Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pepperdine Univ. in Calif. Rejects an LGBT Club; Says Club's Mission Is Not in Line with U's Belief

The New American website reports today (January 31, 2012) that homosexual activists are up in arms over a Christian university's rejection of an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Club.

Pepperdine University -- a California liberal arts school affiliated with the conservative Church of Christ denomination -- announced this month that it would not allow the homosexual support group Reach Out to meet on the college's campus.

Mark Davis -- the school's dean of students -- explained that the club's mission did not line up with the university's belief that sexual relations should be limited to a man and woman who are married to one another.

In response to the university's decision, several students have launched a petition drive insisting that university officials overturn the ban. As of today (January 31), the petition drive has gotten nearly 4,000 signatures of individuals calling on the university to rescind its ban of the homosexual group.

Clerk Stole $1M from NY Archdiocese Ed. Money; Anita Collins Is Sentenced to Community Service

An Archdiocese of New York clerk has been arrested on charges of manipulating the church's accounts payable system to steal more than one million dollars in education money, the Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (January 31, 2012).

Anita Collins wrote checks to herself or a relative, but recorded them as payments to legitimate vendors.

The archdiocese says its staff and outside auditors spotted the theft and alerted persecutors.

Collins -- who had been fired in December -- was sentenced to community service and five years' probation.

Several Destructive Incidents Occur in FYROM; Muslims Angry Christians Wore Masks at Carnival

The Balkan Insight website reports today (January 31, 2012) that arsonists last night set ablaze a Greek Orthodox Church near the city of Struga in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in the latest in a series of ethnic and faith-related incidents in the area.

Firefighters fought until midnight to douse the fire at St. Nicholas Church in the ethnically mixed village of Labunishta near Struga. Police today said the 200-year-old church was saved, but nearby facilities -- including the parish dining hall -- burned to the ground.

The recent trouble between FYROM's Christians and Muslims goes back to January 14 at the annual carnival in Vevcani, where Orthodox Christians wore masks supposedly representing Muslim believers, including women in burqas.

The masks -- deemed insulting to Muslims -- have sparked several destructive incidents in FYROM since January 14, including last night's church fire, the burning of a FYROM flag, and the stoning of a bus.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bin Laden Informer Afridi Charged with Treason; Is Pakistani Who Helped US Locate Osama Bin Laden

The Eurasia Review website reports today (January 30, 2012) that Dr. Shakil Afridi -- the Pakistani who helped U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six locate and kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- is facing treason charges in a Pakistani court for working with America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Dr. Afridi was accused of participating in a CIA-run operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where bin Laden was killed by a U.S. special forces unit.

A panel of Pakistani officials ruled that Dr. Afridi should be tried for treason -- a charge that could result in a death sentence if he is found guilty.

Dr. Afridi -- a confidential informant -- was arrested shortly after the operation carried out by U.S. special forces in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad on May 1, 2011.

T Minus 1 Day in Florida

With the retirement of the Shuttles, NASA layoffs and a general lack of direction, it has been easy to believe that Washington does not care for spaceflight. Thanks to the Florida primary, for the last week Space has been an issue in the US. Newt Gingrich, with the audacity of hope, called for a Moonbase by the year 2021. Last week, Space an Issue For 2012? this blog suggested that Mitt Romney come up with a turnaround strategy. Along with a changing speed of light, this prediction has come true.

Friday a letter supporting Romney appeared signed by eight Space notables. These included Mike Griffin, former NASA administrator and architect of the Constellation Program. The list also included Eric Andersen, CEO of Space Adventures, astronauts Gene Cernan and Bob Crippen. In October 2010 Cernan, Neil Armstrong and Jim Lovell signed their own letter severely criticizing what has happened to NASA. Cernan has also called upon NASA administrator Charlie Bolden to resign.

Text of Letter from mittromney.com

"The U.S. space program is a strategic national asset, which makes critical contributions to our scientific knowledge, technological innovation, economic competitiveness, national security, and international leadership. We have watched with dismay as President Obama dismantled the structure that was guiding both the government and commercial space sectors, while providing no purpose or vision or mission. This failure of leadership has thrust the space program into disarray and triggered a dangerous erosion of our technical workforce and capabilities. In short, we have a space program unworthy of a great nation."

Newt Gingrich's call for a Moonbase ignited a debate about Space. The quick response, with experts on board, shows Mitt Romney's organizational skills. Unlike Gingrich, Romney has not yet offered a specific goal for Space. The competitiveness of this race has forced the Space issue into the open. Whatever the results of tomorrow's primary, whoever ends up in the White House, he will have a promise to keep.

Islamic Parents Guilty of Murdering 3 Daughters; Killed Them for Violating Islamic Social Rules

The One News Now website reports that a jury in Canada yesterday (January 29, 2012) found an Afghan father, his wife, and their son guilty of killing three teenage sisters and a co-wife in what a judge described as "cold-blooded, shameful murders" resulting from a "twisted concept of honor."

The jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58; his wife Tooba Yahya, 42; and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder.

The three defendants declared their innocence in the killings of sisters Zainak, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti, 13, as well as Rona Amir Mohammod, 52, Shafia's childless first wife in a polygamous marriage.

The bodies were found June 30, 2009, in a car submerged in a canal in Kingston, Ontario. Prosecutors said the defendants killed the three sisters because they violated Islamic rules on dress, dating, and socializing. Shafia's co-wife was killed because the polygamous relationship with Shafia -- if known by Canadian authorities -- could have resulted in their deportation from Canada.

She Tempts the Duke (The Lost Lords of Pembrook) by Lorraine Heath

They called them the Lost Lords of Pembrook.  They are in reality three young men, one meant to inherit a dukedom, who disappeared years ago only to reappear twelve years later to claim the inheritance their unscrupulous uncle wants to take from them. Sebastian, the 8th Duke of Keswick, was 14 when his father died and his uncle locked him, his twin brother Tristan, and his younger brother Rafe in the tower at their ancestral home of Pembrook.  Uncle David's intent was clear. He would murder the three as he had murdered his own brother and assume the title for himself in retribution for his brother marrying Sebastian's mother.

Lady Mary Wynne-Jones, 12 year old neighbor, best friend to Sebastian, and daughter to the Earl of Winslow, overhears David's plans and manages to free the young lords. The boys then disappear into the night, each to live the next 12 years in their own exiles of hell before they come back together in dramatic fashion in order to take back what's rightfully theirs. In the escape, they leave Mary behind. She in turn, suffers her own form of exile when her father finds out exactly what she did that night and why.

Lorraine Heath's characters are horribly scarred psychologically by their ordeal. Sebastian even carries these scars as a physical manifestation, which adds to the dark undertones running rampant through this ultimately wonderful love story. The entire second half of the book is devoted to what we hope will be Sebastian's ultimate redemption, and the beating back of his demons and his unnatural need for retribution. Mary tries to break through the wall that surrounds this damaged grown up little boy, but it's only when Sebastian realizes what truly matters, that she succeeds. But will that realization come too late?

In the first of  a series of three novels, Ms. Heath takes us to the darkest reaches of despair and makes us wonder if perhaps this is the first time we will read a novel in this genre where a main character is so far  beyond all repair.  And seeing how this novel turned out, I can't help but hope that Tristan and Rafe's stories will follow in very short order. Published February 1, 2012.

The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae by Stephanie Laurens

Congratulations are in order. I am the owner of a brand new Kindle Touch. And to christen my latest bundle of technological joy, I immediately downloaded an advanced readers’ copy of Stephanie Laurens’ The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae. This is the third novel in the Cynster Sisters Triology and, as usual, Ms. Laurens delivers. Get ready, romance lovers. We have another winner.

The fun begins at a ton ball where a split second decision to act by the desperate Dominic Lachlan Guisachan, eighth Earl of Glencrae, changes the course of Angelica Cynster’s privileged, if somewhat mundane life. But the Scottish earl’s reputation as a dastardly villain does not accurately reflect this gentleman’s true nature; there is more to the story than meets the eye, for Angelica’s mother and Dominic’s father share a history – a history that the current Countess of Glencrae is none too happy about.  Irrationally jealous, Dominic’s mother steals a precious artifact – a goblet earmarked to be the financial salvation of the clan – and sets a ransom for its return. Dominic must deliver to her a Cynster, specifically a ruined Cynster. Then and only then will she hand over the goblet.  Dominic’s first two attempts at abduction (In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster and Viscount Breckenridge to the Rescue) end in failure, but the third is the charm as Angelica turns out to be more cooperative than Dominic could have hoped. But Angelica has her own motives for assisting. She’s convinced Dominic is her hero, her one and only true love, and it’s just a matter of time before he reciprocates in kind.

Every book in Ms. Laurens’ Cynster series is well written with engaging protagonists in truly sigh-worthy romances.  The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae, the latest and perhaps my favorite of all, does the franchise proud.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

COMMENTARY: Anti-Semitism in Our Society Must Not Be Tolerated

A 19-year-old man in New Jersey was arrested last week and charged with two firebombings of New Jersey synagogues.

Anthony Graziano is being held on $5 million bail and could receive a sentence of up to 95 years in prison, if he is found guilty of the charges filed against him.

What is extremely frightening of the firebombing of the Rutherford, N.J. synagogue is that this synagogue also served as the rabbi's residence on the second floor. The rabbi, his wife, five children, and the rabbi's parents -- a total of nine people -- were sleeping when several Molotov cocktails were thrown into the synagogue in the early morning of January 11.

Fortunately, the rabbi was able to put out a firebomb in his bedroom -- suffering only minor burns in doing so -- thus preventing the death of several people.

The suspect of the firebombings has been described by police as a bitter anti-Semite who hates people of the Jewish faith.

Just what causes an individual to be so hateful and hurtful toward Jews -- especially when Jews have done no harm to that person -- is mind-boggling.

We can only attribute such sinful behavior by a 19-year-old man to be the result of a prejudicial upbringing by his parents, or a hateful view of Jews by his peer group.

In any event, this kind of destructive behavior against Jews -- or any group for that matter -- must not be tolerated in our society.

Indeed, anyone who is convicted of committing such a hateful and destructive crime must be sentenced to several years in prison.

PA Catholic Bishop Blasted for Hitler Comment; Said Hitler Would Love America's Public Schools

The Religion News website reports today (January 29, 2012) that the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is being criticized for saying Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini would love America's public school system, because it teaches all children just one set of beliefs.

Bishop Joseph McFadden -- in an effort to illustrate the lack of flexibility in America's public schools -- made the remark while advocating for school vouchers during a televised interview last week.

"In totalitarian governments, they would love our system," McFadden said. "This is what Hitler and Mussolini tried to establish: a monolith so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things."

