Friday, April 13, 2007

It's the Rut! Holla!

Brick City, NJ- Lost in the furvor of the Don Imus incident comes news from Rutgers that nobody was expecting. It seems that one of the so called "Nappy-Headed Hos," Rashidat Junaid, bears a striking resemblance to rapper and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z.

When questioned about these allegations, head coach C. Vivian Stringer said: "We don't look at our players as Jay-Z or black or nappy-headed. It's about us as a people. When there is not equality for all, or when there has been denied equality for one, there has been denied equality for all."

The unsuspecting media then got to C. Vivian Stringer continue her full-court press. Apparently this was the 59 year-old black woman's first brush with prejudice. "While they (Rutgers players) worked hard in the classroom and accomplished so much... we had to experience racist and sexist remarks that are abominable, contemptible, deplorable, despicable, ignoble, pitiful, regrettable, and unconscionable..."

After Stringer finished her "I Have a Dream..." speech, Rashidat Junaid approached the podium to address the claim made against her: "I may resemble Jay-Z. My face might look like his face. But I am not Jay-Z. I am Rashidat Junaid, and if you think I look like Jay-Z...well, I can't change that. Your ignorance cannot hurt me. I am Rashidat, and nothing you say will make me anything else."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What Took Place in Space?

These are busy times in outer space. While the first woman space tourist made her way on a Russian ship to the International Space Station, the American shuttle Atlantis was making its way towards space to drop off a 17 ton trussle and two solar arrays for use in construction at the ISS (International Space Station.) The shuttle and the six astronauts on board where scheduled to arrive back on Earth Wednesday, but certain circumstances delayed their return. This morning (9/21), before sunrise, Atlantis touched down to Earth in Florida after a successfully completing their mission.

But what caused the delayed return? What were the circumstances that went into Atlantis having to check and recheck their spacecraft 3 times before it was deemed safe for re-entry and a safe landing on Earth?

The first glitch in NASA's plan came in the early morning of September 19. Video footage filmed from Atlantis was being reviewed back on Earth when something unusual turned up on the film. There, well below the spaceship, a dark spot was seen moving at the same speed and in the same orbit as Atlantis. This object was deemed a 'mystery object' by the press and by NASA...they did not know what it was.

"The object was spotted by a flight controller who was operating the shuttle's payload bay cameras around 2:45 a.m.," a NASA spokeswoman said. Videotape replayed just before 10 a.m. showed what appeared to be a small object below the shuttle flying at roughly the same speed and in the same direction. "INCO had seen an object in the video during Earth observations and we just want to keep the KU(Atlantis video system) up and possibly downlink more video here in the near term," astronaut Terry Virts called from mission control in Houston. "We're looking at keeping it up overnight." "Ok, that makes sense. Just let us know what you want to do," an Atlantis astronaut replied. "And you don't need OCA router for all that, right? We can go ahead and tear that down?" "We'd actually like to keep the whole PGSC network up," Virts replied. So this object was of enough importance that NASA decided to keep its camera systems up and operational overnight, as opposed to the original plan of taking it down to ready for the return to Earth.

Wayne Hale is the NASA spokeman with the responsibility of talking to the public about what is happening in space. Here is what he had to say about the mystery object:"Today, as they were doing that(checking the film), they came across a very interesting object in the field of view," Hale said. "There is a very small black object, which because we moved the camera around a couple of times we know it's not one of those camera lens artifacts, it's not a piece of lint on the lens or a reflection into the camera, which we sometimes see. But there is a very small object in that picture. It is clearly co-orbital with the space shuttle (and thus travelling at speeds in excess of 17,500 km). We took a look at it and frankly there is not enough resolution ... to tell what that is. But it did get everybody's attention."

The thought was that the object was a piece of material from Atlantis. Some engineers think it could still be a small piece of plastic inadvertently left between tiles along Atlantis’ underbelly. According to Hale, “We don’t know that for sure, but it is a likely candidate,” Hale said, referring to the bit of orange plastic—known as shim stock—seen dangling from a gap between the protective heat tiles along Atlantis’ belly. The shims are spacers between heat-shield tiles, and one in particular was sticking out quite a bit early in the mission. Obviously a piece of the ship falling off could have potentially catastrophic consequences, so NASA had the astronauts meticulously check the exterior of the ship for damage. This was done using robotic arms and a 50-foot boom camera to visually inspect the ship inch by inch, especially the heat shield. Three such operations were undertaken in a 24 hour period, and none of the scans showed anything out of place on the ship. This would lead one to believe that the piece of debris was not, in fact, from the ship.

