Friday, January 29, 2010

Hand pain halts Willie Nelson's NC show |

Willie Nelson canceled a show in North Carolina because of hand pain. But that's only part of the story. Just a short time before several members of his band and road crew were busted by officers on Nelson's tour bus for possessing moonshine and marijuana.

People getting high on Willie's tour bus? Richard, I'm shocked......SHOCKED!!!!

READ MORE....from

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Joseph Campbell- "The Hero's Adventure"

In the three part discussion of Avatar from earlier this month I referenced Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist and author from the last century. Campbell and his writings were a large influence on George Lucas when he wrote the Star Wars Trilogies, as well as with many other artists and writers of this era.

The PBS special from 1988, and its companion book,The Power of Myth, recorded a series of discussions between Campbell and journalist Bill Moyers. Few television programs have resonated with so many people for so long as this one has. Over the years it's airing has become a staple of PBS pledge drives. Personally, it is a project that changed my life. It made me more aware that the spiritual doesn't necessarily need to have a religious connotation. Also, it made me look at storytelling and film in a different way- all are based on universal themes, and some have become classics of modern mythology.

I was able to find several complete episodes online of The Power of Myth.

Below, from the collection of John Allen Bell, is Episode One of the series, The Hero's Adventure. Campbell and Moyers talked about Star Wars, as well as the meaning of the word "hero", and who or what is a hero. Another subject talked about in this episode, recorded in 1985 or 1986- that the earth would give us the next great mythology for mankind.....this was years before are concern about climate change moved to the forefront of our consciousness.

Campbell gives one bit of advice in this episode that he sees as the key to a happy and productive life......"Follow your bliss".

The Power of Myth - The Hero's Adventure from John Allen Bell on Vimeo.

Be sure to pause the music playlist before watching the video

For more about Joseph Campbell, visit the Joseph Campbell Foundation website.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Poll: Fox Most Trusted Name in News, Beck Tops O’Reilly | Fancast News

Its official- The country really has gone to hell in a hand basket.

And this poll confirms it, as well as confirming this adage from the late George Carlin.....

"Think about how stupid the average person is....and half the people are even stupider than that!"

That whirling sound you just heard is Walter Cronkite spinning in his grave.

READ MORE......from Fancast News

Actor, Musician, and Once a Queen- Maria Doyle Kennedy

I became a fan of The Tudors during Season 2. For one reason or another I never watched the first year's episodes- why I didn't, I don't really remember all that well. The show is about the reign of Henry VIII of England and his multiple wives, his many affairs, the intrigue of his court, and the lives of his many friends and numerous foes- and it didn't take too much to go from friend to foe in Henry's eyes. Season 4 of the series is in production now, and is tentatively scheduled for premiere on April 11, 2010 at 9:00PM EDT on Showtime.

Showtime has begun airing the earlier episodes of the series, as well as making them available via ON DEMAND services. I went back to Season One to catch up on all that I had missed that first year. The series is enjoyable and interesting, even though at times there are some historical inaccuracies, and combining of several real characters into one composite, eliminating some real people of note, and inventing characters who never existed. The series also, at times, presents historical incidents out of order for dramatic effect. It doesn't really bother me because this is historical fiction on Showtime and not The History Channel. The Tudors does challenge me to find out for myself what is fact and what are "facts according to the genius of the writer". Good historical fiction will make the viewer want to know more about a subject. JFK by Oliver Stone was based on a factual event as interpreted by a filmmaker- you just have to accept it as such. But Oliver Stone's movie helped to sell a lot of books and documentaries by others who did REAL research into what happened in Dallas.

Few questioned Stephen Speilberg about the accuracy of Saving Private Ryan, or Clint Eastwood for Flags of Our Fathers....I read the book and saw the movie; Clint did take some liberties but the spirit of the events portrayed were real. In that light, the viewer has to look at The Tudors as an entertainment, but one with a very real factual base and that the story told is true, with embellishments.

Of all of the performances in Season One of The Tudors, one stood out for me- that of Maria Doyle Kennedy as the ill fated Queen Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife. Ms. Kennedy spoke Spanish fluently in the production, and her English had a decided Spanish accent. She looked like the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. I assumed she was a Latina with Irish ancestry from her father's side of the family, like Anthony Quinn. But she looked vaguely familiar....and I couldn't remember where I had seen her before. So I did some research.

And it turns out that Joss Stone (Anne of Cleves) wasn't the first "musical wife" of Henry VIII

The Commitments- Maria Doyle (Kennedy) at the far right, with Bronagh Gallagher (l) and Angeline Ball.

The amazing stuff you can find on the internet. Maria Doyle Kennedy was then known as Maria Doyle, and sang with the Irish band Hot House Flowers in 1987. By 1991 Ms. Kennedy was in the movie The Commitments, playing "Natalie Murphy". The story was about a group of young Irish musicians who put together a white R&B group, bringing some soul to pubs and clubs of Dublin. In the clip below from the film, Maria sings "Bye By Baby".

Maria Doyle Kennedy has maintained successful acting and musical careers in the time since. More information can be found on her official website. Her music can best be labeled as alternative. Below, the video of her release, Skin.

And the stars of the Commitments are still slugging away. Check out their official website.

In closing, here's a look at a blooper reel from The Tudors, featuring Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jeremy Northam, and Sam Neill.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quick Hits For January 26, 2010; Spanning The Known Universe For News You Can Use (No, Not Really....But Admit It, It Got You Looking!)

After spending the majority of last week (going into this week) first reviewing Avatar and then committing three blog entries to talking about viewer reactions, and the mythology behind it- originally I had 12 pages of notes on a legal pad- its time to move on and talk about other stuff that's been in the news.

Its time for a new edition of Quick Hits

(1) The AFC Championship Game. I know I picked the Jets, but it was heart over head. When they went up 17-6 on the Colts I thought just maybe they could get it done. Then Manning came back with that touchdown before halftime to make it 17-13. And Boomer Esiason was prophetic on the CBS halftime show when he said Peyton Manning had figured out what the Jets were doing on defense.....if the the Jets were going to blitz linebackers and defensive backs to make up for a lack of a bonafide pass rusher, then look for the weak spot on the field and the best matchup for the offense. So don't throw to Reggie Wayne (who was covered by Darelle Revis most of the game), and chuck it down field to Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon. From 17-13 at halftime it was all Colts in the second half, 30-17.

The Jets had an incredible run in the playoffs after a roller coaster regular season. Revis has emerged as the best corner in the NFL, and rookie qb Mark Sanchez and rookie rb Shonn Greene have become bright young stars who should shine for years to come.

And what else can you say about the Indianapolis Colts other than they are a special team and Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of his generation- sorry Tom Brady fans. Brady has more Super Bowl rings but Manning's body of work in the regular season gives him the nod.

(2). In the NFC Championship Game, I lost track of how many times both teams put the ball on the ground, but ultimately it was those lost fumbles by the Minnesota Vikings (3) and interceptions by the Vikes (2) that spelled their doom in the 31-28 win for the New Orleans Saints. The game shouldn't have been as exciting as it was because of all of the miscues by both teams (the Saints lost a fumble and had 9 penalties for 88 yards, Vikings 5 for 32- but all seem to come a critical times in the game).

