Lazy Saturday Reads

cherry blossoms dc

Happy Saturday!!

The cherry blossoms have reached their peak in Washington DC, just in time for today’s Cherry Blossom Parade, scheduled for 10AM-12PM today. WaPo:

The blossoms reached peak Thursday and should still be putting on a good show this weekend. Because of the variability of weather, they aren’t always this near peak at parade time.

The parade proceeds west along Constitution Avenue from Seventh to 17th streets.

Further south, in Augusta GA, the azaleas are in full bloom just in time for the Masters Tournament, which is going into its third day despite the loss of Tiger Woods to back surgery this year and Phil Mickelson’s failure to make the cut. Left-hander Bubba Watson was leading the pack by 3 strokes as of last night.

Masters azaleas

From the Augusta Chronicle: Bubba Watson storms to 3-stroke lead.

Bubba Watson never led during the first three rounds of the 2012 Masters Tournament but rallied on the final day and won in sudden death. The former Georgia Bulldog is on top now, halfway through the 78th Masters, with some breathing room.

Watson, 35, ripped apart the second nine at Augusta National Golf Club on Friday with five consecutive birdies en route to 4-under-par 68 – which included bogey on No. 18 – to build a three-shot lead over John Senden, of Australia. It matched the largest 36-hole lead since 2006.

Senden, who qualified for the Masters on March 16, when he won the Valspar Championship, also had a second-round 68 and is alone in second place.

Australian and defending champion Adam Scott made a spirited comeback to stay within shouting distance of Watson. Scott, who opened with 69, was 3-over after five holes Friday but played his final seven in 3-under, finishing with 72, tied for third place, four behind Watson.

Tiger’s absence has hit ESPN hard: ESPN’s Masters ratings plummet without Tiger Woods.

There was a feeling around the Masters that the absence of Tiger Woods might not hurt as much as expected. With Tiger having ceded some of the spotlight to younger golfers in recent years, the sport was healthy enough to survive without him in Augusta.

Television viewers apparently had a different opinion.

ESPN’s first-round telecast was down 800,000 viewers from last year to a record low of 2 million. That’s the lowest Thursday viewership in the seven years the network has been broadcasting the Masters.

Forsythia at Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain MA

Forsythia at Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain MA

Okay, I know it’s unlikely that anyone else here cares about professional golf; I just wanted an excuse to post some pretty photos of spring flowers.

Up here in southern New England we’re just beginning to see a little yellow showing up on the forsythia bushes, but it’s going to be warm for the next few days, and soon Arnold Arboretum will showing off acres of yellow blossoms like those in the photo to the right. And it won’t be long before our cherry trees and azaleas are in bloom too!

Spring has sprung!

Can you tell I’m trying to avoid the news?

In a little over a week, Boston will host its big spring event, the Boston Marathon, and between now and then we’ll be hearing endless talk about what happened here last year.

I’d like to avoid all the coverage, but I’ve decided instead to try to pay close attention to the coverage in corporate and alternative media and notice how the powers that be attempt to shape the narrative of last year’s dramatic events as well as the public process of dealing with them.

Yesterday, Boston NPR station WBUR had a very good discussion of Unanswered Questions Around The Marathon Bombing on the local program Radio Boston. It’s worth a listen.

I was quite surprised that one of the participants, Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone Magazine brought up the fact that nearly every breaking story on the events of last year came from CBS’ John Miller, who was obviously the designated target for FBI leaks. And Reitman was actually permitted to discuss this issue at some length.

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Miller began working for CBS in 2011; before that he worked for the Federal Government as “Associate Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analytic Transformation and Technology”; and before that he was “Assistant Director for Public Affairs for the FBI.”

Currently he is working with his old friend Bill Bratton as “Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence” for the NYPD. Is this guy a journalist or is he a tool of law enforcement? He did work for ABC News in the 1990s. As such, he got an interview with Osama bin Laden in 1998. I wonder how that happened?

Here’s a piece about Miller in Men’s Journal from March 2013–shortly before last year’s Boston Marathon.

John Miller’s office at CBS News is filled with keepsakes from his two lives as top cop and leading reporter: badges from his tours with the New York and Los Angeles police departments; a photograph from his 1998 interview with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan; his FBI badge and ID; even an LAPD Beach Patrol cap. (“The one job I never got,” Miller jokes.) “When I was covering the cops, I wasn’t one of those guys who showed up to work everyday saying ‘I’ve gotta find the scandal in the police department,’” says Miller. “And when I was with the police department, I didn’t hate the press for doing its job, either. Which I think has made it easier to toggle back and forth.”

