Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Birthday Bebe (Neuwirth)!


The Faculty


Morticia & Gomez

Last day of the year happy birthday wishes go out today for one of my favorite actresses, dancers, and performers, Ms. Bebe Neuwirth! (Pronounced Bebe)
Beatrice J Neuwirth was born and raised in Princeton, New Jersey. There's a college there I'm told. Another ballet girl, she started when she was five years old, but continued and was dancing on stage by 7. After graduating from Princeton High School, she attended The Juilliard School in New York City, where she concentrated on her ballet dancing, also performing with the Princeton Ballet Company in productions of "Peter and the Wolf," "The Nutcracker," and "Coppelia."
Naturally she began her professional career on the stage, and would continue working in theater throughout her career.
Bebe made her Broadway debut in the role of Sheila in "A Chorus Line" in 1980 when she was just 22, and in 1986 won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in "Sweet Charity."
That year she began her work on Television in a big way by securing the role of Dr. Lilith Sternin, M.D., Ph.D., Ed.D., A.P.A., the monotone, emotionally repressed psychiatrist on the hugely successful sitcom "Cheers." This has become her signature role, one she was afraid of being typecast in forever, and thus refused a permanent role on the shows spinoff, "Frasier." She appeared in 80 episodes of "Cheers," between 1986 and 1993, including the show finale, and 12 episodes on "Frasier" (and one episode of "Wings,"). She won two Emmy Awards playing Lilith on "Cheers."
Here's a clip of Bebe on "Will and Grace," concerning the character of Lilith:
She began her film career in 1989 in Cameron Crowe's very first film, "Say Anything," with John Cusack, and Ione Skye, and has been acting in television and films ever since. Here are some of my favorites: "Star Trek, the Next Generation," the Warren Beatty gangster movie "Bugsy," "Jumanji," "Celebrity," (A Woody Allen film in which she plays a hooker who teaches Judy Davis how to perform oral sex with a banana, and which she says Woody wrote specifically for her... one just has to wonder... why?), "Malice," with Nicole Kidman, "The Faculty," the Robert Rodriguez fact based story of how aliens take over a high school, and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." That's just a few.
She continued her work on the stage, her first love, winning another Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical as Velma Kelly in "Chicago," Here's a taste:
And she's done a whole bunch... a whole bunch of other stuff.
Such as, this year she starred on Broadway as Morticia Addams in "The Addams Family" musical, with another two time Tony winner, Nathan Lane, who played Gomez.
No one knows where she and her husband lives. It's all some kind of secret.
Still, all of us here at Joyce's Take wish the lovely Bebe continued good fortune and health for her and her family, and anybody else she may happen to meet, and of course, a very, very happy birthday... AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Happy Birthday Bebe!

2010 2


The lovely actress Patricia Neal died from lung cancer on August 8th at her home in Massachusetts. She had starred in one of my favorite films, "The Day the Earth Stood Still, and won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her 1964 performance in "Hud." She was 84 years old.

On August 18th the last U.S. combat troops in Iraq crossed the boarder into Kuwait, leaving an advisory force of 50,000 soldiers.
The President would announce the end of combat operations (Operation Iraqi Freedom) when addressing the nation on August 30th. The remaining troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by the end of 2011. Many worry they will be replaced by private contractors.

Thus ends (hopefully) one of the most tragic and shameful chapters in the history of the United States foreign policy.


On the 11th of September, the 9th anniversary of the attacks on the Twin Towers, stage, film, and television actor Kevin McCarthy died of pneumonia. He was a prolific actor but was probably best known for appearing in the 1956 Sci Fi classic, "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (based on a true story, I'm told). He was 96 years old.

On September 16 the U.S. Census Bureau released information claiming the poverty rate had hit a 15 year high (thanks President Bush! Yes, I said Bush, not Obama. Bush got us into this mess, and Obama's trying to get us out... I think). The percentages of Americans living below the poverty line, or $10,830 for an individual and $22,050 for a family of four, reached a 15-year high in 2009, stating that over 44 million of our citizens were considered living in poverty. That would be about 1/7th of the total population.

The next day the President appointed Elizabeth Warren special adviser to oversee the development of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This was a strategic move on Obama's part, needing to appoint her due to pressure from his progressive base, while circumventing the Senate confirmation process for the time being, as the Senate Republicans would surely oppose her confirmation as the actual head of the agency because Elizabeth Warren is not a right-wing tool who can be bought like most of the other finance officials they are used to working with, and who are already ensconced within the President's financial team of advisors.
Here's Funny or Die's Presidential Reunion starring Will Farrell, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Carrey, and some others, discussing the CFPB:

On September 28th, the movie director Arthur Penn passed away. He was responsible for such classic films as, "The Miracle Worker ," "Bonnie and Clyde," "Alice's Restaurant," "Little Big Man," "The Missouri Breaks, and "Penn & Teller Get Killed." He died of congestive heart failure one day after his 88th birthday.

On September 29th the star of such films as "Houdini," "The Vikings," "The Defiant Ones," "Some Like It Hot," "Operation Petticoat," "Spartacus," "Captain Newman, M.D.," "Sex and the Single Girl," "The Great Race," "The Boston Strangler," and "Lobster Man From Mars," husband to Janet Leigh and father to Jamie Lee Curtis... Tony Curtis died of cardiac arrest in his home in Nevada. He was 85.


My lovely case manger and I would have our last Tuesday breakfast at McDonalds together before she went corporate, on October 12th.

That very day, while Erin and I were munching down on McGriddles, the first of 33 miners in Chile was rescued after spending 68 days trapped underground. The rest of the miners were brought to the surface within the next 24 hours.

On the 19th, I taught young Erin how to vote in the upcoming election while we had our last Tuesday breakfast together. I cooked.

On that day, while Erin and I were enjoying our delicious egg and cheese burritos, a one-day strike over the French government's pension reform plan turned into widespread protests, gas shortages, blockaded roads, closed schools, and violence in France. President Sarkozy and his government were proposing raising the legal minimum requirement age from 60 to 62, which resulted in the demonstrations of millions of French citizens.

Americans need to take a lesson from our French friends, and stop being sheepeople.

And "Happy Days," Mr. C, Tom Bosley died of heart failure on this day as well. He was 83 years old.

Busy day.

On October 22nd the International Space Station broke the record for maintaining the longest continuous human occupation in space. 3,641 days.

And Erin gave me a Starbucks muffin for my birthday on October 27th. Tasty.


After the midterm elections of November 4th, the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, and gained seats in the Senate, but not the majority.

On November 17th, with the help of the Large Hadron Collider, those researchers at the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research, I don't know why that turns into CERN. Europeans, what can I say?) trapped 38 antihydrogen atoms for a sixth of a second, which was the first time humans have trapped antimatter.

Monkeys have been doing it for centuries.

On the 23rd North Korea attacked the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong with artillery, killing two civilians and two marines. This was the first time North Korea had fired on a civilian target since the suspension of the Korean War in 1953, and would escalate tensions between the two countries who are technically still at war. Now the United States is an ally of South Korea. You may remember that little skirmish we had in the 1950s called The Korean War. If these two don't begin to behave themselves we might find ourselves in a similar situation, but this time with a nuclear power. Oh my!

