Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: Days of Future Passed

As the new year approaches I tend to reflect some, as most folks do, on Past, Present and Future. In truth, I'm likely too reflective on a constant basis, perhaps part of the hard-wired nature of The Writer in My Head.

Given the purely tentative and fragile essence of Life itself, I confess to some surprise to still be a living creature here on this wee speck of a planet in an infinite Universe. Existence for more than a handful of decades defies the odds. Perhaps it is that I have felt as if I were an Old Soul since I was but a young boy. Now that I am far beyond young boyhood, the passage of Time perplexes me far more than ever.

This fading year, 2012, is one where I have realized I am aging to the point of cultural irrelevance, a fact which was driven deep into my thoughts rather too often for comfort. My time here has straddled two centuries, and the changes in how life is lived are radical and spectacular. A great many of the changes were expected, yet many more were not. (Not that such a state is uniquely mine.)

And there's the simple fact that the time which has passed in my life is now greater than the time which is ahead and yet to be lived. Spooky.

The year I was born, Time magazine proclaimed that the "Men of the Year" were Scientists. Scientists

Every day, new and startling discoveries are made about our world and how we manipulate it and use it and attempt to understand it. Sadly, this year, the dubious wisdom of the Tennessee state legislature decided that Science was a collection of random theories which were to be challenged and doubted by American grade school and high school students. 

Not that Science solves any and every problem, but the vast wealth of possibility and discovery has apparently been dismissed as if they were mere Superstitions while Superstition is now heralded as a beacon of Truth.

The men who were singled out in 1960 helped to create so many of the innovations which shape life today via technology and medicine, and much more, and hundreds of other inventors and innovators built on their ideas:
George Beadle, geneticist, Charles Draper, designer of the Apollo Guidance Computer, John Enders, "Father of Modern Vaccines", Donald A. Glaser, particle physicist,  Joshua Lederberg, artificial intelligence and genetics,  Willard Libby, chemistry,  Linus Pauling, quantum chemistry and molecular biology,  Edward Purcell, magnetic resonance creator and physicist,  Isidor Rabi, physicist and microwave developer, Emilio Segrè, physicist, William Shockley, "Father of Silicon Valley". Edward Teller, physicist, inspiration for "Dr. Strangelove",  Charles Townes, quantum electronics, James Van Allen, nuclear and astrophysicist, and Robert Woodward, organic chemist.

I often think that it will be the children who have been born in the last few or next few years who will provide the next major shift in how life on our planet is lived -- and I confess that I most selfishly want to live as long as possible just so I can be alive as our wee planet makes another monumental stride into and beyond the realms of possibility.

Here's to you 2013 and all the years and surprises yet to come. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Lost: Aboard a Conservative Cruise Ship

It's so easy to highlight the ridiculous and delusional when one takes a cruise ship adventure with a boatload of Conservatives just days after the 2012 Election - one writer joined a National Review-sponsored cruise and the report is a metaphorical descent into a malestrom.

"Hassett pivoted to the liberal media. “I actually think that Goebbels was more critical of Hitler than the New York Times is of Obama,” said Hassett, tucking into a piece of strudel. “I was in the middle of the fight against the propaganda, and I have stories like you wouldn’t believe. These people are so evil. They’re basically Fascists. It’s unbelievable.” 


"Rob Long, a conservative Hollywood TV writer behind a TNT show called ­Sullivan & Son, said the party has to accept that it’s been living in a fantasy world. “It’s like The Matrix,” he said. “You can continue to live in the dream world, or you can take the pill and we can unplug you and you can see that things are actually kind of bad.”


"John Yoo, the former Bush Administration lawyer who helped formulate its theory on torture ... worried that the Republicans were too quick to blame each other, saying, “This is all out of Lord of the Flies and Karl Rove is Piggy and we’re supposed to all chase him around with spikes and throw him on a fire?”

Monday, December 24, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Annual Christmas Photo Caption Contest

Yes, it's that time again - craft your best caption for the photo above and you too can be a WINNER!

What will you win? A giant heapin' helpin' of my love and devotion, that's what. Not too shabby. (And of course, you'll receive the satisfaction of a job well done!!)

A caption to get you started --

"Say Mayan Apocalypse one more time, and there will be something way worse than coal in yer stocking."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Annual Christmas Music Sampler

I like many of the traditions of Christmas, especially music. But it's kind of sad how older Christmas songs swamp anything newer. There are tons of forgotten and/or obscure Christmas songs too that are great fun. The nearly year round collections of Christmas tunes via Check the Cool Wax blog are a great way to while away hours online during the holidays.

Hearing many of the tunes played during the holidays instantly conjure powerful memories for most of us - but don't hesitate to make new memories with friends and families.

For the last few years, I've really enjoyed the Christmas music sampler issued by Paste magazine, which offers many new bands and musicians performing their own works for the holiday. Below, a collection from their 2011 and 2012 samplers, and a few other favorites.