But is avoiding anti-cop stories really the best attitude for a “journalist?” And how can such a journalist be expected to critically analyze leaks handed to him by law enforcement sources? I think the answers to those questions are obvious. And yet Miller basically shaped the news narrative on last year’s Boston Marathon bombings.

Last night NBC aired an hour-long program on the Boston attack: 108 Hours: Inside the Hunt for the Boston Marathon Bombers, hosted by Brian Williams. It was interesting for me to watch the video of the events that took place in Watertown as police hunted for the accused bombers; but of course no hard questions were asked. Everything law enforcement officials had to say was taken at face value.

One tidbit I learned was that President Obama had been on the phone with Governor Patrick during the lockdown of much of the city, and Obama had expressed concerns about the notion of government officials shutting down a major American city. I found that fascinating considering that critics on both the left and right have portrayed Obama as a tyrant who was probably in control of those kinds of decisions.

The news event that I’ve really been avoiding is the deadly bus accident in California.

I find it so painful to read or hear about children being hurt that I generally avoid such stories, but today I feel I have to cover the terrible bus crash in California. You may recall that we had a terrible bus accident in Boston just about a year ago. In fact there have been bus crashes all over the country. What’s going on?

Despite new regulations mandating seat belts on recently built tour buses, passengers are still losing their lives in crashes.

A crash Thursday in Northern California killed 10 people and injured 34 when a tour bus carrying Los Angeles-area students collided with a FedEx truck. Eerily, the crash occurred almost exactly one year from the date of a tour bus crash in Irving that killed three people and injured dozens of senior citizens.

The history of serious crashes involving tour buses or motor coaches stretches back into the 1950s and highlights a pattern of danger that federal regulations have just begun to attempt to mitigate.

Congress wrapped bus safety improvements, including a provision for seat belts in recently built tour buses, into a larger transportation bill which was signed into law in 2012. Those regulations, however, only apply to buses produced in 2007 or later. The regulations do not order buses built before 2007 to be retrofit with safety belts.

The industry opposes requiring that existing buses be retrofitted with seat belts saying the seats are not designed for them and may not be strong enough to withstand the repeated pulling of straps. Retrofitting is also more expensive than adding belts to new buses.

Read more at the link. The story references numerous other articles about bus accidents.

Reuters on the latest incident: Investigators focus on cause of deadly California crash

Investigators were focusing on Saturday on what caused a FedEx tractor-trailer to collide with a bus in a fiery crash in northern California that killed 10 people, five of them teenage students en route to a college recruitment event.

It remained unclear whether the FedEx driver was somehow distracted or lost consciousness, or whether a mechanical failure occurred when his truck swerved across the median of Interstate 5 and slammed head-on into the motor coach full of students from the Los Angeles area on Thursday.

The California Highway Patrol also raised the possibility that a separate collision on the truck’s side of the highway might have been a factor in Thursday evening’s fatal crash.

According to early highway patrol accounts of the accident, the truck side-swiped a car after crossing the center divider but before hitting the bus. Two witnesses, Bonnie and Joe Duran, who were reported to be in the clipped car, told California media outlets that the truck was on fire before the collision. “I was heading along in the outside lane and I looked over and saw the FedEx truck coming straight for me and he was in flames already,” Bonnie Duran told a local CBS-affiliate.

More at the link.

I have a few more interesting reads for you today that I’ll just list briefly.

I highly recommend reading this op-ed at the WaPo by former SCOTUS Justice John Paul Stevens: The five extra words that can fix the Second Amendment. It’s an excerpt from his new book Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. 

See also Scott Lemieux’s review of Stevens’ book at The American Prospect: How John Paul Stevens Would Amend the Constitution.

Here’s a brief but encouraging story by WBUR (NPR)  about the three women running for governor of three New England states: Women’s Groups Target New England Gubernatorial Races.

I really liked this thoughtful post about the internet, privacy, and the NSA leak story at Haft of the Spear blog: You Were Promised Neither Security Nor Privacy.