On the 24th, former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, finally, finally, was convicted of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering involving corporate campaign contributions. It only took, what, five years? He faces a possible sentence of 99 years, and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

On November 28th, Wikileaks released its collection of 250,000 American diplomatic cables that got everybody so upset:

Leslie Nielson died the same day:


Director Blake Edwards died on the 15th of December:

On that day President Obama announced that the United States would support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This would create a new controversy the right wing-nuts could make up, claiming that Obama was a secret Indian who would "cash in" on giving back significant amounts of land, including parts of Manhattan, back to the Indians. In my mind that may not be such a bad thing, but the problem for our right wing friends is that UN resolutions are none binding, that means they have no force of law.

Sorry righties. Keep looking for Barack's birth certificate.

Sadly December 16th was my lovely case manager's last day here at the Las Americas:

Two days later, on the 18th, the Senate voted to repeal the Clinton era policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," that forbade openly gay men and women from serving in the military.

Four days later, on the 22nd, my late mother's birthday, President Obama signed that repeal into law. As it happened, the Senate had been taking some serious uppers that day and passed the New START Treaty for the reduction of nuclear missiles that was agreed upon last March, AND, a health bill for the first responders of the 9/11 attack in New York. It was like passing a kidney stone the size of cat for the Republicans, but hell, Obama had given their corporate masters an extension of their tax breaks earlier, further increasing the federal deficit by about 407 billion dollars we don't have, so they couldn't complain too much.. could they?

Oh yes they could.

And that was part of the year 2010. May we hope for "Interesting Times" in 2011. Happy New Year my friends. Peace.

And one more clip from Rachel. According to her viewers, the best thing she did throughout the year:

Thursday, December 30, 2010


As the year draws to a close it is time for Joyce's Take to look back at 2010 in our annual "Year in Review."
Ahh, since we didn't do one last year this is actually our first one. Well let's hope to make this a yearly tradition, and hope nothing happens tomorrow that is important enough to be included in this post, so I'm calling for a worldwide day of inaction.
Now you may be surprised to learn that there were a whole bunch of things that happened during 2010 that are not included in this post. I'm surprised too! But I try to make these posts manageable to take in (read) on a daily business, with the average length around 1, 000 words. Quite often it's a little bit more than that, sometimes quite a bit more when I get carried away, or there's just so much information that needs to be included. This will probably be one of those posts. I don't know, I haven't written it yet. Let's find out, shall we?
I've included some of what I consider the major stories of the year, deaths of individuals that were of particular importance to me, or influenced me in some way, and a few things that happened to people I know, or friends of Joyce's Take.
2010 has been a year of personal growth for me. Two whole inches. There's been a few setbacks in the country as a whole, but we've made some gains as well. That's how life is sometimes. I hope 2010 was a prosperous year for you dear readers. It hasn't been for too many of us.
And I hope 2011 is a better one for all of us.
Well let's get started shall we?
We might as well start with January.


The year stated off poorly with a 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti at seven minutes to five o'clock on the afternoon of Jan. 12th, one of the poorest countries in the world, and one of the lest prepared for this catastrophe. The government estimated that 230,000 people were killed, 300,000 injured, and over a 1,000,000 made homeless. They also estimated that 250,000 homes and 30,000 businesses had collapsed or were severely damaged. It was the region's worst quake in 200 years. Today, due to the country’s abysmal roads and lack of adequate health centers cholera is killing at least one person every 30 minutes.

On January 21 democracy died in the United States of America...
...when the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision ruled that corporations had the same rights as people (but not the responsibilities) and that money equaled free speech, in the Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission case. The conservative "activist judges" paved the way for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections, even foreign corporations, thus allowing them unduly influence in the election process. The Republican Party, the Corporate Party believed to be the major beneficiary of this decision, approved the ruling claiming it was a victory for free speech. The President during his State of the Union Address, said, "Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities." It is unclear how much influence this ruling had on the November 2010 midterm elections as any and all money the Republicans raised seemed to be matched by Democratic donations. We shall see.

On Jan 27 one of my favorite authors (The Catcher in the Rye, Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters, 9 Stories), Jerome David Salinger died at his home in New Hampshire of "natural causes." He was 91 years old.

Some of us from both hotels also went on our first bowling expedition to Pasadena on that day, with case managers Paul and Erin.

They lost.

On January 29, Scott Roeder was found guilty of the murder of abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. This was a clear signal to the so-called "right to life" crowd that it is not okay to kill people in their efforts to protect the rights of embryos.


On February 2nd, my lovely case manager and I had breakfast at the International House of Pancakes due to the fact that I had won the Case Management Appointment Contest.

I was the only contestant.

We both had the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruitys.

February 18th, Joseph Stack III, 53, of Austin, Texas, crashed his private aircraft into an office of the Internal Revenue Service, in Austin, killing himself and one employee. Apparently he was upset after the I.R.S. had taken all of his money.

February 23rd, Jaxen Lee Johnston, my grandnephew, was born. He was 0 days old at the time.

He's much older now.


One goes in, one goes out. On March 6th, my friend Robert Bray passed away in his sleep sometime during the previous night.
He is till very much missed.

The veteran actor Peter Graves also passed away, on March 14th, four days before his next birthday. He battled giant grasshoppers in Chicago in the film "Beginning of the End," accepted impossible missions in "Mission Impossible," let us learn about others on the "Biography," T.V. series, and was Captain Clarence Oveur in the two "Airplane," movies. He was 84 when he died of a heart attack.

On March 21st the House of Representatives passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a bill to overhaul the country's health care system, and sent it to the President to be signed into law. Along with the The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (signed into law on March 30th) the bills, among other things, allowed children to stay on their parents' health insurance plans until the age of 26, prevented insurance companies from denying coverage due to a patient's "pre-existing conditions," subsidized private insurance for low- and middle-income Americans, and required all Americans to have some sort of health insurance. The budget office estimated that the law would reduce the federal budget deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years. This was the greatest attempt at change in the nation's health care system in over 100 years. It did not please everybody. Progressives lamented the fact that a single payer, universal system was not put into place (or even considered, despite promises to the contrary), and the Republicans, calling it Obamacare, we're against anything that President Obama did, even if it was beneficial for the majority of Americans, and want to repeal it.

Good luck with that.

On March 24th the United States and Russia agreed to lower the limit of deployed strategic warheads and launchers (that would be those big intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles that can still wipe out the entire planet) by 25% and 50% respectively, along with a new inspection regime. That's a pretty good thing. This treaty would still have to be ratified by the legislative branches of both countries.

That day actor Robert Culp of "The Outer Limits," and "I Spy," fame, died, also of an apparent heart attack, near his home in the Hollywood Hills. He was 79 years old.


On the 5th of April an explosion caused the deaths of 29 people in the Upper Branch mine, the worst mine disaster since 1970. The owner and operator of the mine, Massey Energy, in 2009, was fined a total of $382,000 for "serious" unrepentant violations for lacking ventilation and proper equipment plans as well as failing to utilize its safety plan properly. In the previous month, the authorities cited the mine for 57 safety infractions. In the two days before the explosion the mine received two citations, and in the last five years has been cited for 1,342 safety violations... this would indicate a certain pattern of disregard for the safety of its employees. The CEO of Massey Energy, a Don Blankenship, has received criticism for his apparent disregard for safety, and considering Massey Energy is the sixth largest coal company in the country, that's all he's likely to receive.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (former bass player for Led Zeppelin) announced April 9th, that he would retire next summer, after serving on the bench for 35 years. Justice Stevens, the most senior member of the court, had proved to be one of the most reliably liberal-voting judges. President Obama nominated United States Solicitor General (the person appointed by the federal government to represent the U.S. to the Supreme Court) Elena Kagan to replace him. She was confirmed by the Senate and joined the bench on August 7, 2010.

