Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Parked in History

Rosa Parks, an icon of the United States Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s passed away at her home in Michigan last night. Parks, who died of natural causes, was 92 years old. A lot of people still say that simply because on December 1st, 1955, a tired 42-year-old seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama refused to give up her bus seat to a White person after a long day at work, a whole movement for civil and human rights began in the United States. That is an understatement of the simmering discontent in the African American community at the time, of course, but there is no doubt that her seemingly insignificant act was exactly the sort of trigger that was needed to formally start the movement by addressing the problem of segregated public transport. Can there ever be another Rosa Parks moment in the Civil Rights movement? We can only hope.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Omnipotence of Blasphemy

In Afghanistan, the editor of a women's magazine has been sentenced to 2 years imprisonment for writing an article deemed blasphemous against Islam. Mohaqiq Nasab, editor-in-chief of "Hoqooq-e-Zan" magazine (meaning "Women's Rights") is considering filing an appeal. According to Reuters, Nasab's article "questioned the need for harsh Islamic punishment for apostates, thieves and others" thereby prompting Hamid Karzai's religious advisers to propose a charge of blasphemy against him. I continue to be amazed when individuals in countries that have such sensitive laws to any and everything that could be deemed sacrilegious or blasphemous go out on a limb and attempt to comment on their society's shortcomings -- especially when the ultimate punishment is death. What's interesting is that many times, it is not even fully clear what the blasphemy was -- it's almost as if that particular charge can somehow be applied to absolutely anything, especially when someone has fallen out of favor with the establishment and needs to be "taught a lesson".

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Jose Couso: Justice for Journalists

Remember at the beginning of Iraq War II when U.S. troops accidentally killed a bunch of journalists at the Palestine Hotel and the Al-Jazeera network? Well, one of those journalists was Spain's Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso and his brother, Javier, has not given up the fight for justice. Today, Spain's High Court, issued arrest warrants for 3 U.S. soldiers involved in firing a tank straight into the belly of the Palestine, instantly killing Couso and his Reuters colleague Taras Protsyuk. It's not much, but it's better than nothing. I suppose it's too much to ask that we try to value every human life -- but at least when suspicions of malice or injustice arise, at least there are some ways, whether through the law or through the media, to get your voice heard.

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Sad-dam Sure of Himself

Like his predecessors in genocidal crime before him (Milosevic, are you listening?), Saddam deployed the first tactic of a known criminal on trial today, the opening day of his war crimes proceedings: question the legitimacy of the tribunal. "I won't answer to this so-called court ... Who are you? What are you?" Saddam said, followed by, according to past-dictators-on-trial protocol, a reaffirmation that, despite some time behind bars, being internationally exposed as a criminal, and having been officially and successfully dethroned, he is still the ruler of the land: "I retain my constitutional rights as the president of Iraq."And like all trials featuring an infamous defendant who has committed many crimes over a very long time period, the focus was on one isolated incident that could at least be a metaphor for the grander insidiousness accomplished by the individual in question. In Saddam's case, the target is his involvement in the 1982 murder of over 140 Shiites in the village of Dujail, 35 miles north of Baghdad. His response? "I said what I said, I am not guilty, I am innocent." Sure you are -- by the way, can we proceed to any and all involvement you may have had in a little thing I like to call the Iran-Iraq War? Focus, Saddam, this one is not so easy.

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Can You Say "NYET"?

Looks like The Con's Russian skills need some working on -- even her amazing talents in practicing Vladi Putin's tongue (heh heh) have failed to convince the Ruskies that Iran is a danger to the world on a whole, or even to its neighbors to the north. According to the AP, she wasn't able to "persuade Russia to offer new support for a hard line on
Iran's disputed nuclear program." Hmm, maybe she should show more leg next time. BaBUSHka!