And a most merry and happy Christmas to one and all!

Christmas 2012 by Joe Powell on Grooveshark

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Napsacks, Moustache Straws, Instagram Cookies and Christmas Dinner in A Can

Time for something completely whimsical.

Still seeking a rare, useful and perhaps energy efficient gift? Why not try the Napsack, a wearable sleeping bag, suitable for camping or just around the house to keep your heating costs lower? This is no Snuggie or Slanket. It's a Napsack. And it is not a Canadian Thuggie either.

Or maybe you could use a Napsack for those days when you feel the need to insulate yourself from the world and all it's harsh realities. I think it's a far better solution than sticking your head into the sand, is obviously more comfortable, plus you can hang onto your coffee as you seek some solace from the cold, cruel world.

And if you do feel the need to hole up and hide from the world, you can still enjoy holiday goodies thanks  to Christmas Dinner in a Can!

Well, that is, you could have enjoyed it, but they are all sold out. :( 

Speaking of treats for the holidays, bring home the fun of all the fairground and have something On A Stick -- like Hot Chocolate On A Stick. Just swirl the cube of handmade Belgian chocolate goodness around in your steamy mug of milk and enjoy.

And have you noticed how oddly popular fake moustaches have become? Darned things are popping up everywhere, for reasons I know not. 

But you can add some 2012 Cool to your Yule events with the Stache Straw - yep, everyone cool at the Christmas party will be sipping in style this holiday season, so don't miss out.

(And while it is too late to arrive in time for Christmas, you can still place your order for Instagram Cookies - a box of treats made from your own personal visual history, and you can send from one to six pics to turn into snacks.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sen. Niceley Wants Secret Armed Guards In TN Schools

Worst idea I've heard yet (and there is no shortage of bad ideas) in response to the massacre in Newtown, CT is from Tennessee Senator Frank Niceley, who wants to create secretly armed staffers and teachers in public schools. Worse, Governor Haslam seems to think this wackadoodle notion is worthy of consideration.

"Say some madman comes in. The first person he would probably try to take out was the resource officer. But if he doesn’t know which teacher has training, then he wouldn’t know which one had [a gun],” Niceley said by phone. “These guys are obviously cowards anyway and if someone starts shooting back, they’re going to take cover, maybe go ahead and commit suicide like most of them have.”

"Tennessee’s governor told reporters Monday that he’s open to including it on the agenda for a January conference to discuss school safety. Nicely said he expect the governor “to be receptive” to his plan to use tax money to arm and train teachers."

SEE ALSO: Newscoma points out that TN Senator Lamar Alexander says video games are to blame for the massacre in Newtown and former TN legislator Debra Maggert dared to oppose a NRA-supported gun-totin' bill and was quickly ousted from office.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mass Murder, Guns and Americans

The Misunderstood? (via)

In the face of deadly events and violence aimed at children, it seems the most sane response is the expressed desire for it to never happen again. Prevention is far more difficult a task than most might imagine. The causes and cures aren't easy. But as so many have said in the last few days, it's a grim task but we must attempt to rise to it's challenges, to discuss a myriad of problems and solutions with a goal of improving our world.

I offer a few links to explore below. 

 -- Just prior to the massacre in Newtown, CT, Mother Jones magazine provided an overview of mass shooting events from 1982-2012, noting among other aspects that "Of the 142 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally. The arsenal included dozens of assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns."

-- As recently as August of this year, residents in Newtown debated adding restrictions to the growth of shooting ranges in their town. Complaints were growing as many of the ranges began loading shooting targets with Tannerite, which can create large explosions when struck by high velocity ammo:

"Something needs to be done,” said Joel T. Faxon, a hunter and a member of the town’s police commission, who championed the shooting restrictions. “These are not normal guns, that people need. These are guns for an arsenal, and you get lunatics like this guy who goes into a school fully armed and protected to take return fire. We live in a town, not in a war.

"I’ve hunted for many years, but the police department was getting complaints of shooting in the morning, in the evening, and of people shooting at propane gas tanks just to see them explode,” Mr. Faxon said."

One of the nation's largest political lobbying groups for gun ownership, the National Sport Shooting Foundation located just a few miles away from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, sent a spokesperson to the city council debates on restrictions. He said:

"Among the speakers was a representative of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who was described as saying he believed there was a greater danger of swimming accidents. “No privileges should be taken away from another generation,” he said. "No safety concerns exist"

-- Those who call for more guns as a problem-solver, as an expression of liberty and freedom are making a critically flawed argument. An opinion piece by Firmin DeBrabander provides this viewpoint:

"This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

"As our Constitution provides, however, liberty entails precisely the freedom to be reckless, within limits, also the freedom to insult and offend as the case may be. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld our right to experiment in offensive language and ideas, and in some cases, offensive action and speech. Such experimentation is inherent to our freedom as such. But guns by their nature do not mix with this experiment — they don’t mix with taking offense. They are combustible ingredients in assembly and speech."

