27 December 2010

What This Country Needs...

What this country needs is a good camera that has wireless built into it so you can download your photos without all those cables. I know cellular telephones can do something similar, but picture quality is not that great. Does anyone know of such a camera?

26 December 2010

Bud Greenspan RIP

When my path crossed with that of Bud Greenspan (1926 - 2010): In 1988 I had been writing professionally a few years when the opportunity arose to start producing documentaries for radio. I wrote letters to several of the big documentary producers, who were my heroes, asking for advice. I received answers from several of them -- including Bud Greenspan. I was pretty impressed that he took time out to reply. That was nice.

24 December 2010

"facebook" is NOT a Verb

Just got back from the cinema seeing "The Social Network" about the founding of facebook -- and I am even more happy that I am not a conformist (not on facebook and will never be). In fact, I think facebook is even more dangerous than I did before.

20 December 2010

Dear Straight Guys:

I am not sure how this happened, but for some reason you all think that every gay guy in the world wants to climb into bed with you.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but, no.

Sure, some of you are kinda cute, and might actually be fun for a few hours in the shower; but being gay is not all about sex. Seriously. Being gay is much more about something different in your chemical makeup: how you think, how you relate to the world around you, how you perceive what it is you perceive. I know you THINK being gay is a choice about how you want your sexual activities, but it is not a choice: it is something inside you that makes you different.

Every single straight guy I have ever known has always thought that they were the be-all and end-all in maleness. That, all I want is to get a hold of your manhood.* Do you straight women go through this with straight guys -- it's all about sex? That's sad.

Being gay does not mean I want to have sex with you. If I am not interested in you emotionally, I am not interested in you sexually. It also does not mean I want to be a woman. No thank you (no offense). I like being a guy and I like being gay and I like being with gay guys.

Don't get me wrong: I like having straight guys as friends. Once they get over the crushing letdown that they are not going to have to fight me off trying to have sex with them, and realize I want guy companionship and nothing else, the friendship blossoms and becomes really meaningful.

So, all you straight guys who fear gays can just chillax.

And all you straight soldiers can just chillax about the repeal of "everyone knows I'm gay but we just can't talk about it." Don't freak out but there is a gay guy in the shower with you right now. He hasn't bothered you all these years, why the hell do you think he's going to start now that his sexual orientation is no longer "secret"?

There have been gay soldiers all the way back to the Greeks and Romans (the only difference back then is that they didn't care). Gay soldiers fought in the Civil War. Gay soldiers fought in the Great War. Gay soldiers fought in World War Two. They fought in Korea and Vietnam and are currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, pop yourself a brewski, sit back on the couch and watch the cheerleaders on the sidelines. Now that we've gotten this all straightened out, you don't need to worry about a thing.

*(I hate the term "junk." You straight guys call it junk because you have no respect for yourself. Remember, one man's junk is another man's treasure.)

18 December 2010

Kicking and Screaming

Thank you to the 65 Senators who today decided to allow the United States to join the 25 other countries which allow openly gay and lesbian persons to serve their country in the military. They join the 250 Representatives who voted earlier this week.

It is so nice to be able to say that yes, after all this work by countless thousands of individuals, America is finally being dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

Now, it's time to drag this country into the 21st century by allowing those same brave and patriotic soldiers to marry the person of their choice.

You can read more about today's historic vote here.

09 December 2010

Another Hollywood Cover-Up?

If there is one thing I have learned in my years of research and reading about early Hollywood, it is that image was everything -- and many people in Hollywood would do anything to preserve a good image. There's the case of Clark Gable who, in the very early years of his stardom, is widely believed to have been driving a car that accidentally killed a pedestrian in an act that was covered up by his studio; then there's William Haines' homosexuality that was covered up by his studio until such time as it was convenient to "out" him to wiggle out of their contract with him. Those are just two of what must be thousands of examples.

New to the list, it appears, is the recent murder of Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen, murdered on 16 November 2010.

While no one knows why she was murdered, for weeks, the talk was all about it having been a professional hit. You have probably seen the interview with that retired policeman (detective?) who said that, despite all the years he handled a gun and the many times he had to be certified in using a gun, there was no way even he could have fired five shots sideways (through a window from a moving car) and hit someone so precisely.

Then suddenly, this "person of interest" pops up and (ahem) kills himself just as police are approaching to question him.

So, was he the "hit man"?

On the morning of 06 December 2010 the police issued a statement that the gun he used to kill himself was NOT the gun used to kill Chasen. Then, the very next afternoon, the story changed: now police are sure the gun was the same, they had their man, the case was closed. (See image; click to enlarge.)

Does that strike you as rather odd? It does me.

How could some guy who spent years in jail have ridden up to Chasen's car (on a bicycle, no less), opened fire and hit her five times in such a manner so exact and precise that not even a seasoned law officer could recreate? How is it possible the story could have changed so much so quickly?

First they say his gun was not a 9mm gun (like that used to kill Chasen) then they say it is. Doesn't a police officer know the difference? And then, what happened to the black SUV seen next to her car shortly before the shots were fired?

No, I am not a conspiracy theorist, but this entire turn of events seems very "Hollywood" to me. Someone's image is being protected. It would be interesting to know whose....

You can read the "gun not likely" article here.

You can read the "gun appears to have been used" article here.