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Famous Pinter Wins Nobel

Portrait of Harold Pinter by Justin Mortimer, 1992, National Portrait Gallery, London

Harold Pinter has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 75. His views and literature about the wars in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq have garnered him much attention, awards and backlash. Amongst other causes, he has also been outspoken on behalf of the Kurds in Turkey, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and freedom of speech worldwide. Notably, in the UK one can still have a successful public career while opposing the government -- something that is very much not the case in the United States. In Pinter's case, you can also be openly anti-American:

God Bless America

Here they go again,
The Yanks in their armoured parade
Chanting their ballads of joy
As they gallop across the big world
Praising America's God.

The gutters are clogged with the dead
The ones who couldn't join in
The others refusing to sing
The ones who are losing their voice
The ones who've forgotten the tune.

The riders have whips which cut.
Your head rolls onto the sand
Your head is a pool in the dirt
Your head is a stain in the dust
Your eyes have gone out and your nose
Sniffs only the pong of the dead
And all the dead air is alive
With the smell of America's God.

- Harold Pinter (January 2003)

Certainly, the British government, no less than the American government, does not appreciate being contradicted but there's a big difference between the large-scale threat of a 75-year-old writer and a 40-year-old rock star like John Lennon -- in terms of charisma and accumulating public support for a cause. This is just another example of the shrewdness of British politics -- when you let people be free, to a certain extent, rather than control every aspect of their lives, they will ultimately be less of a threat to your establishment. Is America too far gone to start letting go now? I think that's what the suits in Washington believe and that will eventually be the catalyst for their demise. It's like that analogy of the stiff, dry branch: one rough wind and it will break.


The Turkeys in Turkey

Okay, it is ironic and amusing that of all the nations in Europe with an avian virus, it would end up being Turkey first -- and it's affecting their turkeys, no less. Yes, bird flu has found an obvious home. And now Romania has announced that ducks and other wild birds which have flown in from Central Asia have also tested positive for the same H5N1 strain of bird flu which was also reported in Russia and Mongolia and is the same strain as the Asia one that made headlines this year. On a more serious note, it seems inevitable that pescatarianism is increasingly the safest option for the menu -- what with mad cows and virulent birds, what's left but fish and their kin? Though it seems inevitable that even the meat of the sea is a danger to us all -- why not? We humans pollute the oceans just as much as every other natural resource we can get our hands on.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Very Un-Smurfy Death

La la la-la la B-O-O-M!! UNICEF has started a television ad campaign in Belgium, the homeland of the Smurfs creator Peyo which depicts the Smurf village as being horribly attacked in a war. "The 20-second video commercial clip aims to show that war can happen in the most innocent of places," according to a UNICEF rep. More specifically, UNICEF is fundraising to support ex-child soldiers in Africa and decided this would be the best way to "shock a complacent public into backing the effort." It's being shown after 9 pm to minimize the chance that young children will mistakenly catch the clip and think that their little heroes are being killed, one by blue little one. To be honest, I don't see how this is any more destructive or disturbing than what already goes on in that cartoon -- I always found Gargamel very frightening and even decided on several occasions that I would never watch the Smurfs again because he not only scared me but angered me for being so mean and ungrateful.


Top Bun

Looking for a new hairstyle, ladies? Here are a few options, though I'm guessing they take up a little more than the 5 minutes you already spend in the morning...


The Free Press in America

No, really, the US does have a free press. Or not, depending on who you ask. This past Sunday, the London Independent asked the widow of San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb and she sounds like she disagrees. The story is, her ex-husband committed suicide a year ago December after losing his job and any prospects for a new job as a journalist, when the powers-that-be came crashing down on him for a series of newspaper reports called "Dark Alliance" which he did on the CIA's role in bringing crack cocaine to the now-devastated African American areas of Los Angeles, while at the same time using some of those profits to fund the Contras and other US-backed rebels in Central America. Here's an obit from last year, announcing his life and death. None of us will ever really know what happened here, but we do know that something went very wrong.

The lesson for the bewildered herd is this: don't undertake in publicizing the faults of your government, (David Kelly, are you listening way out wherever you are?) unless you've (A) got no reason to live or (B) have the resources to sustain your life post-facto -- this being the main reason why I believe high-profile celebrities should be more openly political -- can you imagine Brad Pitt railing against the White House for propagating drug use in the inner city? That'd be the day...

