Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Corrections

"The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen. Assaults the senses - multiple characters, richly developed in a whirlwind of different locales and challenges. Franzen, like Tom Wolfe, addresses modern idiosyncracies and mores, weaving characters together in the finale. Love and commitment is presented in its high's and low's, its burdens and its emancipation.

One of my favorite books. BTW - "Corrections" was presented as an Oprah "Book Club" offering, but the author refused to appear on the show because he didn't want to be part of Oprah's act, which he deemed too mainstream. Later, when book sales declined, he apologized. OK - so Franzen is probably an asshole who's full of himself, but damnit- he wrote a good book... you gotta give him that.

The Price of Citizenship

Travel is all you need to solidify the concept that America is the greatest nation on the planet. After having lived in both Asia and Europe, I am proud and grateful to be an American citizen.
I have read much about the emergence of immigrants in America. I am an immigrant myself. I'm of Korean descent - my parents crossed the pond when I was two.

What I have to say deals with the price of citizenship. The railroads and infrastructure of early America owes much to Chinese indentured servents ("coolies") who broke their backs in the labor. Much of what the nation became is owed to that labor. Japanese Americans, although imprisoned in the mid-west during WWII, fought valiantly in Europe - earning some of the highest decorations of the war and building a reputation as fearless and effective fighters.

What about Korean Americans? What mark have we made or have yet to make? Are we merely recipients of generosity like other refugee immigrant groups or can we make an honest claim to citizenship like the Chinese and Japanese surely have. I'm saying this because it's my impression from interacting with Koreans in Southern California that all we care about is money, social status, and image - in other words: "me and my own". I think we are more than that. Korean Americans may not be able to pay the price for their citizenship in blood like the Chinese and Japanese did... but perhaps our future remains to be seen. Perhaps our community will also make its mark in this nation.

Plot Against America

Just finished "Plot Against America" by Philip Roth. It's a "what-if?" book hypothesizing the outcome of Charles Lindbergh (the aviator) being elected president instead of FDR prior to WWII. Lindbergh, a documented anti-Semite, keeps the U.S. out of WWII and imposes interment on American Jews. America slowly becomes a fascist state.

"Plot" is an interesting book both because of its premise and Roth's seemingly auto-biographical recollection of a supposedly more innocent time. I was interested in the parallels to current events. My impression is that the book will have a bit more bite to it if you are a practicing Jew - some of it was over the head for this goyim. Also, the narrative kind of unravels near the end. Roth won a Pulitzer for a previous novel "American Pastoral".

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Talking Heads

After watching yet another partisan debate on CNN/FOX/MSNBC... I am reminded again the futility of it all. Two people, interrupting each other, screaming at each other - trying to get their partisan viewpoint forced down the other's throat.

What's it all about? Here are my thoughts... random as they are:

1) Anyone can use numbers or find numbers to support their agenda. Ex) "36% of Americans live in poverty" or "78% of Americans support the President". What do these numbers mean? What are their sources? It's all crap. If I don't see a source for the statistic and the method in which the number is derived, then I ignore it. Anyone can twist numbers to force their own agenda.

2) Who are these "experts"? Have you ever watched one of these commentaries where the show's producers get random "experts" and have them blather on? Experts in what? What makes them an expert in _________ (fill in the blank with terrorism, foreign policy, domestic spending)? It's brutal - most of the debates end in shouting matches anyway. I am wary of these so-called "experts".

3) Arguments between partisan polar opposites solidifies my conclusion that the answer to many of our problems lies in the gray area between black and white. There is no logical reasoning to support one side having correct solutions every time. Do you really think that Limbaugh-quoting conservatives have the answer to all of our nation's problems? Do you really think that pot-smoking, anti-establishment, bleeding-heart liberals do? Where is the middle ground on these shows? It's great to argue the opposite ends of the spectrum, but it's exponentially more difficult to bring the two together to form viable arguments based on the middle ground.

Random Brainy Quote

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertion of better men than himself."

Written by the English philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Useful Downloads

This is a good link to go to that has a ton of freeware and shareware. Some of my favorites are LimeWire, Pocket Tanks, and all the Spyware computer protection programs they have. Take a look, geek out.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Generation Kill

This is a good one:

"Generation Kill" by Evan Thomas. It documents a Marine Force Recon platoon's journey to Baghdad during OIF. I couldn't put it down.

Whether you are a Fox News watching conservative or a San Francisco pinko liberal, I think you will find good in the book.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Armchair Quarterbacks

It never ceases to amaze me that, although some people would never dream of jumping in on brain surgery or stepping in to play at an NBA game, they have no qualm with weighing in on military matters.

I take pride in my profession. It has taken me many years of hard work and study to master the craft. Along the way, I've seen things and done things that not many other people could even dream of. Given 10 years of experience on the job, I find it disturbing that some congresswoman from Modesto or some liberal arts professor at Anywhere University or some actor/singer/director from Hollywood thinks they know more about what I do than me.

Why? Why do they think they know more than me? I would never go to their workplace and tell them how to do their job - I don't have the experience or the expertise. I know when others have more knowledge on a subject than I do and I respect their judgement.

