Monday, July 28, 2008

gangsta rap?

while this made me smile, it also made a little piece of me cry inside (thanks chuck):

let's be honest though, generally, muppets make raman happy.

but on the topic of gangsta rap, what is it with our fascination of it in our parody/pop culture? is it the juxtaposition of such a violent musical medium on top of seemingly innocent things (like geek movies and "innocent" starlets, see below)? if this were simply the case, then why wouldn't we be seeing more death metal parodies (beyond trogdor)? i think the more obvious racial cues/differences are where the answer lies.

anyhow, i figured i'd share some other raman favorites (in chronological order of my original consumption):

i certainly don't claim to be an expert in this space (musical parody yes, gangsta rap, no), but would love to hear your thoughts (and/or any GR parodies you want to share).

Sunday, July 27, 2008

the kingdom.

this evening, after a long day of sorting TONS of toys, eating far too much mexican food, and internet-conversating with one of my favorite contemporary indian authors, the roommate, a friend, and i sat down to watch the Kingdom.

WOW. while it only scored a 4/5 on the raman ratings scale for it's action adventure storyline (+ very well done production, directing, acting by all involved), i was even MORE VERY impressed with the underlying premise/themes of the movie: (1) the vicious cycles of both supply + demand (of oil between the US + the mideast), and more importantly, (2) the spiraling hate-hate relationship of two conflicting cultures/ideologies (the west + Islam).

the former (1) is best summed up in the opening credits:

and the latter (2) the vicious spiral of hate between conflicting ideologies, is best summed up in the final frames of the film, when (SPOILER ALERT, highlight to read): when the story's characters, on opposite sides (of the world and ideology), in Washington DC + Riyadh, are asked what was whispered to comfort each respective party at the death of their loved ones (at the hand of the "enemies"): "We're going to kill them all."
(END SPOILERS) and that put a pin in it for me. is there a cycle to end the hatred (which has years of socioeconomic complexities + interventions interwoven, for better or worse)? upon the film's end, my friend Rob cited the following quote, which gave me some comfort:
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it...
Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate....
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

-Dr. Martin Luther King
were it only that easy.

oh, and Jeremy Piven plays an outstanding supporting role as a high-strung guy in a suit, a role for which he is perfectly suited. anyhow, on an even lighter note...

it took me awhile to find a version of the above opening sequence to embed. but while doing so, i came across another fantastic (and fan-created) film opening sequence, which made raman very happy. enjoy:

Friday, July 25, 2008

(indian) wedding pictures

and before you jump to ANY conclusions, these are NOT pictures from my wedding, but rather my younger cousin Shivani's (in LA):

sorry to disappoint, but you will NOT be finding any pics of me in a turban here.
...having trouble, viewing the slideshow*? check it out
on Flickr

*the above "slideshow player" thing sucks (way too small thumbnails on bottom, disappearing controls for those of you in IE, use FireFox if you can) ...i've been struggling w/ the Flickr API for way too long today, and will live to fight it (in nerdly combat) on ANOTHER day...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

the JOKER is what happens.

...what the heck is this?
...want to join the Cinci chapter? go here

ich bin ein Obama.

my boy Barry decided to stop by Berilin after his mideast tour, while Johnny Mac was here. check out Obama's speech (transcript below). enjoy, though, it's hardly a jelly donut.:

(As Prepared For Delivery)
Berlin, Germany, July 24th, 2008

Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you Mayor Wowereit, the Berlin Senate, the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.

I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen – a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.

I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father – my grandfather – was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning – his dream – required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.

That is why I’m here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life.

Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Templehof.

On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruin. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall. The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses, and pondered how the world might be remade.

This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.

The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.

And that’s when the airlift began – when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.

The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.

But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city’s mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. “There is only one possibility,” he said. “For us to stand together united until this battle is won…The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty…People of the world, look at Berlin!”

People of the world – look at Berlin!

Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.

Look at Berlin, where the determination of a people met the generosity of the Marshall Plan and created a German miracle; where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.

Look at Berlin, where the bullet holes in the buildings and the somber stones and pillars near the Brandenburg Gate insist that we never forget our common humanity.

People of the world – look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.

Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall – a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope – walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.

The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers – dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.

The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.

Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.

In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we’re honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.

In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe’s role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth – that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.

Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.

So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.

That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations – and all nations – must summon that spirit anew.

This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.

This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.

This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.

This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad. In this century – in this city of all cities – we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.

This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.

This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.

This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations – including my own – will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.

And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. We must remember that the Cold War born in this city was not a battle for land or treasure. Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust – not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.

Now the world will watch and remember what we do here – what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?

Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words “never again” in Darfur?

Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

People of Berlin – people of the world – this is our moment. This is our time.

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived – at great cost and great sacrifice – to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people – everywhere – became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation – our generation – must make our mark on the world.

People of Berlin – and people of the world – the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.

enlightened comics.

a few nights ago, i FINALLY completed an 8 volume illustrated (ie, comic-book) epic on the life of Buddha, appropritaly titled Buddha (vol 1-8), by Osamu Tezuka.

considered by many to be the "godfather of manga" (Japanase comics, which are WAY more mainstream in Japanese culture than here), Tezuka-san is best known for his character Astro Boy, which has long since become a pop-culture icon around the world.

