Monday, December 31, 2007

christmas eve in NYC

I spent christmas eve in NYC with Noah and Chika. We visited the natural history museum, the planetarium, Rockefeller Center and finally Times Square. What a trip! chika and noah know all the subways - we also ate at a Indian restaurant. Christmas day chika made dinner, and noah and I played microsoft flight simulator for several hours - what a great game! It is better than any simulator I have used for my own instruction. overall a great christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Babies have good judgement

Six- and 10-month-old babies are much more capable judges of character than previously thought. Not only can infants pick out a good Samaritan, they tend to identify with them, according to a Yale University study published in the journal Nature.

The study released last month presented babies with a diorama-like display of an anthropomorphic circle struggling to make it up a hill. Just when it appeared that all hope was lost, a heroic triangle appeared, and pushed the circle to the top. The round climber bounces, clearly elated to have reached the summit. The same scenario is played out again, only this time a square appears at the top of the hill and pushes the circle to the bottom.

The babies were then asked to pick a toy – the helper or the hinderer, as scientists called them. One hundred percent of 6-month-olds and 87.5 percent of 10-month-olds chose the helper. The results were consistent even when the triangle and the square swapped places as good guy and bad guy. In several other iterations of the experiment, the helper, regardless of shape or color, won out.

"Babies are very competent socially," says Kiley Hamlin, lead author of the study. "They can figure this kind of stuff out without people explicitly teaching what's nice and not nice and who's nice and who's not nice."

Mall shooter a time bomb

Robert Hawkins killed 6 people in a mall in Omaha. Read the article below. He was in treatment centers for 4 years. It was not clear where he was living at the time of the shootings. He lost his job at McDonalds. He and his mother ate dinner at the house of her ex husband, Robert's stepfather, the night before the shootings. he took an assault rifle from his stepfathers house. His stepfather is not available for comment because he is in thailand - I feel sorry for the dead and injured, but this kid Robert had a hell of a life: first of all Omaha - an island in the middle of the plain states: there is nothing there except a big air force base. Second, his family: he spent 4 years away from his family in residential treatment centers: when he turned 18, he is an adult, and there is no state funds for treating adults for behavioral disorders in a residential setting. So he was kicked out of the system. Third, he worked at McDonalds, a minimum wage job, probably part time (so they didnt have to pay him benefits), probably because he lacks a high school diploma. Fourth, his stepdad has an assault rifle: why? who is he planning to assault? Home protection? Install a burgler alarm system. Fifth, his step father is in Thailand: why thailand? What is Thailand known for? underage sex? Robert sounds severely disturbed: the not uncommon cause of severe emotional disturbance in teens and pre teens is sexual abuse. I want to know more about Stepdad and his relationship with Robert. This was one angry boy: so angry he wanted to take it out on the world before killing himself. Who to blame? You need to take a test in order to get a drivers license, but anyone can have a child, regardless of how stupid, cruel, or f**ked up they are. Robert didn't seem to have a chance given where and how he grew up. I pray for him and his victims.

The mother of the teenage gunman who killed eight people at a busy shopping mall earlier this month apologized Thursday for her son's crime and said she did her best raising him.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry," Maribel Rodriguez told ABC's "Good Morning America" when asked what she would say to the victims' families. "I'm deeply devastated with you."

Her son, Robert Hawkins, 19, fired more than 30 rounds inside a mall department store Dec. 5, striking 11 people. Six died where they fell, one died on the way to a hospital and another died at a hospital. Three other people were wounded, two seriously.

Hawkins was a troubled teenager who spent four years in a series of treatment centers, group homes and foster care after threatening to kill his stepmother in 2002. He had recently broken up with a girlfriend and lost his job at a McDonald's.

She and Hawkins ate supper together at the house of her ex-husband — Hawkins' stepfather — the night before the shootings, Rodriguez said. The stepfather was vacationing in Thailand.

She and police have said Hawkins took the assault rifle he used in the shootings from his stepfather's closet.

Hawkins either was kicked out or left that home some time ago. At the time of the shootings, he was living with Debora Maruca-Kovac and her husband, whose sons were friends with Hawkins, Maruca-Kovac has said. He had lived there for a little more than a year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stupid Warning Labels!

here is a site that awards stupid warning labels.the idea is that companies put warning labels on products to defend themselves from lawsuits - but the warning labels make you wonder just how stupid people can be. Probably really stupid.......

Sunday, December 02, 2007

ISS and space shuttle pass in front of the sun

here is a link to the picture of space shuttle and ISS passing in front of the sun. make sure you click on image to get the full screen version. very cool......

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

ode to joy lyrics

ever wonder what the lyrics are in english to beethoven's Ode to Joy? (Actually written by Schiller but....) here they are. I heard this on car radio, starting with 2nd movement, so beautiful, I sat in parked car until the end.

Can you sense the Creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy.
Above the stars He must dwell.

Joy, daughter of Elysium
Thy magic reunites those
Whom stern custom has parted;
All men will become brothers
Under thy gentle wing.

Be embraced, Millions!
This kiss for all the world!
Brothers!, above the starry canopy
A loving father must dwell.

Joy, beautiful spark of Gods!,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beatiful spark of Gods!.

coast guard pic

I love this picture. These guys are taking a break, relaxing at the back of a lockheed C-130. They are clipped in with carabiners.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tesla electric car

GM killed its electric car program, the EV1. Here is another electric car, a sports car, goes 130 mph. Price? $98,000.