On April 20th the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded killing 11 people and resulting in what many consider the greatest ecological disaster in the history of the United States:
An actual Washington Post Headline for April 26th: "Amid Outrage Over Civilian Deaths In Pakistan, CIA Turns To Smaller Missiles."


On May 5th I won the SRHT "Tenant of the Year" award... among many other prizes:

On May 27th the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revised previous figures, and estimated that 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil per day were spilling into the Gulf of Mexico due to the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon collapse of the previous month. The government previously believed that the rig was leaking only 5,000 barrels per day. Given these new estimates, approximately 30 million gallons of oil spilled thus far, becoming the worst spill in America's history.

The veteran actor Dennis Hopper died on May 29th:


On June 16 my lovely case manager, Erin visited the Veteran's Administration's Los Angeles Downtown Clinic... and joined the army:

June 21st saw the Supreme Court uphold a ban on Giving Aid to Terror Groups. In a 6–3 decision on a free speech vs national security case, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law that made it illegal to give "material support" to foreign terrorist organizations, no matter how the aid was meant to be used. Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito supported the majority decision, claiming that any support, even if intended for peace-keeping operations, "bolsters the terrorist activities of that organization." The decision is considered by dissenting groups to be an affront to the protections accorded in the First Amendment, namely the right to freedom of speech. For instance peaceful advice, or just communicating with organizations deemed "terrorist," by the United States government, would be violations of law, and therefore liable for punishment. Many domestic anti war groups have recently been raided by the FBI with the authority this decision provides.

On July 15th Congress passed a landmark Financial Regulation Bill. The bill overhauls the regulation of large financial institutions, credit cards, exotic credit default swaps and derivatives, provides stronger oversight and a brand new consumer protection agency. Many have stated the bill is the strongest measure of reform taken since the Great Depression. Others consider it did not go far enough, pointing out it orders 68 "studies," leaves major decisions up to regulators prone to lobbying and industry influence, includes loopholes, including exemptions for auto dealers who make car loans, etc. The Republicans of course say it is just more big government trying to control business.

That very day British Petroleum finally capped the leaking oil well caused by the explosion of the Deepwater rig after 86 days of crude gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, releasing approximately 205.8 million gallons.

That's it for July, and this is getting pretty long with over 2000 words, so I'll break it up into two parts for your reading convenience, dear readers.

But let me leave you with one of my favorite 2010 segments from the lovely Rachel Maddow, taken from The Rachel Maddow Show:

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Alison (Brie)!

What a Cutie!

Mad Men


Maxim Hot 100

Hi! This morning it's my great pleasure to wish a very happy 27th birthday to one of my new favorite actresses, Ms. Alison Brie!
What a cutie! Anyway, a few months ago I stumbled onto Alison's participation in the short comedy video "The Committee," on Will Farrell's Funny Or Die site, and I secretly fell in love with her almost instantaneously (although she's a little too old for me). Please don't tell anyone.
I mean the subject matter and imagery invoked within the short piece may not be to everyone's taste, or the type of humor, but I certainly enjoyed it, and all of the three actors in the piece are absolutely great, but Alison really makes it work... and she's the cutest, hence my undying admiration.
I have to admit I've never seen her in anything else until I wrote this, but I certainly will from now on, and guess what? She's an L.A. Girl! Isn't that wonderful!
Here's the piece I was talking about. Cousin Kathy please don't watch this:
I told you! Now you're probably in love with her too.
There is some controversy as to what actual city Alison was born. About half the sources I've checked say Pasadena, and the other half say Hollywood. Quite frankly I don't care which one it was as long as it wasn't Reseda. Both are in Los Angeles which makes her an L.A. Girl, which of course are the best in the world, because if they were born here and make it to 27 years old they can breathe anything.
Alison, when you read this please leave a comment which clears up this matter. If you can remember. Thank you.
I do know that she grew up in South Pasadena, which I am very familiar with, having worked for 4 years in Pasadena just north of there. And the Sunday morning A.A. meetings that Ron and I used to attend depicted in the "Salvation Diary," series, is in South Pasadena!
I also used to have a girlfriend who lived in South Pasadena. Patricia. A life insurance salesperson. Enough said.
Anyway, Alison was interested in acting at a very early age, and began performing at the Jewish Community Center in Los Feliz, which is a few miles northwest of where I'm sitting right now. I'm told her very first role was that of Toto in "The Wizard of Oz."
Hey, it's not as easy as you'd think playing a dog! And I should know.
Alison graduated from South Pasadena High School in 2001, then attended the California Institute of the Arts where she received her Bachelor's Degree in Theater. She then took off for Glasgow Scotland to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
She came back to America and began an exciting career as a clown at children's parties. Who knew you needed so much education for that?!
"I'd drive down to the office in Compton in a clown suit and pick up a bag of balloons and a boom box," she says.
And she continued studies in acting in Hollywood, appeared in an episode of "Hannah Montana," and was playing Ophelia in "Hamlet," in Ventura, when she auditioned for a part in AMC's "Mad Men," and got the part.
Now she's a big star and can do Funny Or Die Videos.
She how easy it is aspiring actresses. Just follow the simple steps Alison did and you'll be on TV in no time.
Now I make it a point never to actually watch "Mad Men," because I'm terrified of becoming addicted to Christine Hendricks. However, in 2009 she got a part on the NBC sitcom, "Community," with Chevy Chase.
Now I've never seen "Community," either. I will make a point of it next Thursday. I promise.
This year Alison has appeared in the independent film "Montana Amazon," with Olympia Dukakis, about a crazed grandmother on the lam with two teenagers. Sounds like fun.
And next year she will appear in "Scream 4," with, well you know, all of those actors who survived the first three Scream movies.
This year she was also chosen as #99 in Maxim magazine's "Hot 100" list. I assume they mean hottest 100 girls. Whoever placed her at that number are morons! She's definitely a #1!
Alison still lives in South Pasadena (you can take the city out of the girl, but not the girl out of the city), and unfortunately for me and every other guy except one, seems to have a boyfriend who sneezes a lot.
It being the appropriate time of year here is a little video of Alison portraying a sort of American Idol contestant auditioning by singing her rendition of "Santa Baby."
And all of us here at Joyce's Take wish Alison and her friends and family continued good fortune and health, and a very happy birthday!
Happy Birthday Alison!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas After The Rains 2

Food on the Nickel


The 6th Street Bridge with L.A.



True Grit

Christmas in Alabama


Mistress of the Dark!

