Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiger Woods is Screwed

This is my prediction for what the jokes are going to sound like--this is not what I actually think, it's just an idea:

Tiger Woods is about to find out what it's like to live like a black man in America.

The law is closing in on him, his wife just tried to kill him, and now the crazy bitch he was screwing just got a lawyer.

Granted, that's racist as hell, and I'm sorry I wrote it, but I had to write it, because it will be coming out of the mouths of every black comic in America who has had it up to here with how Tiger Woods has gotten a pass. He's gotten away with it, and now, the walls are closing in:

The Florida Highway Patrol is seeking a search warrant for hospital records that would document the treatment Tiger Woods received after an auto accident early Friday morning, has reported, citing unnamed sources.

The Florida state police, according to the Web site's report, want to determine if the injuries Woods sustained resembled those from an auto accident or domestic violence.

Woods, who was scheduled to compete at his Chevron World Challenge that starts Thursday in Thousand Oaks, Calif., will not attend or play because of injuries sustained in the incident, he announced Monday on his Web site.

Headaches and soreness will keep Woods from traveling to attend the tournament, The Golf Channel reported.

"I am extremely disappointed that I will not be at my tournament this week," Woods said on "I am certain it will be an outstanding event and I'm very sorry that I can't be there."

When contacted Monday by ESPN, Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman Kim Miller said the FHP has made no statements to anyone regarding Woods and warrants.

But according to the report, the state police think they can show probable cause of a crime committed during the events that unfolded Friday.

There may not have been a crime committed, but there was a whole lot of favoritism granted on account of where Woods lived (the rich part of town) and what he got away with (imagine someone being able to turn away the police, three days in a row, from their home).

I think that the African-American community has a chance to speak to this double standard in how Woods has been treated better than anyone in America. My point is that, sometimes, not even money can keep certain African-Americans from being treated unfairly by the police. Sometimes, you also have to live in the right part of town and be Tiger Woods in order to get away with having the same troubles all of us have.

Whatever the truth is here, we haven't gotten the truth out of Tiger yet. This is the worst possible example of mishandling public relations I have ever witnessed.

Here's what I've had to say on my main blog, here, here, and here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is the Best Film of the Year

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

I don’t do film reviews.

I do go out and see films. I love to watch films when I have the chance. I cannot claim to have seen enough films this year to make more than a passing, half-hearted attempt at gauging what will win an Academy Award. I don’t even know if this film even qualifies, but I don’t care. I saw this entirely by accident in a crappy theater with terrible seats, a tin-horn sound system, and on a screen best described as two king sized beds side by side. Thin, narrow, and poorly illuminated as well. And, despite that, I was enthralled. Quality beat the presentation by a country mile.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is the best film of the year, and it is the best film I’ve seen since I can remember. It is so unique and well done, I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve ever seen. It compares well to two other films by the same folks—Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit film from a few years ago. I hate computer animated films, or films with too many special effects, but I like the animation techniques in all of these films, and it really takes on a new life with The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Deliberately retro, almost intentionally cheesy in some ways, but brilliant to look at.

The voice acting though, is the best. The interplay between Mr. George Clooney and everyone else is so subtle and dead-on that it is not to be believed. There is so much real chemistry between the actors, even when handed nothing but a script and a microphone. There is not enough attention given to voice acting, I believe. It can either work or fall completely flat and sound forced. What Clooney does is to refuse to rush or push anything. He just lives within the sound of his own voice here. He is so capably complemented by Meryl Streep and Jason Schwartzman that it really does create something unique.

And Hollywood doesn’t give us unique very often. Nor does it give us quality when cheap and loud can be handed out in buckets. The Fantastic Mr. Fox has originality and quality embedded into it. The sprawling sets, the finite detail, and the delight of watching the miserable villains we see in this film are so rewarding. Political correctness goes out the window in this film. Someone had a snit over much of what we see in it—a Hollywood snit backed by focus-group research. Thank God Anderson won as many fights here as he did. I don’t know if he won them all, but he had to have won quite a few.

I think the film that I can compare it to, favorably, is Miller’s Crossing, with a loopy, invented language all its own and characters that are fleshed out and real. There are more ideas explored in the first five minutes of this film than you will see considered in more than half the films that are out right now, combined.

It truly is the best film of the year and I don’t say that lightly. It is an absolute triumph of filmmaking. It makes up for a year in which crap has been king. Do we need any more Seth Rogen films? Not on your life. Do we need to hear anything else from Jennifer Aniston and her pals who make films no one remembers? No, and she’s really getting old fast, isn’t she, the poor girl. And I’ll tell you what absolutely hit me—the preview for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland played before The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It shouldn’t have.

Tim Burton should run screaming from this film and get those previews pulled. You cannot compare the randomly arranged muck of Tim Burton’s shit sandwich school of filmmaking with anything related to what Wes Anderson did with The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I realize it was a trailer, but it was a bad trailer. It was cut with a dull butter knife. Alice in Wonderland looked like Johnny Depp’s worst attempt at being mannered and weird since about twenty minutes ago. Really, can’t anyone see through his schtick by now? He’s still playing Benny and Joon for you suckers, complete with hangdog looks and someone else’s ideas. All of the characters in the forthcoming Alice film looked like they were done ten years ago by a terrible designer on the wrong computers. Depp looked like he had a flattened carrot on his head and as if he had insisted upon wearing porn star makeup, complete with a dashing smear in the wrong place. The Cheshire Cat looked like someone’s stuffed kitty. It was horrific and dull looking—much like everything else Tim Burton has been doing since Batman. The presence of Depp alone will bring in the money, but for what? For something pedestrian and half-baked? That’s just sad.

I marveled at the fact, leaving the theater, that Anderson absolutely owns Burton now. Forget the money and the numbers—Anderson owns everyone now. He’s done something that will force everyone to tear up whatever they’re doing and try much harder.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Happened Here?

The Buick Enclave, which was NOT the vehicle the Tiger Woods was driving when he crashed

Negligent, impaired, or just plain confused?

Tiger Woods was seriously injured early Friday when he hit a fire hydrant and a tree near his Florida home, authorities said.

The Florida Highway Patrol said the PGA star hit the fire hydrant and tree as he pulled out of his driveway in his 2009 Cadillac sport utility vehicle.

Mr. Woods was taken to Health Central Hospital. Officials there didn't have record of him as a patient, though the news release said Mr. Woods' injuries were serious.

The highway patrol said the crash is still under investigation, and charges are pending. However, the highway patrol said the crash was not alcohol-related.

Mr. Woods, 33 years old, owns a home in the exclusive subdivision of Isleworth near Orlando. Orange County property records indicate his home is valued at $2.4 million.

Woods was driving a Cadillac--and yet, he's the spokesperson for the Buick Enclave, pictured above. I would say that the pending charges are for negligent driving or driving while impaired in some way.

Pain killers? Is it wrong to suggest that Woods may have been under the influence of a pain killer of some type? Given his history of being injured, is that outside of the realm of possibility?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Minnie Mouse Hangs Out With Katy Perry and Hayden Panettiere

Wholesome without being creepy?

Missing the Glory Days of Golf

Warwick Hills, 17th Hole

Tough times for the economy mean tough times for golf courses:

The recession has dealt a mean bogey to golf. Hundreds of courses have closed in the last two years and many formerly exclusive country clubs have slashed fees or opened their greens to the public.

Sales of golf balls, clubs and apparel -- a multibillion-dollar industry -- have dipped 10% this year as players trim spending, according to golf researcher Pellucid Corp.

But perhaps the most dramatic examples of golf's woes can be seen in the string of barren fairways and locked gates. Through September of this year, at least 114 of the nation's 16,000 or so golf courses had closed, according to the National Golf Foundation, a number that was offset only partly by the opening of 44 new courses.

