Saturday, August 28, 2010

UG Sports - 4: Favors and favours

 A pretty tepid week of sports in terms of actual sporting events. Plenty of extracurricular drama though. But before we get into that, enjoy this gem courtesy of youtube:

 Don't try this at home.Please.

  • Football: His highness Brett "Hamlet" Favre finally decided to end his annual circus and announced he will play one more season with the Vikings. This gracious gesture was reportedly a "favor" Brett did for his beloved teammates, three of whom specially flew down to the majesty's palace to cajole him into playing with them one more year. Very gracious of you Brett, considering you got a substantial pay raise. I guess by doing them a favor, you made an offer they couldn't refuse.

Brett Favre as Marlon Brando, making an offer nobody could refuse.     

  •  Soccer aka traitor football: A lot of exciting things happened this week. Well, exciting if you are not Aston Villa, Wigan or Blackpool supporters. You see, all these sorry excuses for teams got schooled in football by Newcastle United, Chelsea and Arsenal six to nothing. That's right. Arsenal scored more goals than the French and the Italian teams combined during the world cup. So thank you Blackpool, Wigan and Villa for this little favour.

Blackpool FC: "We strive to please. Doing football fans worldwide a huge favour"

  •  Out of the woods? Tiger "I drop off a cliff faster than a '68 Roadster" Woods did the public a huge favor by finalizing his divorce with his wife Elin Nordegren. Look dude, your wife showed a lot of class during this colossal trainwreck so I think it's time for you to show some class in return. One presumes Woods was sufficiently chastised, since he hired one divorce lawyer to Nordegren's EIGHT. One person who clearly enjoyed the fallout is Rachel Uchitel, one of Tiger's many many mistresses. Uchitel, slated to appear on Celebrity rehab with Dr. Drew, promptly announced she wants to marry Tiger now that he is available. No word from Nordegren yet. Meanwhile, Tiger's golf game is probably thanking him as well. Tiger showed a surprised improvement this week playing at Barclays. Maybe monkhood will catapult him to the top again.
 Now if only James Cameron had been gracious enough to refrain from releasing Avatar again...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Of gortex and babkas

You know how sometimes there are words we like so much that we want to keep saying them over and over and over again? William Safire , a noted grammarian who worked as a speechwriter in the Nixon white house and had a popular column in the New York Times Magazine (now that's a contradiction for the books), loved to analyze etymology track trends in word usage and his columns were very insightful and lively. Let's try to do something here too.

I was watching one of the endless Seinfeld re-runs on TV tonight. It is hellishly cold in New York and George walks into Jerry's apartment wearing a ludicrously puffed up coat which, he proudly and eagerly announces, is made of Gortex "You like saying Gortex, don't ya?", sneers Jerry (when is Jerry not sneering?)And all throughout the episode, George finds excuses to sneak in Gortex in routine conversation.

A bemused Elaine critiquing George's sartorial tastes

Meanwhile, Jerry and Elaine have their own word obsession while waiting in line in a bakery. In a very Seinfeldian manner, they argue whether they should buy a chocolate babka or a cinnamon babka. I am not sure but I think I counted about 15 mentions of bub-kah in less than 3 minutes of screen time.

What is Goretex? Wikipedia, our faithful guide in this complicated world, tells me it was invented by some dude called Gore (not the internet-inventor and world savior Al Gore) in the 1970's. Apparently, it is a breathable and porous fabric used to manufacture raincoats, implants and other assorted junk. It is made of interconnected nodes of Teflon (the same polymer they use to make non-stick pans you cook your foodstuff on). So goretex is essentially a cooking pan that breaths. Splendid.

For his services to humanity, Gore was inducted in the Industrial Inventors Hall of Fame. A Hall of Fame for inventors? Really?! WOW.

Gore and his fellow inventors filed a patent which I was able to dig out from the innards of the interetz: Gortex patent . Remember this kids: you can be rich and famous too if you come up with a fancy polymer that allows you sweat out but doesn't allow the rain to come in.

Don't forget to avoid the eggs, folks. This was a public service announcement from the kind people at UG.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What IS Miniature Wargaming?

Hi y'all!

