Tuesday, August 31, 2010

US OPEN 2010: Federer, Venus, Roddick, Soderling, Jankovic Win 1st Round

Day 1 of the 2010 US Open is over with basically no upsets. Andy Roddick won on his 28th birthday. Also winning easily were Venus Williams and  Roger Federer. Robin Soderling was up two sets and had match points against his 214-th ranked opponent when suddenly the kid refused to miss and Soderling ended up winning in a tough 5-setter.

Day 2 of the US Open has begun with Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova pulling out 3-set wins and Marco Baghdatis losing a 5-setter against veteran Arnaud Clement.

What most people are talking about is Federer's amazing between the legs trick shot winner, reminiscent of what he did against Novak Djokovic in the men's semifinals last year.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Emmy Award Results: Nailed It!

So, yesterday while I was at the Hollywood Bowl experiencing The Chemical Brothers throwdown, the Emmy Awards were being handed out a few miles away. Earlier in the day I made a bunch of predictions about who would win (mostly in the comedy categories). Here's the official list of winners:

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy -- Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Outstanding Writing in a Comedy -- Modern Family

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy -- Jane Lynch, Glee

Outstanding Directing in a Comedy -- Glee

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy -- Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy -- Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program -- Top Chef

Outstanding Writing for a Drama -- Mad Men

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama -- Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama -- Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama -- Brian Cranston, Breaking Bad

Outstanding Directing in a Drama -- Dexter

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama -- Kyra SedgwickThe Closer
Outstanding Drama Series -- Mad Men
Outstanding Comedy Series -- Modern Family

First of all, I nailed all the Comedy Acting Categories (Parsons, Falco, Lynch, Stonestreet) and I said that Modern Family should win but that Glee probably would. I'm happy that what I thought shoudl win, actually did. In the Drama category, I really wanted Lost to go out with a win but Mad Men pulled it off for the third year in a row.  I have never seen a single episode of that show (the whole 50's romanticism/nostalgia makes me ill) but isn't it peculiar how on BOTH of the winners for Best Series there is not a single African American major or minor character? Things that make you go "Hmmmmmm."

On a lighter note, I am very happy that Kyra Sedgwick won, The Closer is one of my secret pleasures every summer, (along with True Blood) and she is the best thing in a great ensemble cast. Also, Temple Grandin, an HBO made-for-TV starring an absolutely amazing Claire Danes cleaned up in the Miniseries or Television Movie categories by picking up 5 awards. It's an amazing true story about a woman diagnosed with autism in the 1950s who was able (through an excellent teacher and loving mother) to go to college and graduate school and become a designer of cattle slaughterhouses due to her affinity with animals. I highly recommend renting Temple Grandin.

Eye Candy: Armon Adibi

Armon Adibi is a natural bodybuilder from Dallas, Texas. I first noticed him at Dark Flex. On his Model Mayhem page, he lists himself at 5'10", 240 pounds and was born November 2, 1983. He is a bit bigger than most of the models we feature here, but he is definitely still Eye Candy.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

2010 Emmy Awards Predictions

The  2010 Prime Time Emmy Awards are tonight. The two biggest awards of the night are the Series awards. Previously I discussed which of the nominees I actually watch.

Here are my predictions for the Comedy Series and Drama Series winners.
Modern Family
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Nurse Jackie
30 Rock
The Office
SHOULD WIN: Modern Family.
Breaking Bad
Mad Men
True Blood
The Good Wife

WILL WIN: Mad Men.

In addition, there are numerous Acting categories. I predict that Jim Parson, Jane Lynch, Edie Falco and Eric Stonestreet will win in the Comedy categories. I really can't even hazard a guess in the Drama categories, though I think Terry O'Quinn will win (again) for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for John Locke in Lost.

MOVIE REVIEW: Despicable Me

The Other Half and I saw Steve Carell's non-bomb summer film, Despicable Me, last Sunday at a matinee at our usual theater in Alhambra.

