Friday, December 25, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
While the visual effects for the film have been lauded by critics, some critics have taken the story to task as being two-dimensional. Yet Cameron’s stories have never been innovative in and of themselves. From The Terminator to Titanic, Cameron has presented simple stories in complex trappings populated with archetypal characters. It’s the full visual experience that grips the viewer rather than just the story. All his films are highly entertaining, but if someone is looking for emotional depth, unique characters, and a dynamic plot from Cameron’s work that person will always be disappointed. Cameron’s movies, however, have never let me down.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
That is one way to deal with criticism. Another—and an unfortunately all too natural way—is to lash out at the critic. That’s what author Candace Sams did in response to a negative fan review on Amazon.com for her book, Electra Galaxy’s Mr. Interstellar Feller, and let to a cringe worthy discussion thread of over 170 posts. Ms. Sams, writing under the username “Niteflyr One,” challenged the negative reviewer L.B. Taylor, and then the thread deteriorated into a free-for-all with Ms. Sams versus everyone else.
I sympathize with Ms. Sams for her visceral reaction to criticism, but taking the Jeter route or simply ignoring such criticism would have certainly been best.
Monday, December 7, 2009
--December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressing the United States Congress.
Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.
The United States was at peace with that nation and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with the government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.
Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleagues delivered to the Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.
It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time, the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.
The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.
Yesterday, the Japanese government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night, Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night, the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.
Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.
As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.
No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.
I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this
form of treachery shall never endanger us again.
Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.
With confidence in our armed forces - with the unbounding determination of our people - we will gain the inevitable triumph - so help us God.
I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, Dec. 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese empire.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
"115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
--Unsigned editorial, September 21, 1897, New York Sun--
Monday, November 30, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I’m also thankful for memories. As a kid my family used to always go to my grandparents apartment on 105th and 1st Avenue in El Barrio. The apartment was always jam packed with my extended family and the food was amazingly good. I never wanted to go, however, because I wanted to see the King Kong marathon on Channel 9 and the adults wouldn’t let me. Now that that time is long gone and my grandparents are in heaven I wish I had enjoyed those times more.
Friday, November 20, 2009
My wife loved it and I liked it even more the second time. J.J. Abrams did a great job, as did the actors. My criticism still stands, however, concerning the bloated Starship Enterprise and the fish scale uniform tops, but hey, nobody’s perfect. I’m intrigued by what they’ll do with a sequel.
In watching the movie again, I noted how much Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) got beaten up. He got his ass kicked throughout the film. It was hilarious. The old Kirk would fight (and tear up his shirt) in every other episode, but 10 minutes didn’t go by in the movie without poor Chris Pine getting punched, kicked, thrown against something, or having a violent allergic reaction to medicine.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Generations have been raised on Sesame Street, and we are forever grateful for the work of its creators Joan Ganz Cooney, Jon Stone, Dave Connell, Sam Gibbon, and the late, great Jim Henson.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
As I mentioned in a previous post, the last two times the Yanks opened up a new stadium (1923 & 1976 renovation), they faced the defending world champs. Like 1923, the 2009 Yanks lost the first game and won the Series in 6. But an amazing fact is that 11 times the defending World Champions from the National League had a chance to repeat and EIGHT times they faced the Yanks, with the defending champs only winning twice.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Her father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, is in custody on two counts of aggravated assault that will be elevated to murder. “‘By his own admission, this was an intentional act and the reason was that his daughter had brought shame on him and his family,’ county prosecutor Stephanie Low told a Maricopa County judge earlier.”
This is a despicable act by a despicable man. The fact that an honor killing occurred in the United States is appalling in and of itself, but it is an all too often occurrence in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Violence against woman is a global crisis that I’m not sure our world leaders are willing to face.
Monday, October 26, 2009
On a sidenote, my niece asked me the other day what was the Phillies’ nickname and I was like, “huh?” Then it dawned on me. The name Philadelphia Phillies is like being called the New York Big Apples. Anyway, I really like this Phillies team with the addition of former Cleveland Indians’ ace Cliff Lee (who replaced the former former Cleveland ace CC Sabathia who is now the Yankees’ ace). The Indians fans must be kicking themselves right now.
Also, another baseball oddity: When the Yankees opened up the original Yankee Stadium in 1923 they won the World Series (defeating the defending champs New York Giants), in 1976 when they opened the renovated Yankee Stadium they went to the World Series (and lost to the defending champs Cincinnati Reds), and now with the new Yankee Stadium the Yanks return to the World Series and face another defending champ. Amazing. Let’s hope this 1923 all over again and not 1976.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The Jets suffered an infuriating loss against the lowly Buffalo Bills this past Sunday. There is the dreaded notion of the “Same Old Jets” or SOJ, that is, that this team has experienced excruciating losses and disappointments over the last 40 years since Broadway Joe Namath made his deal with the devil to win Super Bowl III. Of course, a loss that happens 20 years ago or even last year has no bearing on what happens now. Yet there are fans that invoke SOJ at every unfortunate loss as if the past has a bearing on the present. These are doom-and-gloom Jet fans. The world is crumbling at every loss. A classic example is WFAN’s Joe Benigno, who got his radio job after being a longtime caller on the station’s midnight show. On his 10 a.m. morning show, Benigno said, “I’ve seen these kind of game for 40 years, this kind of garbage!”
Dan Leberfeld of JetsConfidential recently asked Jets head coach Rex Ryan whether Benigno’s SOJ rants “poisons” the minds of his listeners. Ryan responded, “We’ve got to do something to get that changed. I don't believe it, the ‘Same old Jets.’ My ‘Same old Jets’ would be my dad, who won the Super Bowl. I’ll sign up for that. If you want to go back to karma, let’s go for that.”
The thing is New York Daily News’ Jets beat writer Rich Cimini wrote a scathing criticism of Leberfeld for asking the question. In fact, Cimini calls criticism of SOJ as the “same old whining.” Yet Cimini is the last person who should lecture anyone on responsible journalism. For instance, last year CNNSI’s Peter King wrote an article where he presented a hypothetical quote by New England Patriot’s head coach Bill Belichick saying that he would not have Jets star safety Kerry Rhodes on his team. Cimini, in his classic lazy reporting style, went straight to Kerry Rhodes and presented this made-up Belichick quote as if it was something the coach actually said. Of course, there was a negative reaction by Rhodes to this obvious diss.
Moreover, Cimini is the quickest to invoke SOJ, even titling his post game blog entry “Same old Jets ... only worse.” The reason why the term persists is because of fools like Benigno and Cimini insist that it is relevant. Of course there are fans that invoke it. Heck, just scan the Jet fan message boards and after a 3-3 record there are fans calling rookie Mark Sanchez a bust (after his first 6 games of his NFL career) and Rex Ryan a bad coach doomed to failure. These are known as SOJF, that is “Same Old Jet Fans.” Benigno had a good description of the loss, but the term is more appropriate to describe his and Cimini’s mindset in covering the team: garbage.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
As most people know, Dead Until Dark is the basis for the first season of HBO’s True Blood. I’ve never watched the show (which is now in its second season), but my wife is an avid follower. I decided, what the heck, let me check out the book first and then see if I can catch up and see the first season on demand or DVD.
