The Masochist’s Guide to Self-Betterment – or- Beginning a Weight-Loss Plan

30 06 2010

*I wrote this a while back, but I thought it needed to be shared. Also, this is written as a joke. I’m the last person anyone should be turning to for advice on how to workout properly*

The first step to a cure is admitting you have a problem. Maybe one too many of your favorite articles of clothing “shrunk in the dryer.” Maybe you caught a glimpse of your naked self in the bathroom mirror and were stunned for all the wrong reasons. Maybe you were in the dressing room at your favorite store and txted you best friend (BFF) in a panic: ‘OMG! Im FAT! WTF?’ However you made the determination that there’s a little to much of you, now it’s time to do something about it.
First, tell your mother you want to start dieting. If you’re really as large as you think you are – and sometimes even if you aren’t, she will be overjoyed and begin to nag you mercilessly about your progress. Traditionally, this is supposed to work especially well if your mom is Italian or Jewish, but usually most mothers, regardless of ethnicity, will rise to the occasion with gusto. For extra “encouragement”, also tell a nosey grandma or auntie. Children, though generally very “persuasive”, are also, generally, very selfish and tend to reserve their fierce dedication and powers of annoyance for situations in which they are the sole beneficiaries. Translation – unless you want to keep bribing some little brat to keep after your lard ass, it’s better to leave this to the grown-ups. Why pay for something you could get free, especially in this economy? Besides, who nags you better than your mom?
Next, see all that yummy, bad-for-you food in your pantry and fridge? Well, it can’t stay there ready to tempt you in a moment of weakness, so what are you going to do with it? Those with a firm sense of resolve will get rid of it by throwing it away. How wasteful! The rest of us will have a “Day of Sin”/”*Jour de Gras” – whatever you want to call it – and savor the last bits of junk food we’ll be eating for quite some time. The next morning your stomach will feel very bad indeed and you won’t have much of a desire for most of that food for a while. Also, after you consider that your caloric intake for the previous day probably looked a hell of a lot like Bernie Madoff’s bank statement before the Feds got to the lousy bastard, you’re most likely already googling area gyms. Perhaps, if you have one, you could consider inviting your workout buddy to ensure continued dedication to the cause. Now is also the time to go grocery shopping if your constitution can handle being around copious amounts of food at the moment. You won’t buy out the store and what you do buy will be healthy because you’ve taken care of your craving for snacks and such with your “Day of Sin”.
Now it’s time to pick a gym and join it. Do a little research, pick a place where you think you’ll be comfortable, and then go and check it out. Does it smell of feet? Is the workout area such a mess that you wonder if it was a test site for anti-personnel weapons? Are the showers, locker room, restroom, ect… a health code violation? If you answer yes to any of these things turn around and leave, possibly placing a call to the Better Business Bureau as you do, and find someplace that makes the cut. When you do join a gym, and if it’s in your realm of financial possibility, hire a personal trainer or take classes so there’s someone there to hold you to your goals and otherwise whip your roly-poly self into shape.
Once you join the gym, GO! The money is already out of your pocket, so make good use of what you spent it on even after the “Day of Sin” guilt wears off. As you are jogging away on the treadmill or doing whatever it is that you do on an elliptical – ellipticaling? – take note of what bouncing that shouldn’t be and let that be a reminder as to why you’re there in the first place. Enjoy watch the little calorie-loss-counter-thing slowly go up as you huff and puff for a half hour, or hour, or whatever. Congratulations! It’s the end of your first work out and you’ve lost the caloric equivalent of a snack-sized bag of Pop Secret (without butter) and three carrots. Makes it hard to justify that post-gym trip to Dairy Queen now, doesn’t it?

Finally, as you lay on your bed, sore and tired, try to find the sense of accomplishment you should theoretically have.