The film is well-animated and is well-voiced by Steve Carell. The story features three ridiculously adorable girls and a story arc  that surprisingly heartwarming for a movie where the main character is named Gru and aspires to be the Worst Villain in the World.

Although there are some gags which are clearly designed for adults (sign over "The Bank of Evil" reads "former Lehman Brothers.") but this is definitely a film for kids and has a PG or G sensibility. As Miyazaki has shown, this does not mean that the film has to be uninteresting to adults, and there's definitely plenty of action, again with a primarily childish bent.

Overall, you can probably wait to see this on Netflix or cable.

Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. MPAA Rating: Rated PG for rude humor and mild action.

Plot: B.
Acting: N/A.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: B.

Overall Grade: B/B+ (3.222/4.0).

Friday, August 27, 2010

Celebrity Friday: Sookie and Bill Get Married

Anna Paquin, 28, and Stephen Moyer, 40, got married in Malibu, CA Saturday August 21. Paquin, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at the age of 11 in The Piano stars as Sookie Stackhouse in HBO's hit vampire series True Blood (created by Six Feet Under's Alan Ball). Moyer co-stars in the series as Bill Compton, her vampire love interest. The two have been dating since 2008. Paquin came out as bisexual earlier this year.

Season 3 of True Blood ends in 2 more episodes on Sunday September 12.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

US OPEN 2010: Men's and Women's Draws Preview

The 2010 US Open starts on Monday, so the men's and women's draws have been released. Savannah at Craig Hickman's Tennis Blog posted them and an online discussion is beginning.

The Men
The top seed is Rafael Nadal, who is trying to complete his career slam after winning Wimbledon and Roland Garros this year. A 14-match Grand Slam winning streak is nothing to sneeze at. However, Nadal has never even played a final in New York, although he has steadily improved his results every year he has played the event. In 2009, Juan Martin del Potro, the eventual champion, demolished him 6-2 6-2 6-2 in the semifinals. Looking at his draw, I doubt Rafa will get that far this year but he has a clear path to the quarterfinals. David Nalbandian is in his quarter, but the resurgent Argentine would have to get past Fernando Verdasco in the 3rd round. It's possible either Verdasco or Nalbandian could take Nadal out relatively early. If not, he would be facing whoever emerges from the bottom of the top half of the draw in the semifinal: Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych, Sam Querrey or John Isner. I don't see Rafa getting out of that match-up alive. Since the defending champion is injured, World #2 Roger Federer has a good chance to reach his 8th consecutive US Open final. I do think that in a Federer-Nadal 2010 US Open final, Nadal would be favored because of his head-to-head lead against the Swiss player and his previous demonstration in Melbourne that he can beat Federer in hard court finals as well as clay. Federer's path to the final is slightly more dangerous than Nadal's, but I think he has a greater likelihood of making it. His only obstacles are Robin Soderling in the quarterfinal and either Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic or Nikolay Davydenko. I don't see Federer losing a US Open semifinal to any of these players, but he could lose in the quarterfinal to Soderling. Nadal has a small probability of losing in the quarterfinal but a much greater probability of losing in the semifinal. My prediction: Murray v Federer final.

The Women
The first response is to say that with World #1 Serena Williams out of the draw with injury do we really care what happens this year? Well World #2 and #1 seed Caroline Wozniacki would beg to differ. Although she made the final last year as a teenager and she won the 2010 US Open Series I seriously doubt her ability to repeat her achievement from 2009. Looking at her draw, Wozniacki has a potential 3rd round encounter with Lucie Safarova and a 4th round match with Maria Sharapova and a quarterfinal match with either Svetlana Kuznetsova or Li Na. The bottom half of the top part of the draw should feature a Jelena Jankovic-Vera Zvonareva quarterfinal. In the top of the bottom half of the draw if Venus Williams is any kind of shape, she should have a stroll to the semifinals (notwithstanding a 3rd round re-match with Tsvetlana Pironkova who took her out at Wimbledon). In the bottom of the bottom half of the draw defending champion Kim Clijsters will need to get through Marion Bartoli and Elena Dementieva. My prediction: Clijsters v Sharapova final.