Since we were not to have a Christmas Party this year, myself and the other residents of the Las Americas were forced to roam the streets of Skid Row in search of sustenance.
Last Friday, Christmas Eve, there were hundreds of people on the streets, very nice people, who brought all kinds of food and clothes for the folks who found themselves living on Skid Row this year. I went out at about nine o'clock in the morning to get in line for a Christmas dinner at the Los Angeles Mission because I wanted to write about it and I was hungry... and we would have no Christmas Party this year.
But I never made it there. I walked west on The Nickel (5th Street), past the Fred Jordan Mission who was getting ready to serve a Christmas breakfast for the 200 or so people waiting in line. I could have stood in line there and had some nice breakfast (eggs and everything), but they tend to preach too much for my taste at Fred Jordan, so I moved on, and at the very next street (Stanford Ave.), there was another smaller line waiting for a small group of Skid Row visitors to hand out Christmas meals.
I thought to myself, this line is a lot smaller than the one I'm likely to come across at the L.A. Mission. As a matter of fact the L.A. Mission won't even start serving for two more hours, let me try this line instead, then I can go home and get some work done. That's what I thought to myself, and that's what I did.
Within three minutes of getting into that line they started to serve. A group of white people, men, women, and children, about 20 of them, had set up some tables on the sidewalk and had laid out all kinds of food. There was only about twenty people in line in front of me, and very soon an eight year girl handed me a Styrofoam container which others in her group soon filled with spaghetti, dressing, ham, turkey, several cookies, a small piece of pumpkin pie, and a chocolate cupcake with a little Christmas bulb (red) on top.
I hurried away with my new booty and took it to my box for storage, then returned and got another one.
I not only would not starve on Christmas Eve, I now had a nice dinner for Christmas itself, and I didn't have to cook!
I love this place!
I would work the rest of the evening, writing and doing research. I have to do research because I'm not very bright. But during my research I came across a story about the people over at the Fox Propaganda Network, which hosts defenders of Christmas like Bill O'Reilly, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Neil Cavuto, and the rest. You remember. Bill keeps on clamoring about how liberals have declared a "War on Christmas," by not using the word "Christmas," in greetings. Anyway, I loved this passage from the AlterNet post by Mark Howard of News Corpse. Here he is quoting Billo:
"'Every company in America should be on its knees thanking Jesus for being born. Without Christmas, most American businesses would be far less profitable.'

Heartwarming, isn't it? O'Reilly's gratitude for the birth of his savior isn't due to the gift of eternal life. It's for the prospect of higher profits.
I'm sure the O'Reilly's wrath will be suitably deployed when he hears that Fox News has joined the pagen hordes who insult Jesus by taking Christ out of Christmas. During today's broadcast of Fox & Friends they brazenly wished their viewers a happy holiday. And once again, Rupert Murdoch sent a memo to all employees wishing them a happy holiday."

People at Fox... why do you hate the baby Jesus so?
The Sci Fi channel was showing a "Star Trek, the Next Generation," marathon sort of, and I watched several episodes as I worked at my computer Christmas Eve. I could watch this show forever. Every episode is meaningful in some way. They broadcast STNG until 8:00PM, when they put wrestling on. Friday Night Smackdown.
Alright, I agree that wrestling is certainly fictional, but where does the science come in, and why is this on the Sci Fi Channel? Please tell me.
Later in the night I would go to sleep.
At 2:12AM someone tried to get in my door and I had to run them off with a big kitchen knife I keep near my bed for just such purposes. Some white haired fat guy in a red suit who escaped through the fire door exit.
He won't be coming back here anytime soon.
I got up at 3:57AM Christmas morning and posted a Happy Birthday Post for Annie Lennox. Don't take my word for it. You can scroll down and it's right there.
I showered and meditated. During the night the Sci Fi Channel had begun playing STNG again, so I watched two episodes before they switched programming to infomercials at 6:00AM, then took a walk over the 6th Street Bridge. It was very cold and foggy though. Not at all like the picture above. I couldn't see the L.A. skyline for instance. Hell, I couldn't see 100 yards in front of me and the cars and buses came out of the mist rushing past.
When I got back to my warm box I began working while watching KTLK's broadcast (KTLK is a local L.A. station, channel 5) of the Yule Log. They had a TV camera focused on a burning log in a fireplace while Christmas music played. It went on for hours.
On the cable channels TBS decided to play "A Christmas Story," continuously throughout the day, as AMC did with "Scrooged." I thought AMC was going a bit overboard with this particular film, especially since we had just gotten through "Can't Get Enough "Scrooged" Week," when they showed it 8 times in 4 days. I guess they thought we needed to see it some more though.
Thank God for the Sci Fi Channel, which did away with Christmas programming altogether.

Why does the Sci Fi Channel hate the baby Jesus so?

This was the entire day's lineup for the Sci Fi Channel: "Sea Snakes,"-- Snakes on a Plane transfered to a submarine with Luke Perry as the Captain, Tom Beringer as his boss, and the lovely Krista Allen (the "X Files," Bambi) as a snake scientist. And these weren't just your average ordinary poisonous snakes mind you. Oh no, they were giant mutant poisonous snakes... the best kind. Next came "Frankenfish." Enough said. Next, "Eye of the Beast" (a giant squid movie), Lake Placid 2 (Giant Crocodiles), Malibu Shark Attack (goblin sharks), ending up with the night's finale, the two part, four hour "Shark Swarm," with Armand Assante and Daryl Hannah.
Unfortunately I was unable to watch the entire line up.
At 11:00AM, just when "Frankenfish," was about to come on, I left for Universal City's Citywalk, and the AMC (no relation to the television station) movie theaters they have there.
If you remember dear readers, a while back I attempted to see the film "Inception," in Santa Monica, but the theater was unable to show the movie due to focusing difficulties. Everyone was given a pass to another AMC movie to make up for it.
Well I used mine to see the Coen Brother's version of the Charles Portis novel, "True Grit."
Of course, one year after the publication of this novel (1968) a film adaptation was made starring John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, and Kim Darby as Mattie Ross. John Wayne won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of U.S. Marshall Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn.
I've seen that film a few times and liked it. But it was a prisoner of the time it was made, and a bit different from the novel it was based on, a bit more sanitized, a bit more "Hollywood," happy ending.
Well, the Coen Brothers would have none of that!
They set out not to make a remake of the 1969 movie of the same name, but to make their version based on the book, which apparently the first film had deviated from a bit. And the result of their efforts was amazing.
That Jeff Bridges guy again. Well he shined as the "one eyed fat man." Rooster, with Matt Damon as a Texas Ranger, and Josh Brolin as the bad guy they're both after. Damon had been after him for a while, but Rooster was hired by Mattie Ross to hunt him down, played by new comer, 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld. Mattie's father had been murdered by Brolin.
The film was more realistic, more violent, more potent, and much funnier that the first film. I think it really is one of the best, if not the best film of the year.
A weird kind of American dialect is used throughout the movie, which supposedly takes place in Arkansas near the end of the 1800s. As the actor Barry Pepper (who played the part Duvall played in the first film) explained it:
"It was more like doing American Shakespeare. There’s almost like an iambic pentameter, a musicality and a rhythm to the dialogue...Charles Portis has such a specific vernacular of the period. It’s so authentic in my mind because most people were probably pretty illiterate back then. They were maybe schooled on the King James Bible and that really infused the way they spoke..."
That's the way Portis wrote it, and that's the way Joel and Ethan Coen filmed it.
Before I read Pepper's description I too thought the dialogue resembled that of Shakespearian characters, many of which are portrayed as being from lowly origins with similar positions in life while speaking with this tremendous delicacy and richness of vocabulary. If nothing else this utilized in "True Grit," made it very unique and interesting.
And I have to say this. Even though these big time stars, Bridges, Matt Damon, and Josh Brolin, received top billing and all, with Hailee Steinfeld's name not even appearing on the movie poster, in my humble opinion she stole the whole film from those guys. I think she and Jeff will be nominated for Academy Awards, but I think Haliee was the best thing about the whole movie. The scene with her "bargaining," for the sale of horses was worth the price of admission alone. Hell, she's already won 6 awards for best supporting actress (which I don't understand at all, considering she, for all intents and purposes, was the only female in the movie. Why supporting actress? Her age? What, you have to be old to get a Best Actress nomination? That wouldn't be true either, as they did the same thing with Jennifer Connelly in "A Beautiful Mind." I really don't get it. I hope she gets a Best Actress nod from the Academy), and has been nominated for 11 more. I look forward to seeing her career advance (she was 13 when she was selected for the role from a pool of 15,000 applicants).
I left the theater feeling good, and glad that I had come. Then back home I went.
To see "Shark Swarm," on the Sci Fi Channel of course, starring the lovely Daryl Hannah, of "Blade Runner," fame. It was about a bunch of hungry sharks who swarmed.
And those sharks were hungry. They ate up half the movie's actors in the first three hours before people caught on to what was happening. Poor Armand Assante got eaten at the end.
My lovely friend, and sort of niece (she calls me Uncle. I like that) Shannon, posted the beautiful picture above taken near her home in Alabama that day. According to the weather service it hadn't snowed there on Christmas since they had been recording measurements, since the 1950s.
Me being a smart ass from Los Angeles, wrote this comment: "What's all of that white stuff on the ground? Asbestos?"
I read of a massive snowstorm that was pummeling the East Coast, which was causing the snow in the picture. Further north in New Jersey, New York, Washington D.C., the snow really reigned down, and was responsible for closing the airports of those cities, leaving houndreds of thousands, maybe millions of holiday passengers stranded. My lovely friend Erin, would be one of them.
And I found out a wonderful thing. Our friend Elvira (Cassandra Peterson), the Mistress of the Dark, is back on selected stations nation wide with "Movie Macabre," the show she first began her career with here in Los Angeles at KHJ, channel 9. This is the show in which she plays the most God awful movies while making smart ass remarks throughout. I had no idea she was back on the air, but there it was in my TV guide, "Elvira's Movie Macabre," on channel 29, KDOC, an independent television station based in Orange County, at midnight.
I was so happy, but no way would I be able to stay up that late to watch it.
That made me sad so I went to bed.
And woke up for some reason an hour later to see Elvira!
And this weeks movie? The 1964 Christmas classic, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!" starring a little, tiny, very young, Martian Pia Zadora.
And I'll tell you this, for a woman who's four years older than I am, Elvira is STILL SO FREAKING HOT!
And watching her... I mean Movie Macabre, was a great way to end my Christmas after the rains.