Mike Huckabee - not nuts after all? A hero instead?

You must have heard about the woman who was gang raped in Saudi Arabia (isnt that inconsistent with Islam?) and in response was sentenced by a court to be lashed - that's right, it was her fault she was RAPED! has any politicians spoken about this? What about Hillary? Are we so afraid of offending the damn Saudis? Screw Saudi Arabia - their oil is not worth one American life as far as I am concerned. And yes one politician has spoken out: Mike Huckabee! Yeah, one of the republican candidates who doesnt accept evolution, the Babdist minister from Arkansas (that's how they pronounce Baptist in Arkansas) - here is his own words!

Consumers are financing both sides in the war on terror because of the actions of U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said Sunday.

The former Arkansas governor made the comments following what he suggested was a muted response by the Bush administration to a Saudi court's sentence of six months in jail and 200 lashes for a woman who was gang raped.

"The United States has been far too involved in sort of looking the other way, not only at the atrocities of human rights and violation of women," Huckabee said on CNN's "Late Edition."

"Every time we put our credit card in the gas pump, we're paying so that the Saudis get rich — filthy, obscenely rich, and that money then ends up going to funding madrassas," schools "that train the terrorists," said Huckabee. "America has allowed itself to become enslaved to Saudi oil. It's absurd. It's embarrassing."

Huckabee said "I would make the United States energy independent within 10 years and tell the Saudis they can keep their oil just like they can keep their sand, that we won't need either one of them."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

best of christopher walken -

Here it is the very best of one of my favorite actors. The first is CW reading the 3 pigs - really funny (Nathan will like this!) the classic weapon of choice fat boy slim dancing video this one is good for halloween, CW reading Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven (that one's serious).

Here is CW singing about "Mango" on SNL (this one is funny)

And Colonel Engus, he likes going down South. This also includes more cow bell. And the first Mr. Continental.

crying while eating

I have posted this before but havent checked it out in a while. Really funny. pic shows christorpher, crying because of global warming, with his cat wrapped around his neck, while eating chicken tenders and spicy ranch dressing. browse through these - some are very clever.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Eraserhead coming to regent square theater

Everyone has been waiting for this: Eraserhead coming to Regent Square theater. What excitement! Seriously, this is a movie every movie freak has to see, at least once (well, maybe once at the most). Its a movie about a guy who gets his girlfriend pregnant, she moves in with him, gives birth to a mutant, leaves him, and he eventually kills the child. While this is happening, there a woman who lives in his radiator, and some burned guy is watching all this from his window. Who is the woman in the radiator? is the burned guy God? Is this post apocalyptic film about the end of the world, about nuclear war aftermath, that even God gets mutated? What IS this film about? And there is a constrant screeching noise in the background. This movie is hard to watch, annoying. So why watch it? My favorite scene is when the guy goes to his girlfriends house to meet the family, a typical scene. Only her mother is in a trance, and the cornish game hens they are about to eat become alive and start moving - its the meet the girlfriends parents scene from hell! Now THAT is funny. Perhaps this movie is about NOTHING - Lynch says its about experimentation, and never reveals if its supposed to mean anything.

You can eat squirrels in NJ

This story is a great relief to me! But you can eat no more than 2 squirrels a week...everything in moderation....

Squirrel eaters in the US state of New Jersey have been told that the bushy-tailed rodents are likely safe to eat, after earlier being advised the unlikely delicacies could contain toxic metals.

The Environmental Protection Agency said earlier this year it had discovered high levels of lead in a squirrel taken from near a waste dump in the Ringwood area and advised people to eat the rodents no more than twice a week.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Push Polls - we covered this in class!

John McCain was hurt by horrible push polls in 2000 in South Carolina primary. These are phoney polls that are designed to identify if a voter has positive feelings about a candidate, and then proceeds to provide negative information to the voter about the candidate. For example, in SC in 2000, these polls asked if respondent had a favorable rating of McCain, and if so, they were then asked additional questions. Would you still support him if you knew he had an illegimate black baby? Would you still support him if you knew his wife was a convicted drug addict? And so forth. It is true, McCain does have an illigimate black baby: he and his wife Cindy adopted an ophan child from southern India, who happens to be very dark. yes, his wife had an addiction problem with prescription drugs, tried to hide it by stealing drugs from her employer, got caught, went to rehab, did community service work. But the idea was to smear McCain. Well! Now its happening to Mitt romney, and the poll seems to be giving a favorable image of Mc Cain - and McCain is livid!!! He wants to know who is behind this, it is not him, not his style of campaigning and he has called on the atty gen of New Hampshire to investigate and prefer charges against whoever is behind this! Go John! Thats why I like McCain - he has principle, ethics, he believes in something other than winning at all costs - dignity. Here is the whole story.

surfer dude writes equation that proves everything

The universe has been captured finally, by a theoretical physicist who is unemployed and surfs for a "living." It has to do with a matrix shown above - that's what our universe "looks like." Ok. It is all clear to me now.......