29 November 2010

Dear American Diplomatic Corp Members:

In light of the recent unveiling of your confidential cables and memos back and forth, allow me a moment to remind you of something every person should learn at a very early age: NEVER put in writing something you would be embarrassed to say out loud to the person about whom you are writing.

It is probably poor form to write that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi "appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of [Russian Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin"; or repeat that a Chinese official thinks that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is “quite a good drinker”; or say of Ahmed Karzai, the half brother of the Afghan president, that "he is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker.”

You never know when something like that might end up in The New York Times.

15 November 2010

"Nothing to Hide" is Not the Point

You have all heard of the new body scanner being put into use at airports by the TSA. I am also sure you have all heard about the furor being raised whenever some poor innocent person requests to "opt out" of the electronic scan in exchange for a full body pat down that one male airline pilot has likened to a "sexual assault."

I marvel at how many people respond, in the comments sections of such articles, that people should voluntarily submit to this new electronic scanning because "What's the big deal, if you have nothing to hide?"

Yes, it is they who are ignorant of history who are currently repeating it.

"Nothing to hide" is hardly the point. Would you allow some strange TSA agent to do a body-cavity search if you have "nothing to hide"? Of course not. Would you want the police to come search your house without probable cause or a warrant if you have "nothing to hide"? Again, no. The point is, at least in this country, the implied freedom from unreasonable search and seizure as guaranteed under the fourth amendment to the constitution.

Is it reasonable to suspect that every person who flies is hiding explosive in his/her underwear? No, it is not. Is it reasonable to suspect that every person who flies is hiding an explosive in his/her shoe? Of course not.

While I totally get the need to exercise some level of passenger searches in an attempt to make airplane travel safer, I totally do not get how people are so willing to have their privacy violated and their innocence questioned under the apparently new legal standard of guilty until the full body scanner proves your innocence.

I am okeh, I suppose, with taking off my shoes, putting my wallet in the plastic bin, and my shampoo in a little baggie to let x-ray scanners do their thing. I am even okeh with the TSA employee "wanding" me with that metal detector just to get his rocks off. But until the TSA employee has some suspicion that I am a possible terrorist, I am not okeh with this full body scan.

And, no: I have nothing to hide.

14 November 2010

Who Speaks for God?

CBS News Sunday Morning this morning had an interesting overview of an event that happened 60 years ago today: the integration of public schools in New Orleans.

While I found that story interesting, I was more intrigued by a sign held by a protester in one of the vintage news clips shown. That sign read "God Demands Segregation."

There are certain people who always seem to know what their god is thinking. They say he/she/it demands segregated schools, or hates homosexuals, or insists people of different races cannot intermarry. After September 11, 2001 Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said the attacks happened because Americans tolerate gays and lesbians. This means, conversely, that their god allowed or instigated the attacks on Americans -- which seems pretty harsh. How do these people know what their god is thinking?

Sixty years later, the world is even more integrated. Shouldn't this mean their god is even more pissed off now than in 1950 when that six-year-old black girl walked up the steps of that school? People are living in harmony-ish around the world, black and white people not only go to school together, they even marry each other. Black people drink from the same water fountains as whites; they sit at the same lunch counters as whites; why, they even sit at the front of a bus with whites. And, of course, Mexicans and Japanese and Chinese and whites intermingle in airports, and restaurants, and drive on the same roads.

Does their god demand segregation? Apparently not.

You can read about another case in which a woman's god demanded segregation here.

You can read about the event that occurred 60 years ago here.

You can read more about the girl at the center of the case here.

You can read a transcript in which Falwell and Robertson discuss god's motive for the attacks here.

The CBS News Sunday Morning site is here.

11 November 2010

Up in the Air

You may be interested in reading a fascinating collection of comments by airplane pilots -- things they want you to know, and things they don't. Coming off our recent flights to Hawaii, I found these most enlightening.

10 November 2010

Latibule

Tuesday, NPR did an interesting story about a website which is trying to draw attention to words that have been dropped (or are in danger of being dropped) from dictionaries and everyday use. What a great idea! I love words and I don't care if I use words that people don't understand. I long ago stopped playing dumb just to fit in. There is nothing wrong with using multisyllabic words to convey a point. If you don't know what the words mean, look them up!

I went to the site and adopted the word "latibule" (see image) which means "hiding place." When you adopt a word, you have to promise to use it as often as possible every day.

So, I am encouraging all my readers to emerge from their latibule, go visit this site and adopt an orphan word yourself!

09 November 2010

Rand Plays On

Today's episode of Here and Now (WBUR.org) contained a nice overview of the newest renewed interest in Ayn Rand and her philosophy. Rand Paul (U.S. Senator-elect for Kentucky) is a big fan. Lots of people are fans. I am a huge fan.

You can listen to the overview here.

You can read about my interest in Rand here and here.

07 November 2010

Note to Matt:

In the future, please remember to tell me you are not feeling well BEFORE you kiss me goodbye. Your cooperation in this matter is much appreciated.

30 October 2010

Meet the Candidate

We live in one of the historic districts just outside downtown Phoenix. Every year, our neighborhood hosts an ice cream social to welcome in the "cool" weather (because it was only, like, 90 degrees today). So we went, took our new dog, Aalto, and had a good time. After a while, we noticed that Terry Goddard (pictured) had arrived. He's the Democratic candidate for governor. He's been involved in Phoenix and Arizona politics for decades and is a really good guy. I introduced myself, Matt and Aalto. I guess our historic district rates pretty high to have a gubernatorial candidate show up.