The game went into OT, and was won by a field goal by Garrett Hartley to win it, sending the Drew Brees and the Saints to Miami to face the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.

You have to Brett Favre really done, or will he retire and then unretire for one more season? If he does not retire and gives it one more year, just how much longer can he keep taking that kind of physical pounding at age 40 before his body betrays him? Also, regarding Adrian Peterson- nobody playing in the NFL has his raw ability and breakaway speed....but how long can any team tolerate a player that fumbles as much as he does? How does any coach entrust a game to kill the clock in its late stages to a guy who can't hang on to the ball? He needs to sit down with Tiki Barber, and who had a similar problem with the Giants, and was cured of it through the coaching of Tom Coughlin.

(3). How about those scenes on Bourbon Street in New Orleans during and after the NFC Championship? While the game was being played, it was like a ghost town there, empty streets, only a few tourists walking around. After the winning field goal, it was instant Mardi Gras.

And good for the Saints, the city of New Orleans, and the fans all along the Gulf Coast. The franchise was in the doldrums most of the time since its birth in 1967. And of course, there was the devastation of Katrina in 2005, an event from which some of New Orleans and the surrounding area has not recovered, and may not ever.

The Saints in the Super won't heal all of the area's wounds, but it will help to ease some of the pain still felt there.

(4). On Saturday night at the Screen Actors Guild Awards the veteran Betty White rocked the house with her speech. Betty, who celebrated her 88th birthday the same day, was presented with SAG's LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD. And as usual, she managed to steal the show from her costars. And check out what George Clooney said about the onetime GOLDEN GIRL

(5). I missed the news of the death of author Robert B. Parker, and knew nothing of his passing until Saturday. I was listening to the radio in the morning, and Richard Neer spoke about Parker's death last week at age 77. There were few writers as prolific as Parker, who turned out as many as four novels in a year, who wrote ten pages per day, and never knew what his characters would do or where the plot was going until he was in the act of writing. Most famous for his mysteries, he created the characters Spenser and Jesse Stone. In more recent years Parker has turned his attention to the Old West, creating a series of three novels that I fell in love with- Appaloosa, Resolution, and Brimstone. I wondered how life would turn out for the laconic lawman- turned gunslinger- turned lawman Virgil Cole, his partner Everett Hitch, and Virgil's libidinous lady love Miss Allie French. Sadly, I'll never know.

Robert B. Parker wrote 60 novels in a career that spanned nearly 40 years. I miss him already.

(6). The Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien Fiasco- a nations's long nightmare is over. We can all rest again. Amen.

(7). Kudos to all for helping out in the Haitian relief effort. According to The Huffington Post The World Bank and the United States government each made a commitment of $100 million. Last Friday's celebrity telethon raised $57 million. Americans sent $159 million in private donations. It sounds like a lot of money, and it is.....but check out the amount of destruction and devastation, and the byproducts of the quake- homelessness, food and water shortages, and disease.

And here's a sobering thought- look at those dollar amounts in the previous paragraph. When Rutgers University expanded their football stadium from 42,000 to 53,000 the price tag rose to over $100 million. That was just to enclose an end zone and add seating, and put in premium seats near the Presidents box.

That alone will give you an idea of just how much money in needed to even start to rebuild Haiti. Its going to be a long, arduous process.

(8). President Obama's State of the Union Address. I'll watch, even though I'm still angry at that circular firing squad, aka the Democratic Congressional leadership. Sometimes I look at Mr. Obama and I think he's vintage Michael Jordan playing on the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets.

(9). Damages is back! And Glenn Close is as delightfully devious as ever. I wonder how Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne) will work her way back into Patty's (Close) life. And we do know this item due to the show's time shifting format, and its the first secret revealed of Season 3....Tate Donovan (as Tom Shayes) will NOT be back for a Season 4.

That is, of course, he has a twin brother that the audience knows nothing about.

(10). Finally....I want to thank the readers of this blog who's numbers seem to be steadily growing. January 2010 is looking to be are biggest month yet as far as new visitors.

And we did it with minimal reference to home shopping hosts, past or present....that's an inside joke, people!

Late Addition! I just corrected numerous typos 10 hours after originally posting this. I'm not nearly as illiterate as some suspect.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The AVATAR Phenomenon- Part Three; The Story Teller and Modern Myths

This is the third in a three part series about the phenomenon of the motion picture AVATAR. In Part One we looked at audience reactions and comments about the film, and how it has personally affected some viewers. Part Two talked about the mythology of Avatar, defined "myth", and presented (with video and text) some very important concepts about myths and mythology from the late Joseph Campbell

"One thing that comes out of myths is that the bottom of the abyss is the voice of salvation. The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come. At that darkest moment comes the light"......from The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, page 37.

We left Part Two with Joseph Campbell's thoughts about attending to one's "inner life". Campbell noted that if you don't attend to your inner self, that eventually with age you will, as he put, "be sorry".

But in order to facilitate attention to our inner selves, Campbell also told us we all need an individual and personal "sacred space". Look and listen to this bit of conversation he has with Bill Moyers from the PBS documentary Joseph Campbell; The Power of Myth recorded in the months before his death in 1987.

There is an importance to having a "sacred space" and taking care of our "inner life". When I first saw Avatar I wondered what Joseph Campbell would have thought about this amazing modern mythology. But that question lead to another one- what would Campbell think about life in the 21st century, where we are bombarded with information constantly? The computer age was dawning at the end of Campbell's life. Could he imagine the conflict technology could have with the spiritual in the new century?

I use the term "conflict" because of the technological revolution and the constant stream of information it generates- and too much of the time its nothing more than useless nonsense- our inner lives are relegated to a back burner. The "sacred space" Campbell talked about isn't allowed to exist, and creative incubation and self discovery never takes place.

PC's, blackberries, and cell phones that can do everything but delivery babies. Texting, tweeting, Facebook, and emails all day and all night. And cable news channels that feed you information, some totally useful and some totally garbage, 24/7. You can hear cellphones ringing during plays, movies, and even while religious services are in progress. Where is the time for creative incubation anymore when we live in a society that seems to us to demand we be "on" constantly?

We don't spend nearly enough time taking walks and gathering in the world around us, or simply looking at the shapes of clouds passing overhead as we did as children. How often do we take time to write, or read a novel, or play a musical instrument, paint a picture or take photographs....or even demanding of ourselves some much needed "quiet time"? And I'm as guilty as the next guy....though the exercise of writing in this blog everyday does help me stretch my mental muscles, as well as help to keep me sane.

Before you conclude that I'm anti-technology, guess again. I think what we've done with high tech communications these past two decades has been extraordinary. I love a lot of the gadgetry. And the very fact that you're reading this on Blogger, and that I'm sharing this information on Facebook and Twitter says that I do have some techno-geek tendencies.

But I think it has a time and place, and I fear that all too often some of us have allowed technology to run our lives rather than using it to serve us. Do we really need to share every moment of our lives with a world that can't get enough of us? I don't think so.

While waiting for Avatar at the theater last week a young couple sat right in front of me. No sooner did they get comfortable then the young guy started to check his messages on his phone, and started texting...and texting...and texting...all the way until the time we were prompted to put on our 3D glasses because the movie was about to start. The young man wasn't even going to allow himself the total escapism of a movie- he was being ruled by need to use his devices.