*Jour de Gras – French – Day of Fat





Searching for Confidence on the SALE Rack

30 06 2010

It’s been two years since I’ve seen a regular paycheck. The last thing I need is another expense. I also don’t need to put myself on the path to screwing up my health for the rest of my life, so losing weight had to happen and it’s something to occupy myself with to pass the time between waking up and sleeping. So far, I’ve lost a little over thirty pounds. I’m estimating because I haven’t weighed myself in a while. No matter what the number is I doubt it would make me smile, but that’s an issue for another day – I’m aiming for a healthier weight, not one you brag about. Anyway, my slightly less fluffy self is a positive thing, but my resulting lack of proper fitting clothing is an economic hit to the solar-plexus. I’ve ignored the problem for as long as I can but it’s reached the point where, even if I managed to get an interview, I’d never be hired for anything because I look clownish – everything is baggy and drooping and tent-like. I’m not exaggerating when I say that only my socks and shoes fit reliably.
This adds several new facets to my current “F***-My-Life” mindset. My biggest issue is, of course, that I am once again a dependent – something a 25-year-old, able-bodied, reasonably sentient individual should NEVER be – and I have to ask my parents for everything. It’s enough to turn my stomach and it will if I think about it long enough. Since I’ve had to conduct myself this way, I have systematically trimmed down my life to limit the times I have to ask for cash. I hate it and miss going out with my friends and stuff like that, but I hate having my parents finance me far more, so I don’t regret putting myself in a nearly unwavering pseudo-house arrest that would impress the Chinese police. I’ve continued using my social networking site of choice as a means by which to keep my friendships intact and I did go out in New York to celebrate my birthday. Since I’m trying to be as light a financial burden as I can be, I had been ignoring the fact that I have very few pieces of clothing that fit but it finally has reached the point that it would obviously affect any attempt to find employment, so I have to ask for money over, and over, and over in hopes that, aided by a that fact that I don’t look like a bum, I’ll get a job, a week or two later get a check, and gain back a bit of my autonomy. In the interest of full disclosure and because I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea, I’m not the most social of butterflies to begin with, so I promise you it’s not as tragic as it sounds. On a happiness scale that goes from Rogers and Hammerstein goofy bliss to Ingmar Bergman bleak, I fall somewhere around a Woody Allen comedy of the Diane Keaton era – many of my issues stem from my own tendency to over-think. If that changes, so will my behavior. I’m not much of a fan of Bergman.

There is also the fact that I really don’t like shopping for clothes. I enjoy shopping for most everything else – books, shoes, DVDs, and handbags all rank high – but I do not like shopping for clothes and, as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to hate it even more. Usually, I take someone with me to make it more of a social outing and less of a chore that’s right up there with cleaning the toilet on my list of Detested But Absolutely Essential Things To Do. I hate it because it’s a lot of effort with little or no reward. Why? Because, in addition to not being 5′ 10″ and 98 lbs, I’ve got plenty of all that makes up the female silhouette and that presents a problem. Apparently those who design clothing have gotten it into their heads that the 21st century female’s silhouette is the same as that of your average 12-year-old boy except women are all six feet tall. I’d like to take a moment to address this error in basic observation.

Clothing designers,
Please allow me to clue you in, you couldn’t be more wrong about the average female form. Take a deep breath, prepare yourselves for what’s to come, and do an image search for the term “real women”. Once the shock wears off, you’ll come to the realization that, while not like those of all the models you’re used to, these less boney bodies with so much variety of shape and size to them are worth creating decent clothing for. Come on, give us a chance.
Much Obliged,
Me

I have already begun my hunt for suitable clothes because nudity is not an option and have had a major breakthrough – jeans that fit. No “booty gap” in the back. No muffin top. They just fit. Best of all, I have discovered that my own personal Jean-topia has more than one brand in it. I have tried on and bought two different brands – Christopher Blue and CJ by Cookie Johnson. Little In The Middle jeans have also been recommended to me but I have yet to actually try a pair and, when dealing with jeans, seeing is believing. This is a wardrobe victory, but I have not won the war. There are three big bags of things to be donated and I’m not done yet. I have a lot to replace, but it’s a start.
There is always some level of connection between clothing and self-confidence and I won’t try to doubt that there is some of that at play. I don’t just need something to wear to an interview, I need “interview clothes” even though I have had only a few interviews in the past two years. Perhaps it’s a case of having to look the part to get the role. We’ll see. I’m not exactly what you’d call an optimist but I’m finding that more and more that is what one needs to even be considered for any position anywhere. Modesty be damned, you need to practically radiate supreme confidence – more self-confidence than an obese stripper – to get hired, period. The longer you’ve been out of work, the harder it is to drum up that much confidence – a rather cruel irony. I’m hoping to find some of that attitude tucked in the pocket of a great pair of interview-grade black pants. As for a job, I’ll come up with something… eventually. My self-confidence may ebb and flow like a tide, but my hope springs eternal. As I go along I see plenty of people less qualified for whatever position they hold than I would be. My grand philosophy is that they can’t all be sleeping with their bosses and when they eventually screw up bad enough to get themselves fired there I’ll be, resume in hand and looking fierce.