So, I'm planning to make this the first in a series of posts about my foray into a wonderful hobby: assembling and painting miniatures! Over the next few weeks/months, I'll report the progress
on my current project: assembling a box of plastic French Napoleonic Infantry by Victrix. This first post will serve as a brief introduction into the wider world of historical wargaming, of which painting miniatures is just one small part!

BTW, click on the pictures for the full glory!

So, what's all this about miniatures?

soldiers! Soldiers for the painting and wargaming hobby are produced in a variety of sizes, materials and styles, and are designed to represent nearly every conflict imaginable. The historical settings range from cave-men-times to Alexander's successor states, from the English Civil War to the "imagi-nations," made-up German states of the eighteenth century, from Napoleonic button-counting to WWII and modern conflicts. Essentially, wargaming brings history to life, and seeing other people's projects on the web has introduced me to whole conflicts and nations I hadn't known existed!

Familiar with the Battle of Blenheim, 1704? I certainly wasn't until I saw this!
Figures painted b
y Matt Slade and Martin Holmes.

Beyond the historical, there are hypotheticals: the "imagi-nations" mentioned, "pulp" gaming, and "near-future" moderns. And then there are the sci-fi and fantasy sides of the hobby, whole huge communities within themselves - me and my buddies back home have enjoyed painting Games Workshop's Lord of the Rings (LOTR) figures for many years before I was even aware historical minis existed!

But what about the minis themselves? Again, they come in a whole slew of flavors. As far as scales, the smallest I've heard of are 2mm high, though those are stuck together in units. 6mm is a popular scale for small individual soldiers - if you want a superb example of what can be done with 6mm figures, head over to Mike's Leadpile, love him, and despair!

Yes, those are 6mm tall, just over half a centimeter! Courtesy of Mike's Leadpile.

Other popular scales include 15mm and 28mm. I only have experience with the latter - Games Workshop produces 28mm LOTR figs, and almost every Napoleonic soldier has a lead 28mm counterpart.

Wait, did you say Lead Figures?

Until now, historical miniatures have always been made of lead or some white metal. But recently, there has been something of plastics revolution, and I'm very lucky to have jumped into the hobby at a time when plastics are just beginning to offer a cheap, safe(?) alternative to pricey metal lumps!

High-detail "hard plastic" fantasy and sci-fi miniatures (the LOTR minis I paint!) have been available for a long while in 28mm plastic, but historicals were apparently too much of a high-risk investment, since tooling the machinery for detailed hard plastic is prohibitively expensive. "Soft plastic" 1:72 historical miniatures, which stand about 20mm high, have been available for decades, but many of these are less-than-optimal for wargaming. I used to purchase sets of 1:72's from my local hobby store, and they are quite fun to play with. I can vouch that some are "hard" enough (not bendy) and detailed enough to paint - I was always just put off by their small size - but, supposedly, paint and glue do not take well to their surfaces.

Plastic Soldier Review shows that painting these soft-plastic figs is quite possible! I own a set of these Brits and they are beautifully detailed.

However, "Hard plastic" miniatures, detailed enough for easy painting and scaled to fit existing historical lines, did not emerge until 2o08, when the Perry Brothers released 28mm American Civil War figures in hard plastic. Since then, the Plastic Craze has been sweeping the hobby! Hard plastic Napoleonics (so far, British and French), Romans, barbarians, "Pike and Shotte," and most recently WWII Germans have all emerged in the last three years. Victrix, which I ordered my first historical miniatures from, just announced it is preparing plastic Napoleonic Austrians - WOW! What an exciting time to be entering a new hobby!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

UG Sports - 3: British Invasion

Alright ladies and gents and boys and girls, settle down for yet another special edition of UG Sports. Today we will be discussing stuff that happened (and will happen) across the pond, so in honor of that savor this youtube video:

We will focus almost exclusively on football today. Yes that football.

More than a month after the FIFA World Cup, parched soccer football fans finally got to quench their thirst last week as the English Premier League began its new season.

On the day of the opener, Arsenal manager (and strangely, very appropriately named) Arsene Wenger made the headlines by calling the league's new squad rules "ridiculous" and "paralysing" (note my use of the British spelling). This season, the league has decided to limit each squad to 25  members, with at least 8 domestic (i.e. British) players to promote growth of football in Britain. Of course, Wenger is French and that is reason enough to discount his irritation. As is widely known, the French have been jealous of the British since the dawn of civilization.