McFadden's remarks sparked outrage from the area chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and a rebuke from the legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Three Topless Women Detained by Swiss Police; Part of Ukrainian Org. That Protests to Support the Poor

Three topless Ukrainian protesters were detained by Swiss police today (January 28, 2012) while trying to break into an invitation-only gathering of international CEOs and political leaders to call attention to the needs of the world's poor, according to the Associated Press website.

The Ukrainian women arrived at the entrance to the complex in the Swiss resort town of Davos, where the World Economic Forum was meeting.

With temperatures around freezing in the snow-filled town, they took off their tops and tried to climb over a fence before being detained. They had messages painted across their chests, such as "Poor, because of you" and "Gangsters party in Davos."

The women are among the hundreds of members of the popular Ukrainian organization called Femen, which has staged small, topless protests in various countries to highlight a range of issues, including oppression of political opposition. Women members of Femen protest while being topless, because they believe that doing so attracts more people to support their views.

B'nai B'rith Opposes German Media Prize Nominee; Says Mitri Raheb Views Christians Above Jews

The Ecumenical News International website reports today (January 28, 2012) that the Jewish organization B'nai B'rith International yesterday called for the committee of the prestigious German Media Prize to reconsider its recognition of Mitri Raheb, an Evangelical Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem.

Raheb is due to be presented with the prize on February 24 in recognition of his creation of schools, health centers, and meeting places.

But B'nai B'rith -- a humanitarian, human rights, and advocacy organization -- said it was opposed to Raheb's views.

It said his views "echo the widely eschewed replacement theology maintaining that Christians have superseded Jews in the Divine plan and have inherited God's promises to Jews."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Cabinet in the Netherlands Votes to Ban Burkas; Women Wearing Them to Be Subject to a $503 Fine

The cabinet of the Netherlands voted today (January 27, 2012) to ban the burkas and other face-covering garments from public places. Once the legislation is passed in parliament -- where it has a majority of votes for passage -- the Netherlands will become the third country in Europe to ban the Islamic garment, after France and Belgium.

The ban will apply to people wearing balaclavas and full-frontal motorbike helmets on the street as well as the estimated 100 burka wearers in the Netherlands.

Women wearing a burka or a full veil will be subject to a fine of 380 euros ($503).

Liesbeth Spies -- Dutch home affairs minister -- said after the cabinet vote today it is of "immense importance" that burkas are banned. She added people in an open society should communicate with each other openly.

Witness For the Prosecution

Tabitha Clegg, the eccentric witness in Agatha Christie's WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, playing onstage in Houston this weekend. More about expert witnesses coming soon!

Auschwitz Survivor Dies Today in Oswiecim, Poland; Today Is 67th Anniv. of Camp's Soviet Liberation

Kazimierz Smolen -- a 91-year-old Auschwitz survivor who became director of the memorial site after World War II -- died today (January 27, 2012) on the 67th anniversary of its liberation, according to the Associated Press website.

Smolen died in a hospital in Oswiecim -- the southern Polish town where Nazi Germany operated Auschwitz-Birkenau during World War II -- said Pawel Sawicki, a spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum.

Today (January 27) is the anniversary of the camp's 1945 liberation by Soviet troops. January 27 was designated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the United Nations in 2005.

Two years after World War II ended, Auschwitz-Birkenau became a museum -- and Smolen served as its director from 1955-1990.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

AK Airlines Ends Giving Prayer Cards with Meals; Some Customers Did Not Feel Rel. Was Appropriate

The Christian Broadcast Network website reports today (January 26, 2012) that Alaska Airlines will stop its 30-year tradition next week of passing out prayer cards to passengers with their flight meal.

"Some customers were comforted by the cards and some didn't feel religion was appropriate on the plane and preferred not to receive one," Alaskan Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said.

The prayer cards feature messages from the Old Testament book of Psalms, and were started as a way to set the airline apart from competitors.

"Religious beliefs are deeply personal and sharing them with others is an individual choice," CEO Bill Ayer and President Brad Tilden said in an email announcement yesterday.

Man Charged with Bombing Two NJ Synagogues; Anthony Graziano, 19, Hated People of Jewish Faith

The suspect in two firebombings of New Jersey synagogues this month is a bitter anti-Semite, who was so intent on sowing fear and destruction in the Jewish community that he rode his bike to both locations when he couldn't get access to a car, according to the Associated Press website.

Anthony Graziano, 19, of Lodi -- an unemployed recent high school graduate -- was charged with the January 11 attack on a Rutherford synagogue and the January 3 firebombing of a synagogue in Paramus. He is being held on $5 million bail.

The charges include nine counts of attempted murder, bias intimidation, arson, and aggravated arson.

The Rutherford attack -- which caused a fire in the residence of Rabbi Nosson Schuman -- could have caused serious injury or even death to the rabbi and his family.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Moon in 2021?

"Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."

On July 20, 1969 humanity established a base on the Moon. Achieving that goal accelerated human science, from smaller microprocessors to evidence for a changing speed of light. Thousands were inspired to study math and science. Not by coincidence, human achievement flowered in the time of the Moon landings. Tranqulity Base was soon evacuated, but could be established again. A permanent base on the Moon is simply a matter of will.

Continuing the election story, a gauntlet has been laid. Tuesday in Florida, candidate Newt Gingrich vowed to start a base on the Moon by the end of his second term, the year 2021. Plans for the Moon have been seduced and abandoned for the past 40 years. Is a Moon settlement in that time frame possible? The Moon is achievable by more than one path.

The Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle is being developed by Lockheed Martin. Officially Orion's mission is crew return from low Earth orbit. A first unmanned flight has been scheduled for early 2014 atop a Delta IV booster. That flight will go to an altitude of 8000 km, exposing Orion to the radiation environment of deep Space. The reentry will be at speeds approaching that of lunar return. In today's difficult budget environment Lockheed engineers are designing Orion to go beyond.

The Space Launch System is being designed at Marshall Space Flight Center. SLS will initially be based on Shuttle-derived hardware--an 8.3 meter diameter first stage, RS-25 engines, and 5-segment solid rocket boosters. The big booster will have an initial payload to orbit of 70 metric tons. The first flight of SLS is scheduled for 2017, carrying an unmanned Orion toward the Moon.

Presently the year 2021 is envisioned with a crewed flight of Orion boosted atop SLS. The destination has not been chosen, but it could easily be an Apollo 8-type flight around the Moon. Other destinations will be possible, such as a Lagrange point or an asteroid.

If plans are started early enough, following flights could carry a Lunar Surface Module. Lunar landings would require 2 SLS launches, one for Orion and a second launch for the Lunar Module. If the lunar module is ready, the landing could occur as early as 2022. This seems early, but Apollo 11 followed Apollo 8 by only 7 months. This landing, the first step in a lunar base, would occur within a few months of Mr. Newt's goal.

Gingrich also spoke about prizes for private Space companies, akin to the Orteig Prize won by Charles Lindbergh. The SpaceX Falcon Heavy booster will be capable of placing 53 tons in low Earth orbit. Their Dragon capsule has an escape system that is also adaptable to planetary landings. With modifications Dragon could land a crew on the Moon. With the right incentive, perhaps SpaceX could reach the Moon faster and cheaper than NASA.

A lunar landing could also occur with international partners. The head of Russia's Roskosmos recently spoke about cooperating with Americans on the Moon. The Space Station was originally a West-only project, then nearly abandoned by the Clinton administration before being reimagined as a partnership with Russia. Perhaps international partners could contribute a Lunar Module to dock with Orion.

There are numerous paths to a lunar base. Orion and SLS could be combined with a new Lunar Module. The SpaceX Faldon Heavy and Dragon might be capable of a lunar landing. International partners could be involved. Any of these combinations could land the first elements of a lunar base by 2021. All that is required, all that has been required for 40 years, is the will. Perhaps another President will set a goal of lunar settlement.

COMMENTARY: Iowa State U. Was Wrong to Cancel Religious-Themed Business Course

Iowa State University (ISU) canceled a business management course it had planned to offer this semester, which would have used the Bible for insight into handling the vital issues faced in business.

The course -- titled "Application of Biblical Insight into the Management of Business/Organization" -- was scheduled to have been taught by a professor of finance, but was canceled because some faculty members felt that it was not appropriate to use the Bible as a guide. Consequently, the dean of ISU's school of business made the final decision to cancel this course.

We disagree with the decision to cancel this course.

We believe that the course would have been challenging to its students, in that it would have permitted students to relate to the business world from a Biblical perspective.

It is unfortunate for the ISU students -- who planned to take this course -- that it was canceled just before the semester began.

Indeed, such a course would have had a significant positive impact on its students, because it would have prepared them to enter the world of business with a better understanding of effective interpersonal relationships with their business colleagues and others than would otherwise be the case.

Saudi Woman Driver Defies Ban, Has Fatal Accident; Saudi Arabia Is Only Nation to Forbid Women Drivers

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) website reports today (January 25, 2012) that a Saudi woman -- who defied a driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia -- was hospitalized with several injuries and her passenger was killed when their car overturned in the northern Hael province on January 21.

Ultra-Muslim Saudi Arabia -- whose capital, Mecca, is the birthplace of the Islamic prophet Mohammed -- is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive.

Nonetheless, some women -- despite subjecting themselves to several lashings -- sneak behind the the wheel and drive in rural regions.

Women in Saudi Arabia are also required to wear a veil in public, and are not allowed to travel unless accompanied by their husbands or a close male relative.

Muslim Airline Pilot Fired for Terrorist Links; Tells Court He Was Fired Due to His Race, Rel.

The Europe News website reports that an airline pilot -- who was fired after links were discovered to two suspected terrorists -- told an employment tribunal today (January 25, 2012) that an "air of suspicion" had been created around him because of his race and religion.

The British man -- who cannot be named for legal reasons -- was suspended by the major airline after he was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in October 2007.

His arrest led to the airline suspending his flight crew pass in order to carry out a full security review of his position, which led to his dismissal in October 2010.

The pilot -- who is claiming racial discrimination at the hearing in Havant, Hampshire -- said he believed that he was targeted because he was Asian and a Muslim.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Turkish PM Erdogan Blasts French Genocide Bill; Bill Makes It a Crime to Deny Turkish Genocide

The France 24 website reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted French lawmakers today (January 24, 2012) for being "racist and discriminatory" after the Senate passed a bill that would outlaw denying the 1915 massacre of Armenians in Turkey amounted to genocide. Erdogan threatened France that Turkey will retaliate any way it can.

The bill -- which French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to sign into law soon -- includes the massacre of some one and one-half million ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces in 1915.

Once the bill becomes a law, it will criminalize publicly denying that the mass killing of ethnic Armenians by Ottoman Turk forces in 1915 was a deliberately organized genocide.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said the Senate vote -- which was passed by 127 to 86 -- was a day that "will be written in gold."