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Young doc has a great idea

read this story about a NY young doc, who does his house calls on the internet. For $500 you get two physicals, and the right to contact him (IM) with your health problems. He takes cash. His scripts he negotiates with providers, saving his patients alot of money. He only sees patients 18-40 yrs of age. He has a product and he markets it effectively - he has detractors, those that say, what about the elderly - well, this program ain't for them, its for younger, healthy people who sometimes need to see a doc, but don't want to deal with appts and waiting at the doc's 0ffice. Very interesting - wave of future?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Into the Wild

Just read this book about the death of Chris McCandless, a young man who hitch hiked to alaska to live "in the wild" and died of starvation. The book is sad - this guy touched so many strangers in his life. I mean I cried twice while reading the book. Talk about youthful enthusiasm, Chris had it. He was an adventurer, not reckless (well maybe) but intelligent - he knew what he was doing, unthreading the linen that holds our lives together, stripping his civilization off, seeing what he was like without the pretense of civilization. he almost made it, more than 100 days living off berries, wild potatoes and game (mostly rabbit and squirrel, one moose - which he regretted killing because he couldnt save the meat although he tried to smoke it). The author of the book explores Chris' travels before alaska, trying to find a clue about what makes this kid tick. The people Chris met along the way were amazing, and they really loved him even though they knew they knew little about him. The book is intoxicating - I almost understand what drove him. I thought about this last night...couldnt in my retirement, pay off bills, and hit the road...see where it goes...take odd jobs...change my name to Fearless Trampenhauer....strip myself of pretense, mendacity, and superficiality. Chris gives us quite a challenge - it just breaks my heart that he died, alone, weak, in the sleeping bag his mother made for him. A must read book. Movie is out, I havent seen it. Here are some YouTube videos of the actual spot where he tried to survive and died.

Chris' note left before he died: "SOS I need your help; I am injured, near death, and too weak to hike out of here. I am all alone. This is no joke In the name of god, please remain to save me. I am out collecting berries close by and shall return this evening. thank you, chris maccandless. August?"

His 90 yr old friend, Franz, upon hearing of Chris's death "I turned my van around, drove back to the store, and bought a bottle of whiskey. And then I went out into the desert and drank it. I wasn't used to drinking so it made me sick. Hoped it'd kill me, but it didn't. Just made me real, real sick." His 90 yr old friend had lost his wife and son when he was younger, drank for several years to kill the pain, sobered up, started adopting fatherless boys, then in his late 80's ran into Chris hitchhiking, befriended him, offered to adopt him and help him (Chris smiled and declined). Then Franz hears of his death and hits the bottle for the first time in about 50 yrs.......

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bilur Ha-Tizmoret

The Band's Visit - great movie, 3 rivers film fest. The Alexandria Police Orchestra Band arrives in Israel, only to get lost. They end up in at a jewish settlement somewhere in the Negev desert - they ask three people at a convenience store, "Where is the Islamic Cultural Center?" and the residents laugh -"Cuture? Here? There is no cultural anything here. Dead." The audience laughed - many jewish people in audience, and I think, probably spent time on a settlement in the desert in their youth, one of those summer kibbutz programs. Anyway, this Egyptian band members are stuck in this nowhere israeli settlement, and the townspeople take them in, with hilarious result;. So the film has the usual cultural conflicts and humor, but it becomes far more serious. These settlers have few new people to talk to, and the band members give them a chance to share their feelings with outsiders. We learn of the extreme loneliness that the settlement residents experience, and the loneliness of the band members. We observe the human condition, whether jew or arab, israeli or Eygptian: people are trapped in loneliness, they despair, and in that way we share a common humanity. An absolutely beautiful film. Was not considered for best foreign film by Academy Awards,because the film has too much English spoken!!! There are several languages spoken in the film, but the characters share only one, broken english, so its not considered a foreign language film. So no Acacdemy award consideration. Too bad!!!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Comet Holmes visible to naked eye

Look North turn 45 degrees right (NE) high in sky is the autumn constellation Cassiopeia in the shape of a W. looking at the W, hold up two fists and look down and to the right. You will see the star Mirfak, which is at the top of a triangle. Holmes is the left base of the triangle.

It is very bright, wobbling (dusk reflecting sunlight) - in a telescope its looks like a blob. Just look NE at the horizon, look up slowly until you see a wobbling bright star - that is the comet.

And yes people will think you're nuts peering into infinity. Holmes is close - just outside the orbit of Mars. (comparison - the closest star is 4 light years away).

Movie: Fast Food Nation

Agricultural giant Cargill Inc. said on Saturday it is recalling over 1 million pounds of ground beef distributed in the United States because of possible E. Coli contamination.

In the book Fast Food Nation, and the related film, it is common knowledge that ALL meat is contaminated with E. Coli. It is impossible to prevent feces from being mixed with meat. The movie Fast Food Nation shows the killing floor of a meat processsing plant. The movie is a good adaptation of the book - I have shown it in my freshman american government class.

Here is what the movie connects: illegal immigration supports the meat processing industry, manure from feed lots contributes to global warming (along with coal fire electrical generating plants and cars), hamburger meat is awful and needs to be cooked thoroughly to kill the shit that is in it, fast food workers are teenagers, fast food restaurants are easy targets for robbery since they only take cash (at least they used to only take cash), fast food workers are often single mothers who work there as part of TANF (temp assistance to needy families, welfare program that often involves a work provision with child care), illegal immigrants are subjected to unsafe work conditions and are often subjected to sexual exploitation (who will they go to - the police?), fast food nation involves 3 parking spaces for every car since we drive from strip mall to strip mall which in turn contributes to storm water problems and oil and gas in our ground water, and fast food is unhealthy (full of calories, salt, sugar and god knows what). Chicken nuggets are realy "chicken" in a vague sense: dead chicken parts are in it, but also other types of additives, gross chicken parts, highly processed food. Even french fries are not just potatoes, but all sorts of stuff. Fast food is colored, and is also artificially flavored - otherwise no one would eat it. Great movie. see the burning manure pile here.

