Archive for October, 2008

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Ubuntu 8.10 Released

October 30, 2008

Ubuntu 8.10 has been released.  I upgraded to Kubuntu 8.10 when it was still a released candidate, and I have many comments about the quality of packages and overall presentation.

Nevertheless, I will leave the idea of reviewing it for now and just enjoy the new release, codenamed Intrepid Ibex.

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Biased Media's Love of Obama

October 29, 2008

I never watch or read ABC News, but somehow, and for reasons I still do not fully understand, I happened upon an article by Michael S. Malone called “Media’s Presidential Bias and Decline.”  I have no idea who Michael S. Malone is, but from the way he spends the first half of the article listing his media credentials, he sounds “important.”

His argument, an overly dramatic one I might add, is that the mainstream media is flushing itself down the toilet because of its open bias towards Senator Barack Obama.  The evidence of this, according to Malone, is the sheer sparsity of negative coverage of the Obama campaign.  There have been so many negative stories about McCain and Palin, he argues.

Before I continue my critique of Malone’s McCain ad (ahem) I mean article, I should make two things clear:  1.  I have experience as a journalist but am not employed in the mainstream media and 2. I have decided to vote for Obama in this election.

Malone, on the other hand, does belong to the mainstream media, and the bias which he laments is partially his own.  And I must say that, at least on the surface, I agree with him.  There has undoubtedly been more negative coverage of McCain, his running mate, and his family.  On this issue, Malone and I are in complete agreement. 

Where I believe Malone falters, however, is in assuming it is because the media is biased in favor of Obama.  We’re talking about the same media, Malone’s own ABC in particular, that has bent over backwards for the past eight years while George W. Bush covered up his prior knowledge of 9/11, committed war crimes, authorized the torture of prisoners (some of them innocent people), spied on his own people, illegally detained some of his own citizens, exposed an undercover CIA operative, and dissolved the fat US economy into leftover grease.

Any one of W’s offenses could have been impeachable (some of them are even treason), yet the mainstream media, while reporting it, has essentially condoned it.  When they could have relentlessly exposed and reported the president’s crimes, they did little more than mention them.  Whenever a protest occurred and police invariably beat and arrested protesters, the mainstream media cameras were absent.  You would think that the country was still relatively pleased with Bush because very few anti-Bush or anti-War coverage was ever given.

Therein lies the problem, Mr. Malone.  The mainstream media rarely cracks the surface.  They’ll report the story but very rarely will they go beneath the surface on important controversial issues.  McCain has plenty of surface faults, and they have done their job to report them.  Obama simply does not have as many.  Am I saying this because I like Obama better or think he’s a better man?  No.  I’m saying it because McCain is older, a lot older.

McCain has been in office for decades and goes out of his way very often to remind us of that.  He is never going to let us forget about Ronald Regan (even though many of us would like to forget him).  So of course there is going to be more negative material to cover on McCain.  He has simply done more negative things.  He has done a lifetime of negative things.  You could write volumes on his deeds (as one day someone will).

This is where Malone’s argument falls flat, and the example he uses proves to be his own tragic flaw.  In speaking about the “war” in Lebanon three summers ago, Malone writes:

I sat there, first with my jaw hanging down, then actually shouting at the TV, as one field reporter after another reported the carnage of the Israeli attacks on Beirut, with almost no corresponding coverage of the Hezbollah missiles raining down on northern Israel. The reporting was so utterly and shamelessly biased that I sat there for hours watching, assuming that eventually CNNi would get around to telling the rest of the story…

Thank you Mr. Malone.  You proved my point very nicely without even realizing it.  When Israel attacked Lebanon, the death tolls were enormous.  1,191 Lebonese civilians lost their lives.  There was indiscriminate bombing of homes, villages, and even relief aid vehicles. Less than 250 Hezbollah fighters were killed.  Hezbollah, which launched missiles day and night into Israel, killed 121 soldiers and only 44 civilians. 

Again it is a simple matter of numbers.  How can you give equal coverage to a “war” that is not equal.  When people are literally dying left and right of you, how can you leave that to report what, by comparison, is only a handful of deaths?  What is surprising is that the media actually did report them and never failed to mention Israeli deaths to the point where people until this day believe that the “war” was an equal and just one, that Israel was justified in the atrocities they committed, and that Hezbollah are the terrorists.

Mr. Malone, it is a simple problem of logic.  Yours is flawed.  Media coverage is quantitative.  It can be measured.  Your mainstream media, Mr. Malone, has long argued that the independent candidates (such as Ralph Nader) or even alternative candidates (such as Dennis Kucinich [D] or Ron Paul [R]) do not deserve as much media coverage because they are not as popular (which is a circular argument).  Well, Mr. Malone, like it or not, Senator Obama is popluar, extremely popular, despite the McCain campaign’s relentless attempts to smear him with negative ads, many of which are outright lies.

I can think of plenty of criticisms of Obama, so do not think that I am in love with the man.  His show (and I emphasize this word) of unbiased support for Israel during his campaign and his rather muffled show of what can best be described as “blackness” are both disturbing yet not upsetting.  I can understand why he felt he needed to behave that way in a predominantly white America that is still electrically charged with racist particles, and his previous record indicates that he is not so black and white (no pun intended).  But the McCain campaign’s criticisms have been paltry at best, and Mr. Malone’s last ditched attempt to rescue John McCain is simply too pathetic and too late.

