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A History of Histrionics

Rantings and ravings from yet another member of the unwashed masses.

Last Build Date: Wed, 02 Sep 2015 23:56:32 +0000


Victory in St. Paul!

Wed, 04 Jun 2008 05:13:00 +0000

What a day.

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It's 3 AM--eight years later

Sun, 23 Mar 2008 02:19:00 +0000

This is simply too awesome:

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The Speech

Wed, 19 Mar 2008 00:59:00 +0000

Today, as I'm sure you've heard, Barack Obama gave a major speech on the politics of race in America. I'm not going to make even the feeblest attempt to describe or characterize this amazing address. Just read and/or watch it:Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: 'A More Perfect Union'Philadelphia, PA | March 18, 2008As Prepared for Delivery"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racia[...]

Look Ma, I'm on C-Span!

Sun, 17 Feb 2008 05:13:00 +0000

On February 5th of this year, I rode with a friend--actually a an Obama-supporter that I had only met the previous day--up to UCLA to the rally being held with Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, and a surprise appearance by California's First Lady, Maria Shriver. I'm posting a video of the rally below, not because it was an incredible rally--though it was--but for a much important reason: I'm in it! If you look in the top left-hand corner--especially when Michelle Obama is speaking--you'll see a grainy character with a shaved head and dark green zip-up sweatshirt. That, dear reader, is you not-so-humble blogger in all of his enthusiastic and star-struck glory!

So, without further ado, allow me to present to you my 75 minutes of intermittent fame:

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This is what momentum looks like

Wed, 13 Feb 2008 06:56:00 +0000

As I watched his victory speech tonight (he does seem to be giving a lot of those lately) there was only one thought in my head: this man is next President of the United States! I dare you to watch and disagree:

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Fired up. . .and ready to blow?

Tue, 05 Feb 2008 04:56:00 +0000

The Quest stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true. - Galadriel, The Fellowship of the Ring

Oy vey--I'm going slightly neurotic here, folks! For the past three weeks, it's been the same: I eat, sleep and breathe this primary election. I really can't keep a non-political, non-Obama, non-horse-race thought in my head anymore. Every poll showing ground being gained and every major endorsement makes my skin tingle with the intoxicating endorphins of glorious victory, while every poll showing voters moving in the opposite direction--and, luckily, these have been fewer of late--leave me convinced that the barbarian hoards are about to sack the city. Each morning the rollercoaster starts anew, and I can only hope that the peaks outnumber and outweigh the troughs (or, of course, I could just just get off the ride, but let's not be unreasonable!).

More and more, I find that my voracious craving for information cannot possibly be satiated. News is my life's blood, analysis the bread upon which I feast. I've read more political blogs in the the past week than I have in the rest of the last year, and, I'll bet, more than the vast majority of my readers have read in their lifetimes! In years past, I've occasionally considered myself to be something of a political junkie, but that's only because I didn't know what a true political junkie was. Even now, I only flirt along the edge of this debilitating pathology. No, the true junkies are the people who write the endless streams of blog post I read; compared to their twisted minds, I'm bordering on sanity!

Come Wednesday morning, my role as one of the Precinct Captains in California's 50th Congressional District will cease. This should be a relief, but it's not. The fact is that this primary will not be ending tomorrow--it is highly unlikely that Obama will either achieve a crushing victory or sustain a debilitating loss--and, sure, I won't be under any further obligation to canvass my neighbors, but there is still much more I can and should do to help the campaign in the many contest that will follow tomorrow's.

There will be much more news to watch, many more posts to read, and I will be there, reveling in this insane thing we call democracy in the 21st century, until the end. But if that long-hoped-for day of victory could just come a little sooner rather than later, my decimated nerves would be grateful. Oh well, that's politics.

Goodnight, and happy voting tomorrow!

This is so cool!

Sun, 03 Feb 2008 04:36:00 +0000

Even if you're tired of my incessant Obama-gushing, you really need to watch this video:

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From the annals of the pleasantly unexpected

Sun, 03 Feb 2008 03:04:00 +0000

I spent about four hours today canvassing a local San Diego neighborhood for the Obama campaign. Despite being very reluctant about the prospect of going door-to-door to talk politics with strangers, I had a really great time. I hitched a talride with a neighbor that I hadn't met until this morning, and he, a former salesman, provided much of the impetus and motivation that sustained me through my initial hesitation and nervousness. But by the end, I was perfectly comfortable walk to houses and talking to people on my own.

