Thursday, July 21, 2005

Go! Team - San Francisco

Go! Team
Originally uploaded by gregoryperez.

This picture is from a different show, but the vibe is captured well. The Go! Team is a UK band with high energy music that SigO discovered via Pitchfork Media a few months ago, and we couldn't resist the chance to see them at Bimbo's in the city last night.

Their music is difficult to describe, with samples, heavy drums, singing, rapping, guitars, piano... it's just crazy fun.

I've told my little brother he has to see them, since they're going to be in LA tonight and tomorrow night.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Review: The Birth of Venus

My mother recommended this book to me, which I guess is a testament to the fact that I'm all grown up because it has sex in it. We proper Southern women don't discuss such things.

Anyhoo, I found myself getting sucked into it, although the story seemed like the familiar set-in-the-past-rebellious-woman thing that I feel like I've run into before. It was entertaining enough to keep reading, even though I made the mistake of wandering through the discussion questions at the end -- it was one of those book club editions -- that tipped some of the plot points. Probably would have been better without that.

Despite the fact that I swallowed it whole in about three days, it gets an "eh". If you enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring or The Red Tent, you will probably enjoy this one as well.

Real Madrid vs. LA Galaxy - July 18th

Real Madrid vs. LA Galaxy
Originally uploaded by laNDN.

SigO and I spent the weekend with his parents in Redondo Beach so that we could all go to this game on Monday night in Carson. What a treat!

We also got to meet up with my little brother who lives down there, which is always cool.

Of course, Real Madrid just made it look like they were playing against a practice squad, but you know. They took it easy on the Galaxy and only won 2-0.

Good thing my dad brought back a Zizu jersey from Italy so I could wear it!

Pictured here are Beckham, Roberto Carlos and Michael Owen. Other players on the team include Zinedine Zidane (Zizu), Gravesen, Figo, Raul and Ronaldo.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Review: Blink

This book read surprisingly quickly for what is basically a sociology text. It's really not very long, and it dissects a concept called the adaptive unconscious, which is described by the subtitle of the book, "The Power of Thinking Without Thinking". This is a trait that allows one to make snap decisions based on input that one is not even aware of.

The most striking example that Malcolm Gladwell gives is of a situation where the mind's ability to interpret facial expressions and body language failed, which is the case of Amadou Dialo, an innocent who was shot 41 times by NYC officers in a blind panic a few years back. In more subtle cases, he describes how corporations use packaging shapes and colors to influence consumers. It is definitely a book that provides food for thought, and surprisingly readable for a book dealing with such an abstract concept.

And not one to miss an opportunity for subtle digs, the military exercise chapter is frightening -- when faced with unconventional tactics during war games that cost them victory, the powers that be call a "do over" and handicap their faux renegade general so that they can predict the outcome. Given that this occurred back in 2000 according to the book, it's easy to see how the US military can apparently be taken off guard.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Review: The Master and Margarita

Picked up this book by Mikhail Bulgakov on a whim because I remembered that my little brother had recommended it a few years back. I had wandered into a bookstore to pre-order Harry Potter #6 -- nothing wrong with that -- and felt stupid walking out of a store with just a receipt. That and there was a picture of a cat on the cover.

It takes some time to get started and is a bit confusing because of the Russian patronymics, but it really does pull you in. The edition that I got was a newer translation from the Russian. The author, Bulgakov, is extremely popular now in that country, but his works were banned during his lifetime under the Communist regime.

I can't begin to explain this book, but the simple version is that the Devil comes to Moscow and very strange and gruesome things begin to happen. This is interwoven with a novel by The Master, who is writing about Pontius Pilate at a time when anything that is in any way religious is banned. While it sounds depressing, what emerges is an allegorical satire about life in the Soviet state that is laugh-out-loud funny at times. Fortunately the notes at the end are very thorough in explaining some discrepancies in the narrative and some of the name and word choices that the author makes.

Very highly recommended. In fact, it became my best friend's birthday present, to whom I always try to give the best book I've read that year. Hopefully she won't see this before she gets the package!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Armstrong = Super Fantastique

It must suck to be Jan Ullrich. Sure, you've won the Tour de France, but then along comes this Yank who's supposed to have died of cancer and proceeds to dominate the prime of your career.

Reminds me of a quote from the golfing world a few years back:

Interviewer: What would you have to shoot this weekend in order to win?
Respondent: Tiger Woods.

Should be a wide-open field next year, but this year's TDF is making Mr. Armstrong look invincible. He's just toying with people, man, I can see how one might not appreciate that.

If you've got OLN, you'd best watch. Me, I'm watching mostly to see the fantastic French countryside and spectacular aerial shots.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Review: Lindbergh (Finally!)

For being such a great biography, it really took me a long time to get through it. So long in fact, that I renewed it too many times, had to return it to the library, then checked it out again. And then I still had to renew it once. I think the problem was that I had several reserves come through at the same time, and they had definite time constraints because other people had requested them as well. Lindbergh was not in high demand so it got a lower priority.