The opener was fairly dull. Tottenham Hotspur(yes the Brits have a thing for funky team names) drew drowsily (see what I did there?) with Manchester City 0-0. City goalie Joe Hart played an important role in this game though, saving a bunch of potential goals.

Stewart Downing scored the first goal of this season in Aston Villa (no relation to the car that James Bond drives) crushed West Ham (that's the one west of East Ham) 3-0.

Some ho-hum games followed. Chelsea pounded West Bromwich Albion 6-0. In other words, the usual.

On to the widely anticipated Sunday clash: Arsenal v. Liverpool. Liverpool recently hired a new manager, Roy Hodgson. The man has a football resume the length of your right arm. Arsenal is still led by Arsene Wenger. Seriously, the guy's been around the club long enough to count as a piece of furniture.
It was a pretty exciting game, to be honest. Would have been infinitely more exciting for Liverpool fans if goalie Pepe Reina hadn't made a mess of things by letting an own goal in. Liverpool had things pretty much under control despite Joe Cole (transfer from Chelsea, no relation to the controversial Chelsea player Ashley Cole) being sent off in the first half. They almost cruised to FT on David Ngog's goal until the disastrous own goal happened. Oh well.

And someone finally had enough cojones to call David Beckham too old to play for England again. Cheers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

UG Sports - 2: The expendables edition

To commemorate the release of the entirely badass Sylvester Stallone vehicle (seriously, the man wrote, produced, acted in and directed the whole thing. Is there anything he cannot do?)the Expendables, here is a special UG Sports update.

    • Tiger tiger burning bright: Noted serial philanderer and former golf great Tiger Woods was the center of attention this week. Multiple outlets covered his stunning parabola of doom and there was a lot of speculation regarding his place in the US team for the Ryder cup. But he wasn't the only one getting the attention. Seems like a couple other individuals finally got fed up with the selfish, spotlight-hogging Woods and decided to do something about it. Corey Pavin created his own little firestorm when he issued a statement saying he would make a special  exception for Woods, but then promptly retracted it using the stock phrase "I was misquoted." Enter Jim Gray. Notorious already for his botched LeBron interview during the Decision, Gray didn't help himself much when he called Pavin a liar and told him "You're going down" right in the middle of a freaking press conference. Bring your own popcorn folks! Golf has never been so much fun...

         The bad, the ugly and the uglier

    • Futbol: After a seriously lackluster worldcup where its overhyped stars failed to make their collective presence felt, the chastened Barclays Premier League will kickoff its new season on Saturday. Tottenham Hotspurs take on a dramatically improved Manchester City. Meanwhile, its Spanish counterpart La Liga (simply elegant name, isn't it?), which had much more success at the world cup, begins its new season at the end of the month. I talked about soccer specifically so I could show this amazing t-shirt I saw the other day near my university campus:

    • Basketball: Pretty awesome hall of fame ceremony tonight. Scottie Pippen showing lot of class and humility tonight, in stark contrast to His Airness, who on this very stage last year taunted and mocked his critics.
    I think that's it for this week. Some type of baseball action happened during the week, I'm sure, but I don't really care. Some NFL teams played some exhibition games too, but again, I don't care.
    Oh yeah, go watch the Expendables. I know I am watching it.

      Sunday, August 8, 2010


      To some, this American Saturday was baseball and apple pie. My day consisted of the farmer’s market and Chili. I wasn’t expecting experiences that would tug at my shirt and remind me of our latest and greatest issues: the recession, immigration, and a retardation of cultural experiences. Seriously, I woke up at an ungodly hour to avoid the crowds on purpose...