I talked with some annoyed and impatient people; I met excited Obama-supporters who were happy to see me; I walked briskly away from the yard of one crazy woman living in a home that appeared to belong in a third-world slum; I woke a few people up from sleeping; I met a woman who was--at least according to my records--a registered Democrat despite not being a citizen; I was told by one man that he was casting a vote for "The Kingdom of God," though he didn't specify which candidate the Kingdom supports; I learned that the people around me are far weirder and much more interesting than I could possibly have imagined.

I don't know what the coming political winds portend, but I do know that there are many thousands of people just like me across this state and this country who are working their collective ass off right now because, for the first time in many years we believe that, together, We The People can change this country for the better.

Nevermind Barack, I want Michelle in the White House!

Sat, 02 Feb 2008 05:57:00 +0000

Check this out:

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Rumor has it that Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy and Oprah Winfrey will be holding a free Obama rally in Los Angeles this Sunday. I wanted to go before, but after watching Michelle in this video, I don't see how I can possibly justify not going to see this intelligent stateswoman speak.

Campaign dispatch: Yes we can!

Sun, 27 Jan 2008 04:06:00 +0000

Today, I spent the afternoon with dozens of fellow Obama-supporters, calling prospective voters across the county in support of the Senator's campaign. Despite the often frustrating and difficult nature of political cold-calling, I had a wonderful time at the phonebank. There's something extremely rewarding about being part of group of people who are all passionate enough to sacrifice time and money in pursuit of a common goal. With purpose comes energy, and that energy was palpable today.

I met senior citizens excited to make the future better than the present and past they've known; I met a teenager who refused to let a minor thing (no pun intended) like being too young to vote keep him from doing everything he could to help his candidate (and you should have seen him--in one afternoon, this kid exhibited more dedication and professionalism than most of the professionals I've ever known!); I met people for whom words like "Hope" and "Unity" are not just sweet-sounding political aphorisms, but guideposts marking the path toward a new way of understanding our role as citizens of this country; I met them and joined with them, and it felt good.

In short, I'm proud of this campaign, and--no matter what the final outcome proves to be--I am grateful to have played a role in it, however small. Of course, it's a lot easier to say and feel all this when coming off of a big win--and, boy, was it ever a big win!--but, if nothing else, I think this afternoon's events will help inspire me to work harder in the days ahead.

But enough of me. Here are a few words from a certain Senator from Illinois:

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The great need of this hour

Mon, 21 Jan 2008 01:14:00 +0000

Today, in celebration of Martin Luther King's life and legacy, Barack Obama delivered a speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church at which Dr. King pastored. I'll post an excerpt, but please--please!--go here and read the whole thing. The Scripture tells us that when Joshua and the Israelites arrived at the gates of Jericho, they could not enter. The walls of the city were too steep for any one person to climb; too strong to be taken down with brute force. And so they sat for days, unable to pass on through. But God had a plan for his people. He told them to stand together and march together around the city, and on the seventh day he told them that when they heard the sound of the ram's horn, they should speak with one voice. And at the chosen hour, when the horn sounded and a chorus of voices cried out together, the mighty walls of Jericho came tumbling down.There are many lessons to take from this passage, just as there are many lessons to take from this day, just as there are many memories that fill the space of this church. As I was thinking about which ones we need to remember at this hour, my mind went back to the very beginning of the modern Civil Rights Era. Because before Memphis and the mountaintop; before the bridge in Selma and the march on Washington; before Birmingham and the beatings; the fire hoses and the loss of those four little girls; before there was King the icon and his magnificent dream, there was King the young preacher and a people who found themselves suffering under the yoke of oppression.And on the eve of the bus boycotts in Montgomery, at a time when many were still doubtful about the possibilities of change, a time when those in the black community mistrusted themselves, and at times mistrusted each other, King inspired with words not of anger, but of an urgency that still speaks to us today:"Unity is the great need of the hour" is what King said. Unity is how we shall overcome.What Dr. King understood is that if just one person chose to walk instead of ride the bus, those walls of oppression would not be moved. But maybe if a few more walked, the foundation might start to shake. If a few more women were willing to do what Rosa Parks had done, maybe the cracks would start to show. If teenagers took freedom rides from North to South, maybe a few bricks would come loose. Maybe if white folks marched because they had come to understand that their freedom too was at stake in the impending battle, the wall would begin to sway. And if enough Americans were awakened to the injustice; if they joined together, North and South, rich and poor, Christian and Jew, then perhaps that wall would come tumbling down, and justice would flow like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it's the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.I'm not talking about a budget deficit. I'm not talking about a trade deficit. I'm not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.I'm talking about a moral deficit. I'm talking about an empathy deficit. I'm taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother's keeper; we are our sister's keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.We have an empathy deficit when we're still sending our children down corridors of shame – schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; w[...]