Three Rivers Film Festival: Grace is Gone

John Cusack's new movie Grace is Gone previewed the 3 rivers film festival. What a movie! Independent, low budget, but the script and acting were outstanding. He plays a guy who manages a home depot store - a guy who goes through life with false enthusiasm. His dreams of an army career cut short because of his bad eyesight, his wife continues her career in the army, but is killed in Iraq. He can't tell his daughters - he doesnt know how - he doesn't think he knows how to be a single parent, how to communicate with his daughters. He decides, impulsively (which is not like him) to take his girls to an amusement part in florida (they live in minnesota). A road trip during which he struggles with how, and when, to break the news. His daughters (12 and 8) seem to know something is wrong.....they all grow in the process. Heartbreaking movie. At one point he stops by his parents house (they are dead but his brother lives there) and he collapses in his childhood room - he wants to be a boy again, and not deal with the pain of adult life. The ending is absolutely beautiful. I talked with the director of pittsburgh filmmakers after the movie - the film isnt released yet, turns out Cusack "donated" the film for the festival (they are only showing it twice and even with a full theater they couldnt pay for the rental). Andrew said this film will definitely be oscar material - I agree, Cusack deserves it, and the two actors playing his daughters deserve it too. Also, the soundtrack was written by ..... Clint Eastwood????

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Dodge Le Femme

Interesting site about the dodge le femme, a car from the 1950's purposely designed to appeal to "women." (that is, designed by men to appeal to what they thought women would want to buy). Let's put this in the "what were they thinking about" file cabinet (along with the US invasion of Iraq, the japanese invasion of china, I could go on and on.......)

10 yr old boy started california fires...yeah, sure

here is a lame story about a 10 yr old boy playing with matches, supposedly he started the california wild fires. There are so many ways that fire could have started. The problem is drought and global warming. The problem is that wildfires are natural phenomena. The real question is why people build houses in areas in which wildfires are natural, and why we try to fight fires that normally occur in nature? Its this obsession we have with controlling nature - we are part of nature, not in control of it. What really gets me is the shallow journalism evidenced in the article - the idea that some ONE person must be responsible. Of course, its a 10 yr old boy -"where are his parents?!" Yet another story of poor discipline. Its almost as though the story perpetuates a myth not only about wildfires (that they are not natural and have some sinister human cause) but also about poorly behaved children (children need more discipline....). Maybe the author of the story should do some research on wildfires - what a brainless story.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Lust, Caution

Absolutely a Great Film - I can't stop thinking about it - so moving, disturbing. (you tube trailer)and site url here. Before the movie began, there was a large woman talking on her cell phone, something about, yeah I decided to see a movie, the ticket agent said this was good....and I thought, lady do you know what you are in for? Almost 3 hrs of a chinese film, in mandarin, cantonese, shanghainese, english and japanese, extreme violence, and S&M sex in extended explicit scenes! Not only did she fall asleep, but she woke up during one of the sex scenes (because of the screaming and grunting) and walked out! Anyway, this is another great Ang Lee film, great acting, what impressed me was the tension throughout the film, you knew the characters were involved in something life threatening, something more than they even knew. This is about the Japanese occupation of China (where they buried people alive) and a group of young, innocent students who want to kill an evil police chief collaborator. Its also a film about the role of women, repressed sexuality, and love. Well, I think its about love in a perverted way. This is a big production movie, lots of locations, involving lots of extras, recreating the streets of Shanghai and Hong Kong of the 1930's. It is extremely violent, and the sex scenes are....well....I guess they are acting, but if they are only acting, then they are really good actors. Long and intense, this is an incredible movie. What impressed me is that the tension extends throughout the film, even the ending leaves you wondering about what will happen next to the main character, Mr. Yee. Here's a longer trailer with music in chinese. I didn't watch to watch at parts, because it was so disturbing - I knew there would be great tragedy in the film. But I couldnt stop watching either. The film is emotionally exhausting.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

McDonalds Bathroom attendant

These guys went to McDonalds on Times Square and set up a tuxedo'd attendant. They told the manager it was a promotion from Corporate office. Very funny. Lots of pictures here.

"A Vision of Students Today"

Really great video about what students think of today's college educational environment. Its true - class size is too large, books contain more info than they really need to read (I am thinking about ending textbooks - they will be tested on what i cover in class). Media is important - use of media in class is the way to teach. The days of going over reading material in class are gone....

