Monday, October 29, 2007

Holy Education, Batman!! (or perhaps not-so-holy?)

In between all the cartoons I watched this weekend, something caught my eye: The King of Saudi Arabia is sinking $12.5 billion into a new university. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST, which will make for awesome T-shirts like "I got HOUSED at KAUST!", is being built from the ground up in Jeddah.

OK, that headline in and of itself won't pull many people from the draw of a Superfriends marathon, but here are a few points of interest that should:
  • The school will be co-educational. Revolutionary, right? Like many fundamentalists, the Kingdom's wahabi clerics aren't too keen on women's lib. Women can already attend some schools there, but they're not allowed to learn too much.
  • The country's religious police, the Mutaween, will be barred from the campus. The Mutaween are the fun guys who arrest people for not abiding by the sharia, or Islamic Law. Behavior that falls into this category includes dress code and dietary violations, as well as male and female socialization. Something tells me people are going to want to live on campus.
  • Funded by Aramco (and not the Kingdom's education ministry), the school's curriculum will apparently be geared towards Science & Technology, sharply contrasting education in the rest of the Kingdom, which of course focuses on Islam.
  • The King's reasoning for this endowment? This might be the juiciest of all: "The king has broken taboos, declaring that the Arabs have fallen critically behind much of the modern world in intellectual achievement." Broken taboos is right, and I have to say this is surprisingly ballsy for a monarchy that tiptoes around the Kingdom's clerics.
The bottom line is this: The Saudi King and Aramco dumping $12.5 billion into a university is no more newsworthy than Google buying another plane. The Saudis have historically opened up the never-ending checkbook to solve their problems. It's the exclusion of the wahabi element that raises the eyebrow.

And while the frat houses have yet to be built so they can be trashed, and the faculty has yet to be staffed (which the article wisely notes may be the biggest challenge), this is still a notable step in a direction entirely the opposite of most other nations in the region. A small step, to be sure, but in a fundamentalist nation such as Saudi Arabia, it is a path I will watch with keen interest.

And, of course, I can think of only two words with which to sum up the message of this post:


Monday, October 15, 2007

30 Years of Law & Order: Part V - Young Guns

The following is part 5 of a 51 part series on "Law & Order". Other parts can be seen here:

You remember when you were in 7th grade and Young Guns was the coolest movie ever? I don't. It was loved by the same kids who loved G.I. Joe in 4th grade. Not me. I was into Strat-o-matic baseball. They loved Charlie Sheen and his brother Emilio Sheen, while I was more into Fred McGriff and Mike Greenwell. By the way, does anyone know why the Red Sox wear red socks? Answer at the bottom.

Oh right, this is a Law & Order post. Well, welcome back from the break. Most Law & Order episodes start out with Law. The cops. A Crime Scene Unit is processing the evidence as the detectives wander up and our ears perk up for a Lenny Briscoe one-liner. Unbenownst to us, the two detectives are actually classified, junior and senior detective. This certainly makes our job easier. Instead of evaluating 9 different detectives, we can focus right now, on just 4. The juniors.

Some know him as Big, but anyone worth a salt sees Chris Noth as detective Mike Logan. Through 5 seasons and 3 partners, Mike Logan was the staple at the 2-7.

Logan has been described as somewhat of a short fuse, so it comes as no surprise that he didn't get along with Jack McCoy. One half of one of the better detective pairings in TV history, Noth apparently thought his character was more valuable than NBC, and his character was written off the show in 1995. I suppose it's that he was paired with 3 senior detectives that makes his tenure on the show seem longer than 5 years.

Logan's mistake was Rey Curtis's gain. Benjamin Bratt came on board to play detective Rey Curtis. It seemed that every female interogatee had some sort of Briscoe-like quip for the hunky Latino.

The picture to the left exemplifies everything you want to believe about Benjamin Bratt the actor, and thus Rey Curtis the Detective. I mean, come on, his last name is Bratt.

The show smartly played the other side of the coin, though. Unlike bachelor Mike Logan, Rey Curtis was a devoted family man (except for one little slip-up with Jennifer Garner - oops) and a by-the-book cop. His vocal displeasure at some of Briscoe's greasing of the legal engine lead to some friction with Briscoe, another contrast to Logan.

He and Briscoe eventually developed a friendship, but soon after Curtis left the show after 5 strong years.

Jesse L. Martin joined the show as Detective Ed Green in 1999 and at 8 and counting, has more years than any other Junior Detective.

Changing gears once again, Green's character returns the show to the brash, arrogant, whatever-it-takes attitude made popular by Mike Logan. Cultured and in tune with the youth, Green has a keen ability to adjust his interrogatorial style to fit the perp.

When Senior Detective Joe Fontana retired in 2006, Green became the first Detective on the show, and so we can only assume in all of NYC, to be promoted from Junior Detective to Senior Detective. Upon hearing he was a Senior, Green vowed to do nothing but cut class and bag chicks.

When Ed Green was promoted, the Junior Detective spot opened up for Nina Cassady. Imagine the one-liners from Briscoe if the two had been paired. It's like a whole other season of Law & Order in my imagination.

Cassady is from a police family, and has butted heads with Lt. Anita Van Buren, who apparently had her own replacement in mind for the position.

Cassady has only one year on the show, and apparently her character is on shaky grounds at the department. She probably slept with Cragen or something.

That's it, right? Well, not quite. It was only four shows, but while Det. Green recuperated from a gunshot wound, Det. Nick Falco came on board to assist Detective Fontana. On HBO you could see Michael Imperioli killing people and on NBC you could see him catching killers. Bizarre.

Coovo's take: Nina Cassady? Please. She was on the show for a half cup of coffee in which she forgot to put in cream. It's hard to go against Mike Logan. He's an old school cop who actually was demoted for striking a defendant. He's got some gonads. I love cops with gonads. His character has resurfaced a couple times. Most recently as a detective on Criminal Intent, and before in as a member of the Staten Island Harbor Patrol in Exiled: A Law& Order Movie. Rey Curtis was a good cop. A wuss, but a good cop. Ed Green seems to be the easy Choice given his stellar run. I'm a big fan. So it's down to Logan v. Green.

Logan wins points for working with three different partners and for two different captians, but loses points for being on criminal intent.

Green gains points for taking a bullet on the job, but loses points because the reason he was shot was because had to leave the show to film Rent.

Logan gains points for cleaning up the 2-7 in his TV movie, but Ed Green gets points for getting promoted on the job, not demoted.

Logan loses points because the actor who plays him was on Sex and The City, but Green also lose points for his actor being on Ally McBeal.

The deciding factor is that Green gets points for working with Lenny Briscoe longer.

Roller's take: Obviously, this is the Nina Cassady show. The other gentlemen are about as memorable as the last 3 dudes to get bounced on the 4th season of Who Wants To Marry The Bachelorette?

So yeah...This one isn't too tough for me, but I don't want the easy decision to mask the runners-up. I'm a fan of Logan, Curtis, and Green, but in my mind Logan is the original and one of the characters that made the show as memorable as it is.

Coovo's re-take: You know Roller, if you want to mock Law & Order, do it on your own blog, but if you want to have serious discussion about our Television's legal system, then do it on this blog.

Roller's re-take: For a look at the lighter side of Law & Order, check out my new blog

Answer: Because Mike doesn't wear green well. Geno made that joke up in 7th grade.