Friday, January 22, 2010

Candlelit Vigils, "Help For Haiti"

On the FIU campus Wednesday night there was a candlelit vigil and rally for the charity "Help for Haiti," to show our solidarity with the victims of this horrific disaster and collect canned foods and other things. This makes sense, since this state has the highest percentage of Haitian-born and Haitian-American students.

There was a part where a lot of students were asked to come up and give their stories about what happened, which really puts a human face on a numbing statistic like an estimated 150,000 person death toll. For instance, lots of students came up and talked about people in their immediate families that had suffered. One young man talked about his cousin, a pretty 19 year old girl, that lost both of her legs. Another mentioned how his sister wept because it had been two days since she last heard from her fiancee, who was now considered legally dead.

There were many stories of survival, too. One girl talked about how terrified she was to have seen the president's house collapse, because her mother was a teacher only three blocks away. Apparently the mother was lucky enough to survive, but over 250 students and teachers in the school were crushed to death.

One of the funnier parts of the candle-lit vigil was a Colombian speaker that looked a little like a Latin American version of the Nazi villain from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and dressed like him too, tiny glasses and hat and all. The Haitian students were delighted to hear this unlikely person bust into the most perfect Creole, since apparently the Colombian lived in Haiti for a couple years. I only know enough French to figure out he said something about how great Haitian food is.

Through it all, I was amazed to find that not a single person there of Haitian descent gave into despair. Even those that talked about the horrifying losses of their loved ones talked about how they refused to consider the country wrecked or licked, that they had the whole human race's fundamental goodness on their side. By contrast, a few days after 9/11, I was in a delirious, fearful daze, as were most people I knew.

To see them this upbeat and unconquered so soon after a disaster on a much more horrifying scale was an incredibly admirable sight. I was very, very proud of the Haitian people that night.

The single most moving thing of the entire night was one girl that started to sing Amazing Grace (there were a lot of religious songs and spirituals, which have the usual effect of making me enormously uncomfortable). Halfway through the song, she started to break down and cry and couldn't continue.

Then, spontaneously, everyone in attendance (myself included) started to sing the rest of the song together in unison.

If you've got anything to give, please, try these charities:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Count Danté, "The Deadliest Man Alive"

Here's an ad from one of my martial arts comic books. If anything in this world is a responsible course of action, it would be teaching kids that like superheroes THE WORLD'S MOST DEADLY FIGHTING ART.

But let the ad speak for itself:

Yes, this is the DEADLIEST and most TERRIFYING fighting art known to man—and WITHOUT EQUAL. Its MAIMING, MUTILATING, DISFIGURING, PARALYZING and CRIPPLING techniques are known by only a few people in the world. An expert at DIM MAK could easily kill many Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Aikido, and Gung Fu experts at one time with only finger-tip pressure using his murderous POISON HAND WEAPONS. Instructing you step by step thru each move in this manual is none other than COUNT DANTE—“THE DEADLIEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED.” (THE CROWN PRINCE OF DEATH.)

Not to mention that "The Black Dragon Fighting Society brings you the forbidden secrets of Dim Mak "The Death Touch" in this exclusive book!"

Count Juan Rafael Danté promoted himself heavily in ads in the back of comics as "The Deadliest Man Alive." Nothing like giving yourself a nickname. Best of all? If you send away for the course, you get a free membership card in the Black Dragon Society!

As a final bit of trivia, supposedly the asshole sensei villain in the first Karate Kid movie was based on Count Danté.

Oreo Barbie

I for one, love the Oreo Barbie doll for the multiple levels of unintentional humor, especially since most black Barbies always look like shallow upper-middle-class, materialism-minded BAPs anyway.

For a bit of background: a Caucasian Barbie was sold as a tie-in promotion to Oreo cookies (these crosspromotions are relatively common - remember Pepsi Optimus Prime?), and it sold so well that they decided to do a black version of the same doll. And apparently nobody stood up and said this was the most terrible idea in history.

I swear, Mattel must have the most hilariously clueless people on the face of the earth, like every level is staffed and headed by Larry David. It's like almost everything they do ends up either unintentionally offensive or a camp classic, like the George Michael looking "earring Ken" that is a top seller in the gay community. This sort of thing keeps on happening over and over, mostly when they try to make an effort to be "understanding." For instance, remember Barbie's friend Share-A-Smile Becky, a doll that had a pink wheelchair? The best part was that Share-A-Smile Becky's wheelchair didn't fit inside Barbie's dream house.