Three Convicted for Advocating Death for Gays; Muslim Men Handed Out Pamphlets Urging Death

The Ethics Daily website reports today (January 24, 2012) that -- in the first court case of its kind -- a British court has convicted three Muslim men of openly advocating the execution of gays.

Jurors in Derby, England on January 20 found Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed, and Razwan Javed guilty of trying to stir up hatred by handing out provocative pamphlets calling for homosexuals to be put to death.

The pamphlet carried quotations from Islamic texts saying that only through capital punishment could society be cleansed of homosexuality, "this immoral crime."

Conviction carries a maximum prison term of seven years. Sentencing is scheduled for February.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Israel to Warn US Only 12 Hours before Iran Attack; Does Not Trust Obama, Fears He'd Block Attack

The Mondoweiss website reports today (January 23, 2012) that Israel informed U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey -- during his visit to Israel over the weekend -- that it would not request U.S. authorization for an attack on Iran, and it would give only a 12-hour warning to the U.S. before launching such an attack.

According to a report in Britain's Sunday Times, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not trust President Obama and believes Obama might do everything in his power to prevent an Israeli attack if informed in advance.

The Sunday Times added that Israel and the U.S. are trying to downplay the crisis, but the two countries appear to be on a collision course.

For example, Dempsey claimed that Israel and the U.S. had recently agreed to postpone a scheduled joint military exercise; however, the fact is (according to an Israeli defense source) that Israel was shocked at the U.S. postponement, as "the exercise had been planned for two years."

Turks March in Paris to Denounce Genocide Bill; Bill Sets Punishment for Denying Turkish Genocide

The Europe News website reports that thousands of Turks from across Europe marched through Paris today (January 23, 2012), denouncing a bill that would make it a crime to deny that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks nearly a century ago was genocide.

The Turks -- many waving their country's flag -- marched to the Senate, where the bill is being debated today, after passage in December in France's lower house.

The measure sets a punishment of up to one year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($56,793) for those who deny or "outrageously minimize" the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 by Ottoman Turks as genocide.

France formally recognized the 1915 Armenian killings as genocide in 2001, but provided no penalty for anyone refuting it.

Supreme Court Limits Police Use of a GPS Device; Rules Police Must 1st Obtain a Warrant to Use It

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today (January 23, 2012) that police attachment of a GPS device to monitor a suspect's vehicle was a search protected by constitutional privacy rights, according to the Reuters website.

The ruling was a defeat for the Obama administration, which defended the use of global positioning system devices -- without a warrant and without a person's knowledge -- as a legal way to monitor a vehicle on public streets.

The justices unanimously ruled that police must first obtain a warrant to use a GPS device for an extended period of time to covertly follow a suspect.

The American Civil Liberties Union -- and other human rights-oriented organizations -- commended today's Supreme Court ruling, because it support an individual's rights against unreasonable and unlimited searches and seizures of evidence.

Space an Issue in 2012?

During 2000, Americans learned that a presidential election can hinge on a few votes in the "Swing State" of Florida. The swing votes are concentrated in the Interstate 4 corridor, running from Tampa to Kennedy Space Center. President Bush paid little attention to Space until 2003. In the wake of Columbia, Bush enacted the Vision for Space Exploration. NASA Administrator Mike Griffin responded with the Constellation program.

Candidate Barack Obama in late 2007 proposed paying for an expanded education program by delaying Constellation 5 years, effectively killing it. When Florida became a battleground in the presidential primaries, he reversed himself and promised to support Constellation. (Hillary Clinton decisively won the Florida primary, but due to a rules fight Florida delegates were stripped of half their votes). In the general election, Obama won Florida and the presidency.

Once in office, President Obama did more than delay Constellation, he cancelled it. Thousands of NASA employees, many living in the I-4 corridor, have been laid off. The man-caused depression affects thousands more, from the restaurants where NASA workers eat to the salons that do our hair. The budget for education, in contrast, has soared dramatically.

Space was not an issue in the 2012 election, until last week. The current White House occupant never meets with NASA's Administrator. Mitt Romney had been expected to easily win South Carolina and Florida, sealing the Republican nomination. Because of Newt Gingrich's surprise win in South Carolina, the battle to challenge Obama will extend to the January 31 Florida primary and probably beyond. Again those votes in the Space Coast and I-4 corridor will be critical.

Newt Gingrich has promised to give a "visionary" speech on Space this week.
Gingrich has a longstanding interest in Space, and even once wrote a book about Space development. If the nomination battle extends to Texas, Space could even be an issue in Houston. Romney, if he wants to remain in the game, would be well-advised to come up with a turnaround strategy involving Space. Thanks to South Carolina, Space could become a critical issue in choosing the next US President.

Bond Girl, by Erin Duffy

In this stellar debut novel, Erin Duffy proves that "write what you know" is great advice indeed. Ms. Duffy, who spent years in the financial industry, spins the story of UVA alum Alex Garrett who, fresh from graduation, begins work at the Wall Street trading firm Cromwell, Pierce. Alex has known all her life that the financial industry is where she wants to make her mark. In a brilliant and almost too precocious light bulb moment at age eight, after visits to her father's place of work, Alex realizes that everything she's told not to do and everything she is undervalued for as a child, is actually permissible and admired on a trading floor.

At twenty-two, Alex arrives at Cromwell and meets her boss "Chick" Ciccone, and her assorted group of co-workers, all male, all older and all anxious to show the new "girlie" where she belongs on the office totem pole. What Alex does is turn her role as resident gopher into a chance to prove to herself and to them that she belongs, and over time she does just that. Some of the mistakes she makes on her way up her learning curve are quite hysterical, and her boss's punishments don't quite fit the "crimes" but we laugh at them anyway. Alex is faced with some challenges in the form of a duplicitous office love interest, a client who shows a bit too much enthusiasm for Alex's spare time, and the financial crisis of 2008. In true chic lit fashion, she overcomes it all, and comes out of it way ahead of the game.

For a debut novel, Ms. Duffy does an excellent job in serving up a fast-paced, absorbing page turner. Alex's embarrassment, trials and triumphs are all experienced first and center by the reader and by the end of the novel, we're ready to cheer her on to the next great thing she undertakes. It's an engaging story, very well-written, although the subject matter once again reminds me why I didn't study finance in graduate school. While it's a complicated subject to master, it's a heck of a lot of fun to read about. Highly recommend, and out on February 1, 2012. Published by William Morrow.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Human Rights Watch Rips Egypt's Military Govt.; Says Mil. Govt. Ignores Laws, Is Worse Than Mubarak

The Global Post website reports that Human Rights Watch (HRW) -- the prominent U.S.-based rights group -- released its annual report today (January 22, 2012) in Cairo, in a move its executive director said is meant to reflect the report's primary focus, with harsh words for Egypt's ruling generals one year after an Egyptian uprising.

"Egypt's military rule started off positively in terms of protecting the demonstrators and facilitating the departure of Mubarak," HRW's executive director, Kenneth Roth, said in Cairo.

Roth added: "But it has taken a very disturbing turn. What we've seen is a series of moves by the military to undermine the rule of law."

In the report, HRW says Egyptians are now "at greater risk of arbitrary arrest and trial before unfair military courts than during the (dictator) Mubarak era."

Afghan Calligrapher Makes World's Biggest Quran; 218 Pages Are 2.28 Meters by 1.55 Meters in Size

An Afghan calligrapher has created the world's biggest Holy Quran, after working on it for five years, the All Voices website reports today (January 22, 2012).

The pages are 2.28 meters by 1.55 meters in size, and the total weight of the Quran is 500kg (1102 pounds).

It has 218 pages of cloth and paper and is bound inside an embossed leather cover made from the skins of 21 goats. It cost about a half-million dollars to create.

It is now in the library of Afghanistan's cultural heritage and traditions in Kabul.

Indonesian Arrested for Not Believing in God; Faces Maximum 5 Years in Jail If Found Guilty

The Big News Network website reports today (January 22, 2012) that a 30-year-old Indonesian civil servant has been arrested on charges of blasphemy, after he created a Facebook page that said he did not believe in God.

The man -- identified as Alexander -- said he did not believe in angels, devils, heaven, and hell, as well as other myths.

He faces a maximum sentence of five years in jail if found guilty.

Alexander's identity card says that Islam is his religion. More Muslims live in Indonesia than in any other country.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

COMMENTARY: Football Games Are Not the Proper Venue for Individual Prayer

A writer from Virginia this week wrote a journal article in which he compares Tim Tebow -- the Denver Broncos quarterback who prays on the sidelines at NFL games -- to the way the Pharisees prayed on street corners in order to gain attention.

He writes that "Jesus blasted the Pharisees for making a Hollywood production out of praying," and that Jesus would not approve of Tebow's praying in public.

We agree with this writer's viewpoint.

While Tebow must be commended for praying to God often, we feel that his praying should be a private matter between himself and God. In other words, Tebow should not be praying openly on a football field, where thousands of attendants -- as well as the other football players -- can observe him praying.

Jesus does not need -- nor does He want -- this kind of publicity, because a football game is not a venue designed to promote Christianity. Rather, it is a venue for players to play a game as well as they can -- with the objective of winning it -- and to provide the fans at the game and the television viewers with their playing expertise.

Football games are for the enjoyment and fun of a plethora of people; prayer is for a serious, spiritual, and personal relationship between an individual and God.

For a football player to pray openly at a football game -- before thousands of people -- can be viewed as being demeaning to the sanctity and personal nature of prayer. It can also be considered to be a player's desire to receive attention from thousands of fans.

In the final analysis, Tim Tebow needs to focus on his playing techniques -- and not pray publicly -- during football games, while he may pray as many times as he desires at his home, his church, and other appropriate places for worship.

Columnist Rips Tim Tebow for Praying at Games; Says Jesus Would Condemn Him Like He Condemned Pharisees

The Christian Post website reports today (January 21, 2012) that a liberal columnist from Virginia has written an article comparing Tim Tebow to the Pharisees that Jesus often had to contend with -- saying the way the Denver Broncos quarterback prays on the sidelines at NFL games is just as bad as the way Pharisees prayed on street corners to gain attention.

"Jesus Christ blasted the Pharisees for making a Hollywood production out of praying," Robert Paul Reyes wrote in an article that was published this week by The Student Operated Press.

Reyes says that every time Tebow prays on the football field he violates Jesus' command in Matthew 6:5, which says, "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

Palestinian Head Abbas Receives Award in Russia; Is International Fund for Unity of Orthodox Peoples Award

The Orthodox Church Info blog reports that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas today (January 21, 2012) was awarded the annual prize of the International Fund for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples. The award ceremony took place at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow and was led by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

This Orthodox award -- presented for the 11th time -- this year went to a Sunni Muslim. Indeed, Mahmoud Abbas can be described as the keeper of Orthodox values in the Middle East.