World Cup – Day 2 and Classes for Curses

13 06 2010

The day started with South Korea’s 2-0 victory over Greece. Lee Jung Soo scored in the seventh minute and Greece was never able to get past it. At the 52nd minute, Park Ji Sung cemented South Korea’s lead with another goal. Since the first goal set the trend for the whole game, it’s my photo moment of the match.
The second match of the day was between a name that comes up often when a casual fan in the US says “soccer” – Argentina – against a lesser known team – Nigeria ending in a 1-0 win for Argentina. My American brain was predicting a route, and that probably would’ve been the case if it weren’t for the efforts of one man – goal keeper Vincent Enyeama. He blocked many shots including several by the man who is arguably the best in the world – Lionel Messi. Even if the team itself doesn’t go farther than the group stage, he can leave having won that personal victory. Because of this, he is the subject of my photo moment of the match.
One more bit of news concerning Argentina. Their coach, Diego Maradona has promised to run naked through the center of Buenos Aires. I’m sure that there are some Argentina fans who would now be quite satisfied with second place.
The final match of the day was the one I’d heard the most about. It was the USA going up against England. Depending on who you listened to prior to the game the US was either completely and totally useless as should just fly home to save themselves from embarrassment or they had magically been possessed by the spirit of the Soccer Gods and were going to absolutely flatten any team they played. The truth was, unsurprisingly, somewhere in between – a 1-1 draw. There was a very early goal by England and many thought the US was done for since, historically, if the US gives up an early goal, they can’t catch up. The thing is, soccer rarely goes by history or numbers. The Soccer Gods always have their say and yesterday they smiled down upon the US in the form of a straight forward kick and an abysmally botched attempt at a save. Yes, the photo moment of the match is Robert Green’s epic fail.

Oh, the pain… if you an England fan.
Tim Howard also played a big part in the US hanging on. Early on there was a fear that he might not be able to continue after a save resulted in his colliding with the England striker and taking a foot to the chest. A whack to the solar-plexus is very painful and it knocked the wind out of him, but after a few minutes he’d shaken it off and the game continued. He gave a great performance leading the commentators to call the match “A Tale of Two Goalkeepers”.
One interesting fact. In preparation for this match, the Brazilian referees took courses in… curse words. I understand why especially given Wayne Rooney’s much talked about penchant for colorful language, but I still think it’s funny. I just keep remembering my time in language classes over the years and the image of a class in Modern English Obscenities is hysterical. One question, where’s my application to teach this course? I’m more than qualified.

And now the fan homage.


South Korea


Greece


Argentina. I really hope the guy in front has something on.


Nigeria


England. Is anyone else thinking Monty Python?


USA. There is a special feeling one gets when hearing their national anthem sung rather drunkenly by thousands of strangely dresses supporters of their nation and knowing that there might be a snowball’s chance in hell that their team won’t lose this one.


I haven’t found any pictures of Joe Biden at the game, so I don’t know whether or not he made a good Fan-in-Chief. This meeting with FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

The Slovenia-Algeria game just wrapped up about a half hour ago. The score was 1-0. Serbia and Ghana are due to play in a half hour. Germany plays Australia at 2:30 pm.





