Tuesday, August 30, 2005


The 40 Year Old Virgin

Not exactly what I expected. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Oh, and by now you know I blab a little too much perhaps about the plots in these reviews, but really, unless there's a big surprise, most of us sort of know the general plots of most movies nowadays, don't we?

Thing is, I only recognized the star, Steve Carell, from his role in Anchorman. Whatever it says about me, I loved that movie. I own it. I watch it on cable frequently if it's on. And it has a certain style of humor. Going into The 40 Year Old Virgin, I think I was expecting something similar to Anchorman. Which it wasn't. I also couldn't help but compare it to this summer's gold standard comedy, The Wedding Crashers. And it wasn't like that either, nor was it as funny.

However, Carell's Andy Stitzer is a guy that most guys can relate to, at least on some levels. Some guys may relate more than others. While few guys are forty year old virgins, many of us have had some sort of "guy" collection that women just don't seem to appreciate. It may be baseball cards, or model airplanes, or comics, or classic toys and action figures still in the original packaging. And even though Andy's insecurities are centered on his virginity, most guys have their own insecure moments around women, for any number of reasons.

Sexist analysis alert! While women in some chick flick would whine and drink wine and complain about the guy that has done the heroine wrong, Andy's friends set about taking the steps necessary to solve the problem. Of course, being guys, the advice frequently goes wrong, often with disastrous and funny results. End sexist analysis.

Andy's friends help make the comedy happen, but the loving, as you may have guessed, comes from Andy himself, with a woman he met himself. The nice thing about this movie is that Andy's life is about more than sex. We see him growing in other areas as well. Andy works in the back room of a Best Buy type store, processing paperwork. He never goes on the sales floor. Andy has TV dates with his upstairs elderly neighbors to watch Survivor. He never goes out with the guys from work. Andy paints miniatures at home. He doesn't go out. Andy is insecure in pretty much every area of his life that happens outside his apartment.

The guys at work invite him to play cards one night when they need an extra player. It's during this game that Andy's virginity slips out of the bag, and the quest is on. You know that in a movie like this, the sex is going to happen; I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that. The trick here is that before the sex, Andy becomes a powerhouse on the sales floor at work, he's going out with the guys to socialize and meeting several girls, he has at least two guaranteed shots at sex that he passes up, he shares his dream to have his own store with that first girl he met on his own.

The sex comes last. Look, I don't know if they intended it or not, but I got a lot out of this movie. Not just every dog has his day. Not just that sometimes, a good guy really does win. For me, the message is that to have sex in a loving relationship, it's important to be ready physically, mentally, and emotionally. The sex doesn't make Andy better in all those other ways. It's the fact that Andy does become well-rounded in all those other ways that makes him ready to have sex. And let's face it, while being a virgin at forty is a little extreme, more people are truly ready to have sex closer to 40 than to 14.

Ok I admit it, I just liked the way that sounded. My point is simply that many people, maybe even most people, have sex before they're really ready to do so. I'm making a distinction here between ready and able. The movie is rated R for language, sexual content (it's about a guy losing his virginity, for Pete's sake!), and some drug use (played for laughs), but taken as a whole, it's a sweet movie with a positive message. I'm glad I saw it.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


My Ass-Kicking Year

So Miss Tori and I decided that enough is enough, and it's time for some ass kicking. I am now officially one year closer to my eventual doom, pretty much not any closer at all to being declared benelovent dictator, and full up on my crap taking meter. Unfortunately, ass kicking takes work, rather than just skating like normal, so when I'm not at the office, I'm exhausted. Going from set your own hours to fourteen hour days is not the easiest transition. I can't even read all the blogs I want, let alone write as much as I want to on here.

So what's all that mean? It means that you'll have to wait til Sunday (most likely) or else late tomorrow (only a very slight chance) for the reviews I owe you. Cause I've been a movie going fool lately. In addition to Skeleton Key and Four Brothers, I've got The 40 Year Old Virgin to write about and I still owe you that review of Blowing Smoke, which as it typical for me, has got me a lot less irritated after a nice cooling off period, which is good for me because sometimes I fly off the handle.

Oh and the whole union adventure. I'm kinda sick of typing all that, and you're probably really sick of reading it, so I think I'll try to jam the last few days of it into one post and really cut down on the crap quotient of it all. Without taking the time to go through all the notes again, I know there's a certain rave out I want to put in, and I'm not sure what else. See you soon.

And who knew there would be so many hits for Coqroq, including one asking if they're a real band.