And I wonder- how did the movie resonate with him? Was it just an incredible exercise in special effects.....or did he "get it"?

Just perhaps Avatar has helped to fill that need to touch the mythological that is lacking in the lives of many of the viewers, the ones who don't have that "sacred space" Joseph Campbell talked about, and have filled the void with the outside world.

The ancients had shaman. The modern world has the artist, in particular the filmmaker, who can serve that same function. Joseph Campbell's good friend George Lucas filled the role of shaman with his classic myths, the Star Wars trilogies. And James Cameron has done the same in Avatar.

Additionally, in our multi-cultural society there is always a need for a common mythology. Maybe Avatar serves that purpose as well. The film may bring some viewers "back on the beam", as Joseph Campbell would put it- a little more introspective and in touch with themselves and the world they live in. It is with great irony that so many people were reminded of what it means to "be human" by the Na'vi, seven foot tall blue humanoids from a fictional world.

There are some who cry out that Avatar is "anti-civilization" and "anti-God".

To those who criticize it for its depiction of humans as being "only the destroyers", there were also sympathetic humans in the story. Pandora,in Greek mythology, was a woman who opened up a box that contained the world's troubles, releasing misery on to mankind. But in this reworking of the theme, it is mankind that brings pain and misery to Pandora. The human characters are only an instrument in this metaphor of reflecting pain inward to destroy goodness and innocence.

The Vatican, for one, has frowned on Avatar for its depiction of pantheism, the deities paid homage to by the Na'vi in the film. But consider this- if intelligent life were found on other planets, wouldn't that leave the traditional answers of Judeo-Christian heritage more than just a bit shaken? Its a topic for another column, but Western religion, as we know it, would never quite be the same.

Avatar might have been one of the most spiritual films I've ever seen, not in a dogmatic sense, but its depiction of a Creator that is present in all living things. This movie was truly a mythology for the 21st century.

The next to last scene of Avatar shows the merciful Na'vi sending the defeated "Sky People" back from whence they came. They give the humans a better break than they might have gotten themselves had they been on the losing end.

The closing scene of the film summed up some of the great themes we've found in religion from the dawn of time. Jake gives up his crippled body and becomes one with his Avatar....we have death, followed by the unknown, followed by a rebirth. Not only have we seen this in world religion, but in the great modern mythologies....Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, and Star Trek. Avatar is in their good company.

"At the dark moment comes the light"

Abraham Lincoln once spoke of our "better angels". And just maybe the Na'vi" were the best angels of all.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

NFL Championship Weekend Picks

I'm going to step back from "all things Avatar" for a few minutes to give my picks for today's AFC and NFC Championship games....I'll return with Part Three of the "Avatar Phenomenon" on Monday.

I'm sure you can hardly wait, with "hardly" being the operative word.

Here we go.....

AFC Championship; New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts; What a long strange trip its been for Gang Green. About a month ago even their own head coach thought they were mathematically eliminated from contention. Then came the game when the Colts pulled their starters after taking a lead over the visiting Jets, and New York stormed back to beat Indy and give them their first loss in a previously undefeated season. The Jets then went on to embarrass the Bengals the next week to earn a place in the playoffs. Some will say the Jets backed into the playoffs, I say it doesn't matter how you got there, just as long as you made it. Then in successive weeks the Jets beat the Bengals and Chargers on the road...when you win back to back road playoff games you've earned your spot at the top of the ticket.

The conventional wisdom is "take the Colts". Its payback time against the team that first tarnished a perfect record. They'll be playing at home and have the greatest quarterback of his generation, Peyton Manning, under center. There's Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark to throw the ball to, there's Dwight Feeney and Robert Mathis to terrorize Jet's qb Mark Sanchez, and the underrated Gary Brackett at middle linebacker.

The Jets have the power running of Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene, and the incomparable Darelle Revis at the corner. Mark Sanchez has a chance to become the first rookie quarterback ever to lead his team to the Super Bowl.

The Colts are the favorite....but I've been riding a different pony this post season. I'm taking the Jets in a squeaker, 24-21. Decided by a field goal. How appropriate.

NFC Championship; Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints The Saints have been in existence for over 40 years and have spent much of that time at the bottom of the pecking order in the NFL. Peyton Manning's dad, Archie, was a great quarterback on some really bad Saints teams in the 1970's. We all know the story of the Vikings...four Super Bowl trips and four losses, but none since getting stomped by the Raiders so long ago John Madden was Oakland's coach.

Minnesota is an interesting story, with Adrian Peterson at running back and Brett Favre at quarterback, having possibly the best year of his career at age 40. But strangely, I can't help but feel that the Vikings are much like the football version of the Florida Marlins in baseball. The Marlins were built to "win now" on two occasions, only to fall back to mediocrity soon afterwords. I just feel that the Vikings are constructed the same way- this is all for the short term, and I'm not sold on them.

The city of New Orleans is having a love affair with quarterback Drew Brees and this Saints team. Reggie Bush seems to becoming the star all thought he would be. Its a home crowd, and 40 plus years of "wait till next year" will be rained down on the visiting Vikings.

Also....its time for some good Karma for the Crescent City, which dealt with so much pain since Katrina. I pick the Saints, 35-21 .

And that's it.

I'll be back with our new guise as "The Official Unofficial Blog of The Big Game".....(note Commissioner Goodall, I didn't infringe on any copyrights or trademarks).....very soon.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The AVATAR Phenomenon ; Part Two- A Mythology For The 21st Century

Bill Moyers- What happens when a society no longer embraces a powerful mythology?
Joseph Campbell- What we've got on our hands. If you want to find out what it means to have a society without any rituals, read THE NEW YORK TIMES......from The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill D. Moyers (1988).*****

James Cameron's film Avatar is an example of a mythology for a modern world that is hungry for it. Cameron created a world with its own unique living creatures and humanoids, its own history, its own language, its own rites of passage, its own religion and deities- its own mythology. We, the audience, our drawn up and in to this world through the use of cinematic 3D wizardry, so much so many of us- myself included- experienced a virtual reality, where computer generated creatures became real and dandelion-like seeds floating in the air seemed to be falling down so close to us that we could touch them. Consciously and subconsciously we became part of the world of the Na'vi, the blue, seven foot tall inhabitants of Pandora, who in the film became more human to us than the "Sky People"-the earth colonists, who looked just like you and me.

I saw Avatar a week after the catastrophic earthquake that all but destroyed Haiti, the same same Tuesday that that Republican Scott Brown took the Senate seat held by Edward M. Kennedy for nearly three generations, and the very day when Chris Christie was sworn in as the Governor of New Jersey. Some people who have seen the film have experienced depression after leaving the idyllic world of Pandora to return to the reality of their own lives. Its as if one were awakened from a pleasant dream to be brought "back to earth" abruptly.

I had a similar reaction after seeing the film, but it was not the blues. Rather, I felt a sense of anger regarding the situation in America, where we have two political parties who have been engaged in trench warfare for nearly 20 years. In my eyes, the Democrats were inept, the Republicans morally and spiritually hypocritical. Furthermore, the audacity and arrogance of the Wall Street crowd I found even more appalling than before, and the pontificating of the Religious Right seemed more mind numbing than ever.

