Monday, June 30, 2003

The moment you've all been waiting for...
That's right, I've finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix! Ring the bells! Sound the alarm! Tap the keg! Opps... I may be getting a bit carried away! Now, dear reader, I will give my own, personal review (and no, I will NOT tell you who died, so quit asking!), because I know how much you all value my opinion (I can dream, right?).

Let me just say... meh. After 800-plus pages and nine scattered days of reading, that's about all I have to say. Meh. The book was, as always, enjoyable and suspenseful, but not nearly as captivating as books in the past. Never did I feel the urge to stop reading, and I was constantly hungry for more, but more often that not, it was because I kept hoping somebody would come to their senses and something great would happen. Meh.

The main thing that disappointed me was its predictability. Normally while I am reading a suspenseful book such as this, I am completely void of forethought, and I allow myself to become lost in the book, making only minor, obvious theories about the action to come. In case you couldn't tell, I am politely calling myself dumb and saying that I can't ever tell what the ending is! All four of the previous Harry Potter books have kept me on the edge of my seat and blown my mind completely. Nothing was ever as it seemed, and I would finish the book with my heart pounding and my ear to the phone telling a friend, "Can you believe that?"

This book, however, made me feel quite intelligent. Genius almost! You would think the surge of self-confidence derived from guessing the book's conclusion would satisfy me, but you know what they say: ignorance is bliss. I found the ending to be highly predictable, which is unfortunate, because I have come to enjoy feeling duped by Rowling's misguidings.

Additionally, I found the ending to be unnecessarily complex. So much so that I had to reread the final two chapters to make sure I hadn't missed something exciting (I hadn't). That complexity, in turn, stifled my intellectual ego-boost, causing me to once again feel like an ignoramus (not in a blissfully ignorant way this time, though).

The ending aside, I found myself disliking several of the characters immensely, and realizing that it was a pure stroke of habitual luck that was keeping them alive. Harry is in a perpetual foul mood throughout the book, and is portrayed as lazy, arrogant and rash. I mean, I can certainly sympathize with teenage moodiness, but 900 pages of it? No one should be subjected to that, no matter how obnoxious we were ourselves as teenagers! It may be blasphemous to say, but I was kind of hoping that Snape would smack him across the head and make him shut his yap. All of the trouble he finds is self-inflicted, and I find myself without an ounce of sympathy for him.

In addition to wanting to scream at Harry, I want to just yell at everyone in the book, because they never seem to know the obvious answers to things, never seem to say the right things and certainly never appear to do the right things. I constantly found myself frustrated and was contemplating a way that I could just jump inside the book and smack them all around.

Nevertheless, I am placing my full and complete trust in J.K. Rowling. She has certainly never let down before, and I have a sneaking hunch that this book is highly similar to the third in that it is merely acting as a prelude to the following book. Those of you who have finished the book also can insert a "Duh, Jen!" here. All of this background information and character development will likely make a wonderful segue into book six.

So in closing: Meh...but I still believe in the power of the almighty Rowling! Next movie comes out in 2004, so Potter fans are going to have to sit tight for awhile...

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Run from the scary gay people...
Working at a newspaper, I have naturally been subjected to the massive backlash produced by last week's Supreme Court decision to lift Texas' ban on sodomy. In a 6-3 decision, the Court overturned a law that was absurdly asinine to begin with, and I have now witnessed firsthand the effects of that decision.

The Orlando Sentinel, like most newspapers across the country, has been flooded with letters from conservative readers expressing their disgust and outrage with the Court's decision. Their argument, led by Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, is that legalizing sodomy is destroying the institution of marriage in this country based on traditional values. I say that if you're going to condemn an entire society of people to criminality, you'd better have a more substantial argument than, "It's tradition."

With the Court's majority opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that "a law branding one class of persons as criminal solely based on the state's moral disapproval of that class and the conduct associated with that class runs contrary to the values of the Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause, under any standard review." I couldn't agree more.