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The Ugly Side of Wealth

Yes, these people were, in most cases, hideously unattractive or at best, plain-looking, even prior to the onslaught of stretching, peeling, injecting, removing and remolding which they undertook over the years. Still, isn't it better to appear naturally ugly than to look like you tried -- very hard! -- and failed? I'll ask the same question I would of Michael Jackson: do you not have a single person in the world who cares enough to tell you the truth?? This friends, is the tragedy of a lifetime spent surrounded by yes-men who adore your wealth rather than your self.


Nicole Kidman was 5'10" with clear skin from the very beginning -- not a supermodel, but certainly not an android with her neck sucking her head off. Her face lifts, blepharoplasty, rhinoplasty and (some say) cheek implants have transformed a human into a cerebral vacuum. It's only ugly when it shows, Nic...


Burt Reynolds, many would argue, was never a pillar of beauty, but he brings to life the real reason for the "plastic" in "plastic surgery": when your face lift belies the actually moment when the surgeon pulled your skin tight, you need to consider your options...


Yes, Joan Rivers was, to put it lightly, canine, but is this any worse than her current dependence on refrigeration? See, addiction knows no bounds -- someone please deplete her bank account and commence a vigil...she couldn't possibly live without at this point.


Antonio Banderas left his lovely Spanish wife for this. Yes, he is a sell-out and, like most people who make it in Hollywood, willing to endure any debasement in order to obtain and sustain fame and riches. His wife, the nasally-challenged Melanie Griffith has proven the cardinal effect of too many face lifts: your nose gets stretched East and West till it eventually seeks custody of your ears. She is, however, more famed for her obsession with Grade Z lip collagen. "The more to smooch you with, mi amor!"


Of course, this isn't really a "Before" of Cher. At this point, she had already had the necessary rhinoplasty to remove the massive bump (an embarrassing remnant of Miss Sarkisian's Armenian heritage that was an obstacle to success, bien sur) in the middle of her nose. She and her then partner Sonny Bono underwent his-'n'-hers rhinos at the peak of their love. She's made no secret of her intention to continue down this path, eventually, no doubt, aspiring to being her own mannequin at Madame Tussaud's.


And here you see China's version of Jessica Lange. Well, actually, it's her own version courtesy of that horrible condition called Face-lift-itis. The worst symptoms of this atrociously disfiguring disease are brows that reach for unnatural heights, eyes that seek to join those brows and a general sense that Silly Putty has finally been put to practical use -- though, the virtue of these results is still in dispute.


Jaw Grindin' and Lip Lickin' -- W Does It All

Dubya has a strange lot of tics when he tries to speak in public these days. In a recent Q&A about his Supreme Court Nominee Harriet Miers, he "blinked 37 times in a single answer -- along with a lick of the lips, three weight shifts and some serious foot jiggling," according to MichaelMoore.com. Those never-gone rumors that Dubya is on some sort of drugs have resurfaced -- most reports indicating they are legal drugs intended to stabilize him for moments of public exposure. Trouble is, they seem to be causing strange tics in the Prezudint's face. Click here to see a video of his new tic, courtesy of CrooksAndLiars.com: "jaw grinding" -- as MichaelMoore.com states, this is usually due to Bruxism, but can also be due to stress, dental problems or alcohol and drug problems (notably, Dubya's old foe, cocaine). It seems doubtless that he is under some sort of drug therapy -- there is no way that a person who, by all accounts, would rather be digging worms down in Texas could make the number of public appearances this guy does without the aid of chemical control. Clearly, his memory is being affected by all of this, this clip shows that he can't even remember Suh-damn Hoo-sane's name anymore (even more indication that his staff is practicing "Ahmadinejad" with him these days?) "We had success, you might recall," Dubya says, "with the fella in Baghdad." Yes, no you didn't.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Chessboxing: The Ultimate in Multitasking!