Valery Alekseev -- who heads the International Fund for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples - said, "Mahmoud Abbas was picked from among other candidates for the award for being the guardian of Christian values in the Middle East. Mr. Abbas devotes a lot of his time to promoting Christian-Islamic dialogue and encouraging Orthodox pilgrimages and the Orthodox presence in the Holy Land."

Russia's cultural and humanitarian cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in recent years has resulted in reinstating Russian presence in the Middle East to its highest level in many decades.

Obama Admin. Orders Birth-Control Coverage; Non-Profit Orgs. Must Offer It to Women Employees

The Reuters website reports today (January 21, 2012) that the Obama administration ruled yesterday (January 20) that religiously-affiliated nonprofit organizations -- including hospitals and universities -- will have to offer birth-control coverage to women employees.

In a decision expected to draw harsh opposition from religious conservatives, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule requiring affiliated groups to provide a broad range of services -- from implanted contraceptive devices to the morning-after pill.

The government's decision does not apply to churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and some religiously-affiliated schools, which remain exempt.

But it comes as a blow to the interests of some religious authorities. For example, the Roman Catholic Church considers contraception to be a sin.

Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins

You never know what lurks in the shadows of an e-reader. Apparently a little while ago, I downloaded Until There Was You by Kristan Higgins, one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. I guess real life got in the way at the time and I didn’t get to it. Let me assure you, folks, had I known what I was missing, I would have cracked it open the minute it landed on my Kindle.

Cordelia Osterhagen, known to all as Posey, runs a salvage company, lives in an old church, owns three cats, a Great Dane and has been in love with one person since freshman year in high school. While her looks may have set her apart from her unusual but loving adoptive parents, her childhood was relatively normal and happy. That is until high school. Scrawny awkwardness doesn’t win teen popularity contests and Posey, given a choice between being the cool kids’ running joke or becoming invisible, chooses the latter and hopes no one notices.  Her plan to stay firmly on the fringe stays on course, even when the new, cool, straight out of juvenile detention kid in school takes a part time job in her parent’s kitschy German themed restaurant. Liam Declan Murphy is distant but cordial to Posey and this small amount of neutral attention thrown her way develops into a powerful one-sided teenaged crush. Posey painstakingly nurses her devotion to Liam – in fact, her entire existence revolves around him, even after he falls hard for another girl. But when Liam acts the bad boy toward Posey, proving he’s no different than any of the others at school, she is devastated. But she picks herself up and moves on, a little older in spirit and perhaps now a little wiser …

The decision to return to Bellsford, New Hampshire from San Diego isn’t an easy one for Liam, but as a widower, it seems the right decision to make for his teenaged daughter. The move will give her the chance to be closer to his late wife’s family. And being back will hopefully help him move past the painful, sometimes debilitating memories of his high school sweetheart’s death.  Liam is not surprised to find things haven’t changed very much. Guten Tag, the Osterhagen’s restaurant where he worked as a kid, is pretty much the same as is Cordelia (as he always called her). She’s still skinny, and still quirky. But as the weeks go by, he finds himself spending more and more time in her company – and surprisingly, enjoying it just a little too much… 

I’m a huge fan of all of Ms. Higgins’ work, but it’s the characters in this story that make it my favorite of hers. Both Posey and Liam are very unusual, Posey more for her looks than anything else. She is by far not a beauty, as the physical comparisons between her and her robust adoptive mother and cousin make obvious. But Posey’s personality is what makes her beautiful. At first Ms. Higgins administers only small doses of her character’s potential. But the fun is in watching Posey grow into herself, to finally fit into her huge personality – to be comfortable in her own skin.  Liam captured me in an entirely different way.  Appalled by his actions as a teen-aged boy, I was completely captivated by his behavior as a man. The author gives Liam touching humanity as the single father of a fifteen-year old daughter. The irony of this responsibility should not be lost on the reader as it is definitely not lost on Liam. And his struggles with OCD, panic attacks and general anxiety regarding his daughter's well being make this former bad boy motorcycle mechanic one of my favorite male protagonists.

As usual, Ms. Higgins scores huge. Until There Was You is most assuredly different and definitely divine. It's also very highly recommended. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Conservative Presbyterians Open New Denomination; Say PC (USA) Is Filled with Internal Conflicts

Conservative Presbyterians launched a new denomination yesterday (January 19, 2012), saying that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is too consumed by internal conflicts and bureaucracy to nurture healthy congregations, according to the Washington Post website.

"This 'new Reformed body' is intended to foster a new way of being the church, just as traditional, mainline denominations rose to serve in their day," wrote leaders of the new Evangelical Covenant Order (ECO) of Presbyterians.

The creation of the ECO follows the PC (USA's) church-wide vote last year to lift its longtime ban on gay clergy.

The PC (USA) lost more than 500,000 members between 1998 and 2009 -- according to its church statistics -- and now has about two million members.

Religious-Themed Business Course Canceled at ISU; Would Have Used the Bible to Handle Bus. Issues

Iowa State University (ISU) has canceled a business management course that some faculty say would have advocated an evangelical Christian point of view and used a textbook that advised its readers against doing business with nonbelievers, the Huffington Post website reports today (January 20, 2012).

The course -- Application of Biblical Insight into the Management of Business/Organization -- was to be taught this semester by Roger Stover, a finance professor.

A description of the course says, "The goal of this seminar is to employ the Bible for insight into handling the vital issues faced in a business."

The course was canceled by ISU's dean of the college of business management, after some faculty members objected to it.

Czech Police Arrest Two Men for Robbing Tombs; Raided 70 Tombs Seeking Gold Teeth, Medals, Jewels

The Prague Daily Monitor website reports today (January 20, 2012) that Czech police have arrested two men suspected of robbing more than 70 graves in northern Bohemia.

The two men -- aged 48 and 38 -- mainly targeted older tombs in the region in search of gold teeth, medals, jewelry, and other relics.

They were arrested last Saturday night at a cemetery in Usti nad Labem in the north of the country, where they were raiding tombs.

Police also took the equipment the men used, including face masks, crowbars and other tools, as well as a short folding ladder that they used to descend into the tombs.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

NYPD to Use a Device to Detect Hidden Weapons; Electronic Frisking Tool Can See Through Clothes

The Yahoo News website reports today (January 19, 2012) that the Department of Defense and the New York Police Department (NYPD) are developing a remote controlled device that could detect if individuals are carrying concealed firearms or explosives.

The device can see through clothes, backpacks, and even walls from as far away as 75 feet.

The "electronic frisking" device uses electromagnetic energy waves and terahertz that bounce off metallic objects, sending back an image of suspected guns and explosives.

Donna Lieberman -- an official with the New York Civil Liberties Union -- said the device "is worrisome because it implicates privacy when the police department tells us that anytime we walk down the street we're going to be subject to a virtual pat down even though we're not suspected of doing anything wrong."

Two Catholic Midwives Refuse Abortion Cases; Tell Scotland Court Rel. Beliefs Oppose Abortion

Two Catholic midwives are testifying before Scotland's highest civil court that they are being forced to participate in abortions against both their consciences and the law, the Eurasia Review website reports today (January 19, 2012).

Mary Doogan and Connie Wood have been told by the state-run National Health Service in Glasgow that they are expected to supervise and support fellow midwives who perform abortions.

In their January 17 petition to the Court of Session in Edinburgh, the women explained that "they hold a religious belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination of pregnancy is a grave offense against human life."

The case is currently being heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.


During the 2009 protests in Iran, the world watched as the young woman Neda Soltani was shot and bled to death on the street. Neda was a symbol of thousands who were murdered, beaten or imprisoned by this terrible regime. Despite the terrible actions of the regime, the world's leaders did nothing.

Gelareh Bagherzadeh, 30, was a scientist and molecular biology student at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She was a key member of SabzHouston, a group peacefully protesting for women's rights and freedom in her native Iran. In interviews Gelareh was reticent about giving her full name, in fear of retribution. Late Sunday night she was silenced by a single bullet to the head near her home in Southwest Houston.

The Houston police have no clues in the murder. The assassin, who followed or laid in wait for her, has escaped without a trace. This terrible act of violence against a women's rights advocate is suspiciously like an international "hit". (Travelling to another country to murder someone is called war.) Will there ever be justice for Neda or Gelareh?

Stop Islamization of Nations (SION) Is Created; New Org. Is Determined to Defend Free Societies

The Europe News website reports today (January 19, 2012) that the human rights organizations Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and Stop Islamization of Europe (SIOE) are merging to create a new global force determined to defend free societies globally: Stop Islamization of Nations (SION).

SIOA and SIOE are the foremost organizations in America and Europe dedicated to defending human rights, religious liberty, freedom of conscience, and the freedom of speech against Islamic supremacist intimidation and attempts to bring elements of Sharia (Islamic Law) to the West.

At the helm of SION as its founding president is the internationally renowned human rights activist and executive director of SIOA, Pamela Geller.

Vice president is the bestselling author and Islam expert, Robert Spencer.

AFIELD Magazine Season 2

Starting January 2012 Afield magazine has stepped into another (graphic) dimension.
This one.
You'll find the coming issues (season 2) on the new website from now on :

Please subscribe to our newsletter in order to get the multidimensional news. :D

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

COMMENTARY: Female Feticide Is an Immoral Practice

Female feticide -- or choosing to abort female fetuses because of a preference for sons -- is a common practice in China, India, Korea, Vietnam, and several other Asian nations.

It is also practiced in Canada, and to a lesser degree, in the United States.

In an effort to diminish this practice, an editorial in this month's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) recommends that Canada should prohibit the disclosure of the sex of a fetus until after 30 weeks of pregnancy.

We agree with this CMAJ editorial. The fact is that a woman who carries a fetus 30 weeks or more is much more unlikely to have an abortion than a woman who carries a fetus for just two or three months.

Female feticide also is degrading to women, because it conveys an illogical message; namely, that a woman who gives birth to a son is luckier than a woman who gives birth to a daughter.

The fact is that a woman should be happy for being able to give birth to a child -- son or daughter -- and thank God for doing so.

Unfortunately, some women who are unable to give birth to a child "would give their right arm" to do so. Many women and men, who are not able to have a child, would be thrilled to be able to adopt a child -- male or female -- and have even gone as far away as Asia to do so.

Female feticide, then, must not be viewed as "a right" of a woman to abort as many fetuses as necessary in order to give birth to a son. In addition to being an immoral practice, female feticide -- as is the case with abortion in general -- must be considered an act of infanticide that seriously violates Christian doctrine.