Buddha was Tezuka's last epic, written in the latter years of his life. it was critically acclaimed, but considered by many to be a "gritty, even sexual, portrayal of the holy-man's life."

from what i've read online (where everything is true, you know), it follows what's known Buddha's life fairly closely (from that of a naive prince, to a young monk, to a religious figure), despite some characters being created to move the story along. i randomly discovered this gem at the library when the composite image spines of several volumes caught my eye.

what i love about the story is how at times light-hearted, yet profound it can be. through the many stories of Buddha's life (and his encounters with the many people across caste + class of what is now north India/Nepal), you can quickly gleam his teachings/principles of the middle path, and where they came from.

anyhow, if you're looking to be enlightened, i'd recommend picking up AT LEAST volume 1, and going from there.


on a related note, in my quest to resolve my own lack of faith (which i've long since been OK with), i've now decided to find a way to consumer ALL of our major world religion's holy books through non-tradtional forms (this is in a similar vein to my my recent wanderings through south indian temples for a week before returning to the US, more done from an archaeological/anthropological curiousity than a religious one)
i'm already halfway through Ashok Banker's Ramayana series (6 novels written in contemporary prose)...also highly recommended, but pending a bloog review until i'm done with the entire thing. the real question is if i'll be able to find a comic-book rendition of the Qur'an (hopefully someone sees the humor/irony in the unliklihood of this). and the Bible? so far all i can think of is sitting down for a Veggie Tales marathon .

any (other) suggestions?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

can you blame them?

in my ongoing survey of each campaign's digital marketing efforts (honestly all i did was sign up for their email lists and am actually READING them)...

i question how this video (posted + promoted by the McCain campaign), is a BAD thing for my boy Barry (though i do have issues w/ the media's broader lack of objectivity/competence):

...i guess all this is supposed to do is give their base something to rabble-rouse about. but the bigger question is, why isn't the media in love with Johnny Mac?)

Friday, July 18, 2008

the dark knight.

dark. complicated. well-made. serious.
character driven, metaphor-laden, and multi-leveled.
A great work of contemporary cinema and easily the most artistically significant film ever made that has also inspired its own fast-food pizza tie-in.
17 sold out midnight shows.
Hong Kong, knives, lamborghinis, playing cards, and...where did that motorcycle come from?

amazed by the performances of Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, and of course, Morgan Freeman.

and yet somehow, 19 years later, the Joker still steals the show, albeit in a much more eerie and disturbing form.

a sequel done right. 5/5. i'm now going to bed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Obama on national security.

tell me this guy doesn't have a plan for national security, and i will tell you you are an idiot. this is the guy i want facing the rest of the world for US. hawkish AS necessary (not absolutely) and able to see the big picture (the forest for the trees), while principled and COLLABORATIVE about his approach to foreign policy.

from his July 15th speech in Washington DC. transcript follows speech (i've discovered i prefer reading transcript, as it is more efficients, allows you to distill out the salient points, and frankly, cut thru the BS).

Sixty-one years ago, George Marshall announced the plan that would come to bear his name. Much of Europe lay in ruins. The United States faced a powerful and ideological enemy intent on world domination. This menace was magnified by the recently discovered capability to destroy life on an unimaginable scale. The Soviet Union didn't yet have an atomic bomb, but before long it would.

The challenge facing the greatest generation of Americans - the generation that had vanquished fascism on the battlefield - was how to contain this threat while extending freedom's frontiers. Leaders like Truman and Acheson, Kennan and Marshall, knew that there was no single decisive blow that could be struck for freedom. We needed a new overarching strategy to meet the challenges of a new and dangerous world.

Such a strategy would join overwhelming military strength with sound judgment. It would shape events not just through military force, but through the force of our ideas; through economic power, intelligence and diplomacy. It would support strong allies that freely shared our ideals of liberty and democracy; open markets and the rule of law. It would foster new international institutions like the United Nations, NATO, and the World Bank, and focus on every corner of the globe. It was a strategy that saw clearly the world's dangers, while seizing its promise.

As a general, Marshall had spent years helping FDR wage war. But the Marshall Plan - which was just one part of this strategy - helped rebuild not just allies, but also the nation that Marshall had plotted to defeat. In the speech announcing his plan, he concluded not with tough talk or definitive declarations - but rather with questions and a call for perspective. "The whole world of the future," Marshall said, "hangs on a proper judgment." To make that judgment, he asked the American people to examine distant events that directly affected their security and prosperity. He closed by asking: "What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done?"

What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done?

Today's dangers are different, though no less grave. The power to destroy life on a catastrophic scale now risks falling into the hands of terrorists. The future of our security - and our planet - is held hostage to our dependence on foreign oil and gas. From the cave-spotted mountains of northwest Pakistan, to the centrifuges spinning beneath Iranian soil, we know that the American people cannot be protected by oceans or the sheer might of our military alone.

The attacks of September 11 brought this new reality into a terrible and ominous focus. On that bright and beautiful day, the world of peace and prosperity that was the legacy of our Cold War victory seemed to suddenly vanish under rubble, and twisted steel, and clouds of smoke.

But the depth of this tragedy also drew out the decency and determination of our nation. At blood banks and vigils; in schools and in the United States Congress, Americans were united - more united, even, than we were at the dawn of the Cold War. The world, too, was united against the perpetrators of this evil act, as old allies, new friends, and even long-time adversaries stood by our side. It was time - once again - for America's might and moral suasion to be harnessed; it was time to once again shape a new security strategy for an ever-changing world.