      The Farmer’s market held every Saturday, across from the UCI campus, has grown considerably in size in the past decade. At this modern farmer’s market, there are bargains, and then there are some examples of fashionable salesmanship. Grass feed beef, was marketed with the slogan “Cows were intended by God to eat grass, not grain” – or something like that. One steak cut was listed as $17 dollars a pound. I wonder if snake oil would be good for frying that beef… Let’s note that, first of all these cows were not explicitly marketed as free range, humanly killed, or hormone/antibiotic free, which is often cause for high prices. This being a wealthy Californian community, there is a market for people who are willing to spend more on ‘healthier,’ more humane meat. Second, we should know that most cattle ranchers raise their cattle on the prairie (among other types of open fields), which means they are grass fed most of their lives until sent to a feed lot to be fattened on grain to raise their USDA standard (which mainly relies on fat content). With that said, Trader Joes’s free range, hormone/antibiotic free, grass fed beef is 4 dollars a pound. I was surprised that this kind of tom foolery could go on during a recession, but then again, grass-fed meat just one of the latest money-making fads that are often fueled by their own pricey exclusivity. Not only do we think that money equals quality, but we also think we’re helping the environment, our health, and those adorable baby cows. Achieving those kinds of goals, unfortunately, requires more research and effort in general, than we think.

      Moving on to the tomatoes.

      The tomatoes were a bargain. For a dollar a pound, I had bought springy, beefsteak-sized tomatoes. Later that day, while buying chili pork at Ralph’s, they had a fantastic sale on tomatoes: 2 dollars a pound for produce half the size and a few days (or hours) from the garbage bin. Again, we would think, from their TV ad campaign, that Ralph’s had cut prices to help us, their loyal customers, during the depression-er-recession. I can only ask, what are your overheads? (If you would like an indie-comedy reference, check out this song by Flight of the Concords. ) Similar deals were to be had at the market on produce from Anaheim peppers ($1 per 1/2 pound) to massive Mac Arthur Avocados from Cal State Pomona (75 cents each). When we later googled Mac Arthur Avocados, they were listed as out of favor due to the quality of the meat. In spite of that, it’s still fun to try new varieties of fruit, knowing that a taste that others may think is ‘below par’ may actually become your new favorite. Even if these Mac Arthur’s do live up to their reputation, they’ll hopefully be fine for guacamole. Or cat food.

      On a more serious note, I would have liked to think that UCI’s farmer’s market would have been the picturesque place were producers could tell their customers directly about their produce, how it was raised, and so on and so forth. Yet, that wasn’t quite the case. Many of the producers that I wanted to ask questions, burning questions, couldn’t speak or understand English well enough to have a conversation about the food. 7 minutes, and a series of 5 questions later I discerned that the peppers I was looking at, were in fact, Anaheim. At another vendor, I wanted to know the story behind a Japanese Concord grape. I was interested because, Concord grapes are a classic Native American grape from the area most of my family had originally settled. It would have been interesting to know if the Japanese had a native grape that was named for its similarity, or if they had cultivated the American species. The only answer I could get was an agitated “FROM JAPAN.” Knowing that English is one of the most difficult languages in the world, I couldn’t angrily assume that these folks should absolutely learn conversational English. Yet, it still bothers me that the potential for great conversation, education, and a sense of community was lost at an event whose ultimate value rests on those essential parts of a healthy society. I can’t think of a ‘right’ response to this at the moment, but I will continue to keep it in my thoughts.

      And now for the tasty part: a simple, cheap, American recipe.

      Chili has to be more American than apple pie, because, frankly, apple pie wasn’t originally American. Chili peppers, however, are uniquely from the Americas, a chili’s origin is as disputed as anything ‘American’ could be. In fact, some argue that Canary Islander’s invented Chili in San Antonio Texas. Tomatoes are also uniquely from the Americas. However, the most American thing about chili is how people fight over what constitutes ‘good’ chili, and how they bathe in the glory of winning a prize for painstakingly perfecting their recipes: the chili cook off. According to my source on chili, anything containing beans can be immediately labeled as NOT chili. It must be thick enough for a fork to stand up on its own in, with 5 alarm rating for spice. I didn’t achieve that today, since I was on a mission to taste chili without the canned taste of tomato paste (otherwise I would have had to reduce my tomatoes all day). The flavor (separate from the spice) was intense without the need to add any salt or black pepper, thanks to the fresh chilies and tomatoes. In fact, cooking just tomatoes, chilies, and garlic would make an excellent vegan/vegetarian version, although I would recommend adding much more meaty (no pun intended), mild peppers. The chili aficionado was bothered by the ‘fresh’ taste of the chili, as the tomatoes were cooked to medium consistency. Yet, to the untrained taster, the result was pretty darn good and as American as it gets:

      Cost: about 2.50 a person
      Ingredients (for 3 servings)

      4 lbs. fresh, peeled tomatoes
      2 lbs. pork sirloin, de-boned and cubed
      Cayene pepper to taste (1 tsp for mild)
      3 Anaheim peppers (large)
      2 heaping tb spoons brown sugar
      2 large cloves garlic, chopped
      1 cube chicken bullion (no water added)

      First, brown the pork on high heat, with no oil. Flip once the raw tops begin to turn white. It’s important to cook the pork thoroughly for health reasons, but not to overcook it to the point where it’s dry and tough. I checked mine once browned on both sides with a knife.

      Once done, keep the pork in a separate bowl, since it will be added last minute (to prevent the liquid from leeching meat’s flavor.) Also, don’t snack on it like I did….

      Next, brown the garlic thoroughly. It’s a sin to have raw garlic in chili, and the browning gives it a much better flavor than having it leech into the liquids. Place in bowl with pork.

      Now we can start cooking the tomatoes in a large soup pot. They will release liquid, as they cook, on medium heat, so no need to worry about adding extra water. Once they have done this, you can add the chopped chilies. I removed the seeds and white veining from mine (the spicy parts of the fruit), because I wanted more control over the spice level. At this point, you can add the bullion cube, brown sugar, and cayenne.

      Once you’ve reduced the tomatoes to your favorite thickness, add the meat/garlic and cook for about 5 more minutes. This helps spread the flavor of the garlic and adds some juice to the meat.

      There you have it:


      Your Faithful Servant

      Friday, August 6, 2010

      Friday Ridiculousness! (Beatdown in Brussels Edition)

      Two British statesmen. Two speeches. You decide which is real!

      UG Sports - 1

      Hey folks, we had our first international visitors over the past couple days (Argentina, India and North Dakota). Yes we had a hit from Canada, but as we all know, Canada does not count as international. North Dakota, on the other hand, absolutely does.

      Anyway, a few of our loyal readers complained about the utter lack of sports on UG. And since we at UG try our very best to satisfy our readers. So here is the plan: every Friday I will make a sports post on UG rounding up the important events of the week.

      Brett "Hamlet" Favre mulling his options
      •  Football: Brett "Hamlet" Favre pulls off another "Will I-Won't I" stunt. Favre reportedly sent text messages to Vikings teammates saying he was done but when questioned about it the next day, denied doing anything of that sort. Wassamatter Brett? Your dog sent those texts? Meanwhile, Vikings players not ruffled by these shenanigans at all. I guess they are too busy enjoying the staging of Hamlet-2 (or is it 3?)

      No one cares, Alex...
      • Baseball: Noted steroid user Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th home-run, becoming the youngest player in history to do so. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Nuff said.  
      • Basketball: The Giant Leprechaun!!!! Yes, Shaquille O'Neal, the legend and gazillion time all-star who brought us this monstrosity: Kazaam , signed a 2-year deal with the Boston Celtics. This act by O'Neal promptly spurred the sports world into coining various nicknames for the big guy. Ones I like: The giant leprechaun, The big shamrock, and the Jolly Green Giant.

      The Ethical and Practical Problems of Medical Rationing

      Bonjour mes amis!

      We’re getting political today! Don’t let the med school committees get their grimy paws on this one!

      My mother, a dietitian, recently directed me to an article published in Lancet 2009 titled "Principles of allocation of scarce medical interventions." It was written by Govind Persad, Alan Wertheimer, and Ezekiel J. Emanuel, who is the corresponding author and the brother of the current White House Chief of Staff. All three are bioethecists at the NIH. This and other publications by Emanuel became controversial during the battle over healthcare reform legislation.

      The article specifically addresses such items as organs and vaccines that are, at least at present, scarce. However, the ethical principles involved could easily be extended to all medical care in a nationalized healthcare system. Although the article claims that application of these principles to the healthcare system as a whole would be “premature,” the recent debate highlighted the way that healthcare funding is, more and more, being framed as “scarce resource.” Note that, alongside organs and vaccines, ICU beds were listed as scarce in the introductory paragraph.