Before I go on I must say that NASA provides a live feed from Atlantis and mission control on the internet. The live video feed either comes from one of the cameras mounted on Atlantis, or from cameras at mission control, or sometimes just screenshots of charts and diagrams being used for the mission. The feed is supposedly on a one minute delay, for formatting and buffering the feed to stream in through the internet.

Now then, the story and video of the 'unknown object' became available around 10am on September 19th. All morning and into the afternoon, this was the top story on news websites such as,,,, etc. Then, around 2:30 that afternoon, news came through of more unidentified objects in space. This time, pictures were provided by a crewmember aboard Atlantis. These pictures are much more clear, with the Earth as the backdrop and little cloud cover in that area:

(All three images are of the same unknown object)

It was during the time between the first 'debris' sighting and the second that there were some unusual comments coming from the astronauts on board Atlantis. During a noon news briefing by shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale to discuss the decision to delay re-entry, shuttle commander Brent Jett radioed mission control to report the crew saw yet another object departing the area of the shuttle. "OK, we're not joking about this, but Dan (Burbank) was at window one, he looked out, he saw an object floating nearby," Jett said. "We took several pictures of it, it was fairly small. But we did get several pictures we can send down." "Did you have a time on that?" astronaut Terry Virts radioed from mission control. "It just happened." The pictures mentioned are those seen above.

Another quote of interest came from Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, the only woman astronaut on board. On the live feed from NASA she can be heard saying, "There are a lot of things up here you really can't explain...until you see them." She was speaking after the pictures were taken, but what did she mean by it? Another phrase that was audible before the pictures were taken came from an astonaut on board: "You are going to think I am crazy, but something flew past our window." The final quote of interest came from shuttle commander Brent Jett, who is a veteran of 4 missions to space, spending over 60 days in outer space. Jett tells mission control, "It doesn't look like anything I've seen outside the shuttle."

But wait...there's more. Later in the day, another strange sight was observed and recorded by NASA's 50 foot robotic boom camera. The film shows 3 or more distinct lights off in the distance. The lights were arranged in a perfect triangle(click 'smalband' to change it to 'breedband'(broadband in Dutch?), before one of the lights started to move off in a separate direction from the other two. Here is a link to a video of one such light, taken on September 19th, 2006 from on board the shuttle Atlantis: Video

NASA tried to spin off the first sighting of a 'mystery object' as simply debris from the space shuttle itself, or some piece of debris from a previous space mission. While space debris is common, the chance that NASA, NORAD, or any other agency monitoring space would mistake something like this is pretty small. U.S. Strategic Command monitors over 10,000 pieces of space debris on its own. Furthermore, after the Columbia disaster in 2003, what are the chances that NASA just leaves pieces of plastic hanging off their spaceships, or that some piece of material came off it but wasn't important?

September 19-20 was a very busy time in outer space. Yet for all the activity there, all the questions, the video and audio clues, the strange occurances...the answers provided by NASA do not measure up. Take for example the second sighting of mystery objects: Would you believe that according to NASA, those pictures show a plastic bag floating through space?

(A plastic bag in outer space? Really?!?)

Wayne Hale again gave NASA's explanation for the object, stating that "While we have not definitively put this interesting little picture to bed, there is considerable thought that it is just a plastic bag that came from somewhere and got loose." More speculation from NASA stated that the images were "perhaps a plastic filler strip, maybe a garbage bag."

To sum this up: NASA has no idea what the first object is that was spotted, they claim the second object (blue pics 1-3) is a piece of plastic or a trash bag, and they have no commented at all on the third series of sightings. When asked about the debris, Mr. Hale simply stated that there was no structural damage found on Atlantis, and that the ship would be cleared to return to Earth. He steered the conversation away from the debris because NASA has no idea what any of it is.

Other conjecture from NASA includes the possibility that the items seen are ice, particles enhanced by the camera, space debris, shuttle junk, or any combination of these things. One point to consider is this: NASA spends years hypothesizing, planning, checking, and double checking the construction of their space shuttles and their spaceflight plans. How can there be so many objects falling off and out of Atlantis?

The absolute worst thing that can happen during a mission is that the astronauts do not return to Earth. They have billions of dollars invested in these missions. How likely is it, then, to believe NASA when they say that 5 of more unknown objects, viewed through a live feed over the internet from cameras onboard, are simply pieces of the space shuttle that fell off, but are not of any importance? With all the time and money invested, would it make sense for NASA to include unnecessary pieces in the contruction of the ship? To that end, what are the chances that someone dropped a piece of plastic out of the ship or that they misplace a garbage bag. Furthermore, do those pictures even look anything remotely like a plastic bag?