Monday, October 15, 2007

El Espinazo del diablo (The Devil's backbone)

I don't usually like horror movies, or ones with children being mistreated, but this is by the director of Pan's Labyrinth so I decided to see it. Wow! There is so much going on in this film. Its about a ghost of a young boy (really scarey)at an orphange, but also an allegory for the Spanish Civil War. The ghost is a gray, decaying little boy with a bleeding head. There is a rumor about a ghost, but only one boy can see him. When the ghost whispers, "Bring him (Jacinto) to meeeeeeee...." is really chilled me. But its also about the Spanish Civil War, about civilians who were targeted, mass murders, greed, lust, fear. Jacinto is the bad guy, but represents the violence of the war. But what is a ghost? the movie's narrator asks? "What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber." Even Jacinto has a ghost to deal with: his own unhappy childhood. What a movie! What an ending! The audience applauded at the end (all 50 of us).
Here is an excellent analysis, how the film is an allegory about the civil war:

It is unlikely that Mexican-director, Guillermo del Toro, will ever top this film, it is his greatest-achievement. While certainly a horror-film, it so-much-more, an allegory of the betrayals that led-to the rise-of-fascism in Spain. Most small-arms came-from Mexico, and Del Toro has said in-interviews that he lived-in a neighborhood populated by Republicans who had fled after-1939. Some have commented that the film takes-place after the fall of Republican Spain(the 1939 fall of Catalonia), but this is incorrect. The fall hasn't come-yet, and this free-fall state is the universe that the film inhabits. Taking-place in a Republican Orphanage for fallen-anarchists, Leftists, and Republican-politicians, the film is always in a state of anticipation and a kind-of limbo. All the Republican-caretakers can do is wait for the fall, and the repression that was surely-to-follow. Betrayed by the Catholic Church, the Soviet Union under-Stalin, political-infighting, and even the Western Democracies, Franco was given a blank-check to slaughter legitimate, democratic-forces by-1939. 2,000 Americans joined the "Abraham Lincoln Brigade" to fight Franco's forces, and a "United Front" of Leftists and Unionists from throughout-the-world had went to Spain to "fight the good-fight".

Meanwhile, the Roosevelt-administration banned all-sales of war-material (most-particularly, aircraft-engines and ammunition) to Republican-forces. Franco had many-allies, and would remain-in-power until his timely-death in November, 1975...Spain has been-celebrating ever-since. And-so, "The Devil's Backbone" can only be-about the ghosts of this period, particularly those Spaniards who were betrayed by politicians who shared so-much with Franco. The title, incidentally, comes-from a range-of-mountains where Republican-forces were bogged-down, then-defeated; it is referred-to as the Sierra de Alcubierre. Even George Orwell was there, and he wrote a book on his experiences fighting to save Republican Spain.

If "Devil's Backbone" says-anything, it is that "these were times that showed what people then were made-of." Dr. Cásares and Carmen represent the weakened-Republic, with her leg-missing, and he being-impotent. Then, there is Jacinto, once an orphan, now a caretaker of the orphanage--a betrayer, a criminal, and a murderer. Even-worse, though, is that amidst-the-chaos of the Civil War, the orphanage is haunted by the ghost of a former child-resident who may-have been murdered. The orphanage IS Spain, with its' fascist-bomb, unexploded in-the-courtyard, a direct-reference to the bombing of the Spanish-town, Guernica. Guernica was the first-incident of the bombing-of-civilians in modern-history, and was immortalized in a painting by-Pablo Picasso The deformed-fetus in the jar is the Spain-that-never-was, still-born, unnaturally. Dr. Cásares, then, is the legacy of Spanish Republicanism, a good-legacy that literally aids the living in the finale of the film. However, if I tell you anything-else this character, the film will be ruined! You can figure-out the rest, most audiences aren't given enough-credit. Stand-and-be-counted, these are "times that try men's souls". History never ends.

here is link to actual ghost town from Spanish civil war.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My lunch at Holsten's

Noah and I ate at Holsten's, the alleged last supper of Tony Soprano. We had grilled cheese sandwiches and onion rings - I ate them whole like Tony. Only I wasn't shot by one of Phil Leotardo's goons.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"How Long" new release by The Eagles

The new Eagles single is released here on youtube.comsounds better here on

Friday, October 05, 2007


Great movie: The story is set in ancient Japan, where three passers-by seek shelter from intense rain in the ruined temple called Roshomon. Two of the witnesses, a dumbfounded woodcutter (Takashi Shimura) and a priest (Minoru Chiaki), are narrating the crime trial to the commoner. More than the crime, they are astonished to witness the testimonies of three people, connected with the crime, which shatters their faith in humanity.

A man (Masayuki Mori) has been murdered, and his wife (Machiko Kyo) was allegedly raped, while they were traveling in the woods. A notorious bandit (Toshiro Mifune) has been arrested, regarding this despicable act. As the trial starts, the fabricated lies resurface over truth. According to the bandit, he and the man waged a war after the rape, resulting in the man's death.

But the woman's version is that she was rejected by her husband, after being raped. So, with uncontrollable grief, she killed him. However, the dead man testifies, through the medium, that the bandit insisted to marry the woman after the rape, but the woman demanded the bandit should kill her husband first. The angry bandit left the place and the guilty-conscious man committed suicide. According to the woodcutter, the woman had manipulated the two men, who were finally pushed to gruesome fight that lead to the man's death.

What is liked especially was the dead husband's testimony from the afterlife: the way he was costumed, his make up, the wind, and his movement's (supposedly he was told to move like a lion, and watched some nature documentaries to learn). The ending was great: after watching how selfish and violent humans are, the film ends with a beautiful act of compassion. Rashomon means "gate" - the story was told at an old gate, abandoned - it looked like some kind of temple, but it was a gate that would ward off evil spirits. The fact that the "gate" was abandoned, run down, that the men telling the story were tearing off wood from the gate to build a fire (it was cold and raining) suggests that there is a lack of protection against evil, that the "gate" that protected the people was ruined, and that evil is abundant in the world. Absolutely brilliant movie.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Reality imitates Fantasy: Donnie Darko strikes again!

