Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Godfather Test

Admit it. You probably read the free Parade magazine that comes with your Sunday newspaper. Stuffed in there with the TV Week, the circulars, and the comics, Parade is about as Sunday as church and football games. For me, it's normally the first thing I look at in the morning, especially if the brain isn't yet functioning properly from a successful Saturday night. And let's be honest, it's 20 pages of human interest stories and stuff you probably already knew, but occasionally there are a few decent articles that show up. Today, George Stephanopoulos had a piece in there called "How To Be a Better Voter" which was pretty interesting. It had 6 "tips" for making yourself a more informed voter come November. I particularly liked the second one, "Use the Godfather Test." Stephanopoulos writes:

"Political pollsters love the beer-buddy question—namely, to ask voters which candidate they’d most want to hang out with over a couple of cold ones or a cup of coffee. But I prefer to use the Godfather (or Godmother) Test. What that means: Pick a candidate as if your child’s life depended on it. While liking the politician should be part of your thought process, having a Best Pal in the Oval Office isn’t enough. The decisions made by the next President will help determine whether your children will have to fight in wars, how dependent they’ll be on foreign oil, and whether Medicare and Social Security will be there when they retire. Vote for the candidate who has the competence and character to guide your child—and the country."

That's pretty good advice, George. If I had a dollar for every time I heard "I hate President Bush's policies but I would still have a beer with him"...well, I would have a lot of dollars. And to be honest, I have said it in the past myself, mainly circa pre-spring 2003. But elections are not about drinking beer or picking someone you want to have at your July 4th party, they are about choosing who has the best judgement to lead the country. This is why it was so frustrating to hear all that talk a month or so ago about the "elitism" of Senator Obama.

Anyone who runs for president - let alone becomes one - is an "elitist." Once you hit the national scene and have thousands of people chanting your name at rallies or driving around with your name on their bumper stickers, you have given up your "common man" status, period. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Being in a position of power does not mean you can't still look out for the public good or connect with everyday people. It just means you do so from a different position within society. So let's take all this elitism talk (whether it's about Obama or McCain or whoever) and send it to sleep with the fishes and Luca Brasi.

To check out Stephanopoulos' other ideas, click here for the article.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Run for Cover

It may be 93 degrees and sunny in Washington, but it is a dark day for the city and the nation as the Supreme Court ruled that the DC ban on handguns was unconstitutional.

The shame of Georgetown University, Justice Antonin Scalia, wrote in the majority opinion that "the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home." Almost all of the supporters of the decision talked about the need for "self-defense in the home" (or some variation of that). The plaintiff, Dick Heller, said he was "very happy" that he would be able to protect his family "in my own home." But let's be honest. What's keeping these weapons in the home and not out on the street where they can destroy lives and communities? It's not as if you can put something like an electric dog collar on these weapons and zap a gun owner if they take it out of the house. It is time for our country to have a serious, far-reaching debate about this issue - one that goes beyond the slogans and banner waving.

If you are on the fence as to who to vote for in the 2008 general election, just think of three words: Supreme Court appointees. Presidents and congressman may come and go, but justices are there for life and make decisions that affect us in ways that politicians simply can't.

***UPDATE - Apparently a "serious, far-reaching debate" may be out of the question if commenter "philippine lottery" (see comment below) is any indication of who's out there.

Way Better Than Muzak

For most people, Jack Johnson's music conjures up feelings of summertime, kicking back with some friends, and enjoying a relaxing sunset. Think beaches, surfing, and backyard parties. But how about adding this spot to the list: the Trenton train station.

I was waiting for my train Monday evening after a quick visit back home and was ready to plug in my earphones when I heard Johnson's "If I Had Eyes" emanating from the the platform speakers. It sure beats Muzak, right? Perhaps it's part of the $74 million renovation plan that aims to transform the station from a dump into the shining jewel of New Jersey's capital. Or perhaps it's a scheme to allow travelers to forget they are in Trenton. Not sure when the completion date is set for, but they seem to be on their way.