25 October 2010

Good News

Clifton's Cafeteria is under new management which has plans to renovate and restore the restaurant to its former glory. We love Clifton's and made a special trip there last October during our visit to Los Angeles.

You can read the good news here.

23 October 2010

I Wonder...

At what point in the history of this country did people begin to believe that the definition of "the rule of law" was "the will of the people"? Laws are created by legislation and by voting. "Laws" are not just whatever the "will of the people" may be at the moment.

Keep in mind there was a time when lynching was the "will of the people" (some people). Luckily, that never made it legal.

14 October 2010

Twenty Things

We just got back from a week in Hawaii -- specifically, the island of Maui. While the trip was wonderful, I was surprised by how many things I did not know about Hawaii / Maui before the trip. So, I decided to assemble the following list of 20 things I never knew about Hawaii / Maui:

1: Taxi cabs in Maui do not take credit cards. It is cash only.
2: All the cab drivers we had on Maui were Vietnamese.
3: Residents almost never wear shoes.
4: There are not 8 islands in Hawaii; there are 132.
5: Honolulu is really big and developed.
6: It is always windy on Maui.
7: People on Maui use a red dirt as a dye for shirts.
8: Timeshare / condo offers are everywhere on Maui.
9: Everything is very expensive.
10: A lot of residents are not natives of the islands.
11: Places on Maui are much farther away than the maps make you think.
12: Buses on Maui don't use transfers.
13: The state flower is the yellow hibiscus with a red center.
14: There are not many cinemas on Maui.
15: Maui has its own kind of cow for eating, and it is black.
16: "Hawaiian culture" is a mix of a lot of different cultures.
17: There are not a lot of bugs.
18: In 1898, Thomas Edison shot silent films of activities in Hawaii.
19: Walking in Maui is a lot like walking in Key West, Florida.
20: Hawaiian boys are as cute as you thought.

08 October 2010

Books I Am Reading

Am reading this (again). One of my rare forays into fiction.

Just finished reading this.

07 October 2010

Talk About Killing the Messenger

Wow! Newspapers are certainly dying off for many reasons, but the death of integrity in print journalism is one step nearer thanks to the recent actions of upper management at the Stoughton Courier Hub of Madison, Wisconsin.

Last July, the paper's editor, Autumn Drussell, wrote a column stating something that is painfully obvious not just to her but to millions of other people in this country: the economy is bad, and she is going to have to start being more careful with her spending. More specifically, she said she was shopping at lower cost stores. For some reason, this pissed off owners of stores who advertise in the paper.

So, guess what happened? Was she praised for putting into words what so many of us are doing? Was she supported by her newspaper because of her freedom of speech and the newspaper's responsibility to represent the people it serves?

No, she was demoted and the newspaper issued an apology for her OPINION because some local merchants complained.

I hope I am not being too simple here to point out that a lot of people are shopping in lower-cost stores because some other stores are just too expensive. While I am not a fan of Walmart's driving small businesses out of town, I totally understand the simple fact that they merchandise products at a lower price. If you want food, and have to watch your pennies, do you go to the expensive local butcher or someplace that sells the same product for less (and, in many cases, MUCH less)?

Sure, we need to support local businesses -- and, in normal times, we ALWAYS choose local over national businesses. BUT THESE ARE NOT NORMAL TIMES. Rather than shooting the messenger, maybe the local businesses in Madison should try some of Drussell's suggestions. We don't live in Wisconsin, so I don't know if they have customer service problems. I also don't know if they are not appealing to cost-conscious shoppers. But, really, is there ANY store in the entire world what should not make sure it provides good customer service and has options for cost-conscious shoppers? (Okeh, the stores on Rodeo Drive get a pass on this one.)

Drussell has filed a discrimination complaint to prevent her treatment from becoming precedent setting. All I can say to that is "You go girl!"

You can read more about this story here.

[I tried to find her original column on the Web, but had no luck. If anyone can locate a copy, please let me know.]

03 October 2010

Silence is NOT Golden

There has been a lot of talk over the past few years about the need to preserve early film and video tape. What's been lost in all that noise is the need to preserve the audio as well as the visual.

Being the huge fan that I am of vintage radio drama and comedy, I am very grateful people have, over the decades, saved audio versions of radio programs so that I can listen to them today (which I do, every day). But, like early film, many of the early radio programs have been permanently lost -- either through neglect or just the passage of time.

Many early radio programs were preserved on shellac disks that were something like vinyl records. These have held up well over time, except when they were dropped to the floor (they are very brittle). Other shows have been saved on magnetic tape (reel-to-reel machines) but these have problems with sound bleeding from one part of the tape to the other where the pieces of tape touch. Many shows have been converted to more modern formats: first to vinyl records, then to digital copies.

But it appears even these modern advances may not be enough.

You can read more about the precarious state of affairs of audio history here.

(Thanks to Matt for alerting me to this story.)

28 September 2010

How Much Do You Know?

I am not religious, never have been and most likely never will be. I have, however, researched most of the major religions just to become familiar with them. I mean, religion runs about 99% of the world (despite what you may think to the contrary) so I thought I should at least know something about it.