It was as if during the experience of Avatar I was briefly in a better, but not perfect world, one filled with danger....but the priorities of the simple Na'vi were in the right place, and in harmony with nature, with life, and with themselves. And in looking at the reality of our own lives in the real world, I couldn't help but think....."How did we manage to blow it so badly?".

Friday, January 22, 2010

The AVATAR Phenomenon ; Part One- What Some Filmgoers Are Saying

avatar Pictures, Images and Photos

Its been a couple of days since I saw the incredible motion picture Avatar. After experiencing (rather than merely seeing) the movie, one of the first things I've done was to see what others thought of the film, and where this phenomenon is going- because it appears now that Avatar the Film has mutated into Avatar the Cultural Touchstone.

I've decided to break this entry into three parts; my personal thoughts and a look at the film's mythology will follow in a separate columns to be published later.

One of the most intriguing articles I've read online about Avatar was London's Daily Mail Online. The article's title says it all; "The Avatar effect: Movie-goers feel depressed and even suicidal at not being able to visit utopian alien planet". This piece talks at length about people who were so drawn into the magical and mystical world of PANDORA that, either consciously or unconsciously, they became affected in some manner. The use of 3d imagery and IMAX (in certain theaters) brings the viewer into a situation that is much like "virtual reality"; this fantasy world and its storyline appears to be real and the viewer's subconscious recognizes this as being a "part of the action".

Avatar Movie Forum, has several long threads about how personally people were affected by the film. One thread was titled "Really Sad"- the person who initiated the thread said he/she has felt distracted and sad for days since seeing the movie.

There was another thread, "I'm glad I'm not crazy for feeling like I'm the only one".....the person who began the thread talked about sadness since seeing the movie, as if he were drawn into the story and its characters so much so he felt they were real. His wife and his sister-in-law (according to the writer) think that he's crazy. The writer had a sense of relief after he saw there were others who felt the same way. Some of the responders to the thread had an emotional attachment to the computer generated Na'vi, the simple blue hunter-gatherers who were the films protagonists. One or two felt that those affected were "old souls" being reawakened into action via reincarnation. Some felt resentment at being labeled as "loser geeks" by some media types. There is definitely a segment of the forum members who joined up because they were attracted by the support afforded by others who felt as they did.

Another thread, "A Once In a Lifetime Experience", goes back to early in January and has four pages and counting. Most respondents seemed to have partaken of that once in a lifetime experience on multiple occasions- some speak of going to see AVATAR four of five times. Just about all are in agreement that AVATAR was something unique and among the best, if not the best, motion pictures they have ever seen.

Some comments I found very intriguing were in the the thread Can anyone get it out of your head this movie makes me feel weird. This writer found more of a connection with earth than he had previous to viewing the film, and feels that seeing AVATAR was a life changing experience. Those who have responded seem to concur.

Avatar Blog is another community site with some interesting topics as well. One of the topics that caught my eye was The Cure For The Avatar Blues. The piece talks about a CNN Entertainment report of people feeling depressed after seeing the film. Writer-director James Cameron has the perfect cure for all who are suffering the Avatar Blues"

"Take a walk in the woods, reacquaint with the nature we have right here".

Ask ten different people why they think Avatar has affected people the way it has and you'll likely get ten different answers. I have a personal opinion about it, I may be wrong, I may be right. But I think the underlying reason for the Avatar phenomenon is because it addresses something we tend to neglect in our lives....a matter of our spirit. Not in a dogmatic religious sense, but Avatar quells our need to reconnect not only with nature, but with our own inner selves.

I'll talk about this more in Part Two of this piece.

Watch 'Hope For Haiti' Telethon Live | Fancast News

The live event is on tonight. Watch and give generously....these people need your help.

Watch 'Hope For Haiti' Telethon Live | Fancast News

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Biz, unions freed to spend big on elections | General News |

In a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court voted today to let unions and big business spend directly to political campaigns. Conservative associate justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas ruled in favor, along with Chief Justice John Roberts, while John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg,Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotamayor dissented.

The ruling questions the intent of the the Tillman Act of 1907, in which corporations were barred from contributing directly to federal candidates.

Some voices regarding the ruling....

"The court's ruling threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions around the nation."- Justice John Paul Stevens.

"It's going to be the Wild Wild West. If corporations and unions can give unlimited amounts ... it means that the public debate is significantly changed with a lot more voices and it means that the loudest voices are going to be corporations and unions."....Ben Ginsburg, a Republican lawyer who has represented several Republican campaigns.

If you thought political advertising was out of control already, stick around....its going to get more intense. This ruling could open the door to special interests having point men in Congress working directly for them, for all intents and purposes, it would be perfectly legal.

No more statesmen, but an empowered group of legal bagmen.

If you thought the upset win of Scott Brown was monumental, it pales in comparison to this ruling. Indeed, a sad day for America.

READ MORE....from

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Brown Wins, Christie In- A Black Tuesday For Dems

Senator Elect Scott Brown, Rep-MA

Yesterday it became abundantly clear very early- Scott Brown, darling of the Tea Party set, would win the special election for the US Senate seat once held by the late Teddy Kennedy. The little known Massachusetts state senator defeated favorite Martha Coakley, the Democratic attorney general of the Commonwealth.

The prospect of Kennedy's Senate seat going to a man who's election would probably-and ironically- end any hope of meaningful healthcare reform was a cruel twist of fate. Healthcare reform was Kennedy's baby....and the election of Brown would give 41 Senate seats to the Republicans, giving them the ability to filibuster any legislation that the right wished to, including healthcare reform.

Attorney General Coakley might have run the worst campaign in the history of Massachusetts politics- she had a double digit lead at Christmas, and lost the election 52 to 47 percent three weeks later.

Yesterday I was upset at this probable outcome- so much so I decided not to aggravate myself, and went to see AVATAR rather than watch the returns and the bellowing of the triumphant GOP gasbags. Its ironic that members of the same party that once denounced former Palin- almost-son-in-law Levi Johnston for posing nude in Playgirl- Sarah Palin called it "pornography"- are now welcoming Brown, who posed nude in Cosmopolitan in 1982, as a new GOP superstar.

Its not about legislation or statesmanship anymore. It's about wins and losses, and trench warfare between the two major parties. This struggle between the parties became a bloodsport in the early 1990's, much more so than at any time in our history. What this has devolved into is governmental inertia- inefficient and broken, with members of the two major political parties forever blaming the other for the nations ills.

On one side we have the Republicans, dominated by "ends justify the means" NeoCons, and their allies, the Bible thumping TheoCons. And in the other corner we have the Democrats, of whom, as Bill Moyers said on Real Time With Bill Maher, need to get a spine.

I'm not as angry with the GOP as I am with the Democrats. They had a 60-40 majority in the Senate. They had the momentum and the hammer. They had a majority in The House. And they had a President who still maintains a reasonable amount of popularity. But Democrats being Democrats, they found bigger and better ways to shoot off their own toes. Ted Kennedy's body laid to rest less than five months ago, and the unthinkable happened.

Brown may surprise us and become a voice of moderation. But I wouldn't bet on it, because the Republican Party, with its suggestions of "purity tests", has become more sectarian and parochial than the most stringent of principalities of pre Reformation Europe.

