Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Shame of Long Island

From Newsday comes this sad story:

Jdimytai Damour of Jamaica, Queens, was pushed to the ground by the 2,000-plus crowd just before 5 a.m. as management was preparing to open the store, which is located across from the main Green Acres Mall building. Hundreds stepped over, around and on the 34-year-old worker as they rushed into the store.

"Nobody was trying to help him," said shopper Nakea Augustine, who was in the line. "They were rushing in the store, rushing, rushing, rushing."

Was this just a case of the "madness of crowds", or was something else at work here?

Social critic Morris Berman, in his book Dark Ages America, devotes a few pages to the lack of community in the United States. After providing several examples from personal experience, Berman writes, "It is not merely that these vignettes reflect how callous much of American life is; what is so striking is that this behavior is largely unconscious, not perceived as callous by those engaging in it."

Several paragraphs later, Berman describes "an incident that occurred here in early 2003, in which a man was shot at a gas station and those present had no reaction. The store videotape shows these witnesses not fearful, but completely indifferent, as the body lay bleeding on the pavement. One man actually drove up, inserted the gas pump into the tank, briefly looked over at the body, finished pumping the gas, paid for the purchase, and drove off."

Berman mentions the last episode of Seinfeld, wherein Jerry and the gang are arrested for violating a Good Samaritan law. Berman quotes Jerry's lawyer telling him, "You don't have to help anybody! That's what this country is all about!"

To be fair, I don't believe this is just an American pathology. After all, death by stampede is a frequent occurrence in Mecca during the annual hajj, examples here and here. But it is sickening nonetheless that a man should die needlessly from being trampled by a crowd of people who were so intent on buying stuff because it was on sale.

I am reminded of a line from the movie Aliens, wherein Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley responds to the callous denials of the greedy villain Carter Burke by comparing him to the alien creatures that are besieging them.

"You know Burke, I don't know which species is worse. You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage."

Star Wars - Episode 26: Attack of the Memes

I've been double-tagged with the latest meme by Brian and Tina.

Okay, here are the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you. Did it.

2. Post the rules on your blog. Done.

3. Write six random, arbitrary things about yourself. See below.

4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. Don't feel like it.

5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog. See previous comments.

6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up. Oh, alright!

Okay, here we go with six random and arbitrary things about myself.

I. I once wanted to be a Social Studies teacher, but a semester of student teaching quickly disabused me of that notion. Now, I am a trademark paralegal.

II. Whenever I shop at the supermarket, I almost always choose to go on line for the register that has the cutest looking register clerk. My favorites at the Shoprite on Woodbury Road: Jocelyn, Maria, Jennifer, and Arianna. The exception is if I am in a terrible hurry, whereupon I choose the register that has the shortest line or no line at all, regardless of who is manning the register.

III. I order the Iced Mocha Espresso with soy milk at my local Cosi so often that the regular staff there just ask me "Do you want your usual?"

IV. While I don't believe in the existence of a supreme being, astrology, tarot cars, and extraterrestrial visitations to Earth, I have this unrational belief sometimes that I cannot be seriously harmed. To be specific, it does not mean that I can drink a jug of Clorox or jump out of an airplane with no parachute and not die. It's just that sometimes it seems like I have this luck about me that makes things turn out alright for me in the end.

V. I am deaf in my right ear and have apparently been that way since shortly after child birth. My mom told me that when I was still an infant, I came down with a bad fever. When I was in kindergarten, I thought that hearing in only one ear was normal, sort of like being left handed or right handed.

VI. I absolutely hate Star Wars I, II, and III, and VI.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Updated - The Shield - Final Episode Tonight

Shane Vendrell realizes he left his sunglasses in Mackey's car.

I meant to do a serious post this evening (yeah, I know I've been terrible lately, but I've been busy!), but one of my favorite tv shows, The Shield, is finally coming to an end tonight.


It turns out that Terry Crowley's murder at the end of the first episode of Season 1 is faked. Vic Mackey gets all charges against him dropped and he retires to the Caribbean with a full pension. Dutch Wagenbach finally admits his love for Claudette Wyms and they start to get hot and heavy on the desk in her office, until Dutch shoots his load too early.

But seriously, I don't know what is going to happen tonight (updates at the bottom). With regard to Vic Mackey, there are three possible scenarios:

1. He dies, either by murder, gun fight with Shane (who also dies) or by suicide.

2. He lives but goes to prison.

3. He lives and avoids jail time, but he loses everything, his family, his friends, and any chance of ever making an honest living.