I’m not much of a vampire guy. My favorite creatures of the night are werewolves. I was drawn to the fact that werewolves are vampires’ foils, how they can’t be controlled by the seductive powers of the undead. I prefer the savage over the suave.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good vampire book or movie, but I prefer a good werewolf book or movie instead. Unfortunately there have not been too many. My favorite werewolf book is Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause and my favorite werewolf movie (besides the original Wolf Man) is The Howling. I’m a big metamorphosis fan, so that movie blew me away as did An American Werewolf in London, although I was disappointed that they never showed the full werewolf. I’m very excited about the Wolf Man remake (titled The Wolfman) staring Anthony Hopkins and Benicio del Toro which is coming out next February. Hopefully, this is the quintessential werewolf movie us fans have been waiting for.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Eight years to the day after the start of the war in Afghanistan, the White House and Congress were agonizing on Wednesday about what to do next in that isolated, mountainous country that has been called “the graveyard of empires.”It was previously reported that the Afghanistan crisis has caused a rift between the uniformed military and President Obama’s civilian national security team, with the military adviosors advocating for an increase in troops to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban with the civilians calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces and a narrowly defined counterterrorism effort in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan against al Qaeda, which entails leaving the Taliban be. The administration has denied that the President is considering the latter and the he himself told Congressional leaders that he would not substantially reduce U.S. forces or shift the mission to just hunting for al Qaeda. Nevertheless, the New York Times now reports that the President's national security team is moving to reframe its war strategy by emphasizing the campaign against al Qaeda in Pakistan while arguing that the Taliban do not pose a direct threat to the U.S.
We can take the administration’s denial at face value, but as I had blogged about in March the administration had been considering negotiating with the Taliban. Also, the latest report contradicts the denial. Regardless, notion of negotiating with the Taliban or letting them be was absurd then as it is now. The Taliban is a genocidal regime that terrorized ethnic minorities and women and is still waging a war on its own people. They provided a safe haven for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and will continue to be an ally if allowed to remain.
You cannot make peace with the Devil. For the sake of the people in the region—especially women—and around the world, the only option is the eradication of al Qaeda and their sinister allies, the Taliban.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
In years past I’ve read at this time, amongst others, classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I’ve read modern horror classics like The Exorcist, Ghost Story, Salem’s Lot, and I Am Legend. I’ve also read some Clive Barker books since most his books are fitting for the Halloween Season.
This year I’m reading The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson. For those who don’t know, according to the book jacket:
In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that, one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house, but the property—complete with boathouse and swimming pool—and the price had been too good to pass up. Twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror.The Amityville house is about a half hour drive from my own home. Yes, it’s still there. It’s been renovated and the infamous quarter-round windows have been replaced with conventional rectangular ones. Much of the controversy surrounding the book and subsequent film is because the story has been marketed as true. There’s a lot of contradictory information out there comparing events depicted in the book compared to the history record which is described in the Wiki article.
Is it real or not? I have no idea. As a kid, though, the story scared the heck out of me and anytime I saw the coming attractions for the 1979 film I had to switch the channel. Whenever I saw a house with those infamous windows I’d freak. It didn’t help that both my parents were superstitious so I always thought it was real. But know it doesn’t matter. The novel is an entertaining—although melodramatic—read.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Wendy was a great hostess and she blogged all about the event, including pictures! Here it is.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
It’s hard to believe that he’s already four and starting school. Selfishly, I want to keep him at a certain age, a certain time and place, but of course I can’t. But you know what? I don’t even know what that “perfect” age or time would be. Maybe it would be this summer when he became interested in watching sports on TV with me. We share a lot of moments together. But now he knows words like “kill” and “die” when he plays, so a touch of innocence is lost. Or perhaps it was last summer when he was 3 and we went to Sesame Place for the first time. We saw Elmo Show Live and he got all excited when Elmo appeared. Alex screamed, “Elmo! Elmo! Over here!” He was disappointed when Elmo didn’t come over and I still get teary eyed thinking about it. Was that the first time he learned about disappointment?
At least he was excited about school. He woke up this morning and yelled, “We’re going to school today!” I was like him at that age, wanting to start school as well. I don’t know his reasons, but mine were because I had a brother and sister who were 9 and 10 years older than me and I had gotten tired of them leaving me behind when they went to school. I was desperate to grow up, even at an early age, and I missed some of the enjoyment of youth because of it.
My son is growing up fast. I can only hope he doesn’t make the same mistake I did in disregarding the journey for the sake of reaching the destination.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Today is also the eve of the eight anniversary of 9/11. That day is still vivid in my mind. What I have a hard time remembering was September 10, 2001. I remember going down to court the week before. The courthouse was not far from the World Trade Center. Coming out of the subway the towers were to my left in the distance, dominating the skyline. I go to that same subway station and I have a hard time remembering how the towers looked from that view. It puzzles me. Pre-9/11 seems like a dream. It’s been eight years and much as changed, but also much hasn’t.
Derek Jeter still plays for the Yanks, and I remember the aftermath of 9/11 and how Jeter tried to distract us a bit with a magical ride to the World Series. Jeter became known as Mr. November for his heroics. The season had been extended because baseball had shut down for a week following the attacks. The Yanks lost the World Series in gut wrenching fashion in the 7th and deciding game. That was the last best chance the Yanks had to win it all—until this year. Jeter is much older now, as we all are, and is the city since 9/11. It’s a time of reflection, and excitement as to what the future will bring.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Ms. Lisa did a wonderful job taking care of Alex. He loved going there every weekday and he loves her. I know she feels the same way and the last day was quite emotional for her. I don’t think Alex fully appreciates that it was his last day there. He will in time and I can’t help but feel sorry for him. Ms. Lisa is everything he has ever known. I hope he remembers her. Next week or so he’ll likely ask, “Are we going to Ms. Lisa’s house today?” and I’ll have to say, “No, you’re going to school instead.” How long will it take for that to sink in and for him to fully understand it is anyone’s guess. But I’m sure there will be some tears involved, mine included.
My wife and I owe a sincere debt of gratitude to Ms. Lisa. But that surely can’t be enough. How can you adequately thank someone who has taken care of the most precious person in your life? I don’t know. In any event, we can just say, “Thanks, M’lisa, we love you.”