Throughout my life, I have had the privilege of being exposed to many different cultures and lifestyles. I have known many people of varied sexual orientations, mainly due to having worked at Disney, and I feel completely accurate in saying that many gays and lesbians I have known are the kindest, most giving people I have ever met. Calling them "criminals" is laughable to me.

Instead of saying, "We're afraid of these scary, gay, dangerous criminals," simple-minded people, such as Senator Frist, are trying to scare Americans into believing that gays are going to ruin the sanctity of their marriage. Let me just quiet your fears by saying that in no way would two guys getting marrying have ANY impact on what goes on in your home or in your marriage.

I say, let's write the laws that protect people from harm and enforce the punishments set down of those who seek to hurt others who are trying to speak up for their own rights. Infringing on what people do in the privacy of their own homes is a criminal offense to me, and I'm glad the Court finally agreed.

For those of you who aren't convinced that the Court did the right thing, the definition of sodomy extends to heterosexual activity as well. I'm sure we can all feel safe in the knowledge that Senator Frist would never engage in formerly illegal acts of "pleasuring," either. I mean, what politician would ever do something like that?

Click here to read Frist's ridiculous ramblings in USA Today.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Oh, to be a kid again…I had a "magical" day at Disney's Magic Kingdom with my little brother and sister yesterday. Despite 90-degree weather, total exhaustion and about a million tourists that think they are the only people in the park that matter, we had a great time.

Disney is no real treat for me. I used to (and still do on occasion) work at Space Mountain, so the simplistic thrills of FantasyLand and having Mickey and Minnie pat me on the head are somewhat null and void these days. Being that I can visit the park anytime, it is not my ideal scenario to spend a hellishly hot day in the middle of the summer sweltering amongst thousands of smelly, whining people (and their kids).

Yesterday, however, I feel like I was brought back to my roots, if you will. I spent the day with a 6-year-old and 4-year-old who wanted nothing more than to have their big sister experience the joys of Disney from their perspective. They held me tightly as we rode amongst the spooks of the Haunted Mansion, accepted my tutelage on the best ways to score points in Buzz Lightyear and laughed uproariously at our pictures taken on Splash Mountain.

At the end of a long day, with aching feet and a spinning head, I found myself to be amongst the thousands of jubilant smiles piling onto the Monorail to head home. It was quite an experience for me to remember what it is like to be a guest- to see Disney World through the eyes of a child.

I came to realize that riding over-commercialized attractions, such as Peter Pan and even Space Mountain, repetitively can cause the park to lose a bit of its luster. When that happens, you have to look somewhere deeper inside yourself to see Disney for the first time, every time. The Magic Kingdom brings out something different and special for everybody. For me, the greatest satisfaction is not in riding as many rides as possible before lunchtime. It's being the world’s greatest tour guide for two very special children who want to spend time with their big sister in the land of magic.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Harried by Potter...
Many of you have written to me, not concerning my views on Snoop Dogg or Alligators, but about my Harry Potter progress. I am ashamed to say that some people have already finished the book whilst I am lagging behind at just over halfway. As per your many requests, I will post my progress for you: I am ashamed to admit that I stayed up, yet again, until 4 a.m. reading last night and have been cast several sideways glances for reading it throughout my entire shift at work. Be relieved to know that I did make all my deadlines last night (barely) and am on page 516 and still fascinated!
Birds of color, flock to UM...
Okay, so I'm a day late (and maybe a dollar short) in writing about the Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action. For those of you who do not keep up with issues outside of the weather (trust me, I'm not criticizing...I've been accused of the same until recently), the Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of keeping affirmative action rules as a standard in college admissions by a very tight vote of 5-4.

It appears that the entire country is on the fence about this issue, and after reading various opinion columns and such, I take little comfort in the realization that I am not alone in my confusion. Adding to mine and the nation's lukewarm position were the excellent arguments given for and against the vote by Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Conner and Clarence Thomas.

In her majority opinion Justice O'Connor wrote: "Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civil life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible is to be realized." I wholeheartedly agree with Justice O'Conner that in order to obtain the best possible society, diversity of opinion, culture and beliefs must be present to act as a "checks-and-balances" type of system.