      The article examines eight different possible approaches to rationing scarce medical resources, along with the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) point system, a “Quality-adjusted life years” system, and the authors’ own proposed “Complete Lives System”. These can be roughly divided into three categories, with some overlap: indiscriminate, utilitarian, and justice-based. The indiscriminate category includes lottery and first-come, first-served systems. The utilitarian approach involves saving the maximum number of lives, life-years, or “quality-adjusted life years,” and also includes schemes that prioritize healthcare workers and the “sickest first” system, although the article argues against that system’s utility. The final subcategory, the justice-based category, includes rewarding donors and prioritizing the youngest first, not because of their good prognosis, but because they have experienced the least number of life-years and are thus the worst off.

      The paper concludes with the “Complete Lives System,” which advocates for maximizing the number of “complete lives” lived. It incorporates elements of utilitarianism, justice, and social utility, prioritizing treatment of young patients (excluding infants) who stand to gain the most life-years and who have formed relationships with other people.

      I will save an in-depth analysis of these various approaches for another time. Briefly, if you believe that a doctor’s fundamental goal is to uphold the dignity of each individual human life, then several of these ethical schemes are untenable. The “quality-adjusted life years” system can be rejected out of hand. As the authors themselves point out, a wheelchair-ridden person might value an additional year wheeling around as much as another person values a year on their feet. Doctors should not be in the position to dictate whose experience is devalued. I also don’t believe doctors have the authority to choose who “deserves” treatment more than others, and questions of social utility should only be relevant during acute national crises. Of the authors’ favored approaches, this leaves the utilitarian approaches of maximizing lives or life-years as the only ones that are mindful of the equality of human experience. I’m still wrestling with the idea that the young should be prioritized because they would have longer to live – I’ll be thinking on that over the next few weeks.

      Wednesday, August 4, 2010


      In 1934 the FCC was created. In 1933, Design for Living was released as a feature film, luckily for me.

      Lucky, because I had been watching a Gary Cooper film collection, circa the 1930’s. Before that, I had watched the Sci-Fi Classics Collection from the 30’s all the way to the 60’s. I had always at least entertained the idea that 'good' is often old, and old-fashioned can be genuinely 'good.' I was unprepared for what my automatically analytic mind would throw at me as I eagerly pursued classic films I had never seen before. As a result, I was this close to gender suicide. In case you can’t picture my gesturing, it was THIS – close. This casual spew of thoughts, or ‘blog’ is meant to explain the exasperation and gratitude that I experienced, and know, is often alien to many others. This experience is, of course, biased and unique to myself. Yet, I still believe that to understand experiences like these, even when they are disagreeable to your own philosophy, is a definite 'good.'

      It is not that I don’t enjoy the good scifi or action film all about men, and what men do when confronted by the future, invisible aliens, or even the Foreign Legion (Beau Geste). After all, men are ‘people’ too. Yet, the common theme in the movies I saw is that men aren’t people. They are the focus, the main character, the butter on the bread, and the diamond in the ring. They are never simply treated the same way as characters as women are, even in the most mundane sense; they are never kept in the category of ‘people.’ By ‘treatment’ I of course do not mean such things as clothing and mannerisms (although the Birdcage was an excellent film), or any other attributes only associated with one gender or the other. What I am referring to is the attention to intelligence, intellectual gravitas, the ability to rationally affect the plot, and even simple common sense as revealed by the dialogue and action. The phrase ‘movie magic’ is an understatement when a film tells a great story focused on a single male character. It is, however, disheartening when there are female roles limited to adult women consistently acting like, and being treated as, children, or simply the female as a background object, as exemplified by the flight attendants in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

      In terms of how I felt at the time, I must explain that I am well aware of the gender traditions and how they play out in the many decades of classic film. Yet, when you are brimming with excitement about watching a classic film for the first time, and then are faced with a new awareness of being the “other”…

      It was the realization that if I had been in this movie so beloved by so many, I most certainly would not get to be the one driving the Time Machine. This feeling took me out of the movie itself and into the dark oblivion of a movie theater.

      It would be too intensive to analyze the specifics of my evidence and arguments supporting this criticism of those classic films; but, perhaps you’ll take my word for it. Even better, you may entertain these ideas when you watch the films for yourself.