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
It’s not only a great day to be a Jet fan, but a Latino as well. Sanchez has the chance to be the NFL’s first Latino superstar at the sport’s premier position. Yes, there was Jim Plunkett who won a Super Bowl with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders and currently Jeff Garcia and Tony Romo. But none of them are full-blooded Latinos. No, I don’t mean to seem jaded in any way, but it’s significant that Sanchez is a third generation Mexican American on both sides. He has a huge Latino following in California and hopefully, with success, he’ll have an even greater following in the NFL.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The salty sea air pleasantly contrasted the stuffiness of the bar. The promenade overlooked the beach and was a quick stroll away. Cobblestone paved the promenade flanked by metal railing, with benches throughout, and decorative stone archways.
“Sorry about Beitar Jerusalem,” Dassah offered.
“No, you’re not,” Leah retorted. “They’ll get Maccabi next time.”
“No they won’t.”
Leah pinched Dassah in the arm.
Dassah grimaced. “Why’d you do that for?”
“For being mean.”
“Are you upset at me for any reason?”
“Besides your act of violence?”
“No, why would I be?”
“No reason.” She paused. “Well, there is a reason. You’ve seemed distant since you came back from the course. That’s the same time you found out I was with Ephraim.”
Dassah shrugged. “And?”
“And, is there something I should know about you and Ephraim.”
Dassah huffed. “There never was a me and Ephraim.”
“I don’t mean that. I mean, do you like him?”
“He’s a cute guy and he’s fun to hang out with.”
Leah stopped walking. She rested against a pillar of a stone archway with hands behind her back and ankles crossed. The light breeze wafted through Leah’s curls and tickled the base of Dassah’s neck. They were alone on the moonlit promenade.
“I didn’t mean it that way,” Leah said, her voice soothing. “I meant do you want to be with him?”
Dassah watched the waves hit the surf. “No.”
“Then why do you look at us at times like you’re angry?”
“Yes, you do.”
“I’m not upset at you.”
Leah clasped Dassah’s left hand. She rubbed her fingers over the scars. The hair raised on her forearm. Dassah didn’t like when someone touched her scars, but she didn’t mind Leah doing it now.
“Look at me,” Leah said softly. “Tell me what it is.”
Dassah turned to her. The purity of Leah’s beauty disarmed her. The faintest of moonlight glinted in her large brown eyes framed by long, ashen lashes. Her sumptuous full lips, slightly parted as if ready to speak, beckoned Dassah. She had kissed her fair share of lips before, but none had enthralled her like Leah’s.
She slipped her right hand under Leah’s thick hair and caressed the back of her neck. Leah’s eyelids became heavy. Dassah leaned down and tenderly kissed Leah’s lips as if she was made of fine porcelain and might break if touched. Leah didn’t move. Dassah kissed her again, this time opening her mouth.
Dassah gripped the pillar with her left hand and pressed her chest against Leah’s bosom. They continued to kiss and Leah ran her fingers through Dassah’s hair with both hands till she held the crown of her head. Her shawl fell back from her shoulders. Dassah’s heart quickened and her stomach roiled.
Leah dropped her hands to Dassah’s shoulders and pushed her back. “No, we can’t do this.” She clutched her shawl closed.
“Why not?” asked Dassah incredulously. “I love you, Leah, I always have.”
Leah shook her head. “Not like that.”
“You told me you dated boys in high school.”
“I did, but I also dated girls.” She sighed. “Mainly girls.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t know how. In Tel Aviv, it’s easy. No one cares. It’s very open there. My parents got over it when I told them. They let me go to clubs until three in the morning and I met girls there. My parents are more worried about terrorists after what happened to you and me rather than me getting into trouble.”
“But why couldn’t you trust me to tell me?”
“I didn’t know what you’d say or think of me. We know how your parents are. To them, being gay is like eating pork on Yom Kippur.”
“They’re my parents, but you’re my best friend. We’ve been through life and death together and will face it again in the army.”
“I want more than friendship.”
“How many girls have you been with?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Because I want to know if you plan for me to be one of the countless girls you’ve been with.”
“Absolutely not. The others would be gone from my memory. You’d be the only one I’ve ever been with. There’s only you. I love you, Leah. There’s no one else I’ve ever loved more.”
“I love you too, Dassah.” Leah ran the back of her fingers down Dassah’s cheek. “But not in that way.”
Monday, August 17, 2009
The premise is akin to the 1988 movie, Alien Nation: aliens are marooned on earth in the past in a major city. In Alien Nation, the extraterrestrials were marooned in L.A. three years prior and were humanoid. In District 9, however, the city is Johannesburg, the aliens arrived 20 years ago, and they look like giant crawfish (hence they are referred to by the derogatory name “prawns”). Plus, the prawns live in absolute squalor in a shanty town.
Newcomer Sharlto Copley plays the main character Wikus Van De Merwe, a bureaucrat from Multi-National United (MNU) which is in charge of District 9. Wikus heads a task force assigned to relocate the 1.8 million aliens (originally 1 million arrived but multiplied over the years) to a new “District 10” camp located 240 km from Johannesburg. While District 9 is a slum, District 10 is little more than a concentration camp. While Wikus goes about his mission in an inefficient and callous way, something goes horribly wrong and he becomes the subject of a harrowing man hunt.
I don’t want to give away more of the story without ruining District 9 because while there are no “twists” per se, the joy is in the journey. The movie is not predictable and the viewers won’t have a true idea where the film is going, but in the end it makes all the sense in the world. First time director Neill Blomkamp (who also co-wrote the film) has done a masterful job and hopefully audiences worldwide will enjoy it.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
With the start of the second half, Naomi returned to her seat cheering as usual. There was something different now, however. To her far right, she saw in the splash of red a stern-faced, dark-skinned woman wearing a red sweater staring right at her. When their eyes met, the woman looked away. Naomi scanned to her far left, and there was a blonde woman wearing the same red sweater and she was also staring at her. Like the other, she looked away once their eyes met. This occurred a couple of more times, which unnerved her. Even the baby showed her displeasure with a few kicks. She—or he—will definitely be a footballer.
If she hadn’t been pregnant, she would have gotten up and confronted the two women. Their ogling would have also not bothered her as much but for her pregnancy-induced mercurial temperament. With the baby squirming and her stomach churning, Naomi felt nauseous and dizzy. The taste of bile in her mouth made her want to vomit. There was only a half hour left in the match with United clinging to a one-goal lead, but she didn’t think she could make it to the end. Besides, she was also exhausted.
Naomi leaned over to the FSA special agent. “I’m not feeling well, Kaila. I want to go.”
“Will you be okay, Ms. Abravanel?” the agent asked.
Naomi nodded. “I just need to get back to the hotel. I’ll be fine.”
“Whatever you wish.”
Naomi left a message for Yasmin with another spouse. She spied at the two women in the red sweaters as she left. Now, they made no effort to conceal their attention, fixing their eyes on her as she disappeared into the tunnel.