"People are cutting golf out of their diets because they've got to cut something," said Jeff Woolson, a real estate broker with Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis who specializes in buying and selling golf courses.

Woolson and other real estate experts say most golf courses have lost 30% to 50% of their worth in the last two years. Several courses have been forced into bankruptcy. Among them is Chevy Chase Country Club in Glendale, which dates to 1925 and was designed by noted golf architect William P. Bell, who also designed the Bel Air Country Club and the Newport Beach Country Club.

The owners tried to sell it for $6.5 million, but couldn't find a buyer before the bankruptcy court decided to turn it over to the lender. The asking price, which would have included a Spanish-style clubhouse and Olympic-sized pool on 35 acres, might sound like a bargain -- there are homes in the Los Angeles area that sell for more -- but golf courses are businesses, not typical real estate investments, because they must remain golf courses. And business has been bad lately.

It's a big comedown from the glory days.

Golf thrived so in the 1980s that it was widely believed that a new U.S. course could open every day and there still wouldn't be enough links to satisfy demand. In the 1990s came Tiger Woods, who made the world pay attention to golf as he grew to dominate the sport. The "Tiger effect," many investors assumed, would launch a youth wave of interest in the sport.

The Tiger effect really didn't happen. Just because a lot of people began to pay attention to golf, that didn't necessarily translate into people taking up the sport. I'm sure that a few tried it, but rarely did you see anyone stick with the sport once they figured out just how difficult it was.

The glory days happened because people had money and leisure time. Working for the Man nowadays means no time off, screaming brats on the weekend, and barely enough money to not pay the mortgage. The increase in the number of people wearing nametags and working for peanuts has meant that there are fewer and fewer bankers and financial services people to play golf.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Cruel Life of a Lizard Smuggler

Sometimes you get away with it—and reap untold rewards. And then, sometimes, Johnny Law gets up in your business and thwarts your best efforts:
In an apparently cold-blooded attempt at smuggling, a Lomita man was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport this week with more than a dozen wriggling lizards strapped to his chest.

Michael Plank, 40, was detained by U.S. Customs agents after they discovered 15 live lizards stuffed into his money belt, officials with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said Friday.

Plank was returning from Australia on Tuesday when agents found two geckos, 11 skinks and two monitor lizards in his possession. Australian reptiles are strictly regulated, and Plank didn’t have a required export permit, officials said.

The lizards are valued at $8,500.

Smuggling wildlife into the U.S. is a felony punishable by a $250,000 fine and up to 20 years in prison. Plank has been released on a $10,000 bond and will be arraigned Dec. 21 in a Los Angeles federal court, authorities said.

I say, next time, we just let him go. Smuggling lizards is its own harsh reality.

Friday, November 20, 2009

This is the kind of thing that could get you fired

This is what got a couple of announcers suspended from calling NBA games for the Los Angeles Clippers:
Smith: “Look who’s in.”
Lawler: “Hamed Haddadi. Where’s he from?”
Smith: “He’s the first Iranian to play in the NBA.” (Smith pronounced Iranian as “Eye-ranian,” a pronunciation that offended the viewer who complained.)
Lawler: “There aren’t any Iranian players in the NBA,” repeating Smith’s mispronunciation.
Smith: “He’s the only one.”
Lawler: “He’s from Iran?”
Smith: “I guess so.”
Lawler: “That Iran?”
Smith: Yes.
Lawler: “The real Iran?”
Smith: “Yes.”
Lawler: “Wow. Haddadi – that’s H-A-D-D-A-D-I.”
Smith: “You’re sure it’s not Borat’s older brother?”
Smith: “If they ever make a movie about Haddadi, I’m going to get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part.”
Lawler: “Here’s Haddadi. Nice little back-door pass. I guess those Iranians can pass the ball.”
Smith: “Especially the post players.
Lawler: “I don’t know about their guards.”

I think that suspending them for being boring and trite would be enough, but here are the real details:
Veteran play-by-play man Ralph Lawler and analyst Mike Smith were suspended for tonight's Clippers telecast on Fox Sports Prime Ticket for comments made during Wednesday's telecast, according to sources with knowledge of the decision but not authorized to speak publicly.
Fox issued this statement at 5:03 p.m. today: "We regret the remarks made by Clippers announcers Michael Smith and Ralph Lawler during Wednesday's telecast. While we believe that Michael and Ralph did not intend their exchange to be offensive, the comments were inappropriate. We extend our apologies to Hamed Haddadi of the Memphis Grizzlies and to anyone who was offended. We have addressed the situation with Michael and Ralph and have taken appropriate action."Wednesday's comments came near the end of a dreary Clippers loss, 106-91, in Memphis as rookie Haddadi, a 7-foot-2 center and the first Iranian player in the NBA, came into the game.In a 40-second exchange Lawler and Smith began talking about Haddadi. A Clippers fan who watched Wednesday’s telecast complained about the verbal exchange and said he received an apology today from Fox Sports.
Can you complain if they're boring and make no sense? Can you complain, for example, about how Tim McCarver, when he calls baseball games, is almost always wrong and never offers any insight as to what is going on? I mean, let's face it--McCarver trades on the fact that no one has the sound up anyway. Can you complain when Chris Collinsworth is unnecessarily critical of a position player who plays a position Collinsworth knows nothing about? Am I just being nitpicky when I say, thank God I can turn the sound down.

Ricky Williams Really Is a Football Player

Given his strange odyssey, games like this one are worth noting:

Ricky Williams showed he's still got it.

The 32-year-old Williams rushed for 119 yards and scored three touchdowns, and the Dolphins beat the Carolina Panthers 24-17 on Thursday night for their fourth win in six games to get into the AFC playoff picture.

A day after learning Brown is lost for the season to a foot injury, the Dolphins (5-5) continued their surge after an 0-3 start behind Williams. The 2002 NFL rushing champion had a receiving and rushing touchdown in the same game for the first time in his career that included a couple of lost seasons.

"Coach always talks about finishing," Williams said. "Sometimes in this league, in a physical game, it's difficult to finish. I think in the past we've prided ourselves on finishing games and we did a good job tonight."

There aren't many 32 year-old running backs who could do half of what Williams did against Carolina (yes, the photo above shows Ricky running against Jacksonville; Jacksonville and Carolina occupy the same space in my head).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Disciplinarian or Just a Nasty Human Being

I have to admit that, until this morning, I knew nothing about Kansas Football Coach Mark Mangino. Now that I do, I wish I was still in my happy, ignorant bubble:

Former Kansas football players are speaking out about an investigation into allegations coach Mark Mangino has verbally abused or had inappropriate physical contact with players.

Former Jayhawks linebacker Mike Rivera, who plays for the Tennessee Titans, said Wednesday night he could not speak about the allegations. He plans to have a formal interview on the matter with representatives from Kansas in the next few days.

But five of Rivera's former teammates said they were not surprised by the investigation launched by athletic director Lew Perkins. And some relayed personal experiences with Mangino.

Former Kansas wide receiver Raymond Brown, who was a senior last season, said Mangino would often "say personal, hurtful, embarrassing things in front of people."

Brown cited two examples. He said that once, his younger brother had been shot in the arm in St. Louis. Then came a game.

"I dropped a pass and [Mangino] was mad," Brown said. "And I said, 'Yes, sir. Yes, sir.' The yelling didn't bother me. But then he said, 'Shut up!' He said, 'If you don't shut up, I'm going to send you back to St. Louis so you can get shot with your homies.' I was irate. I wanted to hurt him to be honest with you."

Now, is that intended to motivate players? Yes. Is it appropriate? No. It should have been done differently. I think Coach Mangino would do well to change his approach. His approach has taken on a kind of Bobby Knight feeding frenzy situation, and that tends to go downhill fast.

