netWert Ideapad

February 2004

Blood, gore, and Jesus
February 26, 2004 +
Metacritic gives The Passion of the Christ a fairly favorable once-over, starting with Roger Ebert's insistent (if properly tempered) applause for the film's accomplishment. I, however, far prefer the pull quotes on Rotten Tomatoes.

‹"The Passion of the Christ is so relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus' final hours that this film seems to arise less from love than from wrath, and to succeed more in assaulting the spirit than in uplifting it."

‹"It's as if Gibson is measuring God's love by the amount of blood he shows on the screen."

Even Ebert notes that the film deserves an NC-17 for violence and the MPAA wimped out.

Of course, as with any movie, the book is much better.

Defining "upgrade"
February 25, 2004 +
I received a postcard in the mail Monday telling me that Sony Ericsson and AT&T were sending me a free phone, a brand-new T226. Great news! My T68i is a year and a half old and is starting to fall apart.

Something felt fishy, though. My T68i was a $200 investment, and this new phone isn't costing me a penny. So I went to the Sony Ericsson T68i Upgrade Web Site to find out more.

Impressively, Sony Ericsson is not shy about the upgrade specs; a big link on the home page goes to a comparison page. Unimpressively, the new phone is a major downgrade.

A list of what my new phone won't have that my old one does:

- worldwide operability
- a calendar
- 7-field phone book listings (the T226 has 3 fields)
- voice-activated dialing
- Bluetooth and infrared (no more linking to friends)
- a modem (no more Web access)
- shortcuts (no more typing 7-8-4-2 to play solitaire)

These are not minor issues. I used my phone overseas and want to do so again this year. I used four and five fields for my contacts quite often, and I relied on my shortcuts.

And that's just the features I use. The T226 also has no voice-activated dialing, no PC synchronization, half the memory and less picture and personalization features. It does have polyphonic ringtones and a more colorful display.

The Sony Ericsson T226 is the free-with-contract phone for customers who sign up for new plans. That I am expected to consider it an upgrade from my expensive T68i is wholly unimpressive.

I thought the new phone might keep me on AT&T Wireless for a few more months before I ported myself to Verizon and away from AT&T Wireless's poor suburban GSM reception. But I doubt it.

On gay marriage
February 24, 2004 +
The fuss about George Bush attemping to ban gay marriage with a Constitutional amendment saddens and disgusts me on multiple levels.

Bush is only making noise about it to deflect discussion of more pressing, damaging issues that could undermine his re-election campaign (note the timing of his amendment announcement on the same day as the grilling of the director of the CIA on Iraqi intelligence). Even worse, he is turning a personal issue into a political one. Notice how Dick Cheney doesn't say a word about gay marriage since his family's opinion would undermine the election campaign. I suspect that deep down Cheney thinks the issue is none of his boss's business.

Worst of all, though, is how Bush wishes to insert a restrictive clause into a set of Constitutional amendments that for the past two centuries has increased personal freedoms, not diminished them. He aims to place marriage in a straitjacket alongside a long list of proud American freedoms. (This Metafilter post nicely frames the amendments: "20 out of 27 deal directly with giving people more rights and only one [prohibition, later repealed] took away rights. If passed, 28 would be the only standing amendment to limit rights of citizens.")

What happened in San Francisco last week, with thousands of gay and lesbian couples lining up for legal marriages, will someday be hailed as a watershed moment in American liberties, much like Susan B. Anthony's work and Rosa Parks's stand before them. Women and minorities had to fight for decades against persecution, prejudice and political rhetoric before making their way into a (mostly) equal and accepting society. Homosexuality, sadly, is going to have the same fight.

Thirty years from now we will look back at this era and wonder how so much of the country was so stubborn and wrong. In the meantime, one can only shake one's head and hope wiser judgment prevails against fear and intimidation.

Netwert best-of
February 19, 2004 +

February 19, 2004 +
It's been a pretty busy news week if you're a socially liberal New York Jew.

San Francisco is marrying gays, and that makes me happy. Enough said.

Mel Gibson is his father's son, and that makes me sad. Note that 'The Passion of the Christ' is riddled with inaccuracies that will likely go ignored by proud, hard-line Christians.

Alex Rodriguez is a Yankee, and I have no shame for the Yankees' payroll. You want parity? Fix the system. The Yanks are the only team that voted against the current revenue scheme about which everyone is complaining.

Oh, and my dog got a terrible haircut Saturday. Not all news is national.

February 18, 2004 +
My delicious link log is hippity hopping these days. If I get some free time (and some inclination) I'll start including the links here.

Best wrong number ever
February 17, 2004 +

[breathy] "Hi!"


"Hiii, Dave! How are you?"

"I'm fine, thank you—"

"It's so good to hear your voice! Whatcha been up to?"

"Not much. ..."

"So, what's up?"

[pause] "I'm sorry, but who is this?"

"This is Lucinda! You know, your cousin Matthew's friend, remember?"

[pause] "Who?"

"C'mon, don't give me that!"

"Whose cousin are you again?"

"This is Dave, right? I'm Matthew's cousin, you know, Matty?"

"I'm sorry, but I don't have a cousin Matthew."

"No, seriously."

"You know, I think this is the best wrong number I've had in a long time."