So check out the song, and let the soothing melodies transport you to...Trenton, New Jersey.

Friday, June 20, 2008

First Day of Summer

What better way to celebrate the summer solstice today than with Philly's phinest - DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince? The beats and rhymes are timeless...but thankfully not the clothes. For a (slightly cringeworthy) trip down memory lane, click here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Let's Party Like Brazilian Soccer Players

Have you seen the new Nike commercial airing during the Euro 2008 matches on ESPN2? (Note: There is a European soccer tournament taking place in Austria and Switzerland for those of you whose sports attention span stops at the border). It's a great little ad that tracks a fictional Dutch kid's rise from playing for a local team to signing with Arsenal in England and eventually getting called up to the Dutch national team - all from the point-of-view of the player (let's call him Rutger - that's a good Dutch name). Take a look for yourself:

It is a great piece of advertising. What made me smile the most was at the 51 second mark when Rutger gets out of the limo with his girlfriend. He is greeted by adoring (mostly female fans), and is only too eager to cheer up one who apparently has a lot on her chest that day. Girlfriend looks over disapprovingly...

I got a real charge out of that moment because four years ago I was fortunate to get into the Brazilian national team's post-match VIP party in Dublin following their exhibition match against Ireland. All I can say is that the Nike commercial is obviously tame given what goes on during a soccer player's extra-curricular time. It's a great story that gets better after a few drinks, but here's what happened:

I spent my junior year abroad living in Dublin and was fortunate to get tickets for Ireland's exhibition match against the mighty Brazilians at Lansdowne Road on February 18, 2004. There was excitement in the air and a definite festival vibe in and around the stadium. Just having the Samba Kings in town was enough to get everyone in the partying mood. The game ended in a nil-nil draw, but we all felt the Irish outplayed the Brazilians on that night and deserved a win.

Following the match, my buddies and I went back to have a few drinks at a bar near my apartment. We were a couple beers deep when my friend received a text from his girlfriend ("she's not my girlfriend") which read: "Come over to Lillies Bordello now." Lillies Bordello is one of the most famous nightlife spots in Dublin - a place where Britney Spears, movie stars, and other assorted rich and beautiful people like to hang out with each other when they are in town. We weren't interested. A few minutes later his phone goes off again with this message: "I'm with the Brazilian team in the VIP section - I can get you guys in."

Needless to say, we didn't even finish our beers and were out the door running across town to Lillies. We met the girlfriend outside who whispered something in the bouncer's ear and we were in. Dark lighting. Comfy sofas. Private conversations in corners. Men in expensive suits. Women in short dresses. And us, a bunch of American college kids in t-shirts, starry-eyed. It was around 1:00 AM and most of the team had cleared out, but there were still plenty of players, trainers, and agents walking around.

considered by some the best player in the world at the time, was hanging out with a hoodie pulled over his head. I walked up to him and introduced myself, asking if I could get a photo. "Later, my man," he said, which apparently is Portuguese for "no way." But a least he was nice about it.

Anyhow, I was so thrilled to be in that room that it didn't hit me that I had entered the soccer equivalent of being backstage at a Van Halen concert circa 1984. Women were everywhere and they were practically throwing themselves on the Brazilians. Flirting. Giggling. Whispering. (Apparently there aren't any blonds or redheads in Brazil). I went upstairs to use the bathroom which apparently doubled as a hotel room on that particular evening. (You can use your imagination). I half-expected Wilt Chamberlain to show up. It was one of those nights when you take a step back and say, "How the hell did I get here?"

The night went on and there were rumors that the members of U2 were going to show up. (They didn't). After 3 in the morning we stumbled out into the cool Dublin air, already trying to make sense of the evening. I had class the next morning at 8:45 and managed to drag myself to the lecture hall. The topic was US-Canadian relations. My mind was elsewhere.

Rutger has much to look forward to...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Job Ops at Gitmo, E-mail Immediately!