She looked over her shoulder a few times as she and the agent made their way to the valet parking lot outside the stadium. Thankfully, she didn’t see the two women.
The car was already at the valet stand. The car was the FSA’s standard black Mercedes-Benz EL550 electric sedan on loan from the local field office. Naomi missed the Bentley, but the Mercedes served its purpose.
“Is everything okay?” the agent asked her.
“Yes,” she replied tersely and got into the backseat of the sedan. The stadium was only about eleven kilometers west of the hotel, and Naomi stared out the window the whole way, admiring the vacillating colors of bright lights and flashing billboards in downtown Tehran.
They shortly arrived at the Grand Hotel Tehran. Agent Rajoub held Naomi’s arm as she trudged through the plush lobby to the elevator. Getting inside was a great relief to her and she sat down on a bench as they rode it up to the penthouse suite. The hotel had two such suites with an adjacent guest bedroom flanking a single corridor facing the elevator. Only the penthouse guests have access to the floor by use of the thumbprint scanner on the elevator and their suite or room doors.
The nausea and dizziness were gone by the time they reached the penthouse floor.
“Do you want me to walk you to your door, Ms. Abravanel?” asked Agent Rajoub.
“No, I’m fine, thank you,” Naomi said, smiling thinly. Her voice was hoarse from the match. “It’s right next door.”
“Just call if you need anything,” the agent said and went into her room.
Naomi’s eyelids were heavy and she let out a wide-mouthed yawn. She waddled to the penthouse suite down the hall. Her feet had swelled up from all the walking and standing she did today and her back was killing her. She checked her watch and it said 10:45. There was still ten minutes left in the match, which meant she could catch the rest of it on the holomitter. She opened the door and it slammed behind her.
The suite was dark, which was odd. The lights usually turned on once the front door was opened. She passed through the foyer, flung her purse onto the settee once she entered the living room, and called for the lights to come on but they didn’t. The city lights glinted off the furniture’s gold inlay through the large double-paned windows and glass door overlooking the terrace. She peered out to the luminescent skyline dominated by the Milad Tower on this clear night.
She called for the holomitter to turn on, but that didn’t respond either. She huffed and waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. She squinted and felt her way to the settee to get her purse. She pulled out the PAD, unfolded it, and tapped the screen to turn it on, but it didn’t work.
“Shit, what the hell’s—”
The hairs on her nape bristled and she slid her eyes to the right.
There was someone in the room with her. She couldn’t see her, but she knew she wasn’t alone. She opened her mouth to scream, but the sound caught in her parched throat. Her heart thumped against her chest, and she grimaced from a violent baby kick. She swallowed hard and her teeth chattered.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
“You’re doing a lot for this diverse collection of women,” the reporter said.
“I do what I must,” Sanya replied.
“If a Palestinian State is ever created, will you live and practice medicine there?”
“To teach and train, perhaps, but this is my home, my roots are here. Why should I move? A Palestinian State alone does not solve the deep-seeded problem of division. The Arab minority in Israel shouldn’t have to leave the country to find equality and justice. We’re second-class citizens here. You know how hard it was to find an apartment when I was in medical school in Tel Aviv? No one wanted to rent to an Arab. We should have equality with the Jewish majority, the rights of full citizens.”
“There’s the notion of, ‘if you don’t like it, then leave.’”
“That’s the American way of thinking. In Israel, when Israelis think something is unjust, they challenge it.”
“But you say you’re not Israeli.”
“Irrelevant. People shouldn’t sit on their hands when they’re faced with injustice. If you want a better life, you don’t run away to find it, you make one where you are. That’s just my opinion.”
“So, you’re opposed to those Muslim leaders here who refuse to recognize Israel and advise their followers to boycott national elections.”
“Including Hamas and Sheik Salah, the leading Palestinian cleric in Israel?”
“They’re not the only obstacles to peace. Look at Israel’s new right-wing government. Look at the new foreign minister. He wants to deport Arab Israeli citizens like myself to reduce our numbers in this country. He wants to divide Jews and Arabs into two culturally homogeneous states. Only Arabs who pledge loyalty to the State of Israel as a Jewish state—not a state for all its citizens be them Jewish, Muslim, Christian, or Druze. This oath plan is directed at Arabs like me, and it’s insulting and unabashedly racist.”
“But you really can’t compare Hamas to—.”
“Violence is not the answer, regardless of who’s committing it.” Sanya’s cheeks flushed with anger. “Teaching our children that violence is the answer is reprehensible. Having children’s programs on Palestinian Television teaching children to say ‘Death to Israel!’ and that Allah will be proud of them if they die trying to kill Jews is obscene. Yet, I’m not here to criticize my people to an Englishwoman, and you’ll show your readers how bad we are and divide us into groups of good Arabs and bad Arabs. ‘Oh, she’s a good one.’ Frankly, I couldn’t care less what your readers think of me.”
The reporter sat forward on the seat with hands clasped in front of her. “No, I’m not trying to make Palestinians look bad or paint you in any favorable or unfavorable light. I apologize if you’ve gotten that impression.”
Sanya took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She didn’t know why she had gotten upset. If she didn’t care what the reporter’s readers thought of her, why did she get riled up? Yet, it was more than that, and she had been on edge for some time. The strain of watching Palestinians suffering from a distance and only being able to provide limited help had been growing.
“I didn’t mean to be discourteous,” Sanya said. “These are just difficult times. I take to heart what has happened to my people, and the future looks doubtful.”
“Do you think there’ll ever be peace?”
“In my lifetime? I don’t know. There have been 30 years of peace between Egypt and Israel, but for Israel and the rest of the Muslim world? There needs to be a seismic shift somewhere for that to happen.”
“Do you see yourself at Soroka Medical Center in five years?”
“No.” She sucked her teeth. “Shame on me for saying that so quickly; it gives the wrong impression. My hope is that once my residency is over, I can transfer to the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. I love Soroka and the people here, but Sheba’s Joseph Buchman Gynecology and Maternity Center is arguably the leading Ob/Gyn center in this part of the world. Their commitment to developing new reproductive technologies and research in gynecology, perinatology, onco-gynecology, and infertility is unparalleled.”
“Would your husband be coming with you?”
“Of course. Where would we women be without our men?”
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Tech-note, the PAD (personal access device) is "the size of an antique hardcover book except being only five millimeters thick. The PAD can be rolled, twisted, folded in fours to act as an audiophone, and flattened into a sturdy touchscreen tablet for reading, writing—both typing and handwriting using a finger tip—websurfing, watching videos, or talking to someone via videophone."
And the holomitter is "a small, shiny black conical device that projects a true-life resolution holographic video display while also acting as a webcam."