At any rate, I decided to read this book after reading Kate Remembered, A. Scott Berg's memoir about his relationship with Katharine Hepburn that he published after her death. I liked his writing style and was intrigued by the high praise he had received for his other biographies of Max Perkins and Samuel Goldwyn. I also wanted to read about Lindbergh because I had read somewhere that the Hepburn/Tracy film "Keeper of the Flame" was loosely based on him because of his controversial involvement in an isolationist movement called America First at the beginning of WW II. He was accused of being a pro-Nazi fascist with aspirations to creating his own dictatorship -- and he was too naive to deign to address these aspersions directly.

There is a breathtaking level of detail in the book, the culmination of nine years of research. Berg was the first author given complete access to the diaries, letters and other documents of Lindbergh himself, his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh, their children, and any other associates that might have had a bearing on creating this portrait of the enigmatic flyer. The density of facts is a bit overwhelming and necessitates a kind of focus that makes it impossible to read bits and pieces here and there as I was trying to do. It clocks in at over 600 pages and comes with several sections of photographs, some of which are from the private Lindbergh collections, and are great illustrations of the people and places described in the pages.

Overall, it was a fascinating picture of a man that even his family did not know well. Linbergh comes across as distant, willful and motivated by an unbending need to control everything around him. His flight to Paris was attempted not to bring him the fame that haunted him for the rest of his life, but to prove that the challenge could be met. This unwilling international hero tried to keep some things for himself and his family, but the press was relentless in their pursuit in a way that echoes the current paparazzi scourge. After the kidnapping death of their first child and the subsequent media circus, the Lindberghs were forced to emigrate to Europe to retrieve some measure of a "normal" life. The chapter on the "Trial of the Century" is a real page-turner, even if it does cast doubt on the idea that the perpetrator was able to pull off this astonishing atrocity by himself. Lindbergh's level of fame seems astonishing now, in an age where such "heroes" are manufacturing on a weekly, if not daily, basis and left behind just as quickly.

Interestingly enough, all of this fame and glory was tarnished by his unabashed admiration for the technological advances of Nazi Germany and his apparent refusal to explicitly state his aversion to the attempted genocide of the Holocaust. To be fair, although he did advocate that the US stay out of the "European" war, he was the first to try and reenlist in the armed forces once Pearl Harbor happened. Unfortunately he had put himself on the wrong side of FDR and had to find other ways to serve -- including acting as a guinea pig for aeronautics companies that were working through the technical problems of creating pressurized flight decks. Eventually he was able to find his way into the service as a "technical rep" and unofficially flew 50 bombing missions in the Pacific. His recommendations on increasing power and fuel efficiency expanded the attack radius of the fleets in the Pacific and brought a much-needed element of surprise to US battle plans there.

To be sure, it was not all sunshine and roses, particularly where his marriage was concerned. However, I think that those interested in the great man and his rise, fall and subsequent redemption through his conservation efforts will find this book a valuable resource. I knew that he was buried at Hana when I visited Maui six years ago, but if I had read this book before going there, I would not have stopped short of making it to his gravesite.

I was impressed enough to contemplate reading Berg's two other biographies; however, I think I will take my time in getting to them.

Review: The World is Flat

I am waayyyy behind on reviewing what I've read, so I'll just stick to the most recent few. This book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century, is written by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and explores the way that technology has removed the barriers to globalization. In particular, he focuses on the advent of the web and the fall of the Berlin Wall and how they have affected the distribution of productivity around the globe. We've obviously just reached the tip of the iceberg here, as technology keeps ramping up efficiencies.

I was fascinated by his take on things, much as I was when reading his The Lexus and The Olive Tree. His style of writing is very clear and interesting, even when the subjects aren't necessarily scintillating. He writes about offshoring, outsourcing, and how they can factor into geopolitics. One frightening point he makes is that we have yet to see what will happen to the global economy once all of India and China are online and bring their massive populations' energy demands to the world market. And we think gas prices are high now...

Definitely recommend this book for brain spinach reading. If you're looking for a break from light summer fare, this is a good bet.

And one note: I'm using Safari at the moment to post, which apparently does not support all of the Blogger functionality. No inserted links or formatting capabilities!!

Taproot Foundation

So how else am I filling my time, you ask? What useful thing am I doing to offset the absence of employment?

Working with the Taproot Foundation, of course! This is a great organization with chapters scattered around the country that does pro bono marketing work for non-profit organizations. Is my halo showing yet?

More information here:

The project I've been assigned to is a redesign of a website for Downtown College Prep, a charter public school dedicated to preparing underachieving kids from downtown San Jose to attend 4-year colleges and succeed. Way cool.

Their current website is here:

See if there is a chapter in your area and sign up as a volunteer today!

Blog Hiatus

I know there's a funny term for it, the blog hiatus, but I can't think of it right now. Working my way back into posting between my current obsession with finding more work and the Tour de France on OLN. I'm writing today in fact because it's a rest day. Sad really.

I'm also writing surrounded by my all-Apple all-the-time technology, including a 12" iBook, and iPod Mini plugged into JBL speakers. The crowning glory, my Targus optical mini-mouse, as recommended by Backup Brain.

And of course, this post is just a test of my Blogger posting Widget. Love that Mac OS X.