This too weird: this is right from the movie Donnie Darko, when the motivational speaker "Jim Cunningham" (Patrick Swayze) turns out to be running a child porn ring.

Motivational speaker sentenced for child porn
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
The Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- A motivational speaker who made numerous appearances on national television has been sentenced to 11 years and three months in federal prison for a child pornography conviction, U.S. Attorney Robert Balfe's office announced yesterday.

Michael V. Fortino, 47, of Pittsburgh, pleaded guilty Feb. 26 to a charge of transporting child pornography across state lines, and faced up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and lifetime supervision.

In sentencing Mr. Fortino, U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren also ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine and to serve 20 years supervised release after he gets out of prison.

Mr. Fortino previously admitted that, while traveling for his work as an author and speaker, he took his laptop computer from Texas to Fayetteville for a speaking engagement Nov. 4, 2005. The computer contained images of child pornography that Mr. Fortino admitted were previously downloaded from the Internet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Belchite: a town destroyed in the Spanish Civil War

This is a town destroyed by house to house street fighting during the Spanish Civil War. It was never rebuilt. It was featured in the film Pan's Labyrith. A strange desolation. Very similar to the Orodour massacre in France, another town abandoned after a war.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

El Laberinto del fauno

A long time ago, in the underground realm, where there are no lies or pain, there lived a Princess who dreamed of the human world. She dreamed of blue skies, soft breeze, and sunshine. One day, eluding her keepers, the Princess escaped. Once outside, the brightness blinded her and erased every trace of the past from her memory. She forgot who she was and where she came from. Her body suffered cold, sickness, and pain. Eventually, she died. However, her father, the King, always knew that the Princess' soul would return, perhaps in another body, in another place, at another time. And he would wait for her, until he drew his last breath, until the world stopped turning...
This movie was incredible. I can't stop thinking about it: absolutely beautiful, sad, but so beautiful. I noticed it showing at Regent Square theater in the burgh last year, but I don't enjoy "fantasy" films. Its on HBO now, I saw the first few minutes, really good. It is set in 1944, Franco's fascist regime in Spain has been victorious, however, in some rural areas the resistance continues. The Spanish civil war was brutal, as is most civil wars. The killing and the revenge was of a great magnitude. Read Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls (a book that is unusual for Hemingway - not at all sentimental, but brutal, full of death, cruelty, futility - like the spanish civil war I guess). In this film a young girl, Ofelia, who is living with her mom and her step father, the evil Capitan Vidal. Ofelia's father was a tailor, he died, and Vidal had his suits made at the shop. Vidal marries Ofelia's mom, mostly because he wants to father a child (he isn't in love with the mom, in fact, is embarassed by her lowly status). Ofelia senses the violence and cruelty of Vidal, and that her mother is in danger. She escapes into a fantasy world to escape her fear. In her fantasy world she is brave, takes risks, and ultimately learns she doesn't have to follow adult rules (which in the civil war were crazy, cruel). The evil and fear that surrounds her is portrayed symbolically in the film, from the huge black cars the fascist soldiers drive, to the uniforms of the soldiers, to the violence of Capitan Vidal (several brutal scenes show him to be a sadistic psychopath in a soldier's uniform). I didn't anticipate the end, which was beautiful, sad, and heartbreaking. She really was a princess from the "other world"...
And it is said that the Princess returned to her father's kingdom. That she reigned there with justice and a kind heart for many centuries. That she was loved by her people. And that she left behind small traces of her time on Earth, visible only to those who know where to look.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Hillary Nutcracker

I've got to buy a bunch of these for presents!

Holsten's - where Tony Soprano got whacked

I visited Noah in New Jersey and he drove me to Holsten's, the ice cream store/diner where supposedly Tony Soprano got killed in the final episode. It looked differently than the movie - the position of movie camera's affect POV. The food was great - I ordered a bowl of onion rings and ate them like Tony, sticking my tongue out and putting one whole on the tongue and eating it like a communion wafer. Really nice place, friendly, relaxed, just a great mood in the place. Teenagers wait tables, the grill cooks laught and joke and the owner visits with a regular customer. Simple menu. They have it perfect. BTW, the mural on the back wall is different than the movie version - there is no "cat" on the back wall, adding to the idea that the "cat" was an omen of impending doom. Oddly enough, we had trouble parallel parking out front, just like Meadow. It was worth the drive - fascinating driving through New Jersey, observing the different cities, boros, how different populations live different areas. Holsten's is in a residential neighborhood that is very stable - looks like it was always middle class residential neighborhood (Bloomsfield). It borders Lodi, an older factory town, where working people lived and worked in the factories - now Lodi's factories are closed (moved to china) and empty, and dominicans (not the religious order) live there, in a stable but struggling community.

