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Yankees picked a great time to stop hitting

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Well, the Yankees are off to a rather inauspicious start to their first trip to the World Series in six years since they lost in six games to the Florida Marlins. Phillies starter Cliff Lee, last year’s American League Cy Young Award winner with the Cleveland Indians, held the Yanks to just six hits in a 6-1 rout that was a shutout going into the bottom of the ninth.

And Yankees pitchers gave up a total of six walks. That’s a lot of 6’s.

Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia was decent last night, giving up only two runs (both earned on solo home runs by Phillies second baseman Chase Utley), but didn’t pitch anywhere near as well as he had in his earlier postseason games. He barely escaped disaster in the first inning when he loaded the bases on a walk to Utley, a double by powerhouse first baseman Ryan Howard and a walk to right fielder Jayson Werth (who looks remarkably similar to WWE superstar Edge) after a quick first two outs before getting designated hitter Raul Ibanez to ground out to second baseman Robinson Cano.

By comparison, Lee’s half of the first inning consisted of a strikeout to shortstop Derek Jeter, a groundout on a bunt attempt by left fielder Johnny Damon and a strikeout to first baseman Mark Teixiera.

This was a sign of things to come as Lee continued to dominate the Yanks through the rest of game. Only Jeter had any real success against Lee with three hits, and he happened to be the player who scored the Yankees’ single run when shortstop Jimmy Rollins went for a double play and ended up throwing the ball away.

Sabathia pitched decently (you can’t really complain when the starting pitcher gives up only two runs), but unfortunately Lee pitched brilliantly. Throw in a second straight poor outing from reliever Phil Hughes, who has not been the reliable pitcher in the postseason that he was in the regular season, and a *gasp* horrible outing from craptastic reliever Brian Bruney (he posted a 54 ERA for that appearance), and you get the dreadful results of last night’s game.

Speaking of Brian Bruney, I’m rather curious why manager Joe Girardi bothered sending in Phil Coke to relieve him in the ninth inning since bringing him in during a World Series game that was still, if ever so slightly, plausibly winnable at 4-0 pretty much indicated that Girardi had given up on the game (Bruney was “lights out” during the regular season – as in “somebody turned the lights out on his talent” – pitching worse than only the even more worthless Damaso Marte). At that point, he really should have just left Bruney in there and not wasted Coke’s arm, but maybe that’s just the clouded thoughts of a dejected and disappointed fan.

Many people will no doubt say that “it’s just one game with six more to go” and “there’s always tomorrow,” and they would undoubtedly be right.

However, it’s hard to ignore the realistically irrelevant stat about how the team that won the first game won the World Series in each of the last six years that last night’s broadcasters brought up.

It’s hard to overlook tonight’s starting pitcher A.J. Burnett’s last outing where he got pummeled by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for four runs in the first inning or his decidedly less impressive than Sabathia’s pitching throughout the year.

And most importantly it’s hard to escape just how similar Lee’s performance last night was to Josh Beckett’s performances as a Marlin in the aforementioned 2003 World Series.

Go Yankees.

Source: My own personal Hell.

Liberty for Maine homosexuals in serious danger

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Only months after being granted the right to marry, homosexuals in Maine are in real danger of losing this liberty before they even had a chance to enjoy it as a vote on whether to repeal the young law allowing gay marriage (which originally would take effect in September) is schedule to take place in less than a week.

Proponents of both sides of the argument – Stand for Marriage Maine and Protect Maine Equality – are working at full force to sway the public to their side, and with good reason. The result of this vote affects not only Maine, the only state that has a same-sex marriage question on the ballot, but the entire country as supporters of gay marriage hope for a ballot victory and opponents of gay marriage hope for another nail in the coffin of equal rights for homosexuals: every time the same-sex question has been brought before state voters, the results have supported a ban.

Same-sex marriage is one of the most divisive topics at large today. It seems that few people venture into any sort of gray area about whether homosexuals should be afforded this right – you’re either for it or against it. I personally fall into the former category as I believe in liberty and freedom for all even if I disagree with them. I’m of the mindset that everyone has a right to their own beliefs and views but no right to impose those beliefs and views on other people.

I personally am disgusted with the idea of two men engaging in sexual acts (no offense intended to my gay friends). I’m also disgusted with the idea of eating a frog or smoking a cigarette but I similarly would not begrudge another person’s right to do these things (so long as doing so brings no harm to someone else).

A lot of opponents of same-sex marriage cite morality as a core reason why they feel the way they do. Apparently, these people lack any true understanding of the concept of morality, which is a code of conduct or belief that is arbitrarily and subjectively invented and maintained by society, religion or individual conscience. There are few hard “universal” morals, all of which are based on extreme acts of hostility against your fellow human being.