I do not, however, believe that diversity should be forced upon us, as it most certainly has been. As evidenced by the constant bickering resulting from this trial, playing the race card as a factor in a realm where knowledge and effort should be key, will only divide the nation and create a mistrust amongst the races. How many instances of on-campus prejudice will occur in the wake of this decision that involve a white person accusing a rightfully deserving black person of "stealing someone's spot?"

What I found more interesting, however, was Justice Thomas' dissenting opinion. Thomas, the sole black member of the Supreme Court, spoke adamantly against affirmative action calling it an insult. "Every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all," Thomas said.

To that, I must say, wow! What a refreshing change of opinion! I have often considered this case from the perspective of a white student being rejected from the school of their choice simply because they were not a minority. After reading Justice Thomas' opinion, I feel even more passionate about its demeaning nature towards non-white races. By continuing with affirmative action, are we telling non-whites that they are not good enough or smart enough to get into a good college on their own? Maybe that is what is implied, maybe not.

I am not going to pretend that I am blind to the obvious racial barriers that exist in our country today. The fact remains that more than 50 years after the Civil War, pigheaded, simple-minded people still exist and still wish to restrain those whom they fear. I am just not sure that this form of reverse discrimination, in essence, punishing people for being white, is the best way to go about solving the problem. The way I see it, things are only going to get worse from here on out.

Read an interesting opinion in the Orlando Sentinel.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Women of color, unite to bare your breasts!...
An article in today's USA Today reported that rapper-turned-porn-cameraman Snoop Dogg resigned from participating in the production of "Girls Gone Wild" videos. Did his conscience get to him? Did he decide that young women baring their breasts to the world while intoxicated was a serious breech of his own, personal moral code? Sadly, it was for neither of these reasons.

Snoop Dogg (a.k.a. Calvin Broadus) is taking a stand against the show's blatant prejudice against women of color. Calvin (I love calling him that- makes him sound like the nerdy kid that got beat up in da hood) claims that he is approached constantly by women of color who complain that the show does not allow them nude camera time.

To this I say, whaaaatttt?!?!?!?

Let me get this straight- people, women specifically, are actually complaining because they can't be exposed and exploiting in front of the entire world? I would think that these women of color would view their lack of exposure as a nod to their intelligence and dignity. I would go further to claim that their absence in these videos is just another step towards the recognition of the race's pride and self-assurance. But what do I know?

Well, ladies of color, fear not! Snoop Dogg has heard your pleas and has decided to start making his own videos geared towards viewers who enjoy "variety." A little coffee with your cream, if you will. Thank God we have Snoop Dogg to champion the fight against these racial atrocities and nobly guide us towards equal and discrimination-free porn!

I, personally, hang my head each time I see these wasted chicks (I will call them chicks, because calling them women would be a personal insult) making out with each other and baring their bodies on demand. I mean, come on! They're not even getting any beads! All they are doing is prospering the career of a no-talent porno king who one night happened to have a camera, some drinks and, apparently, a lot of cops as friends. Well done, ladies! Thanks for making us all look good!

It's a true shame that women can no longer go out and enjoy an evening of wild and crazy antics, away from their professional and monotonous lives, without worrying that their fathers and boyfriends might witness it for the low, low price of $19.95. Guys, if you want these women to keep enjoying themselves in public (for your own temporary enjoyment), don't pat Snoop on the back. And ladies, is your dignity really worth the $19.95 you earn from the video? Oh, that's right- that money doesn't go to you! Sorry...

Read the USA Today article about Snoop Dogg.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Harry Potter update...
I have purchased the book, and am 185 pages into it. Let me just tell you how fascinated I am already: I forgot the book at home yesterday when I went to work and was so distraught that I went to Target during my lunch break, bought it again, and intend to return the first this evening. Additionally, I scheduled a much-needed oil change for today simply so I have an excuse to sit somewhere and read. Stupid Jiffy Lube people kept interuppting me though. Curse you and your "10-minute oil changes, Jiffy Lube....
Watch your mouth...
Those of you who know me personally know what a P.O.S. car I have (please don't tell him I said that, though, cause I need him to keep running for awhile!). A regular bonding activity that my car Doobie (as in Scooby Doo and Doo Doo Brown, NOT the pastime of aging Dead Heads) and I engage in is me feeding two quarts of oil into his parched mouth whilst wearing a work suit or skirt. We've been celebrating this tradition for years, and I am quite rehearsed in the scenario.