Don’t miss this troubling story at the WaPo: Inside the FBI’s secret relationship with the military’s special operations. Can we all agree that the FBI (and CIA) are a lot scarier than NSA metadata storage?

Those are my offerings for today. What stories have you been following? Please share your links in the comment thread and have a nice Spring weekend!


Sunday Reads: Housewife Bakery, Homeless Mother and More Wealthy People

c39676d524606b13ffa2d8ec05b4edb4Good Morning All…

It was so distressing for to see one of our Sky Dancing family have such a traumatic reaction to one of our post a few days ago, I could somewhat understand, as my rape experience comes back in nightmares…and even in flashes of memory during times when I least expect it. But I could not think of anything to say, of any words to offer that would be consoling…it was like I froze up. I was afraid to even look at the comments yesterday. I did not want to face up to it.

Why couldn’t I do that? What was making me recoil from the blog like that?

I feel so bad, and still do not know what to say to my dear one, who know who she is…

I’ll try to keep from lingering on the issue, but there are a few disturbing stories I am bringing y’all today that will probably rub salt in old wounds.

97860f7a2e8862c9a245cd2a33dad7c5First some good and happy news, on Friday Bill Elliott’s son Chase Elliott won his first Nationwide Series NASCAR race: Dawsonville’s Chase Elliott wins first Nationwide race at Texas

Hometown hero Chase Elliott used a strong move on the outside to pass Kevin Harvick for the lead at Texas Motor Speedway and then sailed away his first career Nationwide Series victory.

The 18-year-old won in his sixth career start and is the second youngest winner in series history. He’s roughly four months older than Joey Logano, who was 18 years and 21 days when he won his first career Nationwide race in 2008.

Elliott won in a Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, driving the No. 9 as a tribute to his father, 1988 Cup champion Bill Elliott.

“I can’t believe it, just to have the opportunity to race with these guys at JR Motorsports, just to have this opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any racer who wants to make it to the top,” Elliott said. “It just means the word for me to be here.”

Elliott became the fourth driver in Nationwide history to earn his first series victory at Texas, joining Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Trevor Bayne.

Chase is finishing his senior year of high school…my dad worked for Bill here in Banjoville when Chase was born…and it is a funny thing. See, Daddy put up the wallpaper in Chase’s nursery, and now look at what the kid has done!

On another personal note, hurray:  UConn beats Florida 63-53 to make NCAA final. (I went to UConn for my Paralegal degree…)

And…one more, the title of this post is referring to the Housewife Bakery in Tampa, Florida.

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When I was a little girl we would drive by this bakery every day except Sundays. It was on the way to my ballet studio…and the name of the place always pissed me off!

I would always complain, “Why would they call that Housewife bakery, how sexist!”

Ugh, it still rubs me the wrong way.

cc2e17e9952a4bed0024c1e4dcfc52fbOkay on with the rest of the links.

News on  MH370: Second pulse detected in hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines plane

A Chinese ship searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane has detected a pulse signal for a second time, Australian co-ordinators say.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston called the discovery in the southern Indian Ocean an “important and encouraging lead” but warned that there was no confirmation of a link to flight MH370.

He told reporters that the second signal was monitored for about 90 seconds and was detected less than 2 km (1.2 miles) from the original.

Update on a case in China where the school children were poisoned to death: Chinese kindergarten head sentenced to death for child poisoning | The Raw Story

A Chinese court has sentenced the head of a kindergarten and an accomplice to death for killing two children with poisoned yoghurt in northern China, state-run media reported Sunday.

Kindergarten head Shi Haixia poisoned the children last year in a revenge attack aimed at a rival school in Hebei province which had higher enrollment, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

A court in Hebei sentenced Shi and an accomplice to death, while another person was given a five-year jail sentence, the report 795c693b5dd20367351574ed25c3432dsaid.

Two village girls died after their grandmother found the yoghurt, which was laced with rat poison and placed on a roadside along with several notebooks, state media reported earlier.

The children, whose ages were not given, were found “foaming at the mouth,” the report said. One died before reaching hospital while the other died after receiving treatment.

China has a shortage of state-run kindergartens, and competition between private profit-driven institutions can be intense.

And in another horrifying news story dealing with a young girl: Senegalese law bans raped 10-year-old from aborting twins | Global development | theguardian.com

A 10-year-old girl who is pregnant with twins after she was raped by a neighbour has been forced to continue with her pregnancy after human rights campaigners lost their fight to secure a legal route to abortion.