Both in Newtown and earlier this year in Aurora, CO,  the killers used a semi-automatic weapon, variants of the AR-15. In Aurora, the killer used a Smith &Wesson M&P 15-22 model of this rifle, outfitted with a 100-round drum magazine. The American Rifleman magazine writes of this military-styled weapon this way: 

"It has many of the features of a tricked-out AR tactical rifle, but is light enough for easy all-day carry on small game hunts for squirrels, rabbits or prairie dogs. It's also really fun to shoot in informal training exercises in an attempt to get to know this tactical-looking .22 rifle.

"The M&P 15-22 pointed easily and with its 25-round magazine, chewed through ammunition. It was so easy to send multiple rounds downrange that one shot just never seemed enough."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

In Memoriam of The Children and Educators of Newtown, CT

Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Rachel Davino, 29
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
School principal
Nancy Lanza, 52
Mother of gunman
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
School psychologist
Victoria Soto, 27

Friday, December 14, 2012

J-Rabbit's Jazzy Acoustic Christmas Music

Two Korean ladies, Jung Da Woon and Jung Hye Sun, take their acoustic music to the internet, under  the name J-Rabbit. You can keep your Gangham madness. They have their own YouTube channel and their own website loaded with music, both covers and originals. Above and below are some samples of their Christmas music, and their covers of jazz standards are mighty impressive too.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Republican Delusions on Economic Policy

Surveys say:

"President Barack Obama won the public argument over taxes so decisively that almost half of Republicans now say he has an election mandate to raise rates on the rich.

"Majorities of about 2-to-1 also read the election results as an endorsement of Obama’s pledge to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits, according to a Bloomberg National Poll of 1,000 adults conducted Dec. 7-10." (via)


"A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll released late on Wednesday, however, held the potential to shake up the stalemate. Three-quarters of those surveyed, including 61 percent of Republicans, said they would accept raising taxes on the wealthy to avoid the so-called cliff, as Democratic President Barack Obama is demanding.

With Republicans in Congress already divided, that rejection by their own supporters of the core demand of Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner could further weaken his position." (via)


Meanwhile, the Republican delusions are growing:

"Boehner said when he saw the election results in November, he conceded that he and the Republicans would have to be willing to allow some tax increases for wealthy Americans in conjunction with deep spending cuts on entitlement programs. But the president, he said, is being a bully on cliff negotiations. "I think when they won the election, they must have forgotten that Republicans continue to hold a majority in the House," he said. "The president's idea of a negotiation is 'roll over and do what I ask.'" (via)


"Which is to say, it’s a debate between the moderately delusional and the utterly, irreconcilably delusional." (via)                                   

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Rise of Donkey Milk

Things I learned from the Internet today: the most expensive cheese in the world is Donkey Cheese, made, of course, from the milk of a donkey..

The world's top-rated male tennis player, the Serbian-born Novak Djokovic, has apparently just  bought the world's supply of Donkey Cheese for a chain of restaurants he is opening. The year's supply is made on one farm in Zasavica, and costs anywhere from $500 to $2900 a pound.

Legends say that Cleopatra bathed in donkey milk, thinking is had youthful restorative properties, and aside from the donkey cheese, donkey soap is another much sought after product.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The One Place Where You Can Survive the End of the World on 12/21/12


Grab your passport now and head to southern France to the small village of Bugarach.

The tiny village will survive the coming End o' The World, according to Doom Watchers, because an alleged "spaceship garage" located underneath Pic de Bugarach mountain will open up, an intergalactic craft will emerge and aliens will then take aboard anyone who wants to go with them to safety.

Bugarach has been swarmed with The Curious in recent months. It is a rather nice looking place and entrepreneurs have been selling rocks and bottled water from the town, rooms and campsites are available for rent, and the town's sign has been stolen a few times, apparently some think the aliens will need to utilize a city limits sign to coordinate the evacuation.

Meanwhile, at least one world leader is proclaiming that yes, the world is ending soon - Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard - "Whether the final blow comes from flesh eating zombies, demonic hell beasts or from the total triumph of K-pop, if you know one thing about me it is this: I will always fight for you to the very end." 

It is somewhat endearing to hear the Australian twangy pronunciation of "flesh eating zombies".

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Vast Legacy of Dave Brubeck

"One of the reasons I believe in jazz is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear.” -- Dave Brubeck

A legendary musician and a master of jazz, Dave Brubeck died today at age 91, one day shy of his 92nd birthday. Much will be written about him, now and for many years to come, and I wanted to instead showcase some of his music. (The 2010 documentary "Dave Brubeck: In His Own Sweet Way" produced by Clint Eastwood provides a most comprehensive look at his life and career for those wishing to know more about him and his vast influence worldwide on jazz and music in general.)