Apparently, the folks running the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have been communicating with the prisoners via charades if a recent classified ad on Craigslist is any indication. On Friday, I came across this listing in the "Government Jobs" section:

Pashto Interpreter (Cuba)

Reply to: Date: 2008-06-13, 3:49PM EDT

Immediate search for TOP SECRET/SCI cleared (or eligible) linguist/interpreter who speaks the PASHTO* language for ongoing work in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Must be a United States citizen. Competetive compensation. Full benefits, travel and housing included. Please reply with an email immediately if you would like to apply. * Also looking for TOP SECRET/SCI cleared linguist/interpreters who speak: Uighur, Swahili languages.

Call me crazy, but I would hope that the U.S. government has more effective ways of recruiting staff for "top secret" positions than advertising for them on Craigslist. Plus, there's a sense of desperation in the tone of the ad: "e-mail immediately if you would like to apply." And one more thing, let's do a spellcheck on competetive [competitive], shall we? Things must be getting pretty desperate down in Gitmo.

I'm also curious what an Uighur-speaking interpreter would be asked to say. There's been a lot of talk lately in Washington about the status of those Chinese prisoners. Maybe the interpreters will be brought in to share some good news about a release to the U.S.? Who knows what's going on down there.

Anyhow, if you are interested in any of these positions - and honestly, why wouldn't you be? - click here for the posting.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Love Hurts

On more than one occasion, my girlfriend has pointed out that given the chance, she would leave me for Barack Obama. And to be honest with you, I don't have a good response to that. I can't really compete with the good senator from Illinois, though I am happy to say she hasn't left me yet.

Unfortunately, it appears that Rachel Keller's former boyfriend actually went through with it, kind of. She's recently posted a video on YouTube describing her experience fighting with Obama for the attention of her (now ex-) boyfriend. Speaking recently with Politico, Keller, 27, said her former boyfriend became "all wrapped up in the campaign" despite the fact that he was just a health care consultant and had no connection with the Obama camp or politics. "I'm your average girl who likes Us Weekly. And I read the headlines in The New York Times, sure, but I'm not as in-depth as that. And so there were times when he wanted to go canvass Ohio and I wanted to just hang out with my friends."

Needless to say, the relationship didn't work out, but Keller has become a mini-Internet phenomenon with her video "I Got Dumped for Obama."

She says she doesn't talk politics with her new boyfriend.

To read the full article, click here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Big Papi's Big Day

Although David Ortiz may still be on the DL, he achieved one of his proudest accomplishments off the field today in Boston. Along with 226 others, Big Papi became a U.S. citizen during a ceremony this afternoon at the John F. Kennedy Library in Dorchester. "My whole family, kids, and everyone have been born here," Ortiz told the Boston Globe and other reporters. "It's a great country, proud to be here, now proud to be a part of it."

So does this mean that Ortiz might get caught up in the election fever gripping the nation? Not necessarily so, says his wife Tiffany. "We haven't really talked about the whole voting thing," she said. Hopefully, however, he won't be swayed by Curt Schilling's influence in the locker room...

For more photos of Big Papi's big day, click here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Democratic Primaries: The Abridged Version

It's pretty hard to avoid politics these days. Even if you stay away from CNN, the Internet, and news magazines at any cost, chances are you have somehow been inundated with stories from the primary campaign over the past year and a half. A recent article in Newsweek discussed that the campaigns have put energy into targeting "low-information voters," i.e. those people whose world view is shaped by The Tyra Banks Show (pun intended). Their votes count, too.

However, with the recent discovery of a "lost tribe" in the Amazon, it has been proven that there are indeed people out there who have never heard of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (or John McCain). Fortunately for them, the good people at Slate put together "The Democratic Race in Eight Minutes." Priceless.

So, Amazon people - this one's for you. Or for anyone else who wants to take a fun little trip down memory lane. Where did the time go?

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Coolest Thing Since the Remote?