In the final analysis, a woman must be extremely grateful to God for enabling her to give birth to a child -- male or female -- and to recognize that child as "a bundle of joy" that she will love and cherish for many years, and most likely for the rest of her life.

An Amber Heart: The Archetypal Journey of the Heroine, A Memoir by Susan Tossman Blue

When a friend of mine asked me to take a look at this book and possibly review it here, I was skeptical for a couple of reasons, not least of which was because it's a memoir. My review would be read by the person who actually lived the story, not by an author who created the characters just for his/her reader's enjoyment. That particular fear was put aside the moment I read the first paragraph. Susan Tossman Blue has written a gem; a memoir that serves to grip and teach at the same time. It's her life story, yes, but it's so well-written and the story so enlightening and yes, I'll even use the term "uplifting," that you can't help but come away at the last page questioning  the path of your own personal journey through life.

The novel starts with the author finding an antique amber heart. The heart, she believes is a metaphor for her own, locked and unmoving, held in place by past experience and early life trauma. Coupled with her affinity for a stand of trees on her grandfather's farm, the only place where she found acceptance and love in her strict, religious upbringing, she uses these two "tools" as a way to get past that childhood and come to terms and love the person she has become.

The book is divided into four parts, each serving its own purpose, and each builds upon the previous section to reveal a story sometimes too painful to read. Ms. Blue is coy about revealing too much too early, and this works very well. We come to wonder about her physical breakdown, the scars on her lower body, her previously broken jaw and nose. What happened? Where did these come from? Until the second part of the book, we don't know, but we have clues. And those clues keep us turning the pages.

On her trip home, in the section entitled Awareness, we get the background we were waiting for. Revelations come fast and furious, and her childhood of parental abuse, denigration and repression, all in the name of God and mental illness and family dysfunction are revealed to us. Instead of recoiling in horror at the past the author has endured, we become wrapped up in the thought that this is a survivor, and we, as readers, come to understand why she is the way she is, and begin to acknowledge that  we want her to let go, forgive herself for what she shouldn't have been blamed for in the first place and reach that place of acceptance and love that anyone would hope to find in their own life.

There are some wonderful secondary characters who Susan brings to life for us. The first is her husband Jack, who adds some wonderful commentary to the telling of this story. My favorite quote of his is this one, which is said to Susan in relation to her family, "the fact that you might love yourself is a threat." In addition to Jack, there are Susan's paternal grandparents, on whose farm she finds such peace, and her maternal grandmother. There's her therapist Nicole and her doctors, Simon and Dennis, and Dr. Valentine, who help her to recover physically so that she can pursue the emotional side of her journey. And her "wondercat," Tybee, also plays an intricate role in her recovery.

I highlighted many passages from this book in the course of my reading it, and intend to go back and re-read when I have the chance. While my life experiences do not compare with the author's, there are enough lessons for the reader to take away and apply. And days later, I'm still thinking about all of them.

Review Film Something Borrowed

Saat perayaan ulang tahunnya yang ke-30 Rachel White (Ginnifer Goodwin) yang setengah mabuk tanpa direncanakan tidur dengan Dex Thaler (Colin Egglesfield) tunangan sahabat baiknya, Darcy Rhone (Kate Hudson). Darcy yang juga mabuk telah pulang lebih dulu. Sebenarnya sejak awal, semasih kuliah hukum, Rachel dan Dex telah saling menyukai. Hanya karena sifat Rachel yang pemalu, Dex malah mengira Rachel sengaja menjodohkan dirinya dengan Darcy. Dalam keadaan sama-sama setengah mabuk, kedua orang yang diam-diam masih saling mencintai itu berselingkuh. Tidak ingin menyakiti perasaan Darcy, keduanya pun berbohong untuk menutupi perselingkuhan mereka. 

Saat Darcy mengajak keduanya berlibur bersama dengan teman mereka lainnya, antara lain Ethan (John Krasinski), Marcus (Steve Howey), dan Claire (Ashley Williams) situasi yang canggung pun berkembang di antara mereka. Ethan menyukai Rachel, tapi gadis yang disukainya justru diam-diam mencintai Dex, tunangan Darcy. Sementara itu Darcy bermaksud menjodohkan Rachel dengan Marcus karena keduanya masih lajang. Claire sendiri menyukai Ethan dan dengan terang-terangan menunjukkan rasa sukanya. Canggung dengan sikap agresif Claire, Ethan berpura-pura sebagai gay yang menyukai sesama jenis dan karena itu tidak mungkin menerima cinta Claire. Tapi, akhirnya Claire menyadari bahwa Ethan hanya berpura-pura dan itu dilakukan Ethan karena pria itu tidak menaruh hati padanya. 

Diam-diam Dex dan Rachel meneruskan perselingkuhan mereka. Meski merasa bersalah pada Darcy, keduanya tidak bisa membendung perasaan mereka. Ethan menasihati Rachel untuk meninggalkan Dex. Menurutnya Dex seharusnya bersikap tegas dan memutuskan pertunangannya dengan Darcy. Keduanya belum terikat tali pernikahan dan Dex seharusnya bisa lebih leluasa menjalin hubungan dengan Rachel setelah membatalkan pertunangannya dengan Darcy. Dex sendiri merasa berat untuk mengakhiri hubungannya dengan Darcy karena ibunya yang depresi menjadi lebih bahagia setelah mengetahui rencana pernikahannya. Apalagi ayahnya juga memperingatkan Dex untuk tidak mengacaukan hubungannya dengan Darcy. 

Saat Ethan memutuskan untuk pindah ke London, Rachel mengunjungi pria itu. Sekembalinya ke New York, Dex telah menantikan dirinya di depan pintu apartemennya. Rachel dengan hati bahagia menerima cinta Dex setelah pria itu mengaku telah memutuskan Darcy. Tak lama Darcy tiba di apartemen Rachel dan mengaku bahwa ia telah memutuskan Dex. Darcy juga mengakui bahwa ia telah berselingkuh dengan Marcus tanpa sepengetahuan Dex dan bahwa ia tengah mengandung anak Marcus. Tapi, saat Darcy melihat jas Dex di apartemen Rachel, Darcy pun mengamuk dan meminta Dex yang bersembunyi untuk keluar. Darcy merasa dikhianati karena sebelumnya Rachel berbohong bahwa dia tengah menjalin hubungan dengan Ethan. Dua bulan kemudian saat tanpa sengaja berpapasan di jalan, Darcy dan Rachel pun berbaikan. Di akhir cerita giliran Darcy yang mengejar Ethan setelah hubungannya dengan Marcus tidak berhasil. Ethan pun berusaha menghindar dari Darcy. 

Meskipun film ini berakhir happy ending; Dex dan Rachel akhirnya bisa bersama, tapi saya tidak menyukai plot film ini. Betapa mengenaskan tokoh-tokoh utama dalam film ini memiliki karakter yang terkesan plin-plan. Dex tidak bisa mengambil keputusan dengan cepat untuk memutuskan hubungannya dengan Darcy, bahkan setelah Rachel dengan sepenuh hati mengungkapkan perasaannya pada Dex. Rachel pun sepertinya tidak keberatan dijadikan cadangan oleh Dex dan dengan gembira segera menerima Dex setelah pria itu memutuskan pertunangannya dengan sahabatnya sendiri. Ethan pun tidak seperti Claire yang dengan bias menunjukkan rasa sukanya pada pria itu. Ethan justru berpura-pura sebagai homoseksual karena tidak bisa bersikap jujur pada Claire dan menunjukkan penolakannya dengan terus-terang. Saya sendiri lebih suka jika Rachel berpasangan dengan Ethan yang jauh lebih lucu dan sarkastis, ketimbang dengan Dex yang lemah dan tidak berani memperjuangkan impiannya sendiri dan hanya mengikuti kemauan orang tuanya. Justru karakter Claire yang bukan tokoh utama jauh lebih kuat ketimbang Rachel dan Dex. Setidaknya Claire berani memperjuangkan cintanya terhadap Ethan, meski berujung penolakan. Saya malah merasa karakter Rachel terkesan tidak menghargai dirinya sendiri. Di salah satu dialog Rachel berkata pada Ethan bahwa dia ingin menjadi pilihan pertama bagi Dex, tapi meski Dex telah menolak memutuskan hubungannya dengan Darcy, pada akhirnya Rachel mau saja kembali pada Dex setelah pria itu menghabiskan waktu bergumul dengan dirinya sendiri sebelum akhirnya berani mengikuti kata hati. 

Berikut beberapa penggalan dialog yang menarik di film ini: 

Rachel: People who were friends as kids almost always lose touch eventually. 

Darcy: I’m glad we didn’t. 

Rachel: Me too. 

Darcy: And we never will, right? 

Rachel: No. 

Rachel: Live your own life the way you want to live it. 

Rachel: No. And besides, I didn’t want him to pick me by default. I wanna be someone’s first choice. 

Ethan: Yeah, you are. 

Rachel: No, I know what you’re saying. I’m not his first choice. 

Ethan: Maybe you’re someone first choice. 

Ethan: You are home for me. 

Rachel: She deserves better. So do you. So do I. 

* Gambar dipinjam dari Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Resolusi dan Fakta

Setiap kali pergantian tahun, resolusi bagi sebagian orang adalah sebuah hal yang harus dibuat dan dikerjakan. Kadangkala resolusi itu tergantung sepenuhnya pada usaha kita, tapi sebagian lagi tergantung pada situasi yang memang tidak bisa kita kendalikan. Salah satu resolusi saya di tahun ini adalah sehat selama 365 hari di tahun 2012 ini. Nyatanya sejak pergantian tahun, saya sakit demam, flu, batuk, sakit kepala selama sedikitnya dua minggu. Sekarang pun saat menulis postingan ini, saya masih flu. Rasanya ironis mengingat resolusi yang saya buat berhubungan erat dengan kesehatan. Nyatanya sejak hari pertama di tahun yang baru, resolusi saya jelas-jelas tidak terwujud. Bukan awal yang menjanjikan untuk memulai tahun ini. Membuktikan bahwa resolusi bisa terwujud, tidak sepenuhnya tergantung pada usaha kita. 

Tentu saja, saya tahu untuk menjaga kesehatan, saya perlu mengubah gaya hidup saya yang ritmenya cenderung berantakan. Itu sebabnya kini saya menghindari kata-kata motivasi yang cenderung membuat orang jadi workaholic. Masih karena imbas kalimat motivasi yang pernah sangat mempengaruhi saya di waktu-waktu yang silam, sampai kini pun saya cenderung jadi insomnia kalau merasa belum mengerjakan sesuatu yang berarti selama sehari itu. Akibatnya saya jadi terbiasa tidur di pagi hari dan hanya tidur beberapa jam, karena beberapa jam berikutnya saya sudah harus memulai aktivitas saya. 