The plight of the girl, who is five months pregnant and lives in Ziguinchor in the south, highlights the heavy cost women and children are paying for a Napoleonic law on abortion that is still in force in the former French colony.

“She is going to have to go through with the pregnancy,” said Fatou Kiné Camara, president of the Senegalese women lawyers’ association. “The best we can do is keep up pressure on the authorities to ensure the girl gets regular scans and free medical care.

Senegal‘s abortion law is one of the harshest and deadliest in Africa. A doctor or pharmacist found guilty of having a role in a termination faces being struck off. A woman found guilty of abortion can be jailed for up to 10 years.”

It is sickening.

e9e4fd84aaddf005ab79b0d710f22bf0But there is more disgusting shit…this time back here in the US: 6 suspended amid Missouri school rape allegations – Yahoo News

Months after vowing to boost security at a Kansas City school where a student says she was dragged to a room and raped, district officials have suspended six employees amid new allegations from a 14-year-old girl who alleges a boy repeatedly raped her at school.

The girl in the latest case, who the police report describes as autistic, told authorities the 14-year-old boy raped her “on numerous occasions” over the last month at Southwest Early College Campus while a 13-year-old girl stood in the hall as a lookout. The boy and the alleged lookout were charged Wednesday in juvenile court with one count each of rape and sodomy and ordered to remain detained Friday.

The school district began its own investigation after learning of the new allegations Wednesday. Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent R. Stephen Green said in a statement released Thursday the district has placed “a number” of school employees on administrative leave and that other personnel could be put on leave depending on the outcome of the district’s probe.

“Once the investigation is complete, a final decision will be made about whether they will continue as employees of KCPS or will be dismissed,” Green said in his statement.

Please read more of the details of all these stories at the links.

I am going to move on to more newsy reads for you after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sunday Reads: March Lions and This is your brain on Barbie Dolls

28685d3f59c2ed69b7d5035d696075a6Good Morning

Well Banjoville is getting hit with another bad day weather wise…don’t get me wrong, I’ve become a mole…all content inside the house. No need to venture out, hermitage that would be considered a lonely spot, is heaven for me.

Most of the links today are from earlier in the month, I saved them and just haven’t found a use for them until now. The images are from pinterest, all pulp covers, and all of them have a little something in common. First up though, a run of news stories getting attention.

There was a mudslide in Washington state last night, via the LA Times: Sounds of life heard from Washington state mudslide debris

Rescuers searching a Washington state community devastated by a deadly mudslide said Saturday night that they had heard signs of life coming from the debris and would continue searching even as the danger of flooding rose.

“We’ll be here all night long doing what we can to rescue people,” Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary said.

Trenary, speaking at a televised news conference, did not specify what kinds of sounds had been detected. He said the search had been made difficult by the sheer devastation to the area about 40 miles north of Seattle. At least three people were killed and six homes destroyed.

“There’s nothing left in the area,” he said.

Let’s hope there are survivors…that link was about an hour old as of 4:30 am. In fact, the authorities are expecting more flooding.

Debris and mud let loose by the slide have created a dam on the Stillaguamish River, and water continues to collect behind it. Authorities called on people living downriver, from Oso to Arlington, to evacuate Saturday night.

“Although this is still a rescue operation, it’s a preparedness operation,” Pennington said. He urged people living near the river to seek shelter.

Pennington said that water had been rising behind the dam 10 to 12 inches every half hour, making flooding inevitable.

“That water is going to break loose,” he said.

1288d352d1bad11e451965d9a7a6e9d5Violence broke loose in Spain, BBC reports Spain austerity: Huge Madrid protest turns violent

Violence has broken out at the end of an anti-austerity protest attended by tens of thousands of people in the Spanish capital Madrid.

Dozens of youths threw projectiles at police, who responded by charging at them.

Demonstrators were protesting over issues including unemployment, poverty and official corruption.

They want the government not to pay its international debts and do more to improve health and education.

The BBC’s Guy Hedgecoe in Madrid says protesters travelled from all corners of Spain, many of them making the journey on foot, in order to voice their anger

They called their protest the march of dignity, our correspondent says, because they say that the government of Mariano Rajoy is stripping Spaniards of just that.