Being hard on players is necessary. That added extra dose of personal nastiness is what is unacceptable. Constantly telling a player that he will go back to being on the block with his homeys is a tad bit racist, when you think about it. Mangino needs to motivate his players in a more positive way, such as, making them wear pink dresses or walk around with baby bottles stuck in the face guard of their helmets. Humiliate without using personal issues, in other words. Losing has begun to shine a light on Mangino and his methods, and few coaches can stand up to scrutiny when they're losing. Hell, Mangino looks like he's about to explode and go down with a massive coronary anyway.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Michigan State Doesn't Look like a Number Two

I know what the score was at the end of the game, and winning is what matters. But I watched this game:
Michigan State’s winning streak at home against nonconference teams was in jeopardy.

The second-ranked Spartans — and their fans — refused to let it end against Gonzaga.

Durrell Summers hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with a few minutes left, made two at the line in the final seconds and finished with 21 points and a career-high 11 rebounds to help No. 2 Michigan State rally for a 75-71 win over the Bulldogs on Tuesday night.

Kudos to Michigan State for getting the win, but, please. Please.

Michigan State and Gonzaga were awful last night. The refs didn't help. The quality of play was really not very high, even for the beginning of the season. It seemed like an off night to me, and I was disappointed in this particular game--I hope the other games that were played yesterday were better.

Even Tom Izzo said that his team didn't play very well. There were a lot of missed shots that should have been no-brainers. One handed dunks that clanged off the rim, fouls that were called by the refs that weren't even fouls, and what really tells the story of the game are the missed threes by Gonzaga.

No way is Michigan State a number two. This is why early-season rankings mean nothing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Jon Gruden is a Good Fit on Monday Night

I have had a great deal of non-interest in Monday Night Football for as long as I can remember. I have never really cared who called the games. Was it Madden forever? Is Al Michaels on NBC now? Where'd Dan Dierdorf go? Why is Boomer on CBS? Whose idea was it to hire Chris Collinsworth? I never understand these things.

I was sad to see Mr. Tony Kornheiser only lasted a few seasons. Great mind, great analysis, always entertaining. Mr. Tony comes with baggage, however. Inability to travel? Won't work for Monday Night Football. End of story.

Ron Jaworski does a great job, Mike Tirico does a great job, and Jon Gruden does a great job. I wouldn't go any further than that. It's TV sports--it's not like it's going to change my life that much.

This looks more like an effort to build stability than anything else:
ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst and former longtime NFL coach Jon Gruden has agreed to a multiyear extension with the network.

Gruden, who joined ESPN in September to replace Tony Kornheiser in the MNF booth, will also appear on ESPN's Super Bowl week and NFL Draft coverage, will call the 2010 NFL Pro Bowl and will serve as an analyst for ESPN Radio's 2010 Rose Bowl and BCS title game broadcasts, where he will again team with MNF play-by-play caller Mike Tirico.

"Working with Mike, [Ron Jaworski] and our entire Monday Night Football team is the most fun I have had in years, and I am fired up to make this long-term commitment to ESPN," Gruden said in a statement. "Monday Night Football is special and I look forward to remaining a part of it and continuing to call these great games."

Gruden, fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 16, was the winningest coach in Bucs history (60-57 in seven seasons) and led Tampa Bay to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII. He also has coached the Oakland Raiders.

"Jon has truly reinvented himself, from a Super Bowl-winning head coach to one of the foremost NFL analysts in the business, and the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive," said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president of production. "We are thrilled with his commitment to ESPN, which ensures that Jon will continue on Monday Night Football with Mike and Jaws, and he will have the opportunity to do even more with ESPN."

There are no decent coaching jobs out there. Washington? Cleveland? St. Louis? Detroit? Baltimore?

No thank you, apparently.

Well, That's the End of Isiah Thomas and his Wonderful Coaching Career

The absolutely stark raving look of terror and confusion on this poor young athlete's face is the reason why Isiah Thomas should be encouraged to give up any pretense of being a coach. The poor kid looks like he's being told to bounce the ball with his forehead and run down the court with his shorts down and his arms flapping so the opposing players won't know how to defend him.

When will someone step in and tell Thomas it's over?
Three games into his college coaching career, Isiah Thomas was already asking for mercy.

Midway through the second half of Florida International's 81-49 loss at Tulsa on Sunday, Thomas motioned toward his counterpart as if to ask when he'd take his starters out.

A few minutes later, he got vocal with his request, shouting a few words in the direction of Golden Hurricane coach Doug Wojcik.

At that point, FIU (0-3) was down 63-25 with 8:59 to play after being outscored 27-5 to start the second half.

"It's a 40-minute game. If you want the truth of it, go back to the (North) Carolina game Monday night, when Carolina was pressing them with 3 minutes left," Wojcik said, referring to FIU's 88-72 loss at North Carolina. "I don't press, and I don't embarrass anybody. But it's a 40-minute game, and I'm in this game to get better.

"I've never seen anything like that. It was very bizarre."

You've never seen anything like that, coach, because Isiah Thomas is not a coach. He's a train wreck, trading on a professional resume that is diminished by the day. I don't know who runs FIU's athletic department, nor do I care, but this experiment needs to end, and soon, otherwise your program is going to be damaged for years. Years.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Amy Alkon is Still Peddling Her One Claim to Fame

I’m speaking, of course, about America’s most celebrated insane bag of nuts blogger, one Amy Alkon, who seems to be interviewed here for her ability to be crazy and credibly so:

Amy Alkon, a syndicated advice columnist and self-described “manners psycho,” certainly thinks so. Just ask “Barry,” a loud cellphone talker she encountered recently at a Starbucks in Santa Monica, Calif.

“He just blatantly took over the whole place with his conversation, streaming his dull life into everybody’s brain,” Ms. Alkon recalled in a telephone interview.

Among the personal details Barry shared that day — errands to run, plans for the evening — was his phone number, which Ms. Alkon jotted down.

“I called him that night and said, ‘Just calling to let you know, Barry, that if you’d like your private life to remain private, you might want to be a little more considerate next time,’ “ she said.

Alkon has no ethics, and I call bullshit:

Someone who doesn’t tolerate inconsiderate public behaviour is Amy Alkon, the famous Advice Goddess columnist in the US who is also known as a blogslapper of ‘assclowns’. Recently, Amy was so annoyed by a ‘cell phone shouter’ in a LA café, she immediately posted personal details of the assclown’s conversation to her weblog. The icing on the cake was the assclown receiving calls directing her to Amy’s post, using the phone number she’d haplessly broadcast to all and sundry. Fittingly, one of Amy’s mottos is -revenge is the best revenge.

Indeed, shaming websites catering for pissed-off victims of public arseholes are springing up with a vengeance. Check this Wall Street Journal article, inspired by Amy’s experience for a list of blogslapping websites. One potential site not yet created could cater for the common problem of locals and families terrorising the neighbourhood.

Notice anything?

That same incident happened in 2006, and Alkon continues to “peddle” the incident as something recent. So far, the Wall Street Journal and now the New York Times have passed off a single incident (and I’m guessing she’s dressing up the same incident and peddling it around—I could be wrong) as being something Alkon has done to unsuspecting people in the name of some sort of morally superior attempt at enforcing “ethics” and here’s what she did:

Eva Burgess Is Getting Glasses!
And she’s picking them up Saturday after 4pm! I know this because she was bellowing into a cell phone about it next to me in a café. Apparently, she’s not only inconsiderate, she doesn’t seeem to mind giving a lot of personal information, starting with her full name, to a total stranger.