Kadang saya merasa semua kalimat motivasi yang dilontarkan para motivator tak lebih dari sebuah pembodohan. Hampir semuanya menitikberatkan pada kerja keras. Tanpa sadar kita jadi terpola untuk bekerja dan berusaha terlalu keras, lupa istirahat, lupa rekreasi, lupa rileks, dan akhirnya lupa menjaga kesehatan. Hampir semuanya hanya menitikberatkan pada kesuksesan, tapi berapa banyak yang menyuarakan keseimbangan? 

Sebagian besar orang hari ini malah jadi merasa hidupnya tidak berarti kalau dia belum berprestasi. Semua orang ingin menjadi pemenang, dan kadang harga yang dia bayar terlalu mahal dan tidak sebanding dengan pencapaiannya. Benarkah eksistensi hidup kita hanya bergantung pada pencapaian kita? 

Saya jadi teringat salah satu eks murid saya (saat dulu saya masih menjadi guru). Eks murid saya ini tidak keberatan tidak menjadi juara kelas. Dia tidak ingin seperti teman sekelasnya yang hampir seluruh harinya dihabiskan untuk belajar hingga tidak punya waktu untuk bermain dengan adiknya. Betapa menyentuh bahwa anak usia dua belas tahun ternyata membuat pilihan yang lebih bijaksana ketimbang orang dewasa hari ini. Sementara masih ada saja orang tua yang menginginkan anak super, memaksa anaknya mengikuti berbagai kursus dan tambahan pelajaran untuk memastikan anaknya menjadi juara kelas dan menganggap diri mereka orang tua yang peduli pada pendidikan anaknya. Berikutnya saat anak mereka gagal mencapai tujuan yang mereka tetapkan, mereka akan memarahi anaknya dengan alasan klise bahwa mereka telah membanting tulang untuk membiayai pendidikan anaknya, termasuk kursus ini dan itu, tapi bahwasannya mereka terlupa bagaimana menjadi orang tua. Lupakah mereka bahwa anak bukan cuma butuh pendidikan, tapi juga butuh kasih sayang dari orang tuanya? Apakah bentuk kasih sayang harus selalu dengan menjejali anak dengan tambahan pelajaran? Apakah kasih sayang harus selalu dalam bentuk hadiah dan mainan jika mereka berhasil berprestasi? Tidak bisakah kasih sayang diberikan tanpa syarat, hanya karena anak mereka adalah darah daging mereka, tidak peduli apakah mereka anak berprestasi atau tidak? 

Saya sendiri belum merasakan menjadi orang tua dan mungkin saya lancang menilai mereka seperti itu. Mungkin saya tidak tahu apa pun tentang parenting, tapi saya tahu saya punya intuisi, dan seharusnya semua orang menggunakan intuisi mereka juga, bukan cuma akal sehat atau ego yang berujung pada pembenaran diri. Lupakah orang-orang dewasa itu bahwa hidup tidak melulu hanya untuk mencapai tujuan dan menjadi superior, di antaranya seharusnya masih tersisa ruang untuk menjadi manusia, yang masih butuh cinta dan kebersamaan? 

Saya juga jadi teringat lirik lagu Would You be Happier-nya The Corrs, “Would you be happier if you weren't so untogether? Would the sun shine brighter if you played a bigger part?” Jadi benarkah mentari bersinar lebih cerah jika kita memainkan peran yang lebih besar? Setiap kali saya nyaris terlupa bagaimana menjadi manusia, saya menanyakan hal ini pada diri sendiri. Pada akhirnya saya dikembalikan pada keseimbangan yang saya perlukan. Alangkah sepinya menikmati sukses jika kita tidak tahu harus membaginya dengan siapa, karena pada proses mencapai sukses itu, kita tanpa sadar menyisihkan orang-orang terdekat, karena sebagian besar waktu kita habis untuk berusaha sangat keras mencapai resolusi, tujuan, sukses, dan setumpuk “mimpi” untuk menjadi besar. 

Tentu saja resolusi tetap penting untuk dicapai, tentu saja orang harus memiliki tujuan dan target dalam hidup, tentu saja sukses adalah bagian dari pencapaian dan eksistensi manusia, hanya saja, sisakanlah keseimbangan, jangan lupakan bahwa kita masih manusia. Jangan sampai kita lebih mencintai kesuksesan dan perasaan superior ketimbang diri sendiri dan manusia-manusia lain di sekeliling kita. Bagaimana pun, manusia jauh lebih berharga ketimbang kesuksesan sebesar apa pun itu. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

King Day

Happy Martin Luther King Day in the US! In researching the life of Dr. King, I was surprised to learn he was a Republican. During the 1960's most of the opposition to civil rights came from the other party. This post was originally published in 2010:

Another Nobel Prize Winner: This Sunday, October 16, Washington's Martin Luther King Memorial will be dedicated. The ceremony would have happened earlier, but the surprise earthquake in September caused postponement. Even the US Eastern seaboard is vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis. Because of the delay, we visitors to DC have been able to preview the monument. Behind a 30-foot King statue is a marble wall filled with his quotes. One of King's bits of wisdom could apply to physicists puzzling about "dark energies."

"Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light can do that."

The answer to apparent acceleration of the universe has not been found in hypothetical "dark" energies. Such speculations are rejected by the public and will harm the reputation of physicists. Redshifts of distant objects are roughly proportional to recession velocity divided by the speed of light, v/c. The non-linear redshifts of Type Ia supernovae, which just won its discoverers their own Nobel, is more plausibly due not to v accelerating, but to c slowing down. The answer to the mystery is not in the dark, but in light.

In 2009 the Nobel Peace Prize committee inexplicably rewarded a man with no record of peace, leading to much ridicule. This year's award goes to Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, and Tawakkol Karman from Yemen. All three women have faced and continue to face formidable opposition. Karman, the first Arab woman to win the Prize, has been detained and harassed by mobs with clubs. Women who face such challenges deserve the Nobel Prize.

Review Film Midnight in Paris

Saat berlibur bersama tunangannya, Inez (Rachel McAdams ) di Paris, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) yang seorang penulis dan tengah mengerjakan novel pertamanya merasa jatuh cinta pada kota itu, khususnya di saat hujan mengguyur Paris. Berbeda terbalik dengan Gil, Inez justru menganggap Paris tidak lebih baik dari kota lainnya di dunia. Ia justru lebih sibuk mempersiapkan pernikahan mereka dengan memilih furniture yang akan ditempatkan di rumah mereka kelak. Bersama ibunya yang juga materialistis, mereka membuat Gil merasa tersudut karena barang-barang yang dipilih Inez semuanya adalah barang-barang yang mahal, tapi menurut Inez harga yang harus dia keluarkan sebenarnya murah. Gil makin tersisih saat Inez bertemu dengan temannya, Paul (Michael Sheen) dan Carol Bates (Nina Arianda). Apalagi Paul yang merasa dirinya berpengetahuan luas suka memamerkan pengetahuannya seputar sejarah dan seni, dan Inez sangat mengaguminya, bahkan dia lebih menghargai pendapat Paul ketimbang pendapat Gil yang notabene adalah tunangannya. 

Suatu malam ketika Inez yang ingin pergi berdansa menolak untuk pulang bersamanya, Gil yang mabuk terpaksa berjalan sendirian untuk kembali ke hotel. Karena tidak sepenuhnya mengenali jalan-jalan di Paris, tanpa sengaja tersasar ke bagian lain kota. Saat jam berdentang di tengah malam, ia tanpa sengaja didaulat oleh orang-orang yang mengendarai sebuah mobil kuno. Tak dinyana dia ternyata dibawa ke tahun 1920-an dan orang-orang di dalam mobil itu adalah Cole Porter (Yves Heck), Josephine Baker (Sonia Rolland), Zelda (Alison Pill) dan F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) yang lalu memperkenalkannya pada Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) dan Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates). Gil jelas merasa takjub dan senang karena era 20-an adalah masa keemasan. Gil sendiri merasa dia terlahir pada era yang salah dan karenanya sangat menikmati pertemuannya dengan penulis-penulis berbakat yang sangat ia kagumi itu. Ia bahkan memperlihatkan draft novelnya pada Gertrude Stein padahal ia tadinya tidak mau memperlihatkannya pada siapa pun, termasuk kepada Inez, apalagi kepada Paul yang menurut Inez dapat memberinya saran seputar pembuatan novelnya. Saat mobil itu menurunkannya ke bagian kota tempat dia tersesat, Gil pun kembali ke tahun 2010. 

Petualangan Gil terus berlanjut. Saat tengah malam berikutnya, ia pun kembali ke tahun 1920-an. Gertrude Stein memperkenalkan Gil pada Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo) dan wanita simpanannya, Adriana (Marion Cotillard) yang juga menjadi model lukisannya. Gil merasa tertarik pada Adriana dan berniat menghadiahinya sepasang anting-anting. Tadinya Gil ingin memberikan anting-anting milik Inez ke adriana, tapi karena tunangannya itu menuduh pelayan hotel mencurinya, Gil terpaksa mengembalikan anting-anting itu sebelum sempat diberikan kepada Adriana. Gil akhirnya membeli anting-anting di sebuah toko dan ternyata Adriana sangat menyukai pemberiannya. Hal ini dilakukan Gil saat dia tanpa sengaja menemukan buku harian Adriana yang dijual di toko barang antik. Menurut buku hariannya, Adriana jatuh cinta pada Gil dan dia bermimpi Gil memberinya sepasang anting-anting. 

Menurut Gertrude Stein, tulisan Gil menunjukkan kemajuan, tapi dia mengkritik kenaifan tokoh utamanya yang tidak menyadari bahwa tunangannya berselingkuh. Gil pun termakan ucapan Stein dan menganggap Inez berselingkuh dengan Paul. John (Kurt Fuller), ayah Paul yang mencurigai Gil berselingkuh karena tingkahnya yang makin aneh, lalu menyewa detektif untuk mengikutinya. Sayangnya sang detektif hilang setelah tanpa sengaja tersesat ke zaman yang lebih lampau. 

Adriana yang tak sabar menjelang era yang baru memutuskan untuk tetap berada di eranya, apalagi dia ditawari pekerjaan untuk menjadi disainer kostum balet, sementara Gil bersikukuh bahwa era 1920-an adalah era terbaik. Karena itu Gil pun memutuskan untuk berpisah dengan Adriana dan kembali ke eranya sendiri. Setelah Inez mengaku bahwa ia sempat berselingkuh dengan Paul, Gil pun memutuskan pertunangannya. Gil lalu tanpa sengaja bertemu kembali dengan Gabrielle (Lea Seydoux) yang juga mengagumi era yang sama dengan yang dikagumi Gil dan sempat menawarinya untuk membeli piringan hitam karena mengingat betapa Gil sangat menyukai musik tempo dulu itu. Gabrielle juga ternyata menyukai Paris di saat hujan. Keduanya lalu berjalan di tengah siraman hujan sambil menyusuri kota Paris sambil berbincang. 