Imagine, for a moment, what we could have done in those days, and months, and years after 9/11.

We could have deployed the full force of American power to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all of the terrorists responsible for 9/11, while supporting real security in Afghanistan.

We could have secured loose nuclear materials around the world, and updated a 20th century non-proliferation framework to meet the challenges of the 21st.

We could have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in alternative sources of energy to grow our economy, save our planet, and end the tyranny of oil.

We could have strengthened old alliances, formed new partnerships, and renewed international institutions to advance peace and prosperity.

We could have called on a new generation to step into the strong currents of history, and to serve their country as troops and teachers, Peace Corps volunteers and police officers.

We could have secured our homeland--investing in sophisticated new protection for our ports, our trains and our power plants.

We could have rebuilt our roads and bridges, laid down new rail and broadband and electricity systems, and made college affordable for every American to strengthen our ability to compete.

We could have done that.

Instead, we have lost thousands of American lives, spent nearly a trillion dollars, alienated allies and neglected emerging threats - all in the cause of fighting a war for well over five years in a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.

Our men and women in uniform have accomplished every mission we have given them. What's missing in our debate about Iraq - what has been missing since before the war began - is a discussion of the strategic consequences of Iraq and its dominance of our foreign policy. This war distracts us from every threat that we face and so many opportunities we could seize. This war diminishes our security, our standing in the world, our military, our economy, and the resources that we need to confront the challenges of the 21st century. By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe.

I am running for President of the United States to lead this country in a new direction - to seize this moment's promise. Instead of being distracted from the most pressing threats that we face, I want to overcome them. Instead of pushing the entire burden of our foreign policy on to the brave men and women of our military, I want to use all elements of American power to keep us safe, and prosperous, and free. Instead of alienating ourselves from the world, I want America - once again - to lead.

As President, I will pursue a tough, smart and principled national security strategy - one that recognizes that we have interests not just in Baghdad, but in Kandahar and Karachi, in Tokyo and London, in Beijing and Berlin. I will focus this strategy on five goals essential to making America safer: ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

My opponent in this campaign has served this country with honor, and we all respect his sacrifice. We both want to do what we think is best to defend the American people. But we've made different judgments, and would lead in very different directions. That starts with Iraq.

I opposed going to war in Iraq; Senator McCain was one of Washington's biggest supporters for war. I warned that the invasion of a country posing no imminent threat would fan the flames of extremism, and distract us from the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban; Senator McCain claimed that we would be greeted as liberators, and that democracy would spread across the Middle East. Those were the judgments we made on the most important strategic question since the end of the Cold War.

Now, all of us recognize that we must do more than look back - we must make a judgment about how to move forward. What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done? Senator McCain wants to talk of our tactics in Iraq; I want to focus on a new strategy for Iraq and the wider world.

It has been 18 months since President Bush announced the surge. As I have said many times, our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence. General Petraeus has used new tactics to protect the Iraqi population. We have talked directly to Sunni tribes that used to be hostile to America, and supported their fight against al Qaeda. Shiite militias have generally respected a cease-fire. Those are the facts, and all Americans welcome them.

For weeks, now, Senator McCain has argued that the gains of the surge mean that I should change my commitment to end the war. But this argument misconstrues what is necessary to succeed in Iraq, and stubbornly ignores the facts of the broader strategic picture that we face.

In the 18 months since the surge began, the strain on our military has increased, our troops and their families have borne an enormous burden, and American taxpayers have spent another $200 billion in Iraq. That's over $10 billion each month. That is a consequence of our current strategy.

In the 18 months since the surge began, the situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated. June was our highest casualty month of the war. The Taliban has been on the offensive, even launching a brazen attack on one of our bases. Al Qaeda has a growing sanctuary in Pakistan. That is a consequence of our current strategy.

In the 18 months since the surge began, as I warned at the outset - Iraq's leaders have not made the political progress that was the purpose of the surge. They have not invested tens of billions of dollars in oil revenues to rebuild their country. They have not resolved their differences or shaped a new political compact.

That's why I strongly stand by my plan to end this war. Now, Prime Minister Maliki's call for a timetable for the removal of U.S. forces presents a real opportunity. It comes at a time when the American general in charge of training Iraq's Security Forces has testified that Iraq's Army and Police will be ready to assume responsibility for Iraq's security in 2009. Now is the time for a responsible redeployment of our combat troops that pushes Iraq's leaders toward a political solution, rebuilds our military, and refocuses on Afghanistan and our broader security interests.

George Bush and John McCain don't have a strategy for success in Iraq - they have a strategy for staying in Iraq. They said we couldn't leave when violence was up, they say we can't leave when violence is down. They refuse to press the Iraqis to make tough choices, and they label any timetable to redeploy our troops "surrender," even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government - not to a terrorist enemy. Theirs is an endless focus on tactics inside Iraq, with no consideration of our strategy to face threats beyond Iraq's borders.

At some point, a judgment must be made. Iraq is not going to be a perfect place, and we don't have unlimited resources to try to make it one. We are not going to kill every al Qaeda sympathizer, eliminate every trace of Iranian influence, or stand up a flawless democracy before we leave - General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker acknowledged this to me when they testified last April. That is why the accusation of surrender is false rhetoric used to justify a failed policy. In fact, true success in Iraq - victory in Iraq - will not take place in a surrender ceremony where an enemy lays down their arms. True success will take place when we leave Iraq to a government that is taking responsibility for its future - a government that prevents sectarian conflict, and ensures that the al Qaeda threat which has been beaten back by our troops does not reemerge. That is an achievable goal if we pursue a comprehensive plan to press the Iraqis stand up.

