Another magnificent gallery opening took place this past Saturday night featuring the OP art paintings of local Chicago artist Steven Husby. Five pieces were displayed, including older works as well as some of his latest creations. The Lisa Boyle Gallery, inside of the 1821 Hubbard Lofts building, was alive with energy, at certain times becoming very crowded with art-goers taking in the minimalist, yet complex and inspiring simplicity of Steven's work. Some of the observers even enjoyed a red velvet cupcake (Steven's favourite), courtesy of The Sweet Samurai bakery. Steven's work is truly wonderful-- be sure and find time to discover this new and talented young artist!


Was Barack Obama a Muslim at one time? If he was, why do we care?


In case you're like me and haven't been following, the internet is bursting with articles linking Barack Obama to Islam. As early as 13 months ago, an email chain started making its way around. It extracted various facts from Barack's youth and intertwined them with numerous exaggerations and outright lies. Some versions of this email even described Barack as going to great lengths to conceal his very active Muslim faith and cited his supposed attendance at a radical, extremist Muslim terrorist school while growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia. All of these smear-campaign emails are blatant falsehood, of course, and were busted on both About.com and Snopes.com.

For greater perspective, and an attempt at a more sane point of view, this topic was picked up by Daniel Pipes, who is director of the Middle East Forum, and is also a fellow-blogger as well as a columnist for the New York Times Syndicate. On Christmas Eve 2007, in his article entitled "Was Barack Obama a Muslim?" Pipes explored the question of whether Muslim people see Obama as an Apostate or Murtad. In other words, is Obama considered to have left the Muslim faith in order to convert to another faith (thus making him elegible for execution)?

Pipes reviewed information from Obama's past, such as being born to a Muslim father from Kenya (Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.). The article also described how Barack was later educated by his Muslim stepfather (Lolo Soetoro) after his atheist, caucasian American mother (Ann Dunham) divorced Barack Obama Sr. and then re-married. Pipes also cited the fact that Barack Jr. was registered as a Muslim when enrolled at school in Jakarta and that he often attended evening prayers at the mosque with his step-father.

Weeks later, Pipes was challenged and criticised by the not-for-profit research and anti-misinformation organisation, Media Matters for America (MMfA). Some of the information presented in, and sources used for "Was Barack Obama a Muslim?" were questioned and labeled as Falsehood. In order to refute these claims, Pipes published a follow-up articled entitled, "Confirmed: Barack Obama Practiced Islam." In his second article Pipes presented arguments to uphold the accuracy and relevancy of his claims. He concluded, therefore, that the challenge was unfounded and that Barack Obama, "for some years had a reasonably Muslim upbringing under the auspices of his Indonesian step-father."

There are two details surrounding this information that Daniel Pipes did not include, which I feel are important in one's consideration of Obama's situation. First-- Ann Dunham (Barack Obama's mother) divorced Barack Obama Sr. when Junior was only 2 years old. There could not possibly have been, therefore, much influence from his father. Second-- Obama lived with Lolo Soetoro (his step father) in Indonesia for only four years from ages 6 to 10, at which point he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents. Any true Muslim upbringing that he had would have occurred during the late 60s, ending sometime in 1970-- BEFORE Obama hit puberty! This is important to note since in Islam, the punishment is much less severe for someone who becomes a Murtad in their pre-pubescent years, compared to the punishment an adult would receive (i.e. children are not punished by the shedding of blood).

Now comes the time for this blogger to draw conclusions of his own. First I presented the question, "Was Barack Obama a Muslim at one time?" According to Obama himself, he has always been a Christian and I believe him. For those of us like me with a secular perspective on life it simply does not matter anyway. What is/was truly in his heart can only be known by Allah or Jesus, whichever the case may be. The important point to note, however, is that if he was a Muslim, he be came a Murtad, or Apostate, BEFORE reaching puberty.

Second I asked, "Why do we care?" If Barack Obama is viewed as a Murtad by the world's Muslim population, he may be at the beginning of a very difficult journey filled with criticism and opposition should he become president, especially in the area of international relations. There is also a chance he might be risking death. Should he be elected, this issue is bound to come up time and time again and is likely to come to the forefront during times when matters involving Musilm nations and/or people are involved.