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I hate flashback episodes

October 26, 2008

You know what I’m talking about.  You sit down thinking you’re about to see a new episode of a show, only to hear one of the actors say, “Remember when…” and suddenly the screen fades into an episode you’ve already seen, albeit chopped into little clips that probably would not make sense to someone who has not seen the show anyway.

In what is being called the final season of Stargate Atlantis, how dare they toss in a flashback episode!  The latest episode, “Inquisition”, is perhaps aptly named.  Watching it was almost like being tortured in the Spanish Inquisition.  Naturally, they did develop a little story around the flashbacks, but it was not worth remembering, unlike the flashbacks themselves, of which I didn’t need a reminder.

If you don’t have the manhood to make a full episode, just show a rerun.  Don’t tease into thinking we’re getting a new show, only to see a rerun in disguise.  That’s just wrong.

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African American Fantasy

October 21, 2008

I am an author and have been writing for most of my life.  I am particularly fond of fables, short stories, and epic fantasy.  What I have noticed, and perhaps this is just because of my own ignorance, is a rather thin collection of fantasy and adventure novels with young adult characters of African descent.

One thing that has always turned me off from books like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and others is the complete whiteness of all of the characters and the Euro-centric locations and motifs.  It seems to be understood, without any questioning, that such characters are to be painted white, and the films based on those books seem to confirm that reality without fail.

To find fantasy books with African, Indian, and Middle Eastern motifs that are not polluted with stereotypical characters and plots is rare.  When I set out to write my book, I did not consciously insert such characters into it.  It was rather an expression of the type of fantasy that I had already envisioned in my head as a young adult and later as an author.

I think most authors write about what they know, and it is not unusual for white authors to write about white characters in white settings.  I can, therefore, only conclude two relative rarities:  1. A black author who writes about fantasy and adventure.  2. A black author who writes about fantasy and adventure and includes black characters without making the story a stereotypical “black issue”.

I’m hoping that I’m just making a generalization and there are at least a few exceptions out there.  If there are, please feel free list them in comments.

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Day Two

October 19, 2008

Day two (Saturday): We returned to the convention center a little after 1PM to catch the end of a session, which was a tribute to the late Imam W. D. Mohammed (may Allah have mercy on him).  It was very touching and enlightening to hear the wonderful stories people had to share about him.

We participated in several other sessions, two of which were about the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him and his family peace), a topic that never grows old and always softens the heart.  Imam Mohamed Magid, in particular, had beautiful stories to tell of the Prophet that nearly brought the crowd to tears at times and laughter at others.

My wife and I had a nice quiet dinner in the corner of the convention center while the wealthier Muslims among us dined with Congressman Andre Carson and other dignitaries.  At $40 per person for tickets to the banquet, we opted for some $6.99 Chinese food.

They ran severely over their time limit, and those of us who were not in the banquet went ahead and prayed Salatul-Isha without them.  Finally, after waiting at least another hour, the entertainment began.  It started with a Muslim comedian whose name escapes me and whose comedy was not particularly memorable.  That was followed by a nasheed band called the Travelers who seemed a tad inexperienced but nevertheless very soothing and reflective.

After four songs the main attraction, the premiere of Allah Made Me Funny began.  It was spectacular, side-aching humor that left us with a much better impression of the convention than we had the first day. If I can scrounge up some time, I’ll post a full review of the movie.  For now let’s just say that I highly recommend it.

Overall, the convention is still not what it should be.  The price of attendance is steep, $40 per person (or $60 for husband and wife), and the organization, which is supposed to represent the entire body of Muslims in Indiana, is still heavily populated with people from the subcontinent.  It was rare treat to see a african american face in the crowd, even on Saturday.  Despite that, it was a noble effort, and the jewels of prophetic wisdom that we collected from the people of knowledge during those few sessions made the trip not only worth it, but priceless.

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Day One

October 18, 2008

I must be honest.  The first day of the convention was pretty disappointing.  Imam Zaid Shakir did lead the Jumu`ah prayer, and that was worth attending.  But it was not worth the price of admission, since that part was undoubtedly free.

The rest was disorganized, rescheduled, and pretty much boring.  The bazaar was bare and pathetic, and the people were mostly of one ethnicity, which certainly does not represent the body of Muslims that we have in this state.  There were truly only a handful of people there.

The part that could have been the best, the film festival, was late getting started (actually, for all I know, it never started).  My wife and I were tired and decided to just leave.  The only thing that could redeem this convention is the showing of “Allah Made Me Funny” today.  Let’s just pray they don’t find a way to screw that up too, insha’Allah.

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Convention weekend

October 16, 2008

We’re going to the MAI / ISNA midwest regional convention this weekend.  Imam Zaid Shakir is leading the Jum`ah prayer, and “Allah Made Me Funny” will be shown (our city was not one of the “select cities” chosen to show the movie, so this is a treat).

I’ll post updates and maybe some pictures later, insha’Allah.