Of course I reserve the right to revise these predictions when I see how people are actually playing during the tournament!

90th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage: Why Didn't Meg Vote?

Outed Former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman Comes Out

Ken Mehlman, 44, a longtime Republican political operative, protege of the truly odious Lee Atwater and former chair of the Republican National Committee, Political Director in the George W. Bush White House and campaign manager of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election effort has finally acknowledged his homosexuality publicly, after being outed by Mike Rogers years ago and in his excellent Outrage (2009) documentary, which just happens to be up for an Emmy award this weekend September 19th.

The impetus for Melhman's revelation (by Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic) was his decision to become involved in a huge fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the sponsors of the Olson-Boies federal lawsuit against Proposition 8.

The reactions to Mehlman's announcement, especially from the LGBT community have generally been vitriolic, with Joe.My.God titling his post "Repulsive Anti-Gay Quisling Homophobic Scumbag Asshat Closeted Former RNC Chair Ken Mehlman Has Come Out" while Dustin Lance Black posted to facebook that it was "an incredible coup for AFER."

I find my thoughts closer to Joe's than Dustin's, which is why I have created the tag "quislings" especially for this occasion. I think Equality California's executive director Geoff Kors gets pretty close to the right response with:
"One of the things I sincerely hope Ken Mehlman has done or will do is to explain to George W. Bush how denying LGBT people equality causes real harm and how the GOP's anti-equality platform and campaigns lead to teen suicides and hate crimes. I hope he explains how bigotry impacted him and that he has asked George W Bush to join his wife Laura in supporting marriage equality. If he can convince Bush to publicly change his position that would be powerful. And I hope he shares with the public how the GOP used animus towards gay people to pass anti-marriage state constitutional amendments, as that will bolster the federal Prop 8 case. What he does to undo the damage he caused can be a part of his legacy and working with AFER to help overturn Prop 8 is a good start. We all have to hope he goes all out and proves he is a talented political strategist -- this time on the side of equality."
What do you think?

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest

The third (and final?) book from Steig Larsson is The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which follows in the footsteps of the publishing sensations The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire.

The books are set in Sweden and revolve around the character of Lisbeth Salander, one of the most celebrated anti-heroines in all of fiction. Salander is a boyish-looking, multiply pierced, very short woman with an eidetic memory and world-class computer hacking skills.

The other main character of what is now known as the Millennium trilogy is Mikael Blomkvist. He is a crusading investigative reporter, 40-something and devastatingly attractive to women.He is clearly a proxy for the author, who was editor-in-chief of an alternative magazine in Sweden for years before dying suddenly of a heart attack shortly after delivering the manuscripts for the first two books.

Both The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire are intensely suspenseful novels that became blockbuster bestsellers in Sweden and around the world. They have been turned into Swedish-language films with a major Hollywood version on the way.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is a fitting third chapter in the Millennium trilogy but is not the best book of the series (it's hard to choose between the first two books but  I think I'd have to give an edge to the second one for sheer suspense, although the plot and atmosphere of the first is compelling). Although familiar themes of misogyny and little guys fighting the big guys crop up again in Hornet's Nest, for some reason it's not as gripping as the first two novels even though the stakes involved get higher and higher. This is probably primarily because the book has no central mystery any longer, it devolves more into a police procedural combined with a courtroom thriller. These are not bad aspects, but they are not exactly the same elements which made Dragon Tattoo so enthralling. For the first time I noticed the somewhat leaden dialogue, as well as the multiple shifts to first-person narrative, often to secondary characters.