Happy Birthday Leonard!

Leonard & Grandson Jake

Happy Birthday wishes go out this morning to my friend Leonard, husband to Bobbie, Father of Shannon, and Grandfather to Kelci and Jake. Happy Birthday Leonard!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas After The Rains

The Storm


Baby Mohawk

I Intrude On The Tron Legacy Cast Party

The citizens of Los Angeles do not know how to deal with weather.
Or rather the only weather they manage successfully is the sunny kind, and many friends of mine who live in other, far away places wouldn't consider that weather at all.
My lovely ex-case manager, Erin, was wearing her rain boots a week ago last Thursday as Hardy (curse him) and I walked her out to her car on the last day of her regular service here at the Las Americas. She had been expecting it to rain because the Weather People had told all of us that it would begin raining on that day, and not only that, but that it would also rain for a long time. They didn't get the start date right, and Erin would be able to escape to New Jersey the next day without incident.
She would be entering another form of hell though, a snowy kind.
The rain started Friday the 17th of December, and it wouldn't stop until the next Wednesday, the 22nd. And the citizens of Los Angeles do not know how to deal with weather.
The entire state was affected as you can see in the satellite photo above of the west coast. Underneath those clouds was a whole bunch of rain.
In downtown Los Angeles where I happen to live we received 5 1/4 inches of the wet stuff in 3 days, that's 1/3 of our total allotment for the entire year. I don't know what we'll do come April when we run out of moisture.
Due to a lot of brush fires Southern California has experienced in the last couple of years there wasn't a whole bunch of vegetation to hold all of the rain soaked ground together, so in many places the earth moved in the form of mud. Water would also rise in places it wouldn't normally. Houses were destroyed. Teary eyed ladies would come on the news programs and tell of how they lost everything due to the rains.
The citizens of Los Angeles do not know how to deal with weather, so what better time to go hiking in the mountains than when a big storm is expected? Hikers had to be rescued.
A woman was rescued from her pickup truck after being swept away in rain-swollen Lytle Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest. She was pulled out and taken to a hospital in good condition.
As far as I know there were no fatalities of humans related to these storms, which is a very good thing considering the citizens of Los Angeles do not know how to deal with rainy weather. The birds didn't like it though. They were miserable. I saw them. Birds don't have anywhere to go when it rains so they just stand in it and endure.
It was colder than usual here in southern California, it being late December and all. Cold and wet.
For myself I stayed in my nice warm box as much as I possibly could throughout the series of storms that pounded the southland, which is good for me as I don't currently have good rain shoes, unlike Erin. A week ago today I walked to the VA Clinic up on Temple Street in the rain and got thoroughly soaked even though I had an umbrella, my shoes especially. But I had to go to my weekly Depression Group, or else I would have to face the week without being depressed.
When I got home I took my shoes off and placed them in front of a fan so the would dry.
I worried about the power going off in the neighborhood and my building, and how miserable I would be not being able to work until it was restored. The power did go off in the nearby community of Torrence, with more than 4,600 outages. Then I remembered that the only times that the power does go off on the building where I live is when it is really hot outside, and when we don't expect it to go off. So my thinking about the possibility of the power going off during the rain storms almost ensured it would not go off.
Good job Rick.
The rain was relentless. It just would not stop for 5 to 6 days straight. It finally drizzled out last Wednesday with a little lightening thrown in just to announce it's fairwell. One big boom of thunder shook me and my box mightily.
I was happy to see it go. My shoes are nice and dry now.
And Christmas was just around the corner.
But we would have no Christmas Party this year because..., well I don't know really. The two case managers were gone one week before Christmas. The incoming case managers, a Robert and Debra, would not know anything about any Christmas Party because they were new and didn't have the benefit of counsel from the old case managers because one of them took off to freaking New Jersey for the holidays, and who knows where the other was? I certainly didn't. Oh yes, and because SRHT management has been infiltrated by Grinches.
It's true. I've seen them.
So no Christmas Party for the Las Americas. Probably the Olympia to.
Nobody else cares very much though. Only me.
It's a matter of principle you see.
I bet the SRHT employees had a nice Christmas Party. Catered. With karaoke.
However, during this time I was able to see the sun set on the planet Mars which is quite remarkable when you think about it. You can see it too, dear readers, right here:
Images from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity were utilized to make that little movie which condensed about 17 minutes into 30 seconds. It being Christmas time the carol, "Deck the Halls," accompanied.
It was only a few years ago when images like that would have been impossible to see. We are in some ways very lucky to live in this age.
Of course people who are born two hundred years from now will say the same thing, and think about how backward we were in 2010.
If we don't blow ourselves up, and deal with all of the problems we now face.
Who knows, by then we may have finished paying off the Reagan and Bush tax cuts, I doubt it, but who knows.
Christmas Eve morning I discovered the picture above entitled "Baby Mohawk," which was the name my lovely friend Shannon christened it. It is a picture of my lovely niece Keri and her son Jaxen. I found this on the social network site Facebook. I added a comment, saying "That looks like my hair in the morning."
It's true. My hair does look like that in the morning. That's the main reason I shower regularly, to wash my hair.
The night before I had watched the new movie, "Tron Legacy," with Olivia Wilde and Beau Garrett... and some guy by the name of Jeff Bridges. Well apparently this Bridges guy had made a movie way back in 1982 called "Tron," which was about him getting sucked into the virtual world of a computer program, and his adventures there. So "Tron Legacy," was a sequel, and guess what? The same thing happened, only to the Bridges character's son! Bridges was already in there, and his son was going to rescue him. A pretty good movie, with stunning visual effects.
There were two jokes in the whole film which is why I'm writing about it. The first joke referred to a line in the original "Tron," movie. Those of you who have seen it will know what I'm talking about.
"That's a really big door."
That's it. You'd have to have been there.
And the second joke has to be set up a little. Sam finds his father Kevin at his virtual house. Kevin's... apprentice, the beautiful Quorra, played by the beautiful Olivia Wilde, is showing Sam around the house and Kevin's book collection, which Kevin had somehow digitized and gotten into the computer grid. Quorra, a computer program, of course had never been in the real world, but she explained she had read all of Kevin's books
"My favorite is Jules Verne," she tells Sam. "Do you know Jules Verne?" she asks him.
"Sure," he answers.
"What's he like?" she asks.