Governor Chris Christie,Rep-NJ

Meanwhile the fun and games began for real in New Jersey where Republican Chris Christie was sworn in as the new governor. The self appointed biggest Bruce Springsteen fan in the state couldn't get The Boss to play at Christie's "Inaugural Cocktail Party", leading some Republicans to chide Springsteen for his progressive politics. You know, the "just shut up and sing" stuff. They're the same people that seem to forget that the Red States and country music are "perfect together", and for Nashvile to even lean slightly to the left would be seen as an act against God and country. Just ask Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks how criticizing a Republican president worked out for them.

Governor Christie marched into his office today, sporting what appeared to be an American flag tie. I guess American flag pins are so last decade. He then signed eight executive orders that he says will make New Jersey more business friendly.

All I can say is, he wanted this job, now he owns it. Its not like being a federal prosecutor.

Glory Days?

We'll see.

Avatar- Worthy of the Hype and Much More

Yesterday I wrote that rather than sit home and watch a political debacle unfold in Massachusetts I'd go to the movies to try to escape from the news for a few hours. Actually, the time was ripe for me to see if all of the hype involving James Cameron's film Avatar was deserved. For weeks all we've heard was how amazing it was, what a benchmark the in filmmaking AVATAR is, and above much money it was earning worldwide.

So I decided to check it out. I opted on the 3-D version at my local multiplex. I paid what I initially thought was an outrageous sum of $13.50 for a ticket, plus anther nine bucks for a Reese's pieces and a small coke. I sat there with the small Tuesday night audience watching the endless commercials, and then the trailers for the upcoming summer movies. At the appointed time we were told to put on our 3-D glasses.And within only a few minutes all my reservations were tossed out the window.

I was seeing something special....amazing....groundbreaking.

In a word....wondrous.

Avatar is more than a film- its an experience. The viewer is dazzled by its special effects, where they are transported 150 years into the future to Pandora, a moon of the planet Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri star system. This is world being colonized by corporations from Earth- in particular, the United States- because of its abundance of the mineral unobtanium, which is used as a fuel on Earth. Pandora is inhabited by primitive hunter-gatherer humanoids called the Na'vi. They are a tall race with bluish skin and feline features. To these people, all of nature is sacred and they value the interconnection between all living creatures and their mother deity called Eywa.

Predictably there is a collision course between the Earth colonists, called the "Sky People", and the Na'vi. The Avatars are a biological mutation taken from the DNA of the humans and the Na'vi. They are controlled by genetically matched human "operators" in a controlled environment. Jake Sully, a wheelchair bound ex Marine goes to Pandora to control the avatar meant for his deceased twin brother. Jake's avatar goes out on a mission with those of scientists Grace Augustine and Norm Spellman. The Jake avatar becomes separated from the other two. He enters an amazing world of wolflike beasts, lemur-ish creatures, armored giants that resemble rhinos on steroids, and plant life that is...literally...out of this world. Jake meets Neytiri, the princess of a group of Na'vi. He is introduced into the world of the Na'vi and their beliefs. He grows to love Neytiri and her clan, but soon finds himself in conflict with his new life and that of his own real race; the human colonists aim to remove the Na'vi, either by resettling them, or failing that, to kill them.

More on the cast and plot can be found at the avatar Official Website, and Wikipedia does a fair job giving more information and background. I was originally going to add a theatrical trailer to this post, but even those on YouTube are in a wide screen format and would be chopped off in the blog's margins. To see an extended HD trailer for the film click here.

The Na'vi and the Na'vi avatrs were portrayed using performance capture by actors Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Wes Studi, and CCH Pounder among others. One of the ironies for the viewer was that these computer generated images become more human than most of the human characters in the film. We root for these primitives in their struggle against the earth colonists, led by the evil Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the head of security and possibly the most villainous screen presence since Darth Vadar or Hannibal Lector.

About an hour into the film I realized my jaw had dropped, probably from the start of the picture; also, the bag of Reese's Pieces I was clutching in my right hand had long since melted, and the Coke in the holder on my left was flat because the ice had melted in it. I was into the film so much that I felt like I was drawn into this miraculous, otherworldly 3D universe. The characters were compelling, the theme familiar- there is the obvious comparison to Kevin Costner's DANCES WITH WOLVES. It is a story of the noble primitives who are more in tune with- and have a greater appreciation for- the sanctity of life than those who have come to "civilize them".

James Cameron's film came with a created mythology, customs, rites, and language for the Na'vi. In this way the film was similar to STAR WARS, STAR TREK, and THE LORD OF THE RINGS epics of fantasy. The blue Na'vi are said to be a homage to Hindu deities.

In my spare time I've been reading The Imperial Cruise by James Bradley. In the book Bradley explores American foreign policy in the Far East at the turn of the 20th Century. A little known chapter of our history involves American occupation of the Philippines in the early 1900's, right after the United States seized them from Spain in the Spanish-American War. An insurrection occurred, and as many as 20,000 Philippine freedom fighters were killed, as well as up to 300,000 civilians. They were the victims of US troops, some of whom executed all males in a village over the age of ten to insure they wouldn't raise arms against American forces. I couldn't help but think about the book as I was watching AVATAR- it was as if James Cameron turned into a modern Nostradamus, looking into his pool of water and seeing a possible tragedy in a world far away in the distant future.

And I also thought about the late Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist who's best known work was THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. Late in his life Campbell became a close friend of George Lucas, and Campbell often used STAR WARS as an example of modern mythology presenting classic themes for a contemporary  audience. Campbell would have been astonished by this epic film; he often said that the artist- in this case the filmmaker- is the modern equivalent of the primitive shaman, the interpreter of mythology. "Mythology" is not a false belief, but a universal truth told in the guise of a story.

In AVATAR, James Cameron has taken his place in a modern pantheon of contemporary mythologists- this is an epic tale that will only grow in stature in time.

It is also ironic that so much technology was used to tell a story about the beauty and interconnection of all living things. And when presented with the choice of going on my computer to write this entry or taking a long walk on a mild day in January I chose the former.

But I will go outside and take a few deep, cleansing breaths when I finish.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On This Very Political Tuesday- I'm Steppin' Outta Here!

Some readers log on the blog to check out my opinions regarding the political situation statewide here in New Jersey, or regarding national or world affairs.

Today in New Jersey we swore in a new governor, Republican Chris Christie. In Massachusetts the readers of the tea leaves tell us that the good citizens of the Commonwealth will probably be electing Republican Scott Brown, a one time male model, to fill the Senate seat once held by Ted Kennedy.

Being a longtime Democrat, I can do one of three things right now.

(1) Whine, carry on, attack and cry FOUL, or call for a recount in Massachusetts and impeachment in New Jersey.

(2) Or I can fall into total despair and blow my brains out. Problem is, I don't own a gun.

(3) Or can say F%CK IT....turn off the TV, go to the Cineplex and be among the last people on earth to see AVATAR, come home and get hammered on some Yeugling Lager, and write a thoughtful and rational analysis (while nursing a hangover) of what's going on politically sometime tomorrow.

That's right, Drew. I want #3!