His 1959 album "Time Out" stands as one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, and the tune "Take Five" is immensely well known, though the composition is credited to saxophone player Paul Desmond. I think the first track on the album, "Blue Rondo ala Turk", is much more emblematic of Dave's style. The album grew from the Quartet's experiences traveling in Eastern Europe and the Middle East as ambassadors touring on behalf of the US State Department - Brubeck was captivated by the musical time signatures of the music from other nations, Turkey in this instance.

Some in the music world thought Dave's piano style and the Quartet's music was too extreme, others thought it far too tame. Thankfully, Dave and his colleagues followed their own Muse. His 1957 album, "Dave Digs Disney", was way too hip and way too square all at the same time - but his improvisations on classic Disney tunes are excellent, and today jazz inspired by Disney music is a genre all its own.

The 1961 album, "Time Further Out" is my own personal favorite. And the tune "Bluette" is a knockout, blending jazz and blues and evokes strong and subtle emotions. Thanks, Dave, for such a vast legacy.

The Pope's First Tweet

"Ian Maude, of Enders Analysis, says that “The Pope’s going to be enormous, but I’m not sure he’s quite going to get to Lady Gaga levels.” 

"Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, the president of the Vatican’s social communications office, has said the papal tweets aren’t to be considered infallible teachings. They’re just “pearls of wisdom” in the Pope’s own words, he said. 

"Back in his January proclamation, entitled 'Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age,' Pope Benedict said 'I would like to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible.'” 

Folks can ask the Pope a question via his Twitter account by using the 'hashtag' @askpontifex ... and plenty of questions are already submitted, including:

"Who would win a fight between Jesus and Wolverine?”

Monday, December 03, 2012

Dangerous Interest at Boring 2012 Conference

The annual Boring conference was of little interest, but even that might negate it's purpose:

"I regretfully agreed that all this did sound extremely boring and proceeded to the large neo-Georgian auditorium, where an audience of about 500 mostly twenty- and thirty-somethings were listening with careful amusement as a dapper young man talked about toast. There was a large screen behind him on the stage, and he was clicking through a series of photographs of toast slices, ranging from the entirely burnt to the effectively untoasted, in order to demonstrate what he called “the confusing, non-regulated series of toaster settings on the market.”

Discovery of 6 Million Pounds of Explosives Force Evacuation

Epic incompetence and likely criminal activity could have wiped an entire town off the map.

The entire town of Doyline, Louisiana has been evacuated after the discovery of some 6 million pounds of explosives improperly stored, stacked and strewn around a massive storage facility. Oddly, back in October a massive explosion rocked the facility, but it was only last week that investigators went to the site in a "follow-up" and then realized that millions of pounds of M6 artillery powder were left outside or in roofless buildings.

At first, residents were told it would just be a short evacuation, but now that officials have been on the site of the explosives, residents are being told to stay away until ... whenever.

Some 27 tractor trailer loads have been removed and stored in safer and appropriate facilities, but more work, obviously, is needed.

Explo Systems, which runs the site, has been very quiet on the issue, and the owners are on their way back from South Korea.

Residents have to consider themselves lucky that the first explosion back in October was small and did not reduce the town to a hole in the ground. Why did it take more than 6 weeks after the explosion to notice millions more boxes and crates, especially since so much of it was just left outside of buildings?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

You Can Help Finish the Documentary on The Farm Commune in Tennessee

Two filmmakers are hoping the last few days of fundraising via their Kickstarter page will bring success so their documentary on the largest commune ever in the U.S., known as The Farm and located in Summertown, Tennessee.

The film "American Commune" was made by two sisters who were born on The Farm, then their family relocated to California, and they decided to document their return to their origins:

"When we left The Farm as kids and moved to Los Angeles, we were catapulted into another world.  We had never smelled perfume, eaten meat, seen women with makeup or men without beards, and we’d hardly watched TV. We were taunted for being “hippie kids” and did everything we could to blend in.

"The impetus for making AMERICAN COMMUNE was born out of our simple desire to understand where we came from.  As luck would have it, working in the heart of commercialism in New York City compelled us back to our roots. Suddenly, we needed to learn about what our parents were doing in the backwoods of Tennessee and how they, along with hundreds of others, managed to create a massive alternative society out of no more than passion and an empty spot of land. As we interviewed The Farm’s founders, our parents, and our childhood friends, we developed a greater respect for how hard everyone worked to realize their dream."

Learn more about The Farm at their website:

"The 150 present-day residents of The Farm have not rested on their laurels, but continue to create and demonstrate low-consumption, high-fulfillment lifestyles within a caring, socially active community; to conceive, finance and launch daring business enterprises that revolutionize the fields they compete in; to reduce the burden of external government; to mitigate the negative environmental, health and economic impacts of unsustainable global patterns; to demonstrate and export a variety of integrated social development strategies which can encourage diverse cultures worldwide to bypass unhealthy transitions; and to become a living example of the healthy and fulfilling interdependence of human and natural communities."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dozens of Bomb Threats Target Tennessee Counties

News reports in the last few hours from across the state say that at least 25 county courthouses across Tennessee received bomb threats via telephone calls this morning. So far, no injuries reported as each location evacuated and conducted searches. The calls included threats to Hamblen County and others in East TN, and also in Memphis too.