There are many people who feel that consuming alcohol, watching pornography, gambling, and pre-marital sex are immoral. Does this mean that we, as a society, should make it illegal for anyone to engage in these activities? Of course not, but people are more willing to attack the concept of same-sex marriage because it stems not from an affront to one’s morality but from a personal disgust by certain sexual activities in which homosexuals engage – when one feels such seething hatred towards something, it’s easy to rationalize  that everyone must or should feel the same way .

Others claim that allowing same-sex marriages will harm children and destroy the concept of the family. Have these people taken a look at the divorce rate in this country, which is estimated at about 40%? Clearly, the end of a marriage does more harm to children and the concept of a family than the beginning of one, regardless of the genders of the two people involved.

Recent history has shown that heterosexuals in the United States are quite apt to fail at marriage yet have few legal requirements to enter one. Possibly, many people take the right to marry for granted, something that homosexuals, who even now have to fight with every ounce of their being just for a glimmer of hope of obtaining this right, are much less likely to do.

And with few exceptions, the people getting divorces are not thinking so much about their children as they are about themselves. “I can’t stand living with her.” “She doesn’t respect me.” “I’m no longer happy with him.” “I shouldn’t have to put up with this.” Does fear that homosexuals may prove to succeed where they have failed factor into this at all? One has to wonder…

One scare tactic that opponents of gay marriage use (with great effectiveness as seen by the success of California Proposition 8) is that public schools may teach children about it should it be legalized, despite assurances from government officials that this would not be an educational requirement.

The American public’s unnatural and illogical apprehension about anything related to sex aside, I find this excuse to be hilarious in its inadequacy. Is it any easier for parents fearful that teachers or *gasp* they themselves will have to answer questions about human sexuality to broach the subject of heterosexual acts than homosexual acts?

Does anyone really think it would be easier to tell their 10-year-old about a man inserting his penis into a woman’s vagina? More importantly, does anyone really think that the child will react with any more disgust or hilarity (probably both knowing most kids) to one scenario or the other? In the end, it’s all just peepers, wee wees, butts, gineys, etc. – to a kid raised in the typical American household, anything “down there” is bad until you’ve escaped the grasp of your parents, domineering in their attempt to stave off nervousness.

Other opponents of same-sex marriage cite religious beliefs (which may or may not tie into questions of morality) as the basis of their stance. I won’t get into my feelings about organized religion (that’s another divisive topic for another day), but will simply say that a) not everyone follows the same religion; b) there have been religions and societies that have sanctioned same-sex marriages and unions; and c) followers of any one religion have no right to expect followers of other religions (or people who don’t follow any religion at all) to adhere to their belief system.

The more zealous of religious people have historically tried to enforce conformity upon others, and it sets a dangerous precedent when such people are allowed to do so in today’s society. I find it ironic that people living in a country founded on the concept of diversity and tolerance and who frequently proclaim it to be the greatest in the world continue to seek to undermine those principals in a never-ending effort to deny the very same rights they and their ancestors have enjoyed for centuries.

These are sad and disappointing times indeed.

Source: New York Times

If you’re going to quit, go out in style

October 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Acclaimed film director Paul Haggis parted ways with the Church of Scientology in mid August by sending a letter that was rather critical of the Church, its practices and in particular Tommy Davis, the head of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre. The letter was posted on a blog about Scientology and has since found its way all around the Internet, really hitting the mainstream news circuit over the weekend.

The award winning director, who wrote the screenplay for the James Bond franchise reboot Casino Royale, whose screenplays for Million Dollar Baby and Letters From Iwo Jima were nominated for Academy Awards and whose film Crash won the Academy Award for Best Picture (he personally won an Academy Award for his original screenplay for this film), wrote in the letter that he “could not, in good conscience, be a member of an organization where gay-bashing was tolerated,” referring to the Church of Scientology’s official backing of California Proposition 8, which in November 2008 amended the California Constitution with a new section that states “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

What surprises me is that Mr. Haggis seems genuinely shocked that the Church of Scientology would support such legislation.

L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction novelist who founded the Church of Scientology in 1953 in order to make money, according to noted science fiction author Harlan Ellison in an interview in Issue 332 of the U.K. edition of Time Out, even wrote in his 1951 book Science of Survival, still referenced today as a core text by the Church of Scientology, that “perverts,” as he classified homosexual, bisexual and transgender individuals, were “intensely dangerous in the society since aberration is contagious.”

This is not to say that I think all or even most Scientologists support this belief any more than I think all or most Christians hate homosexuals, but to say that when one of the books written by the founder of your “religion” as an early foundation for what would eventually become Scientology espouses this kind of hateful ideology, you really shouldn’t be surprised when the Church gets behind legislation that would support those ideals.

