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Imaginary lands, imaginary causes

OK, I’m going to get serious here for a moment. I apologize, but I promise it won’t last too long.
I am not a fan of Newt Gingrich. I don’t particularly agree with his policies, nor do I particularly like his persona. But I agree wholeheartedly with his recent statements concerning Palestine.
It is a historical fact that the nation of Palestine was the construct of a terrorist organization, the PLO, led by Yasser Arafat. And despite claims to the opposite, it is also a fact that Palestinian textbooks ignore the existence of Israel and teach Palestinian children to hate Jews. Hillary Clinton, too, has said vociferously that there cannot be peace until the Palestinian people change that practice.
Further, I am ever more appalled by the news media’s knee-jerk refutation of these facts, and automatic bias against Gingrich. It is clear that major news sources, for whatever reason, are in favor of the Palestinian “cause,” a cause célèbre that, itself, was an Arafat construct. The media’s continued overt support of the Palestinian “cause” and in particular its treatment of Gingrich’s historically accurate statements this weekend, serve to make me less proud to call myself a journalist, now more a pejorative term than ever before.
OK, seriousness over. Now, for the sake of comparison, I would like to present some media coverage of some other invented nations:

Committee to protect witches cries foul
Calling the recent murder of the “wicked” witch of the East “an example of the worst kind of stereotyping and bias crime,” the Oz-based Committee to Protect Witches is calling for an investigation into the death.

When this guy is your spokesperson, you know you've got problems.

“This was the crime of an undocumented immigrant,” Monkey F. Monkeyson, chairman of the committee, said. “Glinda the so-called ‘good’ witch is nothing more than a provocateur.”
Monkeyson went on to say that though the munchkins have presented themselves as an oppressed minority in Oz, though the truth is “quite different.”
“They pave their streets with gold,” he said. “The Lollipop Guild is one of the most powerful unions in Oz. They’re not oppressed at all.”

Orcs claim ‘Red Book’ masks genocide
The recent release of the “Red Book” by celebrity author Frodo Baggins is little more than an attempt to mask the coordinated genocide of the orcs of Middle Earth, so says Grinash, spokesman for advocacy group Orcs United.

"We're really just misunderstood. I, for example, am an award-winning poet."

“How long must we endure genocide at the hands of our neighbors,” Grinash said. “They lock us in caves, chop off our heads when we try to defend ourselves and then, to add insult to injury, call us monsters.”
During the recent conflict, millions of orcs were killed as King Aragorn ascended to the throne of Gondor and Anor. Grinash called the “Red Book,” released shortly after the conflict, an attempt to rewrite history.
Mr. Baggins was unavailable for comment.

Hyenas: We’re starving here
According to spokes-hyena Shenzi, King Simba’s much publicized “circle of life” includes everyone but the hyenas.
“We’re persecuted, forced to live in this land of bones, just so that the lions can have control of the pridelands,” Shenzi said. “They cast us as evil, teach their children to hate us, but it’s about resource control. The lions are controlling the marketplace by excluding us. That’s it.”

Raise your hand if you've been persecuted by the majority.

Shenzi went on to ask fair business practices on the pridelands, and that hyenas be given representation.
“We have no voice,” she said. “They see us as laughing scavengers, and it’s all a lie. We demand justice.”
A spokes-lion for King Simba roared, and chewed off the reporter’s legs.
Reach Jordan Fenster by email at jfenster@nhregister.com. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/JordanFenster.


The best laid hurricane mitigation plans of mice and men …

There was a lot of advice floating around in the pre-Irene period. Some of it was very good — water, batteries, food, the likelihood that power would remain out until the U.S. credit rating went back up — but some of it was pretty stupid. Tops on my list of idiotic advice was a tweet that ran past my pupils advising that the best way to spend the time hunkered down without power was with family and friends.

I am convinced this was written by a single man with no living relatives.

I mean, is he kidding? The best way to spend any length of time hunkered down without power is in an apartment, alone, with access to a city water supply and an ample supply of alcohol.