To be continued:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wiki, Wiki, Wiki, Who's Got The Wiki, And Why President Obama Should Be A One Term President, but Probably Won't 3

Rape. Wow, that's a pretty serious change. One that I find particularly onerous. Many do.
Julian Assange has been accused of one count of rape, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of unlawful coercion, allegedly committed in August of 2010.
These charges stem from the accusations of two women, a Jessica and a Sarah, and apparently have to deal with the use of, or non-use, or use of a broken prophylactic, and it seems that the laws Mr. Assange are said to have violated are peculiar to Sweden, technically labeled "rape," charges but no allegations of the use of violence of force have been leveled at him, allegations that one would associate with the charge of rape in the United States.
It is known that the two women knew each other and counseled each other before taking the matter to the Swedish police. At first Assange was wanted for questioning by the police in Stockholm and looked for. The story then leaked to the press which was when the world first heard of it, the emphasis of the story being focused on the word "rape." A Chief prosecutor reviewed the charges against him and dismissed the case believing that what had occurred were no more than minor offenses.
Then Sarah went public speaking to a newspaper, saying, "In both cases, the sex had been consensual from the start but had eventually turned to abuse."
Would she had done this if the man in question was not the now famous media activist, Julian Assange? It would seem to be unlikely. Victims of rape generally do not seek publicity.
The two ladies then hired a "specialist" lawyer, and As a result, in September the case was reopened by the Swedish authorities, and Interpol issued a warrant for his arrest for "sex crimes."
Assange, in England, eventually turned himself in, was jailed, was released on $370,000 bail and placed on "house arrest," in a 650 acre estate near London.
Assange has denied the charges of sexual assault, maintaining he is the victim of a smear campaign led by the United States, which is considering his criminal prosecution for espionage. He states he will fight extradition to Sweden.
If he's not guilty why does he fight extradition? Well he gives a fairly compelling reason. The Swedish authorities only wish to question him and have not actually filed any specific charges. Why, he asks, should he be forced to go to Sweden just because some police investigator wants to question him? If they have any real evidence let them file charges.
Considering that the allegations against him are based solely on the testimony of the two women sans any physical evidence that is usually available in cases of rape, I think I can see his point.
As I write this (Friday afternoon) I'm watching an impassioned Michelle Bernard (a political and legal analyst for MSNBC, and President and CEO of the conservative Independent Women's Forum and Independent Women's Voice), make an impassioned plea on The Dylan Ratigan Show for filmmaker Michael Moore to reconsider revoking his support for Mr. Assange (Moore had donated money towards Assange's bail and legal expenses) siting the seriousness of the crimes involved, suggesting the Mr. Moore maybe "just wasn't thinking right" when he offered assistance. I suggest to Ms. Bernard that she remember the that in this country at least, the accused are innocent until proven guilty, and Mr. Assange's guilt in the above matter has hardly been proven.
Listen: All of the above serves as a distraction. If Mr. Assange is indeed guilty of sexual misconduct, even if no other country in the world has laws quite like the ones he's been accused of violating, then he should be prosecuted to the greatest extent of that law. If he's not guilty of anything, or if the matter of guilt and non-guilt will never be known due to the nature of the crime he's accused of, and the "victims" were not overtly harmed, then he should be acquitted of these charges. In any case this matter has nothing at all to do with Wikileaks, and the work that this organization has done in the past and will continue to do in the future, for as Julian Assange has stated, even if he's locked up Wikileaks will still function, and still publish information.
Fortunately for the sake of "national security" the CIA has just launched its own task force assigned to access the damage or impact of the latest Wikileaks document dump. It's offical name is the WikiLeaks Task Force, or WTF, for short. Yes, really... WTF. lol!
Since the documents were released last November, and since this business in Sweden has surfaced, some financial institutions in the United States that have processed payments to Wikileaks in the form of donations have stated they will stop doing so apparently due to pressure placed upon them by the U.S. government who of course would like nothing better than to shut Wikileaks down. Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, and then Bank of America. They say they have suspended payments to Wikileaks pending an investigation of the organization's business... whatever that means.
In a stunning display of solidarity, thousands of global computer hackers calling themselves "Anonymous," and "Operation Payback," launched coordinated attacks against the websites of these institutions effectively shutting them down. In response networking sites like Facebook and Twitter shut down the communication lines between these hackers, risking retaliation themselves. If nothing else these attacks and subsequent shutdowns demonstrated the vulnerability of these sites, and brought attention to the plight of Wikileaks, perhaps sympathetic attention, perhaps not.
What I find particularly disturbing about the recent events involving Wikileaks and Mr.Assange, is the negative attention paid to him as some sort of traitor (even though he is not an American and therefore cannot be considered a traitor), or terrorist, with some influential Americans calling outright for some outrageous remedies of retribution...
"Some critics," Assange told MSNBC's Cenk Uygur while under house arrest, have "called for my assassination. If we are to have a civil society, you cannot have senior people making calls on national TV to go around the judiciary and murder people. That is an incitement to commit murder." Is the legal tradition of due process "just thrown to the wind whenever some shock jock can use it to make a name?"
He's quite right of course. Calling for one's assassination over a public forum most likely is a violation of law itself, although one that is rarely prosecuted, except when threats are made to the President and senior members of the government. But considering the Obama administration has sanctioned the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, a cleric based in Yemen accused of terrorist acts and recruiting for Al Qaeda, and an American citizen, well, I suppose the rule of law is not as important now as it once may have been.
Despite campaign promises to the contrary the tendency toward maintaining secrecy in the present administration is more than a little troubling. When officials first refused to release a Secret Service list of the names of White House visitors last year, warning signals went up in my mind. The White House argued that it sometimes needs to hold secret meetings on sensitive issues, but a federal judge had already dismissed that argument in two Bush administration cases.
The response to the last document dump by Wikileaks has concentrated on efforts to possibly prosecute Mr. Assange for violations of The Espionage Act of 1917, although legal scholars have stated the Justice Department would have a difficult time doing so as Assange more than likely had nothing to do with the actual procurement of the documents themselves.
Establishing new rules for prosecuting individuals or entities for publishing information related to government malfeasance may have a dampening effect on organizations historically charged with that very task, such as the print media, investigative reporters, and any other form of legitimate news (one could even possibly include bloggers). The Washington Post's reporting of the Watergate burglary and subsequent cover up could be considered to be against the national interest, and Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and senior Post management held accountable and possibly prosecuted.
That would be a slippery and dangerous precedent indeed.
Leaking of a cable, let's say, describing efforts of the Obama administration and senior Republican leadership to stop the prosecution of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, former chief of staff and legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; William Haynes, the Pentagon's former general counsel; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy; Jay Bybee, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel; and John Yoo, a former official in the Office of Legal Counsel, for "creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture." by Spain's National Court, could be prosecutable if current laws are tampered with, or changed in favor of maintaining government secrecy in the so called interests of national security.
And we may never have found out about this as it happened in the first months of the new Obama presidency as detailed in a cable leaked by Wikileaks. Obama had campaigned that no one was above the law. No one. And if it came to light that the former president and his staff had indeed broken the law then he would support their prosecution.
However after he was elected he distanced himself from that position on a continuous basis, turning these matters over to Eric Holder and the Justice Department, stating that it was a time to "look forward," rather than dwell on the mistakes of the past. A laughable argument anyone fresh out of law school could counter, as any crime that has ever been prosecuted has by necessity taken place in the past.
But this cable demonstrates Obama's unwillingness from the very beginning of his presidency to investigate and prosecute the obvious war crimes of President Bush and his senior staff. In this he outright lied to the American people, and in doing so, in failing to fulfill his duty he may in fact be breaking the law himself, and that is why I say President Obama should be a one term president, despite the good that his election has done for the country, despite the lame duck successes of last week.
He caved on the Bush tax cuts, creating further debt for future generations, we find ourselves with watered down financial and health reform that happens to be a boon for big business. His economic policies are the exact opposite of what the country needs to pull itself out of the doldrums. We have domestic spying on a large part of the country's population. An attempt to create a special new legal system to indefinitely detain people by Executive Order. We have what seems unending military actions around the world, etc. Despite all of that I would still support Barack Obama in the election of 2012.
But not now.
The Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners, a group advocating for human rights, had contended that Spain had a duty to open an investigation under the nation's "universal jurisdiction" law, which permits its legal system to prosecute overseas human rights crimes involving Spanish citizens and residents. Five Guantanamo detainees, the group maintained, fit that criteria. Chief prosecutor Javier Zaragoza indicated he believed that the complaint appeared to be well-documented and he'd pursue it.
But Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), and Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), with the blessings of the Obama administration, intervened and according to the leaked cable "underscored that the prosecutions would not be understood or accepted in the US and would have an enormous impact on the bilateral relationship between Spain and the United States," jointly applying pressure on Spain to kill the investigation of the former Bush officials. The investigation soon came under question by Spanish officials and eventually died out.
No, I would not support a second term for Barack Obama after he misrepresented himself to the American people in such an important point of law and justice. Too many innocent people died due to the illegal actions of the Bush presidency. It cannot and should not be excused or forgotten.
I'd vote for Russ Fiengold or David Kucinich, or Howard Dean, if I felt they had a tinker's chance in Hell of winning against a charismatic figure of the likes of Sarah Palin, even though she's dumber than a freaking rock... literally. Due to the overall lack of an informed electorate, and the rise of the Tea Baggers, someone like her could very well take the White House in 2012 (Hey, Bush got into office twice).
And unfortunately this country isn't ready for a true progressive agenda, an agenda that at least Fiengold and Kucinich would bring to the Oval Office. No, this country likes to wallow in it's misery.
So I'll vote for Obama the next time around.
But I know I'll not find any change I can believe in.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone!