The Knox News Sentinel is tracking the story: "Dalya Qualls, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said this afternoon ... she has no details about the contents of the calls, and that the Department of Safety and Homeland Security is assisting various local agencies in the investigation."

Last week, a similar batch of threats was made against 28 counties in Oregon, and earlier this month, another round of calls were made in Washington state and Nebraska.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Camera Obscura: Infinite Vampire Twilight ShlockFest Extravaganza and Emporium

Worldwide vampire obsessiveness weekend is upon us - suitable fare for a Black Friday Shopping Weekend During The Economic Collapse.

The finale of the Twilight series movie "Breaking Dawn Part 2" has emerged as such an enormous cornucopia of Weird that I had to make a special post about it. (Truth be told, I did a search of my blog for use of the word vampire and it came in at more than 30 posts, which means vampires have easily been 10% of this blog's entire output, which include these two of my own personal faves, A) Hot Vampy Sex Talk from the first movie and B) the Sarah Palin-Twilight Convergence)

Understand too, I am a deep-dyed fan of Bad Movies and Cinema Shlock and have forced many a friend to endure Something Awful. Big Budget Awful really stinks up the place, though. I recently watched the movie "John Carter" and it is merely Done Badly, whereas say, "Anonymous" was Stunningly Awful and made me Pity The Actors, and answered the question "What happens when the folks who made the alien-invasion 'Independence Day' investigate the world of William Shakespeare?"

But vampires? Hell, even I have written and produced my own vampire play, but it's sheer genius compared to the bizarre path the bloodsucking genre has taken in movies and TV. Example - this year we've had Abe Lincoln hunting vamps, while on Hulu the Korean TV series "Vampire Prosecutor" is gaining fame and I'm still searching for a copy of the short film "Davy Crockett Battles Kung Fu Vampires".

The hilarity of reviews are MUST reading, no matter what you might think of the movies/books/adoration/obsession. Some samples:

"Is his face always like that? It's like he washed it with a powdered doughnut.

"Eww, now I get imprinting. He made that vampire baby the love of his werewolf life. Or something. It's kinda gross — definitely weird. And even more disturbing that those teenage girls found it so funny.

"T-Laut nicknames Renesmee "Nessie." K-Stew angrily shouts, "You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster." Is the Loch Ness Monster real in this world or was K-Stew making a joke? If the latter, why would Nessie be a laughable idea, while talking wolves are serious business?

"Vampires seem to not be affected by the weather, so why do they wear jackets and turtlenecks?"

"It turns out that many vampires have X-men-esque superpowers on top of their default vampire superpowers. We already knew Alice could see the future, and some of the Volturi could read minds and create mental anguish, but now we find out that there are airbender vampires and electricity-shooting vampires and omega mutant vampires who can go all Dark Phoenix on your ass.

"The point is, there is a fight scene. A long, improbable, laugh-out-loud at the abysmal special effects fight scene, in which we discover that you can kill a vampire exactly the same way you kill an action figure. Just pop off its head! Boink! It comes off with no blood! Just a kind of SNAP just like plastic. Even if you never go to the theater to see this movie, I urge you to rent it at some point just to fast-forward to the fight scene so that you can see the weirdest thing ever."

Occupy: Sparkle

"It began when I read the first two books on my honeymoon in December 2008. My new wife and I listened to Twilight and New Moon on a road trip. We saw the first movie when we returned home, and a few months later we were divorced. I'm not saying Twilight killed my marriage, per se. I am saying there is a strong correlation between consuming Twilight content and no longer being happily married."

 Even The Actors In Twilight Hate Twilight

I have to say that I'll likely see this "finale" one day, but try as this current generation might, all this Vampire MashUp has been around for a long time. Even the old Hammer Horror folks stirred it all up in the early 1970s with the movie "Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires" which marks the arrival of the trope All Vampires Know Karate Because Dracula Did. (See the trailer for the movie here which has some NSFW images)

Indie film director superstar Jim Jarmusch is at work on his take on vampires in a movie set for next year, "Only Lovers Left Alive", starring Tilda Swinton, so even though vamps are being squicked out of all decency the darned things JUST NEVER DIE.

That's quite charming.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Music From Carmen, Played Via a Machine Shop in France

Nine French musicians (or, as noted on their home page "Neuf musiciens-comédiens-chanteurs") calling their group Zic Zazou perform the Habanera from Carmen on various tools and constructions made by the musicians. I think my favorite part though, is the way at the end they all stop and look at you ... or maybe the balloon squeezing ... tough call.