Modern technology has allowed Naomi to always be under the care of her physician no matter where she traveled. Her doctor has her complete electronic medical record from birth to present which can be sent in seconds to any local hospital anywhere if necessary. Naomi also carries a small monitoring device which the doctor can use to periodically check her and the baby’s vitals. Finally, doctors can conduct routine exams virtually using the PAD and holomitter so that the patient and physician can be in different locations.
Naomi, in short-sleeved white blouse and slacks, stood in the middle of the rug facing the holomitter. The shutters had been closed again. Yasmin reclined in the pillowed settee along the side. She rested her back against one armrest and hung her legs over the other. Naomi called her doctor on the PAD and waited for her to answer.
Dr. Farah’s image appeared on the PAD.
“Good morning, Naomi,” she said cheerfully. She had a tawny complexion and a pretty, high cheekboned face framed by spiky, short black hair. “How are you feeling?”
“Good morning, Doctor,” Naomi said. Just seeing the jovial doctor raised her spirits. “I’m feeling good. Can’t wait for the day.”
“That’s good, and the day will be here soon enough. Are you ready for your monthly exam?”
“Yes. I’m already standing in front of the holomitter.”
“Excellent. We’ll start our weekly visits next week, so you’ll start to get sick of seeing me. How’s Yasmin doing?”
“She’s good. She’s here with me.”
“Hey, Doc,” Yasmin shouted.
“Oh, put me on the holomitter then,” Dr. Farah said and Naomi obliged. The doctor was a huge fan of Yasmin and Tel Aviv United. The holomitter flashed on and projected the doctor’s full size, slightly faded 3D image so it was as if she was in the room with them. “Are you going to win tonight?” she asked.
“Definitely,” Naomi said smugly.
“Good, you better.” She turned to Naomi. “I’ll hand you off to Dr. Kahana so she can do the quick exam. Okay?”
“Sure. I like Alyssa.”
“Great. Call me if you need anything. And, Go United!”
Dr. Kahana’s full size 3D image appeared. She was a petite, chestnut pixie haired woman with almond shaped eyes. “Hello, Naomi. Are you ready?” she asked and Naomi nodded. “Wonderful. Now let me start the exam.” The doctor motioned her hand and a virtual 16:9 screen appeared showing Naomi’s and the baby’s vital signs. Naomi and Yasmin saw everything the doctor saw.
“Everything is looking good,” the doctor said with a grin. “Temperature is good. Blood pressure is good. Respiratory rate is good. Heart rate is good. Let’s all hear that strong heart.”
With the flick of the doctor’s hand the loud pattering echoed in the room. Naomi’s eyes glazed. She glimpsed Yasmin and she smiled in return. Her eyes were moist as well.
The doctor turned off the sound. “Now let’s take a look at that little princess.” She motioned her hand and a 3D image of the fetus appeared floating in the air, five times the actual size. The fetus was head down, with arms crossed on her chest and ankles crossed on her buttocks. The doctor turned the image in the air. “Isn’t she beautiful?”
Naomi whimpered and covered her mouth with her hands. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She had never seen anything more beautiful. It’s been over a month since she last saw her. She was a big girl already, almost like an infant.
“Congratulations, that’s your daughter,” the doctor said.
“I told you she’ll be a footballer,” Yasmin said proudly, tears staining her cheeks.
Naomi laughed. “You maybe right. You think she’ll come early?”
“She might,” the doctor said. “She’s already considered full term right now. Let’s spin her around some more to get a better look.”
As the fetus turned in the air she uncrossed her ankles ever so quickly.
“What the hell was that?” Yasmin blurted and sat up.
The fetus, just as quick, re-crossed her ankles. Naomi wasn’t sure what she saw, but it surprised her nonetheless.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
These disgruntled fans take umbrage with the “blown-up portrayal of the blooming relationships between the young characters” and in doing so “left out the majority of the plot.” That the filmmakers left out “all of the Ministry of Magic scenes,” “the huge battle with the Death Eaters who descended on Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” and “aspects where Harry was learning about [Lord] Voldemort’s life so that he could understand everything” to name a few.
These fans claim they understand that some scenes need to be cut to fit the novel on film, but do they really? We’re talking about a 652 page novel. The Hollywood rule of thumb is that a script page should equal a minute of screen time. If you compare a standard script page with a page from J.K. Rowlings' novel you’d see that each of her pages would equal about 3 to 5 script page (maybe even more). Putting that aside, let’s say one of her pages equaled one script page then a full adaptation would have been 5 hours and 30 minutes long! It’s amazing that the filmmakers got the movie down to 2 hours and 33 minutes. In other words, the filmmakers had to cut out at least half of the novel just to get a decent film length.
As to the other point about the film focusing too much time on the teen romance, hello! The characters are 17 years old! Of course they’re going to be consumed by thoughts of the opposite sex. These are late teens living together 24/7. If this was remotely real life a film about Hogwarts would have to be rated R. It was masterful how the filmmakers were able to weave the romance stuff with the rest of the story.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Here’s an excerpt from chapter 3 which is set in the first story arc of the “present” (this chapter takes place in 2037). It’s part of an interview with the new prime minister, Dassah Shaul and the first lady Leah Abravanel taken a few months after Leah gave birth to Naomi.
Mya Rosner [Interviewer]: Having Renewal Day and Mother’s Day so close together was no coincidence?
Prime Minister (PM): None at all. Renewal Day is the most important day in the history of womankind. It guaranteed a future that so many of us didn’t think we had. It proved that we could all be mothers again if we chose to be. The beauty of BHB is that it uses the genetic material of two women, so although Leah was the one that gave birth to Naomi I’m her mother as well. Thus, Mother’s Day is a holiday for us all.
Rosner: BHB, as significant as it is, also created some legal issues that no society has faced before.
PM: There were many issues that we never faced before, but that’s what happens when you embark on something new. It was no coincidence that a year after the first BHB birth, we were able to hold the first Constitutional Convention with the delegates from all the 35 prospective states. BHB gave us the impetus to build a single democratic nation out of Israel and the Muslim majority countries in North Africa and western and central Asia which had come under Israeli control following the horrors of the Purging. By July 2028 we had full agreement on the text of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Azura, which provided the framework for the new nation and the rights we had to deal with on a secular level such as the right to marry, parental rights, birth rights, and the freedom from genetic discrimination. Two-thirds of the 35 prospective states ratified the Constitution on the 11th of September and a new nation was born. Pursuant to the federal holiday bill, 11 September is the National Day of Azura.
A woman’s will is the strongest thing in the world and by that will we were able to accomplish what we have. Nearly twenty years ago the then American president came to Cairo University and said, “All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together.” That day has come and we, alone, ushered it in.
We cannot forget that in the pre-Purging world there was not only religious, ethnic, and racial strife in the region, but infra-religious strife as well, specifically between Sunni and Shi’a. Yet such animosity is non-existent today in a place of peace for everyone. A nation governed by the rule of law, in honor of God, and in the spirit of feminine fellowship.