In the news today were the results from the recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. It quizzed 3,412 people on various elements of their own and other religions. Interestingly, the people who provided the most correct questions were atheists (lacking a belief in a god or gods) and agnostics (skeptical about the existence of a god or gods). Maybe they are like me wanting to find out as much as possible about the world around us rather than people who are content to go with what they are told.

You can do a short version of the quiz (with 15 random questions) here. How many can you get correct? I got 14 out of 15 (I would have had all of them if I hadn't changed my mind on one).

25 September 2010

The ORIGINAL "Big Bang Theory"

This is not going to turn into a "Big Bang Theory" blog -- even though it seems like 7 out of the last 10 postings have been about the show. No, the big news here is that we have FINALLY seen the original pilot episode that has been suppressed for lo, these many years.

At the time of our totally awesome, full-day tour of the Warner Brothers studios last October we had been trying unsuccessfully for months to get tickets for a taping of the show. So, we asked our wonderful tour guide if he had any. He said: "No. That's one of the hardest tickets to get. There's a great story behind that show. It's been knocking around the lot for years ever since the first pilot episode." First pilot? What was he talking about?

Our guide told how the pilot had a totally different atmosphere, it was dark, the neighbor next door was drunk and abrasive and it did not sell. He said that Warner Brothers asked for a second pilot (which studios nearly never do, but which Paramount did, for example, with the original "Star Trek" television series in the 1960s).

We asked whether that original neighbor had also been Kaley Cuoco. He said no. When we asked who it was, he said they were not allowed to talk about it -- which seemed all mysterious. He said they never talk about pilots that don't sell to avoid embarrassing the actors who were in them. Hmmm.

Once we got home, I found references to that original female actor (Amanda Walsh, pictured) but could not find the episode.

Last night, Matt stumbled on some YouTube clips of this mysterious unaired pilot that seemed funny, although too short to give a good idea of the show.

This a.m. I hunted around and finally found lots and lots of sites offering the unaired pilot -- and quickly discovered that the Warner Brothers lawyers got to them first as nearly all had a notice that the file was removed due to some violation or other.

You will note I said "nearly" all: Yes, we found a site in a country that is written in a language that I not only do not speak, but also do not recognize.

The main cast is small and includes Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki. It has Walsh as the female protagonist (NOT the next door neighbor) and a very funny turn by someone I have never heard of named Iris Bahr who plays Leonard's co-researcher. (She probably evolved into the character played by Sara Gilbert.)

After watching it, I can say it is not half as bad as people have said. I can understand why it did not work, but it was not the performance of Walsh (she was pretty good); rather the character. BBT works today (and is the number one comedy in America despite what the cover of the recent "Entertainment Weekly" posits) because the scientists are fish out of water, and Penny (the neighbor) is totally "normal." The original pilot has fish-out-of-water scientists coupled with a boozy abrasive drunk bitch who is also a fish-out-of-water. With all these fish flapping about on the sand, there is nothing to play against. It is the interaction between abnormal and normal that makes BBT work.

Of course, the addition of two more male scientists (Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg) was an excellent choice because all four guys are fish-out-of-water for different reasons. That gives the writers lots to play with.

The next question is "why is this pilot not on any of the season DVDs?" Personally, I think it is a testament to the brilliance of the show's creators (Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady) that they gave a few tweaks to "almost right" and made it "fabulous." Warner Brothers should be proud of what they encouraged and should share it with BBT fans.

In addition, I think it would be pretty sweet to have an episode with Walsh and Bahr as guest stars. They did pretty good with their roles and deserve to be officially part of the show.

You can see the original unaired pilot here -- unless the Warner Brothers lawyers have been working overtime.

18 September 2010

Falling Off Horses

Friday we got our own copy of season three of "The Big Bang Theory" which is, hands down, the funniest show on television. We have all the seasons, but season three is even more special because it contains the episode for which we were in the taping audience. Sweet!

We always watch the extras first, and in this set there is a short question-and-answer segment in which the cast provide information about themselves and their characters. One question for Kaley Cuoco asked what she would be doing if she were not an actor. "I don't know," she said, "probably something to do with horses, because I love horses." The irony here is that just last week she fell of a horse and broke her leg!

Get well, Kaley!

You can read about our visit to Burbank and a taping of the show here, here, and here.

17 September 2010

"Heart Speaks to Heart"

This is rich:

This Sunday, the pope will beatify a man named John Henry Newman (1801 - 1890). This means Newman will officially be raised a little higher above normal humans, and one step closer to being named a saint. What's great about this is that Newman may be the first (person reasonably thought to be a) homosexual to be given such an honor.

Evidence of this comes from several sources: he lived with a man (Ambrose St. John ) for 32 years, he was devastated at St. John's death, and he wrote about his feelings for St. John, saying "I have always thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that anyone's sorrow can be greater than mine." He even went so far as to request he be buried in the same grave as St. John.

Wait -- it gets better: the author of a new biography of Newman says that despite the fact that they lived together for more than three decades, they were not physically gay. John Cornwell, the author, says "Having read ... 32 volumes of (letters), I can't find any clear evidence of a sexual physical relationship" because, of course, back in the 19th century homosexuals ALWAYS wrote very clearly and definitively about their physical sexual activities.