I had a friend that did a semester of study at the Mattel accounting office, and those of us in my college clique were thrilled to hear his stories about that workplace. The company that make Barbie really does have a hilariously reactionary, regressive and paranoid corporate culture. The office is like a throwback to the 1950s: it has a fully stocked bar, and sexual harassment was rampant. Minorities aren't exactly overrepresented, either...this is one of those situations where if only one black person had pointed out that a black Oreo Cookie Barbie was a terrible idea, the idea might have stopped before it got too out of hand.

Coming out of this climate, it's no surprise they keep on putting their foot in their mouths.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Places Where Liberals Are Wrong

Though I make no secret of the way I vote, there are some places where the Left is in the wrong.


Israel is a Western-style democracy with no official religion (check the constitution, it's there) populated by the most persecuted minority in human history, who finally have a homeland to protect themselves from future genocides. Israel is absolutely morally superior to the theocratic oligarchies that perpetuate themselves and distract from domestic problems by creating a scapegoat in Israel. There isn't a moral equivalency between Israel and its Arab foes.

One of the great flaws in thinking is the "Moderator Fallacy." That is, marriage counselors often operate from the assumption that if a couple is having a disagreement, both must be at least to blame and the truth is somewhere in the middle. In reality, with most personal disagreements and disputes, usually one person is 80% to 100% responsible.

Israel is one of the great success stories in human history. They quite literally made the desert bloom. To be fair, Israel is not a perfect society by any means...the power over which non-secular authorities have powers in specific, limited spheres is shocking, for example, the way clerics have power over a social function like marriage. Likewise, Israel's Arab minority are often discriminated against and used for cheap labor. But these social problems do not legitimize the right of Israel to exist any more than the US's social problems delegitimize us.

Gun Control

Obviously the United States is a violent society, but the truth is, guns aren't the problem and removing guns won't cure the problem.

The problem with the United States is that we are a society of fear and anxiety. I am offended by violent crime as much as anyone else, and by terrorism and random shootings, but the idea we are living in an exaggerated state of danger that requires firearms or at least a pair of trusty Nunchaku constantly is just insane. Why do people feel the need to own or carry firearms? As someone that worked for the public High Schools for at least a year as a math instructor in what could be considered a lower socioeconomic area, I never was robbed or stabbed. And frankly, if nobody wants to stab a math teacher...things are probably pretty safe for everyone else! Americans - especially suburban white Americans - are just not aware of the reality of this experience.

I had something of an ephiphany when I understood the difference between conservative television figureheads Bill O'Reilly and Glen Beck. O'Reilly is the sort of person that conservatives respond to when they're in power: swaggering, domaneering, authoritarian. Beck is the sort of person conservatives are when outside of power: panicky, terrified, prone to overreaction and seeing conspiracies absolutely everywhere. No wonder there are guns everywhere: the right's gone into "Glen Beck mode."

The point is, this is a problem so deep in the American psyche that restricting or legislating guns just won't solve.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2009: Year In Review

This was an especially productive year for me in several ways, which is interesting.

There were a few setbacks - for instance, the Peace Corps were entirely too full. It's strange because the week I was told this, I watched a TV news report in Gainesville how, with the current recession, the number of applications for the Peace Corps among young professionals had jumped by 60% in the past months. I damn near had a heart attack!

But that was short lived, as it always pays to have a backup plan: my application to graduate school at Florida State came through over the summer. (That reminds me, I have to swap out the buttons...)

I'm right now in my second semester getting a Masters of Information Science with a concentration in Web Design and Database Management. I may, after giving the matter some thought, switch to the School Librarian track, to create some synergy with my educational certification.

In further news, I am proud to announce that I have lost, at present, over 45 pounds since August. As an undergraduate and in the working world, I did gain some weight...a result of bad sleep schedules and studying and so on. But now that I'm a little freer now, I've been able to exercise and cook for myself and enjoy salads.

One of my resolutions was to get under 200 pounds again by the end of the year, which was achieved recently (not so bad for a 5'11" guy like me). This is just the beginning of course.

Finally, my good friend Mark Romero and I have been talking about writing some open license adventure books for his roleplaying game company, Fahrenheit Games. I actually am not entirely sure what I can say here, except keep watch!

There's something else on the horizon...something big...but no need to jinx it by mentioning it here early. Stay tuned!

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Year in Pictures

This one's from Halloween, where, as always, I went as Galileo. My posse at the time, which included Brian Sippin (now there's a name that turns up in Google!) and Mel Austin headed to Cocowalk around midnight. When Florida sinks into the sea in the future, we'll always be able to say we saw Miami at the height of its Romanesque debaucheries.

This is from Amy and Mark Romero's engagement party in the middle of December. People of our generation are already starting to get married. Now there's a scary thought...

Would you let these people run your country?