Rosner: Whose idea was to call the nation Azura?
Leah Abravanel (LA): It was mine. Actually, defense minister Ziona Massala brought the name to my attention and I looked into it. The 35 states have many different ethnicities here, but are dominated by two faiths: Islam and Judaism, with a growing number of Christians do to immigration. Under the old paradigm we would be looking at why my wife referred to as the “children of Abraham.” Yet that is problematic because such lineage is paternal. According to tradition, Judaism and Islam were born from different sons of Abraham by two different mothers, Ishmael from Hagar for Muslims and Isaac from Sarah for the Jews.
So we had to go farther back for commonality because it made no sense in today’s age to base anything on paternal lineage. That’s how we come upon Azura. She was the second daughter of Adam and Eve. Their eldest daughter, Awan, married Cain. Azura married their other brother Seth. Eve is quoted in the Scriptures as saying, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” Cain and Awan had turned away from God. Seth and Azura, however, were the first to call upon the name of the Lord. In essence, they are the mother and father of humanity in the eyes of God. Abraham is a direct descendent of theirs. Once I learned that story, it became obvious that the first nation created by women should be named after humanity’s true mother.
The name allowed us to not be boxed into a description based on religion, race, ethnicity, or religion. We are a unified people regardless of such things, and Azura represents that. We certainly respect those distinguishing factors, but our unity transcends such. In the spirit of this unity we designed the nation’s flag: white Star of David and Crescent outlined in green, red, and black on a deep blue field—all colors taken from the individual states’ flags.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Great Expectations: The world’s most famous—and hottest—couple, Naomi Abravanel and Yasmin, prepare for their first child
By Karima Nour
Photographed by Basya Klein
Styled by Gilah Marziano
Posted 67.04.25.01:17 UTC+2
The photo was bound to shock and titillate, but so did most things Yasmin—the world’s best footballer and LQ’s sexiest woman of the year two years running—has done. Yet this was different. Yes, Yasmin’s photospreads have glossed many a magazine homepage, including this publication on numerous occasions, but not like this. This time, Yasmin featured her lovely spouse Naomi Abravenel, the daughter of two of the Founding Mothers, the Prime Minister Dassah Shaul and the late former Prime Minister Leah Abravanel. In other words, she’s the closest thing we have to royalty here in the great nation of Azura.
Naomi, eight months pregnant, stands nude before the camera, her bent left arm covering her swelling breasts and her right hand up to the back of her spouse’s head. Yasmin, nude as well, stands behind her with only a tantalizing glimpse of her rippling torso. Her left hand is on one shoulder and her right hand is strategically placed below Naomi’s rounded belly. Naomi’s face is turned to the side, her pouting lips parted and ever so close to Yasmin’s. It’s a perfect shot. When the photo was posted on our site in anticipation of this week’s issue it immediately became this year’s most downloaded picture.
Yasmin and Naomi intended the photo to be a celebration of life on the 40th anniversary of the birth of the first child conceived by bioengineered human bimaternalgenesis, BHB, which the editors of Science voted the greatest invention in human history a few years back. Yasmin’s detractors have called the photo needlessly provocative. When she’s not wearing her classic blue and white Tel Aviv United strip, Yasmin is often spotted in retro clothing of push-up bras, high heals, and miniskirts—which accentuate the world’s most gorgeous legs—when the norm is either bare or ComSos, fashionable flats, and loose or slim slacks. Her long hair and exotic coiffures are also a point of contention. Her critics claim she is a negative influence on her legion of young fans who want to follow her in wearing revealing clothing and garish makeup such as eye shadow, mascara, and lip plumping lipstick.
“You don’t have to wear constricting attire and be painted up like a clown to be sexy,” chides conservative former prime minister and current opposition leader Ziona Massala. “Why would any woman objectify herself?”
“This is who I am and I’m proud of it,” Yasmin responds. “I’ve always loved the old-time clothing. Even as a little girl I preferred dresses over pants. I’m not alone. These gray-hairs just don’t get it.”
Yasmin is a polarizing figure outside the football arena, adored by the younger generation and reviled by the older crowd. Inside, she is loved by all after leading the Azuran National Team to the World Cup Championship over Brazil last year in her first stint as team captain. Four years earlier at the age of 21 she had taken the football world by storm in leading the national team to the Cup Finals against England in a thrilling match that England won with a goal in the final minutes. Yasmin had a chance to tie, but her shot hit off the crossbar. In the postmatch news conference a distraught Yasmin guaranteed a championship the next time and she was proved right.
Twenty sixty-six was a momentous year for Yasmin and Naomi. After Yasmin led the Tel Aviv United to the back-to-back Premier League Championships last June and then the World Cup Championship in July, Yasmin and Naomi were married in a lavish ceremony at the magnificent Raghadan Palace in Amman, Jordan. The 300 guests in attendance included members of the National Assembly, countless celebrities, and sports personalities. Although security was high, the couple thrilled hundreds of spectators by coming out to wave and thank the cheering throngs. Always outrageous, Yasmin had opted against the traditional wedding abaya in favor of a vintage Nicolas Ghesquière wedding gown.
“We knew we wanted to have a child right away once we got married,” Naomi says. “We had to plan it out as best we could because the football season is so long.” She conceived in late September during the first month of the 2066-67 season.
The baby is due in late May—right in the middle of the playoffs—but Yasmin insists she won’t miss the birth no matter if she’s scheduled to play. “In hindsight, we could’ve planned it better, but who cares?” she says. “It’s not every day you get to become a mother.”
Gigi Limited just released its third generation of “smart” comfort supporters that automatically adjust to the fluctuating breast shape and size during the menstrual cycle and weight gain or loss in addition to what its predecessors provided in proper support for every range of motion without pain or strain to the chest, back, shoulders, or neck.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
In fact, on July 3 the great John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail: “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”
Poor John was off by two days. No one knows why July 2 was supplanted by the 4th, but it happened early. If anything, we can blame Philadelphia. On July 4, 1777 Philadelphia celebrated the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, then a year later General George Washington marked the holiday with a double ration of rum for his soldiers and an artillery salute on the 4th.
Since the celebration on the 4th rather than the 2nd happened so early, the myth of the 4th became firmly entrenched. Even John Adams had come to believe later on in life that he and the other delegates had signed the document on July 4.
Monday, June 29, 2009
The death was unexpected by the public, but if the reports coming out are correct, it shouldn’t have been unexpected by the Jackson family and their inner circle considering his deteriorating health. It’s obvious that with all these tributes the fans and the media are overlooking the last fifteen years or so and are, instead, stirring the echoes of what Michael was in the 1970s and 80s. That image of Michael was how they wanted to remember him. The persistent pedophilia allegations and the self mutilation via plastic surgery (13 facial procedures in all), have been put aside. That is only natural consider how people tend to react to unpleasant things in life. How often have couples lingered in relationships because they focus on what they were in happier times? In doing so they avoid the unpleasantries of the present. We do the same with our jobs and even the sports teams or athletes were root for.