I am gay and proud of that fact. I have written about my sexual orientation in my public journalism and other writings dating back to at least 1984; but I guarantee you no one reading those millions of published words would have any clue as to the actual sexual activity in which I engage. So, 100 years later, in an age where gay men and lesbian women are free to write about their feelings, you cannot find any evidence of my sexual activities; so, why would you expect to find them in the late 1800s -- between two male members of a religious order?

My understanding is that gays can be made saints; it's just that none (publicly acknowledged to be gay) have -- yet.

NPR did a piece about this story today, which you can hear here.

14 September 2010

Somewhere There's a Hat

We've been loyal and happy subscribers with Netflix since 2000 -- about a year after they started their subscription service. It was Matt's idea. I was hesitant not because I didn't like them; rather, we already had a VHS and cable service. What did we need DVD rental for?

Of course, my attitude has changed since then. Not only is Netflix the best thing that we ever did entertainment-wise, it continues to be an important part of our entertainment planning. In fact, ever since we went off satellite (only digital broadcast for us, now) we are streaming even more from Netflix -- along with getting discs in the mail.

Slate recently did a nice profile of the naysayers who have predicted the demise of Netflix for years. This came as a surprise to me because I just cannot see any negative element of this great service. You can click here for an interesting review of the premature obits written for Netflix.

11 September 2010

Jack Benny Live

This is totally priceless. Recently we were watching old installments of The March of Time on Turner Classic Movies (RIP). On one from May 1943, there were brief clips of Jack Benny and his cast doing an episode of their radio show. So, I went hunting online and found footage from a different episode of the Jack Benny show -- this one from 12 April 1942. (The links are below.)

It is amazing to be able to see the actual live version of a broadcast which I have heard a dozen times. How cool is it to watch Jack, Mary Livingstone, Don Wilson, Eddie Anderson and (surprise!) a brief glimpse of Frank Nelson! (If you don't know who he is, it is really hard to explain. You'ld probably recognize his voice.)





01 September 2010

Expired?

Matt and I were having a discussion just the other day about how some people have no idea how to use the "best if used by" or "sell by" dates on food. I know people who will throw out perfectly good food just because today's date is one day beyond the "best if used by" date.

No. Food can be good for many weeks beyond the "best if used by" or "sell by" dates. Industry probably relies on the confusion around these dates to sell more food products.

My rule of thumb is this: if it looks good, smells good and tastes good then it is still good. Modern refrigeration can keep food fresh for weeks! I think common sense is in order.

You can read more about what these dates really mean here.

31 August 2010

Interesting Thought

"I think it is unwise to say you do not believe in anything when you can't prove that it is either true or untrue. There is so much in the world which is always new in the way of discoveries that it is wiser to say that there may be spiritual things which we are simply unable now to fathom. Therefore I am interested and have respect for whatever people believe, even if I can not understand their beliefs or share their experiences." -- from "This I Remember" (1949) by Eleanor Roosevelt, quoting her husband Franklin.

24 August 2010

They're Also in Color!

A couple weeks ago I wrote about a web site that has really cool photographs from the Depression in color.

Today, Matt turned me on to a fantastic early color film test by Kodak from 1922, which you can see below. It used Kodachrome, the first film stock that utilized dye to create real color film (films in color were achieved earlier using colored filters).

You will notice the limited color range. This is due to the fact that only two strips of film were used (one red, the other green). Much later this type of process was replaced with the highly successful three strip color system used by Technicolor.

As an added treat, can you identify the female actor who appears last (in the red cape)?



22 August 2010

Nearly Perfect

Is it just me, or is this house (pictured) gorgeous? I have long been drawn to mid-century-modern design -- whether it is art, furnishings, or the buildings themselves. I love the clean symmetry, the spare use of color, the neatness of the whole thing.

This house, designed by architect Steve Hermann and built in Montecito, California is just another example of the continuing influence of the great mid-century design aesthetic.

Of course, the house is not perfect: it's too big (nearly 14,000 square feet), wastes a lot of space with an indoor "garage" (that would be much better suited to an indoor swimming pool) and has a kitchen that is much too big. Those aside, I like it. What really sells me are the glass walls and the 360-degree view of nature from within. Gorgeous!

You can read more about the house here.

07 August 2010

3D: The Wave of the Future?

"Avatar" was a great film-going experience (while not a great film) and the 3D format was fascinating -- so long as you did not tilt your head slightly sidewise, which I have an unfortunate tendency to do.

I am amazed how everyone is acting like 3D is some new breakthrough. Really? The 3D process was being experimented with as early as 1915, with the first actual feature length film ("The Power of Love" at five reels in length) coming out in 1922. Filmmakers dabbled in the 3D process in the 1930s and 1940s, but the format did not meet with any kind of real success until the 1950s -- and even that was short lived.

Along came "Avatar" and Hollywood panicked. It panicked just like it did in 1927 with the success of the partial talky "The Jazz Singer" (itself not the first sound film) retooling cinemas around the world with sound equipment; and with the advent of the widescreen CinemaScope process used in "The Robe" (1953, itself not the first wide-screen film) insisting cinemas needed to show wider films to combat competition from television.

Sound stayed with us, as did wider (but not as wide) films. As for 3D, it remains to be seen.