Monday, August 22, 2005


Burger King Rocks Your Cock With Coqroq

If you're like me when it comes to watching TV, you have two styles. First, I keep the TV on in the background, picking up key bits of a show here and there and completely ignoring the commercials. Second, I am actively watching a show, and when commercials come on, I flip to an alternate channel or just mute the sound and ignore the commercials that way. So I don't see many commercials at all. If you have Tivo, you're even better off and can just skip commercials altogether. Which is why the "Coqroq" commercial is totally new to me. But i happened to listen to one of them last night. You might think that Coqroq has some fancy, exotic pronounciation, but you'd be wrong. You see, Coqroq is a band of chickens, or rather, guys dressed in chicken costumes, in Burger King commercials. And Coqroq is actually pronounced "cock rock." Which maybe is what caught my attention in the first place, hearing cock rock in a commercial on a regular broadcast TV channel. Of course we all know that cock is another term for a rooster, so its use is legitimate in that sense regarding a band of chickens, but you and I know they just like the excuse to say cock and get guys like me to watch their commercial. They also have a website that would make many real bands jealous. Information on all things Coqroq is here. You go look now!

Oh, full disclosure demands that I tell you Burger King is paying me nothing in either money or free food. But hey Burger King, if you make the offer, I'm not going to turn you down or anything, so feel free. Oh I should also say that the whole thing is promoting their new chicken fries, but the website linked above has a large amount of band content, and only one small link that clicks to a pic of an order of chicken fries. I haven't tried the chicken fries yet (hint, hint, BK), but if I do, I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Four Brothers

Some number of years ago, back in 1993, I saw this movie Tombstone. Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer were in it, and it gave a fictionalized account of the gunfight at the OK Corral, and assorted adventures of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and their pals in the aftermath of it. Now my knowledge of movies is nowhere near encyclopedic, but the thing that struck me the most was the cathartic nature of the film. I left it charged and excited, energized. I was telling my friends how it seemed like a very long time since a good shoot-em-up movie had been out. Thinking back now, I can also see that the film gave me a chance to vicariously experience some righteous justice being administered to evil guys by good men. Of course I know that good guys don't always win. I can also admit that sometimes there can be more emotional resonance in the story of a good guy who loses. Sometimes losing is a lesson all its own, and it can be a lesson worth learning. Still, if you'll forgive my language, sometimes you just want some righteous justice, ass-kicking style, and it can send you over the moon more than ten Merchant-Ivory productions.

So with satellite tasking almost over, Miss Tori and I were back at the office getting things set up for the new clients. We finished early and decided to take a chance on heading by the theater. Who knows? Maybe Must Love Dogs will be playing at a convenient time (as it turned out, I missed my chance; it left the theater already). The only thing playing without waiting an hour or more was Four Brothers. You know, with Marky Mark. Of course, with two white brothers and two black brothers, I might have thought for a moment that it was a comedy. You know, some sort of Brady Bunch, Mr. Mom, Vice-Versa type wacky fish out of water type of movie. Or it could go the more reasonable way, these four were only four of many who have been raised as foster children by the mother figure they have come together to avenge. So what the heck, it's still matinee pricing at this point, let's see it.

The movie opens on a snowy city street, maybe in Detriot, but I don't really remember. Just think big city and you'll be fine. Evelyn Mercer is in a quickie mart type store, slapping the wrist of a young boy who was trying to steal candy. She gives him a stern talking to and sends him on his way. She heads to the back of the store, and is able to take cover when robbers come in the front and rob the place. They shoot the cashier, then head to the back of the store after hearing a noise. They find Evelyn there, and kill her as well. Both robbers are wearing ski masks and couldn't be identified, so the killing seemed especially brutal.

Evelyn's death leads to the reunion of the four brothers. While she had any number of foster children that she helped place in adoptive homes, these four were such bad seeds, no one else would take them. Mrs. Mercer adopts them, and Bobby, Angel, Jeremiah, and Jack become the Mercer brothers. While Jeremiah stayed in town, got married, and started a family, the other three scattered to the winds. Lt Green, who is investigating the murder, stops by the funeral. He knew the brothers from when they were all kids, and he advises them to let the cops do their jobs. Green knows that Bobby (Marky Mark) and the others are the sorts of hard cases that might be tempted to seek out some vigilante justice. He wasn't made Lieutenant for nothing.

The boys do some checking around and visit the store where the shooting took place. The owner invites them inside to look at the security video. Ma Mercer was such an angel in the neighborhood, he'll go the extra mile to help the boys. Watching the tape from the perspective of a criminal background, Bobby determines that the robbery was just a front to disguise a hit on their mom. Now we'll definitely have some vigilante justice, and watching it unfold is a thing of beauty.

You know some cops, like the cops in Beverly Hills Cop, are kind of sensitive type wusses, and other cops are Dirty Harry type ass kickers? If these brothers were cops, they'd be in the Harry Callahan mold. Are they operating outside the law? Yes. Will you care? No. That is a dilemma. How do you justify breaking the law like this? Aren't we just encouraging other people to take the law in their own hands? Possibly, but the film addresses this point to my satisfaction. I'd love to tell you more, but I don't want to ruin the ending for you.

