Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kennedy, Kopechne and karma ...

As controversial as he was—the drowning at Chappaquiddick, support for the I.R.A.—the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy gives me pause for thought.
If I admire anything about Ted Kennedy, it's that he continued to fight for what he took seriously—even if the rest of the nation didn't—despite not being very well for several years. He still went to work and fought for the mandate that his fawning "Massholes" gave him. He was almost tireless when he should have been constantly falling over from exhaustion.
I'm also glad that he's no longer in any pain. A brain tumor is rough (my wife witnessed her father suffering from one) and I feel a tad guilty for mocking his alcoholism with my entry the other day ("Kennedy's Been Hitting the Bottle ...") It was, I admit, an inopportune time to pick on the man.
Nonetheless, you can't help but feel karma at work here. Drowning is also a rough, and very scary, way to die. Given that he did not die painlessly of old age in his sleep, dying from cancer was Kennedy's comeuppance.
Justice, at long last, for Mary Jo Kopechne.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kennedy's been hitting the bottle, but what's Kerry's excuse?

Scotland's release of Abdul al-Megrahi from his prison sentence is indeed a mistake as well as an outrage. But do Sens. Kennedy and Kerry really feel our pain?

Previously published by Blogcritics

Imagine a letter that berates a foreign government—a U.S. ally—for releasing a terrorist from his prison sentence on compassionate grounds. This letter decries the terrible impact the terrorist's act had on Americans, terming it a "heinous crime," asks the government in question to "oppose acts of terrorism," and respectfully demands that there be "no deviation this [the terrorist's] sentence."
It is not hard to imagine this letter because it really exists. What is considerably more difficult to imagine is that such a strong statement was put forth by Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, also signed by Chuck Schumer and Patrick Leahy, and sharing its sense of consternation with the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill went ahead with the decision to release Pan Am flight 103 bomber Abdul al-Megrahi from prison on compassionate grounds, given that al-Megrahi is terminally ill from prostate cancer. The British Government claims it had no say in the releasing of al-Megrahi, stating that it was purely a Scottish affair, though time will tell if Downing Street did have any impact on the decision, as furious MPs who opposed Megrahi's release are demanding an inquiry.
The Americans are also outraged at Scotland for releasing al-Megrahi from his prison sentence, and rightly so. Why should we show compassion toward Megrahi? If the Scots jailed bin Laden, would they also release him on "compassionate" grounds should he fall terminally ill? Whose compassion are we more concerned about, Megrahi's or that of his victims? As with so many other instances in today's society, it's the criminal that is treated fairly; the victims just get walked over.
Nonetheless, it was heartening to see Obama declaring al-Megrahi's release "a mistake"—though "an outrage" or "a slap in every American's face" would have been much more appropriate—and Mrs. Clinton urging MacAskill to not release the Libyan.
It was even more pleasantly incredulous to witness Sens. Kennedy and Kerry getting so worked up over al-Megrahi's release and what that means to the families of his victims. John Kerry, in a moment of absolute brilliance and clear-headedness, even went so far as to declare, "Megrahi showed no compassion to the innocent passengers and Scottish villagers he murdered; he should not receive our compassion now." I can't help but think, if only they'd stick up for America on a much more consistent basis, they might actually be considered patriots.
I'm inclined to think that Kennedy may have been hitting the bottle so hard lately that he's forgotten where he stands, but I wonder what Kerry's excuse is?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Nightdragon, the building-spotter

I like to think of myself as, if not exactly a tough guy, then something somewhat approaching it. However, I now realize an uncomfortable truth about me. I'm a geek.
I've become a bit obsessed about the building I work in. It's a hunk of rubbish with a brick exterior that should have been condemned at least ten years ago. But that's what makes me so curious about it.
The company I work for is the only business left in that building, occupying one half of the second floor. As for the ground floor, the first floor, the third floor and the other half of the second floor—they are all empty. On my breaktimes, I used to wander around all the empty office rooms and even a disused cafeteria before I started getting the creeps about it. Now I enjoy standing in the parking lot, looking up at all the empty rooms from the outside, and trying to spot phantoms.
It is, of course, typical of the company I work for that we'd be housed in this creaky edifice, which looks like a prison or an austere schoolbuilding from most angles, right up until its demise. It is scheduled to be imploded in September 2010, to make way for a hotel. The freeholders (the building's owners) actually put a FOR LEASE sign up at the front, though I can't imagine any business being so desperate for space that they'd consider this building, with its capricious-minded elevators, stained carpets and flickery lighting. Indeed, only me and my co-workers have that particular joy.
The building was built in 1953 and used to house the British social security offices. They had the sense to move away five years ago. The environmental agency offices on the first floor followed suit soon after. The travel training agency on the other side of the second floor moved house last year and the business on the third floor moved out just a few months ago. Now we are truly alone. As I say, it's a bit creepy around there now.
But I still can't help but wonder: Who occupied our space on the second floor before our company moved there in 1996? What did the building look like in its heyday, when it was a place you actually didn't wrinkle your nose up at the thought of going to every weekday? I find it incredible that there's an actual cafeteria on the third floor. The thought that at one time dinner-ladies worked there cracks me up; it's so unbelieveable given how forlorn the building is these days.
It's gotten to the point where I'm thinking of asking the security dude (he's only there because of us) if he knows of any old pictures I could look at and any history of the building I could read about. Why do I even have the slightest interest in any of it? I truly don't know, and that's the sad part.
I guess it's because I'm desperate to know if this building ever looked nice. Or I'm just a geek. You've heard of trainspotters? Maybe I'm a building-spotter.