For one thing, there are higher costs associated with shooting a film in 3D. Then there are the limited number of screens that can project a film in 3D. Then there is the audience expectation about the experience -- which, judging from the recent slate of 3D releases that have bombed at the box office, may be the biggest hurdle of them all. But then, there is the issue of light. Until recently, I had no idea that the loss of light is the biggest factor working again the 3D process. (Lower light levels mean a darker screen.)

So, will we see more and better films made in 3D? Only time will tell.

You can read more about the issue of light here.

The box office figures for recent 3D films will be found here.

You can read the Hollywood spinmeisters working their logic on the falling box office here.

05 August 2010

They're in Color!

I am always amazed by color photographs and film from the 1930s and 1940s. I mean, we watch so many old movies and read so many histories and biographies that feature only black-and-white photography that one can forget they actually had color back then.

My totally awesome friend Brad in Massachusetts sent me the link to a fascinating web site that features color images by photographers of the Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information. They are some of the only color photographs known to exist that show people living during the Depression.

Of course, they are fascinating in themselves; but I am so intrigued to see that dresses were actually in color, and buildings were not just gray. Of course, I know they were in color -- but what colors were popular in the late 1930s? What colors were buildings? Cars? Shoes? Airplanes (like the B-25 bombers, pictured)?

It's a really engaging site that you can find here.

02 August 2010

Texting = Death

Everyone agrees that driving while distracted is bad and dangerous. A study by AAA and "Seventeen" magazine polled about 2,000 drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 and discovered that even though 84% understand driving while distracted is dangerous, they do it anyway.

Unfortunately, teens are not the only offenders: adults do it to.

No matter who does it, driving while doing something else is a very bad idea -- and in some cities, it's also illegal.

You can read more about the study here and here.

Better yet, you can view this totally awesome public service announcement from the UK:


Then, just for fun, you can watch a short explanation of how the special effects crew created some of the accident shots:


01 August 2010

Lucky Thursdays

Mondays won't be quite as fun, but now Thursdays will rock!





BTW, the third season of BBT is now available at Amazon. Buy yours by clicking here.

30 July 2010

I Wonder Why

Why is it that books are classified as "fiction" and "non-fiction"? Why aren't they called "factual" and "non-factual"?

27 July 2010

Stupid Government

I guess lots of governments make stupid decisions, but I never expected such a stupid decision to come from the British government. Specifically, Britain's Department for Culture, Media and Sport which yesterday announced it was closing down the venerable UK Film Council.

Founded in 2000, the film council donated various amounts of money to help certain British films to be made. The list of films helped by the council is impressive. Just to list a few that I have seen:

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (pictured), Bright Star, Girl With a Pearl Earring, Gosford Park, Hunger, The Magdalene Sisters, Vera Drake; and the documentaries Man on Wire and Touching the Void.

Would these and other films have been made without the council's assistance? Maybe. But then, maybe not.

The council's annual budget was only £15,000,000, and it appears it is being disbanded to help reduce budgets. Really? £15,000,000 is going to help? I would think the money would be better spent making good movies to entertain audiences around the world.

You can read about the decision here.

You can see an interesting review of how much money the film council donated to make certain films, and how much those films made in national and worldwide release here.

You can read reaction to the decision here and here.

18 July 2010

A Bike is not a Car

I learned how to ride a bike many years ago. It was so fun sailing down the street with the wind blowing through my hair. Then the asthma kicked in and made me go home -- but still, for a few moments, it was fun.

One thing that was stressed a lot when I was young was bicycle safety. I mean, seriously, a bike is not a car, and a collision between the two has pretty predictable results. One of the most important rules I was taught was that you NEVER ride a bike through an intersection -- crosswalk or not. The reason is pretty simple: a bike is small and moves faster than a pedestrian. A person driving a car through an intersection is not expecting a bike to come flying off the sidewalk into his/her path.

Last weekend, a bicyclist in Tempe rode his bike in a crosswalk through an intersection. He was hit by a car, and recently died from his injuries. The case received a lot of attention because the person who hit the cyclist did not remain at the scene (in itself a felony) and the cyclist died.

However, in all the coverage of this accident, not once has it been mentioned that -- yes, all these years since it was taught to me -- it is still illegal in Arizona to ride a bicycle through an intersection. Most bicycle safety manuals suggest walking a bike through a crosswalk; but it is the law in Arizona. If the cyclist in this case had been walking his bike it is less likely he would have been hit (slower speed, more likely to have been seen). It is no guarantee against being hit, but it is safer.

You can see surveillance video of the incident in the two links below (the actual moment of impact is not shown). However, in each you can clearly see the bicyclist entering the crosswalk intersection very fast. Add to that the fact that it was late at night and you can easily see how the accident occurred.

This is no way excuses the driver who left the scene. The irony is, had he stopped, he would most likely have been cleared of any fault because the cyclist was not walking his bike. Now, his life if probably ruined because he fled the scene.

A news report of the accident will be found here.

A follow-up story after an arrest was made is here.

15 July 2010

Boxers or Briefs?

Matt and I are huge fans of animation -- the good stuff, not the crap churned out by D*sney. No, we love Pixar. We love Pixar. We love Pixar.

Even more than their (usually) great animated films we love their animated shorts. We love their shorts -- including my favorite, the subversive "Knick Knack" (pictured).