I'm sure the Ancient Persians had just this in mind when they invented chess! I, too, was unaware that experts in Chess and Boxing could bring their talents together in one sport: yes, it's Chessboxing and it really exists. This mighty smart sport even has its very own champion -- the Bulgarian Tihomir 'Tiger' Titschko is Europe's first-ever Heavyweight Chessboxing Champion. Chessboxers go through interchanging four-minute-rounds of chess and two-minute boxing rounds, thus "demand[ing] the most of its competitors - both mentally and physically," according to the World Chess Boxing Organization. Of course, the drawbacks of the sport are immediately obvious -- I mean, you can't stay at the top of an intelligence game when every 2 minutes your brain cells are being knocked out!

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August Wilson's Come and Gone

Pulitzer-Prize-winning African American Playwright August Wilson's funeral was yesterday in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Wilson died of liver cancer on October 2nd. His candid portrayals of Black America were not only important because they brought that experience and the awareness of it to the theatre but because they provided a high-calibre opportunity for African American actors, including the likes of Phylicia Rashad (remember Mrs Huxtable from the Cosby Show?), Charles S. Dutton and others. Wilson died in Washington state but the funeral was held in the city where many of his plays were set. The crowd at the funeral included many close friends and family, including Rashad and Dunton. Wynton Marsalis brought those in attendance to tears with his rendition of Danny Boy and then lightened the mood with a happier tune.

Interestingly, Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel -- the son of an immigrant German baker and, Daisy Wilson, an African American cleaning woman from North Carolina. He changed his last name to his mother's maiden name when his father passed away in 1965. If you're unfamiliar with Wilson's work, one of the best examples can be found in "The Piano Lesson". Other famous plays include "Fences", "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom", and "Joe Turner's Come and Gone".

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Sartorial Serenity

Earthquakes in South Asia...hurricanes and storms in the US and Central America...tsunamis...floods...fires...if Bush doesn't get to us, Mighty Mother Nature will...

Here's some fashion gossip to lighten the load...

Creative! Sixty-four year old Italian writer, actress and director Marina Ripa di Meana at the Venice Film Festival is sending Bjork on a run for her money with this RED red carpet dress. I wonder how she took her next step.

A Jonathan Saunders creation from London Fashion Week 2005 (LFW 2005). It's shapeless and would only be acceptable on a very thin person -- but somehow, it has a charm. Looks like a calming sea on legs...something floating and peaceful for sure.

Fashion Fringe (at LFW 2005) has sweetened up the trend with shorts. Again, it's only fitting for thin people. The top is too Batman for my tastes, though.

Clements Ribeiro brought the West those old golden-applique, charming velvet and unique lace and velvet fabrics my grandmother used to bring from trips to Mecca. The fabrics in that part of the world are as yet unrivalled and this is part of the reason for CR's success. Here's a simple, but elegant dress from LFW 2005.

And finally! some color at LFW 2005. Manish Aurora brings forth the vivid vitality of the rainbow in this creation. It recalls some Navajo patterns of yore, doesn't it?


Friday, October 07, 2005

Nuclear Peace Prize 2005

Well, in yet another questionable move, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has chosen Mohammed El-Baradei, AKA Mr Atomic Energy, and his association as the joint winners of the prize this year. The Committee has had a history of recognizing major nuclear energy anniversaries by awarding the Peace Prize to individuals whom it thinks take a stance against nuclear war -- this year was the 60th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Is this a move toward placating El-Baradei in his position as the UN's authority against Iran's alleged nuclear weaponry? Or is it the opposite: a slap in the face to the US -- the most vocal opponent of El-Baradei (they'll never forgive him for that whole 'weapons of mass destruction' Iraq fiasco)? The latest news on the whole Iran situation seems to indicate the former: in recent months his closed meetings with Condoleezza Rice have proven to put the smile back on that Cheshire cat's face and have paved the way for US success in convincing the UN that Iran is the next biggest threat to the world as "we" know it.