Oh wait, I shouldn't rule out another possibility:

4. Mackey gets away with everything, gets another law enforcement job, and gets back together with Corinne.

Yeah, I know it's not likely, but Mackey always seems to find a way to come out on top, so I have to keep my options open! Anyway, I will find out what happens to Mackey and the rest of the characters of the show in an hour and forty minutes.

Gratuitous picture of Paula Garces as Police Officer Tina Hanlon.

Well, as I noted in the comments, Vic's fate is mostly Option #3. He loses everyone in his life. His wife is in protective custody and his former friends are either dead or they despise him. He still has a job in law enforcement, albeit as a desk-bound clerk on a tight leash, which he has to endure for the next three years, or else he will be in violation of his immunity deal and will go to prison.

Like the end of the last episode of The Sopranos*, The Shield ends on a rather ambiguous note, with the answer to the question "Where is Vic going with that gun and what is he going to do?" being left up to the viewer's imagination.

* As an aside, I never really watched The Sopranos, but having looked at the final scene, I tend to agree with the possibility that Tony was whacked, and that the sudden fade to black means that he was killed right at that moment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quick Thoughts on NOVA's The Bible's Buried Secrets

I just finished watching NOVA's program The Bible's Buried Secrets about 20 minutes ago.

All in all, I found it to be an interesting and balanced program that for the most part confirmed what I had already believed, that some of the events in the Bible described from the time of the kings are largely historical, whereas earlier events are either uncorroborated or legend. The website for the program is here.

I do have a few criticisms about what was not discussed in the program, though in part it might be due to the fact that only so much could be packed into two hours.

One glaring omission from the discussion of the development of the Old Testament is that there is no mention of the books of the prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, which are dated prior to the Babylonian Conquest. To what extent can it be determined that these books fully predate the Babylonian Conquest or if they were meant to be cautionary tales to impress upon the Jews that their kingdom was destroyed because the prophets were not heeded during the time they were said to have lived?

Since the program supports the scholarly consensus that the Israelis who were polytheistic prior to the Babylonian Captivity had become monotheistic Jews after their liberation by the Persians, I would like to have seen some attention given to the possible influence of Zoroastrianism on monotheistic Judaism. The website I linked to above has a link where you can send an e-mail with questions about the program, and I inquired about this. I will post a follow-up if I receive a response.

Near the end, when they talked about how the Torah achieved its final form during the Babylonian Captivity, there was mention about how the Jews would have found or drawn a parallel between their current situation and the exiles described in Egypt, including Abraham's sojourn there, and that Abraham had originally come from Mesopotamia. I was expecting them to mention what to me seemed so obvious, that the story of Abraham betrays its 6th century BC origin because Abraham is said to have come from the city of Ur of the Chaldees, and the Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar is also referred to as the Chaldean Empire.

Al-Qaida Covers for Stealth Muslim Barack Obama Again

In al-Qaida's ongoing campaign of deception, Osama bin Laden's right hand man Ayman al-Zawahiri has put out a new tape in which he derides President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama as a "house slave."

This is obviously just a clever ruse by the Islamic terrorist organization to get the rest of the American public to rally around Obama, thus making it easier for him to impose sharia law on us when we least expect it. Don't be fooled people!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

God Punishes California For Banning Gay Marriage

Sorry, I just couldn't resist. Because you just know that if Proposition 8 had been defeated, the Holy Rollers would be saying that God was punishing California for permitting gay marriage.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Barack Hussein Obama Elected As First Muslim President of the United States

75 days to go until sharia law is imposed on the United States.

Seriously, can Bush and Cheney just step aside right now before they screw anything else up?

This Is What Real Anti-Christian Persecution Is

American Christians are constantly whining about how they are being persecuted for their faith here in the United States. And how are they being persecuted?

"The cashier clerk wished me 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas'."

"The legalization of gay marriage is an assault on my values!"

Well, that seems quite trivial to me when you look at what is happening to the Christian population in Iraq. From the BBC article:

"Ikhlas is one of an estimated 12,000 Iraqi Christians who fled the northern city of Mosul earlier this month following a wave of murders and threats targeting their community.

It was the most concerted campaign so far against the Christians, although they have had their share of fallout from the Iraqi upheavals that followed the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Since the 2003 invasion, Iraq's Christian population is believed to have fallen from around 800,000 to about 500,000, with many emigrating for good.

They come from some of the world's oldest Christian communities, including Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syrian Orthodox and others.

Some of their languages, both liturgical and everyday, go back to biblical times, including variations of the Aramaic spoken by Jesus Christ."