But as long as I'm referencing other movies, let me toss in one more to highlight a highlight, if you take my meaning. In the beginning of True Lies, a getaway in a van on an icy road is played for laughs, with Tom Arnold bouncing back and forth across the road as he tries to keep control. If you're lucky, that's as close as you've ever come to being in a car slipping on the ice and not knowing if you'll manage to avoid a crash, serious injury, or death. Seeing Tom whip the wheel left and right, we can laugh as he faces a danger we are safe from. One of the most thrilling parts of four Brothers is a car chase on snowy, icy roads in the city. The boys are chasing two suspects. A couple of times, I said to myself, oh come on, you have to give up, it's too dangerous to keep going. I was rooting for the boys to let the bad guys go, just so they wouldn't get hurt and could pick up the chase another day. Needless to say, that's why I'm in the audience, and these guys are in the movie. They didn't give up, and the result is one of the best car chases on film, as far as I'm concerned.

It's rated R for violence, language, and a little bit of sex, but just remember that sometimes, these things are relevant to the story. You don't go to see Saving Private Ryan because you want to watch guys drink cups of tea with their pinkies held out. Same goes here. Everybody's heard bad words before, this won't kill you. The violence is what you'd expect from a movie with guys fighting and shooting at each other. It's there, but not like you'd find in a slasher flick. And the sexual moment that stands out in my mind was played for laughs; sex was involved, but it wasn't sexual, if you take my meaning.

I went in to this movie on a whim, and I left it, just like I left Tombstone, energized. Go see it.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


The Skeleton Key

The Skeleton Key

I must admit I do like this sort of movie. For whatever reason, spooky, ghosty, creepy type films are really enjoyable to me. Maybe because I always wonder if there really are such things as ghosts. Not that this movie proves it or anything, but I am very willing to suspend my disbelief. Sometimes, as in the case of Land of the Dead, even my willingness isn't enough. In the case of The Skeleton Key, it was more than enough.

Kate Hudson plays Caroline, a home care nurse who goes to a spooky house out in the Louisiana bayous to care for poor old Ben Deveraux. Ben has suffered from a stroke, leaving him unable to communicate, and near death. Except that we get glimpses from time to time that there might be a thinking brain trapped in his body. Caroline sees it too, and really wants to help Ben, especially because she has some father issues of her own. While five previous nurses were too creeped out to continue working there, this father fixation keeps Caroline around and determined to save Ben.

Caroline begins to suspect something weird is going on. She gets a skeleton key that opens all the doors in the house, but while snooping around, she discovers one door in the attic that it won't open. Of course, she's going to get it open eventually, and creepy stuff happens involving voodoo witch doctor type stuff. She finds the typical jars of all sorts of strange, exotic spell components, along with old records (not files, the actual records that play on record players) that contain recordings of various spells.

Caroline visits a . . . well I'm not sure what to call a lady who sells potions and reads fortunes and stuff like that, but Caroline visits her and learns a spell that will help unbewitch old Ben. She also goes with the family lawyer to visit some old lady and asks her about a certain record Caroline found in the attic. It has a very powerful spell, and the mention of it really freaks out the old lady.

Turns out the attic room belonged to Papa Justice and his wife Cecile, who were servants of the white family who owned the house in the early 1900's. Armed with her new knowledge, Caroline goes back to save Ben. But that's enough of that.

John Hurt did an excellent job as Ben. I don't mean to sound cruel, but if you've ever had a conversation with a stutterer, and you've found yourself almost compelled to try and finish his sentences, you get an idea of what it felt like to watch Hurt struggling to explain his plight to Caroline. I was right there on the edge, desperate to hear what he had to say, even if it was just a movie. Gena Rowlands played his wife Violet. I'm not familiar with her other work, but she did well here, conveying a certain innocence and weirdness that drew me in as much as it did Caroline, who was ably portrayed by Kate Hudson.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was not a slasher type flick, and had minimal gore. In fact, once it was over, I left thinking it wasn't as scary as I had expected based on the commercials. It did only get a PG-13 rating, which seems about right. Most teens could see this movie without being bothered much by it. What fear there was was mainly built up in the mind of the viewer. Perhaps it might be better classified as a thriller, rather than as a horror movie. And that ending! All I can say is I'd really love to hear from other people what they thought of the it. Miss Tori and I both thought it ended very well, even if it did catch us by surprise.