Talk you later!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr; His Legacy and His Work Goes On

There is irony abound in this Martin Luther King Day. One year ago Dr. King's birthday was a celebration, with this nation about to inaugurate its first African American president. We gave ourselves a collective pat on the back; we felt that we may have at last gotten to "The Promised Land" that Dr. King talked about the night before he was assassinated. We thought that, indeed, we have were really there- that the content of ones's character should be all that matters.

But we're not quite there yet, as the events of the past year have told us. We have a president how has been attacked by some on the lunatic fringe as being racist, or a man who was not even legally the president because (they claim) he was foreign born. There have been some, even in the hall's of Congress, who have treated this President with disrespect....Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina even called President Obama a liar on the House floor.

We are closer to the goal of Dr. King's dream, but aren't quite there yet.

And this past week Haiti, a nation of descendants of former slaves and the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake. The de facto head of the conservative movement in the United States told his radio listeners not to help the hundreds of thousands of those affected. And the nations most popular tele-evangelist had his viewers believing the Haitian people got what they deserved because 200 years ago Haiti's leaders made a pact with the devil.

Racism is dying in America....but it ain't dead yet. Americans of all backgrounds have given from their hearts during this crisis, even while we are recovering from the worst economic downturn since the 1930's. As I've said before, the United States is a good, benevolent.....but very human and flawed....giant.

This morning I watched the two hour documentary King on The History Channel. It was hosted by Tom Brokaw, and covered the life and career of Dr. King, and was a warts and all portrait. Something that has been forgotten with the passage of time (and this film was a reminder) were the problems endured by King in his last years. Yes, King leadership helped bring about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act. But when Dr. King brought his movement north to Chicago and the the inner cities north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and started to focus on the poverty of America's underclass, he met resistance from America's white middle class, and even from some former liberal allies. Dr. King's opposition to the Vietnam War alienated him from his ally President Lyndon Johnson, as well as from white Middle America. J. Edgar Hoover led the charge to label King as a communist, and many in the United States started to believe this smear. Some younger African Americans felt King's non violent approach was too soft; some started following more miltant leaders in black American like Stokley Carmichael.

But Dr. King stood by his principles, and never abandoned his tactic of non violent confrontation. His way was that of Mahatma Gandhi.

And it was like Gandhi, that he died- a nonviolent man cut down by a gunshot.

The best, the brightest, and the greatest. What is it in our nature that leads us to try to extinguish our own guiding lights?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

60 MINUTES -The Tragedy in Haiti (Sunday January 17, 2010)

Byron Pitts reports from Haiti about the ongoing struggle to save lives in the earthquake devastated island nation.

Some of the images presented are disturbing, but the report shows the reality of what is going on as of this time.

For more information, visit the 60 Minutes website.

Be sure to MUTE the Music Playlist in the middle/left hand margin to listen to the audio of the report.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Orlando Sentinel - The TV Guy – George W. Bush on Rush Limbaugh’s Haiti comments: Now’s not the time to focus on politics

On this morning's FACE THE NATION Bob Schieffer asked former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush about Rush Limbaugh's comments about contributing to Haitian relief


Saturday, January 16, 2010

NFL Picks For Divisional Weekend

I'm kind of pressed for time and will be gone for most of the afternoon, but before I exit here's my picks for this weekend's NFL Divisional games.

Ravens at Ray Rice and the Baltimore ground attack, but it looks like Joe Flacco might be a little more beat up than generally known. The Ravens need a passing attack to score more points than Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and the Colts will put up. Colts win 31-14.

Jets at Chargers.....keep riding the crest of the wave into SoCal. On paper it looks like a mismatch, Rivers has had a fantastic year for the Chargers while Sanchez is still taking baby steps in his pro career. But there's just something about the way the Jet's defense has been playing that indicates they just might be able to force some turnovers and win a squeaker. I'll go against the conventional wisdom and take the Jets in a nail biter, 24-21.

Cowboys at Vikings....if you've ever read my pro picks before you'll know what's coming next; ABC- "Anybody But (the) Cowboys". It doesn't matter that Favre and Childress will have a steel cage death match after the season is over, or that Adrian Peterson will fumble at least once. Romo must fall, once again, to the guys with the horned helmets. 21-10 Vikings.

Cardinals at Saints.....Cardinals will win on the road for no other reason but Kurt Warner is playing at an amazingly high level. I agree with most of the smart guys on this; Brees and Warner will give us an old fashioned AFL shootout. Cards win, 42-31.

Then again....I could be (and probably am)....very wrong.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti- Human Tragedy In The Millions


As I type this I'm caught between reveling at what a great and generous country the United States can be when it wants to be, and of the depths of human misery going on in Haiti days after the earthquake that literally reduced that tiny nation to a level close to that of the Stone Age.

As I type this about 40,000 of the dead have been buried, but an estimated 100,000 more are either dead or assumed to be dead and unaccounted for. Bodies are piled in the streets, and some reports indicate that desperate survivors have piled corpses one on top of another to form roadblocks to slow down any passing vehicle that might have food or water.

Survivors appear to be on the brink, with no food or water for days, no government, and hospitals coping as best as they can while makeshift hospitals are set up in hotel lobbies and in tents by relief agencies and volunteers. This afternoon I saw CNN's Elizabeth Cohen tell the audience that she was seeing "Civil War medicine"- amputations that have to be performed on crushed limbs without general anesthesia. There was CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta giving an update as one could hear gunshots in the distance, while it appears that lawlessness and riots might break out at any given second. One could sense his fear that the Haitian people, who have shown patience for days, might be at their breaking point and could resort to violence.

This afternoon CNN showed a relief truck swamped by the humanity around them- young men pushed women and children aside as the workers passed out nutritional biscuits. One man mistook the packaging date (2008) as the expiration date, and told those in the crowd not to eat the food. Some threw the biscuits on the ground, others clutched the truck as it pulled away.

The largest problem seems to be that of security. Supplies, food, water, and medical personnel cannot be deployed because of the risk of being overwhelmed by either the starving masses, or possibly being hijacked by profiteers and thieves.

Its been said the next 48 hours are critical- some semblance of order has to be restored, roads and rubble must be cleared, and food, water, and medical aid has to be set up through distribution points. The United States military has the facility to accomplish this, and hopefully this can be done as quickly as possible.

It is remarkable that when the call came out for financial contributions more than $8 million was contributed via texting....that, ladies and gentlemen, was money that came primarily from the young people of America, who often get a bad rap from oldsters like me. I salute them....and God bless them.

Keith Olbermann was just talking about some genius congressman from Iowa named Steve King, who thinks that the 100,000 Haitian nationals who are in the United States illegally should be sent back to Haiti to help clean up the island. And we wonder why our government is so lacking- send 100,000 people back to a country in chaos....100,000 more to feed and house where there is not enough food or water, and most housing is now a pile of rocks.

I'm sure the Obama administration will continue to do the best it can to alleviate the crisis, and the American people will continue to be generous with financial contributions. But we are a people with a notoriously short attention span. Will we still be caring six months from now? The quake is a tragedy of such enormous proportions that it may take years of American involvement and American money to help ease the pain. And it can't be about restoration of "normalcy"...there never has been a "normal" in Haiti. We have to help them recover, and then take that next step for long term stability.

If we're going to be in it for the long haul, I hope we don't take our eyes off the ball. Once again, the United States, a great but imperfect giant, is the best hope for a suffering people.