      I later found out that the film adaptation of the original play, by the famed Noël Coward, was changed from highbrow to lowbrow with all the speed of Newton’s apple falling to the muddy earth. However, this doesn’t mean that it was sexed up to fall down. In fact, even after censoring the content of the original play, the film is surprisingly blatant and cool about the reality of the situation: the situation being a woman with two lovers, a ménage-à-trois. Not only is she the center of attention, she is also the mover of the plot, the maker of fortunes, and the “mother of the arts.” Gilda, the diamond in the ring, is the man’s man of this movie. Yet, this is a comedy, not a drama. There is nothing too profound, or heart-wrenching to enforce strong social commentary. It was made ready for general consumption by the speedy chirping of the 1930’s and wordy puns of the day. As Coward, the original playwright, commented, "I'm told that there are three of my original lines left in the film – such original ones as 'Pass the mustard'."[1]

      Cheesy, puny, witty and artless as it was, especially compared to the absolute grandeur of A Space Odyssey, I certainly felt the excitement of finding such a ‘progressive’ movie from the 1930’s. By progressive, I mean that it states a part of reality, what really goes on, and what’s been going on since the beginning of human existence. Marriage is a relatively recent social construction depending on your religious and historical education. So, too, is the concept of the housewife. If these ideas are new to you, and are of interest, I highly suggest Professor Pateman and Professor Gregory's office hours, courtesy of UCLA.

      I won’t recount the plot of this film, although it would certainly add to my explanation. I’ll leave its innards as mysterious as possible, because I think it’s worth seeing for yourself. And see it you can, thanks to the cheesy, puny, witty, and artless Youtube.



      F*** the FCC.

      The little furry engine of deviousness that could...

      I am in exceptional spirits today (partly due to the fact that one of my favorite TV shows White Collar delivered a solid episode), but that doesn't mean I have to cease my crusade against all things undesirable. Today's topic: CATS. Cats are the most devious, diabolical and cunning creatures running around. What makes them so dangerous is that they are able to masquerade as cute little furballs. Like this one here:
      Yes don't let those beady eyes and the fancy hat fool you. This little critter is a walking, purring factory of evil ideas and bad tidings. Don't believe me? Let's take a look at a few example then:

      • The wind-up bird chronicle by Haruki Murakami. You don't have to read this 624 pages-long Japanese novel. I have done that for you so trust me on this. Toru Okada is living a benign, some would say dull, existence when things start going bad. Really bad. Very bizarre, inexplicable things start happening to him and around him. His wife leaves him suddenly, he gets a mysterious scar on his cheeks, he gets contacted by mind psychics and visits hotel rooms in his vivid dreams. Right after, wait for it, his CAT Noburu Wataya (named after his brother-in-law, a wannabe politician with a massive ego and some perverse desires) disappears.
      • The cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll's Alice in wonderland. This cat appears and vanishes at will. Fair enough occurrence in a novel with a rabbit running late for a tea party. But a cat that not only appears and vanishes at will, but also leaves a wide, creepy grin behind? Now that's evil. Pure evil.
      Look at the mean smile on his face!

      •  Garfield the cat: Possibly the most scheming creature in the cartoon world (I am not counting Tom the cat because his ideas always fail). Whenever he is not sleeping or wolfing down lasagna, he is finding ways to: a) Make Jon's life miserable, or b) Kick Odie the poor, unsuspecting dog in the rear. 
      • Ever hear of a dog-burglar? Neither have I. Notice how it's always a cat-burglar who robbed the Smiths last night.  

      I rest my case.
      Edit: My colleague Lafayette has this to say about cats: They use us for food, but they would rather use us for food.... Well said, my friend.