To achieve that success, I will give our military a new mission on my first day in office: ending this war. Let me be clear: we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 - one year after Iraqi Security Forces will be prepared to stand up; two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, we'll keep a residual force to perform specific missions in Iraq: targeting any remnants of al Qaeda; protecting our service members and diplomats; and training and supporting Iraq's Security Forces, so long as the Iraqis make political progress.

We will make tactical adjustments as we implement this strategy - that is what any responsible Commander-in-Chief must do. As I have consistently said, I will consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government. We will redeploy from secure areas first and volatile areas later. We will commit $2 billion to a meaningful international effort to support the more than 4 million displaced Iraqis. We will forge a new coalition to support Iraq's future - one that includes all of Iraq's neighbors, and also the United Nations, the World Bank, and the European Union - because we all have a stake in stability. And we will make it clear that the United States seeks no permanent bases in Iraq.

This is the future that Iraqis want. This is the future that the American people want. And this is what our common interests demand. Both America and Iraq will be more secure when the terrorist in Anbar is taken out by the Iraqi Army, and the criminal in Baghdad fears Iraqi Police, not just coalition forces. Both America and Iraq will succeed when every Arab government has an embassy open in Baghdad, and the child in Basra benefits from services provided by Iraqi dinars, not American tax dollar

And this is the future we need for our military. We cannot tolerate this strain on our forces to fight a war that hasn't made us safer. I will restore our strength by ending this war, completing the increase of our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 marines, and investing in the capabilities we need to defeat conventional foes and meet the unconventional challenges of our time.

So let's be clear. Senator McCain would have our troops continue to fight tour after tour of duty, and our taxpayers keep spending $10 billion a month indefinitely; I want Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future, and to reach the political accommodation necessary for long-term stability. That's victory. That's success. That's what's best for Iraq, that's what's best for America, and that's why I will end this war as President.

In fact - as should have been apparent to President Bush and Senator McCain - the central front in the war on terror is not Iraq, and it never was. That's why the second goal of my new strategy will be taking the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is unacceptable that almost seven years after nearly 3,000 Americans were killed on our soil, the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 are still at large. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahari are recording messages to their followers and plotting more terror. The Taliban controls parts of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda has an expanding base in Pakistan that is probably no farther from their old Afghan sanctuary than a train ride from Washington to Philadelphia. If another attack on our homeland comes, it will likely come from the same region where 9/11 was planned. And yet today, we have five times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan.

Senator McCain said - just months ago - that "Afghanistan is not in trouble because of our diversion to Iraq." I could not disagree more. Our troops and our NATO allies are performing heroically in Afghanistan, but I have argued for years that we lack the resources to finish the job because of our commitment to Iraq. That's what the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said earlier this month. And that's why, as President, I will make the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.

I will send at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan, and use this commitment to seek greater contributions - with fewer restrictions - from NATO allies. I will focus on training Afghan security forces and supporting an Afghan judiciary, with more resources and incentives for American officers who perform these missions. Just as we succeeded in the Cold War by supporting allies who could sustain their own security, we must realize that the 21st century's frontlines are not only on the field of battle - they are found in the training exercise near Kabul, in the police station in Kandahar, and in the rule of law in Herat.

Moreover, lasting security will only come if we heed Marshall's lesson, and help Afghans grow their economy from the bottom up. That's why I've proposed an additional $1 billion in non-military assistance each year, with meaningful safeguards to prevent corruption and to make sure investments are made - not just in Kabul - but out in Afghanistan's provinces. As a part of this program, we'll invest in alternative livelihoods to poppy-growing for Afghan farmers, just as we crack down on heroin trafficking. We cannot lose Afghanistan to a future of narco-terrorism. The Afghan people must know that our commitment to their future is enduring, because the security of Afghanistan and the United States is shared.

The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as President, I won't. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.

Make no mistake: we can't succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people. It's time to strengthen stability by standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people. That's why I'm cosponsoring a bill with Joe Biden and Richard Lugar to triple non-military aid to the Pakistani people and to sustain it for a decade, while ensuring that the military assistance we do provide is used to take the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda. We must move beyond a purely military alliance built on convenience, or face mounting popular opposition in a nuclear-armed nation at the nexus of terror and radical Islam.

Only a strong Pakistani democracy can help us move toward my third goal - securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states. One of the terrible ironies of the Iraq War is that President Bush used the threat of nuclear terrorism to invade a country that had no active nuclear program. But the fact that the President misled us into a misguided war doesn't diminish the threat of a terrorist with a weapon of mass destruction - in fact, it has only increased it.

In those years after World War II, we worried about the deadly atom falling into the hands of the Kremlin. Now, we worry about 50 tons of highly enriched uranium - some of it poorly secured - at civilian nuclear facilities in over forty countries. Now, we worry about the breakdown of a non-proliferation framework that was designed for the bipolar world of the Cold War. Now, we worry - most of all - about a rogue state or nuclear scientist transferring the world's deadliest weapons to the world's most dangerous people: terrorists who won't think twice about killing themselves and hundreds of thousands in Tel Aviv or Moscow, in London or New York.