Mr. Haggis goes on to chastise Mr. Davis for claiming in an interview that the Church does not follow a policy of “disconnection,” by which members are instructed to sever all ties with a friend or family member who is against Scientology, citing that his own wife was ordered to “(break) off all contact with” her parents simply because they resigned from the Church (they did not criticize the Church and were actually the people who introduced her in the first place). Davis and the Church obviously deny this and state that it is always a personal choice by the member to engage in this behavior.

I’m personally elated that a more high-profile celebrity member of the Church has finally recognized the serious flaws in the Church of Scientology and actually took action to distance themselves from it. I remain hopeful that more celebrities will realize what they got themselves into and do the right thing by denouncing the Church even if it means risking friendships.

On the other hand, I feel bad for the majority of Scientologists who I believe, like Mr. Haggis, are actually good people for whom the beneficial teachings of Scientology have actually helped and who simply want to make the world a better place. I believe that Scientology, like any other religion (I am wary of classifying it as a “true” religion although for simplicity’s sake I refer to it as such here), at its core can really help people but is too often warped and twisted by “the organized” into a tool for control, fear-mongering and money-making and is too often misrepresented by the more “entertaining,” for lack of a better word, individuals in the group.

There’s no doubt in my mind that many Scientologists will unfairly come under fire for being like Mr. Davis, Mr. Hubbard or any of the other more extreme members of the religion. To those people who would subject them to this kind of treatment, I can only caution that you don’t want to become the type of people you accuse Scientologists of being.

Another victim of the bystander effect

October 27, 2009 51 comments

Social Psychology by psychologists Elliot Aronson and Timothy Wilson describes the bystander effect as “a social psychological phenomenon in which individuals are less likely to offer help in an emergency situation when other people are present. The probability of help is inversely proportional to the number of bystanders. In other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help.”

I recall a family trip to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey when a rather menacing looking man verbally threatened a park employee with physical harm because the employee observed his family attempting to cut in line. Never mind that nobody except yours truly at 11 years old bothered to even say anything about said attempt – nobody wanted to get involved when the man started hurling expletives and making threats that put Serena Williams’ U.S. Open outburst to shame.

The worst part was that when security arrived to deal with the situation, the man denied all wrongdoing and nobody said anything! I finally took it upon myself to speak up about what happened, and security escorted the man out of the park.

While some may choose to call me a squealer, I think I did the right thing by getting a prick like that out of the park, showing him that there actually were consequences to his behavior and showing the park employee that he could do the right thing by the other park patrons without having to fear that he would get physically assaulted by morons who don’t think that the rules apply to them.

Plus, I got to a pass for the whole family to jump to the head of the line for any one ride I chose (which helped a lot since it was an unbearably hot day and the line for one of the splash rides was incredibly long) so I was rewarded with more than just the satisfaction of having done the right thing.

On a more grave note, a 15-year-old California high school student was a recent victim of the bystander effect on Saturday when she was gang raped outside of her school while the annual homecoming dance was going on inside. Investigators stated that as many as 15 male individuals gathered to observe the crime without notifying the police or trying to help the victim, with some eventually participating in the act. The victim was left unconscious in critical condition under a bench.

Now, I don’t doubt the legitimacy of such a psychological phenomenon as the bystander effect, but I think it is only responsible to qualify that individuals have to have a certain mental or moral weakness in order to be swept up in such an effect. If your parents raised you to have a strong moral backbone, you would immediately recognize a rape for what it was no matter how many people were standing around gawking or even cheering, and you would know to do the right thing either by intervening or contacting the authorities.

Some people may try to claim that the individuals in question were possibly scared of what the perpetrator(s) would do, but that claim is rendered null and void by the simple fact that any of those individuals could have easily removed themselves from the scene and contacted the police to handle the situation – they did not need to physically rescue the victim in order to help the situation. Instead, these individuals chose to watch the proceedings like some sick voyeurs watching a twisted rape fetish porno.

One has to wonder how we as human beings have become so apathetic that we can just stand around when someone is in need of help right in front of us and justify to ourselves that we don’t need to intervene or help because “someone else will” even when we are in no real danger ourselves.

Thankfully, the victim is now in stable conditions thanks to the efforts of the Richmond police and the staff at the area hospital to which she was flown… and no thanks to the worthless, spineless individuals who decided that it wasn’t their responsibility to do what was right and stop the rapists.

Source: CNN

Microsoft leaves Family Guy high and dry

October 27, 2009 4 comments

Microsoft signed up to be the exclusive integrated sponsor of the upcoming “Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex’s Almost Live Comedy Show” special in which Windows 7 would be pitched directly in the show rather than through advertising spots. Once they viewed the show, however, they decided to pull out, citing that “the content was not a fit with the Windows 7 brand.”

No, really?

I don’t have a business degree from a fancy school and I could have told them that.

The thing is… you don’t advertise on a show like Family Guy because its content compliments your brand identity unless you happen to be a supporter of Proposition 8 or MFX Media.