For many of them, the cutbacks that Mr Rajoy has implemented, in particular to health and education, are causing Spain irreparable damage.

It looks like the protest started peaceful enough, but then got violent later…video and pictures at the link.

aa611192396924bebfa0378a0b0f8c02Bloomberg has a story out about the New York Times, check it out:  New York Times Story on Pakistan Censored by Local Printer

A NewYork Times story saying Pakistan’s government protected Taliban forces was censored by the publisher’s printing partner in that country, resulting in a blank hole on the front page of its international edition.

The article, a 4,800-word excerpt from a forthcoming book by Times reporter Carlotta Gall to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt next month, appeared in the New York Times magazine in the U.S. and was intended as a front-page article of the International New York Times. While the story appears on most copies of the international edition, it doesn’t show up in papers distributed in Pakistan, about 9,000 copies, according to the publisher.

The Times’s Pakistan printer, part of the Express Tribune newspaper in that country, removed the article without its knowledge, according to Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy.

“We would never self-censor and this decision was made without our knowledge or agreement,” she said in an e-mail. “While we understand that our publishing partners are sometimes faced with local pressures, we regret any censorship of our journalism.”

It is unclear if the Times will continue its partnership with Express Tribune.

Mediaite has a picture of the paper here: Story on Bin Laden’s Pakistan Ties Disappears from International New York Times

View image on Twitter

And….in Vatican City: Pope names woman assaulted by priest, others to sex abuse commission – CBS News

Pope Francis named the initial members of a commission to advise him on sex abuse policy Saturday, signaling an openness to reach beyond church officials to plot the commission’s course and priorities: Half of the members are women, and one was assaulted by a priest as a child.

The eight members were announced after Francis came under fire from victims’ groups for a perceived lack of attention to the abuse scandal, which has seriously damaged the Catholic Church’s reputation around the world and cost dioceses and religious orders billions of dollars in legal fees and settlements.

918e57f5a3ef906256f79d1ac49bc148The Vatican in December announced that Francis would create the commission to advise the church on best policies to protect children, train church personnel and keep abusers out of the clergy. But no details had been released until Saturday and it remains unknown if the commission will deal with the critical issue of disciplining bishops who cover up for abusers.

In a statement, the Vatican hinted that it might, saying the commission would look into both “civil and canonical duties and responsibilities” for church personnel. Canon law does provide for sanctions if a bishop is negligent in carrying out his duties, but such punishments have never been imposed on a bishop for failing to report a pedophile priest to police.

It is a step in the right direction…

And hey, did you see this story from last week? ‘I have a bomb in my a**’: Man annoyed by slow security checks prompts airport evacuation

An airport passenger has been detained for five days after he told officers he had a bomb hidden in his rectum – because he was frustrated with the time it was taking to get through security.

He didn’t have a bomb, but the comments prompted a security alert and partial evacuation at Beijing’s international airport. The man was arrested at the scene.

In a hurry to make his flight, the unnamed man had made a number of vocal complaints about the slow progress of security checks, Beijing city government’s news website reported.

He had also shown signs of anxiety while queuing at the checkpoint, it said.

When he was asked to remove his shoes before passing through security screening, he told an officer: “Do I need to drop my pants as well? I have a bomb in my a**.”

a6960365fb048fc4c35c9e167b0e3da0The guard then asked him to repeat what he said, and he obliged, the report said.

After the area was cleared, the man was searched and taken to the local police station, where he has been held since the incident on Monday.

You know…there are some things that you obviously don’t say when you are getting a closer screening at an airport checkpoint. I have a bomb in my ass is one of those things.

I will tell you another obvious no no…you do not remake Hitchcock’s The Birds. No. You. Do. Not.

Michael Bay’s Remake of The Birds Is Going to Suck Ass

In life, there are few things one can predict with accuracy, even after years of training. Just ask a financial analyst who works for 80 hours a week studying the intricacies of stock price movement only to finally manage a fund that consistently underperforms the market. Just ask a couple divorcing after 30 years of marriage. Just ask a NCAA tournament Cinderella team that makes it to the Final Four against all odds. But there is one thing, in this world of uncertainty, that can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy: a Michael Bay-produced remake of an Alfred Hitchcock movie is going to gargle goat balls.