She continued, Eva and Ken Hashimoto “have insurance there,” she said…”under a flexible spending account.” “We just have to pay by the end of the year,” she said. And then she most helpfully bellowed her phone number — [REDACTED] — perhaps because she’s lonely and wants total strangers to call and ask how her glasses are working out for her.

Hey, Eva, can I have your bank account number and your log-in so I can transfer a few bucks to my account? I’d like to get a pair of noise-canceling headphones in case you sit next to me again.

On a positive note, the little girl with them, probably Eva’s (and maybe Ken’s) daughter, was very quiet and well-behaved.

Hey, Eva, I know it’s kinda cold in NYC, where you’re apparently from (according to the area code you helpfully dispensed), but here in sunny southern California, at the moment you were talking, it was 58 degrees. Next time, you might take your business outside –- as exciting as I found it, on a morning I would normally have relaxed to the classical music while eating my breakfast and thinking my own thoughts, to instead be a part of your eyecare needs.

Nice going, New York Times. That uncanny similarity is a little too uncanny for my tastes. If she’s been running around, doing this sort of thing for years, well, all well and good. But let’s not give her a pass on being the unethical-blogger-who-posts-someone’s-phone-number nonsense. I don’t care how offended someone is—posting their personal information crosses into Michelle Malkin territory.

Sorry, @DQuenqua over there on Twitter. You’ve been punked by one of the least ethical human beings alive.  Cue 2011, and a rousing story in the Washington Post about how Amy Alkon smacked down someone by publishing their phone number on her blog…

Congratulations, Miss Bacall

Lauren Bacall and Harry Truman 1945

I suppose there are some who can't quite get their head around the fact that Lauren Bacall has been famous since, when, exactly? 1944? Earlier than that? I mean, world famous.

World famous for 65 years? My goodness.

The above photograph, of Bacall getting Vice-President Harry Truman in hot water with his wife, was taken in 1945. And, this year, she is getting an honorary Oscar:

The Academy Awards won't be presented until March, but the first Oscar statuettes of the season were being handed out Saturday night at a private, black-tie dinner in Hollywood.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is breaking with tradition and presenting its honorary Oscars away from the televised ceremony. Actress Lauren Bacall, producer-director Roger Corman and cinematographer Gordon Willis were to each receive Oscar statuettes at the inaugural Governors Awards event.

The winner of this year's Irving J. Thalberg Memorial Award, producer John Calley, was to also receive his trophy at the star-studded dinner. Each of the four recipients were chosen by the academy's Board of Governors.

Annette Bening, Tom Hanks, Kirk Douglas, Anjelica Huston and Quentin Tarantino signed on as presenters for the evening, which included 600 invited guests celebrating at the Grand Ballroom above the Kodak Theatre, the same room where the annual post-Academy Awards Governors Ball is held.

Morgan Freeman, Alec Baldwin, Steven Spielberg and other guests were serenaded by a violin quartet before the ceremony began in a room decked out in bronze and silver curtains with a giant Oscar statue at the center.

Bacall made her screen debut with Humphrey Bogart in "To Have and Have Not" in 1944. She went on to star in more than 30 films, including classics such as "The Big Sleep" and "Key Largo."

Here's Hilary Swank atop the piano, which is still  in the National Press Club:

Hilary Swank


It Hurts to Lose a Home

In the case of Nicolas Cage, two of his homes are now foreclosed upon:

Nicolas Cage's next film may take place in New Orleans, but the debt-plagued actor can now no longer claim to be a resident of the Big Easy.

Cage, 45 who filed a lawsuit blaming his financial collapse on his longtime business partner, had his two historic French Quarter homes purchased in a foreclosure auction Thursday.

The houses went for $4.5 million – about two-thirds the appraised value – to Cage's lender, Regions bank, the lone bidder. Movers were seen clearing Cage's belongings on Friday.

Cage, whose next film Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans comes out this month, has been selling off homes in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Rhode Island to pay off a $6 million federal tax lien.

Good God, where is the help this man needs? There's no reason whatsoever to seize assets when, in good faith and in good time, Cage could restructure his asset portfolio and raise the cash necessary to satisfy the people who are rushing to take away his assets. This is a disgrace.

First of all, he's a bankable movie star. He may have up and down periods, but this is a man who can make money in his chosen field. Second of all, he has assets but obligations--show me a man who has assets, and I'll show you a man who can deftly restructure and make things right for anyone and everyone who's bringing their demands to bear. Third, have some compassion. I realize, we're not supposed to feel bad for rich people in America. I get the populism here. But, on a much smaller scale, think of a small businessman being cleaned out by an unscrupulous partner or spouse. Helping that person get their affairs in order would leave them with the ability to pay off obligations with interest and keep their dignity.

Well, I've read where friends are offering to help Cage. I hope he comes out of this stronger and can then go back after the cutthroats who went after him when he was in a bad way.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Golf and a Man Bear Pig

Sign, Camp Bonifas, South Korea

Here's a story about our troops that doesn't involve horrible news and tragedy. This is exactly the sort of thing I enjoy reading about, and learning about. I'm afraid I can't do horror and screaming and what the hell is our government doing? posts all of the time. Most of the time, sure. I have brass balls in that regard. But, once in a while, I have to get off that bus and stretch my legs.

In South Korea, our troops have many, many golf courses. One, in particular, stands out:

You stand atop an elevated tee box on the first and only hole of the world's most dangerous golf course.

And you consider your chances.

This deadly little par 3 measures 192 yards but plays more like 250 in the face of the vicious winds that often blow out of North Korea across an exclusive piece of real estate called the DMZ just a few yards away.

Underneath your feet and off to the right are bunkers. The military kind. To the left, over an 18-foot-high security fence topped by concertina wire, are hazards that make high rough, deep water and dense woods seem like child's play.

Try countless unexploded mines -- the very definition of out-of-bounds. One herky-jerky backswing, one snap hook yanked out of your bag at the wrong moment and . . . ba-boom!

The soldiers would like Tiger Woods to play the course, and there's no reason why he shouldn't. It would be a great Public Relations move. I've seen some nutty things on the golf course, but this is a bit much:

Over the years, the course has developed its own mystique. Play alone here and you'll see. Weird things happen.

"You see animals," [Army Sgt. Mikel] Thurman says.

Like wild boars, Korean tigers and so-called vampire deer.

And even something weirder.

"Some guys say they've seen this thing, a man-bear-pig," Thurman says without smiling. "That's what they say."

Well, there is no man-bear-pig. There are men who don't shave, and there are men with pig faces, but unless someone has been dabbling in the realm of cloning and dogs and...and...

Research by South Korea's top human cloning scientist  [he announced in August, 2005 that his team had created the world's first cloned dog]- hailed as a breakthrough earlier this year - was fabricated, colleagues have concluded.

A Seoul National University panel said the research by world-renowned Hwang Woo-suk was "intentionally fabricated", and he would be disciplined.

Dr Hwang said he would resign, but he did not admit his research was faked.

"I sincerely apologise to the people for creating shock and disappointment," he said after the panel's announcement.

"As a symbol of apology, I step down as professor of Seoul National University."

Never mind.

Eliza Dushku

Eliza Dushku

There's no way that they will be able to keep Eliza Dushku off of television.

Eliza Dushku

There's a reason why I wish I had gone against my instincts and invested time in Dollhouse--quality. I couldn't do it because it was on Fox. Fox is a terrible network. They kill shows. 

Joss Whedon can give you quality and he can provide you something few other networks can--a ready-made fan base that will pay off in so many other ways. Merchandise, dedication, goodwill, karma, you name it.

With Whedon, someone literally has to give the guy the freedom to create and give him five years. A lifetime in television, but in just five years, Whedon can create a franchise (he can do it in much less, and he nearly pulled it off with Dollhouse, but I think that his fans need five years of story arc and everything after that is gravy). Fox could have had a contender. Fox could have had something of serious quality. Instead, they'll just find filler and trash. Filler and trash is worth what in ten years?