Overall, I'm glad I read the trilogy and would heartily recommend to anyonje who likes mystery or suspense to read either of the first two. I really can't imagine anyone having done that not completing the entire series, despite the diminished return of the third book.

Author: Stieg Larsson.
Title: The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.
Hardcover: 563 pages
Publisher: Knopf.
Date Published: May 25, 2010.



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

State Senate Passes Bill Excising Anti-Gay Language From CA Code

Equality California sends out a press release touting the State Senate's passage of Bonnie Lowenhal's AB 2199 by a rare unanimous vote of 36-0. The bill had previously passed the State Assembly in April.

AB 2199 removes language from the Califgornia Welfare and Institutions Code which instructed the California Department of Mental Health to conduct research into the "causes and cures of homosexuality."
The language is a relic from the 1950s when homosexuality was linked with sexual deviancy such as pedophilia and homosexuals were considered threats to children. Of course, nowadays we know that the vast majority (90+%) of child molesters are heterosexual men.

From EQCA:

“It is outrageous that California law requires the state to expend scare resources in a futile attempt to ‘cure’ homosexuality,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California. “Every reputable study has demonstrated conclusively that it is an immutable characteristic that cannot and should not be changed. This offensive code must be stricken from the books immediately.”
The code, which was originally authored in the 1950s, implies that lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals can and should be cured, in direct contradiction with an enormous body of research that demonstrates otherwise.
“Support for this bill has been fantastic,” said Assemblymember Lowenthal. “That speaks volumes about how far we've come since 1950.”
This bill, Repeal of Discriminatory Code, heads back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote and will then go to the governor’s desk.

Another win for the good guys.

Homophobic Florida AG McCollum Loses Primary

Ha ha! The most satisfying result in yesterday's primary elections was the defeat of Florida Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum to a billionaire businessman named Rick Scott. Polls had given McCollum the edge, but he ran into trouble when word leaked about his decision to give more than $100,000 of tax payer money to gay rent-boy employer George Rekers to testify on behalf of the state's legal defense of its ban on adoption by gay and lesbian couples.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jury in Lawrence King Killing To Be Drawn From Santa Barbara County

Today comes news that the judge in the Brandon McInerney trial has decided not to move the venue of the trial but he will have jury selection drawn from Santa Barbara County.
McInerney had just turned 14 when he allegedly shot King execution-style in a computer class in February 2008. Student witnesses said the effeminate King had expressed a romantic interest in McInerney, who was humiliated by the attention. The boys had verbally sparred in the days before the shooting.
The case has garnered international attention from gay and lesbian groups, who see King as a victim of homophobia. McInerney’s defenders say that school officials and the boys’ parents should have done more to quell tensions between them.
McInerney is being tried as an adult on a first-degree murder charge with a hate crime enhancement and could face 53 years to life if convicted.
MadProfessah has been following the case very closely since February 2008 when the incident first happened. I agree with the decision to try McInerney as an adult but I do not support the death penalty (for any crime).

NYT Analyzes Majority Marriage Equality State Distribution

The New York Times analyzed the latest polls on marriage equality and demonstrated that there are numerous states where marriage equality has support significantly over 50%. The main point of the article is to demonstrate the rapid change in public opinion over time, comparing 1994-1996 (when the Defense of Marriage Act was debated and signed into law) to 2010. This is illustrated in an interactive graphic produced by the Times.

Today, 17 states are over that line (more if you consider the CNN estimate correct that just over 50 percent of the country supports gay marriage).
In 2008, the year Proposition 8 was approved, just under half of Californians supported same-sex marriage,. Today, according to polls, more than half do. A similar shift has occurred in Maine, where same-sex marriage legislation was repealed by ballot measure in 2009.
In both New York and New Jersey, where state legislatures in the past have defeated proposals to allow same-sex marriage, a majority now support it.
And support for same-sex marriage has increased in all states, even in relatively conservative places like Wyoming and Kentucky. Only Utah is still below where national support stood in 1996.
Among the five states that currently allow same-sex marriage, Iowa is the outlier. It is the only one of those states where support falls below half, at 44 percent.