Saya sangat menyukai film yang ditulis dan disutradarai oleh Woody Allen ini. Film ini membangkitkan imajinasi dan membuat penontonnya juga jadi berandai-andai dan membayangkan ke era mana mereka akan pergi jika mereka bisa seberuntung Gil bisa memasuki era yang sangat dikaguminya. Saya juga menyukai dialog film ini, khususnya mengenai berjalan di tengah siraman hujan. Sangat romantis, seromantis Paris. 

Berikut beberapa dialog yang menarik di film ini: 

Gil: Can you picture how drop dead gorgeous this city is in the rain? Imagine this town in the 20’s. paris in the 20’s. in the rain, the artists and the writers. 

Inez: Why does every city have to be in the rain? What’s wonderful about getting wet? 

Hemingway: Writers are competitive. 

Gil: I’m not gonna be competitive with you. 

Hemingway: You’re too self-effacing. It’s not manly. If you’re a writer, then clear yourself the best writer. 

Gil: No, it’ll be nice walking in the rain. It’s beautiful. 

Inez: No. there’s nothing beautiful about walking in the rain. 

Gil: Are you sure you don’t wanna walk in the rain? 

Hemingway: You’ll never write well if you fear dying. 

Hemingway: I believe that love that is true and real creates a respite from death. All cowardice has come from not loving or not loving well, which is the same thing. And when the man who is brave and true looks death squarely in the face like some rhino hunters I know… or Belmonte… who’s truly brave. It is because they love with sufficient passion, to push death out of their minds. Until it returns as it does to all men. And then you must make really good love again. Think about it. 

Gil: That’s… you know, what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life is a litle unsatisfying. 

Gabrielle: Actually, Paris is the most beautiful in the rain. 

Gil: I feel that… That’s what I’m always saying. I couldn’t agree more with you. Yes, it is more beautiful.


* Gambar dipinjam dari Wikipedia

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review Film From Prada to Nada

Film ini bercerita tentang dua bersaudara, Mary (Alexa Vega) dan Nora (Camilla Belle) Dominguez yang setelah kematian ayahnya yang mendadak pada perayaan ulang tahun ayahnya, keduanya terpaksa harus berganti gaya hidup secara drastis. Ayah mereka ternyata berada di ambang kebangkrutan. Hal itu tidak pernah diketahui oleh keduanya. Lebih mengejutkan lagi, ayahnya ternyata pernah berselingkuh semasa hidupnya dan dari perselingkuhan itu lahir seorang putera, Gabe (Pablo Cruz Guerrero). Jadilah kedua bersaudara itu makin terkejut karena mereka ternyata memiliki saudara tiri. Olivia (April Bowlby), isteri Gabe yang materialistis serta-merta menyita rumah mereka dan langsung merombak seisi rumah dan melakukan renovasi besar-besaran. 

Merasa tidak lagi memiliki kenangan atas rumah mereka, Nora memaksa Mary untuk meninggalkan rumah ketimbang diperlakukan semena-mena oleh Olivia. Meski sempat menolak, Mary akhirnya setuju untuk pindah karena tidak punya pilihan lain. Keduanya pun tinggal menumpang di rumah bibi mereka, Aurelia (Adriana Barraza) di lingkungan kumuh di bagian timur Los Angeles. Dari biasa hidup mewah dan serba berkecukupan, Mary dan Nora terpaksa hidup sederhana. Mereka harus hidup di ranjang berkutu dan beradaptasi dengan lingkungan baru mereka yang rawan kejahatan. 

Meski baru bertemu Nora satu kali, Edward (Nicholas D’Agosto), saudara laki-laki Olivia langsung menyukai Nora. Ia sengaja mengantarkan barang-barang penuh kenangan milik Nora. Ia mengantarkan sendiri pohon berbentuk profil ayah mereka, lukisan wajah ibu Nora, dan benda-benda lain yang berarti untuk gadis itu. Edward juga sempat menawarkan pekerjaan untuk Nora; tapi karena tidak ingin berhutang budi, Nora sengaja menolak lowongan pekerjaan yang diberikan Edward. Tidak dinyana dari surat kabar yang diberikan Edward, di luar dugaan Nora, ia ternyata melamar di firma hukum tempat Edward bekerja. Bukan itu saja, malah Edward sendiri yang menjadi atasannya. Nora sempat dicemburui pegawai-pegawai lain yang mengidolakan Edward. Tak ingin kariernya terganggu, Nora menolak cinta Edward dan akhirnya patah hati saat Edward yang juga patah hati setuju untuk dijodohkan dengan gadis lain yang diperkenalkan Olivia dan bahkan bertunangan dengannya. 

Sementara itu, Mary diam-diam disukai oleh tetangga mereka, Bruno (Wilmer Valderrama) yang memperbaiki spion mobilnya dan mengajarinya menyalakan mobil bekas yang terpaksa harus ia kendarai setelah mobil mewahnya terpaksa dijual untuk menopang kehidupannya. Nora memaksa Mary untuk kuliah dan menyelesaikan pendidikannya, sementara ia bekerja di firma hukum. Tapi, Mary justru jatuh cinta pada Rodrigo Fuentes (Kuno Becker) yang sempat menjadi dosen tamu di kampusnya. Mary bahkan berbohong dan meyakinkan Rodrigo untuk membeli rumahnya yang sekarang dimiliki Olivia. Mary yang telah berangan-angan menjadi isteri Rodrigo berharap akan dapat mengambil-alih rumah lamanya dari Olivia. Sayangnya bukan Mary saja yang berbohong. Rodrigo ternyata telah beristeri dan hubungan mereka kandas setelah Mary yang menemani Nora ke pesta pertunangan Edward tanpa sengaja bertemu Rodrigo dan isterinya yang setuju membeli rumah mereka dari tangan Olivia. 

Edward menyadari bahwa yang dicintainya adalah Nora. Ia pun membatalkan pertunangannya dan mendirikan firma hukum di dekat tempat tinggal Nora. Ia menawari Nora sebagai partnernya. Nora menerima tawaran Edward dan akhirnya menikahi pria itu. Mary yang mengalami kecelakaan dan sempat mengalami koma akhirnya tersadar bahwa selama ini ia telah menyia-nyiakan perhatian Bruno yang diam-diam selalu membantu dan menjaganya, termasuk menghalau preman perempuan yang ingin mem-bully-nya. Ia pun berbaikan dengan Bruno yang setelah mengetahui hubungannya dengan Rodrigo lalu memilih menjauhinya. 

Seperti layaknya film komedi romantis, film ini memang berakhir bahagia. Nora akhirnya menikah dengan Edward, dan Bruno akhirnya mendapatkan cinta Mary. Meski begitu film ini terasa lucu dan dialognya juga segar dan cerdas. Karenanya, film ini sangat menghibur untuk ditonton. 

Berikut beberapa penggalan dialog yang lucu dan cerdas di film ini: 

Mary: You know what? There’s lice on that mattress. 

Nora: Then you won’t sleep alone. 

Aunt Aurelia: How is it possible that you don’t know the basics? 

Nora: Do you know how to fly a plane? 

Aunt Aurelia: Of course not. Why should I? 

Nora: Right. Well, because you never had to. I never had to cook. 

Edward: I’m looking for Nora Dominguez. 

Aunt Aurelia: I will ask her if she’s here. 

Edward: You seem to have adapted well in such a short period of time. 

Nora: I’m a cockroach. Survival skills. I adapt

Edward: Okay. 

Mary: Nora, in the real world, it’s called hitting on you. 

Nora: And what does that mean, really? 

Mary: Duh, he likes you. 

Mary: Don’t steal anything! 

Bruno: You think all Mexican steal? 

Mary: I don’t know. I’m not Mexican. 

Bruno: You’re not Mexican? You should take a look at yourself in your new mirror. Because with a poncho and huaraches, you can make a killing selling tamales. 

Mary: That’s really funny. 

Bruno: Hey, you know what a distributor is? 

Mary: Do I need to? 

Bruno: See, these two cables here, they come loose. 

Mary: Yeah? 

Bruno: Just make sure that they still connect. Like your mouth and your brain should. 

Teacher: How many of you have read the book I assigned? 

Mary’s friend: Did you read the book? 

Mary: The title page. 

Mary: Well, I like the color red. My ipod is full. I don’t wake up before 10:00, and no hablo espanol. I love poetry, pasta, and Prada. 

Nora: You’re studying? 

Mary: I have to. The TA’s my future husband. 

Nora: The TA? 

Mary: Yeah. 

Edward: I have been to your hood before, so I think I can risk it. 

Nora: That’s pretty bold for an outsider. 

Edward: It’s amazing the things that one does for love…. of public good. 

Bruno: You know, sometimes you play a game even when you know you’re gonna lose. 

Nora: Or sometimes, you leave a game even when you know you can win. 

Bruno: I wouldn’t leave that game. 

Edward: Nora, my heart is and always has been yours. I love you. Is that a yes?

* Gambar dipinjam dari Wikipedia

Friday, January 13, 2012

Memaknai Desember

Bermula dari perasaan: betapa cepatnya waktu berlalu dan hampir setahun berselang, saya rasanya belum mengerjakan apa pun yang benar-benar penting dan berarti, saya mencoba "menangkap" momen-momen terakhir menjelang pergantian tahun, tepatnya selama 31 hari terakhir di tahun 2011 dengan mencatat hal pertama dan terakhir yang saya pikirkan setiap harinya. Itu sebabnya saya menamai "proyek kecil" ini First and Last Project. Tentu saja, seperti biasanya, saya mencoba mengajak teman-teman terdekat untuk ikut serta dalam proyek ini. Hanya, seperti biasanya pula, yang benar-benar berhasil saya yakinkan paling banter hanya satu orang. Dan kali ini orang itu adalah sahabat saya, Herny. Tidak seperti saya, dia memilih untuk mencatat apa yang dia pikirkan setiap harinya selama hari-hari di bulan Desember 2011, tapi tidak selalu merupakan hal pertama atau terakhir di setiap harinya. 

Tanpa berpanjang kata lagi, inilah hasil catatan saya selama sebulan terakhir di tahun lalu:

F&LP D1.

F: Hari ini saya bangun kesiangan. Hal pertama yang saya pikirkan adalah betapa saya masih sangat mengantuk dan persediaan kopi siap minum saya sudah habis dari kemarin.