I'll check it out on DVD. I'll absorb what Whedon was able to make. It's too bad he didn't get five good years or better with it, but it wasn't his fault. It's Fox. That's what they do to quality. They kill it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cindy Crawford the Victim of a Sickening Extortion Plot

Cindy Crawford

I really despise these sorts of things:

Model Cindy Crawford and her husband were the victims of a bizarre extortion scheme involving a photo of her daughter, authorities said.

According to court documents filed in Los Angeles, a German citizen was indicted after seeking to extort $100,000 from Crawford and her husband, businessman Rande Gerbe.

The documents allege that the man, Edis Kayalar, 26, called Crawford in July and said he had a "sexy photograph" of her then 7-year-old daughter "in revealing clothing, bound to a chair and gagged."


Kayalar claimed that he stole the photo from the girl's former nanny, according to the court records. He allegedly told Crawford that he wanted to return the photograph to the family so the tabloids would not get it. Later, he said he would sell it to the media if the couple did not pay, the records state.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the couple said: “Rande Gerber and Cindy Crawford intend to pursue any and all available legal action against anyone who aids the perpetrator in the distribution or sale of the photograph of their daughter.”

This is why you need to monitor the hired help. As innocent as the incident may appear, why does the nanny think having such a photograph is okay? 

It sounds more like a case of very bad judgement on the part of the nanny than it does a reflection of how Crawford and her husband are raising their family.

Let's face it--you have to make sure that you know what you're doing when you hire people to care for your children and you definitely have to watch the hired help. I can't stress that enough. Nanny Cams are only part of the process. You have to evaluate their judgement. And you have to have conversations with your children to assess where things are at as far as what goes on in the home when you're not around.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What's Going on in Tennessee?

While I don't think this is entirely a reflection on Lane Kiffin and his team, it does speak to who he's recruiting right now:
Three freshmen Tennessee football players, including highly touted wide receiver recruit Nu'Keese Richardson and starting safety Janzen Jackson, were charged with attempted armed robbery Thursday morning.

Richardson, 18, and Jackson, 18, along with defensive back Mike Edwards, 18, and companion Marie Montmarquet, 22, were charged after a report of an armed robbery at a gas station in an area known as "The Strip" at the edge of Tennessee's campus.

It was not clear if any of the suspects had hired a lawyer.

"At this time we are currently evaluating the circumstances surrounding an incident involving Mike Edwards, Janzen Jackson and Nu'Keese Richardson," athletic director Mike Hamilton said. "Any decisions or comments regarding their status will not be made until the evaluations are complete."

The three victims told police they were sitting in their parked vehicle about 2 a.m. Thursday at a gas station near Tennessee's campus when two males dressed in hooded jackets, one brandishing a handgun, approached and demanded, "Give us everything you've got."

"The victims stated that they all presented their wallets to the suspects and showed them that they did not have money," the police report said. "The victims stated that a third black male then approached and told the other two black males, 'We've got to go."'

The three suspects were seen leaving in a Toyota Prius, and police pulled over a vehicle matching the description on Tennessee's campus. Police spotted a pellet gun and hooded jackets and later found drug paraphernalia and a bag of what appeared to be marijuana.

Freshmen are going to screw up, but this bad? THIS bad?

I wanted to get some perspective on this from a blog dedicated to Tennessee NCAA football. I went to one that I thought was going to have some great stuff. You can't just sit here in a vaccuum and say things without adding some value and perspective, and the people who live and breathe this stuff aren't always going to carry water for a university or for a program. They're going to be knowledgeable.

Sadly, this is what you find:
Thats right Volunteer fans this year the Big Orange won’t be bowling. The Vols sunk to 3-7 this past Saturday after an embarrasing Homecoming loss to Wyoming in Neyland Stadium. The players certainly didn’t respond how most has hoped to the news of Phillip Fulmer’s forced resignation. I was really hoping the Volunteers could take care of these last three games for the big guy, a win one for the gipper type deal. No such luck. Volball reflects.

First off, again I feel completely sorry for our defense. Not that this was an opponent that they should have had trouble with but, the defense didn’t surrender any points in my opinion. The three yard touchdown pass was hardly their fault after an interception return put the cowboys all the way down to the three yard line. It is a sad day when our offense surrenders more points to the opposing team than the defense.

Which brings me to that side of the ball. Our offensive line is absolute trash, these boys are a disgrace to Tennessee football. Every week they seem to find a way to kill a drive with a holding penalty. And personally I am sick of seeing them go crazy every time we break off a decent run. Do you job and shut your mouth, maybe all your dancing makes you to tired to do it on a down to down basis. Dare I insult the coaching given recent happenings but, where the heck is B.J. Coleman? Stephens was obviously not turning the corner, he was consistently mediocre but, how do you put the ball back into Crompton’s hands after his season thus far. Its time Coleman was given a shot to take some snaps.

And like I said dare I say anything about coaching but, personally I am done with this hot runner junk. Tauren Poole was clearly the hot runner the kid was breaking off continuous big runs on first down. How do you expect to get a guy into a rhythm when not matter how well he does you rotate the backs?

Overall, I am just extremely upset with how the players who so deeply loved their coach responded to his ousting. If you had half the heart Coach Fulmer did you would have responded to the news by winning a few for the head coach. Now you will be sending coach Fulmer out with a losing record and a short season. I don’t even want to think about what Vandy and the Cats are going to do against our beloved Big Orange. Phillip Fulmer day might be a Blue Grass blow out, did you see Kentucky against Georgia? Volball Out.

Volball has not updated his blog in a year and two days. Was he (or she?) a student so disgusted with Tennessee football that they just walked away?

Sometimes when you blog, you uncover relics and old sites, abandoned blogs and abandoned ideas. My blogs might go dry, and become abandoned, sinking landmarks one day. I might wake up and never blog again.

What causes people to abandon a blog dedicated to a football team? Apathy? Or disgust? Or does it just happen gradually, and the real answer is, there is no reason why?

I did find some reactions here
First off, every time I heard coach Lane Kiffin tout the fact that no players have been arrested since he was hired, I cringed. Yes, that's a great fact. But arrests are far too common among college athletes to presume to have the market cornered on discipline.

Kiffin made his last comment about the no-arrest string during Wednesday's SEC teleconference. I cringed yesterday morning when I heard Kiffin say it.

The context of the comment came in response to a question about the impact defensive line coach Ed Orgeron has had at Tennessee. The Vols, of course, play at Ole Miss on Saturday and Orgeron will be returning to the stadium where he coached the Rebels from 2005-07 before getting fired.

"He deals with a lot of our discipline and has done a phenomenal job with it," Kiffin said. "We've had the highest (team) GPA we've had in five years. We've had zero arrests in 11 months here."


As for the impact on the roster, again, it's devastating.

and here, and I think that the general consensus is, Coach Kiffin is hoping he doesn't have any more head cases on his team.

How Can Anyone Be Offended by Larry King?

When was the last time anyone was offended by Larry King? How does this little hot mess figure she can garner any sympathy at all by pretending she is offended by a man who has been asking softball questions far longer than she and her mother (I'm guessing here) have been alive?

All Carrie Prejean did was make herself look like she does not understand anything about how the media works in this country. I mean, down to the technical level--when you take off your microphone and then keep trying to continue the interview, you look like the stupidest person imagineable.

People who produce shows like what someone like Prejean can bring to an interview, but only up to a point. When you do something as stupid as remove the microphone and the IFB piece, then sit there and speak into the void of an empty studio, it shows them that you are more likely to knock over chairs and pull down the lights than you are to conduct a simple interview.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Everyone Knows Recycling Doesn't Work, Right?

