Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The best interviews—like the best biographies—should sing the strangeness and variety of the human race.
Lynn Barber. British journalist
I suppose it’s another sign of aging when I enjoy a public lecture series as much as any concert. The other night On The Mark and I went to see Anderson Cooper interview Walter Cronkite.
Despite Cronkite’s difficulty hearing (he is 90 years old after all), the show was very interesting. I have even higher regard for Cooper’s journalistic skills and integrity than I did prior to the interview. Until Cooper came out and provided a brief introduction to the evening and about himself and Cronkite, I wasn’t aware of Cooper’s depth. He is among the first television reporters to a major battle or catastrophe, he doesn’t have to go, he can send other reporters and question them about what is going, but he goes himself. He has seen the dark choler and rancor of human behavior as well as its caring and consider side. He expects more from politicians than just canned answers. He says that no one has truly accepted the blame for inactivity in New Orleans.
Here are a few of Cronkite’s observations:
- Anna Nicole Smith? (I don’t believe for one second he wasn’t aware of who she was)
- Anderson Cooper is the best newsman/anchor out there, because he is not afraid to go where the action is and report what is really happening.
- People don’t realize how dangerous the situation is in the Middle East. Anyone can be killed at anytime, anywhere. During WWII there was a clear enemy and a frontline for battles.
- We never should have been in Iraq. We should not be there now.
- He does not watch Fox News since it is a biased organization, beginning with the ownership.
- Bobby Kennedy asked Cronkite to run for Senate, but Cronkite did take him seriously, since Kennedy didn’t even know what state he lived in.
- The one person he would have loved to interview was Hitler.
- The most significant event of the 20th Century was an American walking on the moon.
- Cooper asked Cronkite if was ever left speechless, “Often, I would momentarily forgot the date as I was signing off on some nights."
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Joseph Heller (1923-1999), novelist
Here are my Academy Awards predictions for the categories I feel like venturing an opinion on, even though I have not see all the movies, or any of the movies in some of the categories. It's easy to guess when many of the awards have little to do with an actor or director's current work.
"Letters From Iwo Jima"* (I would say "The Departed," but it may be too violent for most people to pick, and "Babel" is "Crash" redux)
Martin Scorsese for the “The Departed” (He is owed one)
Peter O’Toole for “Venus” (has deservedly been owed one for many years)*
Penelope Cruz for “Volver”*
Mark Wahlberg for “The Departed” (for growing up from being a bad boy)
Adriana Barraza for “Babel” (she was very good)
"Children of Men" (just a guess)*
“Letters From Iwo Jima”* (second guess is “Pan’s Labyrinth”*)
“Happy Feet”* (no one is going to pick Disney/Pixar again, even if “Cars” was mildly cute)
“I Need to Wake Up” from an “An Inconvenient Truth”* by Melissa Etheridge (here is an opportunity for Hollywood voters to make a political statement)
“Babel” (I liked the music)
*have not seen movie, yet
Update: I kinda sucked in my picks. There’s always next year. blue denotes winner.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Anna Quindlen, journalist
I pass Mike (pictured below) most every morning. I sometimes wish him a good day or I ignore him and silently appreciate that he has already pushed the crosswalk button.
I read that William T. Vollmann has a new book out Tuesday called “Poor People,” which inspired me to ask Mike a couple of questions such as why is he here and in this condition.
I eagerly paid him for his time and photo. Mike told me he is HIV positive, was a millionaire, was addicted to heroin, was a substance abuse counselor, was featured on "20/20" and that an attorney across the street has a copy of the program on CD. He can’t get a job because he has no address and employers won’t hire him when he tells them he lives behind the bushes of a gas station.
I asked if I could take his picture and he immediately struck a pose and I then asked him to show his sign. I bumped into him again after lunch where I saw him pick up an old food container and start to eat from it (I had gave him enough for a good lunch and breakfast). I asked how he gained his millions and how he lost it all, since our earlier interview lasted maybe three turns of the light signal. He put his food container to the side told me he married his girlfriend when he was 18, even though he was gay. They blew all the money partying. He has no family, but once the show aired he discovered that he did have some siblings, but they were lost to the gangs.