I was conflicted when I heard about his death because I had both images of Michael in my mind. It was hard not to sully the earlier by the latter. If we are to believe the reports, Michael was trapped in the circle of abuse. I hope he is freed of his inner demons. Let him rest in peace.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Sunday, June 14, 2009
This Parade also marks an important time in the history of Puerto Rican New Yorkers: one of our own (like me, born and raised in the Bronx), Judge Sonia Sotomayor, is the first Latino U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Unfortunately, she is unable to attend the parade because she is in D.C. Hopefully she’ll be part of the Parade next year as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
I, too, won’t be attending the Parade. I’ve attended many in the past and actually marched in the Parade one year when I was in college as part of the Latino college student organizations. I had the honor of carrying the Puerto Rican flag at the head of the contingent. I’ll return to the Parade once my son gets a little bit older so he can enjoy the revelry celebrating our heritage. ¡Viva Puerto Rico!
Saturday, June 6, 2009
We’re here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For four long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved and the world prayed for its rescue. Here, in Normandy, the rescue began. Here, the Allies stood and fought against tyranny, in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.
We stand on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of France. The air is soft, but forty years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. At dawn, on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, two hundred and twenty-five Rangers jumped off the British landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs.
Their mission was one of the most difficult and daring of the invasion: to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. The Allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these guns were here, and they would be trained on the beaches to stop the Allied advance.
The Rangers looked up and saw the enemy soldiers at the edge of the cliffs, shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades. And the American Rangers began to climb. They shot rope ladders over the face of these cliffs and began to pull themselves up. When one Ranger fell, another would take his place. When one rope was cut, a Ranger would grab another and begin his climb again. They climbed, shot back, and held their footing. Soon, one by one, the Rangers pulled themselves over the top, and in seizing the firm land at the top of these cliffs, they began to seize back the continent of Europe. Two hundred and twenty-five came here. After two days of fighting, only ninety could still bear arms.
And behind me is a memorial that symbolizes the Ranger daggers that were thrust into the top of these cliffs. And before me are the men who put them there. These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. And these are the heroes who helped end a war. Gentlemen, I look at you and I think of the words of Stephen Spender’s poem. You are men who in your “lives fought for life and left the vivid air signed with your honor.”
Ronald Reagan, delivered June 6, 1984 in Pointe Du Hoc, Normandy on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day
Quoted from Inspirationalspeakers.wordpress.com
Thursday, June 4, 2009
I did serve on an actual jury once back in March 1999 when I was on Spring Break from law school. It was an enlightening experience, especially for the career I was undertaking. What surprised me the most was how my fellow jurors took their responsibilities so seriously. We poured over the evidence, strove to keep an open mind throughout, and had a healthy debate to reach a consensus. We were serving on a burglary case and agreed to acquit because the prosecution’s case had fallen apart during the trial. Yet while we were concluding our deliberations the court officer informed us that the defendant had pled guilty. Oh well.
This time there was no chance I would be selected to serve. I’ve been practicing law for about 10 years now. I’m a litigator who has appeared in the courthouses in every borough of NYC as well as appellate and federal courts. The prosecutor and defense counsel would be nuts to pick me. Yet, I had to go through the motions and was put on a jury panel.
For those that don’t know, a jury panel is about 60 to 80 prospective jurors from whom the prosecutor and defense counsel gets to chose 12 jurors and between 2 to 4 alternates to serve on a particular case. That’s how it works in a criminal trial. For a civil trial there are only 6 jurors.
In this instance, the court went through 4 rounds before picking the 16 jurors. That is, the court calls 16 people from the jury panel, the Judge and attorneys ask them questions, and then the attorneys decide who to keep. They chose 4 in the first round and then called another 16 for the second in which they chose 5. By the time they called another 16 for the third round I was feeling good because I thought there was a great chance they would get the final 7. This was Tuesday afternoon and if they filled all the slots there was a good chance I could be discharged that day. Nope, didn’t happen. To all the prospective jurors’ surprise and chagrin, the attorneys only picked 3. That left 20 of us from who 16 would fill the 4th round. I got lucky again and wasn’t picked for the round. That left 4 of us in the back of the courtroom watching for the fourth time the same set of questions. Arrrggghh. Then, someone from the 16 was let go and they had to fill another slot. The bailiff called a name and it wasn’t mine. Luckily this was it and from the final round the attorneys selected the final 4. It will be a long trial considering it is a murder and attempted murder case.
So I finished my service where it started: in the jury room at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens. The waiting around is a pain, but it’s the nature of the system. We have to wait around until a panel is called or until they let us go, the latter only when there are enough replacement jurors. While there me and others debated the value of the way the system is set up with having twelve random people decide a person’s fate rather than a panel or professional jurors or even if the defendant should be there during jury selection considering our vital information is disclosed in his or her presence. We weren’t the first to debate these issues and we won’t be the last. But it’s worth discussing to pass the time as we fulfill our civic duty.
Friday, May 29, 2009
It amazes me that the Cavs have come this far. Yes, the team had an NBA best 66 wins during the regular season, but LeBron’s supporting cast is absolutely dreadful. Only Mo Williams is a decent player. If we ranked the top 8 players per the 4 teams in the conference finals (teams in the playoffs usually go with an 8-man rotation) for a ranking of 1 to 32, the top 4 would be LeBron, Kobe Bryant (Lakers), Dwight Howard (Magic), and Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets). With the remaining 24 players, the Cavs’ players would take up the bottom 7 slots. If you took the second best player off any of the 3 other conference finals teams and put him on the Cavs, this best-of-7 series would, at least, be in the Cavs’ favor if not already over.
Just to be down 3 games to 2, LeBron has to play out of his mind and be near exhaustion every 4th quarter because of the lack of help. The Cavs’ front office has committed professional malpractice in trying to support LeBron with talent. This team is no different than 2 years ago when it went to the NBA Finals and the supporting cast was dreadful back then. The Cavs’ big moves in the interim in bringing in Wally Szczerbiak and Ben Wallace have failed miserably as both can barely get minutes in the postseason. The only move that has worked has been bringing in Williams this season.
This reminds me of the late 1980s to mid 1990s for the New York Knicks and Patrick Ewing. No, Patrick was not the caliber of player LeBron is, but he was still a hall of famer in the making and, in his prime, a top 5 player in the NBA. Like the Cavs’ front office, the Knicks did a pathetic job in surrounding Patrick with talent. Delusional Knick fans would argue that John Starks and Charles Oakley were good, but let’s get serious here. Oakley was a Chicago Bulls castaway and a thug and Starks was a glorified CBA player (the pseudo minor leagues of the NBA at the time). Whenever the Knicks faced the Bulls, Rockets, or Pacers, Patrick was no worse than the 2nd best player on the floor (only Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon being better), while the next best Knick was always worse than the rest of the opponents’ top players.