Yes, it’s happening, according to Variety. The director most famous for the Transformers franchise is graduating from updated live-action versions of glorified toy commercials from the early 80′s to ruining treasured Hollywood cinematic achievements and pissing off Tippi Hedren. He won’t be directing; that honor will go to Dutch filmmaker Diederik Van Rooijen. But his production company — which is also behind such cinematic farts as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Amityville Horror, and Friday the 13th remakes — will be calling the shots.

If you think this is a joke, it is not.  Um…So Michael Bay Is Remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’: LAist

…Hedren thinks a remake of The Birds is a horrible idea. She spoke to MTV (via Cinema Blend) about this back in 2007 when there was talk about a remake:

“A couple of years ago, when they were first thinking about it, they called and asked what I thought about a remake of The Birds, and I thought ‘Why would you do that? Why?’ I mean, can’t we find new stories, new things to do?”

She added: “Must you be so insecure that you have to take a film that’s a classic, and I think a success and try to do it over? They tried to make Psycho over and it didn’t work.”

b924a39147d6a5757c765aa37145590eHedren, folks, just keeping it real.

Yeah, just more CG crap…CG birds, big fake explosions, running from big fake explosions and big fake tits everywhere…

Oh well, what about some of the old classic movies that never made it to the big screen? Via TCM’s blog moviemorlocks.com – Unfinished Films: Where Can I Buy My Ticket?

This month  JODOROWSKY’S DUNE (2013) will finally be leaving the festival circuit and getting a wider release on March 21st. Frank Pavich’s new documentary chronicles the long strange and turbulent development of what many consider to be one of greatest unrealized films in cinema history and allows us to imagine what Jodorowsky’s unfinished film might have looked like if it had been completed. Jodorowsky’s unruly vision was based on Frank Herbert’s science fiction opus and featured production design by the Swiss surrealist H. R. Giger and French cartoonist Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud, a soundtrack by the psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd and a cast that included Orson Welles, Gloria Swanson, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Salvador Dali and Amanda Lear. Pre-production on this big-budget film started in 1974 and millions of dollars were spent before the project eventually fell apart. Unfortunately, Jodorowsky’s story isn’t uncommon and there are thousands of forgotten unmade movies that we’ll never get the opportunity to see although they may not have had the same ambition or scope as the long lost DUNE. With this in mind I decided to compile a list of some particularly intriguing film projects that never made it to the big screen. These are the forgotten dreams of frustrated directors and writers but from time to time I find them unspooling in my head and my imagination has transformed them all into minor and, in some cases, major masterpieces.

Enjoy that blog post…

9840dc9ee54e8f00007a757819bfee57Now a bit on something that should never have been made into a play…especially a musical…Theater Review: Rocky — Vulture

Do you remember a while back I mentioned this play in a Sunday post? It was just beginning rehearsals.

The huge Winter Garden — lately home to the inane juggernaut Mamma Mia! — is not a theater in which you’d expect to find a sad and delicate romance. Yet one is playing out there. Amid gorgeous shadows and the monumental grimness of a city in decline, a scrappy small-time boxer, pursuing modest dreams of redemption in the ring and in love, hits apparent dead ends in both. At 29, he’s past his prime as a fighter; meanwhile Adrian, the girl he likes, is withdrawn to the point of hostility. They’re each other’s “flip side,” they slowly learn: The boxer convinced he’s all body, no brain, the abused Adrian just the opposite. That he’s not as dumb as he looks, nor she as plain as her cat’s-eye glasses indicate, is hardly a novel narrative notion, but it makes for a touching theatrical combo. Unfortunately, this two-character, black-and-white kitchen-sink drama, reminiscent of Paddy Chayefsky in his made-for-TV days, is trapped inside (and eventually strangled by) a garishly colorful bloated mess of an unmusical musical called Rocky.

This was inevitable. From its inception, Rocky the musical was a cynical endeavor, driven not by artistic necessity or even plausibility but financial opportunity. (The movie Rocky and its five sequels, all written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, have grossed more than $1.5 billion, adjusted for inflation.) The notion of characters who can barely talk, who are by definition stuck in place, being made to sing and dance — in Philadelphia, yet — was so patently misguided as to invite ridicule. Bringing aboard some of the most highly regarded talents in the field to get around the problem only made it worse. These artists, trying harder and succeeding more than you might expect, have only exaggerated by contrast the contours of their overall failure. This was a job, if ever there was one, for Frank Wildhorn.