To contribute to relief efforts contact the American Red Cross, and be as generous as you can.

"Hugh Jee"

Rush Limbaugh enters race to the bottom on Haiti | DD Guttenplan | Comment is free |

How are Rush Limbaugh's comments about Haiti playing out overseas? Here's one example from the UK's

The author, D.D. Guttenplan, has more disdain for Limbaugh than Keith Olbermann, if you can believe that.

READ MORE....from

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gibbs: Limbaugh's Haiti comments 'really stupid' | Politics News |

Way back in the day, when Al Franken was still doing his comedy schtik on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, before his stint on AIR AMERICA radio, he wrote a book called Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot. It was pretty funny stuff....cruel at times, but a guy as divisive as Rush deserved the shots he took.

More than a decade has passed....and Rush is bigger, fatter, and dumber than ever.

Exhibit 151,712A....Rush told his radio audience on Wednesday that he thought money donated through the White House website for Haiti's earthquake relief wouldn't go to its target. Furthermore, Rush told his "Dittoheads" that its not necessary to contribute to the Haitian relief effort, because the Haiti already gets money via American's income taxes.

Today Presidential spokesmen Robert Gibbs called out Limbaugh....


Along with "big fat idiot"....I'll add "pathetic excuse for a human being" to Mr. Limbaugh's job description.

Olbermann On Limbaugh, Robertson, and The Haitian Earthquake

Keith Olbermann saying its stronger and more forcefully than I ever could.

R&B singer Pendergrass dead in Pa. at 59 |

Sad news from Pennsylvania this morning. Teddy Pendergrass, one of the giants of R&B in the 1970's and 1980's, has died of colon cancer. He was 59 years of age.

Teddy began his career as first the drummer, and then the lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. If I my memory serves me correctly, Teddy left the group for a solo career shortly after an appearance on Dinah Shore's afternoon talk show in the early 1970's. Harold Melvin was delayed for some reason, but the rest of the group appeared- there it was revealed that Harold was not the lead singer of the group, but Teddy was. A rift developed, and Teddy Pendergrass left for a very successful solo career that was going full steam ahead, until he had a car accident in 1982 that left him paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

The musical playlist for this blog leads off with an early hit with the Blue Notes, The Love I Lost.

READ MORE....from

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pat Robertson- Haiti Quake A "Blessing in Disguise"

Once again The Reverend Pat Robertson says something that makes your jaw drop; and then he compounds it and makes what he originally said even worse.

On his 700 Club TV ministry Robertson called the tragic earthquake in Haiti a possible "blessing in disguise" because of the potential to rebuild the structures that were downed. I'm sure the families of the estimated 100,000 dead or the possible 500,000 homeless appreciate his sunny optimism.

But The Reverend Pat doesn't stop there....he then told his audience that the Haitian people made a deal with the devil in order to get their independence during their revolt against "Napoleon III". Actually the Haitian people revolted against Napoleon III's uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte a half century before- but that's OK, Rev. Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Anyway, the source of Haiti's problems were because of this Faustian deal; according to Pat Robertson, this is why the Haitian people have been cursed.

Jewish people have a term for such nonsensical stuff....."Bubbemeises". Loosely translated it means "Grandma's (Tall) Tales".

When it comes from an aging evangelical minister, however, another term should be used...."BS".

Nightmare in Haiti

Its more than a little sobering when you consider the numbers involved- an earthquake that might have killed more than 100,000 people and effected 500,000 or more.

We're talking about a loss of life in a single day that may exceed that the US sustained in the 14 years of the Vietnam War times two. The injured and displaced might be enough to fill the University of Michigan's "Big House" stadium five times over. And these are just the early estimates- nobody will be sure for weeks what the actual toll will be.

Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere, yet I would bet few Americans could find it on a map of the region. Its been deforested for years, and most of its people live in unimaginable poverty. Its safe to say that many Americans might have better backyard sheds or more comfortable garages than the structures that many on this western half of Hispaniola call "home".

This blog dabbles in politics, but is actually more of an entertainment for its readers. But in a situation like the one that exists in Haiti as I type this, there is little glibness. The only thoughts are for those in suffering and in pain, and and of prayers, and a modest offer to help in a small way.

Below, the raw video from CBS and YouTube of the tragedy. Sadly, some of the comments at the site where this was originally posted contain some of the ugliest racist garbage I've seen in years.

Thousands feared dead as major quake strikes Haiti | General News |

Above, the collapsed ruins of the Presidential Palace in Haiti

When you start reading the stories of the devastation in Haiti, and seeing the images of the destruction, you have to feel almost ashamed to be complaining about how cold and uncomfortable the weather has been here in the United States.

The story continues to unfold in what might be the greatest natural disaster to befall the Western Hemisphere in more than 200 years.

READ MORE....from General News |

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hey, What Are You Lookin' For? (Winter Edition.....Stay Warm, My Friends)

Its time once again to check out just what topics people are logging in to read about on this blog....and to heck with current events and politics. Its all about personalities for the month of December. And maybe its just as well. All of the rankings are in reverse order, and come from information courtesy of GOOGLE DIAGNOSTICS.

(10).Mike Kim/Cash for Clunkers. Don't ask me how this happened, because I'm not some tech wiz. Somehow a post I did back in July about Mike Kim's appearance on THE DAILY SHOW got read as something to do with "cash for clunkers". Mike Kim is a man who smuggles dissidents out of North Korea to safety in Japan and in the west. Blame it on the blasted "Google-bots".

(9) Slit Skirts. The ninth most queried topic on this blog for the last month was probably from pervy dudes looking for pics of women in "slit skirts". What they got was this video from Pete Townshend and the story about how I couldn't get the song out of my mind after hearing it played in an Hungarian Deli in New Brunswick....true story!

(8.) Home shopping queen blogspot. People drop into this blog, I suppose, to see if there is any news about "Queen Bea" and if there is any news about her blog. Sadly, there is no news to report. No activity, no news since last summer.

(7.) Colleen Lopez. I mentioned Colleen Lopez last February about her video where she started laughing uncontrollably and had to go to break, and posted the video here. To this day it remains one of the most queried posts on this blog. Some folks just can't get enough of the ladies of home shopping.

(6). and (5) both tie in to the #1 most queried topic of December 2009. Relax! It'll all work out.

(4). Bobby Bowden Trivia. Coach Bowden got several mentions towards the end of 2009. Topics included his forced resignation, the Gator Bowl victory....and the idolatry practiced by that duo from ALLSTATE, Bergwood and Hamm, for the former Florida State coach. But there really wasn't a heck of a lot of Bobby Bowden trivia.

(3) Kim Parrish. Kim remains one of the most queried persons on this blog, month in and month out. She's moved her KIM PARRISH COLLECTION to ShopNBC, and her line will be featured January 13, 20, and 21. Click here for times and more information.

(2) Davinia Palmer. Yes, another personality from the world of home shopping. Welsh born Davinia was the second most queried person on this blog in December. She made a splash at QVC in the United States several years ago, then left abruptly. After connecting some dots, and doing some searches, we've found Davinia based in Southern California and doing voiceover work. With her distinctive accent Davinia should do the voice for a "lady lizard" so the Geico Gecko won't have to spend Valentine's day alone.