The authors Andrew Gelman, Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips are using a statistical technique to interpolate statewide poll results from national surveys.

Monday, August 23, 2010

SD-15: Openly Gay John Laird Loses Special Election

John Laird will not be rejoining the California LGBT Legislative Caucus this year after all. He lost Tuesday's 15th District State Senate Special Election against Republican Sam Blakeslee. The 15th district seat was previously held by Republican Abel Maldonado, who is now Lieutenant Governor of California and running to hold on to this new post against San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in November.

The official results were
Jim Fitzgerald 8014 5.1% 

Mark Hinkle 3162 2.0% 

John Laird 69649 44.1% 

Sam Blakeslee 77107 48.8%

Unfortunately, the seat will not be up for a vote again until 2012, so that leaves Democrats 2-votes away from the 2/3rds (27 votes) they need in the Legislature's 40-member upper House to pass a budget and raise taxes.

Eye Candy: Daniel Delgado

Daniel Delgado is a 23-year-old Puerto Rican model based in New York City. Muy guapo, no?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Federer Defends Cincy Title Over Fish

Roger Federer won his first non-major final of the year after losing 3 finals in a row (on 3 different surfaces: Madrid to Rafael Nadal, Halle to Lleyton Hewitt and Toronto to Andy Murray) in Cincinnati on Sunday over American Mardy Fish. The title was his 53rd overall, tying Bjorn Borg on the all-time list at 5th. It was Federer's 17th ATP Masters series title, tying Andre Agassi but still one behind Nadal's 18.

Federer has now won the Cincinnati title in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010. Next year it will become a combined male-female 8-day event (immediately following simultaneous men's and women's tournaments in Toronto and Montreal).

The match with Fish was a close, high-quality 3-set affair featuring 2 tiebreaks, one break of serve and only 6 breakpoints between the two players. The final score was 6-7(5) 7-6(1) 6-4. In the first set, Federer had 4 breakpoints and failed to convert any of them due to brilliant serving by Fish. Federer faced one breakpoint in the second set but was able to get through to a tiebreak. In the first set tiebreaker Federer held a 5-4 lead, but Fish played a brilliant point to even the breaker at 5-all and Federer played a loose point to be down 6-5. Fish won the first set on a service winner. In the second set tiebreaker Federer was much sharper, jumping to a quick 4-1 lead and never looked in danger of losing that breaker. The only break in the match came in the 9th game of the third set where, for once, after facing a break point Fish was unable to make a first serve and eventually lost the breakpoint and the game, and eventually the match when Federer served it out pretty easily on his second match point.

Repeat After Me. Fox News Is NOT A News Outlet

As many progressives and liberals know, Fox News is not a news outlet. It is a right-wing propaganda arm. But now we have more ammunition because the parent company of the channel, News Corporation, has decided to give one million dollars to the Republican Governors Association:

The company's media outlets play politics more openly than most, but the huge contribution to a party committee is a new step toward an open identification between Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and the GOP. The company's highest-ranking Democratic executive, Peter Chernin, recently departed.


UPDATE: News Corp. Spokesman Jack Horner emails, "News Corporation believes in the power of free markets, and the RGA’s pro-business agenda supports our priorities at this most critical time for our economy."

The giant check to the RGA dwarfs low four-figure checks from Fox's PAC to Democrats including Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer.

hat/tip to Rod 2.0

Saturday, August 21, 2010

US OPEN SERIES: Federer v Fish in Cincy Final

Roger Federer defeated Marcis Baghdatis 6-3 6-4 in the semifinals, one day after the resurgent Cypriot had taken out World #1 Rafael Nadal in a tight 6-4 4-6 6-4 match.
In Sunday's final Federer will face Mardy Fish, who defeated Andy Roddick in a rain-delayed match 4-6 7-6(3) 6-1 after Roddick led 6-4 5-2 before a crucial rain delay.