The sad part of all this is the media let the story drop, taking a cue from Wayne Hale and NASA. Tuesday morning (9/19), the mystery objects were the top headline on every news website and channel in existence. And even without a believable explanation, the story isn't even included in the mission wrap-up or debriefing. Over the course of about 60 hours this story went from front page headlines to almost disappearing from sight. If you hadn't watched the news on Tuesday or Wednesday, you wouldn't have have even known this was going on. How can that be?

To most of us, space is a place of fantasy, and of little immediate concern to us on Earth. People do not cherish a shuttle launch like they may have 50 years ago. Science-fiction stories and films, especially with the technology employed by Hollywood, make outer space seem like a fantasy world. NASA is supposed to be the authority on outer space, especially the space surrounding our planet. Its understandable that they do not have a grasp on the universe, but its very unsettling when you find out they can't indentify objects right on our doorstep. The fact that NASA cannot understand what happened this week is a troubling thought. However, this is something NASA uses to its advantage, because the public does not question what the agency says. NASA employs rocket scientists, who are usually highly intelligent their word is taken as fact and truth. However, therein lies the problem...

While NASA does employ some of the brightest minds on Earth today, those minds are not responsible for disseminating the information to the rest of the world. NASA is a government agency, and therefore subject to governmental influence. Everyday around the world people report things in the sky that they cannot explain, but somehow our government can. Sometimes it is explained away by 'naturally occuring phenomena.' If something shiny is spotted in the sky, it is explained as a weather balloon. Ever heard of The Phoenix Lights? Click here to find out what this event was, click here to see video of the event: then try and match that up with the USAF's explaination that the lights were simply slow falling, long burning flares dropped by an A-10 Warthog aircraft on a training exercise over Luke AFB. (Incidentally, these flares were never reported before or since this incident.)

I do not know what those objects were in outer space, but neither does NASA; that fact alone should make you wonder about the validity of the claims they make. Most of mankind's information about space is conjecture based on theories that work on Earth. The truth is, we have no idea about anything past the moon, because thats as far as humans have travelled (that we know of). Sure, we have satellites taking pictures of Mars and the moons of Jupiter, but that only tells us about our solar system. That would be like me taking a drive around my town, then claiming that I know and understand every other place and thing on Earth. I'm not sure what NASA knows as compared to what they tell the public, but I have a feeling this week's events will prove significant. Whether or not there is life floating around Earth as I type, I cannot say. I just hope that the public takes what it has seen and heard in the past few days and push it as far as possible.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Outkast from Rap

Last week was supposed to be a big one for Outkast; all in one week their new album came out, as did their movie that went with it. Both ventures were named Idlewild, and both were disappointing from a sales standpoint. Even though it had the highest-per screen average ($6,800 per) of any movie in the top ten, Idlewild was 8th in the total box office. Their album came in at #2, but sold 300,000 less copies than their previous release, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.

Now I know what you're thinking: what supergroup rose above Outkast to take the #1 spot? What megastar act built up enough steam in their first week to take the top spot from The Mighty O? Danity fuckin' Kane, Puffy's girl-group who you may be familiar with from MTV. You know the ones who fight all the time, can't sing or dance, and basically were more of a joke than a serious act? For Christ sakes, one of the bitches has a two-tone face, black and almost black. Yes America, you helped that collection of low-budget ho's, bitch wiggers and backup singers win Ghetto American Idol and top what has historically been the best selling rap group ever. Admittedly, I am a huge Outkast fan. I got hooked on ATLiens, went out and bought Southernplayalistcadillacmuzik, then was in line when the store opened for Aquemini, Stankonia, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and Idlewild. Each album was different, and each had its own feel to it. That is part of who and what Outkast is. They have never put out something just for the sake of it, never bent their vision of what the album should be to garner a few mores Soundscan scans. Up until Idlewild, this approach has been tremendously successful. Each successive album outsold the previous one, starting at the platinum Southernplayalistic all the way up to the 11 x platinum (aka Diamond) Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Now, the rap world wants to throw them under the bus (insert Rosa Parks joke here.)
Let's look at this logically: most rap albums have about three to five good songs, and that's being generous. If rap artists had batting averages based on their ratio of good to bad , almost every one would be batting .200 or less. Most rap records have a few good songs hidden in a cesspool of unlistenable beats, nursery school rhymes, and dreadful skits. On any given album there are two or three songs planned to be singles, a couple okay songs that won't ever be singles, and the rest is pure, unapologetic garbage. That has never, ever been the case with Outkast.