The other day, Doobie and I were participating in our ritual oil sacrifice (full suit and all in 95 degree weather at noon) when the man at the gas pump next to me began looking anxious. He huslted over from his gas pump and, in a very concerned (and somewhat degrading) voice, asked, "Can I help you with that?"

Did I look distressed in some way? Was there some clue in my facial expresson that indicated to this gentleman that I could not handle the opening of a car hood or the dumping in of a quart of oil? Did he think I would be distracted by all the icky, dirty thingies under my hood and spill all that yucky oil on my pretty pink dress with frilly bows?

Apparantly the presence of breasts implies that you cannot be expected to know how to perform simple, routine procedures on your car. The only thing that could have made the experience more enjoyable would have been if he had sauntered up with a Marlboro hanging out of his mouth, a cowboy hat on his head and said, "Step aside there little lady. This here's men's work! [grunt]" My hero...

I was feeling slighted by the encounter until I came across an older, slightly handicapped woman in the Target parking lot. She had one light bag, and though she was hobbling dramatically, she was making her own way to her car. My first instinct was to offer her a hand, and then it dawned on me: By offering this woman a hand, would I be making her feel just as unnecessarily incapable as I felt when Lord Chivalry offered me assistance?

It was like a moment of awakening. What could I have done for that woman anyway? Carried her one, light bag? Hoisted her onto my shoulders and piggy-backed her to her car that was no more than 10 yards away? Just as the man was offering me useless aid, I was prepared to do the same for this woman, and why? Not to degrade her or make her feel incompetent, but to make myself feel useful and superior.

I didn't offer the lady help. I smiled at her as I passed and continued on my way still thinking about my would-be gas station Clint Eastwood. Where do you draw the line on common courtesy? Do you still offer your seat on a bus to an elderly person or someone with disabilities? I would say definitely. Would I offer my arm in assistance to an old woman crossing the street who was clearly capable of managing on her own?

I would encourage everyone (and this is a reminder to myself as well) to examine each situation carefully. You may just be trying to be helpful, but harming someone's pride and self-assurance could be even more detrimental. However, if you see me on the side of the road with flames coming out of Doobie's engine, ignore this message and get your butt over there and help me!

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Tragedy strikes Miami...
Granted the city of Miami, place of my impeccable upbringing, does not have far to fall to acheive a total loss of integrity and credibility as a serious "party city." I thought the city of sun and fun could sink no lower after Vanilla Ice claimed it (fasley) as his hometown in the early 90s. Just goes to show what happens when you assume...

The terrible travesty parading around under the pretense of being a major motion picture, otherwise known as From Justin to Kelly, opened in theaters Friday night, destroying the last speck of respect I had for Hollywood (again, not a far drop, but still). The movie, and I strain to call it that, is a Spring Break scene set on the shores of Miami, hence the defamation of my beloved city. (On a personal note, I spent Spring Break in Miami not long ago, and I don't recall singing and dancing on the shores of South Beach. There were topless people...)

I almost decided to swallow my pride and go see American Idol's latest shameful attempt to make a fast buck off of unsuspecting kids for the sake of reporting on it to you, my blog public. Then I remembered that I don't get paid for this and that I'd rather be dangled over a shark tank wearing a bathing suit made of raw meat than be seen watching this movie.

Fortunately, I applaud America for sort-of agreeing that this movie is ridiculously worthless. Despite all of its hype and the million shameless plugs (note that the words "shame" and "tragedy" appear often in this posting) made by its stars, From Justin to Kelly debuted at number 11 on the charts after its first weekend. For those of you who don't understand how humilitating the movie's position just shy of the top ten is, rest assured that the A.I. wizards are not too pleased that its competition up above them on the ladder includes Dumb and Dumberer in its second week and Rugrats Go Wild, also in its second week.