You advertise on the show because you want to get the word out to the ever-desirable 18-25 male demographic who loyally watches a 3-time Primetime Emmy Award-winning show that’s been hailed by The New York Times as having “an outrageously satirical family” with “plenty of comic possibilities and parodies” and described by The Associated Press by way of The Seattle Times as a “breathtakingly smart… blend of the ingenious with the raw.”

Apparently, someone in Microsoft’s marketing department didn’t do their research and actually watch an episode of the show to see first hand the type of deliciously crude humor that makes the show so popular. What’s more, nobody else in the company spoke up about the sponsorship being a bad business decision (probably because everyone realizes how smart a business decision it is to advertise on such a hit show) such that it took a viewing of the taping of the special to get the marketing department to pull the plug on the deal.

The problem is that this leaves Seth McFarlane and crew to figure out what to do about all the mentions of Window 7 that have already been integrated into the program. Microsoft didn’t decide to renege on their deal until after they had seen the essentially finished television product, and now Fuzzy Door Productions (McFarlane’s production company) and Fox have to clean up the mess.

This is a, for lack of a better term, dick move by Microsoft. I don’t criticize them because they don’t want to associate with Family Guy’s style of comedy. It’s not for everyone and it’s understandable that a major corporation like Microsoft may be wary of how such an association would be perceived by the more conservative members of our society. However, they should come to this realization before they signed the sponsorship deal or at least before McFarlane and friends went through the trouble of actually finishing the program.

Microsoft has to be thanking their lucky stars that most of the fans of the show probably haven’t heard about this development, although one has to wonder how hard it would be for those fans to figure out what happened when the special airs on November 8 with all those strange, out-of-place mentions for Windows 7.

Source: Reuters

Stop making excuses for Roman Polanski

September 28, 2009 Leave a comment

I was as surprised as anyone that the Swiss authorities nabbed Roman Polanski as he entered Switzerland to accept a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival.

I was surprised mainly because I didn’t think that Polanski would be dumb enough to enter a country that doesn’t have the same protection from extradition that his home country of France does. This lack of protection in the United Kingdom was the very reason why he refused to testify in person in the 2005 trial for his own libel lawsuit against London’s edition of Vanity Fair and instead persuaded the judge to allow him to give testimony via video link!

Even more incredible is the fact that Polanski visited Switzerland several times in the past for skiing trips without being abducted by authorities.

Now, supporters are surfacing in droves to chastise the Swiss authorities and the United States for apparently perpetrating this dastardly deed.

Swiss filmmaker Christian Frei says he “feel(s) deeply ashamed.” I would like to ask Mr. Frei, and the thousands of others who feel the same way he does, why exactly he feels ashamed that a man who admitted getting a 13-year-old girl drunk and then raping and sodomizing her was apprehended by the law. Would he feel similarly “ashamed” if a man who had raped his barely teenaged daughter was caught by the authorities?

Photographer Otto Weisser, a friend of Polanski’s, was quoted by CNN as saying, “He’s a brilliant guy and he made a little mistake 32 years ago.” He made a little mistake. Let me repeat what I said above: he admitted to drugging a 13-year-old girl so he could have sexual intercourse and sodomize her. In case you missed it that second time: 13-year-old girl, drugged, intercourse, sodomized. I would ask Mr. Weisser the same question I would ask Mr. Frei – would you feel the same way if it were your daughter?

Others want to remind us of the atrocities Polanski experienced in his life. His mother died in 1942 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and he barely escaped the Krakow Ghetto, surviving the war with the help of sympathetic Roman-Catholic families (his experience was the basis of the story for his Academy Award winning film The Pianist). His first wife, up and coming actress Sharon Tate, who was 8 1/2 months pregnant at the time, was murdered in 1968 along with 4 friends by followers of Charles Manson. I wouldn’t dream of belittling these tragedies but point out that having suffered in your own life doesn’t give you a free pass to cause suffering to others.

The most egregious statements are those that indicate that Polanski should be shown leniency because he is a famous and highly regarded filmmaker. Indeed, he is considered one of the best directors of all time, having made such classic films as Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and the aforementioned The Pianist. However, the gall of such luminaries as French culture and communications minister Frederic Mitterrand, who wanted to remind us that Polanski “benefits from great general esteem” due to his “exceptional artistic creation and human qualities” would be sickening if it weren’t so comical. Despite what you may have inferred from O.J. Simpson’s murder trial, you don’t get to commit crimes against other people with no repercussions just because you’re famous.

And let’s not forget that after pleading guilty and admitting to the crimes for which he was accused, Polanski fled the country. Why should he be shown leniency when he’s not even willing to face the consequences of his actions?

No, Roman Polanski should not be shown any leniency at all. He committed those crimes, and he admitted it. His flee from justice clearly shows that he didn’t, and possibly still doesn’t, believe that he deserves to be punished for his crimes. Stop making excuses for him.