Friday, March 21, 2003


Like most everybody else on the planet, I was taken aback when the attack on Iraq began on Wednesday night. I left the television on all day yesterday like a good journalism student should and found little to interest me except for testing my meager Arabic skills on the live feeds from Al-Jazeera television. It was one of the few times that the local news was more enlightening on world affairs than the networks, because they were able to highlight the main points of what was going on rather than featuring a flummoxed reporter in the studio cutting back and forth to reporters in the field who can't tell us anything due to classified information or technical difficulties. It's a bit sad that you find yourself watching hours of television waiting for something to blow up. It's pretty morbid.

But today, when things were indeed blowing up with authority, I felt pretty awful watching it. I don't think it's a terrible thing that we're able to see war unfold live on television, because it does bring the immediacy of the events to you without any opportunity for sugar-coating them, but it's no fun. The danger is that people might get de-sensitized watching Baghdad get the snot bombed out of it. I was strangely grateful that the ABC News correspondent sounded like he was going to have a nervous breakdown any second. At least it keeps the perspective in place.

This hasn't been a wildly original update, and I'm sorry. I just felt like my humble update page would be lacking if I let the start of a major war go by without mention. Although I'm extremely unhappy that my government feels that we had to resort to these measures, I just hope that it will be over soon and with as few casualties on both sides as possible. And if past experience has taught me anything, it's good to stay informed, but not good to spend all day watching things blow up on TV. Not good for the nerves.


Monday, March 17, 2003

Civics in Action

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all. We're having suitably grey Irish weather in Washington this afternoon, I am suitably dressed in green, and I am suitably having leftovers and staying in tonight. Washington's major family-friendly festivities for the holiday were held yesterday, and had Jeffrey and I not expended our weekend energies at the previous day's protest I may have had an interest in attending. As it was, we did not.

I had participated in a walk-out against the war in New York, but I had never been to a protest of the scale of the one on Saturday before. I was pleased to see that there were a lot of different kinds of people there, as opposed to the stereotypical anarchist hoodlums that give such gatherings a bad name. There were old people and kids, families and college students, veterans and people who lost children in the previous Gulf War. There were a few speakers who got on my nerves a bit when they tried to push other issues in conjunction with the anti-war sentiment and a few people who seemed more delighted at the fact that they could put dirty words on big signs than they were about the cause, but a lot of people were protest novices like myself. I was pretty shy about it in the beginning and insisted that I wouldn't hold a sign and was nervous on the Metro. But by the end of it I was quite comfortable and held one of the three signs Jeffrey took to the event. I wasn't even all that fazed when we passed a smallish group of pro-Bush protesters. Everyone behaved very well and the police were very good about the whole thing. I think it would have been an arrest-free event if it weren't for a few anarchist yahoos who broke away from the larger group to trash the World Bank. There's always someone that has to cause trouble.

I may go to another one if it's organized even half as well. Next time, though, I should probably bring sunblock, as I'm none too thrilled with the burns inflicted on my suitably Irish skin tone at the moment.


Monday, March 10, 2003

Conan O'Brien: Breaker of Hearts

I returned to New York this weekend and I'm very glad I did. Truth be told, I was feeling sad about missing out on things that were going on up there in recent days (most likely due in part to my lack of employment and recent, traumatizing loss of cable television). I just needed a quick NY fix, and I am satiated.

Jeffrey and I had business to attend to there in the way of shopping in SoHo, eating falafel in the Village, and meeting friends for Afghan food on 26th Street. But our primary reason for being there was an event sponsored by the New York Times Arts and Leisure Weekend in which Conan O'Brien was to be the speaker.

There are very few such people in the world whom I would race up to New York to see at such an event without a moment's hesitation. Messrs. Conan and Bono are two of those, and seeing as Bono's appearance this weekend was canceled due to a medical emergency involving nasty back surgery (it's always something with those rock stars), I was more than happy to see Conan be interviewed about, well, being Conan, as it turns out. Which isn't as heinous as it sounds. Conan's a really smart, nice, geeky guy who wound up in an extraordinary position through a great deal of dumb luck, and had a seriously tough time holding on to that position ten years ago when he took over from David Letterman as the host of Late Night. But he's a very well-spoken and insightful person and it makes me glad to see that such a nice, intelligent guy is capable of his kind of success. I guess I'm a bit partial to bookish redheaded misfits with twisted senses of humor.

The only tragedy of the night occurred after the conversation when Conan stuck around to sign as many programs as possible before his handlers made him go home. He stopped at the girl right in front of me, leaving me standing in vain with a program thrust sadly in the air imploring the handlers not to go away. Jeffrey will attest that it was somewhat pathetic. But if that's the most rotten thing to happen to me all weekend, I suppose I'm in pretty good shape.


Tuesday, March 4, 2003


It was bound to happen eventually.

In New York I spent four months walking a couple of miles each day and navigating seven flights of stairs at NYU's Main Building.

I've spent the last two months sitting on my bum on the computer and on the sofa.

Consequently, a good number of my pants have been benched until a better, more active, day.
It's not that I'm unhappy with how I look. If it weren't for the pants and an unfortunate semi-annual trip to the scale, I probably would never have known. But the inactivity means more to me than a lack of comfy khakis. The problem is that I have the stamina of an 800-pound, seventy-year-old man. I've started doing aerobics in the morning to one of these "Over 40 and Fabulous!" programs on PBS. The damn thing kicks my ass on a routine basis. This cannot pass.

Washington summers are supposed to be nice and humid. Maybe that will be the solution. Until then I'll have to be content with occasional trips to the Metro.