Joe Biden – World Cup Fan-in-Chief

12 06 2010


South Africa tied Mexico this morning 1-1. The first goal of 2010 World Cup, the first World Cup in Africa, was scored for the home team by Siphiwe Tshabalala and I think it’s safe to say that the whole country saw it and reveled in it. If you went my the books, Mexico should have trounced South Africa, but soccer rarely works that way. It was not, however, for lack of trying and a hat should be tipped to South African goal keeper Itumeleng Khune.
Yes, I know that Mexico made a goal too, but the South African goal was less expected, more hoped for, and made a nation go nuts, so that is why it’s my choice for photo moment of the match.

France and Uruguay played a much duller game which ended tied as well. The final score was 0-0. The game picked up at the very end, but it was the French game that was so disappointing. Somebody needs to remind a few of their stars that there’s no “I” in “team”. That was the inspiration for my choice of photo moment of the match. Thierry Henry, France’s superstar, having his free kick blocked my a wall of Uruguayan defenders. That’s pretty much that match in microcosm – France would get the ball down the field and be held back by Uruguay’s defensive line. The only other incident of note is that this game brought the World Cup’s first red card. This distinction goes to Uruguay’s Nicolas Lodeiro after, wait for it, 18 minutes of play. He came on as a substitute at minute 63 and got his first red card two minutes later. Sixteen minutes after that he was off for a bad tackle. The drama was the most interesting part of this game. By the way, I’ve posted links to match summaries because I could go on forever. Once again, the soccer photos are from daylife.com.

Joe Biden will be at the US vs. England game representing us – the soccer fans, I mean – and I am so glad about the. Who else in this administration could be an effective fan-in-chief? The president is too reserved and doesn’t get too emotionally charged. I like that in a world leader, but it makes for an awful soccer fan. Soccer fans are a rather intense bunch, and I want the government official representing me to get into the game a little. They don’t have to get fully costumed like the dedicated individuals we’ve become so used to seeing, but jumping to one’s feet and cheering like a frat boy on pledge week would be nice. I don’t see that coming from Obama – at least not in public. The president is not the worst choice for a fan-in-chief though. Hillary Clinton is probably the worst choice for the job. At least the president has a certain “coolness” factor that could work at a sporting event. Hillary Clinton is many things, but she is not cool. Not even a little bit. The Secretary of State goes well beyond just being reserved, she’s never relaxed in public. There never are light moments with her that the public is privy to, and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – she’s more than entitled to her privacy – but she’s too sever a personality to be fan-in-chief. Can you see her in the stands? Cheering. Not being at all serious or concerned with her work. The mental image is laughable! I can’t imagine her looking anything but miserable and that is not the look I want to represent my soccer fandom. Besides, pantsuits aren’t exactly proper fan attire. She’d look ridiculous and would you want her singing the national anthem?

That just looks painful!
I have confidence in Vice President Biden’s ability to behave like a fan at today’s game against England. He needs to get himself a USA scarf and cheer and jump around like the rest of us will if the US manages to score against England.

I’ll have more soccer info later today. South Korea is playing Greece now and has just scored at about the seventh minute making it 1-0. Argentina will play Nigeria at 10:00 am and then it’s the USA vs. England. Pre-game stuff starts at 2 pm. I’ll leave you with a look at what is usually referred to as a soccer team’s 12th man – the fans.


South Africa fans.


Desmond Tutu celebrates the South African goal. Behind him is Mexican president Felipe Calderon.


Mexico fans.


An Uruguay fan who is or knows someone who’s really good with face paint.


Fans of France. Love the ‘staches!

This is the strangest fan I’ve seen yet.

Yes, it’s a rooster and yes, I am holding back about a half-dozen jokes. I’ won’t type them out because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. In case you were wondering…


yes, they were in the stands for the game. I love the expression on the face of the guy in red. I think he sees the comic potential of this situation as well and just doesn’t want to be involved.





It Has Begun – World Cup 2010!

11 06 2010

The festivities have begun in South Africa as the 2010 World Cup kicks off with a celebration concert full of award-winning musicians from around the world and a fusion of western and african rhythm that had the crowd dancing from start to finish. Here is the artist lineup from FIFA’s website. Stars well-known to US audiences including the Black-Eyed Peas and Shakira performed alongside Angelique Kidjo, the world-famous singer from Benin, international jazz legend and South African native Hugh Masekela, and the Soweto Gospel Choir among many others. Those who know their contemporary history with recognize the significance of both locating the start of the World Cup in Soweto and having their Gospel Choir perform at the opening ceremonies. I’ve attached a link anyway. Music plays such a large role in South African culture and has for so long that, as I continue to follow the coverage, my musician’s heart is thrilled with the near omnipresence of fabulous music. Germany didn’t rock like this!