Actual Update: If you came over from Nehring the Edge, thanks for stopping by. Believe it or not, I just saw Four Brothers, and the practically only available on the internet Blowing Smoke. Brothers review will be next, cause I still need some time to collect my thoughts from Blowing Smoke. And if you didn't come over from Nehring the Edge, go there now and see what a quality, knowledgeable review looks like.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005



Just look at it. It creeped me out. If you can explain it, by all means please do so. Watch it here.

Actual Update: Review of The Skeleton Key on Thursday sometime. In brief: it's good.

Look For The Union Label. Part Four

Part one, two, three.

Finally, I can have some edible food! Ok this is a big honking cafeteria, with several stations. Let me count them for you. Station one is what I call the waffle/pizza station. At breakfast they have belgian waffles; at lunch and dinner, they have assorted pizza. Station two is entree station. At breakfast you get omelets there; lunch and dinner you get kung pao chicken or pasta with shrimp, stuff like that. Station three is the meal station. For breakfast there, you get a plate with scrambled eggs, sausage, and shoestring style hash browns; for lunch and dinner, you'll get something like ribs, half ear of corn, and mash potatoes. Station four is the Joe six-pack section. Breakfast is pancakes or french toast, with McDonald's style hash browns; lunch and dinner are cheeseburgers or hot dogs, with tater tots or french fries. Station five is the cold breakfast and toast section. There they have all the cereals, plus bread for toast and bagels, which while I looked high and low, I could never find, even though every time I went back there, someone had a bagel they were slathering cream cheese on. Station six was the dessert and fruit section. Cookies, brownies, cheesecake, chocolate pudding pie, cobbler, and they always had apples, with some bananas from time to time. Oh and section seven was hot cereal and salad. Breakfast had oatmeal and cream of wheat, biscuits and gravy, and assorted melon type fruit; for lunch and dinner, there was soup and chili, with a salad bar and a huge assortment of toppings, probably more than I've ever seen at any restaurant.

So Monday's breakfast: scrambled eggs, country potatoes, sausage, oatmeal, chocolate milk, pancakes, McDonald's style hashbrowns, regular milk, ham and cheese omelet, biscuit and gravy, and Mountain Dew.

So I get to the meeting and oh my goodness how can I describe this room? Maybe the union-y platitudes can be summed up like this. There was a Gore/Lieberman poster on the wall. Who, you ask? Yes, that Gore/Lieberman. I mean that just seems like so five years ago. Wait a minute, that's because it was five years ago! Nice to know that the union is so current and forward thinking; it really helps to build confidence among the membership. "Hey we backed the losers two elections ago, and we're damned proud of it!" Maybe the whole Kerry thing is still too painful.

Now I shall tell you about our first activity in the Emerging Leaders group. You heard me. Somehow I got suckered into the Emerging Leaders group. Whoever signed me up was clearly drunk. We take a cheesy quiz to determine if we are thinkers, intuitors, feelers, or sensors. I really felt I was a thinker, but my intuition failed me and I ended up a sensor. Ha ha ha aren't I clever? Turns out there are twice as many sensors as any of the other three types. Best thing yet: the sensor group I am assigned to is conveniently assigned to the table I'm already sitting at.

Our task is to design a t-shirt that symbolized what the term "emerging leaders" means to us. We got markers, and big paper and everything! So weak. Their excuse? The trainers say they can watch us work and then they'll tell us about the different communication styles of the four types, and how we exemplified those styles within our groups. It's all about communication, you see. I can tell you that I am not bragging when I say that my group made the best t-shirt. In accordance with tradition, I expect it to be on the cover of next year's Emerging Leader binder and t-shirt.

I missed the gratuitous liberal shot last time, so here's two for you. First, one of our other groups had an interesting design for their t-shirt. I couldn't make it out from where I was sitting, but it looked like the shirt had pit stains. Fortunately, the explained it for me. "This is B.O. from Arnold and his evil propositions." Huge laughs. And completely unanimous minus one. Can this sort of monolithic thinking be healthy for anyone?

Second, at one speech by some bigwig, she mentions going to meet some state official and had some interesting comments on the decor. With a snide, dismissive tone, she says "He had a big picture of Reagan on the wall behind his desk, that'll give you an idea of where he's coming from" to lost of negative chuckles from the audience. This attitude among the presenters and audience members is a very sweet example of this announced expectation of one of the things we should be learning here, "We want to learn how to listen, without being prejudicial." Nope, no prejudice here.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Look For The Union Label. Part Three

Here's part one, and part two.

The nap did help. I made it through a two hour meeting that stretched to three hours, which was kind of funny since this lady was saying that some of the qualities we were supposed to be learning down here included being on time and monitoring your own time. And these people at the state level are hardcore. Almost every presentation or training I've been to, when the end of the time comes, they wrap things up and end it. These people have kept this thing going almost an hour past the stated end. Oh here we go this lady is going to wrap things up now, with, get this, SEVEN bullet points!!!! Finally, the pain does end, and we can eat.

