely that General Tso had ever had a single taste. Even more shocking, General Tso's Chicken is not actually served in restaurants in Hunan Province. I won't spoil the rest.

To learn more about the chicken, read it here.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

How To Catch A Predator

This article from the Columbia Journalism Review is about Dateline's popular "To Catch A Predator" series. The typical segment involves a Dateline crew and several police officers awaiting the arrival of men who believe they are having a rendezvous with a minor. Recently, a Texas prosecutor was caught engaging in sexually provocative text messaging with a person posing as a minor. Though the prosecutor did not go to the sting, when police went to his house in order to arrest him, the suspect shot himself in the head.

The article also has several transcripts of the Internet conversations, where it appears that the person posing as a minor actively flirts with the suspects and seems to initiate a date where they can meet.

FYI: The author of the article thinks the show has crossed "journalistic lines."

Read it here.