Saturday, August 02, 2008

In which Tim tells you to get with the times...

I don't know if anyone is still checking this blog. If so, I must confess I am deeply honored. I have not updated in a while, and if you keep coming back it must mean that you appreciated something of my ramblings and are hungry for more. The bad news is that I no longer post here.

But the good news is that I DO post here quite regularly, to update friends, family and fans on my progress as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

I do feel some sadness at leaving behind the good ol' timatmsu address. I suppose it is no longer fitting for me to claim to still be at MSU. Time moves on, people get older, and it seems that blog addresses must change. Yet onward we move, and further we write.

See you in the Caribbean!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

In which Tim watches "Project Runway"

It has recently come to my attention that quite a few people who's intelligence I respect greatly are fans of "Project Runway" on Bravo. This is not the kind of show I generally drift toward (not political enough, for one thing), but I decided to give it a go and to share my reflections.

The Good: My initial reaction to the idea of the show was to think how I really don't care that much about fashion. Yet this show reminded me that everything I put on my body on a daily basis was crafted by some creative person who thought long and hard about what this shirt should look like, and what these shoes should express. There is a lot of giftedness that goes into providing humanity with clothes that protect our bodies from the elements as well as allow us to express ourselves. The show helped me to think about that. The characters (contestants?) were memorable, and less annoying than on most reality tv shows. Some of the quotes were hysterical (Christian: "I am going to die of barfness").

The Bad: The show did on more than one occasion drift into using some of the cliches that make reality television more often than not unbearable. Cheesy music to create emotion. Certain catch phrases that are over repeated ("Make it work" x 7). The silly moment of suspense at the end when you don't know who is going to get voted off. None of this is original. I felt like if they had cut some of the cliche out, there would have been more room for more of the interesting material (For example, how does a designer even come up with an idea?? That part of the show was only about thirty seconds long! You have me captive, teach me something I would not otherwise learn!).

The Verdict: An interesting, relatively well put together show. I would watch it again were I in front of the television. It's cool to watch genuinely talented people be creative.

Below are the notes that I took during the show. Some might find them amusing...

Project Runway 1/30/08
-None of the participants seem happy to go on a field trip.
-They all seem pretty pooped out and unexcited about life.
-Lots of jeans.
-The butler is creepy.
-"the skirt I am going to make shows the Levi's can be a little more. Refined, yet hip." -Israeli guy. Ronnie. PRETENTIOUS.
-fat guy and hair guy (Christian) don't get along.
-"I'm going to die of barfness" -Christian
-Sweet P is making a wedding dress. Right now that is the idea that jumps out to me. Risky, yet there's potential.
-Lingerie guy "knows for a fact" that he is a great designer. Good for him. Ricky.
-Fat guy is making a "little blue dress" and talking to it.
-The butler can't be a real person. To surreal.
-I like the "coat with the futuristic edge" by gillian? julianne? But I don't think she'll be able to do it.
-"Hippy hands at home Granny circle" about wedding dress. ha ha ha
-"Make it work"-the butler (Tim)
-This place reminds me of a sweat shop.
-Emotions are running high as time ticks down.
-William Shatner commercials = awesome
-Apparently I can get the butler on my cell phone if I so desire (commercial). That makes me happy.
-Future girl is grumpy.
-"Make it work" (third time)
-The models creep me out.
-"Make it work" in the background! (4th time)
-Hairboy is a drama queen.
-Lady in a glittery dress seems to use almost as many cliches as the butler.
-"It was innovative, and it worked out really cool and really hot"-Christian. How is something both cool and hot?
-Every single one of them says "I think I did a great job"
-Few of the designers seem to understand the notion of being "iconic"
-"Impeccable" is the judge's favorite adjective.
-"the lingerie experience" ha ha ha
-Glitter lady is a heck of a harsh judge. She kisses people goodbye after she fires them!! Being a designer seems like scary work...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

In which Tim "compares" people on facebook, or not...