Merry Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sports 2012 - Year of Shame

Removal of Joe Paterno statue from Penn State

Noting Knox and eastern Tennessee folks are mourning/praising the firing of their current football coach, it seems pertinent to offer a little talk about Sports. Sports (with a capital S) has been knocked down pretty hard and we should all face what it portends.

The last year has seen, for instance, iconic foundations of American sports and athletes get pulled down - the Joe Paterno statue at Penn State getting the Saddam Hussein treatment; and the removal of every victory of Lance Armstrong, accused of being A Pusher, a savvy despot dispenser of a drug cocktail o' winners. There's been the cheesey NFL referee fiasco as a a skeezy coating. And the problem is that once you start this kind of examination of what Sports is like today, it isn't a glowing story of Cinderellas earnestly yoked to Americana heroics.

Critically, both the Penn State and Armstrong are linked to children's programs and health programs and fundraising and hurting kids and those in need are dire mistakes. Last year  the Saints and others in the NFL were cited for offering cash bounties to players for injuring opponents.

The furious adorations of Sports hardly seem worth your passions. And if the icons are dishonest ... well ... how far a step is it for young players in high schools and colleges into dishonesty?

I wasn't alive at the time, but recent Sports scandals have the stink of the 1919 Black Sox baseball scandal - Cheating and Dishonesty with Intent.

So. You're all on probation - colleges too - until you can offer something more useful to our communities. Or at least something better than what you've been offering. For young people who excel at Sports - my advice is protect your integrity.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Best Political Website of the Month

It's really not a website, but a Tumblr account: Floor Charts is an archive photo collection of all the charts brought up to the floor during debates and comments In Congress. They range from awful made-at-the-last-moment monsters to the oddest moments imaginable and of course, lots of colored charts, shapes and lines.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The United States Are All Sour, Claim Those Fake Folks Who Want to Secede

A large amount of fakery, led by the Right-Wing blog "The Daily Caller:, and followers of the woefully ignorant, refuse to believe the facts, and now suddenly claim that thousands of people (mostly all Southerners, including Tennessee) seem to think the best protest against our recently re-elected president is to secede from the United States.

First, all these 'petitions' are bogus and have no meaning at all - other than as expressions of the deeply disturbed.

" ... we’re discovering that at least one segment of the GOP’s conservative “base” has found something to do in reaction to the election results other than engaging in a “struggle for the soul of the party” or discussing what its congressional representatives should do about tax and spending deadlines: petition to secede from the Union!

"Given the southern inflection of the secession campaign, you’d have to figure nearly all these petitioners are aware (it is impossible to grow up in the South without being marinated in the memory of the Lost Cause and its consequences virtually from birth) that we had a civil war over this subject a while back, which the secessionists did not win. So it’s an unusually dumb gesture, aimed less at Barack Obama than at their fellow-citizens."

"Brandon Puttbrese, spokesman for the Tennessee Democratic Party, called the secession petition "radical nonsense" that is "a direct result of the tea party extremism and intolerance we have seen from elected Republicans in Tennessee."

"Sadly," Puttbrese said, "this kind of extremism only breeds more of the division and rancor that is prohibiting our leaders from making progress on putting Tennesseans back to work and protecting middle class families."

But Chris Devaney, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, noted that nearly 50 percent of Americans voted against Obama.

"We can argue whether the petition is proper," Devaney said, "but it is certainly a signal that it's time for the president to show some leadership and work to unite America rather than divide us."

The petition drive is just a way for angry voters to let off steam after a highly emotional and divisive campaign, said John Scheb, head of the political science department at the University of Tennessee.

Not only is secession unlikely, it's not even legally possible, Scheb said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1869 that states cannot unilaterally secede from the union. "The position the court took was once in (the union), always in," Scheb said."

It's called the 14th Amendment, people.

And it's pretty much the same as the fable of the Fox who sought in vain to jump up and grab some grapes the Fox viewed as most tasty, only to miss them and fail and fail again:

This Fox has a longing for grapes:
He jumps, but the bunch still escapes.
So he goes away sour;
And, 'tis said, to this hour
Declares that he's no taste for grapes

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Glenn Beck Says 'God Sucks' - Another Repblican Loses It

It is very simple in the weak and deluded mind of failed talk show host Glenn Beck to find blame for the reason President Obama was reelected:

" ... in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election, Beck had repeatedly said that God was orchestrating Republican nominee’s path to the presidency. Speaking to his radio listeners in September, he insisted that Romney’s poll numbers had fallen as a part of a plan from God to make it obvious to the American people that divine intervention was responsible when Republicans took the White House in November.

But once the vote was in, Beck had another explanation:

"Man, sometimes God really sucks,” the radio host lamented"

Yes, or the sad truth may just be that God thinks Glenn Beck is a few thousand french fries short of a Happy Meal.