This will be Federer's second consecutive final in as many weeks. He lost last week to Andy Murray. Fish has only beaten Federer once before (in six tries), but it was the last time they played, in the semifinals of Indian Wells in 2008, and in straight sets.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Obama Admin Adds $65m For HIV/AIDS Prevention

I ran into Phill Wilson who is the co-chair of President Obama's Advisory Commission on HIV/AIDS at Dulles Airport on Wednesday and now I find out what he was doing in town. The Obama Administration has added another $65m in FY 2010 money to fight HIV/AIDS.

From the Office of National AIDS Policy blog:

Today, the Obama Administration is taking new action to prioritize support for Federal HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs. We are sending to the Congress an amendment to the President’s FY 2011 budget request to increase HIV/AIDS funding by $65 million. This is comprised of a requested $35 million increase for HIV prevention in order to continue exciting new HIV prevention activities described below to support the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and a $30 million increase for State AIDS drug assistance programs to respond to the ongoing crisis States are facing in operating these essential programs. These resources come on top of proposed increases for HIV prevention and care at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) that were included in the original budget submission. Ultimately, the Congress will enact a budget that will establish Federal funding levels for the fiscal year that begins on October 1st.


On the issue of HIV prevention, Secretary Sebelius announced new investments in HIV prevention when we released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. To ensure that these initiatives continue, we are requesting $35 million in additional funds for next year. In FY 2010, these resources are supporting:

  • Comprehensive HIV prevention ($11.6 million): This will fund the implementation and evaluation of effective combinations of behavioral and biomedical prevention interventions in the highest prevalence jurisdictions. These jurisdictions will compete to scale-up effective comprehensive approaches in subsequent years. The funding opportunity announcement (FOA) for this initiative is available onGrants.gov. Be sure to type “CDC-RFA-PS10-10181” as the Funding Opportunity Number to download the FOA.
  • Increased testing and linkage to care ($4.4 million): Building on CDC’s new Expanded Testing Initiative, these funds will ensure that resources are provided to support targeted testing and linkage services for high prevalence communities, including Black, Latino, injection drug using (IDU), and gay male communities.
  • Expanded HIV surveillance ($5.5 million): This will support work with jurisdictions to ensure that all jurisdictions report CD4 cell counts and viral loads to the public health surveillance system, enable jurisdictions to estimate community viral load, and take other steps to improve the surveillance system.
  • Consultation, evaluation, technical support and annual MSM survey ($6.5 million): These resources will support evaluation and monitoring, assisting with developing and implementing new activities and conducting an annual internet survey for men who have sex with men (MSM) to collect behavioral, HIV testing, and other information.
  • HIV, viral hepatitis, STD prevention and sexual health promotion with Tribal Communities ($1 million): CDC will partner with the Indian Health Service (IHS) to work with Tribal communities on prevention and health promotion.

These activities reflect a new direction that we believe will have a greater impact at lowering the number of new HIV infections in the United States.

US OPEN 2010: Serena Williams Withdraws

Serena Williams announced that she will not be playing at the 2010 US Open, due to an injured right foot. Her sister Venus Williams, who has not played since Wimbledon due to a knee injury is still entered. Defending champion US Open Kim Clijsters has played one tournament (and won it) and is yet to lose on the US Open Series.

Celebrity Friday: Eric, Sookie, Bill Of True Blood

As this season of True Blood heats up (I think it is probably the best so far) three stars of the show's central romantic triangle are on the cover of the latest Rolling Stone magazine: Anna Paquin (Sookie Stackhouse), Peter Sarsgaard (Eric Northman, vampire) and Stephen Moyer (Bill Compton, vampire).