Merry Christmas from everyone here at Joyce's Take (Me and Herkimer, my Invisible Cat)!

Happy Birthday Isaac (Newton)!

Here's a happy birthday shout out to Isaac Newton who was born on Christmas Day (O.S.) in 1642.
Happy Birthday you old bastard!

Happy Birthday Annie (Lennox)!


Merry Christmas! And it is my great pleasure to wish a Merry Christmas and a happy birthday (how economical) to one of my absolute favorite singers, song writers, and performers, Ms Annie Lennox!
Ann Griselda Lennox was born in Torry, Aberdeen, Scotland. Torry is a community within the city of Aberdeen, which itself is inside Scotland, which itself is part of Great Britain. Torry of course, lies on the south bank of the River Dee.
Her dad worked in a shipyard, and her mom was apparently a cook until she became a full time housewife. They noticed Ann's interests in music by the age of 3. The family didn't have a great deal of money, but Annie was still given piano lessons from age 7 on. She liked to sing along to popular music of the time, especially the Beatles, as did I. She attended Aberdeen High School for Girls, now the Harlow Academy. In 1964 she entered a talent contest at a holiday camp (a camp designed to provide affordable holidays for ordinary British families) and sang the Scottish folk song "Mairi's Wedding," and won second place. This was a portent of things to come.
Annie won a place at the Royal Academy of Music in London in the 70's where she studied the flute and classical music for 3 years, working part-time jobs for extra money. "I have had to work as a waitress, barmaid, and shop assistant to keep me when not in musical work."
She began playing in bands at this time. Between 1977 and 1980 she was the lead singer in the band The Tourists, which was the first time she worked with Dave Stewart (no relation to Jon). They got into a relationship, but ended that before forming The Eurythmics in 1980.
The Eurythmics was classified as a synthpop duo, meaning the use of a synthesizer was the primary musical instrument used, and the band consisted of two people, Annie and Stewart. Dave played the synthesizer, Annie sang the songs (similar to a favorite contemporary band of mine, Venus Hum, check'em out sometime).
Annie became a female David Bowie in the early years, dressing in suits and men's clothing, her hair cut extremely short, and her stage presence was magnetic.
The Eurythmics released a string of hits during the 80s, their breakthrough signature song being 1983's "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," which is when I first became aware of them, that song topping the charts in the U.S.
Some of my other favorite songs of that band include "Missionary Man," and especially the two songs and videos of "Would I Lie to You?" and "I Need a Man" (which I played for my girlfriend at the time, Julie, a demur lady if ever there was one, who simply rolled up her eyes as she took in Annie's commanding vocals demanding male attention).
Annie and Dave went their separate ways in 1990. I don't know why. It is said they didn't speak to each other until 1997.
However, Annie continued writing songs and experienced a hugely successful solo career, with the albums "Diva" (my favorite songs being "Why," and "Primitive," the latter song being one of the few I'd like to hear while on my deathbed.
This was her first solo effort and the album entered the UK album chart at no.1 and has since sold over 1.2 million copies in the UK alone (2,700,000 in the U.S.), being certified quadruple platinum), and 1995's "Medusa," which consisted completely of cover songs (songs by other artists), my favorites being "Take Me to the River," "A Whiter Shade of Pale," and Neil Young's "Don't Let It Bring You Down." The album has since achieved double platinum status in both the U.K. and the U.S).
Following the death of a mutual friend, Annie reunited with Dave Stewart and began playing and writing songs with him resulting in the final Eurythmics album (to date), "Peace." The subsequent concert tour was completed, with the profits going to Greenpeace and Amnesty International. They ultimately broke up in 2005 having released a compilation album that year.
Annie has made two other solo albums, "Bare," and "Songs of Mass Destruction," which I'm not very familiar with, probably because I don't listen to the radio very much anymore (except talk radio), and missed their release. Last year she released "The Annie Lennox Collection," a greatest hits kind of deal, and just last month "A Christmas Cornucopia," was put out, a mixture of traditional Christmas songs, with one original, "Universal Child," which I've not heard yet.
Annie's an Academy Award winner, for Best Song, "Into the West," from the film "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," which she co-wrote with screenwriter Fran Walsh and composer Howard Shore.
She has always been involved in political activism and charity work, some of the causes she has worked for being AIDS awareness, anti war activities, and humanitarian causes, among many, many others.
She has two daughters, Lola and Tali. She is exceptionally interested in Buddhism (as am I), has won more Brit (British Phonographic Industry) Awards than any other female artist, and as of 2009, has sold over 80 million albums.
There's so much more I could say about Annie, it would fill a book. But I can say this, all of us here at Joyce's Take wish her continued good fortune and health for her and her family, and a very Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!
Happy Birthday Annie!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wiki, Wiki, Wiki, Who's Got The Wiki, And Why President Obama Should Be A One Term President, but Probably Won't 2