But not at the cafereria. That won't be ready til breakfast Monday. Which means we'll be eating the bane of my existence, catered food. Now I suppose there are non evil caterers somewhere in the universe; they just seem to have an aversion to serving food anywhere I am. Thank goodness I had those Fritos at 5:30 AM. For dinner I had a can of Pepsi, a slice of some sort of bread, and a small cesar salad. Here's what I didn't have: some tubular pasta with bits of red that I couldn't identify, some shell type pasta with peas and a pasty white sauce, and something lumpy and reddish and sort of granular looking that somebody said was chicken but which I can tell you without hyperbole looked very similar to some of the roadkill I passed on the freeway on my way down. I finished my paltry morsels before the guy next to me got back with his plate, and he asked me why I hadn't eaten anything. Rather than get all into my food hangups (that's what you guys are here for!), I just said I was a picky eater and left it at that. But don't cry for me Argentina. Things got better once the cafeteria opened. Just wait til you see what I had for breakfast on Monday.

Before they let us go, we were reminded about the opening evening reception. How, sure we might say we're tired, but part of this whole thing is networking and meeting new people and blah blah blah. That might be fine for most people, but what this lady didn't know was that I was really tired, pushing thirty-six hours of no sleep, and that I am socially maladjusted and hate people. So I didn't go. Instead, I was in bed by 7:30PM and slept til 6:00AM. And I was hungry. But I'll tell you about my breakfast next time.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Another Month, Another Lodi Al-Qaida Update

Or is it al-Qaida, as I spelled it last time?

Or maybe Al Qaeda, the way I spelled it the time before?

A couple of angles this time. First, as you may have heard, courtroom proceedings are continuing. The trial date of August 23 have been postponed to allow prosecutors time to further prepare their case:

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. decided Friday to push back the trial date at least two months. The trial originally was scheduled for Aug. 23. Burrell cited the "voluminous documents" the government still needs to collect and review from 40 federal, state and local agencies, including those from the intelligence community.

That's a lot of agencies. And it turns out that the investigation was going on much longer than I had remembered, apparently at least as far back as August 2002, according to one report. Or maybe just since May 2005. A possible explanation for the confusion:

Patty Pontello, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said the government actually was investigating another individual from Lodi for more than two years.

She declined to comment further on the other individual but reiterated that the government started to focus its attention on the Hayats in May.

The Hayats, father and son, are part of the Lodi cell that's been in the headlines. Also involved is Shabbir Ahmed. His ties to Al-Qaida, and his possible plans in this country, were discussed in court proceedings on his current, and only charges so far, of overstaying his visa:

"Do I believe he is planning a terror attack?" FBI agent Gary Schaaf said. "That's some of the information that has been provided to us."

And what sort of information has been provided? Well Ahmed had been involved in the beginning steps of setting up a terror training camp in the Lodi area and was a middle man for communicating orders from Bin Laden. Read on:

According to the FBI, bin Laden would give orders to Taliban commander Jala Luddin Hoqqani, who would pass them on to Muhammed Adil Khan, another Lodi imam who is also in custody on visa violations.

Adil Khan would then tell Ahmed, his protege and head of the Lodi mosque, whose membership included Umer Hayat and his son Hamid Hayat, Pakistanis who face terror-related charges.

Hamid Hayat has said that his attack orders would have come from Ahmed. But how does one go about finding the sorts of people who might be willing to attend a camp and carry out these attacks? One option is to create a madrassa, an Islamic school that, perhaps brainwashing is too harsh a term, but madrassas teach and promote a harsh and extreme form of Islam. These sorts of schools in countries like Pakistan, at which both Khan and Ahmed have worked, have turned out terrorists. The school in Pakistan? The Jamai Farooqia school. The proposed school in Lodi (for which seven acres of land have been purchased, but construction has not begun)? The Farooqia Islamic Center. Perhaps not the best name choice.

However, according to Nasim Khan (apparently no relation to Adil Khan above), the Lodi mosque has had plans for opening the school and community center for more than ten years. Funds have been raised locally, and Adil Khan was brought on board when it was thought he could help fundraising efforts beyond the local area. Nasim Khan notes that the money for the land was raised locally. The Farooqia Islamic Center would primarily serve people from Lodi, Stockton, and Sacramento. The center would not just function as a school. Nasim Khan was asked about his vision of the center:

Nasim Khan: A regular, secular school with Islamic values and an American curriculum. ... We had a vision that we would have a school where children could come to be safe, and it would be open to everybody. We envision it as a program center, a community center where we'd have free clinics, elderly (services) and a regular school.

We're responsible, law-abiding citizens, and we want to do something positive for our community-- that's the image we need to get out there.