The argument for Tony's death: fore shadowing. Bobby talks to Tony on the boat when they were vacationing. What happens to guys like us? They either end up in jail or dead. Bobby asks Tony: will be have any warning before we get whacked? Or does it all just go "black" - which is what happens at the end of the last episode. The cat that the gang adopts - it stares at a picture of christopher - is it christopher's ghost, or adrianna's? Dr. Melfi kicking Tony out of therapy: he is hopeless, pathological. The director of the movie substitutes the mural in Hostens with one that includes a cat! What is he telling us? The guy in the members only jacket - he comes out and shoots Tony just as Tony looks up at Meadow coming in through the door (BTW, there is really no "bell" on the Holsten's door). The assassin has a clear shot because Meadow is not sitting next to Tony - she was delayed because of the parallel parking problem (that is why the parking is included - why else would the director show us Meadow having trouble parking if it doesn't mean something?) The guy probably shoots AJ too. Carmella sits watching her husband and son die from head wounds, Meadow sees her dad and brother killed. Carmella is told by her Jewish psychiatrist and her catholic priest that she should end her marriage, take her kids away from Tony. But she continues because of the money, the spec house, the jewelry Tony gives her - the affluent life style. She has a contract with the devil, with evil, and she pays by losing her husband and her son. Meadow is interning with the local county prosecutor, investigating the HUD scam in Newark, which will eventually lead her to discover what a crook her father was. The movie end tragically - Tony gets whacked at Holsten's - which is in itself ironic, since it is such a sweet, pleasant place, far from the evil of organized crime.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Trabant for sale!

Hard to believe anyone would buy this! The famous east German car. You had to order it years in advance and then wait. This car was as plain and bureaucratic as the east german government. It would also kill you (like the east german government) because the fuel tank was in the front, between the engine and the driver! (Just like the piper cub I used to fly - the fuel tank was between the engine and the pilot).

Tata Car

India is planning to introduce a car for less than $2400 - the Tata. However, costs are rising (rubber) and it may cost more. This happens at a time when even Toyota is trying to figure how to market a new car for less than $3000.

Narcissism and George W. Bush

I have worked with people who have personality disorders, and I diagnose George W. Bush as a narcissistic personality disorder. Here is a recent quote: "I've got God's shoulder to cry on. And I cry a lot. I do a lot of crying in this job. I'll bet I've shed more tears than you can count, as president. I'll shed some tomorrow." He and God are buddies - if so, you'd think God would give him better advice. The thought that he is doing God's will, God's work, that God sympathesizes with him, is absolutely remarkable. If God gives him a shoulder to cry on, you'd think maybe God would speak up a little and give him some advice. I guess people have different ideas of God: there is God the Zeus, who interferes with everyone's lives (God is screwing with me again!); then, there is God-Santa, a god that brings you presents and answers your gift wish list. Then there is God who basically is you - God approves of everything I do, because he guides me in what do do. If God really directs Pres. Bush, then God is a real screw up!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Alpha Romeo

The perfect sports car, 1987 Alpha Romeo Quadrofiglio. Motor Trend mag says this is the best sports car for the money, under $10,000. I drove one once - incredible. This one is a really nice example.

Flight of the Conchords

great series on HBO - a band from New Zealand trying to make it big in NYC, with the help of Murray, a New Zealand consulate official who manages them "part time." They have one "fan" named Mel, and her blog is here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

metal bat ban in NYC

the metal bat ban by the NYC council has been upheld by a NY court. The council passed the ban over Mayor Blumsberg's veto. The reason metal bats are used by non pro teams is because they are lighter and make the ball go farther and faster. There have been serious injuries to pitchers because of this. MLB pitchers know that when pitching to someone with a metal bat the ball comes back much quicker - MLB pitchers think metal bats are dangerous. The judge said although there is a lack of empirical evidence, the will of the council to protect the safety of children cannot be overthrown by a court. There IS empirical evidence - only the bat manufacturers want people to believe that there is not. A lot of money is at stake. Once NYC bans metal bats, other cities and states will. Ari Fleischer (Bush former Press Secretary) is the lobbyist for the metal bat industry - kind of like Nick Nailer is the spokesperson for Big Tobacco in the movie Thank you for smoking

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

close call

What a movie! About a korean sixteen year old girl who rebels against her mom and her absent dad. She gets caught up in drugs and the whole underworld scene of dealing and addicts. Her dad returns from Korea to rescue her, only to find her mom has told her all sorts of crazy stuff about him. Beautiful Annie Lee stars in the film - what an actor! Amazing performance, very very intense. I enjoyed the ending - for a while thought it would be very tragic. I like films with hopeful endings.

Karl Rove: Dr. Evil

the biography of Karl Rove is truly bizarre. Abandoned by her husband, and Karl's father, his mom remarried and step dad became the real dad. Until he revealed he was gay, when karl was a young man. After his now "step dad" left his mom, he finds out that step dad was not his biological dad. Then his mom kills herself in las vegas. young Karl goes in and out of college, keeping his student deferrment from the draft even though he flunked out dropped out several times. He was finally declared I - A, draftable, but by then Vietnam was over and the draft ended. He ran for President of the College Republicans, campaigning (yes, you campaign for that) for 5 months, living out of his car. the election was a deadlock, delegates were challenged, eventually he appealed to the Republican national Committee and Richard Nixon to decide. He campaigned for Nixon in 1972 - joked about going through garbage cans to get info on opponents. Was questioned by special prosecutor during watergate for dirty tricks. Emerged as campaign director in the 70's - invented push pull surveys during campaign against Ann Richards in Texas - telephone calls surveyed the public, focused on Ann Richards' supporters (filter questions) and asked, "Would you be more supportive or less supportive of Ann Richards if you knew she appointed Lesbians in key positions?" So, if she appoints lesbians, then she must know lesbians, and how would she know them? She is a lesbian herself! Brilliant Karl. In 2000 presidential primary came up with the push pull poll question: "would you be more supportive or less supportive of John McCain if you knew he fathered an illegitimate black child?" Fact: john and cindy mccain adopted an Indian child, who was illegitimate, John is now the father, the child is "black" so I guess you could say (if you were evil) that john maccain is fathering an illegitimate black child. Again, brilliant Karl! he was also behind the swift boating of john kerry, and the outing of Valerie Plame (CIA agent married to Joseph Wilson, the guy who blew the whistle on the phoney radioactive material Saddam was supposedly buying from Africa) and let his buddy scooter libby go to jail for it. He also sued Richard Thornbough after Rove blew the race for Senate in PA to Wofford, and won - he said richard owed him money. Most of his money comes from Bush campaigns - and from working for the tobacco and oil lobbies. He represents the ruthlessness of campaigning - win by smear, win by making phoney issues (god, guns, gays) or win by making the election a moral battle (the elite Kerry against the average texas rancher modest and humble george bush). he is gone from the Bush administration - but not forgotten. he still is involved in politics. At least they didn't give him the going away party they gave Rumsfeld...