Looking at Idlewild from a sales standpoint, this is the least popular Outkast album to date, but lets take a closer look at the product...just to see if the quality of music is to blame. Off the top we'll take away the five interludes that appear (mostly dialogue from the movie) and now we're down to 20 songs. Subtract the last five that go specifically with the movie, appealing more to those who have seen it, and you're down to fifteen. GENEROUSLY take away another five, not because the songs are bad, but because everyone has different tastes. That leaves no less than ten really good songs on Idlewild. I'm not talking radio friendly, play-me-at-the-club bullshit everyone is accustomed to; I'm talking really, really good music. There is a difference: Idlewild isn't just a collection of random songs produced by random producers with $$$ in mind. This is great music. How many rap albums can you say that about?

Idlewild's ten(+) good songs are roughly 10 more than Young Joc will ever make in his life. Any southern rap flavor of the month would be seriously overachieving if they ever made 3 memorable songs in their careers. I dare you to go through your ipod and find me a recent rap record that has 10 really good songs. You would have a better chance of finding Noah's Ark sitting upon the ruins of Atlantis as the Loch Ness Monster swims around the island with Bigfoot on its back. I guess I'm just disappointed with America in general for letting this sort of thing take place. Before the albums were released, I would have said there was more chance for a Beatles reunion than for Outkast to be outsold by a broke-ass interracial Spice Girls knockoff. Great music is often swept under the rug because its different, and people are afraid of change. Most times, in music, film, literature, etc. the creators of the art strive for perfection, and while they fall short it still can lead to great achievements. Rappers don't want to go out on a limb and change things up, because they can make much more money being uninspiring and unorginal.

The only positive to this situation is there are only so many ways you can describe drinking, smoking, and banging groupies. I am actually surprised it has gone on this long. Sometimes the only creative thing a rapper will do is invent a new way to describe getting high or getting head. I know money is the root of all evil, and now it is the root of almost all music. While I'm throwing around cliches, what goes up must come down. Ten years from now, Young Joc will be watching a VHS tape of his appearance on Cribs from the basement of his grandma's, wondering how he lost his stream of revenue and wasted all his money. Maybe then he'll sell a dime bag and go pick up Idlewild so he can understand what while jewelry, big talk and cars can make you money, it can't make you good music.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wie Hate You, Michelle

It took the actions of a 16-year old girl to write me a one-way ticket back to Bloggsville.

For those of you who don't know, Michelle Wie is a teenage golf protege. At 16 years of age, she has already played many events on the LPGA tour, even though she isn't yet a professional golfer. Not only has she played on tour, she has done exceedingly well. Until last week's 26th place finish at the Women's British Open, Wie had finished no lower than 5th in all six of the tournaments she played in this year. Needless to say, that is a very impressive feat for someone who doesn't even have a driver's license yet.

Just because she is young doesn't mean she is at a physical disadvantage. At over 6 feet tall, she is already one of the tallest players on tour. Her long, powerful swing is a product of her considerable height and physical gifts. Considering the herd of buffalo usually stampeding up a LPGA leaderboard (not you, Natalie Gulbis), Wie is a breath of fresh air. Anytime a woman on the LPGA tour bears no resemblance to Rosie O'Donnell, that has to be considered a bonus. Even though I despise Michelle Wie, make no mistake: I would sacrifice someone's first born child to have her swing and God-given ability on the golf course. However, that is the point at which my admiration for Michelle Wie ends.

A day after her worst finish of the year, Wie fired her caddy, Greg Johnston. Johnston is a veteran caddy, his resume including a 12-year run on the bag for Julie Inkster, resulting in 4 major titles. Perhaps the firing would have been easier to accept if Wie had done it personally. Instead, she had her agent do it. Then her agent pulled a "Wie," firing Johnston over the phone Monday morning, even though the two had dinner together Sunday night. You would think after guiding Wie to a successful start to her career that Johnston had at least earned a face-to-face firing. Apparently when you become a protege, there isn't time between sessions at the driving range to learn tact.

(After missing the cut, Michelle had her agent fire God)

I have had a major problem with Wie since she started competing in men's tournaments last year...the firing of her caddy was just the last straw. She hasn't even won an LPGA event, yet she still insists on playing men's events. She has thus far failed to even make a cut at a men's event, but sponsor's still send her tournament exemptions. When she plays in LPGA events, she is a legitimate challenger. During men's events, she is a sideshow, a curiosity and nothing more. If I'm her, I'd rather be someone that people fear and respect for their skills, as oppose to someone who only gets mentioned because of their sex.