Here are some pictures from the concert and this is a link to where you can watch it. Just a note, all pictures were taken from daylife.com, thank you, DayLife!


I love this guy’s hair!


Shakira


Amadou and Mariam


Angelique Kidjo


South African President Jacob Zuma stands at a podium. To his left is the president of FIFA.


Fans rock out to the Black Eyed Peas.


The Black Eyed Peas


Hugh Masekela


There were parties all over South Africa in the days leading up to the start of the World Cup. This was taken at Cape Town’s “Welcome the World” party.


John Legend


Former Anglican bishop and human rights champion Desmond Tutu.


Tinariwen


The crowd’s enthusiasm never let up even as the concert drew to a close.


Vusi Mahlasela


What they’re all chasing.


Former South African president Nelson Mandela has not yet made an appearance, but his image is everywhere. Now 91-years-old, he has cut back his public appearances greatly and essentially retired to private life, but people in South Africa and the world over see this event – the first ever event like this in Africa – as a testament to his lifetime of achievements. It is expected that he will attend tomorrow’s pre-game events, though the word has gone out that it will only be a brief visit.
****UPDATE*** Nelson Mandela has announced he will not be attending today’s game. His great-granddaughter Zenani, just thirteen-years-old, was killed in a car accident leaving the concert last night. This is the New York Times article. I’ve also heard it verified on BBC and read it on ESPN.com. I sincerely hope Bafana Bafana, the South African team, win today’s match in her memory. Former president Mandela’s presence was expected to be one of the World Cup’s more emotional high points.

Tomorrow’s game at 9:25 am pits Mexico against the home team, South Africa’s beloved Bafana Bafana. Match 2, Uruguay vs. France is at 2:30 pm. Saturday sees Greece up against South Korea at 7:30 am, at 10:00 am Argentina faces Nigeria, and the USA plays their first match against England at 2:30 pm.

* EDIT* All times are EST because I’m from the east coast and occasionally forget that some people aren’t so lucky.

If you feel like dancing around the room while getting into the soccer spirit, here’s the video of the Official Song for the 2010 World Cup, Shakira’s Waka Waka (Time for Africa).

I’m linking back to my post about the US seeking to host the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022. If you haven’t signed the petition, please think about it. And, because you know I have to…

VIVA ITALIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





Commendable Behavior From Someone I Don’t Expect It From

10 06 2010

I’m not exactly what you’d call a fan of Nancy Pelosi and not just because I think fandom and politics go together like potassium and water. Sometimes she says and does things that just irk me. On occasion, I shake my head and think “And she’s third in the line of succession.” Still, I like and admire her tenacity even though her stands are sometimes to my left – not impossible, but no easy task either. I’m not bothered by the fact that she’s more liberal than I am. Hello! She’s the congresswoman from San Francisco not the Bible Belt. I’m still supposed to stagger back in sheer amazement at her liberalism? I don’t think so.
Honestly, the biggest argument for my lack of a strong opinion of her is that her being re-elected or not is simply out of my sphere of influence. I don’t have the money to donate to any campaigns and I don’t live in her district, so it’s not up to me whether she stays in Congress or not. I am also not a congresswoman, so I have no power to choose the Speaker of the US House of Representatives. It’s all out of my hands and I, unlike so many, refuse to flip out over elections in which I cannot participate. Now, if I had a substantial income and were able to donate significant amounts to campaigns all over the country, well then, my tune would change but I’m just a spectator at this point.

So what could move me to applaud someone whom I am otherwise unlikely to comment on one way or the other? Grace in the face of bad behavior. This is what made me actually proud of Nancy Pelosi.