L: Hujan. Pengantar tidur yang menenangkan.

F&LP D2.

F: Alarm bunyi. Sudah jam 6 lagi.

L: Segala sesuatu terjadi karena sebuah alasan. Meskipun alasan itu seringkali tersamar, kabur, dan tidak jelas, bukan berarti tidak ada manfaatnya.

F&LP D3.

F: Sekarang jam berapa ya?

L: Saya tiba-tiba teringat lirik lagu Life yang dinyanyikan Des'ree, "Sometimes given up your dream ain't as easy as it seems." Menulis adalah bagian dari mimpi saya. Satu dasawarsa yang silam, saya pernah melepasnya, mengira itu tidak lebih dari hobi. Nyatanya, menulis masih bagian dari mimpi saya. Melepasnya begitu saja tidak semudah yang saya bayangkan, tepat seperti yang dinyanyikan Des'ree.

F&LP D4.

F: Saya masih mengantuk. Alangkah malasnya memulai hari.

L: Saya ingin 2012 lekas tiba. Menyaksikan lagi Kimi Raikkonen di grid terdepan, meraih pole position, leading di sepanjang balapan, dan akhirnya saat chequered flag dikibaskan, Kimi meraup poin penuh di podium pertama. Semoga terjadi di setiap seri dan The Iceman memenangkan gelar WDC untuk kedua kalinya. The Flying Finn is back.

F&LP D5.

F: Where's my coffee? I need my caffeine.

L: Masih ingin mengerjakan banyak hal, tapi mata tidak bisa diajak kompromi.

F&LP D6.

F: Hah? Sekarang sudahjam 9?

L: Ernest Hemingway, T. S. Elliot, The Fitzgerald, Stein, Dali, Piccaso, dll. Beberapa jam dari sekarang... biografi!

F&LP D7.

F: Saya benci pagi hari dan satu hal yang saya benci melebihi saya membenci pagi hari adalah terpaksa bangun di pagi hari.

L: Saya tidak mengerti mengapa David Nicholls bisa menulis novel dengan ending yang luar biasa tragis. Bagaimana mungkin orang harus melewatkan selama 20 tahun sebelum menemukan bahwa cinta sejatinya berada tepat di depan matanya, lalu setelah melewati dua dekade harus terpisah tiba-tiba saat ajal menjemput? Oh, saya sedang bicara tentang plot film One Day yang diadaptasi dari novel karangan David Nicholls. Oh, saya benci dialog ini, "Whatever happens tomorrow, we've had today." Apa yang istimewa dari satu hari, sementara 20 tahun terbuang percuma? Saya cinta happy ending. Selalu, selamanya. Saya tidak pernah mengerti, mengapa ada novelis yang mau repot-repot menulis kisah cinta yang luar biasa indah, jika endingnya luar biasa tragis? Apakah penulis hebat harus selalu "psikopat"??? Saya menangis dan tak habis pikir, mengapa Anne Hathaway harus tewas di film ini?

F&LP D8.

F: I think the new concept of"best friends forever" means "shrink forever".

L: I think everybody deserves a happy ending. It can be a new home, a shelter, some understanding, emphaty, hope, or even faith. Whatever it is, I wish everyone can get their very own version of happy ending.

F&LP D9.

F: Bangun! Sekarang sudah jam 6 lewat.

L: Hah? Sudah hampir jam 2 pagi? 

F&LP D10.

F: Hari yang baru...

L: Besok acaranya padat. Semoga tidak jadi penat. 

F&LP D11.

F: Astaga, sudah hampir jam 9! Bangun kesiangan lagi.

L: Baca A Lucky Child biar tidak gampang down kalau doa tidak terkabul. Sinopsisnya bilang, "A Lucky Child menjadi pengingat pendorong akan kuasa doa dan ketabahan semangat manusia."

F&LP D12. F: Senin dan hujan. Alasan untuk meringkuk di ranjang lebih lama. L: Flu memangkas kemampuan membaca cepat saya. Besok harus lebih produktif.

F&LP D13.

F: Saya benci alarm.

L: Membaca tentang perjuangan para survivor holocaust selama berada dalam kamp pekerja mau tidak mau membuat orang merasa malu untuk mengeluh. Dibandingkan dengan penderitaan dan ketabahan mereka, apa yang kita sebut sebagai kesulitan hari ini rasanya cuma setitik debu. Manusia mungkin belum benar-benar merasa hidup kalau belum mengalami nyaris mati. Mungkin akan menghemat waktu, jika kita bisa belajar untuk hidup dari mereka yang nyaris mati. Kita akan belajar arti ketabahan lebih cepat dan berhenti memboroskan waktu untuk merengek dan mengeluh.

F&LP D14.

F: Alarm bunyi lagi. 6:10.

L: Mata sudah berat, sudah waktunya terlelap. Masih ada beberapa hal yang harus dituntaskan lebih dulu. Pagi sudah keburu menjelang...

F&LP D15.
F: Reptil mati itu masih berada di kamar saya. Padahal tadi malam ibu sudah berjanji untuk membuangnya karena saya terlalu jijik untuk melakukannya sendiri. Matanya yang tidak bisa berkedip menatap kosong. Kulitnya mengelupas sebagian. Dia terjepit di antara kedua lemari buku. Tak bergerak, diam, dan beku.
L: Sudah lewat pukul 3 pagi. Hari sudah berganti sejak tadi.

F&LP D16.

F: Saya belum siap memulai hari.

L: Hampir menjelang pukul 1 pagi. Masih ada beberapa hal yang harus dibereskan. Menunda tidur hingga beberapa waktu lagi.

F&LP D17.

F: Hari baru kembali tercipta. Entah hujan benar turun atau saya hanya memimpikannya. Saat saya benar-benar terjaga, jejak hujan telah sirna.

L: Dikepung insomnia.

F&LP D18.

F: Bangun terlambat lagi.

L: Kadang manusia dapat merasa terhilang justru di saat bersama melewatkan waktu. Herannya, dia justru menemukan lagi dirinya di saat ia seorang diri.

F&LP D19.

F: Seharusnya bangun pukul 6, tapi justru terjaga menjelang pukul 9.

L: Dikepung insomnia lagi.

F&LP D20.

F: Terjaga sesaat, lalu terlelap lagi.

L: Andai mesin waktu benar ada, saya ingin pergi ke masa depan, melongok sebentar apa yang akan terjadi pada saya. Tapi, saya juga ingin pergi ke masa lalu, mencari tahu apa yang terjadi pada orang-orang yang sudah keburu meninggal sebelum saya terlahir. Tapi, saya juga ingin berada di masa kini untuk terus menjalani apa yang saya miliki hari ini.

F&LP D21.

F: Kali ini saya terbangun sepuluh menit lebih awal sebelum alarm bunyi. Tapi, saya masih ingin tidur lagi.

L: Senyap di luar. Gerimis turun perlahan. Suaranya teredam, nyaris tak terdengar. Sudah pukul 1 lewat. Beranjak tidur diiringi hujan.

F&LP D22.

F: Tak siap menjalani hari. Sedikit demam.

L: Setelah beberapa malam insomnia, kali ini kantuk datang dengan cepat.

F&LP D23.

F: Bangun tepat waktu, tapi tetap ingin tidur lagi. Tidak siap memulai hari. Malam nanti akan berangkat ke luar kota. Belum-belum sudah merindukan rumah.

L: Hari sudah berganti. Baru akan beranjak tidur. Hanya akan terlelap selama beberapa jam. Harus memulai hari tak lama lagi.

F&LP D24.

F: Tak dinyana, meski hanya terlelap dalam beberapa jam, bisa terbangun dengan mudah.

L: Butuh tidur nyenyak, tapi insomnia justru menyerang.

F&LP D25.

F: Hari baru menjelang. Siap atau pun tidak, harus kembali memulai hari.

L: Dua hari lagi tersisa. Sangat merindukan rumah. Berharap hari ini segera berlalu, hari esok segera tiba, dan lekas berlalu pula. Berharap lusa lekas tiba. Biarlah waktu membawaku pulang.

F&LP D26.

F: Hari yang baru menjelang. Tak sabar ingin lekas mengakhiri hari ini agar esok lekas menjelang. Berharap hari yang baru lekas tiba.

L: Lega akhirnya tiba di rumah. Menjelang pukul 2 pagi ketika akan beranjak tidur. Pagi sudah menjelang. Hari baru sudah datang. Selamat pagi, dunia.

F&LP D27.

F: Mungkin karena imbas retreat, pagi ini doa saya seperti ini: "Lord, I’m messy but thank you, You still love me. But Lord, I
want you to know, even though I’m messy, I still love You."

L: 2011 hampi berakhir. Tidak ingin lagi memikirkan hal-hal yang sudah berlalu. Berharap tahun depan akan lebih baik.

F&LP D28.

F: Tak sabar menantikan 2012 tiba. Tapi, tak ingin sisa hari di tahun ini menjadi tidak berarti.

L: Saya tidak pernah bosan menonton Kill Bill meski sudah menontonnya berkali-kali. Saya suka plotnya yang agak mirip komik.

F&LP D29.

F: Setelah beberapa malam insomnia, imbasnya baru terasa sekarang. Kantuk tak kunjung lenyap, memerangkap hingga pagi datang.

L: Lewat pukul tiga saat beranjak tidur. Sebelum tahun ini berakhir, tak ingin membiarkannya tak bermakna. Saya menikmati saat waktu merangkak pergi, dari pagi ke pagi.

F&LP D30.

F: Di antara pukul 6 dan 7.25 saya tidak benar-benar terjaga.

L: Berlalunya waktu dan bertambahnya usia tidak menjamin seseorang lebih dewasa, lebih pemaaf, atau pun lebih bijaksana. "Forgiven, but not forgotten", terkadang hal ini pun terasa sudah maksimal. Saya rasa saya bukan pendendam, tapi saya merasa kadang-kadang manusia melakukan kesalahan fatal dan dia tetap lolos dari hukuman. Setidaknya, dia seharusnya mendapatkan sedikit ganjaran. Apa gunanya melewati waktu dan usia semakin beranjak senja, jika manusia tidak belajar apa-apa dari kesalahannya dan tetap melakukan kesalahan serupa di masa mendatang? Alangkah dungunya melakukan kesalahan, tapi tidak menyadarinya sama sekali!

F&LP D31.

F: Hujan. Itu yang pertama kali saya sadari saat terbangun pagi ini. Dulu, sekarang, dan saya rasa hingga nanti, saya selalu suka hujan. Ada yang puitis tentang hujan. Dan tak ada yang lebih puitis dari sebuah kesadaran, ini adalah hujan yang turun di pagi terakhir di tahun ini.

L: Pukul 3 lewat saat beranjak tidur. Tahun telah berganti.