And he continued:

This is not Adil Khan's or Shabbir Ahmed's project -- this is a community project. Adil Khan was involved because we thought he was a person who could go out and have this project completed. ... We'd been working on this long before Adil Khan came. (Now) we have to find a way to go ahead and somehow achieve this.

And a little more about the name of the school, from both Nasim Khan and Shujah Khan:

Q: What associations does the project planned for Lodi have to the conservative teachings of the Jamai Farooqia school in Pakistan, run by Adil Khan's father?

Shujah Khan: Lodi people, they did not know what is Farooqia Islamic Center in Karachi. We just wanted a school here.

Nasim Khan: We don't carry connections with anything abroad. The school is not a madrassah, like it's being portrayed -- it's a regular school. ... The name was established way before anything negative came out about (Farooqia). ... The project is not even off the ground yet. Let it be built and function, then scrutinize it.

Q: Should Farooqia leaders consider changing the name of the school to avoid speculation of ties to the Pakistani school of the same name?

Shujah Khan: That Farooqia Islamic Center (in Pakistan) previously produced people who went against the United States, it would be a legitimate call to change the name.

Seems pretty reasonable. Nasim Khan is a board member and Shujah Khan is former Vice President of the Lodi mosque. This school seems destined to be scrutinized before it can be built and function. If it is even built in the first place. Turns out an appeal against the building permit will be heard at the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors meeting on September 27.

Some local residents have complained about potential noise and traffic difficulties, and a family building a home on property adjacent to the center site have privacy concerns as well. Howard Seligman, the attorney for the family who has filed the appeal says it is a land use issue, and not motivated by politics or fears about the Muslim community. At least some county representatives agree that it is a land use question, and that that is how the issue should be decided:

San Joaquin County Supervisor Jack Sieglock said he's received many calls from local residents about the school being built in the area, ranging from traffic and noise to conflicts within the Muslim community.

"There are a lot of issues to grapple with here," Sieglock said, "but you have to look at this as a land use decision."

That's the response Planning Commissioners gave on July 22, when they voted 3-1 to approve the center's permit to break ground on the property. That decision came less than one year after Farooqia leaders first approached the County Planning Commission for a land use permit in September 2004.

The information above has been drawn from several sources:

Trial date information and Patty Pontello from The Stockton Record.

Info on the Farooqia Islamic Center in Lodi from The Lodi News-Sentinel here (interview) and here (planning commission). News-Sentinel reporter Sara Cardine conducted the interview and wrote the planning commission piece. Thanks Sara! She can be reached at sarac@lodinews.com.

And finally, the bin Laden connection info came from this Fox News report here.

Roger Simon has been very good to me on these Lodi Cell reports. I don't mean to presume his link, but he's so darn fast with it, and I'm so darn slow checking in here, half of you have come and gone before I can say thanks. If you haven't come here from there, go check him out. And if you did come here from there, thanks for stopping by! It's always nice to be Simonized.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Look For The Union Label. Part Two.

Part One started here. This all comes from notes about my experiences written during boring meetings I didn't pay attention to. So just bear with me when the timeline gets a little jumpy.

So I find the parking garage at what we'll call Site A. They've instructed us to use the thirty minute loading zone parking spaces there. So I find one, park, and look for the sign in area. And it's already hot and humid and I'm miserable. But I see a long table with some umbrellas and the appropriate logo, and I go on up. It's about 9:10, but maybe I can check in early. I mean, I totally hate standing in lines.

Me: Is this the check in place for the union?
First Lady: Sure, what's your name?
(And I'm thinking "Score!" This lady is cool.)
Me: My name.
First Lady: Hmmmm. I don't see it here. Do you have your letter?
(And now I'm thinking "If this somehow I'm not registered this will totally suck.")
Me: Errrr. . . I think it's in the car . . .
Second Lady: Wait let me check this other list. Oh yes, here you are. You're down at Site B.

And Second Lady gave me some "kinda sorta go that way" instructions, but conveniently located "You Are Here" directories and my own finely honed by Cub Scouts (I was a bobcat!) sense of direction got me down to Site B. It's a bit of a walk, over hills and down stairs in the sun. I was hot, and not the sexy kind. Surely I jest, you're thinking. Yeah, just bury your face in my sweaty pits and you'll see what I mean. Oh yeah, right there . . . just like that . . . but I digress. In the vicinity of Site B, I see a sort of room check in area for conferences, but no sign of check-in for the actual conference.