We cannot wait any longer to protect the American people. I've made this a priority in the Senate, where I worked with Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law accelerating our pursuit of loose nuclear materials. I'll lead a global effort to secure all loose nuclear materials around the world during my first term as President. And I'll develop new defenses to protect against the 21st century threat of biological weapons and cyber-terrorism - threats that I'll discuss in more detail tomorrow.

Beyond taking these immediate, urgent steps, it's time to send a clear message: America seeks a world with no nuclear weapons. As long as nuclear weapons exist, we must retain a strong deterrent. But instead of threatening to kick them out of the G-8, we need to work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair-trigger alert; to dramatically reduce the stockpiles of our nuclear weapons and material; to seek a global ban on the production of fissile material for weapons; and to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so that the agreement is global. By keeping our commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we'll be in a better position to press nations like North Korea and Iran to keep theirs. In particular, it will give us more credibility and leverage in dealing with Iran.

We cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of nations that support terror. Preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a vital national security interest of the United States. No tool of statecraft should be taken off the table, but Senator McCain would continue a failed policy that has seen Iran strengthen its position, advance its nuclear program, and stockpile 150 kilos of low enriched uranium. I will use all elements of American power to pressure the Iranian regime, starting with aggressive, principled and direct diplomacy - diplomacy backed with strong sanctions and without preconditions.

There will be careful preparation. I commend the work of our European allies on this important matter, and we should be full partners in that effort. Ultimately the measure of any effort is whether it leads to a change in Iranian behavior. That's why we must pursue these tough negotiations in full coordination with our allies, bringing to bear our full influence - including, if it will advance our interests, my meeting with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing.

We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If you abandon your nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives. If you refuse, then we will ratchet up the pressure, with stronger unilateral sanctions; stronger multilateral sanctions in the Security Council, and sustained action outside the UN to isolate the Iranian regime. That's the diplomacy we need. And the Iranians should negotiate now; by waiting, they will only face mounting pressure.

The surest way to increase our leverage against Iran in the long-run is to stop bankrolling its ambitions. That will depend on achieving my fourth goal: ending the tyranny of oil in our time.

One of the most dangerous weapons in the world today is the price of oil. We ship nearly $700 million a day to unstable or hostile nations for their oil. It pays for terrorist bombs going off from Baghdad to Beirut. It funds petro-diplomacy in Caracas and radical madrasas from Karachi to Khartoum. It takes leverage away from America and shifts it to dictators.

This immediate danger is eclipsed only by the long-term threat from climate change, which will lead to devastating weather patterns, terrible storms, drought, and famine. That means people competing for food and water in the next fifty years in the very places that have known horrific violence in the last fifty: Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Most disastrously, that could mean destructive storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline.

This is not just an economic issue or an environmental concern - this is a national security crisis. For the sake of our security - and for every American family that is paying the price at the pump - we must end this dependence on foreign oil. And as President, that's exactly what I'll do. Small steps and political gimmickry just won't do. I'll invest $150 billion over the next ten years to put America on the path to true energy security. This fund will fast track investments in a new green energy business sector that will end our addiction to oil and create up to 5 million jobs over the next two decades, and help secure the future of our country and our planet. We'll invest in research and development of every form of alternative energy - solar, wind, and biofuels, as well as technologies that can make coal clean and nuclear power safe. And from the moment I take office, I will let it be known that the United States of America is ready to lead again.

Never again will we sit on the sidelines, or stand in the way of global action to tackle this global challenge. I will reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to join a new Global Energy Forum that will lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols. We will also build an alliance of oil-importing nations and work together to reduce our demand, and to break the grip of OPEC on the global economy. We'll set a goal of an 80% reduction in global emissions by 2050. And as we develop new forms of clean energy here at home, we will share our technology and our innovations with all the nations of the world.

That is the tradition of American leadership on behalf of the global good. And that will be my fifth goal - rebuilding our alliances to meet the common challenges of the 21st century.

For all of our power, America is strongest when we act alongside strong partners. We faced down fascism with the greatest war-time alliance the world has ever known. We stood shoulder to shoulder with our NATO allies against the Soviet threat, and paid a far smaller price for the first Gulf War because we acted together with a broad coalition. We helped create the United Nations - not to constrain America's influence, but to amplify it by advancing our values.

Now is the time for a new era of international cooperation. It's time for America and Europe to renew our common commitment to face down the threats of the 21st century just as we did the challenges of the 20th. It's time to strengthen our partnerships with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the world's largest democracy - India - to create a stable and prosperous Asia. It's time to engage China on common interests like climate change, even as we continue to encourage their shift to a more open and market-based society. It's time to strengthen NATO by asking more of our allies, while always approaching them with the respect owed a partner. It's time to reform the United Nations, so that this imperfect institution can become a more perfect forum to share burdens, strengthen our leverage, and promote our values. It's time to deepen our engagement to help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, so that we help our ally Israel achieve true and lasting security, while helping Palestinians achieve their legitimate aspirations for statehood.

And just as we renew longstanding efforts, so must we shape new ones to meet new challenges. That's why I'll create a Shared Security Partnership Program - a new alliance of nations to strengthen cooperative efforts to take down global terrorist networks, while standing up against torture and brutality. That's why we'll work with the African Union to enhance its ability to keep the peace. That's why we'll build a new partnership to roll back the trafficking of drugs, and guns, and gangs in the Americas. That's what we can do if we are ready to engage the world.