Obama and the SF Chronicle

Sat, 19 Jan 2008 03:17:00 +0000

The following is a fascinating discussion that Senator Obama had yesterday with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle.


On a related note, I've decided to put my money mouth and feet where, until now, only my intermittently-typing fingers had been. Yes, I've decided to volunteer for the Obama campaign in California, and they have--quite foolishly, I fear--decided to make me Captain of my local precinct. What this means is that I've been given a list containing the names and contact information of upwards of 1000 registered Democrats in my area, and my task is to call them and attempt to convince, encourage and cajole--politely, of course--them to support Senator Obama at the ballot box on February 5th. Great Googly Moogly--that's a daunting task if I've ever heard one, and I have no idea how to get it done! Thankfully, the Obama campaign offers training sessions for new Precinct Captains, and I'll be attending one tomorrow.

Politics is serious business, folks, and I have no idea what I'm really getting myself into. Nevertheless, I'm excited to do what I can to support something I believe in. Good luck to all the people caucusing in Nevada tomorrow!

Debate Reaction

Wed, 16 Jan 2008 06:06:00 +0000

Two things I learned from tonight's Democratic debate in Las Vegas:

1. All three Democratic candidates are well-spoken, intelligent people, and I would be happy to cast a vote for any one of them (though I would be happiest, by far, to cast my vote for Obama).

2. Tim Russert is a tool.

Dispatches from the club for Obama fanboys

Sun, 13 Jan 2008 03:26:00 +0000

Fair warning: convinced as I am that Barack Obama is, far and away, the best person to lead our country for the next four to eight years, I am going to be turning this blog into an unofficial mouthpiece for his presidential campaign. While I'm not exactly thrilled by the idea of playing the part of political shill, right now the upcoming election is the single most prevalent topic on my mind, and I don't realistically see myself writing about much anything else.

In keeping with that sentiment, I'd like to reproduce an insightful reader comment that I found at Andrew Sullivan's blog:
Ann Rice, in her endorsement of Hillary, called her "prophetic" for her health care reform efforts in 1993. Well, if derailing the viability of health care reform for a generation is prophetic, sure. Now she promises to repeat the same mistake. No matter how hard she works, does anyone think she'll convince Mitch McConnell to create a new welfare state program? Doesn't she remember Bill Kristol's memo calling for all out opposition. Sorry, but six years of keeping her head down in the Senate to rebuild her reputation is hardly the experience that will be needed.

Polarization's a bitch for liberals. Even if it's a "roll of the dice", Obama is our only shot at building a movement than can defeat polarization. He's doing it the old-fashioned way, asking people to work for change. It's hardly a sure thing. But, as Oscar Wilde wrote,

"A practical scheme is either a scheme that is already in existence, or a scheme that could be carried out under existing conditions. But it is exactly the existing conditions that one objects to; and any scheme that could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish."

We don't need to to change the leadership of polarized Washington, for which Hillary is no doubt the best suited of the Democratic candidates. We need to end polarization, and that requires a Democratic landslide that only Obama might achieve. So let's roll the dice.

That is simply brilliant rhetoric--turning the charge that an Obama presidency would be an inherently dangerous gamble so far onto it's head that it somehow becomes an inspirational call in support of his candidacy! I really, really wish I could do that.

Anyway, as is obvious by now, I've got some rather strong opinions about this election, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't love to hear what y'all are thinking as well. (And yes, that even includes any unfortunate souls who may be considering a Republican vote.) This is, afterall, our country; let's not forget what that means!

Edited to add: And just so there's no confusion, the Ann Rice referenced above is indeed the Ann Rice of cheesy vampire-novel fame.

Official 2008 Presidential Endorsement, part 2

Fri, 04 Jan 2008 19:43:00 +0000

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Excellent choice, Iowa. New Hampshire, now it's your turn!