She was being heckled by healthcare activists and Code Pink, but the issue she’s discussing isn’t what has me singing her praises. It’s the way she’s handling the uproar that I admire.
Last summer, when senators and congress people went home to try to sell healthcare reform, many met with strong opposition in the various town-hall meetings they held and their reactions generally fell into one of two categories – fight or flight. They either got just as belligerent as the protesters and got into verbal sparring matches or they ducked out as soon as a few loud hecklers started crowing. Speaker Pelosi did neither of these things – she calmly delivered her speech. Even when her security detail came up to the podium and said that the demonstrators were throwing things and the speaker should leave, she waved them off. “I’m not leaving.” And she didn’t. She delivered her half-hour speech in full though her security people were anxiously standing by.
It’s got to be obvious at this point that I generally have no soft spot in my heart for hecklers. It’s a wimps form of protesting. Standing in a crowd of people and just squawking takes no conviction. Standing holding a sign where everyone can see you or standing up in one of those meetings, stating your name and outlining all the problems you have with a particular proposal requires some gumption. If you feel strongly about something, you should have the wherewithal to stand up and take ownership of what’s tumbling forth from you mouth. Anonymously yelling grievances, or insults, or whatever at some politician, in my opinion, is nothing more than a cheep attempt to get on TV. “Look at me! I’m the stupid jackass at the [insert politician’s name here] rally!” It’s nothing but rude and gets even worse when people start throwing things… at a seventy-year-old woman… whose daughter and baby granddaughter are in the audience. Oh yeah, that’ll gain you a bunch of support for your cause. Real classy!

For standing up to asshats without losing her cool, Speaker Pelosi gets a gold star!

Nicely done.





Academic Amusement – www.funnyexam.com

8 06 2010

While the format leaves something to be desired, http://www.funnyexam.com is a riot. It’s a collection of anonymous, funny answers to test questions – the kind you give when you have no idea what the answer is are hoping to get a point or two on creativity and desperation alone. There are a bunch of them, but I’ve collected some highlights.


Yeah, everybody knows that what is illustrated here is the Fratparty-Kegger Theory.


ROAR!


That’s correct.


Well…



Inspired!


I did stuff like that a couple of times.


Effort – FAIL!


Yes boys and girls, babies come from the Pink Panther.


Yum!


I did stuff like this a couple of times too. Math and science weren’t my thing.


The Force will be with you always.

And, as every young smart ass knows, after hilarity comes detention…

even if you’re Superman.





The Power of Perception – Israel, Oil, and Other Stuff

7 06 2010

This is a continuation of my previous post about the oil spill. Someone was kind enough to comment and I have so much to say, I needed a whole post to respond and elaborate on the topic.

For many, this photo sums up everything they feel about the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. It’s not fair, but it’s the nature of the game. Hurricane Katrina – from the evacuation through to the rebuilding (still in progress, BTW) – was bungled every which way until it was nothing short of a boondoggle, but one man, George W. Bush could not have single-handedly wrecked it no matter how hard he tried. I’m not say he didn’t mess up, I simply stating the fact that he wasn’t the only one. There were plenty of mistakes made by a whole bunch of people who did a shoddy job thinking that somewhere along the line someone would pick up the slack and no one did – administratively speaking, that is. There are big-hearted individuals and groups that have done incredible work. There are some that still are working down there.
As for that picture of President Bush the Younger peering down at a devastated New Orleans from Air Force One, it isn’t all that it seems. Yes, he flew over and didn’t land to see the true plight of the citizens, but there was a very good, practical reason. When Air Force One shows up, it’s not just an ordinary day in the neighborhood. The Secret Service has to work alongside local law enforcement and, given the totality of the destruction of the infrastructure and such, those agencies would have run the risk of not being there to protect the local population if they were devoting what resources they had to providing the level of protection a presidential visit requires. They decided the risk wasn’t worth taking. See, it’s quite a valid reason, but when people are suffering and dying, reasons for not doing things that are seen as helpful all sound a bit like cop outs.

This is currently the image of Obama and the oil spill. While not entirely reassuring, he is there on the beach and that’s something. If an image comes along that carries more emotion – one of an oil-soaked wetland littered with dean animals, or something like that – then he will hear more cries that he hasn’t done enough. He still can’t go and fix the well himself or make all the oil disappear, but he is doing what little he can.