Recently, I received a forwarded e-mail with the subject line "What a handy website!" Hmm, could be interesting. So I scrolled down to the bottom of the e-mail until I got to this:

What A Handy Tool! WOW!!!!!!! THIS IS THE COOLEST THING SINCE THE INVENTION OF THE TV REMOTE CONTROL Just Point and click ! CLICK HERE > Pick a site ! "BOOM" There it is !

So I clicked and BOOM there it was: Perhaps the most pointless website I've ever come across. Apparently the folks at haven't heard of the "bookmarks" or "favorites" functions on a web browser. By the time you scroll down the page to get to, say, Travelocity, I could have booked a flight to Miami had a just typed t-r-a-v-e-l-o-c-i-t-y-.-c-o-m in the first place. And the "coolest thing since the invention of the TV remote control"? How about the Internet? Or cell phones? Or HDTVs? I'm all for a little over-exaggeration now and then, but this is too much.

Anyhow, that's my rant on - Check it out and then bookmark it. Oh wait...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Strangest Job Title Ever

During one of my daily searchers for jobs on Idealist today, I came across one listing that caught my eye. It jumped out not because I thought it would be a great fit for me, but rather because of the title of the position:

"Director of Abuse of Power"

Hmm. I wonder if Hugo Chavez, Robert Mugabe, or Kim Jong-il sent in their resumes? Or maybe those crazy military guys in Myanmar? Reading on, it turns out that the position is to head the Abuse of Power campaign spearheaded by the organization Common Cause to "highlight abuses of power by the Executive Branch and the abdication of power by the Legislative Branch and what it means for the survival of the Constitution and our democracy."

So I guess that means Vice President Cheney is barred from applying. But if you are interested in the position, check out the posting here. It would be pretty neat to have "Director of Abuse of Power" on your credit card, wouldn't it? (And if you get the job, please hook me up).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mr. Mendelsohn Goes to Washington

Tomorrow night begins the final round of Top Chef on Bravo (10 pm). While I'm disappointed that Spike Mendelsohn missed out on the finals, I'm happy to hear that he will be opening his new burger joint on Capitol Hill sometime in the next few weeks. Called Good Stuff Eatery, Spike told New York Magazine last week:

I’m about to launch Good Stuff Eatery in about three weeks. I found the location in D.C. and thought it was amazing. It’s right on the Hill, at Pennsylvania and C. I wanted to do something really simple to capitalize off the publicity of the show. I’m really young, 27, and I didn’t want to open my fine-dining restaurant yet. All the critics would have been really on top of me, and I would have driven myself crazy. I’m giving it the branding of Starbucks; it’s a very well-branded store.

Hopefully his new restaurant will bring some funk, flavor, and edge to Capitol Hill. And who knows? Maybe he'll even influence some of the fashion trends around this city. Can't you just picture Senator Akaka in one of those hats?

Check out the Good Stuff Eatery website here, though there isn't much up yet. The menu should be out in a few weeks.

Get hungry.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Manny Joins the 500 Club

Utter pandemonium. That was the reaction in Camden Yards last night when Manny Ramirez hit his 500th career home run, joining a club of only 23 other players in baseball history. Walking around Baltimore yesterday in the rain, it didn't seem like the game was going to get played, but about two hours before first pitch the sun came out to the relief of the many Sox fans who made the trip to Balitmore for the games this weekend.

Everytime Manny stepped to the plate, the flashbulbs went off all over the ballpark, making it look like mini-lightning storms throughout Camden Yards. You could feel the anticipation with each at bat and then finally in the 7th inning, with one pitch from Chad Bradford... a swing and 410 feet into history.

We were on our feet for the next five minutes, just screaming and chanting Manny's name. Ian Browne of wrote:

With a large group of Red Sox fans at Camden Yards for this weekend series, the historic homer elicited roars that felt like they were right out of Fenway Park. It was so loud after Ramirez made contact that it was hard to believe the majestic shot came on the road. "That's why they call it Red Sox Nation," Ramirez said. "They follow us everywhere. Everywhere we go, we get big support."

Here's to the next 100.