Not only are they clever and witty, they are also just so well crafted. When was the last time you saw such well-made short animated films? A long time ago, let me tell you.

I invite you to read a nice little article about the wonderful studio and their wonderful short films here.

You can purchase a collection of their shorts here.

13 July 2010

Fuck You, FCC!

I am not the kind of person prone to swearing. Oh, sure, I swear on occasion -- especially when I'm sure it will shock some bluenose. I love the look on their faces, don't you? Anyway, I don't think intelligent people need to use vulgarities as part of everyday speech BUT I am totally against any person or entity passing laws that forbid such words.

So, it is with great happiness that I tell the morons in the Federal Communications Commission to go fuck themselves.

Yes, that's right: we are talking about the decision today to stop aggressive FCC regulations that went into effect in 2004 with encouragement by the Bush administration as a means to pander for votes from the "ultra conservative" types who insist that everyone in the world think as they do, act as they do, and only fuck in the missionary position.

The decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals results from a suit brought by the FOX network against the FCC. (And no, you do not need to point out the irony that I am actually HAPPY about something done by FOX ....)

So, score one for freedom of thought and speech. You can read more about the decision here.

09 July 2010

Kristin The Great

Okeh, the good news: Acting great Kristin Scott Thomas is getting to be known around the world for her superb acting talents.

The bad news: Acting great Kristin Scott Thomas is getting to be known around the world for her superb acting talents.

How can the same event be both good and bad? Quite easily, it turns out.

I have been a huge fan of Thomas (pictured) since 1988 when she made the film "A Handful of Dust" which I saw only because it starred then-hottie Rupert Graves (who I first saw in "Maurice" in 1987). So, like all the great British actors before her, I started watching everything I could find her in fearing that (one day) she would sell out to the lure of riches and glamour in Hollywood.

But (surprise!) she dabbled in Hollywood but continued acting in quality films -- following the footsteps of other British greats Helen Mirren, Rupert Everett, Emma Thompson and (of course) the totally fab Miranda Richardson all of whom eschewed money and glory for acting challenges making the world a MUCH better place in the process.

You can read an interesting article about Thomas here and find out more about her work here.

08 July 2010

The Bang That Keeps on Giving

You probably remember that I wrote here and here about our awesome trip to Burbank last November to attend a taping of "The Big Bang Theory."

It was so great seeing the cast live, getting their autographs (all except Jim Parsons -- don't get me started) and seeing the wonderful Christine Baranski acting up a storm, in person.

Well guess what? Baranski just got nominated for an Emmy for that performance (pictured)! What a hoot! Not only did we get to see how the show was put together, and all the aforementioned treats, but we also got to see an Emmy-nominated performance as it unfolded! (The only thing that could be better would be if she wins; but, of course, it's just a thrill that she was nominated.)

Additionally, Parsons also received an Emmy nod for his on-going antics on the show.

The only thing that would be better than all of the above would be if talented Kaley Cuoco (also pictured) would finally get the Emmy nod she deserves.

07 July 2010

Garden Goodies - Take Two

Here's our first crop of tomatoes -- picked fresh yesterday and destined for homemade chili on Sunday. Yum! We've gotten a lot of tomatoes, but quite a few have been damaged by sun and bugs. We didn't use the tomato plant frames and learned a big lesson from that. Next year will be a different story. Still, not a bad crop for our first try.

05 July 2010

Telephones of Old

Hey! I am spending this holiday weekend doing some research on my vintage radio comedy and drama collection. I thought I would share this really keen photograph I found showing vintage telephones from 1877 to 1900. Pretty amazing designs.

03 July 2010

Two Years

You know, it amazes me to think that the marriage between Matt and I has lasted MUCH longer than marriages of many straight couples: two years today. Of course, we have been together nearly sixteen years (November) which amazes me even more.

And people say gay relationships don't last based on what evidence?

24 June 2010

How Dry Is Dry?

You've surely heard the old saying that, in Arizona, it's a dry heat. Generally, that's true -- except during our summer monsoons when the humidity kicks in and makes it a very wet heat, indeed.

Well, you are probably saying to yourself, how dry is dry?

Thanks to our good friends at the National Weather Service, we know that today tied for the lowest level of humidity ever recorded in the Phoenix metropolitan area: 2%. That's right. A measly 2% humidity.

So, on a day where the temperature peaked at 112 113 degrees, our humidity was only 2%.

I know you are asking yourselves what other dates we had such low humidity. Here they are:

08 May 1904
16 May 1907
13 May 1976
21 December 1977
21 April 1979
04 June 1982
27 April 2008
24 June 2010

Now you can impress your friends with this interesting bit of tid.

14 June 2010

Boring Broadway

Wow! What is it with musicals on Broadway anymore? If last night's Tony Awards were any indication, musicals are now nothing more than singers screaming something unintelligible, dancers doing period-inappropriate back flips, and lighting design stopping at the instructions "install 100 strobe lights facing the audience: use often."

I am all for new kinds of musicals showcasing voices rarely if ever heard, but rock concerts and punk rock mosh pits are proving to be the beginning and end of inspiration for new generations of "artists" working in musical theater.

Seriously, if Stephen Sondheim were dead now, he would be spinning in his grave.