We currently have some 140,000 troops still in Iraq. Why aren't we helping to defend these people?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Open Thread: Did You Ever Have A Dream That Came True?

Writing my last post in which I reflected on a dream I had about the price of gas falling to 1.75 per gallon at some point in the future made me remember a dream I had which did sort of come true.

I don't recall exactly when I had this dream, but it was some time in the early 1990's when my oldest brother Bobby, his wife, and their first two kids were living in an upstairs apartment in East Meadow. In my dream, I was in my mom and dad's den at their house trying to get Bobby to watch the movie Mississippi Burning. For a bit of background, my brother is a bit of a racist who habitually refers to blacks and people of other races with vulgar epithets. In the dream, I wanted him to see Mississippi Burning because I was hoping it would affect him in some way and cure him of racism.

A week or so later, I dropped Bobby and his family off at their apartment. For some reason, I went up to their apartment for a few minutes, I don't recall why. But when I was in their living room, I noticed a video cassette sticking halfway out of the slot in the VCR. Out of curiosity, I walked over to the VCR to see what it was, expecting it to be some lame comedy or something. However, to my astonishment, when I pulled the cassette out of the slot, it was Mississippi Burning!

In addition to being an atheist, I also am a skeptic when it comes to things like psychic powers, astrology, tarot cards and so forth. But at the time, the incident above made me consider the possibility that we do have the capacity to foresee the future. I had another incident in which I was standing with a friend outside of Planet Hollywood in Manhattan a couple of years later. She and I were talking about what celebrity items they might have on display in the restaurant. As a joke, I remarked that they had the sneakers that Johnny Depp wore in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? The reason it was a joke was because to my recollection, there was nothing notable at all about the sneakers Johnny Depp wore in that movie and there was absolutely no reason to expect that they would be on display anywhere.

When my friend and I finally were admitted after waiting on line for a while, we looked around at some of the celebrity paraphernalia they had. Up ahead on the wall, I noticed a pair of sneakers encased in glass. I walked up to it to see what the caption read underneath the display, and to my complete surprise, it identified the pair of sneakers within as those worn by Johnny Depp in What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

So, did I have a psychic vibe going on, or was it pure coincidence like the dream about my brother? I had one or two other instances where a thought that popped into my mind seemed to come true in some way. But the fact that they were so few leads me to believe that it was all sheer coincidence and that if I really did have some kind of psychic powers that I should be experiencing them on a more frequent basis. Still, when it happens, it does make one wonder about what is possible.

Did any of you ever have any similar experiences? If so, how do you explain it?

How About Those Gasoline Prices? - Will The Dream Come True?

Back on August 17, 2008, when the price of gasoline was starting to inch down a bit, I wrote this post, in which I described a dream that I had.

"In that dream, I went out of my house one day and noticed something that completely astounded me. If I recall correctly, in the dream I was walking with my wife up the road to nearby Woodbury Plaza, and in the distance I saw the price sign on display at the BP gasoline station. What caught my attention was the price that was advertised for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. It read $1.75 per gallon."

As I wrote at the time, the chances of that happening were extremely far-fetched. A little over a month later, on September 28, 2008, I commented again on the decline in gasoline prices. I ventured the following:

"I am going to go out on a limb a bit and predict that we will continue to see a decline in the price of gasoline, absent some catastrophic event, in the next 3 or 4 weeks. American motorists are driving less, and the prospect of a prolonged downturn in the economy will also serve to depress demand. I believe it is possible that the price per gallon here in my part of Nassau County might even dip below $3.50 per gallon for a brief period."

Well, in the month that followed, prices have fallen even further than I would have dared to hope for. There are gas stations in my neighborhood that are now selling regular unleaded at 2.69 a gallon. The price for a gallon of regular unleaded need only drop another 94 cents in order for my aforementioned dream to come true. Still, I am doubtful the price will fall that far, though it would really blow my mind if it did.

One of the concerns I have, as I wrote before on this topic, is that as welcome as the drop in price is, it could also result in the public going back to its old carefree driving habits. People might even start buying Hummers again in the mistaken belief that things are "normal" again. That would be a big mistake, as a rise in fuel consumption will cause gasoline prices to rise above $4.00 per gallon once more. As I also wrote before, conservation efforts will slacken as colder temperatures descend on us. How many people want to ride their bicycles on a cold, windy day, or even worse, during a freezing rain?

I don't know how long gasoline will continue to fall or stay where it is, though I would venture a guess that by winter, regular unleaded will be back over $3.00 a gallon again. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, but not by going on joyrides!