Monday, August 20, 2007

You need permission to be reincarnated in Tibet!

In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is "an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation." But beyond the irony lies China's true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region's Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.

Isn't it incredible to be so fearful of one religious man? I am convinced if Dalai Lama was allowed back to Tibet, and could travel freely in China, Buddhism would sweep across China in a religious revival. That is how spritually empty china is - I wonder to what extent Maoism was more anti western ultra nationalism than real communism.

Mon Meilleur ami

Catherine (Julie Gayet) and François (Daniel Auteuil - who also starred in Apres Vous - see blog below) are partners in a Paris antique business. He has just paid so much at auction for a large Greek vase--itself a symbol of a friend's loyalty--that he's put the firm at risk. Catherine, who accuses François of having no friends, makes him accept a bet. Within ten days he must either come up with a "best friend" or forfeit the vase. François's self esteem now being as much at risk as the firm's finances, he bends to the task.

In the course of telling its story this film glances at some searching questions about friendship. What IS a friend? How many TRUE friends does anyone have? But as a comedy—certainly a very dry one—it ends by being neither revelatory nor funny. Sometimes it doesn't even feel like a comedy, and director Patrice Lecante and his writers may not have quite made up their minds what they were doing in the first place.

Certainly the raw material of comedy is here. All François' bustling efforts to dredge up any real chums, let alone a "best friend," are ludicrous failures. He has a daughter, Louise (Julie Durand), and business associates: no friends there. A high school classmate he thinks was a pal despises him. Everyone says he's an odious fellow, a "con"—an asshole. Along the way François meets a companionable and chatty taxi driver named Bruno (Dany Boon) who takes him around, keeps him company, and gives him tips. Bruno comes up with a "three-S" rule for "friend"-making: be Sociable, Smiling and Sincere. The trouble is that for all his chattiness—he's a wannabe quiz show contestant who compulsively feeds factoids to his fares—Bruno is a misfit with no friends himself. His sociability and smile don't mean he knows how to relate to people: the trivia recitations get in the way of that. As for François, he's clearly a person too wrapped up in himself ever to have connected with others. He goes to a lecture by the author of a self-help book on friendship, but the homely myopic man who befriends him afterward, he quickly abandons.

the great thing about this movie was the theater manager who waited at the door as we left and wished us a good night and farewell in french (Bonne nuit and au revoir). Very funny movie even with the subtitles I could get the humor. One line was about Elvis Presley's last words: "I think I will read on the toilet." Bruno is an expert at facts, he knows many things from quiz shows, but he is always throwing out facts that no one wants to know. So he is on this quiz show and panics and asks the host: do you know what Elvis Presley's last words were? Very funny - unexpected.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Video clip library

Some great video clips from movies, including Deerhunter, Do the Right Thing, and Dr. Strangelove, RealPlayer works best. Click to download, then open.

Here is the Dick Cheney Quagmire

Here is Cheney in 1994 explaining why we did not invade Iraq in the first gulf war. What an idiot...How was 2003 different than 1994? JC Watts was on news last night explaining how 911 changed everything, and that 2003 was different than 1994. So....Iraq was involved with 911? Bush has admitted that Iraq did not attack the us on 911 (he said that in the debates) so why keep parading 911 out when anyone questions why we invaded Iraq?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Farfour, the Hamas mickey mouse

Hamas television network in Gaza broadcast what it said was the last episode of a weekly children's show featuring "Farfour," a Mickey Mouse look-alike who had made worldwide headlines for preaching Islamic domination and armed struggle to youngsters.

In the final skit, (and this is the best part) Farfour was beaten to death by an actor posing as an Israeli official trying to buy Farfour's land. At one point, Farfour called the Israeli a "terrorist."

"Farfour was martyred while defending his land," said Sara, the teen presenter. He was killed "by the killers of children," she added.

The weekly show, featuring a giant black-and-white rodent with a high-pitched voice, had attracted worldwide attention because the character urged Palestinian children to fight Israel. It was broadcast on Hamas-affiliated Al-Aksa TV.

There was a recent interview with Sara, the teen presenter, she said she wants to either become a doctor, or a martyr. She says she is prepared to die in order to kill "jewish terrorists."

At the Holocaust museum in DC (some blogs below) part of the exhibition is to expose propaganda, and how Nazi Germany preached hatred to school children. This is no different. I know the people in Gaza are living under brutal conditions, and I know they blame Israel, but teaching children hatred is just not right regardless of the circumstances.