13 June 2010

Garden Goodies

It's been 15 weeks since we planted a bunch of seeds and hoped something would sprout. Well, something sprouted, all right, and now our little victory garden is overflowing with gigantic tomato plants ("Day of the Triffids," anyone?), bean plants, onions, carrots and lettuce that is growing so big and fast one almost thinks it's going to pull up its roots and start walking across the back yard. (We also spotted our first yellow pepper a couple days ago, so they are up and coming.)

This photograph shows what we pulled about 15 minutes ago to add to our dinner tonight (grilled shrimp over pasta). We'll add fresh beans and carrot shavings, and Matt will top off his with some green onion (which I cannot eat 'cause I cannot digest it). So, there you have it. Gardening success!

10 June 2010

Running Interference

Go ahead: call me weird. We are entering into an 11-year cycle in which solar storms will start to become really active -- and by "really active" I mean so active that they could lash out from the surface of the sun and literally fry satellites which could disrupt all kinds of things on the good old surface of terra firma.

Remember the last time this happened? It was October 2003 and it caused all kinds of problems including the interruption of television signals. Of course, it was not as bad as the 1859 solar storm which is the strongest in recorded history. How strong? It shorted out telegraph wires igniting wild fires and was three times greater than the strongest storm in modern times.

What will happen this time? Who knows? Is this the beginning of the 2012 doomsday scenario (where the Earth blows up or something on 21 December 2012)? Who knows?

Is this going to be cool? Totally!

You can read more about the coming solar storms here, the 1859 solar storm here and see a list of major solar storms in the past 200 years here.

08 June 2010

Lost and Found

Back in 1986 I found myself at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art wandering around a really cool exhibition called "Hollywood and History: Costume Design in Film" which displayed the original sketches and costumes for historical films contrasting them with what actually would have been worn during those time periods. On display were costumes from the 1917 silent "Cleopatra" starring Theda Bara (pictured). Signage on the costumes said the designer was unknown.

Of course, anything "unknown" is, to a journalist, like a piece of meat to a starving dog, and -- in this case -- started me on a years-long odyssey to discover the name of the person who designed the costumes. Unfortunately, I never found any documentary evidence for the costume designer, although several sources said Bara designed them herself, which has about as much veracity as saying Angelina Jolie did her own stunts in the "Tomb Raider" movies.

Even though my research resulted in a featured article in the December 1989 issue of Los Angeles magazine, it was frustrating because this 1917 film is thought to be lost, part of the 80% of all silent films made before 1920 that disappeared owing to the ravages of time, willful damage or just plain old neglect. Only a few scant seconds are known to exist of a film that was one of the first really big Hollywood epics.


My heart gave a little leap, then, Monday when it was announced that a veritable treasure trove of silent films had been discovered in a film vault in New Zealand -- could "Cleopatra" be among them? Sadly, it is not. However, quite a few gems are included in the lot of 75 films, including a complete copy of a previously-thought-lost John Ford film.

So, I guess it is still possible for "Cleopatra" to be sitting in some other film vault in some other far away land (or maybe tucked away in your garage) to be found one day.


You can read more about this great discovery
here.

07 June 2010

Joplin

If you know me at all, you know that I think very little good popular music has been created since the war (that would be WW2). It's all just so much noise to me -- especially the work of Janis Joplin. To my ears, it's all shrieking and screaming. Don't really get the appeal of it at all.

However, I will say that today I have a lot more respect for Joplin and her very short career after hearing a fascinating story about her on NPR.

Although I will never like her music, I totally appreciate how she felt like an outsider and strove to make something of herself without regard to what other people said. Had she not succumbed to the lure of drugs, she might have gone on to make music I actually would have liked. We will never know.

You can hear the story here.

01 June 2010

Agatha Christie And Nuns?

Did you know that the manner in which you write a sentence at the age of 20 can provide a statistically significant indicator of whether you will get Alzheimer's later in life? I didn't either.

NPR today did a really fascinating story about new research into dementia -- which you can hear here.

28 May 2010

"Hypersensitive Immune System"?

Our good friend Kris, in Australia, posted a link to a fascinating article that indicates people (like me) with severe allergies and asthma have a statistically significant reduced rate of various and sundry cancers. WTF? Is it possible that a lifetime of breathing problems (that almost killed me at least twice) might afford me some kind of protection?

Bitchin!

According to the article, which you can read here, people with severe allergies and asthma have hypersensitive immune systems that react to all kinds of things that don't bother the usual person. These reactions somehow protect us from cancers and toxins.

I'm not sure I buy the connection offered in the article -- that we sneeze out cancer-causing toxins. So many cancers are genetic and not environmental that I don't see how the act of sneezing helps. Rather, I think there is something on a genetic level that is either turned on or off that makes or prevents some occurrence in the body that defends against cancers and, coincidentally, makes us sneeze.

Either way, a reduced risk of cancer is nothing to sneeze at.

23 May 2010

The Economist For Me, Please!

I have been reading the weekly news magazine The Economist on and off for about 20 years. Although it originates in England, it is the best printed source of news to be found anywhere in the world.

Just recently, I noticed the magazine's motto which appears on its masthead. It says that it exists to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress.

If only other "news" organizations had the same motto.

You can visit their site here.

[Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with The Economist other than being a satisfied reader.]