If you think enlisting celebrities is going to get me to recycle, think again, Batman:

NBC Universal's three-year "green" campaign has largely focused on off-camera issues like making company facilities more eco-friendly. News and information programs have also been enlisted to do stories on environmental issues, but except for one "30 Rock" episode two years ago, the campaign hasn't touched the prime-time lineup.

This year on "30 Rock," corporate boss Jack Donaghy tells the late-night show's staff it has to cut its carbon footprint by 5 percent, and puts Kenneth the Page in charge of getting it done.

"It's something that is relatable and is something that a lot of people are doing," said Jack McBrayer, the actor who portrays Kenneth.

Backstage, the show has done its part by removing water bottles in favor of water filters and using chemical-free cleaning products. The show rents hybrid vehicles to transport its actors and crew members, said Beth Colleton, vice president of the "Green is Universal" campaign.

"Everybody is on board with greening up the place and being more environmentally-friendly in real life," McBrayer said. "Every now and then people need to be reminded of things that can be done."

In the comedy "Community," the college is renamed "Environdale." College students think they're hiring the band Green Day for a gig, and instead gets the Celtic combo Greene Daeye. Dwight in "The Office" takes the role of "Recyclops" in that comedy. "Heroes" features cast members filling a truck with recyclables and talking about the importance of giving back to the earth.

This effort damages those franchises in several different ways. When these shows come out on DVD, imagine the confusion when it starts up with the "green" episode and the people watching fail to be entertained and realize they've been gypped. Thirteen years from now, when these shows are syndicated out to low-paying, low-rated independent channels on what is left of the TV spectrum, these outdated "green" shows will point to the folly of trying to recycle while President Tila Tequila signs into law the first bill outlawing the word green.

Recycling doesn't work by the way. I'm not a scientist, and I know someone who isn't one, but recycling has minimal benefit to the environment. It's far better to just not buy things made of paper and plastic. Live with cast iron and surgical steel implements and always go with the granite countertops. When the granite countertops wear out, you can pull them out, break them up, and use them for a walkway in the garden.

If you need a celebrity to tell you how to live, brother, you don't know how to live.

Good News For Victor Zambrano

A little good news never hurts:
Venezuela's justice minister says the mother of former major league pitcher Victor Zambrano has been rescued.

Tareck El Aissami says federal police rescued an unharmed Elizabeth Mendez Zambrano on Tuesday in the central state of Aragua. He says three people have been detained.

El Aissami did not provide any further details.

Elizabeth Mendez Zambrano was abducted Sunday morning at her son's farm. Police said seven armed men kidnapped her because they didn't find large amounts of cash and jewelry as expected.

Zambrano's mother was kidnapped nine days after his cousin, Richard Mendez Zambrano, was kidnapped and later killed. It's not clear whether the incidents were related.

I think that major league teams will end up having a relocation policy, whereby, when they sign a contract with a player from certain areas of Latin America, they will provide assistance as an incentive to help relocate family members to safe areas. Just a speculation.

Read more:
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Know Your Orthodox Priests Before You Experience Roid Rage

Greek Orthodox Priest

As much as I want to try to help people understand that, yes, there is a Greek Orthodox Church, and, yes, it is a Christian religion that has been around since forever, there’s a part of me that realizes that many people are simply too stupid to understand anything at all about the world in which we live:

Marine reservist Jasen Bruce was getting clothes out of the trunk of his car Monday evening when a bearded man in a robe approached him.

That man, a Greek Orthodox priest named Father Alexios Marakis, speaks little English and was lost, police said. He wanted directions.

What the priest got instead, police say, was a tire iron to the head. Then he was chased for three blocks and pinned to the ground — as the Marine kept a 911 operator on the phone, saying he had captured a terrorist.

Police say Bruce offered several reasons to explain his actions:

The man tried to rob him.

The man grabbed Bruce’s crotch and made an overt sexual advance in perfect English.

The man yelled “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” the same words some witnesses said the Fort Hood shooting suspect uttered last week.

“That’s what they tell you right before they blow you up,” police say Bruce told them.

Greek Orthodox Priests generally don’t shout “Allahu Akbar” because of the fact that they don’t speak Arabic, they don’t believe in Allah, and because they believe wholeheartedly in Jesus Christ. There there’s the fact that this happened on Monday, not long after the Fort Hood shooting rampage, which is probably where the young man got the idea, in a panic, no doubt, to try to glom onto what happened there and earn a little sympathy. I believe that we can perhaps think about forgiving the young man for lying through a human growth hormone and steroid-laced chemical fog that has warped his brain, probably similar to the one that drove Roger Clemens throughout much of his later years in baseball. Clearly, his ‘roid rage (he’s into that stuff and has blogged about it) and his inability to deal with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that he most emphatically does not have because he has never deployed as a Marine indicate that he’s just a violent, reactionary young man with no judgement or impulse control.

Know your Greek Orthodox priests, my friends. Oh, and Sikhs aren’t Muslims, sir. I know you’re looking at what’s on their head, and I know you’re flushed with anger and you’re confused, but they’re not Muslims, so calm down.

What Were You Expecting at That Tracy Morgan Show?

Tracy Morgan

If you haven't already figured this out, sometimes a comedian does what we like to call "blue" material. If you can't handle the blue material, it usually means one of two things. Either you haven't been going to Vegas often enough, or your idea of rowdy is to stay at home on Friday night and watch re-runs of Walker: Texas Ranger.

Tracy Morgan, he does the blue material, I hear:

Fans expecting to see Tracy ­Jordan at Tracy Morgan’s Carnegie Hall performance Friday night got a rude awakening.

The bawdy comedian packed the venerable performance venue with fans expecting his “30 Rock” character’s prime-time humor. But minutes after Morgan started his routine, many walked out in disgust.

It turns out that some New Yorkers really can’t take a joke — especially when it’s unspeakably filthy.

“People seemed to not be laughing at his jokes, but more because they were shocked and appalled with what was coming out of his mouth,” reports one audience member. Morgan talked trash about homosexuality (saying it’s “a choice,” which drew gasps), drugs, pornography and what he calls “politricks” — far edgier subjects than what his alter ego, Jordan, gets air time for.

“There was a continuous flow of people getting up and leaving throughout the show,” our spy reports, adding that many in the crowd clearly didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. Middle-aged women were the most flabbergasted when he started ­mimicking explicit sex acts on stage.

When Morgan found something shocking, he held onto it for minutes on end.

Did they think they were going to get to see his TV shenanigans? How many people would be complaining that all he did was a warmed-over set cribbed from what he does every week?

Here's a sampling of Tracy Jordan for you:

REVIEW: At the Red Robinson Show [Vancouver] Theatre on Friday, April 3 [2009]

Tracy Morgan is a funny guy and a big star, but he had his ass handed to him by a local boy on Friday. Then again, opener Graham Clark happened to be speaking the language of a near sold-out crowd at the Red Robinson Show Theatre, raising enormous cheers over the “shitty” Olympics and beefing about the pointlessness of “rich people” saving trees in Stanley Park. Former SNL player and 30 Rock star Morgan spoke in a more universal if less pointed tongue, spending most of his performance on the subjects of pussy, dick, and what happens when you put the two together. “Where are all the niggers at?” he asked about Vancouver, at the top of an hourlong set. “And who fucks all the fat white chicks?”

The rest of the night had more or less the same tone, with Morgan trying hard to offend. He announced that he’d arrived to “fuck a white woman”, explaining (probably accurately), “all my pornos are white women from Vancouver.” He bitched that black ladies were “lame fucks”, impersonated a man chewing gum while he whacked off, proclaimed that he loved “to eat me some booty-hole”, urged women not to be ashamed of their pussy farts—“that’s just the pussy speakin’ to you, fellas”—and cautioned men that a finger in the asshole is fine, but “if you let her go past the knuckle—you’re gay.”