Now my half-hour is running low in the loading zone at Site A (which if you've been paying attention, is now all uphill from Site B), maybe we're hitting 9:30 by now. So I go to the desk. Room check-in will start at 10AM, and conference check-in an hour later. But I figure I'll take a chance, and go on to conference check-in. The lady at Site A seemed accommodating, and maybe I can sneak over the thirty minute limit if it'll get me checked in early. Well yes, the new lady sees my name, but no, I can't check in until 11AM. Fine, whatever. So to kill some time, I go back up to my car, you know, to get it out of the loading zone and to see if I can cruise around and find a closer parking lot to the rooms at Site B where I'll be staying. I mean, I don't even want to walk that distance again, let alone drag my luggage at the same time. So I make it up the trail of tears like trek back to my car. Now I'm twice as hot, and not because I have a sexy identical twin. Which would be sweet because if I had a sexy identical twin, by definition I would be sexy too (I swear I am so Fate's bitch). I get to my car just in time to crank the sweet, life giving A/C on full blast. And my Mountain Dew is still cold. Mmmmmmm. More sweet life. I won't die after all.

So I drive around the loop, and I do see a closer lot, but none of the signs indicate loading zones of however many minutes. Maybe I can figure something out, but for now it's almost 10AM, so it's back up to Site A parking, and back down the hill to Site B for room check in. Ooops, before I got out of the Site B parking lot, I backed into one of those little barrier poles. How could I be so stupid, you may be wondering. Well rather than a pole maybe four feet high, something that's, you know, ACTUALLY VISIBLE OFER THE BACK END OF THE CAR, this thing is so rinky dink you can't even see it. Nope, this pole was nice and short and invisible. Which, oddly enough, is not the first time I've heard that sort of reference to a certain pole. Now I'm not saying I'm a perfect driver, and maybe my neck was a little stiff or whatever, but what I am saying is that even if I got on my knees on the seat and faced directly backward looking over the trunk of the car, this pole would still be too low to see. What's up with that? Fortunately for me, my 5mph bumper just bounced back into shape and everything was fine.

Now I'm back at the first lot, A/C the whole way, Mountain Dew replenished fluids, and it's over hill and dale again in the stupid heat. I get the room, and the girl gives the ok to park real quick in the Site B lot to offload the luggage. But before I walk back up to my car, I want to check the room. You know, be prepared and all. I walk up these steps, and it's all concrete and bricks all the way up to the front door of the building I'll be staying in. It's all card readers now, because regular metal keys that work every time and are dependable are just so old fashioned, don't you know, old boy? If your ears are tuned for sarcasm, you'll already know that my card was all squirrely in the card reader. And I'm in the sun, bricks on three sides, it's like a solar oven or something, and I'm running this card up and down over and under, this way and that, and it just is not working. And I know something is happening, because if I run it the wrong way, the reread card light comes on. But running it the right way means exactly nothing happens. I finally sneak in on someone else's exit.

Now that I'm inside, I jam on that elevator button. No way I'm walking up three flights of stairs. And here's a question I have for these jerks. Rather than invest in balky front door key technology that sucks, why not invest in elevator technology that is somewhat more efficient than what you might find in a 1930's tenement? I mean, it almost would have been faster for me to drag myself up the three flights of stairs with my lips than to take this elevator. And the foyer is warm, the elevator is warm, the hallway is warm, no sign of A/C in any of them. If my room feels like this, I don't know what I'll do. If I want to live without A/C, I could just stay home, where it won't be fixed til Wednesday. At best, they probably have the A/C tunred off and I'll have to crank it up once I get in. If the card works, that is.

It does work, and it works perfectly. The light goes green, and I have several seconds to open the door. It's not like a race or anything. And that door opens. Let me tell you, it wasn't warm in there. It wasn't hot. It wasn't even cool. It was like a freaking meat locker in there. For all I knew, they were storing dead bodies in there under the beds. I wasn't going to look. Oh baby it was so glorious. I swear, if I could have reached it I would have humped that ceiling mounted A/C vent. I was twirling like in The Sound Of Music. Oh happy day! Later, I would learn two things. One, everyone who knows better uses the side door to the building, where the card works every time, and two, meat locker is fine during the day, but perhaps not so fine at bedtime when it's sixty degrees and you're huddling under a blanket. (I wrote that at breakfast Monday just a few minutes ago, and after a ten minute walk uphill, already warm and very humid, I'm vowing never to question the meat locker again! But did I remember to turn it back on before I left?)

After a few minutes of chilled air Nirvana, i do all the shuffling to get the luggage, get checked into the conference, get my folder, get my tote bag, get my hang around the neck name badge, get my parking sticker, get all parked nice and legal, and get back to my room. I've got enough time for a two hour nap before the Sunday afternoon meeting. I plug in the alarm clock and get it set. I set my cell phone alarm. I even call Miss Tori to have her call me just in case the other alarms don't do it for me. I have been known to sleep through alarms before. We'll get to the first meeting next time, but now let's have our political/anti-Arnold moment of the day.