"Dondero, reasoning that the only recourse to Obama's victory is "outright revolt," laid out the terms of the "personal boycott" against Democrats which he plans to maintain for the rest of his life and that he hopes his followers will as well. What does the boycott entail? Cutting all ties with Democratic family members, friends, and lovers; refusing to work for a Democratic boss; spitting on the ground when a Democrat talks to you; and possibly shitting on your Democratic neighbor's lawn, among other things:

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Camilla - NASA's Rubber Chicken Celebrity

It's rather odd and unnerving that I'm jealous of a rubber chicken. And not just any rubber chicken. This rubber chicken gets to be an astronaut and mascot for NASA while I remain earthbound.

Camilla Corona is a social media mogul as "she" provides educational and public relations for NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. She tweets, blogs, and apparently fascinates the world ...

"This chicken has some weird addictive quality that goes across borders and language barriers,” Wiseman said. “I took her to Red Square one day and it was unbelievable.” He said he was constantly surrounded by people who wanted to take pictures of Camilla, most of whom had no idea what his or Camilla’s story was.

"So how did Camilla go from anonymous rubber chicken to astronaut-in-training? Romeo Durscher, senior manager at SDO and executive assistant to Camilla, says that Camilla’s social media efforts began in late 2009, before the official launch of the mission. They had decided to make Camilla their mascot, something which initially started as an inside joke among the SDO team. But they quickly realized social media was an opportunity to teach the public about the sun and solar weather and that Camilla — the hilariously adorable chicken that she was — could be a great teacher."

None can argue that Camilla is darned cute.

Puerto Rico Votes For Statehood

Puerto Rico has voted this week for statehood ... or have they?

"The two-part referendum asked whether the island wanted to change its 114-year relationship with the United States. Nearly 54 percent, or 922,374 people, sought to change it, while 46 percent, or 786,749 people, favored the status quo. Ninety-six percent of 1,643 precincts were reporting as of early Wednesday.

The second question asked voters to choose from three options, with statehood by far the favorite, garnering 61 percent. Sovereign free association, which would have allowed for more autonomy, received 33 percent, while independence got 5 percent."

Still, the PR governor who wanted statehood, Luis Fortuno, was ousted and replaced by Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party, which wants Puerto Rico to remain a semi-autonomous U.S. commonwealth.

The issue will have to be decided by the U.S. Congress, but the outcome is fairly murky - and murkiness surrounds the vote in Puerto Rico too:

"Statehood won a victory without precedent but it's an artificial victory," said Angel Israel Rivera Ortiz, a political science professor at the University of Puerto Rico. "It reflects a divided and confused electorate that is not clear on where it's going."

Divided, confused, and lost ... sounds like it's already a U.S. state.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Very Diverse America Votes

As long predicted, the polls and Nate Silver and even me here, were spot on. President Obama was re-elected. The simple truth is that every candidate the Republicans put forth were no match for Obama. And, more important, the voters in America are far more diverse, involved and attentive than Republicans seem to understand.

"But when it comes to key demographics, the electorate actually likely skewed more Democratic/liberal than in 2008.

The electorate was less white (from 74 percent in 2008 to 72 percent this year), more Latino (9 percent to 10 percent), just as African-American (13 percent to 13 percent), more female (53 percent to 54 percent), more low-income (38 percent making less than $50,000 in 2008 to 41 percent Tuesday) and — perhaps most remarkably, younger (18 percent to 19 percent).

It all suggests that Obama’s laser-like focus on turning out each of his key constituencies — minorities, women and young people — paid dividends.

And in many cases, these groups backed him as much or more as in 2008. 

Women gave Obama 55 percent of the vote and low-income voters gave him 60 percent, about the same as four years ago.

Latinos gave Obama 67 percent of their vote four years ago, and 71 percent on Tuesday.

And Democrats supported Obama even more than they did four years ago, with his share of the Democratic vote rising from 89 percent to 92 percent."

The work Obama was first elected to perform - healing the massive economic collapse brought about during the 2000s - is a long, arduous task. It will take much of the next four years to correct, and if Congress continues to stall and block recovery and reform efforts, then look for Democrats to have the advantage in elections in 2014 and 2016. However, since most of the Congress elected yesterday are the same folks who blocked Obama's first efforts, it can also be said that voters don't want to give Obama a free hand to do anything he wants. Or maybe we just like the idea that a stalled Congress is one that moves very, very slowly.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Obama's 2nd Term On The Rise

Today's presidential vote might be rather close in the popular vote, but the electoral college totals are (and have been) favoring the re-election of President Obama. For much of the last year or more, the strategies of Democrats and Republicans have been tightly focused on those numbers, not the popular vote - because it is the electoral college which determines winners.

Since day one of the Obama presidency, there have been very loud voices opposing him and any agenda he put forth, and those voices have truly gotten louder in the last year. But the number of those voices? They've always been a small percentage of the public.

Those pesky percentages ...

My math is usually as weak as a newborn kitten, no matter when I employ it.