Hat/tip to Wonder Man.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

WATCH: Federer Play William Tell And Serve A Target

BOOK REVIEW: Peter Hamilton's Fallen Dragon

Peter F. Hamilton's Fallen Dragon is one of my favorite author's only stand-alone novels, since it is not part of any of his multiple trilogies or series.

Fallen Dragon was written soon after Hamilton had completed his masterpiece, the 3000-page Night's Dawn trilogy but I read it while waiting for the next book in the Void trilogy.

The parallels with the books in that series (The Dreaming Void, The Temporal Void) are immediately apparent. Both works intertwine Hamilton's typical hard-sci fi plot with another tale which is softer, more fantasy-related.

The main character in Fallen Dragon is Lawrence Newton, whose story is told in two different timelines: one as a teenage kid in the throes of his first love dreaming of getting off the godforsaken planet Amethi his family is colonizing and terraforming and the other as a hard-bitten mercenary working for the Zantiu-Braun corporation in the pillaging of asset-rich, defense-poor worlds.

While participating in "asset realization" on the planet of Thallspring as part of a quasi-military invasion force which is being resisted by a local insurgent population, Newton hears rumors about a "fallen dragon" in a rural village. The village Arnoon is rumored to harbor a vast treasure and a curious Newton goes to explore.

Overall, Fallen Dragon features Hamilton's typical flairs of militaristic activities, especially space battles and combat missions. It doesn't feature characters as resonant as his best work but is still a compelling suspenseful read.

Fallen Dragon.
Author: Peter F. Hamilton.
Hardcover: 640 pages.
Date: March 11, 2002.


OVERALL GRADE: B+/A- (3.5/4.0).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dude, There's Already A Mosque Near Ground Zero

Umm, Republican idiots? There's been a mosque "in the shadow" of Ground Zero before the Twin Towers were built in 1972! Masjid Manhattan was built in 1970.

Jed from Daily Kos asks two questions:

So here's the question for anti-mosquers:

  1. If the currently existing mosque is too close to Ground Zero, by what method should the congregants be removed? Arrest? Angry mob? Or maybe the building should be crushed to rubble by a wrecking ball? What would make you feel good?
  1. If it's not too close, where is the line of demarcation? How wide should the mosque exclusion zone be? 3 blocks? 2.2 blocks? 3.8 blocks? And on what basis is that line of demarcation drawn?

I guess I have one last question for them: how many of you anti-mosque yokels even knew there already was a mosque in the same general area?

Or if you want to see it on Google maps (A=Cordoba House, B=Masjid Manhattan) :

What part of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" do you not understand? Clearly, people have the right to put a place of worship (which is only one part of what the proposed Cordoba Center is going to be) without government interference.

So, for the people who say "Well, of course they CAN but they SHOULDN'T" I respond who the **** are you to tell someone what they should or should not do?

CNN Covers LGBT Rights Around The World

Monday, August 16, 2010

9th Circuit Issues Stay On Perry; Expedites Appeal

Today, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, a.k.a. "The Prop 8 case" which means that same-sex couples will not be marrying in California any time soon.The decision overturn's Judge Vaughn Walker's denial of a stay last Thursday of his previous landmark decision issued last Thursday. The 9th Circuit also set an expedited schedule for the court, setting a trial date for the week of December 6th, 2010.

“Appellants’ motion for a stay of the district court’s order of August 4, 2010 pending appeal is GRANTED. The court sua sponte orders that this appeal be expedited pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 2. The provisions of Ninth Circuit Rule 31-2.2(a) (pertaining to grants of time extensions) shall not apply to this appeal. This appeal shall be calendared during the week of December 6, 2010, at The James R. Browning Courthouse in San Francisco, California.

The previously established briefing schedule is vacated. The opening brief is now due September 17, 2010. The answering brief is due October 18, 2010. The reply brief is due November 1, 2010. In addition to any issues appellants wish to raise on appeal, appellants are directed to include in their opening brief a discussion of why this appeal should not be dismissed for lack of Article III standing. See Arizonans For Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 66 (1997).