In other news, last week Israeli commandos were involved in a violent incident while boarding a Turkish aid vessel attempting to break the blockade Israel has imposed upon the Gaza Strip. I’m not going to try to piece together what happened that night on that dark, crowded ship. All we know is that something went very wrong, people died, and many were injured at the hands of military personnel. The image of elite troops killing and wounding civilians is almost universally unpalatable. The result – serious discussions all over the world about the efficacy and ethical implications of the Israeli policy regarding Gaza. Usually, such dialogues result in fierce accusations of the people, groups, or countries involved being “anti-Israel” or “pro-terrorist”, but this time, under these conditions is seems as though we might be able to cut through the bullfunky and get to the point. Some in Israel itself are calling for a review of the way Israel handles Gaza. If you’re wondering where the US stands, the Secretary of State issued the following statement.

Just a note, this is not a picture from that press briefing, it's a picture from her October 2009 visit to Israel. Why didn't I use a picture from the briefing? Because the briefing was supposed to be about her bilateral meeting with the Foreign Minister of Romania and I wanted an US/Israel image. It was all for aesthetics.

MR. CROWLEY: On his last day of covering the State Department, Nick Kralev of The Washington Times.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Nick.

QUESTION: Hello.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We should sing Auld Lang Syne or something. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much even without doing it.

Madam Secretary, I’d like to ask you a couple things about the Israeli situation which, as you know, is getting more and more serious by the day. I know there are many unknowns at this point, but do you accept Israel’s argument of self-defense? And do you think that the investigation should be done by Israel or by a third independent party, as other Security Council members have said?

And more broadly, we all know there are so many moving pieces to this. There’s Turkey, there’s Israel and in the Palestinians, there’s Iran, there’s Syria. What are the implications in your mind of this situation to the peace process and in the larger issues in the Middle East? Thanks.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Nick, on your last day, you’ve asked a very complicated set of interrelated questions. And let me put it into context as I respond. First, let me say how deeply we regret the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident aboard the Gaza-bound ships, and we offer our condolences to the families of the deceased and the wounded.

Turkey and Israel are both good friends of the United States, and we are working with both to deal with the aftermath of this tragic incident.

The United States supports the Security Council’s condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy. And we urge Israel to permit full consular access to the individuals involved and to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately. We urge all concerned countries to work together to resolve the status of those who were part of this incident as soon as possible.

We support in the strongest terms the Security Council’s call for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation, and we will continue to discuss these ideas with the Israelis and our international partners in the days ahead.

The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable. Israel’s legitimate security needs must be met, just as the Palestinians’ legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access for reconstruction materials must also be assured.

We will continue to work closely with the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority along with international NGOs and the United Nations to ensure adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction and building supplies. And we welcome efforts to promote the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate and internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.

Ultimately, the solution to this conflict must be found through an agreement based on a two-state solution negotiated between the parties. This incident underscores the urgency of reaching this goal and we remain committed to working with both sides to move forward these negotiations.

I think the situation from our perspective is very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned. But we fully support the Security Council’s action last night in issuing a presidential statement and we will work to implement the intention that this presidential statement represents.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for taking this question.

On an almost-related note, today Helen Thomas, veteran opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers’ and Dean of the White House Press Corps, retired today over inflammatory remarks about Israel – namely that they should “get the hell out of Palestine,” and “go home.” Obviously, these statements are incendiary to say the very least and especially given the fact that, against all odds, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are still set to begin soon. Kudos to George Mitchell. As for Ms. Thomas, she should have, and did, issue a statement of apology. She should not have been made to retire, but it’s fine with me if she chose to do so. She is approaching ninety after all. It is always unfortunate when an illustrious career is ended with a mind-bogglingly stupid comment or action. She broke a lot of ground for women in journalism, but will be remembered, in the short-term anyway, as the old woman who didn’t like Israel. Freedom of speech is protected, but it isn’t always popular and there are some things you just can’t say in public – especially if you’re “somebody”. Sorry, but that’s the way it goes.