Puerto Rios: The Latest Assassination

Why is it still surprising to hear that the US appears to be employing assassination as a political tactic? The latest one, it seems, occurred in Puerto Rico on September 23rd -- a couple weeks ago -- on the exact day of the 147th anniversary of El Grito de Lares (the Puerto Rican 'cry for independence').

The leader of the Puerto Rican independence movement, Los Macheteros (The Cane Cutters), 72-year-old Filiberto Ojeda Rios, died in a shootout that occurred at a farmhouse in southwestern Puerto Rico as FBI agents were apparently attempting to interrogate him regarding his alleged involvement in a 1983 robbery in Connecticut where $7.2 million was stolen. (See, it's very simple. In some cases, e.g. Halliburton, one or more people can steal hundreds of million dollars out of personal greed and nobody will chase them for eternity, and in other cases, a "militant" independence leader will never live down accusations that he stole several million dollars to achieve national independence -- go figure!). Ojeda Rios had been in hiding since 1990.

A wound to his shoulder which could have been medically-treated, was unattended to as the FBI waited outside the farmhouse for 24 hours before going in to see why the shooting had stopped. It's hard to believe that the FBI's main objective was to capture this man alive to interrogate him about a robbery when they allowed him to die before the interrogation could even begin. Protesters in Puerto Rico, Cuba and in some cities in the U.S., including New York City, Cleveland and Philadelphia, demonstrated after the killing -- though little media attention was given to these occasions. Senator Hillary "Me Next!" Clinton had to cancel a planned trip to Puerto Rico as the "rancor and rage" of the Puerto Ricans was a security threat to her.

Since 1952 when Puerto Rico was established as a part of the US Commonwealth, Puerto Ricans have increasingly lost interest in maintaining that status. Filiberto Ojeda Rios's death will likely cause a renewed motivation in campaigns for Puerto Rican indepedence. As the New York City Puerto Rican publication El Diaro/La Prensa states in its editorial today, the "U.S. government...says it is fighting for democracy abroad but still maintains a colonial relationship with this island of 3.8 million U.S. citizens."


Call From "God"

A documentary to be broadcast on the BBC this month quotes several Palestinian leaders as saying that, in private conversations, Bush claimed that "God" commanded him to undertake the various efforts of the "War on Terror." Both Nabil Shaath, the Palestinian Foreign Minister and Mahmoud Abbas, the Prime Minister, were present at the June 2003 occasions when his All-Mightiness, the Right Dishonorable Prezudint of the You-nited States made these grand proclamations. "God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq...' And I did." Clearly, George and "God" have passed that awkward formal stage and are now addressing each other on a first-name basis. Bless. Or maybe "God" is just that microphone in his ear again. Maybe The Rage Rover can answer this one for him, too. It's a goddamn shame George Bush's "God" doesn't tell him to stop killing people. That would be nice.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Black People Love Us

This site is hilarious -- an entire website dedicated to not only mocking racists who can't even conceive of socializing with certain other races, but exploring subtle racism: the notion that socializing with someone of a particular race can eliminate any doubt as to your judgements about the race on a whole. Remember folks, just because you socialize with someone, doesn't mean you're actually friends -- i.e. have a deep connection with and respect for them. It all goes back to the lackings of the English word "friend" and how one little word is meant to cover a vast array of relationships and emotional involvements. Linguists spend inordinate amounts of time trying to determine whether language has an effect on culture, or the reverse. Whether there is an answer to this question or not, what is clear is that "some people," as Voltaire was wont to tell us "employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts." Indeed.

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Sphincters on the Rampage

When you're powerless, humor is the last defense. Hope you enjoy this little film. (Source: filmstripinternational.com)

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Mission: Impregnable

Yes, Tom Cruise and his fiancee Katie Holmes have announced that she has lost her virginity, eh, well, that she is now pregnant. But the message is clear, of course. What Chris Klein couldn't achieve in 5 years of dating and being engaged to Miss Holmes, The Right Mighty Cruise Missile (as he'll have us believe of him) did in less than 5 months.