During some speech, one of the state people says: "We're going to be adding a political track next year, to prepare for 2006. That is, if they even have elections." Big laughs, because you know, all Republicans want is to shut down elections and rule with an iron fist, unlike the tolerant lefties. And there's a tolerant lefty quote in here somewhere; we'll get to it.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


Look For The Union Label. Part One.

So I have to be in LA to register for this state conference at 11AM, and from Bunktown, I've heard a six or seven hour trip is about normal. Well I'm never one to do things the easy way, like getting packed the night before, going to bed early, and getting up at 4AM to make the drive. Instead, I figured my best bet would be to stay up all night Saturday and leave at 4AM Sunday. I'm usually up til about 3AM nowadays anyway, so no big deal.

Traffic was pretty light and all, given the time, and I pretty much did get on the road on time. Even my stay up late skills were taxed a little, but stopping every once in a while helps that out. First stop at the Harris Ranch exit. I can't speak with absolute authority, but you aren't likely to ever see more cows in one place than you will here. I mean, it's like the Grand Canyon of cattle. And it smells like places with cows smell. Which is not so bad, and the people in this countrified area probably don't mind. I had a fountain Coke, some sort of Butterfinger cookie/wafer bar, and watched the sky get light in the east. That helped perk me up.

About forty-five minutes later, everything was getting fuzzy again, so it was time for another stop. This was still north of the grapevine. I realized having something to eat in the car would be helpful, and keep me going better than just eating something at a stop and then driving again, so I loaded up a little. This time I got a fountain Mountain Dew, Honey BBQ Twist Fritos, and two Whatchamacallit bars, which were not as good as I remembered. I probably won't get those again. But the Fritos were good. I would definitely snack on those on a long drive. I also learned that if you don't go to the bathroom, you're motivated to go faster. Which is cool. No gas this time either. Just gives me another excuse to stop and stretch my legs. I figure I'll get gas at Gorman. We stopped there on our way to Code Name Eagle's film school graduation, and I recalled that the Chevron had acceptable bathrooms.

Of course, it wouldn't be me if I didn't miss the exit. And start running low on gas. How lame would I be to run out of gas on some deserted stretch of the grapevine. And so I was a little worried. Could this really be happening? Was I finally going to learn that procrastination isn't always good? And talk about your California Hills In August! Just dirt and dead brown grass as far as the eye could see. Sure there were a couple exits, with no gas. What's up with that? Must I be the victim of the universe's gas-tease game? Apparently so. But then, off in the distance, in the glare of the rising sun, could it be? Structures! And not just some shack, but many buildings together. Houses, maybe? Yes! Oh sweet justice strikes blindly in my favor. And then I see the exit, whichever road it is. The one before Magic Mountain I think (which, I discovered in June, is much better than Disneyland). And I hit the exit just as the "Hey buddy, you're totally screwed on gas" ding goes off. Ha ha ha! Me one, cruel, cruel fate, zero.

Now it's like 8AM, and who should pull in behind me at the pumps but some bastard in a white Hummer. Garrrr I am so jealous of all Hummer drivers. It should be me driving that Hummer!!! I mean, hell's bells, fate couldn't even give me one minute to enjoy my good gas luck before crushing my throat under the massive tire treads of my non-Hummerdom? Bitch. I just got a Mountain Dew this time, no snacks. I was running early, and it looked like I would have plenty of time before check in at 11AM to stop and have breakfast. So early in fact, that I decide to drop by the location and get a feel for the area, the parking situation, stuff like that. My poorly articulated driving directions yeilded to my mental faculties, even on twenty-five hours of no sleep, and I found the place on my first try. Five hours isn't so bad. I was pretty happy with that.

Now I just have to survive two hours of walking back and forth, up and down hills in this heat and humidity, driving from lot to lot, trying to keep ahead of the thirty minute time limit, and having an extremely minor crash in reverse. But we can get into that next time.

For now, one of a series of anti-Arnold quotes, a softy this time: "We're going to kick his ass!" to huge applause. You'd think the guy was Son of Sam or something.

Which by the way, I read a very interesting book about him and I have to tell you about that soon, cause either the guy that wrote the book is totally crazy and living in some fantasy world, or everything you know about that case is totally wrong. The latter is far more disturbing than the former, I promise you.

Friday, August 05, 2005


Holy Crap! I'm Back!

Took lots of notes this time, just need to get them organized. It will take a few days to get the whole thing in, but I hope to have at least a little bit done late tonight or early tomorrow. Can you believe I jiggly-scribbled through 22 pages of notepaper they gave us? I'll tell you all about the trip down, the stuff I ate, the people who are jerks, what total BS goes on at these things, someone who didn't wash his hands after going to the bathroom, and some woman who stole my pencil and just . . . grrrr if I had a space laser she might be at the top of my list right now!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?