We will have to provide meaningful resources to meet critical priorities. I know development assistance is not the most popular program, but as President, I will make the case to the American people that it can be our best investment in increasing the common security of the entire world. That was true with the Marshall Plan, and that must be true today. That's why I'll double our foreign assistance to $50 billion by 2012, and use it to support a stable future in failing states, and sustainable growth in Africa; to halve global poverty and to roll back disease. To send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, "You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now."

This must be the moment when we answer the call of history. For eight years, we have paid the price for a foreign policy that lectures without listening; that divides us from one another - and from the world - instead of calling us to a common purpose; that focuses on our tactics in fighting a war without end in Iraq instead of forging a new strategy to face down the true threats that we face. We cannot afford four more years of a strategy that is out of balance and out of step with this defining moment.

None of this will be easy, but we have faced great odds before. When General Marshall first spoke about the plan that would bear his name, the rubble of Berlin had not yet been built into a wall. But Marshall knew that even the fiercest of adversaries could forge bonds of friendship founded in freedom. He had the confidence to know that the purpose and pragmatism of the American people could outlast any foe. Today, the dangers and divisions that came with the dawn of the Cold War have receded. Now, the defeat of the threats of the past has been replaced by the transnational threats of today. We know what is needed. We know what can best be done. We know what must done. Now it falls to us to act with the same sense of purpose and pragmatism as an earlier generation, to join with friends and partners to lead the world anew.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

hell, then heaven. my iphone ordeal. and trends.

i meant to write this post earlier (Friday/Saturday), but i was too busy playing with my iPhone.
ahhhh, the iPhone. quite a bit to talk about here. but i'll focus on 2 key areas:
(1) my ordeal (decribed by some as the iPocolypse), and
(2) my POV on the trendiness of the iPhone.

the former is a bit more harrowing + descriptive, but if you simply want the raman slice of life perspective you've come to know and love, scroll down further to the see the piece on trends.


July 11 finally arrived. unlike most, a day i'd been only looking forward to since June 9th, when i broke my current mobile device in a tragic bike accident (stupid pedestrians), thus losing mobile access to my email.

in my new role at work, such a new thing was a productivity KILLER. i would wait patiently for the new iPhone release (with which i would be one of the few people at my company to check work email), but not a minute longer.
5am (Friday morning): the alarm goes off. groggy from staying up too long reading, i stumbled out of bed, brushed my teeth, put on my shorts, hoody, and sandals, grabbed a book, and hit the road for the mall (somewhere i've probably been <>5.20am: by the time i arrived at 5.20am, there were a few cars parked outside. i walk up the entrance and wait, a few others hopping outside. mall security pulls up + tells us to get back in our cars, as we can't stand on the sidewalk until 6am. we go stand outside our cars.

6am: we get in line outside the mall entrance. the doors are supposed to open at 7am for mallworkers. i strike up idle conversation with a few others waiting, one of whom had the original iPhone. Apple store employees trickle into the mall. i thumb thru my book

6.40am: someone from the Apple Store lets us in. apparantly someone else got into the mall early + was already waiting outside the store. we all walk quickly (and awkwardly, no one wanted to be the guy running) to the Apple Store + get in line. i'm ~#15.

7.00am: by now there are 50-6o people in line. some Apple employees briefly open the store gates and start handing out Starbucks Coffee & SmartWater to those in line. other store employees start telling people in line what they'll need to get started (converting their plan, etc). one employee specifically is asking who will be using their new iPhone for business. he gives us his card for troubleshooting + hitting us up later for feedback. some Starbucks employees start passing out coupons to come back next week for a free coffee. i continue to thumb through my book

7.30am: still reading. by now the line is 200+ long. there's lots of chatter about the new phone, and the application package available. i can't concentrate on my book anymore. i'm getting too excited.

8.00am: the store gates open. everyone in line applauds. they start letting people in the store, in small batches. i get to be in the first batch of 20. as we walk in, all of the store employees are applauding US, smilin, and hi-fiving us. an associate comes up to me, shakes my hand, introduces himself, and off we go. he collects my details, grabs my phone, and takes me to the back for my phone activation (handled via a wireless PDA he's holding)

8.15am: we're having trouble getting my account transferred. we think it's bc there may be a discount on my wireless account. we get on the phone w/ AT&T, and they can't find anything. they tell me to goto an AT&T store (there's one in the mall) to get my iPhone there. i had planned to use my Apple giftcards towards my purchase, so was getting antsy. the store manager, Mike, tells me the head down to the store to sort out my account, and i'd be welcome back into the Apple store after i'm sorted out (bypassing the line, which now exceeds 200+).

8.20am: arrive at the AT&T kiosk. they are clearly a bit more frazzled by the demand (though there are only ~30 people in line). i head straight to the manager, who tells me to please get to the back of the line since people had been in line since 7.30am (and that they only have 20 iPhones available). in a dick move, i nicely tell her i i've been here since 5am, and have been a longtime AT&T customer, plan to get my iPhone from the Apple store upstairs, and i just need her help w/ their customer support.