"You're Dave, right? I'm Lucinda, you know, Lucy? Remember how I used to call you Dee and we would play in the park and run in the sprinklers?"

"Nope, not me."

"Come on. Don't you like hotties all dressed in leather who like to smack you with their titties?"

"I'm sure I would, but you definitely have the wrong guy—!"

"I really want to get with you."


Pizza no more
February 12, 2004 +
I'm not sure why the new shuwarma place on St. Mark's and Third rates as worthy news fodder for the New Yorker, but I empathize with the submissions for the name-the-new-joint contest that ask for the return of St. Mark's Pizza, the eatery that is being replaced. St. Mark's made a terrific slice; more than once I begged them to deliver to my apartment, outside their usual range.

An added note of sadness for the owners of St. Mark's Pizza, too: they just renovated the place in 2003 before the purchase and subsequent closing.

The ringing
February 11, 2004 +
Famous people with tinnitus.

My wacky ear problem is long gone but my tinnitus remains, as it has pretty much continuously since 1995.

I recall two particularly good moments over the past nine years: one, in the late '90s, before the Matthew Sweet concert that pushed the tinnitus farther into permanency, when I was taking the bus and walking to work every day instead of using the PATH train, and the ringing quieted down tremendously; and two, during the evil diplacusis phase, when I had a deep tissue massage on my neck, shoulders and chest, and for 24 hours I literally had no ringing in my ears. I unwisely chalked that up as an anomaly, didn't return to the spa where I got the massage, and haven't experienced that since.

This issue comes about because of a friend's encounter with Bob Mould, who has a nasty case of tinnitus himself.

From the same page, the lyrics to U2's "Staring at the Sun," which supposedly chronicles Bono's encounters with tinnitus:

There's an insect in your ear
If you scratch it won't disappear
Its gonna itch and burn and sting
You wanna see what the scratching brings...
Waves that leave me out of reach
Breaking on your back like a beach
Will we ever live in peace?

It's tough being famous
February 10, 2004 +
The best part about Tori Spelling's wedding registries availability online is not the snarky gossip commentary but the unblinking message board posts from all of Donna's old "90210" buddies. Brenda Walsh: "Brenda Walsh: 'Donna, You stole my boyfriend again!'"

Shake it, shake it shake it, shake it
February 5, 2004 +
This movie is the best thing I've seen online in a very long time. (Turn up your volume and watch it through.)

My problem with the New York Times
February 4, 2004 +
I love the New York Times. Been reading it since high school, get it at home, peruse every single section almost every day. I'm enough of a newsie to appreciate much of the paper, and enough of a liberal to agree with most of its hard-line liberal viewpoints.

Despite this, I'm noticing the Times's leftist slant more and more in articles that should be even-handedly reporting the news. I want unbiased information, and the Times won't give it to me.

To wit: today's coverage of the Ohio same-sex marriage ban. The Times article on the subject got me all riled up this morning, and I wanted to post a link to some news coverage with my commentary. But when I read the same news from a different source, I found my anger lessened, to the point where I almost lost interest in the subject.

This is all due to the New York Times's hard-line stance on liberal subjects. I'm pro-gay rights, I think Ohio is stupid to ban same-sex unions, and I don't like the maneuver. But I don't want my newspaper screaming fire and brimstone about a doomsday decision, especially when other news sources are unafraid to report just the news. I feel like I've been lobbied, and I don't like it.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the Times article:

"The Ohio Legislature gave final approval on Tuesday to one of the most sweeping bans on same-sex unions in the country, galvanized by court rulings in Canada and Massachusetts that have declared gay marriage to be legal.

"The Ohio measure, which also would bar state agencies from giving benefits to both gay and heterosexual domestic partners, would make Ohio the 38th state to prohibit the recognition of same-sex unions. Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, planned to sign it in the coming week, his office said.

"In approving the measure, the Republican-controlled Legislature rejected concerns raised by some of the state's largest corporations and colleges, including Ohio State University, that the ban would hurt the state's business image and undermine their ability to recruit skilled workers."

For comparison, here is the beginning of the Associated Press piece on the same subject:

"Gov. Bob Taft is expected to sign one of the country's strictest same-sex marriage bans following Tuesday's House approval of minor changes to the bill.

"The House voted 72-22 in favor of accepting the Senate changes and sending the legislation to Taft.

"The bill stipulates that same-sex marriages would be "against the strong public policy of the state."

"The bill also prohibits state employees from getting marital benefits spelled out in state law for their unmarried partners, whether homosexual or heterosexual.

"Thirty-seven states have passed laws recognizing only marriages between men and women. Gay rights groups consider Ohio's legislation particularly restrictive because of the benefits ban."

The Times piece doesn't look too inflammatory until it is compared to the less biased AP feed. Compare "bar state agencies from giving benefits" to "prohibits state employees from getting marital benefits spelled out in state law." Read the two articles in full to see the difference.

What does this say about the Times? Is it a less reliable news source because of its political leanings? Not necessarily, but it reinforces the notion that one should look to more than one news outlet before forming an opinion on a subject. It's a shame, really, that the Times isn't a clean forum for such discourse.

Similarly: Emptyage's observations of guilty-pleasure sensationalism at Fox News.

January 2004



Copyright © 2004 David Wertheimer. All rights reserved.