As it was, I found myself and my family (three young daughters and a wife) holed up at my mother-in-law’s house. With us were her husband, my step-brother-in-law, his wife and 2-year-old child, a female friend of the family, my dog, a pair of guinea pigs and a random 19-year-old French girl about whom I will say little to nothing more.

My mother-in-law, God bless her soul, did yeoman’s work (were there yeowomen? I’m not sure) getting everybody fed and preparing for the storm, but there was little she could do to feed all the starving egos.

“We need to plan,” my step-brother-in-law said. I politely pointed out that we had stockpiled food, water, flashlights, batteries, vodka, candles and matches, that we had filled all the tubs in advance, dug out the battery-powered radio and downloaded a hurricane-watch app on my smartphone.

“But we need to plan,” was his reply.

It was about this time that my mother-in-law decided that we needed to coordinate in advance, and come up with contingencies for every conceivable possibility. “If a tree falls on that side of the house, you should call us,” she told me, suggesting, perhaps, that she wouldn’t know and would need to be told.

The 2-year-old, delightful little imp that he is, has this habit of shrieking to get what he wants, which was not pleasant when what he wanted was to be taken outside in gale-force winds.

The French girl, on vacation for a month in New York and hiding out from the storm with our crew, gave the Francophones and Francophiles among us a chance to speak the language of Louis. The rest of us had to be content to listen in English, oblivious to the actual content of the conversation but assured that it was fascinating beyond compare.

The rest you can guess. Trees fell, power went out, nerves got strained and the whole weekend ended in murder most foul.

Not really, though that’s how I imagined it. The French girl in a maid’s outfit, needing to be comforted, the kids frightened, knowing that a killer was on the loose, suspicion falling on all of us (we all had a motive, of course) and the entire film taking place while the storm raged outside.

But, alas! There was no murder, though I admit to contemplating it once or twice and am confident I’m not the only one. I know more now than I ever have about Vogue and its many uses about Karl Lagerfeld (he was the drummer for Styx, right?) and about why staying at home, alone, is the best thing one can do during a hurricane.

Anyway, you know what they say — tout est bien qui finit bien.

Jordan Fenster is the entertainment editor at the New Haven Register. He can be reached by email at jfenster@nhregister.com. Follow us on Twitter at Twitter.com/NHRegBuzz or find us at Facebook.com/NHRegBuzz. To receive breaking news first – simply text the word nhnews to 22700. Standard msg+data rates may apply.


Playing with Aviary

MAKE SOME MUSIC

The website Aviary.com has introduced a new utility that can help anybody old enough to use a mouse make some music.

And you don’t need any musical ability.

Aviary provides a slew of free, web-based tools — an image editor like Photoshop, a screen capture tool, a vector editor and more. None are quite as powerful as the downloadable program versions, free or otherwise (like Gimp, which is a free Photoshop clone), but all are far easier to use and web-based, which adds some utility.

In the music creator, introduced recently, you can choose from a variety of sounds, be they traditional acoustic drum kits, Latin sounds, guitar, piano or wooden flute sounds, or human voices and effects and animal noises.

Each musical measure is broken up into beats and you just highlight the beats you want. Mix and match all the sounds, move things around, play DJ and then download an mpeg or a .wav file for your iPod. You can also embed your track into a blog or web page.

For those who want to take the next big step, Aviary also has a sound editor, that enables you to take the beats and sounds you’ve created (or upload from a different source) and use each as a track in a larger recording. The sound editor is a sight more complicated than the music creator, but the possibilities are, literally, endless.

Again, both utilities are, even used in tandem, not as powerful as, say, Garageband, but Garageband costs money and can be quite complex for the uninitiated. Aviary is free, far simpler to use, and the company encourages collaboration. That means that you can become part of a music-making community, without really being a musician.

Or, you can just spend an addictive couple of hours playing with Middle Eastern drums and a cow’s moo. The choice is yours.