8.50am: after almsot half an hour on the phone w/ the AT&T store on + off hold w/ various levels of customer AT&T customer support, she sends me BACK to the Apple store (w/ no progress having been one can seem to figure out why the AT&T system is rejecting my upgrade of service), to simply get THEM on the phone w/ AT&T

9:00am: walk back into the Apple store. manager Mike hands me off to Aaron at the Genius Bar in the back, who are trouble shooting the wickedest issues customers are having. Aaron is super nice, and we get BACK on the phone w/ AT&T. over the course of the next 2 hours, AT&T will wind up deactiviating my existing SIM, Aaron getting authorized by his boss to open up an iPhone (w/o purchase or activation...a BIG no-no), and lots of back & forth w/ AT&T. throughout the entire time, i calmy read my book, and mess around w/ the instore MacBooks, rearranging my schedule for day it looks like i'm going to have to skip in the office. oh, and i haven't showered, eaten, or slept. yet i keep a cheery (though bleak) demeanor, with everyone in the back of the store being super nice + supportive (employees and customers alike)

10.30am: while on hold. my Mac Genius ("heroes don't all wear capes," as his shirt says) informs me that bc i've been so patient + understanding, him + his boss have decided to give me my iPhone for free, once we sort all this stuff out. i tell him that's a really nice gesture, but not necessary, showing my $150 in giftcards (received for Christmas since i knew i'd be purchasing a new iPod/iPhone/MacBook sometime in the new year). he insists, i protest. he insists, i give in with a smile.

11:00am: we are FINALLY able to get my account upgraded transferred. now all that is necessarsy is authorization of the actual phone w/ the ATT servers. but 11am ET = 8am PT. in California, a jillion consumers are trying to activate THEIR new iPhones. the AT&T servers begin to hose/crash. NO ONE in the store can now activate their phones. we continue to push activation request, but continue to be denied.

11:30am: we finally get through after 30 mins of non-stop attempts. we quickly enter my credit card (for authorization) + i'm good to go. now all that's necessary is activating the iPhone via iTunes in the store. but guess what? now the iTunes servers are hosed. given this was the only step left, and my guy Aaron is long over his break, they tell me i can simply handle the rest at home. weary to get home, i thank them, and walk to my car.

11.45am: in the car ride home, i realize that i wasn't sure if my iPhone ACTUALLY got comped (since the receipt was sent to me via email). i'm OK with this, but upset that i didn't get to use my gift cards (now having paid full price for my 16gb iPhone). i push this aside, and make my mental plan for getting home, getting ready for work, and simultaneously trying to get my new iPhone setup

12.00pm: boot up my PC to upgrade iTunes. grab a shower. rearrange my work schedule (biggest meeting is w/ my director @ 2pm about the future of my career). try activating iPhone via iTunes. no luck. server hosed. i still effectively have NO cell phone (the iPhone is effectively a brick only good for making emergency calls, nothing else), am exhausted, and need to prep for my mtg. i make a PBJ, and head off to work @ 1.30. but before doing so, i fire off a quick email to the Apple Store Manager Mike about my purchase issue (not expecting a response for th enext few days)

3.30pm: work meeting went extremely well. i remain optimistic. i head to my desk, boot up, and try activating my iPhone. success! i immediately head down to by buddy Kevin's desk to get my work email setup. also a success. i begin playing w/ the basics. i spend the rest of the afternoon back and forth between my iPhone and getting work done (until about 8pm). oh, and i received a friendly email back from store manager Mike saying they'd sort out the issue (as of Tuesday, the issue is being sorted, and i'm VERY optimistic)

the rest of the weekend was spent NOT catching up on sleep, but staying pretty active out + about (birthday party, lunches/dinners to catch up w/ friends), + volunteering @ Happen + Toylab. but every other waking hour is spent playing with my new iPhone + downloading new appls, and learning the ins/outs of it.


upon sharing the good news with a few friends, they were surprised that i so quickly jumped on the bandwagon to something which is undoubtedly going to define the gadget trends of pop culture for the next several months. by effectively dropping their price to $199/299, my prediction is that soon everyone and their mother will soon be sporting an iPhone (similar to the Moto Razr years before). let me address this very point.

at first i was really uneasy w/ getting the device that everyone + their mother would soon have, but frankly, that's not why i got into it (or get into things in general). do i dislike trendy things, yes. but not because they are trendy. because i choose what i want to do, and would prefer to not have such things defined by others.

if walking around w/ your pockets pulled out (or collar popped) was on trend, the only reason i would give a shit one way or another would be
(1) bc it was practical/impractical,
(2) it looked stupid (which is matter of personal, not public opinion...though one could argue the former is somewhat influenced by the latter...the definition of trends influencing behavior)

NET - i get things bc i like them. and to hell w/ trends. i wear tshirts + sneakers/sandals to clubs bc it's what i like to do (though on occasion i'm not allowed into said clubs, which is OK, bc i probably didn't want to go in the first place). in all honesty, i've never been comfortable "dressing up" (i only tuck my shirt in @ work bc i have to, but i iron my shirts for work bc it looks nice :)

so back to the iPhone. playing with them, talking to those that own them, and reading a slew of articles on the future of mobile computing (and seeing the potential of said future in NE Asia), it is UNREAL how much of a gamechanger this device is at getting us towards that future.

if you know (or have heard) anything about Apple, it is crazy how much thinking goes into their products. not just the aesthetic design, but the functionality...the seemless, intentional integration of hardware and software (+ while somewhat restricting...but that's why we like Facebook VS MySpace, Target VS Walmart, etc)

it's really quite brilliant. and while i don't have a Mac (yet), it was clear to me earlier on that the iPhone would deliver on this very expectation of changing the game + delivering maximum utility, form, and functionality to the user (me). as a gamechanger, the iPhone has seen a slew of wannabes + clones. this is good for the market. but what MOST these "me too's" don't have are the apps + content integration (iTunes) delivered by Apple. don't even get me started on the web browser (Safari). ridiculous.

after using my iphone for just a few days, i will NEVER go back to a blackberry, and definitely never go back to a windows mobile device.

in closing, i leave you with something i posted to my Twitter feed at 1.30AM Saturday (still playing w/ my new iPhone): "
You know how when you start seeing someone you spend every free moment with them (the honeymoon)? I am putting my iPhone away now."