In summary I would just like to note that all of these emails, discussions and investigations, while possibly meant to expose "truth" and/or bring Senator Obama into disfavour, primarily contribute to greater strife between non-Muslims and Islam (something we seem to already have in greater abundance than ever thought possible). As always, voters are highly encouraged to conduct their own research and draw their own informed conclusions before heading into the voting booths this November. If we all follow this rule, the right candidate will be elected.


And the winner is... Blu-ray!!!!

Toshiba has announced today that all production and product development for HD-DVD will now be discontinued making Blu-ray the official Next Generation DVD format. Backed by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. and Philips, the Sony Hi-Def format has been gaining ground in the U.S. recently when Mega-corportation Walmart announced that their discount retail stores would no longer sell HD-DVD, and when Time Warner Inc. moved all production of Warner Bros. programming to the Blu-ray format. Other Newsmedia and Entertainment Corporations backing Sony Blu-ray are 20th Century Fox, Disney and Lion's Gate.

The new question to be answered is-- what will this mean for the more important and blodthirsty battle between Sony Playstation 3 (Blu-ray) and Microsoft Xbox (HD-DVD)? It should be extremely exciting to see what will play out next, now that Sony's Next Generation format has prevailed.

Here are some of the related articles in the news:
Sky News - Toshiba Dumps HD DVD
Wall St. Journal - Toshiba Exits HD DVD Business,
Ceding Market to Sony's Blu-ray


Yoshi-san throws a party for your palette

Are you ready for a delightful dining experience in Japanese-French fusion cuisine? Yoshi's Cafe is ready to provide some of the best that there is to offer! Yoshi-san offers a beautiful regular menu full of amazing selections, along with a menu of daily specials such as the appetiser of ravioli stuffed with kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) and dressed with olive-oil goat-cheese cream sauce. Entree selections include superb offerings like Wagyu Beef Ribeye grilled rare with Mai-take mushrooms served atop creamy blue cheese mashed potatoes. I was completely bowled-over by this beef-- never before have I tasted beef that paired such a rich flavour with the tender, delicate texture of sashimi! Prefer fish? How about lightly-seared sake-miso-glased tuna served over zesty wasabi mashed potatoes? This dish has all the lightness and subtle flavour one expects from a fine piece of fish but somehow packs a meaty fresh-off-the grill punch as well! If you manage to save room, a small selection of beautiful and delicious desserts awaits you at the end of your culinary journey to make your experience complete.

The dining room at Yoshi's Cafe is romantic and intimate but at the same time casual and relaxed with candles being the primary source of light, and 40s-50s jazz music playing softly in the background. The wine list will surely satisfy all ranges of tastes from refined connoisseur to those just starting to experiment. If you're in the mood for something a bit harder, be sure to peruse their list of exciting and innovative martinis.

I would definitely give Yoshi's Cafe one of my highest overall ratings. This year's Valentine's Day celebration at this wonderful place was definitely extra-special for Rinko and I. Don't deprive yourself any longer of this inspired little gem of a restaurant. 3257 N. Halsted, Chicago, Il 60657 | (773) 248-6160


The Soong Sisters - A totally amazing film!!

Last night I saw The Soong Sisters, or Song Jia Huang Chao. No, this is not a new movie, it's 10 years old, in fact. It's new to me though! As a fan of Michelle Yeoh, it's a title that I've had on my movie-list for a long time. Finally I've seen it and I was very impressed! I highly recommend this movie to anyone who is interested in Chinese history, Taiwanese independence, or also to folks who just enjoy excellent cinema in general.

The story is about China during the early-to-mid 1900s when the time of true imperialism was ending to make way for a new era of intense political strife between the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party. The focus of the story was centered around the three sisters of the Soong family; the daughters of Charlie Soong, a prominent Shanghai businessman and Christian missionary. The three daughters, Ai-ling (Michelle Yeoh), Ching-ling (Maggie Cheung) and Mei-ling (Vivian Wu), after going to school in the U.S., grew up to marry the richest, most powerful and influential men in their time-- Premier of the Republic of China (H.H. Kung), the Father of Modern China and first President of the Republic of China, (Sun Yat-sen) and military leader and succeeding President, (Chiang Kai-shek), respectively. These woman soon went on to develop qualities of wealth, power and influence all on their own, and were first in revealing to China the face of the modern, independent woman. Together as sisters, and also separated through political difference, the three women were at the center of the most powerful family in all of China, and quite possibly the world.