Sadly, the producers of A.I. will not stop at this. They will soon start production on Clay Aiken and Rubeun Studdard's new movie, which will feature the pair in a "Laurel and Hardy" style comedy. Needless to say, the end of the world is near. Run, do not walk, to your nearest bomb shelter...

For other movie tragedies featuring pop stars, rent Glitter, featuring Myriah Carey and Crossroads, featuring Brittney Spears. I'm not going to tell you which one of these I actually subjected myself to on a really boring night, but just know that my IQ lowered about 20 points, and I haven't been able to solve crossword puzzles since.

See even more insulting reviews than mine. Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post and and Christopher Kelly of the Fort Worth Star Telegram were amoung my favorites!

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Seven is not MJ's lucky number...
I should have been prepared for disappointment when the 24th and 25th Greatest Music Video Stars of All Time (according to MTV) were P. Diddy and Limp Bizkit. I mean, honestly, what does Fred Durst have going for his videos other than that guy with the freaky black eyes? Furthermore, I challenge anyone to tell me the name of a song that P. Diddy (Puffy, Puff Daddy, whatever) sang on his own and was not just "featured" in.

Like a fool, I even held out hope even after Busta Rhymes and Beck somehow secured spots on the list. However, the ultimate disappointment came when Michael Jackson, the artist who single-handedly changed the format and nature of music videos with "Beat It," and whose video "Thriller" has topped the charts as the #1 greatest video of all time since its debut in the 80s, hobbled away with the number seven spot. Say what?!?

So now you're probably thinking, who are these morons that chose No Doubt and Brittney Spears ahead of the King of Pop? I'm sad to report that we, the viewers, allowed this tragedy to occur. Actually, I'm not going to accept the blame for this- I'll blame the pre-teens for the voting disgrace. You know the kind. They walk around in their Carebears T-shirts with goomies on their arms (even though they don't know that "goomies" are the proper name for their "new fashion") without having put in so much as a single Saturday morning watching the cartoon.

I'll give the kids a little credit, however, and applaud the appointments of Madonna, Janet Jackson, Guns and Roses ("Don't Cry- amazing video!) and Aerosmith. I think another honorable mention should be given out to the Foo Fighters, who I believe were appointed soley for their excellent video "Learn to Fly." I also am ashamed to say that I agree with Jennifer Lopez's (I refust to refer to her as J-Lo) appointment, because she has put out some excellent dance videos. Plus, she was a "Fly Girl."

I propose that a few artists got severely shafted in this countdown. If it were up to me, as everything should be, I would have put Peter Gabriel ("Sledgehammer"), George Michael and Pink Floyd ("Another Brick in the Wall?" I know it was freaky, but wow!) on the list in there somewhere. Maybe not at the top, but certainly above Busta Rhymes, whose only gig is putting his huge face right in the camera making us all dizzy and sick.

To all of this madness, I say, whatever. We all know that MTV has been worthless since the early 90s anyway.

Read the complete list of the 25 Greatest Video Stars and check out MTV's criteria for selecting nominees.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Harry Potter... comes out in approximately five hours! Not that I'm insane enough to stand in line with the crazies at midnight, but I still found the event to be noteworthy. Stay tuned for a review as soon as I get the time and energy to read it!
Gator spotting...
One of the concerns I often hear from visitors to Florida that annoys me the most (aside from the crime rate...don't get me started, cause I feel safer in downtown Miami at 2 a.m. than I do at the mall in Durham, N.C. at 2 p.m.) is alligators. After I wipe the hysterical tears of laughter from my eyes and regain my composure, I gently explain to them that there is very little to worry about, and that, like most animals, alligators are more afraid of us than we are of them. Then someone in Florida has to go and act all "brave" (also see "stupid" in the dictionary) and decide to make my rationale seem useless.