...and here's something my buddy Bob shared shortly thereafter (in response):

Saturday, July 12, 2008

virtually indestructible.

been kind of crazy busy for a few days, so thought i'd leave you with this little gem:

more to come later.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Faith of My Fathers.

last night i finally managed to finish John McCain's 2000 family memoir + autogbiography, Faith of My Fathers (thanks for the hookup DB). nothing beats several hours of flight delays to allow one to burn through a book.

several weeks ago i finished Barack Obama's the Audacity of Hope. as i wrote here, i was struck by it's straight forwardness, but more importantly, that it was a clear illustration of Obama's principles and policies. i enjoyed the
fact that it was published in 2006, which means likely written in 2004/2005, well before Obama thought he might be a serious contender for the office of the presidency. i wanted to know more about the man VS the politician. and this is EXACTLY why i sought out McCain's book.

published in 2000, it was written BEFORE his first run at the Republican primaries. i honestly think we would have been in a much different place had he bested Bush to go on to the primaries and narrowly defeated Gore (though McCain did not have the support of the then polarizing right, so this is all idle speculation)

similar to Obama, McCain finds a way to share his principles, but rather than use policy to illustrate them, McCain focuses deeply on the service of not just him, but his father and grandfather to do so.

through the first few chapters, you find this to be more or less a deeply personal story, recounting military service, and the effect it had on McCain, as a child, young man, and later a young officer. he does not spend any time in the book talking about his service as a politician (elected to Congress in 1981, and becoming a Senator soon after), nor should he have.

but by the end of the book you are only partially certain of the principles he's [indirectly] laid out. while they are steeped in personal experience and conviction, it is hard to see them play out in any modern sense.

the first two-thirds of the book focuses on his grandfather John S. "Slew" McCain, Sr., and father, John S. "Jack" McCain, Jr., both four-star admirals. both having served in WW2 (his grandfather as a leading admiral in the Pacific fleet, and father as a submarine captain), and his father rising to lead the Pacific forces during Vietnam. according to author McCain, both were revered officers, who despite their flaws, were well respected by their men, and many leaders, foreign and domestic. the source of such prominence: their commitment to honor and their principles, at all costs, something [author] McCain took to heart early on as a boy, even moreso as an ambitious officer (though he admits to earlier being somewhat of a hellion as an officer candidate and junior officer), and later on as as POW. these personal insights and relations are peppered throughout the account of his grandfather and father's tales.

as expected, the latter third of the book is focused on [author] McCain's early days as a youth, his time at the Naval Academy, his early service, and then a detailed account of his 5 years spent as a POW to the Vietnamese during said conflict. many of these latter descriptions are quite harrowing, though he admits that he likely got treated easier upon the discovery of his status as the son of an admiral.

given much of my point of view on Vietnam was shaped by my crammed travel reading last year, and though museums and experiences while traveling IN Vietnam (funny how opposite sides of history recount the war), McCain's perspective on the conflict, and more importantly the Vietnamese propaganda machine, are somewhat contrary to my own observations. not saying either is right, but it was healthy dose of balanced perspective for ME.

even though my political allegiances in this election are already set (and it should be VERY apparent who i support if you read anything on this bloog), but i would encourage ANYONE who's on the fence this year to more than just follow the speeches, debates and media coverage of the McCain + Obama. much of it is political pandering to win the votes, and as we all know American media largely distorts either candidate into caricatures of themselves.

READ THEIR BOOKS. see what they have to say about themselves, America, and the world. and THEN make your decision. we are sitting on two PHENOMENAL candidates for the land's highest office. you owe it to yourself to make an informed decision.

my objective for reading McCain's book was to learn more about McCain as a man by HIS accounts (which would translate into background on him as a candidate ). i think i accomplished this, and got to read quite a few interesting war stories as i went along. do i agree with McCain's policies? most of the time, NO. but do i think he has the character and moral fortitude to lead the US (better than some recent presidentS), YES.

MY issues with McCain? he's just old. and there's no telling how his time as a POW could have abversely affected him (i kid, and this is merely sci-fi conjecture...similar to that of Obama being a Islamic agent in our midst, as over the years he has more than proven himself about his wits more than most). i stand by my West Wing-inspired reco that either candidate would do damn well to include their opponent in their fledgling candidate (esp Obama including McCain).

honestly though, i WAS upset to find McCain's book stopped short of his political career (of which he wrote another book). so as soon as i'm done with my current set of comics interestingly enough, if i AM going to read McCains LATER book (Worth the Fighting For)about his political careers (and i assume policy), it would only be fair to read Obama's EARLIER book (Dreams from My Father) about his early life and paternal influences. so forthcoming is ANOTHER blog entry contrasting both candidates books.

nobody ever said having more to read was a bad thing. i just have to find the time.
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