POSTSCRIPT: I direct you, dear reader, to this particular entry (click on the purple words) for further evidence of my buidling-spotter credentials!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fashion freedom flows in only one direction

When a theme park banned "tight trunks" for men without placing similar restrictions on women, they re-inforced society's prejudice against the male form.

Previously published by Blogcritics

Recently, Alton Towers, a theme park here in England, banned swim briefs for men, declaring them in "bad taste" as they are a "family venue."
I need only, I hope, report that no such ban on bikinis for women applies to prove the point that what is good for the goose is absolutely not good for the gander.
We belly-ache over the subject of sexual equality. We talk of liberating women from the stringent dress codes of hard-line Islamic societies, which is all very well and certainly has my support. But we ignore the trend taking place in Western society, which in 50 years' time will expect all men to wear burlap sacking from neck to toes, lest the sight of a male elbow or ankle offend anyone's sensitivities.
I will never understand what it is about Speedos that gets some people so worked up. For all you women who say you don't like it, I submit the following scenario to you: You and your man are both sunbathing on the beach. You, of course, have the freedom to bare as much as you please while your male company is wearing baggy, flowery board shorts. Now comes night-time and you're looking forward to a bit of playing around. Your partner peels off his shorts to reveal the following: a tanned chest and abs, pasty white thighs and tanned calves. And you expect to say, with a straight face, that this turns you on? Please, ladies. Next you'll be telling me that all drinks should be spiked with GHB, and probably saying that with a straight face as well.
OK, I do realize that the bald, ugly, beer-bellied, chicken-legged contingent has given swim briefs a bad name. But why should fit, handsome men have to pay for their crime? There are some women out there who I believe should never wear skirts above the knees, because their legs are a horror show. Yet, you'd think me crazy to declare short skirts off-limits to good-looking, in-shape women simply because some pudgy-legged females dared to bare as well.
At my workplace, shorts recently became a banned item of clothing. Yet, men can wear 3/4 trousers. Have you ever seen a more ridiculous fashion item than 3/4 trousers? What's the point in wearing something that's not quite shorts but not quite pants either? And furthermore, does the management even realize where these 3/4 trousers originated? From that moronic "music" and "lifestyle" known as hip-hop. So, basically, our workplace is saying that a nice, crisp, respectable pair of khaki shorts, down to the knees, is not acceptable during the warm weather in our supposedly casual office, but some ridiculous claptrap from the "gold chains, no brains" world of rap is.
I remember when shorts down to the knees used to be considered conservative. Now men can't even show their whole calves anymore.
Who defends this sort of ridiculous fashion? It seems no matter how baggy and how long summer gear for men gets, there's always plenty of people who will defend it and declare it sexy. I don't know: I'm guessing society is just mad about ugly clothes on guys. It's the only explanation.
Why can't we simply admit that, as a society, we are severely prejudiced against the male form? That would at least be a laudable dose of refreshing honesty for once.
On the bright side, when I was at Discovery Cove, the specialist park set up by Sea World in Orlando, I saw a Latino guy wearing Speedos. This is a family-friendly destination as well, yet no-one told him he couldn't wear his briefs. He was the only one there wearing them, albeit—I'd opted for the wetsuit—but no-one was telling him off for his preferred swimgear. Furthermore, a survey conducted by the Metro newspaper found that while 58 percent agreed with Alton Towers' Speedos ban, 42 percent said they were in the wrong. Forty-two percent may be a minority, but it's a large one.
So, fuck you, Alton Towers. Your "bad taste" logic works both ways. You ban fashion freedom for men, I'll ban you from ever receiving any money that I earn.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Want some moobs with your ice cream, girls?

Good day, ladies and gentlemen. Time for a foray into the ridiculous.
A recent survey conducted here in Britain found that women prefer men with beer bellies, body odor and rough body hair to "well groomed metrosexuals."
This survey was conducted by Lion Bar Ice Cream. Now then, if a confectioner's survey on what turns women on can really be trusted, then I certainly wouldn't be interested in abiding by it. So women prefer slobs? They're welcome to them.
Honestly, this survey was biased from the start. Look at the choices here: fat, out-of-shape oiks with rough body hair or preening, fashion-conscious twinks.
No in-betweens? What about men with smooth, silky, plush body hair as opposed to living Brillo pads? What about men who like a beer or two but don't let it go to their bellies? What about men who dab on a splash of cologne but don't care for man-scara or guy-liner? Seems those type of men don't exist, according to this survey. You're either a girly man or a fat slob.
But this is the world according to Lion Bar. Are we really all that surprised?
More ice cream, ladies?