All of the above may be true, but I somehow doubt it. I came away with the impression that Mike has deeper problems. It is heartbreaking that we allow people such as Mike to wander and struggle to survive in a society where we have let the safety net for the mentally ill get cut off. We continue to let the mentally ill wander aimlessly and feel good about ourselves when we give them a buck or two. But, I guess Mike is more fortunate than the paralyzed man the hospital just dropped off the other day a few blocks east of where Mike makes sure the signal works for hurried working class heroes.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
A new line of Hallmark greeting cards that borders on parodies seen on SNL and other venues in years past: Journeys. With lines like "No one said it would be easy to lose your hair," "I know how much a child would mean to you," and "Watching a parent change can be difficult"... it's almost too horrible to comment upon these cards.
I know there are real-life occasions in which you might think that these cards could be handy, but I can't imagine actually sending one out.
In case you're interested, they're all here.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Mark Twain (1835–1910), author
Another quirky news item courtesy of the Wall Street Journal e-mail
Still looking for a special Valentine surprise for your sweetheart? Your local zoo may have just the thing: an adults-only, after-hours tour of the amorous aspects of the animal kingdom. According to a report by the Associated Press, zoos all over the country offer risqué tours that combine champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and candlelight dining with an impressive array of information on the birds and the bees. New York City's Central Park Zoo offers "Jungle Love.'' San Francisco boasts "Woo at the Zoo.'' Some officials say that the program is a good way to get a different crowd in to see the animals. But others are more blunt. Jane Tollini, a former penguin keeper at the San Francisco Zoo who is credited with coming up with the whole idea, says "Sex sells. No matter what.''
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
In plain language: They're paying someone $4,500 to rearrange the trees and rocks in the monkey house.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
The wife and I were guests at this weekend's gala ball at the California Science Center in Los Angeles... I've got a Flickr set here that features shots of the fans who were hired to wear their costumes at the ball and entertain the guests. Some stunning shots, I must say.
And if anyone can tell me why most of the Stormtroopers posed for photos making the above gesture with their hands, I'll be in your debt.
My wife asked me why I didn't feature the close-up photo of the actual Darth Vader prop costumer chestplate, which clearly shows Hebrew characters on the panels. Hmmm. She was right -- much more interesting than the Stormtrooper crotch shot.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
The mysoginistic attitudes that led to this are so obvious that they almost need no comment, but this fine blog has always prided itself on confronting the hot-button issues head-on, so... on with the sins countdown!
Lust: 5 pts
It's clear that those sex-starved miscreants at Harvard are engaging in the oldest mysoginistic operation in the world: buying the services of a woman for their own selfish needs. Sure, they claim otherwise -- but they can't hide the real reasons. Richard P. Chait, a professor of higher education at Harvard, said “My own sense is that it... probably is not unrelated to gender." Probably not? And he's a Harvard professor? Duh -- of course it's about gender; it's about those lonely bearded bleeding-heart ivory tower liberals trying to buy something they could never get for free. 371 years is a long time to go without a woman...
Greed: 1 pts
Those high-button-collar types think that having money means they can do whatever they want -- including buying people! Who do they think they are!
Sloth: 5 pts
Too lazy to find a good male candidate? That's pretty damn lazy.
Wrath: 1 pt
The new president will be Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian of the Civil War South. I'm thinking these Cambridge Yankees are just looking to embarass their old Dixie rivals by stealing away one of their southern belles. Anger makes a man do bad things.
Gluttony: 0 pts
I think they might be hungry. Not sure that matters, though.
Envy: 1 pts
Tell me that this student is envious: George Thampy, a freshman, said “I think it’s a great step forward — a bona fide scholar who’s a woman.” Wow -- who would've thought a woman could be a scholar? Certainly not George Thampy; he was just hoping to get a little extra "tutoring" from the new pres. Or so we assume.
Pride: 3 pts
These gents are just too proud to come right out and say that they have to pay women to be around them; instead, they maintain the facade that this is for some sort of academic position. Come on; we all know what's going on. Just two years ago Harvard's then-president Lawrence H. Summers suggested women weren't smart enough to be president of Harvard! And now this?
FINAL SCORE: 16 pts
Sounds like someone needs to remind these ivy-covered folks that we're living in the 21st century, not the Dark Ages.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Jackie Gleason (1916 -- ’87) as Ralph Kramden to his wife Alice
Enough with the woman astronaut! It’s certainly not that big of news. She is the first woman astronaut to have an affair go awry, but not the first woman or man, so who cares? Apparently, all the national media from Brian Williams to NPR and every medium in between thinks it's big news.