A very tragic accident occurred the other day in Lake County, Fla. involving the death of a 12-year-old boy who was swimming in a lake. It is a terrible thing, and my heart goes out to the family completely, but in order to put this "attack" in the proper perspective, it is important for those who fear gators (the animal self-respecting person would ever fear the UF gators) to remember a few things.

The boy and his friends had been swimming in the lake earlier that day when they, and several residents, saw multiple alligators in the water. The boys later snuck back into the lake at night without supervision when the tragic accident occurred.

You'll notice that in my previous reference, I put the word "attack" in quotations, and I'll tell you why. Florida builders have become so over-consumed with "lake front property," that they've begun building on known alligator habitats. Who could blame them for becoming aggressive when an intruder enters their ever-shrinking puddle of water?

Additionally, I feel that it is safe to assume that these gators that frequent residential ponds are likely being fed by tourists and residents, which any half-way intellegent Floridian (yes, we are few and far between during election years)will tell you is a big no-no. Feeding alligators causes them to lose their fear of humans and venture into inhabited areas (that were most likely theirs in the first place, but whatever). I mean, I know it was a horrible movie, but didn't we all see Lake Placid at least once to learn what happens when you feed them? Giant dinosaur gators invade Maine! Well...maybe not, but you get the point.

As a result of this, and other recent attacks, Central Florida wildlife trappers have gone on a virtual alligator armegedon mission, which is sad. These animals are being slaughtered by the dozen, because we are invading their land. For those of you who are history buffs, this may sound like a familiar trend in American history. I'll save that rant for another day, though.

The point I'm trying (in a very long-winded sense) to make is live and let live. When you see an alligator, run in a zig-zag pattern away. If you see one in a residential area, someone has already ruined their fear, and sadly, they must be destroyed before they hurt someone. Other than that, don't let such outlandish, one-in-a-million chance fears get the best of you.

Read a fantastic article about gator encounters in the Orlando Sentinel.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

So I just recently returned from a three-day cruise aboard the Carnival cruise ship, Fascination. I think a better name for the ship should have been Imagination, as in, imagine you're on another cruiseline.

To be fair, we knew Carnival's reputation for being, well, crappy, but I figured for a three-day getaway, who cares? Right?? Umm... therein lies my first mistake.

The best thing I can say about the food is: it was plentiful. While the petite sirloin and veal left much to be desired, the cheeseburgers were actually quite tasty! Granted I am a picky eater, but I'm sure everyone at my uniquely diverse table (ranging from bored New Yorkers to goth-attired 15 year olds to boozing grandmothers) will agree that if it wasn't for the 3 a.m. pizza runs, we would have started chucking people overboard.

And let me just say this: no haphazard amount of beer goggles could have possibly made us singletons attracted to the, oh, two unattached men on the ship. "Singles Night" was a real hoot. The picks of the litter featured a toothless wonder, a potentially gay man and two married guys who kept waving at their wives. On the plus side, for sitting on toothless wonder during "musical chairs," I won a VIP booze cruise that was good for April 26, I've got that going for me.

All gripes aside, my cruisemate (aunt and friend, Valerie) and I made our own fun. We danced in the club, whose motto seemed to be: "Every night is Salsa night!" We winced through the onboard "Broadway Show," and applauded when the featured singer did not attempt to hit the high notes in Phantom of the Opera.

All in all, our outlook on life was improved by two factors: the plentiful booze and winning $200 a peice at the Craps table at the casino. And for those reasons, my friends, I must say: Hooray Carnival!
Welcome to my new Blog spot: Are you talking? The title is basically reflective of the obnoxiousness that I value in close friends, but find atrocious in others. It is borrowed from the ever popular comedic cynic, David Spade, from that good 'ol classic Tommy Boy. Feel free to use it in everyday conversation (I give you permission...don't know that David does).

If you're looking for highly political viewpoints or play-by-play commentary on late breaking CNN happenings in the Middle East, you're in the wrong spot. I will share my opinions on the things we can all relate to, such as movies and television, current events and speculations as to what type of animal farm Jack Osbourne is trying to grow in his hair.

Anyway, I welcome your comments (as long as they are in the form of awestruck praise) and hope you enjoy!