But the most queried topic (1)....along with numbers 5 and 6...."Molly Evans Monk"(1), "Judge Rickover" (5), and "Monk Molly Evans"- all which referred to the entries written about the last episode of MONK, the comedy-mystery which ended its long run on USA network last month. Judge Rickover, the murderer of Trudy Monk, was played by Craig T. Nelson, and Trudy's daughter Molly Evans was portrayed by the lovely young Israeli born actress Alona Tal.

And these, ladies and gents, are the people who you wanted to read about on UT&MR in the month of December. There's a lot of homeshopping fans and a lot of "Monkish" folks spending time here.

The Sarah and Harry Follies; 2010 Edition, Chapter One


She attended four different institutions of higher learning in a five year span, one of which twice, making it a perfect five for five. In between she managed to finish third in her state's Miss America pageant competition. Armed with her degree in communications (with an emphasis on journalism) she was a sportscaster on local TV, mainly working on weekends.

After marrying and working in her husband's business she was elected to her city council (four years), was later elected to be mayor of a relatively small town where she served for six years. Following that she served on an appointed board in her home state for two years, and was elected governor of her home state, where she served 30 months of her four year term before resigning for obscure reasons.

Oh, she was also selected to be the vice presidential candidate by the Republican Party in 2008, where she managed to become part of American pop culture, whether she wanted to or not.

All of the above, and being photogenic and conservative was more than enough to qualify Sarah Palin to become a commentator for FOX NEWS. Indeed, voices like hers debating the challenges of the 21st century.

I think Keith Olbermann went out and celebrated last night. The wealth of material he's going to gain from this marriage- PRICELESS!

Not to mention to hundreds-THOUSANDS- of bloggers here in cyberspace.

To all conservatives who just watched their blood pressure elevate, stick around for a few minutes....I'm going to talk about Harry Reid for a little while.

To those of you living under a rock, this week's- and the New Year's first- bit of political furor involves a gaffe concerning Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a passage of the book Game Change, written by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin.

Here's an excerpt from the passage in question....

"Years later, Reid would claim that he was steadfastly neutral in the 2008 race; that he never chose sides between Barack (Obama) and Hillary (Clinton); that all he did was tell Obama that "he could be president," that "the stars could align for him." But at the time, in truth, his encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a "light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," as he later put it privately"

Now, I'm not going to make excuses for Senator Reid for what he said, or what he allegedly said. The words could be said to racially insensitive at the least, or just plain bigoted at the most extreme. But let's peel this back just a bit and ask this question to white many of you said or thought the same thing behind closed doors regarding Barack Obama, but never had your words or thoughts thrown out there for public scrutiny?

For the Republicans to ask for Reid's head on a silver platter because of this gaffe is probably a new high in their hypocrisy. The GOP who sat back and said nothing while birthers questioned Obama's citizenship. The GOP who sat on their hands while tea baggers had posters of Obama as a jungle primitive. The GOP, who had one of their own elected legislators call the President of the United States a liar during a joint session of Congress, and cried like a bunch of five year olds when the perpetrator was chastised for doing so.

Harry Reid should have kept his mouth shut, but he didn't. He repeated, in a not so subtle way, a belief that is older than the Republic, one that goes back to Western Europe in the Age of Discovery- in fact, this belief goes back to the Roman Empire, and was talked about by the historian Tacitus.

Thomas Jefferson believed in it, and so did Lincoln.....and Teddy Roosevelt most surely did.

It is a belief in the superiority of Western Europeans, of Teutonic ancestry....and of the doctrine of Aryan purity.

And no, this was not an invention of Hitler and his Nazi thugs, though he took this theory and twisted it even further to greenlight the Fascist genocide.

James Bradley, in his brilliant history of the 1905 diplomatic mission of the Theodore Roosevelt administration to the Far East The Imperial Cruise, devotes his second chapter "Civilization Follows The Sun" to telling the story of how Teutonic/Aryan beliefs permeated American society, from the Jim Crow South, to the frontier outposts of the American West, to the ivy covered halls of Columbia and Harvard. In a nutshell, the prevalent belief was of only one civilization that mattered, that of the Western Europe and of America, and all others were inferior or in decline, and needed to be eradicated or "civilized".

Bradley's fascinating story tells of an America, though great and a melting pot that offered hope to much of the world, had a dark side that divided the world into an "Us" and "The Others" situation. Once the Indians of the West had been dealt with and blacks had been "put in their place", America could go about its business....and try to civilize "The Others" of the Far East.

We are talking a mentality that existed 105 years ago, and its roots have moved into this century like unwanted crabgrass; Brit Hume telling the world that Tiger Woods needs to become a Christian in order to gain forgiveness; a justice of the peace will not marry a biracial couple in Louisiana because the justice has concerns for any children they might have; and now the Senate Majority leader is quoted that the first American President of color was acceptable because he didn't sound like...."The Others".

Race- and talking about race- is still the last big taboo in America. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, and all in between is OK, but race is the one subject we still have to dance around the eggshells. To anyone who thinks "The Age of Obama" would change that, guess again. There may come a day when we can talk about race without repercussions or possible recriminations, but that day is not in the forseeable future.

Ironically, the Reid/Obama story broke on the cusp of the next national holiday- Martin Luther King Day.

And so it goes.

AFL-CIO NOW BLOG | Trumka: Washington Lacks Political Courage to Fix Nation’s Jobs Crisis

Richard Trumka, President of the national AFL-CIO, called out the leadership in Washington for lacking the political courage to address the jobs crisis in America at a speech before the National Press Club in Washington, DC.


Click for AFL-CIO NOW Blog and for AFL-CIO Website.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wild Card Weekend NFL Picks/ Carroll Leaves USC For Seahawks!

OK guys, I'll go on the record and give you my picks for this weekend's Wild Card weekend NFL games. Mind you, I've given up on all sound reasoning on picking pro games years ago, because there really isn't any. And this year was probably even more bizarre than most- I mean, what are the odds of having two teams play each other in the last regular game of the season, only to meet again in the next week during the first round of the playoffs?

And to have that happen in three of the four games scheduled. Albert Einstein once said that "God does not play dice".

There has to be divine intervention at work....when all else fails, either credit or blame The Big Guy.

So without further's my picks.

Jets 24, Bengals 20....a tight game won by the Jets D and the running of Thomas Jones. And they're the local team- I have to take them. I can't imagine life without one of Rex Ryan's post game pressers. He may not be the best coach in the NFL yet, but he surely might be the funniest.

Eagles 30, Cowboys 21....David Akers kicks three field goals to be the difference for the Birds. Besides, its as simple as "ABC"...."Anybody But (The) Cowboys". And the Eagles are my brother's team.

Ravens 28, Patriots 17.....Because of Pro Bowler Ray Rice. Greatest Rutgers player ever now the best the school has sent to the NFL. Also, Welker is out for the Pats, Brady is beat up, and who knows if Randy Moss is copping an attitude this week?

Packers 35, Cardinals 21.... Because the Cards are only allowed to win playoff games every 50 years. 2060 is a long way down the pike. And I really like the way Aaron Rogers and the Pack closed out the year.

That's it....

But of course.......I could be wrong.

This Just In!!! Pete Carroll to leave USC to take over the Seattle Seahawks! They say the third times the charm. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter its a done deal.

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