      Monday, August 2, 2010

      A moment of LOL to end the day

      Hey Folks,

      The last couple posts have been pretty bleak and dense. Time for some fun! Take a look at this: (video shows German football coach Joachim Loew digging for boogers AND eating them. Yuck)

      Hospice and end-of-life care: dilemmas of modern medicine

      For all but our most recent history, dying was typically a brief process. Whether the cause was childhood infection, difficult childbirth, heart attack, or pneumonia, the interval between recognizing that you had a life-threatening ailment and death was often just a matter of days or weeks. Consider how our Presidents died before the modern era. George Washington developed a throat infection at home on December 13, 1799, that killed him by the next evening. John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore, and Andrew Johnson all succumbed to strokes, and died within two days.
      Thus writes Dr. Atul Gawande in an article titled Hospice in the latest New Yorker. Dr. Gawande is a surgeon, professor and a researcher at Harvard and is best known for his perceptive and introspective essays on medicine, compiled in three best-selling books Better, Complications and The Checklist Manifesto .
      The reason I chose to talk about this article (other than the fact that I obviously am a huge fan of his writing and way of thinking) is I had the opportunity to meet and talk with a palliative and hospice care physician (let's call him Dr. B) at a major teaching hospital in the big city where I live during my month-long clinical experience internship there.  It was an eye-opening experience.

      Mad Men: Review of tonight's episode

      I am huge fan of the AMC TV show Mad Men. The show has had trouble finding viewers over its three seasons, but has become the darling of the critics, winning back-to-back Emmys and a host of other awards.  For those of you interested in the technical part of TV producing, Mad Men was created by Matthew Weiner, who wrote for the highly acclaimed Sopranos on HBO. The show is set at a mid-level ad agency on Madison Avenue in the 1960's and depicts the social environment of the era. Although it can (and does) get heavy-handed when treating issues like sexism and racism, I think the show's portrayal of the pressing issues of the era is very clever and nuanced. Unlike most shows Mad Men is paced and composed like a rich novel, rife with ambiguities and complex character development (HBO's The Wire is another show that "reads" like a novel).

      Season three ended quite dramatically. Draper, Roger Sterling, Bert Cooper and Lane Pryce decided to stage a coup to teach their British masters a lesson and defected en masse, taking a few key staffers and accounts with them to start a new agency. Season four (which began last week) is set 11 months later, and we see that the new  SCDP (Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce) is doing quite well in chic new offices but not well enough to afford amenities like conference tables. We also see that Draper is having a mid-life crisis of sorts, what with wife Betty leaving him for Henry Francis.


      Bonjour, mes enfants!

      Since I've been invited by the gracious Comrade Bazarov to contribute to this blog, I suppose a short introduction is in order. It seems that every new blogger starts off by saying precisely that - that he is fresh off the boat, so to speak, with no experience, no expectations, and no guidance on what direction he should take in his foray into the wide wild world of the internet. This is exactly the way I feel about this first post - the big blank whiteness of the "New Post" blogger page is both intimidating and freeing.

      So, at least at times, my posts will be characterized by unadorned and unoriginal straightforwardness. Other times, they won't, and the lame jokes will fly thicker than yellow jackets crawling out of the pitcher of Kool-Aid! (eeeeeew)

      Of course, Comrade Bazarov has burdened me with unspeakable constraints by requiring that Universal Gravitation be theme-free. I had a whole sequence of posts planned out, all following in a logical progression and weaving a whole slew of themes into a beautiful blogging tapestry. Alas! The wasted hours!

      The new plan is to post on all sorts of random topics, with anything approaching a theme carefully expunged from the record. In all honesty, you'll probably see a lot of posts detailing my glacially slow progress assembling and painting toy soldiers, or miniatures as we like to call them. We, of course, being the wargaming community. What, you weren't aware a wargaming community existed? Well, now you are! Lock your doors at night, and don't talk to strangers - the next grown man you meet might secretly spend his time pretending his toy soldiers (guys, as I've always called them) are waging war!

      Sunday, August 1, 2010


      We at Universal Gravitation are glad to see you because we have decided to sacrifice our grades and well-being for your entertainment and enrichment. The unique thing about this blog is that there is no theme to it. We will talk about anything and everything that catches our fancy. Book reviews, reactions to articles in magazines and newspapers, reactions to things in our lives will all be in this blog.

      That is it for now. We will have more meaningful posts up and ready in the coming days. Here in the US, you write the blog. But in Soviet Russia, blog writes you!

      If you are unable to get that joke, we at UG sincerely sympathize with you and urge you to immediately rectify this error by visiting this for an explanation: Russian Reversal.