So a few minutes ago I was browsing friends pages on facebook, and was surprised to see my profile picture in the middle of my friends profile, with the caption "best to work with" underneath it. Turned out it was connected with the "compare your friends" function. I signed into it just to see what it's like, and was very quickly bothered.

This program shows you two of your friends pictures, and asks you to compare them on some given quality. Examples of what I saw would include "Which has the best smile?", "Which would you rather sleep with?", "Which is more reliable?", "Which has the better body?". When you are done comparing that set, it gives you another one. You can keep comparing and comparing and comparing your friends with each other all day long. You can look and see what people have ranked you as (apparently a lot of people think I am trustworthy. Thanks.), but you can't see who the people are that are saying these things.

This thing bothers me for several reasons. First of all, it's a way for people to tell their friends what they think about them without having to look them in the eye. If your friend is reliable, or smart, or has a great body why not just tell them that? Why does affirmation have to be given in secret?

Second, this program turns people into objects of amusement and consumption. My female friends are no longer people with emotions, minds, souls etc. but simply objects that facebook intends me to take pleasure in comparing. It doesn't feel right to make a game out of people. Connected to that, it's extremely degrading for individuals to have their bodies and personalities compared to other peoples in a public forum without giving consent. How many of us are being compared without knowing it? Privacy violation, anyone?

Bah. It makes me angry.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Regarding the death of Benazir Bhutto

When I was a small child there was a large poster on the wall of our back hallway. It showed a much younger Benazir wearing a blue head scarf. It was probably a campaign poster given to my parents by some visitor or other from Pakistan. It would have been the late 1980's, when she stunned the world by becoming the first democratically elected head of a Muslim nation state. As a graduate of Oxford, and the daughter of one of Pakistan's most gifted politicians she certainly had the potential to lead her country in the direction of progress and modernity. Yet through out her career she was dogged by allegations of corruption, and hindered by the mistakes of unqualified advisers. She never lived up to her potential, and has spent the last decade in a self imposed exile.

Over the last few months she has returned to the news, awakening the best hopes of Pakistan and the world. We listened as she began to speak of leading in the direction of moderation, seeking to negotiate a political coalition with Pakistan's military leaders. We watched as she returned to the land of her birth, touching the ground and shedding tears of joy, and was then nearly killed by a suicide bomber who took the lives of nearly 200 supporters. In recent months she has campaigned tirelessly leading up to the January elections. She seemed to genuinely believe that Pakistan could pick itself up out of the quagmire of terror, corruption and instability that it has lived in for so long. Crowds came out in the thousands to hear her message, and her future as Prime Minister seemed secure.

This morning (evening in Pakistan), she was shot in the neck by an assassin who then detonated a bomb that was strapped to his chest. Benazir was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. All across Pakistan people are beating their breasts and wailing in mourning for what has been lost.

Benazir was no angel. She had her faults, as politicians from every country always will, and I hesitate to claim that had she lived Pakistan would be out of the woods. The problems are far deeper than one Prime Minister could ever hope to mend. Yet the world begins to run short of leaders with the ability to inspire their people, causing them to believe that tomorrow really can be better. And democratic change does not happen without leaders who can fan the dream into flame. I have to admit that Benazir Bhutto had this ability, and I believe that the world should grieve her death. Like with Ahmed Shah Masoud and Rafik Hariri, we have lost a potentially great warrior in the epic quest to restore hope to a deeply troubled part of the world.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

In which Tim might reveal some SPOILERS

If you are currently reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" or intend to read it in the near future, and wish to avoid possible spoilers. Please read no further.


What a book. I finished reading it 27 hours after the release. I am tired, but there was so much heart stopping adrenaline packed into those pages that I think I need to type for a few minutes before I can calm down enough to sleep. The book was action packed, and alternated radically between terror and humor, despair and joy. Over all, I do not think that Ms. Rowling could have ended the story in a better way. All of the loose ends were tied up, and all the major characters were in top form to bid the reader farewell.