Certainly he considered that the rumor mill about the real nature of this relationship will be churning on overdrive now. As will the questions about how, in fact, the egg was fertilized. Was it immaculate conception? Miss Holmes, and her father, for that matter, made it very clear that as a good little Catholic she would abide by the laws of chastity until the bonds of marriage were firmly in place. Or perhaps it was alien conception, a la Cruise's religious beliefs? Or perhaps nothing more ordinary than IVF -- considering that in both his other marriages no children were produced. His first wife claims she divorced him because he insisted on celibacy and Nicole Kidman only fell pregnant toward the very end of their ten-year union, enduring the tragedy of miscarriage, one month after this loveable man filed for divorce when she was 3 months pregnant. Let's just hope he has more compassion this time around.

It is remarkable that this man is so litigious considering that his entire life is staged for public scrutiny. The only thing more amazing than Tom Cruise's insistence that his private life be private is the fact that this woman has gone to such great lengths to profit from associating with him.


Monday, October 03, 2005

Wynton Marsalis: Classic Jazz Integrity

Tonight, I met an individual whose beauty and integrity profoundly moved me: his name is Wynton Marsalis and he is a Jazz musician, by trade and by soul.

Mr Marsalis looked even younger than his already youthful age of 43. His golden-cufflinked dress shirt was a snazzy striped affair which, along with his magnetic smile and his blue baseball cap, made a charming youth of this seasoned and handsome gentleman. His warm brown eyes were the kind and passionate windows-into-the-soul that one hopes for but rarely ever finds in musicians anymore.

He spoke to us for over an hour and in between the history, the passion, and the inspiration which he offered of himself to us, he charmed us with his pure and honest talent. I had never seen a trumpetist accompany himself on the piano before, one hand at ease on the trumpet, one had in sync at the piano. I would have loved the chance to sing some Jazz with him, a little Sinatra, some Ella -- anything -- what an honor it would have been!

Jazz music, he said, is a sound and movement that comes from the depths of "plain spoken people" and its heartbeat is the spirituality that comes of their history. His closeness with his homestate of Louisiana was evident when he spoke of how, because of its unique history in the United States, it provided a climate of unity that did not exist anywhere else because of the French influence there -- thereby producing an ideal environment for the honest sounds and emotions of Jazz music. "The difference between French people and British people," he said, was that both enslaved Black people "but the French also married them."

In the span of an hour or so, Mr Marsalis taught us many life lessons -- when he spoke of how his father treated "prophets and bums alike" -- when he spoke about the importance of remembering history -- when he spoke about relating to people and being able to communicate with them -- when he spoke about love. A clearly well-read and learned man, he conveyed to us that he himself had learned three important things in life: to be a person of integrity (a dying trait, he was sad to say), to have respect for others, and last but not least, to believe in romance.

Mr Marsalis, you helped us believe in romance tonight. Thank you.

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

Jennifer and Brad Split

Well, today is the official end of Brad Pitt's delayed gratification of fatherhood -- yes, the divorce is final today. And for those of you who blame Brad and feel sorry for Jen, take into consideration that whatever the case may have been, Brad Pitt -- a man from a normal, happy family in the Midwest of the United States -- held out on having kids with the woman he loved for 7 long years. That's 49 in dog years and it possibly felt that way for Brad, considering that he clearly exhibited all of the signs of a man inclined toward parenting, not least being the elaborate nursery he spent years designing in his marital home with Jen. This isn't about meeting a man's needs, or putting your career second, this is about family and Jennifer "I don't have a relationship with my mother" Aniston had a serious problem with this very pivotal issue. It's a surprise things lasted even this long. Who knows what'll come of the Angelina "I don't have a relationship with my father" Jolie thing -- though I would say it's far worse to be out of touch with your mother than your father -- but at least now he has what he wants: a family, an amazingly beautiful companion, and a person who, by all accounts, appears to be far more interesting and worldly than our Friend, the girl-next-door.