Were astronauts considered morally incorruptible? This story should have been buried on the inside pages or better yet left as fodder for People and US. The real front-page story is that President Bush did not learn a thing from the New Orleans dam breaking, because he is trying to reduce funding to repair the levees in northern California that are susceptible to earthquakes as well as flooding.
Monday, February 05, 2007
And then the other shoe dropped.
Several key Republicans are urging Perry to rescind the order, claiming that mandating the vaccine will trample parents' rights and promote premarital sex.
Lust: 0 pts
A vaccine against a virus that causes cervical cancer should not be plunged into a debate about premarital sex; this has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with women's health -- so lust doesn't figure into it.
Gluttony: 0 pts
Greed: 0 pts
Perry [allegedly] gets "benefits" from Merck to encourage him to issue the order... I'd give him a point for that, but this is about the conservatives who want him to rescind the order... so no points for greed, since they're motivated by something worse -- stupidity and self-righteousness.
Sloth: 0 pts
The conservatives think the vaccine's slogan should be: "Too lazy to have safe sex? Get the vaccine and don't worry!" But still, it doesn't seem to fair to give any points for sloth.
Wrath: 0 pts
No one seems angry, just greedy and stupid. And I guess stupidity isn't a sin?
Envy: 0 pts
Those conservatives wish they were having some good, clean, DIRTY sex. But that's probably not true... so, no points. Hmmm.... an odd trend.
Pride: 0 pts
Seriously, in this case I'd enjoy seeing someone with a little pride stand up for what they believe in.
FINAL SCORE: 0 pts
Wha? Is the system broken? No, because I'm making a special dispensation to add 50 points for self-righteousness. Take that, you conservative nutjobs!
REVISED FINAL SCORE: 50 pts
Saturday, February 03, 2007
John F. Kennedy (1917–63), U.S. president
I just pulled this verbatim from the Wall Street Journal e-mail because there is nothing I can add to it, except I don’t care if it were just women, I wouldn’t find it attractive in that environment.
Fitness Au Naturale
Because the locker room just isn't awkward enough, Patrick de Man, owner of Fitworld gym in Heteren, Netherlands, invites you to work out in the buff on "Naked Sundays." Looking for a way to expand his fitness center's options, Mr. De Man made a simple calculation. "I heard that some other gyms are offering courses on 'pole-dancing' as a sport, so I thought, why not bring something new to the market" by instituting a clothing-free workout one day a week. That's good news for naturists who want to keep in shape, but for those who prefer to have a few swatches of fabric to cover themselves or others, the club is now its own special kind of red-light district. What's more, some worry that the idea isn't sanitary. But Mr. De Man says not to worry; members must cover benches with towels and all the machines and weights are given a good going-over. "We clean them every day,'' he said.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Samuel Johnson (1709–84), English author
Four hundred and fifty bottles of wine, including a rare $11,000 1959 magnum from the Château Pétrus in Bordeaux, France where stolen from a central California home. At some point between Dec. 28 and Jan. 4, while the homeowner was on vacation, the police said, the thief or thieves made their way to the basement, where the collection, much of it distinguished Bordeaux, was stored at an optimal 55 degrees.
This is one crime I don’t have to worry about. I could not even afford to refrigerate the wines properly. Hell, I can barely keep myself cool in the summers. Oh sure, I have a couple of decent bottles of wine that I look forward to drinking with a nice barbequed tri-tip or steak, but if thieves are going after fine wines, I can leave my doors unlocked. If they ask, I’ll happily provide them with wife’s bottles of two-buck Chuck.
The New York Times reported this story writing, theft and wine make a heady pairing, especially in Atherton, [California] the sought-after nesting place of venture capitalists and magnates like Charles Schwab, of the wealth management company, and Tom Proulx, the founder of the software company Intuit. Wine cellars are a fixture of daily life here, a common amenity along with home theaters, fitness centers and his-and-her offices.
This crime reminds me of quote from Lisa Marie Presley, who said that she can’t drink anything less than a $600 bottle of wine or she gets a headache. Poor thing. I have no sympathy for the victims of this crime. I envy the crook or crooks as they get to look forward to many nice meals with a great wine.
This sums up the situation for the police sergeant, who also was working on a case in nearby East Palo Alto, a city that has long wrestled with high crime rates. “An 18-year-old girl was shot point-blank in the head and I received no calls about it,” he said. “The wine theft? A gazillion. It kind of shows you where people’s values lie.”