If Morgan’s material had gone past the knuckle, it might have been a better night. But the subject matter was obvious and conservative, and the laughs consistently sewer-level, aside from a few brief flights of imagination. He admitted he enjoyed going to the supermarket “just to watch ladies buy cucumbers”, and a bit about “white rage” was relatively inspired. “You muthafuckas are tick-tick boom,” he said. “I’m concerned for white women. Bury you in the basement and then join the search party looking for your ass. Tell white ladies to stay the fuck out of Cancun.” This turned into a great bit about the Incredible Hulk, who “is not a superhero”, according to Morgan. “The Incredible Hulk is a drunk, white motherfucker in a bar—I don’t care about your muthafuckin’ gamma rays, take that shit outside!”


Anyone who went to see Tracy Morgan this past weekend at Carolines had to notice the sign by the ticket podium that warned of extremely adult and potentially offensive material. The sign for the 30 Rock star should've read: Warning! Crazy funny comedy ahead. No, really. He's crazy. Not sure how much his sobriety plays into this (more on that soon enough), but it seems as though Morgan has tapped into a completely uninhibited part of himself that, while getting him into trouble offstage, has given his TV career new life.

After about 50 minutes of graphic sex talk that had audience members blushing and laughing, he took a drink from his Evian bottle and the tone shifted.

"I can't drink alcohol no more, but I can still guzzle!" he said. Morgan then showed off his ankle bracelet to roaring crowd approval. "Yeah, they got me on the Lindsay Lohan program!" He then apologized to the audience, saying he knew his second DUI would land him in serious trouble. "Thanks for coming out...because I've been f---ing up this year." After some jokes about his arrest -- the cop "gave me the line test and I kept stepping on his shoe" -- he confessed that his arrest came just two nights before he was supposed to light the tree at Rockefeller Center. But his "drinking and speedballing" did him in. "I was coping" with success, he said. "Now I feel good. I've been clean three months -- I apologize for f---ing up...It feels good, now, I wake up, I don't got the runs!"

Later Sunday night, Morgan popped into the Comedy Cellar and showed off his ankle bracelet to fellow comedians, including Chris Rock (who happened to see Morgan's show at Carolines, too). This time, Morgan added a tag to his Lohan quip, exclaiming, "They've got me like Kunta Kinte!"

So, what were you expecting again? Were you expecting him to talk about airline food and how funny it is when people don't talk about their relationships often enough?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thank God Daphne Zuniga can Explain Hydrogen Sulfide to Us

Celebrities should always become advocates for things. Whether it would involve advertising or going on television shows or appearing in public with sandwich boards, I don't know.

I do know this--the Huffington Post is the place where celebrities go to talk above their paygrade:

Atchison Village would seem like a great place to live. It's a pleasant-looking neighborhood in Richmond, California on the east shore of San Francisco Bay. The residents are diverse. Some have lived there since the village was built in 1941. Others have discovered the neighborhood more recently. It's an ethnically diverse neighborhood with a comfortable feel, barbecues on the weekend and neighbors who know each others' names, with home prices far more affordable than most places in the Bay Area.

But there's a downside: Atchison Village has a bad neighbor. You know the kind we're talking about, right? The kind of neighbor that seems not to care about property values, or endangering the welfare of the people around them. The kind of neighbor that lets their garbage blow into other people's yards. The kind of neighbor that makes messes and refuses to admit it or clean them up.

In most places, behavior like that might get a person run out of town on a rail. But Atchison Village's bad neighbor has some clout: it's the third-largest corporation in the world.

The Chevron Corporation has run a gigantic oil refinery just west of Atchison Village since 1902. Ever since the city of Richmond was built, its residents have been breathing in the poison that comes out of the refinery stacks, or escapes from its miles of pipes. People in Atchison Village and other nearby neighborhoods report much higher levels of diseases from asthma to cancer. Kids living in Atchison Village are much more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than kids in other neighborhoods. Tests have found high levels of toxic substances like sulfur and heavy metals inside Atchison Village residents' homes, which are pollutants known to be emitted by oil refineries.

Well, move, then.

Seriously, if you haven't already figured out that one shouldn't live in close proximity to a Chevron chemical plant or a Chevron oil refinery, then move. Apply for government help getting out. Government, your job is to help those people move before anyone gets sick. Next time you allow something like this, remember what you had to do to help those people.

People, let's acquire something I like to call basic common sense. If your children are in danger, you have to move with a sense of purpose. You have to get off your dead ass and get them away from whatever is poisoning them. Put your vast pyramid of crap you can't afford into the back of an 18-wheeler and move. If they could move the oil refinery as easily as you can move your real-estate challenged rear end, they would.

I hate to break it to you, but we kind of need oil refineries. Houses? Oh, we have plenty of those. Apartments, too. What's more important? That swell house in Richmond or your kid with leukemia? Glad I could help you figure that out.

Oh, and remember:

Co-authored by Bill Gallegos

Celebrities need help every now and then. Don't judge them for that. And, yes, a Theater Arts Major from UCLA who has had severe mercury poisoning and isn't named Jeremy Piven is allowed to talk about environmental issues, I certainly get that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Who Discarded a Spare Army of Desperate Persians?

 The Oracle Temple, Siwa Oasis, Egypt

Things like this always catch my eye:

The remains of a mighty Persian army said to have drowned in the sands of the western Egyptian desert 2,500 years ago might have been finally located, solving one of archaeology’s biggest outstanding mysteries, according to Italian archaeologists.

Bronze weapons, a silver bracelet, an earring and hundreds of human bones found in the vast desolate wilderness of the Sahara desert have raised hopes of finally finding the lost army — 50,000 strong — of Persian King Cambyses II, buried by a cataclysmic sandstorm in 525 B.C.

“We have found the first archaeological evidence of a story reported by the Greek historian Herodotus,” Dario Del Bufalo, a member of the expedition from the University of Lecce, told Discovery News.

According to Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), Cambyses, the son of Cyrus the Great, sent 50,000 soldiers from Thebes to attack the Oasis of Siwa and destroy the oracle at the Temple of Amun. Alexander the Great had famously sought legitimization of his rule from the oracle of Amun in 332 B.C., but according to legend, the oracle would have predicted the death of Cambyses.

Of course, people have long been trying to find this “lost” army:

The owners of this hotel, who also run a hotel on the Red Sea, offer desert camping and exploring services that look professional from their web site [the link is now dead], but one shudders to read of their plan to convert tourists into “archaeologists” looking for the lost army of Cambyses.

Some have tried to walk the route:

Signor Miglietti, 38, who runs an electrical components business, was so fascinated by the king’s ill-fated journey that he decided to try it.

Before setting off a week ago, pulling a 200lb cart loaded with supplies, he was warned by Tuareg desert nomads that his plan was madness.

Five days, 23 hours later, with blistered feet and severe stomach cramps, he arrived at Siwa.

A man of few words, he said simply: “I’m satisfied. I’m quite well and I went faster than I expected.”

Needless to say, he found no trace of Cambyses’s army.

The legend, as well as inspiring archaeologists to mount many fruitless searches in the desert, has come to symbolise the perils of the Great Sand Sea.

The region in the western Sahara is a massive expanse of dunes, continually beaten by wind and sand storms.

Even the Tuaregs avoid it because of the lack of water and its utter isolation.

Whether or not the items found were planted there (a distinct possibility) or looted and moved (another possibility) or that of a different military detachment (some possibility there) is up to scientists and archaeologists to determine. A lot army of poor soldiers in the terrible desert conjures up all sorts of possibilities, so I hope what has been found puts the mystery to rest.