The numbers-crunching of state polls, as aggregated and measured by blogger/statistician Nate Silver, has, for quite some time, claimed that Obama will be the winner:

" ... in the United States, presidential elections are won state by state, not at the national level. And with remarkable unanimity, the leading aggregators have consistently concluded that polling in the swing states -- Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin -- has favored Obama. And that in the vast majority of the 100,000 simulated elections Silver runs each day, the president has come out on top.

Still, each of the aggregators -- FiveThirtyEight, TPM PollTracker, HuffPost Pollster, RealClearPolitics Average, and the Princeton Election Consortium -- has its own methods, and its own results. While each of the five went into Election Day predicting a second term of the president, their numbers vary a bit."

Meanwhile, Conservative and the GOP all are claiming that polls today are all wrong in state after state, and that Romney has a secret landslide win coming. The Right Wing activist/writer Jonah Goldberg presents today the claim that statistics are utterly worthless:

"The truth is that any statistician can build a model. They do it all the time. They make assumptions about the electorate, assign weights to polls and economic indicators, etc., and then they wait for the sausage to come out. No doubt some models are better than others, and some models are simply better for a while and then regress to the mean. But ultimately, the numbers are dependent on the values you place on them. As the computer programmers like to say, garbage in, garbage out."

As I said, I haven't seen the number of voices opposing the president (or supporting Romney) grow - they have simply gotten louder. It may be a biiiiig gamble, but I think Obama wins this re-election bid. The army of Republican advisers and lobbyists say Romney has the win already in the bag.

Time will tell.

Friday, November 02, 2012

In Which I Write About Being A Woman

Been a busy time as I've been directing the stage show of Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps" for the Morristown Theatre Guild, which opens tonight in Morristown at Rose Center. The show runs Nov 2 - 11 and is a totally madcap farce of all things Hitchcock.

Just 4 actors and an army of stage hands and tech frantically re-creating an entire movie - well, a very silly full-on comedy version of a movie - live onstage before your very eyes.

And while I never had any intentions of being in this show ... somehow, I ended up being one of the poor, poor actors who has to play a few dozen roles. It's just about whittled my voice down to a mere ghost of its normal self. And then there's the dress/blouse/wig thing I have to wear ...

Oh well. I do make a very ... um ... handsome kind of woman I guess. One friend says I look like "Maude".

Anyway the production has led to light blogging, but once the Presidential Election gets settled next week, I'll put my dress away and get back to work here at your Cup of Joe.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Gonna Need a Mop In the Crypt this Halloween

A Halloween tradition on the blog - this brief clip showing what happens when you stake a vampire who has just "eaten".

Sunday, October 28, 2012

You're Doing Halloween Wrong If You're Wearing A 'Sexy Rooster' Costume

I'm not quite sure when all this happened, but it's been pretty obvious for a long time that Halloween costume companies have lost their minds.

Proof in 2012, for example, arrives as a "Sexy Rooster Costume" for a woman to wear. Rooster, people. As in a male chicken. 

Some seriously stoned or drunk folks late in the office or just utterly burnt out at their jobs must have dreamed this one up. Or maybe it came from a bizarre episode of someone's psychotherapy session.

'Cause, see, of course, a "rooster" isn't a female creature. Not that "Sexy Chicken' outfit would be a whole lot better. Just who the outfit is meant for and just who would find a rooster sexy ... 

The folks here at  have more on the "Sexy Rooster" and the other horribly bad ideas for Halloween - like Sexy Beetlejuice and Sexy Grinch. 

Maybe the madness of such outfits is indeed a frightening thing after all. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Romney Family Owns Voting Machines

Even as I enjoy all the spooky and frightening aspects of the Halloween holiday, the notion that a presidential candidate and family own voting machines is truly a chilling thought. Via a corporation headed by Mitt Romney's son Tagg, the company has successfully purchased the voting machines being used this November in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma and Washington.

"Through a closely held equity fund called Solamere, Mitt Romney and his wife, son and brother are major investors in an investment firm called H.I.G. Capital. H.I.G. in turn holds a majority share and three out of five board members in Hart Intercivic, a company that owns the notoriously faulty electronic voting machines that will count the ballots in swing state Ohio November 7. Hart machines will also be used elsewhere in the United States.

In other words, a candidate for the presidency of the United States, and his brother, wife and son, have a straight-line financial interest in the voting machines that could decide this fall's election. These machines cannot be monitored by the public. But they will help decide who "owns" the White House."

Just as I was reading and learning about this disturbing reality, over at KnoxViews, writer djuggler poses a question worth answering:

"Why is the purchase of the Ohio voting machines by Tagg Romney 1) legal and 2) not all over the news?"

If anyone remotely related to President Obama's family owned voting machines, FOX "News" would be relentlessly howling and screeching. And why aren't major media outlets covering the fact that Romney's family does own voting machines? FOX talkers gleefully accused the Obama administration of "cooking the numbers" so that unemployment rate numbers showed a drop - so surely they'd gleefully report that a presidential candidate's family owns voting machines, right? Unless, of course, the candidate is Mitt Romney.