I made a few, too


Journalists should be conflicted about Egypt. Pity they’re not.

With the forced closure of Al Jazeera offices in Egypt on Sunday, journalists and pro-democracy activists worldwide should be facing a quandary. On the one hand you have a dictatorial regime that, in an effort to maintain control is cutting of lines of communication and violating what here in the United States we think of as a basic right — freedom of the press. On the other, you have a so-called news organization that has proven itself to be both militant and biased against the possibility of peace.

What appears to the world to be a populist Arab uprising also has a strong pro-Islamist undercurrent. The goal of many involved in Tunisia’s recent uprising was to gain religious freedom. Both Egypt and Tunisia have been held in the too-firm grip of apparent despots, and under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia’s orthodox Musim community in particular found it a difficult place to live and worship.

Egypt, too, has found itself in a difficult position. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s government has proven himself to be something of a friend to Israel, a stance that much of the Arab and Muslim world can’t countenance.

Is there any wonder why “news” service Al Jazeera has found itself staunchly in favor, even a primary mover of these populist uprisings?

With the release of the so-called “Palestine Papers,” Al Jazeera showed itself to be against peace with Israel. In fact, the supposedly leaked series of documentation, and the accompanying editorials and opinions Al Jazeera so conveniently provided read like an argument in favor of Hamas and against the Palestinian Authority, which the papers suggest actually attempted to cut a deal with the Israelis.

Perish the thought.

The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt came as welcome news to those who seek to further the cause of democracy. And if, they say, a fundamental Islamic element takes over or gains control, well, that’s the price of democracy. Hamas has stayed quiet throughout this process, as have other Middle Eastern terrorist organizations.

Of course they have, it serves their purpose. The removal of an anti-orthodox Islamic dictator, the potential removal of a comparatively pro-Israel government suits them just fine.

The governments in the Muslim world that have reason to fear similar uprisings are those that have either repressed Islamic expression or made concessions to Israel or the United States.

Iran, for example, has nothing to fear.

Though these uprisings, and those that may or may not follow in Yemen and Lebanon, may in fact be the will of the people and an expression of the seemingly in-born democratic urge. But they are also being goaded by fundamentalist Islamic factions, including Al Jazeera.

Mubarak did the right thing when he ousted Al Jazeera Sunday. What appears to be a despot’s desperate attempt to diminish dissent, is actually an effort to level the playing field. If Al Jazeera was an unbiased news source, it would be a different story.

It’s not.

Postscript: Mubarak also shut down the Internet over the weekend, an action that needs to be weighed separately from the closure of

Al Jazeera’s Egyptian offices. The Internet, unlike Al Jazeera, is by its nature an unbiased source of information. The services from which that information is obtained may be biased, but social networking (read freedom of assembly, either online or otherwise) and the availability of information are the foundations of good, responsible democracies.


Write a song about New Haven, dammit

CLICK HERE for the full article

“Oh,” you say, “if it’s so freakin’ easy to write a song why don’t you do it, Mr. Know-it-all?”

Alright, I will.

Now, I’m not saying it’s going to be the best song ever written — it might be the absolute worst. I’m a passable musician at best and my voice, once pure and clean, has been ravaged by decades of tobacco and alcohol, and what I politely refer to as “scream therapy” (that’s when, frustrated beyond my ability to contain it, I escape to the sanctity of my car and scream until I feel better).

But I’ll do it. I don’t know that much about New Haven yet, so the lyrics might consist of, “New Haven/I don’t know anything about/New Haven/I’ve never spent much time in/New Haven,” but I’ll give it a go if that’s what it takes.


Uploading my music for free

I’m playing with a new free service I found called SoundCloud, so here’s a song I wrote and recorded a while ago. Quality is terrible, but it’s interesting nonetheless.


Another NASCAR section

A few years ago I was asked to put together NASCAR sections for the entire company. Here is the latest — set to publish this week.