NBA fans know that LeBron will be a free agent going into the 2010 season. Cavs’ fans fear he would leave to a team like the Knicks, which happens to be one of the worst teams in the NBA at the moment. Fans talk about the rumor that he has a special clause in his endorsement contracts whereby he would get more money if he played in New York. The Knicks should be well under the salary cap to afford LeBron. If he does leave for the Knicks, I don’t think it would have anything to do with endorsement deals as it is the Knicks would have the cap space to bring in another good player. That is something the Cavs have failed to do since LeBron has been there.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I’m a lay minister in an African-American Roman Catholic parish in St. Albans, Queens. My wife and I have been members of the congregation since we’ve moved here from the Bronx in February, 2006. With the choir, liturgical dancers, and overall camaraderie of the parishioners, it’s the most enjoyable church experience I’ve had as a life-long Catholic. It reminds me of the Spanish masses I used to go to as a child. As part of Black History month each Sunday, the ushers pass out a questionnaire containing 5 or so questions on Black history. The questionnaires are collected at the end of mass, and those with the most correct answers get a prize. The following Sunday the answers are announced. It’s an excellent method of testing your knowledge.
The questionnaires made me think of the most personally influential book I’ve ever read (besides the Bible): The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I read it back in 1991 when I joined the U.S. Army. It had a profound impact on me, and Malcolm X remains one of my idols. I collected documentaries on him, and videos and audio tapes of his speeches. I even had a poster up of him in my barracks room (which confused many of my platoon mates—White, Black, and fellow Latinos alike). He’s a misunderstood figure to many, regardless of race or ethnicity. For instance, he is known for the saying: “By any means necessary.” It’s viewed positively and negatively depending on your POV. It’s ironic that his famous—or infamous—saying is taken out of context. He said it to mean that Blacks should defend themselves by any means necessary.
Many of his views were harsh, but he was willing to reassess them as he gained more knowledge. As he wrote, “My whole life had been a chronology of—changes .… Despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts, and to accept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.”
There’s a subtle, but important event in the book. A white female college student had been so moved by Malcolm’s speech at her New England school early in his ministry that she flew down to New York to see him. She found him at the Nation of Islam’s restaurant in Harlem and asked him what she could do to help the plight of African Americans in this country. Malcolm bluntly said, “Nothing.” She burst out crying and ran out the restaurant. Later on in the book after Malcolm had embraced the idea of the kinship of all peoples and the races working together to end racism, Malcolm reflects that he regretted telling her that, thought about her often whenever the topic arose, and wished he knew her name to write or telephone her. It troubled me that in Spike Lee’s movie he put the rejection scene in without the context of Malcolm’s later regret in how he dealt with the situation.
A month before his murder in February 1965, Malcolm said during an interview on Canadian television: “I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being—neither white, black, brown, or red; and when you are dealing with humanity as a family there’s no question of integration or intermarriage. It’s just one human being marrying another human being or one human being living around and with another human being.”
This was at a time when intermarriage was not only taboo in the U.S., but still illegal in some states. It was actually counter to his previous views on interracial marriage during his early times with the Nation of Islam. This was a man who evolved in his ministry and world view and recognized this evolution. It is this evolved Malcolm—El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz—who is one of the forefathers of how we view race today, and can celebrate Black History Month—America’s History Month—with an African-American in the White House.
Friday, May 15, 2009
As a self professed Trekker, I had my misgivings about this movie. I didn’t like the notion of “this isn’t your father’s Star Trek.” The decline of Star Trek wasn’t because the franchise pulled a John McCain and ran to its base; it was because Rick Berman (who ran the show) kept producing shoddy products. The franchise jumped the shark with Voyager in 1995 and Enterprise was dreadful. Only 1 of the 4 Next Generation movies was decent and that was First Contact in 1996. In fact, the series finale of TNG, “All Good Things” was quantumly better than any of the films. No wonder Nemesis bombed; it stunk.
The franchise didn’t need a reboot, it needed good story telling and good filmmaking and it got both with the new movie. I was pleasantly surprised. The movie had a great story and was well acted. I, like everyone else, was drawn to the new cast. The special effects were also good with the space scenes influenced by the new Battlestar Galactica. A bit ironic considering the original Battlestar Galactica was influenced by Star Trek. The new BSG just shows what good story telling and filmmaking can do.
My only qualm would be with some aspects of the production design. The uniforms looked silly. I know they wanted to follow the Original Series design, but TOS uniforms looked better. Heck, they fit better on the actors. The fish scale tops weren’t working. It’s a problem when the other uniforms shown in the movie look and fit better than the primary uniforms. The bloated Starship Enterprise was also a problem. The ship is supposed to look sleek, but this version was too bulky, especially with the obese warp nacelles. But those are just minor issues. All-in-all, JJ Abrams and his crew did a fine job.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
I started reading the book this past week and (I know I’m biased), but it's a captivating read with an intriguing story, lively characters, and wonderfully descriptive writing. The book has been well received by critics. I look forward to finishing it and to further books by Cindy.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
My wife and I were celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary on Saturday and before we went to dinner we stopped off at the Roosevelt Field Wal-Mart on Long Island (I know, very romantic). At about 4:30ish my wife was filling her shopping cart and I turned on my Treo to watch the draft on Sprint TV (the NFL Network broadcasted it live on the phone). At that time the St. Louis Rams were picking second and there were rumors they would select Sanchez. They didn’t. Then the Chiefs picked, then the Seahawks who were also rumored to pick Sanchez. They didn’t. Now came the Browns, whose head coach is the Jets former head coach Eric Mangini. By now my wife was getting on line. I was drifting away from her and moving down the aisle. I heard the announcer say, “There’s been a trade.” I saw the Jet logo and started jumping up-and-down with my left fist in the air. I know I looked like a fool, but I didn’t care. I was going nuts in Wal-Mart. I saw the streaming video of Mark Sanchez at his draft party in Southern California. He was going crazy as well and put on the Jets cap. I was now more calm, just pumping my fist and yelling, “Yeah! Yeah!” I then got a call from my wife asking me where the hell I was because she was about to pay. She paid for the stuff from Wal-Mart and I paid for dinner, which was delicious.
Besides the fact that Sanchez fills the Jets most pressing need and brings hope to the team and tortured fan base, I’m excited that he has the potential to be the first major Latino superstar in the NFL. Yes, there’s Tony Gonzalez and Tony Romo, but nothing like Sanchez in the biggest media market in the world. As a Latino I’m filled with tremendous pride that he is playing for my hometown team. I just hope he can finally void the deal Joe Namath made with the Devil.