I wish they would show me and other professionals in my career field the same courtesy.

Sunday, January 09, 2005


"Collateral" is out on DVD now. Pretty good flick. Some of it was shot in K-town. Those of you in the kimchi mafia will recognize some of the sights when Tom Cruise goes after a Korean mobster.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Shut Up & Sing... (or act... or dance...)... or whatever - just stop talking!

Ever wish that celebrities would just stick to their day job?

The Academic Elite

A few years ago, a freshman at the Air Force Academy wrote emails to professors at othe colleges to help adverstise an upcoming political science symposium. Here is the email he wrote and the response from one of the professors:

Cadet’s Letter to Professor Kirstein, Peter N. Professor Room: L347 Phone Ext: 3283 Email: Fax: 298-3314 Dear Sir or Ma’am The Air Force Academy is going to be having our annual Academy Assembly. This is a forum for mainly but not only Political Science majors, discussing very important issues dealing with politics. Right now we are in the planning stage for advertising and we would appreciate your help in the follow (sic) areas. Do you know of or have methods or ways for interschool advertising and or communications? What would be the best way for us to advertise at your school whether it is sending you the fliers and you making copies or by perhaps putting an advertisement in your local publication? We would appreciate your input and the cost of what your recommend. Thank you for your time and consideration. Very Respectfully, Cadet Robert Kurpiel

Here is the response:

Professor’s Attack on Cadet From: Peter Kirstein Sent: Thursday, October 31, 2002 1:46 PM To: Kurpiel Robert C4C CS26 Subject: Re: Academy Assembly You are a disgrace to this country and I am furious you would even think I would support you and your aggressive baby-killing tactics of collateral damage. Help you recruit. Who, top guns to reign death and destruction upon nonwhite peoples throughout the world? Are you serious sir? Resign your commission and serve your country with honour.... You are worse than the snipers. You are imperialists who are turning the whole damn world against us. September 11 can be blamed in part for what you and your cohorts have done to Palestinians, the VC, the Serbs, a retreating army at Basra. You are unworthy of my support. Peter N. Kirstein Professor of History Saint Xavier University

You can read more about this at:,13190,NI_Point_111802,00.html

Monday, January 03, 2005

Kerry in 2008?

Interesting article from Newsweek. Newsweek's election issue was fantastic - excellent insight into the background machinations of both campaigns. After reading this article, I am compelled to wonder - do Kerry and his advisors place too much on his "likeability"? I wonder if the majority of Bush voters shied away from Kerry just because he seemed aloof, patrician, and wore a pink necktie? I'm afraid I don't buy it. I can't imagine that American voters are so transparent that they would vote or not vote for a candidate simply because they don't like how he "looks" or "sounds" (Kerry's words). No - there has to be more... and there is. Kerry and the rest of the democrats are forgetting the issues that are important to MOST of the American people. This is why they lost. Democrats will have no chance again in 2008 unless they find some way to move their party to the middle. Only a centrist Democratic candidate will pose a challenge.

Jan. 10 issue - It was a little after 7 p.m. on election night 2004. The network exit polls showed John Kerry leading George Bush in both Florida and Ohio by three points. Kerry's aides were confident that the Democratic candidate would carry these key swings states; Bush had not broken 48 percent in Kerry's recent tracking polls. The aides were a little hesitant to interrupt Kerry as he was fielding satellite TV interviews in a last get-out-the-vote push. Still, the 7 o'clock exit polls were considered to be reasonably reliable. Time to tell the candidate the good news.

Kerry had slept only two hours the night before. He was sitting in a small hotel room at the Westin Copley (in a small irony of history, next door to the hotel where his grandfather, a boom-and-bust businessman, shot himself some 80 years ago). Bob Shrum, Kerry's friend and close adviser, couldn't resist the moment. "May I be the first to say 'Mr. President'?" said Shrum.

The others cringed. Kerry did not respond, at least in any memorable way. In the dark days after the election, he tried a joke: "Until about 7 p.m. that night, it felt great to be the 44th president of the United States." Ever since election night, John Kerry has been trying hard to learn from his mistakes, to cheer his disappointed followers, to avoid sinking into the inevitable depression—and to plot his own comeback.
Kerry has not given any formal interviews since his defeat. But on Nov. 11, nine days after the election, Kerry summoned a NEWSWEEK reporter to his house on Boston's fashionable Louisberg Square. He wanted to complain about NEWSWEEK's election issue, which he said was unduly harsh and gossipy about him, his staff and his wife. (The 45,000-word article, the product of a yearlong reporting project, is being published next week as a book, "Election 2004," by PublicAffairs.)
Despite, or because of, a somewhat stoical and severe New England upbringing, Kerry has a tendency to natter at his subordinates, to blame everyone but himself. ("Did he whine?" was the first question one senior Kerry aide asked of the NEWSWEEK reporter who had recently been to see Kerry.) On this damp November evening, he appeared alone in the house; he answered the door and showed his visitor into a cozy, book-lined drawing room. His face was deeply lined, his eyes drooped, he looked like he hadn't slept in about two years. But his manner was resolute, his mood seemed calm, even chipper.
Why did he lose? Kerry points to history and, in a somewhat inferential, roundabout way, to his own failure to connect to voters—a failure that kept him from erasing the Bush campaign's portrait of him as a flip-flopper. Kerry said that he was proud of his campaign, that he had nearly defeated a popular incumbent who had enjoyed a three-year head start on organizing and fund-raising. Sitting presidents are never defeated in wartime, he insisted (true, though two, LBJ and Harry Truman, chose not to run for another term during Vietnam and Korea). Kerry did not wish to be directly quoted touting himself, however; he did not wish to appear defensive or boastful.