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Vice President Joe Biden

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

Noam Chromsky

Mr. Assange

Speaking of the document dump in late November by the wistleblower website Wikileaks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "So let’s be clear. This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign-policy interests,” she said. “It is an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.”
She continued, (the document release) “puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems.”
I think the operative word in the statements above is "attack," which can be used as a verb or noun.
Some of the many definitions of the word includes:
1. (military) an offensive against an enemy (using weapons); "the attack began at dawn"
2. intense adverse criticism; "Clinton directed his fire at the Republican Party"; "the government has come under attack"
3. attack in speech or writing; "The editors of the left-leaning paper attacked the new House Speaker"
4. strong criticism; "he published an unexpected attack on my work"
And many others, some possibly having a direct bearing on the Wikileak dump, others clearly not.
Most of these definitions however infer a directed malice toward an intended enemy. That really would not be an accurate definition of what Wikileaks has done by publishing documents provided by anonymous sources for the simple sake of transparency in general, and is not intended to harm any one particular institution which the published documents may affect. If the term "attack" is to used accurately in this instance, then perhaps an attack on "secrecy" would be more accurate, which is exactly the mission statement, if you will, of Wikileaks.
Of course one can argue that a certain degree of secrecy is essential for the government to carry out it's business, especially in a time of military engagement. I would then suggest to the government, or other types of entities involved, it's your responsibility to maintain secure information. Wikileaks wouldn't have these documents if they were indeed so sensitive as not to be made public. Indeed, it is the definition of information provided by a "whistleblower," that it sheds light on a malfeasance of some sort by the issuing agency, and is for the good of the public at large that this information has been released.
Besides, WikiLeaks has consistently asserted that they offered White House officials the opportunity to review the Afghan War Diary documents to help ensure that no innocent informers were named, despite White House claims that they had no contact from the publishers…. WikiLeaks states it received no response to their offer.
And many disagree with the Secretary of State's assessment.
Before being directed to label Julian Assange as a "high tech terrorist," Vice President Joe Biden said this to MSNBC corespondent, Andrea Mitchell:
BIDEN: "I don't think there's any damage. I don't think there's any substantive damage, no. Look, some of the cables are embarrassing . . . but nothing that I'm aware of that goes to the essence of the relationship that would allow another nation to say: "they lied to me, we don't trust them, they really are not dealing fairly with us."
The Secretary of Defense was inclined to share that view:
Secretary of the Defense Robert Gates: "Now, I've heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think -- I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it's in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments -- some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.
So other nations continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another.
Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest."
And some are completely supportive of the service provided by Wikileaks, putting a completely different spin from that, in this case, of the U.S. government:
Larry Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch: “While I do not condone breaking the law, if indeed this was the means to obtain and release so called national security documents, the hard fact is that the government has again been caught lying to the American people about the motives and means behind its foreign policy. The administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama have been exposed to be not only deceitful, but incompetent in their foreign policy... That a group like WikiLeaks had to arguably break the law to lay bear the dishonesty and incompetence of American foreign policy shows just how crooked our government itself is, and this is why the nation is on the verge of revolution. Its why the Tea Party has taken hold, and why the Democrats were, in a landslide, recently removed from control of the House of Representatives. But the wrath of the nation is not limited to the Democrats. The document dump of WikiLeaks unmasks the dishonest, stupid, incompetent and failed secret foreign policies of both parties.
By exposing this corruption, WikiLeaks’ document dump will hopefully have a positive effect on future American foreign policy."
Noam Chomsky, American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, and political activist, discussed the revelation (in Wikileaks documents) that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called for a preemptive U.S. attack against Iran to neutralize their supposed nuclear program, and what Hillary Clinton said at a recent news conference in Washington:
Clinton: "So, if anything, any of the comments that are being reported on allegedly from the cables confirm the fact that Iran poses a very serious threat in the eyes of many of her neighbors and a serious concern far beyond her region. That is why the international community came together to pass the strongest possible sanctions against Iran. It did not happen because the United States said, "Please, do this for us!" It happened because countries- once they evaluated the evidence concerning Iran’s actions and intentions- reached the same conclusion that the United States reached: that we must do whatever we can to muster the international community to take action to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state."
Chomsky: "That essentially reinforces what I said before, that the main significance of the cables that are being released so far is what they tell us about Western leadership. So Hillary Clinton and Benjamin Netanyahu surely know of the careful polls of Arab public opinion. The Brookings Institute just a few months ago released extensive polls of what Arabs think about Iran. The results are rather striking. They show the Arab opinion holds that the major threat in the region is Israel -- that’s 80%. The second major threat is the United States -- that’s 77%. Iran is listed as a threat by 10%.
With regard to nuclear weapons, rather remarkably, a majority -- in fact, 57% – say that the region would have a positive effect in the region if Iran had nuclear weapons. Now, these are not small numbers. 80, 77, say the U.S. and Israel are the major threat. 10 say Iran is the major threat. This may not be reported in the newspapers here -- it is in England -- but it’s certainly familiar to the Israeli and U.S. governments, and to the ambassadors. But there is not a word about it anywhere. What that reveals is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership and the Israeli political leadership. These things aren’t even to be mentioned."
So there is certainly a degree of disagreement between different parties as to the relevance toward the latest round of Wikileak documents, their destructive and disruptive power to the issuing agencies, and if they are a hindrance to government let's say, or if they are a new tool for transparency in this new "Information Age," that issuing entities like governments, businesses, and religious institutions, etc., will have to get used to, and thereby serve to moderate their future behavior.
Is there a need for government transparency?
This is a direct quote from the New York Times yesterday who is suing the NYPD because they have not been providing documents as is required by law: "The police have performed outstanding service to this city,” Mr. McCraw added [David E. McCraw, a vice president and assistant general counsel of The New York Times Company], “but it’s important that they also meet their duties under the Freedom of Information Law. People have a right to know what public agencies are doing, and how they are doing it, so that there can be an informed public debate over what policies are pursued and how tax dollars are spent."
Do the people have a right to know what their federal or state government is doing and how they are doing it so that there can be an informed public debate over what policies are pursued and how tax dollars are spent? I would submit they they do, and thus Wikileaks performs a valuably and vital service.
In any case, for the time being, those agencies who feel they have been compromised and who maintain a powerful reach such as the government of the United States, well it's retribution toward those who compromise them can be swift and furious.
As in the instance of Julian Assange. For just one week after the "Attack on the world community," statement was issued by Hillary Clinton, all of the sudden and out of the blue, vague proclamations from Swedish authorities of certain serious violations of law, specifically charges of rape, were made against him.
Coincidence or no?
And suddenly Mr. Assange's personal integrity was put into question, he became a fugitive, and he found himself on the run.
And the U.S. Department of Justice began to gear up in order to see if he could possibly be prosecuted for espionage.

To be continued.