I'm sure that much of her actions have to do with her parents, agents, publicists, and any other form of parasite that has attached themselves to her. It must be tough to concentrate on golf when Corporate America has branded you the female Tiger Woods. At 16, she feels like she has to live up to the expectations that have been placed on her since she was a pre-teen. However, Tiger Woods went to college before he went pro; he won three U.S. Amateur titles before he took the big step up to the PGA tour. Tiger Woods in the most awe-inspiring human to ever play golf. At the age of 30, he is a living legend who enhances his standing with every round he plays. Tiger should be the standard by which all golfers, male or female, dead or alive, are measured. Wie seems to be trying to write her own story, forgoing the path that mere mortals(and apparently living legends) walk in search of fame and fortune. Her actions make me wonder...Who the fuck does she think she is?

(Wie So Horny....For Money)

Thus far, Wie has pissed me off by playing in men's tournaments without having even won a women's event, and by firing her caddy through her agent, over the phone. Everytime she fails to live up to her own myth, she blames it on someone else. That is probably a byproduct of her parents coddling their meal ticket too much. Her parents handle her like a winning Powerball ticket before its gets cashed in, and that isn't good for anyone. She stole a caddy away from a LPGA tour veteran, then fired him less than a year later because she couldn't hit a fairway or sink a putt. Michelle Wie may do for women's golf what Tiger did for golf in general, but judging by her recent track record, by the time she gets there she will be as beloved as Alex Rodriguez in New York.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Internet Outrage

If you haven't heard about proposed changes to the internet, you should read this, but I warn you: prepare to be outraged. If certain laws are passed, the internet as we know it could be finished. Mega-companies such as Verizon, Bell South, and AT & T want to create a two-tiered internet to replace the one we have now. Is there something wrong with today's version of the internet? The answer is no...unless you are an internet service provider.

Basically, the ISP's are trying to make the internet a mirror of our society. The aim is to supply the companies who can pay more moneywith more bandwidth, making their content more desirable because of the speed and clarity it will be delivered with. Yes, they are looking to included the internet in the old "Rich get richer, poor get poorer.." model that our country's economy is built on. So sites like and will be able to pay for the high-speed loading of pages, video, etc, which the companies will devote more bandwidth to. Conversely, small webpages-personal sites and blogs, will load much slower because they won't be able to pay for the devotion of high-speed bandwidth to their sites. Will you want to visit my blog when it loads at dial-up speed?

Hopefully, politicians do not allow for the "Walmartization" of the internet. It really is a perfect parallel. Huge corporation comes in and offers prices and services that cannot be beat. Mom n' Pop shops collapse and fold due to their inablitilty to compete with said corporation's prices. Eventually a virtual monopoly unfolds, eliminating competion from all those who cannot afford to compete. Some may say this is the way of a free-market economy, but I say we do not operate as such. I would call our economy a Corporate Economy, and I don't think I would get much opposition.

Corporations like Verizon provide the equiptment which links us all into the internet, but they claim they do not profit from it. Oh, I'm sorry, what are you doing with that $60 monthly check you get from my family for internet service? I can buy a shitload of wiring for $60, and thats just one month. I seriously doubt that over the course of a year, Verizon cannot make a profit on the $750 yearly contribution I make to that company. This holds true especially since Verizon is responsible only for the setup and maintenance of the internet access, and not the internet itself. I really can't feel sorry if Verizon's CEO gets a $1 million bonus instead of 2.

The corporations claim its only fair that they are compensated for the service they provide. I say, if you aren't making the money you want to make, act like a normal person and cut your losses. Over 60% of the country has internet access, which means Verizon is getting a steady stream of revenue from over 4 billion people. Awww, I feel so fuckin' sorry for your company. Any company who has 4 billion potential customers must really be hurting.

I don't think people will be willing to pay an internet tax, or toll, or anything that would increase their costs. The internet has become a part of everyday life, and it will not do to have its process and fuction changed. Even the inventor of the internet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee (sorry Al Gore), believes that separating the internet into two tiers would be undesirable. He warns of a 'Dark period' on the internet, if it ever were to be changed: "What's very important from my point of view is that there is one web," he said. "Anyone that tries to chop it into two will find that their piece looks very boring."

Internet startup companies like Yahoo and Google have come out in opposition to such a change in the infrastructure of the internet. They do not believe there is a need to change a system that works so well. In the end, this issue will be settled on Capitol Hill by politicians who know little about the situation, outside of the fact that they own Verizon and Bell-South shares. So who will law-makers side with, the man who invented the internet, or the corporations that provide access to it?