This fascinating, intense and totally engrossing film takes its audience through a close-up and personal journey through the lives of the Soong extended family and explores the interaction of those at the very top of 20th century China's government and financial heirarchy. United as one China, then torn apart by civil war and finally invaded by Japan, the country was in the hands of the Soong family throughout its period of complex political upheaval, desperate search for national identity and intense struggle for financial independence. This is a masterpiece of Hong Kong Cinema that offers something for every kind of viewer to enjoy.


What is Mo-e?


Mo-e (pronounced moe-AY, and most commonly-spelled, Moe), is a Japanese slang word referring to fetish or love for characters in video games or anime and manga. This commonly extends to cute chicks in uniform, too, such as nurses, maids, flight attendants and schoolgirls. These are some photos I took in Tokyo's own Akihabara, or "Electric Town." While reviewing these photos, shortly after taking them, a failure to keep my big mouth shut resulted in my 2-year-old niece, Riko-chan, repeating "Mo-e, mo-e, mo-e!" while giggling and looking to see if she had won my approval. Oops! Heh....


Badass Bloggers

This is the end of an era. The time of mainstream, corporate media calling all the shots and telling us how we should think and feel about the world is passing, giving rise and influence to an information source that was once considered underground. I'm talking, of course, about the Bloggers and other publicly-private internet media sources. During the evolution of this "information age," there has been a transformation toward a new age of knowledge and free-information-sharing. This new age is very empowering for individuals who most often share a common perspective with other individuals who probably don't get what the want from Rupert Murdoch's giants.

We no longer need to bother with the globalised, tainted news-pushers serving to uphold the agendas of the mega-corporations that fund them. Instead we can go straight to the PEOPLE themselves-- isn't this where news comes from anyway? Big UPs to some of the koolest and most influential bloggers out there; thanks for inspiring me to start my own! Check these guys out!!



Adult Swim F's Up Saturday Night!

For several years, Saturday Night has been the primary motivation for owning a television set. Saturday Night on Cartoon Network is "Anime Night" featuring back-to-back airings of the best in Animated TV Series from Japan, starting with CN's "Toonami" line-up and moving on into the shows presented by their evening entertainment host, Adult Swim. I have always been a big fan, and have been continuously impressed and delighted by their choices of programming. Sadly, after all this time, however, Adult Swim has decided to ruin Saturday Night.

The horribly disappointing news came to me in the form of an almost-insulting advertisement boasting "a Saturday Night that 'doesn't suck.'" It was the first time I ever found myself feeling discontented and put-off by Adult Swim programming. The new program line-up will feature episodes of Harvey Birdman, Venture Brothers, and Frisky Dingo immediately after the CN Toonami shows. Harvey Birdman, Venture Brothers, and Frisky Dingo on Saturday Night? Hmmm.... Frankly, *THIS* sounds like a Saturday that sucks, especially when one considers that first of all, these programs are shite, and secondly that our favourite programs are now going to be aired considerably later.

What's worst of all is the fact that including these three ridiculous shows in the Saturday Night Line-up has caused long-time favourties Full Metal Alchemist and Samurai Champloo to get bumped off the Saturday Night lineup completely. This is in fact saddening since Samurai Champloo is clearly one of the finest and most encaptivating Anime series ever produced, especially in comparison to those former three.

I don't know what the hell these guys are thinking. I am certainly not alone in my disappointment having read through the posts on the adult swim website forums. I hope they realise the huge mistake they've made and reconsider this terrible decision. God help them if they even think about messing with the best Animated series ever-- Death Note.


West Coast / Pacific Rim Flava comes to Chi City

If you're like me and enjoy urban art, streetwear, kool toys from Asia and one-of-a-kind kicks, A.Okay Official is the place for you! As far as I can tell, this store is the only one like it in this fine city and it's a *really* fun place to shop and hang out. Inside the shop you can enjoy shopping for the latest vinyl figure toys and clothes designed by local Chicago artists. You'll also meet some kool peeps and check out the street art while hearing some fresh beats-- this is one of my new favourite places to go!

A.Okay Official is on Clark Street, a block north of Belmont. Check 'em out on Friday, 15-Feb for a special event that will feature CTA Chicago Train Art and local urban artists. There aren't any other events like this in our city so don't miss this one!