There are several significant part of this one-page ruling. 1) Having a federal appellate trial less than 4 months away is incredibly fast for appellate litigation. The Prop 8 proponents have to file their brief by September 17th (1 month away) and our side a month after that and then the bad guys get to respond two weeks later and then oral arguments commence two weeks after that. There is no time frame as to how long after oral arguments the 9th Circuit will issue its ruling,, but it is signalling that it wants to dispose of the case quickly. 2) The last sentence asking for a discussion (see students, it's an essay prompt!) about why the appeal should not be dismissed for lack of standing is also a plus on our side.

Clijsters Defeats Sharapova In Cincinnati

Kim Clijsters survived a rain-delayed, see-saw match to win the Cincinnati Open title over Maria Sharapova 2-6 7-6(4) 6-2. It was Clijsters third title of the year (after Brisbane and Miami) and 38th overall.

Murray Defends Canadian Title Over Federer

Andy Murray got revenge for his 2010 Australian Open final loss to Roger Federer by defeating the 16-time major champion 7-5 7-5 at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Canada. The Scotsman improved to 7-5 head-to-head over Federer and maintained his right to be in the conversation of potential winners of major titles, especially those played on hard courts.

Murray won his first title of the year, by defending his title at this tournament from last year, the first person since Andre Agassi in 1995 to achieve that feat, and did so by defeating Rafael Nadal and Federer in the same tournament.

Eye Candy: Christopher Villa

Christopher Villa is a 26-year-old model from Brooklyn, New York. I found him myself but he's also available on Facebook. With friends like these who needs benefits? If you want to see more of Mr. Villa, check out this short film, directed by renowned photographer Carlos Arias. The shots shown here were taken by Rick Day.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Graphic of the Week: Impact of Bush Tax Cuts

Federer v Murray and Clijsters v Sharapova in Finals

Roger Federer defeated Novak Djokovic 6-1 3-6 7-5 to regain his World #2 ranking and defending champion Andy Murray defeated World #1 Rafael Nadal to retain his World #4 ranking in today's semifinals at the Toronto Masters.

Federer followed up his clutch win over Tomas Berdych (despite being down 2-5 in the deciding set!) to improve to 10-5 against the Serbian. The Swiss player was up 6-1 2-0 and was two points away from a second break when after holding Djokovic smiled and relaxed and reduced his error count considerably while Federer continued to struggle on break points and ended up losing the set. In the third set, Federer took a commanding 4-1 lead and had multiple opportunities for a 5-2 lead. Instead, he got broken and the next game was a titantic 15-minute struggle (9 deuces!) which Djokovic won to even the match at 4-all in the 3rd. Federer fell behind 15-40 on his very next service game but served three consecutive huge first serves to get himself out of trouble and nosed ahead 5-4. The match looked like it was going to a deciding set tie-break with Djokovic up 40-15 on his serve at 5-6 but Federer fought back to deuce and won the match on his first match point after another backhand and forehand error by the former World #2.

The first semifinal between Murray and Nadal was relatively uneventful, with ineffectual serving from the World #1 which eventually led to a deciding break in the first set. In the second set, Murray had an early break which he relinquished to even the match and then surprisingly Nadal lost the 9th game of the match on his serve through some excellent returns from Murray, who then coolly served out the set to win the match.

Tomorrow's final should be a reprise of this year's Australian Open men's final which was won by Federer. Murray, however leads their head-to-head 6-5 but Federer has won their three match-ups in finals (2008 US Open final, 2010 Australian Open final and the Thailand Open).
I expect a barn-burner tomorrow with Federer pulling it out in 3-sets.

On the women's side Kim Clijsters will face Maria Sharapova. Sharapova has won the last 3 times they have played, but Clijsters leads their head-to-head 4-3. I like the defending 2009 US Open champion versus the 3-time major champ.


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