South American Kidnappers and Major League Baseball

This is sad:
The mother of former major league pitcher Victor Zambrano was kidnapped Sunday, Zambrano's agent Peter Greenberg said late Sunday night by phone.

Elizabeth Mendez Zambrano was abducted sometime Sunday morning from her son's farm, about half hour from the central Venezuela city of Maracay, Greenberg said.

Venezuela has been haunted in recent years by the kidnapping of rich and famous people. Yorvit Torrealba Jr., the son of Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba, and his uncle were kidnapped this summer. They were left unharmed on a road a couple days later. Torrealba has since moved his family to Hollywood, Fla.

Former Angels infielder Gus Polidor was killed in April, 1995 while trying to prevent the kidnapping of his infant son via a carjacking.

Zambrano played seven years for Tampa Bay, the New York Mets, Toronto and Baltimore. His last game in the big leagues was Sept. 30, 2007.

The attraction is, of course, money, and big league players have certainly been flush with cash. While a player like Zambrano may not have played under a lucrative contract in recent years, there is a perception that anyone who has played in the big leagues has money, and in South America, that means the threat of kidnapping. Throughout Latin America, kidnapping is used to extort money from the rich, or from people perceived to be rich.

Here's an older article about the situation, but I think it is indicative of how the crime has perpetrated itself throughout the world, not just Latin America:
Kidnapping is defined as "to hold or carry off, usually for ransom", and encompasses a wide variety of crimes. Economic kidnapping – or the kidnapping business – is where a financial demand is made, which could be either hard cash, or some other financial resource. Political kidnapping, on the other hand, is where political concessions, such as the release of prisoners, changes to the law and policy retreats, are demanded. This distinction may seem straightforward, but in reality cases are rarely this clear cut. There are often grey areas between political and economic kidnapping. For example, the FARC in Colombia is a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group, but kidnaps for money and is thought to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from it each year. Criminals with political aspirations have also been known to diversify. Definitions are often regarded as the preserve of hair-splitting academics, removed from the reality on the ground. But effective policies and practices for tackling kidnapping are not possible unless they respond to the motivations for the crime and take account of the way kidnappers will react to pressure. For this reason, it is vital that kidnapping cases are defined in terms of the immediate demand rather than any higher order political, religious or other goals a group may have.

Economic kidnapping is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. It is estimated that kidnappers globally take home in the region of $500 million each year in ransom payments: the hostage is a commodity with a price on his head. Reliable statistics are hard to come by, but it is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 kidnappings each year worldwide. The undisputed kidnap capital of the world is Colombia, where the activity has been described as 'a cottage industry'. In 2000, the Colombian National Police recorded 3162 cases. Colombia's problem has not been contained within its own borders. Colombian kidnapping groups often cross over into Venezuela and Ecuador to take hostages, and both countries feature in the top ten. Other hot-spots around the globe include Mexico, where the problem has risen dramatically in the last five years, Brazil, the Philippines and the former Soviet Union. The following table shows the top ten hot-spots in 1999.
Global Kidnapping hot-spots – 1999

1 Colombia

2 Mexico

3 Brazil

4 Philippines

5 Venezuela

6 Ecuador

7 Former Soviet Union

8 Nigeria

9 India

10 South Africa

As the table above shows, Latin America is an important hub for kidnapping. However, it would be wrong to see the crime as a uniquely Latin American problem. Over the past decade or so, kidnapping has risen in parts of Africa, most notably Nigeria and South Africa. This can largely be traced to the expansion of multi-national companies into these countries following the rich natural resources on offer. Similarly, companies moved into parts of the Former Soviet Union following the collapse of communism at the start of the last decade, and the kidnapping rate has grown there, too.

How sad is it that, ten years later, this sort of thing is still prevalent, even in Venezuela? Let's hope that Zambrano is able to get his mother back safe and sound.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A question from Tumblr

Katy Perry


  • real

  • fake

  • real but enhanced with a very good push-up bra

  • a secret hiding place for ninjas?

 Used to keep Russell Brand from using conditioner?

Reconsidering the Utility of the Modern Blimp

This is NOT one of Pasternak’s Blimps

Success looks a bit like this:

Igor PasternakThe gig: Igor Pasternak, 45, is the founder and chief executive of Worldwide Aeros Corp., a Montebello-based developer and maker of blimps used for surveillance, advertising and transport.

The future: Pasternak is developing the Aeroscraft, an airship as long as two football fields, to be used for transcontinental and transoceanic transport for cargo and passengers.

It may conjure up images of the Hindenburg, but Pasternak assures that, in distinct contrast to earlier-generation airships, the Aeroscraft is a new type of aircraft that combines airplane and airship technologies.

The craft would be like a flying cruise ship capable of traveling several thousand miles. It could hit a top speed of 174 mph, meaning it could go from Los Angeles to New York in about 18 hours. And by flying at an altitude of 8,000 feet and lower — compared with airlines’ 30,000 — passengers would have a clear view of the landscape below.

“You have to stay innovative in this business,” Pasternak said. “You always have to stay on the cutting edge if you want to be successful.”

We need to get these things into use. James Fallows has pointed out the obvious—we must move more people to some form of air travel. I can’t think of a better and more environmentally-friendly mode of transport, other than the bicycle and a person’s own fat ass walking somewhere, can you?

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Hits Really Are More Devastating This Season

This is excellent analysis, and needs to be digested fully:

These are heady times for the NHL, unfortunately not of the halcyon days variety. No, the start to this season is all about headshots and what to do. So far, there's been only head-scratching over the ongoing NHLPA mess and head-shaking about officiating that seems to be okay with much more contact away from the puck than has been the case during the past four seasons.

With an early rash of bodychecks resulting in shoulders-to-the-head, like the one delivered by the Flyers' Mike Richards that left the Panthers' David Booth concussed and hospitalized, there are no easy answers. A bodycheck delivered with a shoulder in and of itself is legal, which is where the gray begins. The pace of play is swift every shift, with players tracking back defensively as fervently as they skate on the attack. As a result, spacing on both offense and defense has evolved, with more bigger, faster players in closer proximity than ever before, thus blurring the issue further.

Here's what I mean:

If Booth comes across the offensive blueline in 1989, the pass to his teammate on the wing might have been 15 feet rather than eight, and Richards would not have been backchecking with the same sense of purpose. There would have been more time to react after making the pass, and if Richards still delivered the check, it would have obviously been late due to the length of the pass. No question, a dirty hit.

Under 2009 conditions, that conclusion isn't as apparent. Booth's pass is shorter and Richards is closer. Both are moving faster. Add it all together and there is almost no time for Booth to disengage from the act of passing and for Richards to rethink his defending tactic.

I think that the fact that Richards had his arm and elbow up indicates an intention to deliver a devastating hit to break up the play. It may have been a hit intended for the chest that caught the head, or it may have been an intentional dirty hit. Either way, the sickening sight of a player's head hitting the ice like that is enough to make you want to question where the officiating really is at.

You cannot eliminate checking from the game, but what you can do is go after the irrational actors and severely punish this behavior. Teams need to get the message that physical hockey is fine, but anything too aggressive will be dealt with more severely this season. That, in turn, puts it on the coaches to scale back their defensive schemes and give players instructions to stay lower with their checking, where possible. I can't believe a coach told Richards to put his elbow and shoulder into the head of a player coming across the blue line like that. I can believe that Richards was given instruction to break up an aggressive move across the blue line.

In the case cited above, even though it is three on three, the defense is slightly out of position and about to give up a good shot on goal if Richards doesn't go aggressively to break up the play. Sending all of the teams in the NHL a clear signal that players cannot go high to the head like that has to happen before someone fails to get up off the ice.