He never quite came out and said it, but Kerry sounded very much like a man who was running for president again. He has a mailing list with 2.9 million names and an organization in every state. His moneymen have not backed away. By and large, Kerry has not been blamed for the defeat, at least not the way former vice president Al Gore was after the 2000 election. Some of Kerry's followers are already plotting how Kerry can defeat Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucuses in 2008. The conventional wisdom, already congealing before Bush's second Inaugural, pictures Kerry and Clinton as the early Democratic front runners.
Not all of Kerry's supporters are so sanguine. In the heady days before the election, Kerry's top aides sat around picking a cabinet (one plan was to ask Colin Powell to stay on as secretary of State, thereby avoiding a massive power struggle between Sen. Joe Biden and Democratic foreign-policy wise man Richard Holbrooke). Nowadays the foreign-policy team still meets on the assumption that it could be reconstituted for '08. But the reality is, "it's mostly sitting around some lawyer's office and asking each other if we've heard about jobs," says a member of the team. As for Kerry, says this adviser, "he thinks he's the front runner for '08 without recognizing that he needs to do some soul-searching. If he wants to come back, he'll have to come back as a different candidate, not the stiff who plays it safe and takes four sides of every issue."
Some of Kerry's brave talk may be therapy, an effort to stave off the emotional plunge that has to follow such public rejection. Kerry has moments of real sadness, say his advisers, hours when he disappears to play his guitar. But he wants to keep moving. That evening in November, he told NEWSWEEK, "I'm not going to go lick my wounds or hide under a rock or disappear. I'm going to learn. I've had disappointments and I've learned to cope. I've lost friends, a marriage; I've lost things in life." While he spoke, the phone occasionally rang with calls from family and aides. In his conversations, Kerry sounded like the consoling one. Kerry has tried to comfort and defend his wife, Teresa, who suffers from migraines and has taken personally widespread criticism (much of it by campaign staffers) of her role in the campaign.

Since Election Day, Kerry has made hundreds of calls to supporters and e-mailed them a two-minute video outlining his hopes for the future. "He learned a lesson from Gore in 2000," said an aide. "Gore just walked away and didn't thank people." (Untrue, says a Gore adviser.) Kerry is a realist about his prospects for running in 2008, says his spokesman, David Wade. "He realizes it's impossible to predict. In December of 2003 he was dead. In January of 2004 he was the nominee." In the meantime Kerry is going to play the role of opposition leader. Next week he will leave a family vacation in Idaho (he had planned to do some skiing, mountain climbing and skeet shooting) to travel to the Middle East and Iraq. When he returns, he will introduce two bills in the Senate: to provide for health insurance for every child in America and to increase the size of the U.S. military by 40,000 troops.

Kerry has become deeply fascinated by the task of rebuilding the Democratic Party from the grass roots up, say his advisers. He has hired a streetwise political organizer from Boston named John Giesser, the deputy to 2004 grass-roots organizer Michael Whouley, to run his political action committee. There is talk that Kerry is trying to make Giesser his Karl Rove, though Giesser is said to be too quiet and unassuming to play the role of master manipulator.
While he quarreled with descriptions of his speaking style as "soporific," Kerry tacitly acknowledged that he failed to connect with enough voters on a personal level. Jose Ferreira, Kerry's nephew, told his uncle, "Some people are saying that your candidacy was driven by ABB [Anything But Bush]." Kerry replied: "Do you think so?" Ferreira said that once people got to know Kerry, they were intensely loyal. "Those are the people I let down," Kerry said, falling silent. In conversation with NEWSWEEK, Kerry seemed particularly interested in trying to find a way to speak to ordinary voters that didn't sound too grandiose or "political." Though Kerry did not directly criticize his friend Shrum, it's clear he did not feel well served by his message makers and speechwriters. The deeper problem may be Kerry's personality, which may be too distant or reserved to win mass affection. As this reporter left his house in November, Kerry called out and followed him down the street. He wanted to show a letter from a schoolgirl that had been left on his stoop. The letter read, in part, "John Kerry, you're the greatest!" Kerry looked into the reporter's eye. "The pundits have never liked me," he said. "Is it the way I look? The way I sound?" He seemed vulnerable for a moment, then caught himself, smiled and walked home to his empty house.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Napolean Dynamite

Fantastic! Watched it on DVD - felt good. Recommend watching a second time with director/actor commentary... good fun. Movie has skills.