I was intrigued (maybe because it's three in the morning...) by what I perceived to be elements of the gospel present in the way things were ultimately resolved. In the end, an innocent victim sacrificed himself for the good of those he loved. He had no hope of glory or reward aside from the knowledge that the people he cared most about might be safe. And that selflessness broke death's grip, causing things to work backwards. It's a lot like Aslan in "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe". Obviously it is not a perfect allegory in that Harry was far from a completely innocent and blameless victim. Still, there is a lot to be learned from this story about love, sacrifice, and temptation.

I mentioned earlier how good it was that so many characters were given time to bid the reader farewell. I think I need to correct myself. The great thing about stories like this is that it wasn't really a farewell. I can open these pages any time I like to spend some time with Harry, Ron and Hermione. It's the same magic that allows me to time after time travel with Sam and Frodo, sail with Caspian, or explore the Himalayas with Ash and Juli. The great stories never end, they just go back on the shelf for a while. Props to Rowling for winning an honored spot on that shelf.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

regarding the New York Times being a spoil sport

So the NYT somehow got their hands on a copy of the new Potter book two days before the rest of us are allowed to see it, and for some strange reason they published a review. I will not include the link because I don't want to lead anyone into temptation. I have not read it, nor do I intend to. My sister and I both wrote angry letters. They are copied below.

(From Me)
I was extremely disappointed to learn of the review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" published by the New York Times using an illegitimately acquired copy of the book. I have been a loyal reader of the Times for my entire adult life and have never been so apalled by an effort to get a story first. Millions of fans across the world have been waiting for many years to read this book. Some younger fans have been waiting over half their lives to see how Harry's story ends. I am befuddled as to why the Times is above waiting in line with everyone else to purchase a copy at the designated release time, and I am utterly mystified as to why they would publish a review that they know for a fact would go unread by the vast majority of people with any interest in the series. Over all this move was poorly thought out, badly timed, and inconsiderate of Ms. Rowling, Scholastic Publishing, and the vast community of Harry Potter fans. I believe that the Times owes an immediate apology to all of these parties.


Timothy S. Brown
Madison, WI

(From Katrina)
To Whom it May Concern:

I heard the most absurd and far fetched bit of news today. Can you imagine what it might have been? Today I heard that the New York Times posted an early review and spoilers of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I hope you are ashamed of yourselves. I hope that you feel ashamed deep down to the very bottom of your heart, and I hope it burns all the way through to the core of you.

I've been a New York Times subscription holder - I haven't missed a Sunday Times in a long, long time. I've put up with the criticism of my Republican friends, and you have been my first source for news of any kind.

That you would even CONSIDER posting spoilers, let alone actually doing it? I can't even believe it. My respect for you has been almost obliterated. You probably think that is ridiculous, and you probably think that is silly. I'm actually almost positive that you will think that is silly - how could you not, you apparently have no sense of respect, goodness or decency. You have shown that you do not take children seriously - and I feel bad for yours, if you happen to be a parent. You do not take humanity seriously. You probably don't take much seriously.

My biggest problem? We live in a pretty messed up world. You, of all people, should know this. You are faced with it every day. Something comes along that brightens it up a bit for a huge part of the population - child and adult - and you proceed to attempt to smother it out.

Good thing for us, with all the sadistic intentions that must have gone into the printing of that review, you have not succeeded. You stooped low enough to the level of attention seeking idiots on the internet, and you will no doubt, in many of our minds, go down in history in the same vein as them - spineless, gutless, cowards who don't deserve the time of day.

You are foolish. You have erased one more source with a voice that I thought I could trust. I'm sorry for you, I'm sorry that someone ruined your childhood to such a degree that you would feel the need to bring the rest of us down with you.

I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry for the lack of goodness and decency that remains in this world, and I'm sorry that you have to be the one to manifest it. I would have liked to keep reading your newspaper, and I would have liked to go on respecting you. I don't think I can, now, though.

Thank you for your time.



Just a day and a half!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

in which Tim laments the bureaucracy

The Peace Corps is full of stupid bureaucrats who seem to lack the imagination to answer questions comprehensibly. When this email dialog finishes, I will post it for your enjoyment.

Also, they are requiring that I shed my wisdom teeth. What fun!