Official 2008 Presidential Endorsements, part 1

Wed, 02 Jan 2008 18:43:00 +0000

Dear Iowan readers,

After much careful thought and discussion--which, scurrilous rumors to the side, did not involve a blindfold, darts, and a bottle of cheap tequila--the editorial staff of A History of Histrionics has decided upon our picks for tomorrow's presidential caucuses. For the Democratic candidate, our choice is Senator Barack Obama. He is, we believe, the person most committed to enacting genuine reforms to our incontestably broken political system. While he may not have a great deal of executive experience, he has--along with a long history of public service--the mature intelligence, honesty, fair-minded vision and charisma needed to be a great leader; and it is our firm opinion that these are the characteristics that our next president will need to possess. With Obama at the helm, our country stands a reasonable shot at putting the nightmarish corruption and incompetence of the past eight years behind us in order to move towards a future more closely aligned to the ideals and hopes on which this nation claims to be founded.

On the Republican side, well, our only interest is in seeing the candidate with the least likelihood of success gaining the nomination. That said, the field is so anemic that choosing the worst of the lot has proved to be impossibly difficult; all of them seem so poised for utter defeat that we have decided to take the possibly unprecedented step of endorsing every one of them!

There you have it, Iowans. While we'd prefer that you vote the way we tell you to, we only ask that you reflect upon our endorsements with whatever degree of consideration that you feel they merit. Happy Caucusing!

The Death of Zoo Blogging?

Mon, 10 Dec 2007 16:51:00 +0000

In a couple of hours I'll be flying out to Chicago to spend the holidays with my family, so this will be the last post in my Zoo Blogging series. Not to worry, though--like Superman, Zoo Blogging will, I suspect, return from the grave to exact fiery vengeance against evil-doers everywhere (well, maybe not that last part). When that day will come, I do not know. We'll all just have to wait and see, and keep watching the skies (why, you ask, should we be watching the skies? Well, I have no idea, but it felt right!).

(image) Here, we have two Asian elephants. I'm pretty sure those tusks were longer than I am tall.

(image) This is a Hyacinth macaw hiding from me in the foliage of one of the park's aviaries.

Well, that's going to have to do it for now. I hoped to post more, but I've run out of time. Posting will probably be more characteristically sparse for the next few weeks, but I'll check in now and then.

The Bride of Zoo Blogging!

Sun, 09 Dec 2007 00:11:00 +0000

Okay, here we go with more zoo pictures. First, let's return to the Primate order with two ring-tailed lemurs. Like all lemurs, these two (Lemur catta) hail from the island of Madagascar. Along with galagos and lorises, lemurs are part of a group of primates--the Strepsirrhini suborder--that are more distantly related to humans than monkeys and apes are. Nevertheless, humans and lemurs share many characteristic features, including opposable thumbs, finger/toenails, and stereoscopic vision. Ring-tailed lemurs are considered by the World Conservation Union to be "vulnerable" to extinction, though not yet technically endangered. Sadly, I'd be surprised--albeit pleasantly so--if they aren't moved to the endangered list within the next decade or two. Switching kingdoms for the moment, I've long been a fan of strolling through the Wild Animal Park's conifer forest; it's pretty much a short nature hike (though an expensive one for non Zoo-members), and these impressive Mediterranean Cypress trees are by far my favorite sight:Ever the botanical philistine, I'm always forgetting the names of trees, so I took a picture and now won't have to try to remember what type these are!Incidentally, if anyone is looking for a Christmas tree to seriously impressive your relatives, I'd be happy to hook you up if the price is right (I kid, I kid!).Finally, let's end this post with a second helping of primates. I'm not sure what this gorilla is looking at, but I like her (his?) eyes. Perhaps I'm over-anthropomorphizing, but I can't look at those eyes and that expression without seeing a sense of of intelligence and self-awareness. [...]

The Revenge of Zoo Blogging!

Fri, 07 Dec 2007 04:00:00 +0000

As promised, I'm back with more pictures from my recent trip to the Wild Animal Park. Leading off today is a baby African elephant. Born November 28th of this year, this female pachyderm is the epitome of cuteness--though to get the full impact of her devastating charm, you really should see her up close and in person.

(image) Speaking of cute, I also got a shot of this desert bighorn in full relaxation mode. While I'm usually not too partial to animals with cloven feet, this sheep captured my attention with its sleeping repose (Incidentally, I think I woke it up with my camera's flash. Sorry!).

(image) And with that, I'm going to continue my teasing ways and bring things to a close. Don't think for a second that I haven't noticed this post's lack of primate photos. Believe me, I will make up for this glaring deficiency with my next installment. Until then. . .

A proud moment in blogging history

Fri, 07 Dec 2007 03:43:00 +0000

I would like to take this ooportunity to inform my esteemed readers that this blog has reached an important milestone. Yes, A History of Histrionics has climbed the cut-throat google ladder and is now the first hit when searching for the phrase "pat robertson is a tool." *Sniff*. . .I'm so proud I could, well, burst into histrionics! I'd to thank all the little people--namely Pat Robertson and myself. To the fine person who found A History of Histrionics using this search: welcome; I couldn't agree more.

Wait! Hold the presses!

While typing this post, I happened to google the phrase "burst into histrionics" out of idle curiosity, and guess what-- we're number one there too! What a fantastic and historic day this is turning out to be!

The Return of Zoo Blogging!

Thu, 06 Dec 2007 00:49:00 +0000

I visited the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park today, and, as always, took a ridiculously large number of photos. Hailing from the "technique-is-for-tools" school of photography--that is, I have no idea what I'm doing and have thus far been too lazy to try to actually learn how to us a camera--my method is to just start shooting and hope that a handful of the hundreds of pictures I take don't suck. It works--sort of. Instead of following my normal routine of immediately posting the best shots, I think I'm going to try to milk this latest slew of pictures for as many posts as I can.

To start, here is a picture of a cricket, one of the Park's many freeloading animal guests. While not typically the kind of fauna that most people go to zoos to see, I have a soft spot in my heart for insects and couldn't resist taking a picture when I saw it jump from the sidewalk into a nearby plant.
(image) Next up is a western lowland gorilla basking in the warm morning sunlight--either that or pouting. I'm not sure which.

(image) That's it for now. I'll be posting more over the next few days.

Who's the troglodyte now?

Tue, 04 Dec 2007 02:29:00 +0000

News stories detailing the impressive feats and skills of our closest primate relatives have become so common that they're beginning to verge into dog-bites-man territory, but the following New Scientist report on a chimpanzee study is, I think, undeniably cool:
Young chimps can beat adult humans in a task involving remembering numbers, reveals a new study. It is the first time chimps – and young ones, at that – have outperformed humans at a cognitive task.

And the finding may add weight to a theory about the evolution of language in humans, say the researchers.

Three adult female chimps, their three 5-year-old offspring, and university student volunteers were tested on their ability to memorise the numbers 1 to 9 appearing at random locations on a touchscreen monitor.

The chimps had previously been taught the ascending order of the numbers. Using an ability akin to photographic memory, the young chimps were able to memorise the location of the numerals with better accuracy than humans performing the same task.

During the test, the numerals appeared on the screen for 650, 430 or 210 milliseconds, and were then replaced by blank white squares.

While the adult chimps were able to remember the location of the numbers in the correct order with the same or worse ability as the humans, the three adolescent chimps outperformed the humans.

The youngsters easily remembered the locations, even at the shortest duration, which does not leave enough time for the eye to move and scan the screen. This suggests that they use a kind of eidetic or photographic memory.
. . .

The article conveniently comes with a YouTube video to help explain the results of the study.
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"We are not separate."

Sat, 01 Dec 2007 18:18:00 +0000

(image) Take a look at this poignant and beautifully-shot National Geographic film about a recent spate of mountain gorilla killings in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park.

I am a terrible person

Fri, 30 Nov 2007 23:38:00 +0000

Upon hearing about the hostage crisis at Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire campaign office, my first thought was, "Holy crap!" This initial reaction was quickly followed up with, "I hope she doesn't manage to score any sympathy votes out of this!"

Ouch. There's nothing like a knee-jerk empathy-free response to a tragic event--which, luckily, had a more or less happy ending--to make me question my ethical priorities. Now if Barack Obama's campaign had been involved, that would be a different story altogether. Ah, the joys of reflexive tribalism!

In which I try my hand at poetry

Thu, 29 Nov 2007 02:18:00 +0000

It's the question that drives us. . .
Trinity, The Matrix

If the massive number of inquiring emails I've been receiving is any indication, many of you are very curious to know what it would look like if I started writing poetry about food. Dear readers, as of this moment, you need no longer spend your nights tossing and turning in restless contemplation. The answer you seek can be found at Catherine's blog. May it be everything you had hoped for!