I don’t know directors or other broadway stage folk…but I saw that preview video back last year and thought it was shit! I mean like really shitty.

Ahrens, scrambling for hooks that won’t sound musical theaterish and twee, has actually found some, but they come at the cost of a certain outlandishness, like Rocky’s introductory solo “My Nose Ain’t Broken.”

[...]

(The book, hewing close to the movie, including “Yo, Adrian” and the sides of beef, is credited to Thomas Meehan and Stallone himself.) It’s in this sphere — the whole insane hoopla of an overhyped sporting event — that the designers, especially Zinn, go crazy. To judge from the clichés passing for costumes, Creed and his synchronized-sass entourage, dressed largely in Pimp Purple, have arrived in Philadelphia from a Saturday Night Live sketch about Soul Train.

And then there’s the famous boxing ring, which, in a coup de théâtre twenty minutes before the end, slides forward past the orchestra pit over part of the audience. (The 111 people in the affected seats — center section, rows AA through F — have by this point been moved to bleachers onstage, producing something like the in-the-round orientation of an actual fight.) All the whizbang effects $16 million can buy now come out of the closet, as any residual pretense of sincerity is burned off in the blinding light. It is admittedly, astonishing stagecraft, but also astonishing vulgarity. (Nor can you really understand what’s going on.) It’s bad enough that this Las Vegasized championship fight sequence, complete with anachronistic-for-1975 computer graphics, underlines what was already trashy in the earlier material, especially the portrayal of all the women (except for Adrian) as gum-snapping, vowel-honking floozies. But it also undermines whatever was good. It turns out that the love story was bait for the spectacle instead of the other way around.

New things to do? As Hedren asked above…nope.

Alright…just a few more links.

I thought this was a fun thread: Paris Review – Small Wonder, Sadie Stein

short chic

“Bond always mistrusted short men. They grew up from childhood with an inferiority complex. All their lives they would strive to be big—bigger than the others who had teased them as a child. Napoleon had been short, and Hitler. It was the short men that caused all the trouble in the world.” ―Ian Fleming

Every class has one, or maybe two: a child so improbably small that this becomes his or her identity. There he is, on the end of your class picture year after year, forced to play a pawn in the fifth grade human-chess game (wearing a teacher’s old velour shirt as a tunic), any child role in a play, and later the deadweight in a freshman year trust exercise. He humbly takes this as his due. He does not need James Bond proto-Godwin-ing to make him feel the sting of his lowly position.

I have come across many treasures on the giveaway table of my building’s lobby, but my most recent acquisition is perhaps the greatest. Short Chic: The everything-you-need-to-know fashion guide for every woman under 5’4″ could have come from the apartments of literally half my neighbors, but now it is mine. The cover features a petite woman dressed in the height of 1981 style: slouchy heeled boots, what looks like a leather duffel coat, a large woolen scarf, and some kind of bulbous cap that (the helpful height chart next to her informs us) brings her to a towering 5’1″. The two authors, according to their back-flap bios, are, respectively, 5’3″ and 5’2″.36e5d2250442fcb7683ecb9a7032320f

Why, 5’3″ that is enormous! Especially for someone like me! (Who is 4’11″ on a good day.) But damn, to think that James Bond did not like short people I mean men.  Go figure.

Oh, and I think my mom had a copy of that book…somehow that cover looks very familiar to me.

I don’t know about shortness causing men to go all Hitler and Napoleon and such…shit, most of the men in my family are short as hell but they aren’t evil murdering bastards. Hey, but if you want murdering batass crazy nut cases then take a look: This is your brain on murder: What the mind of a psychopath looks like – Salon.com

Burly, bearded James Fallon tells people he has the brain of a psychopathic killer. And he has some brain scans he thinks back up his claim.

The PET scans behind his surprising claim—and which have provided entertaining material for his lectures—were taken where he works. He’s Professor Emeritus of Anatomy & Neurobiology and Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior in the School of Medicine at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). There he studies higher brain functions at the Human Brain Imaging Lab. Fallon describes his interests as “the neural circuitry and genetics of creativity, artistic talent, psychopathology, criminal behavior, and levels of consciousness.”

5511e9ac00394af80c54d79fe018db0bA neuroscientist with a forty-year-long, successful career, Fallon, now sixty-six, arranged to have his own brain scanned. He made the decision after his mother, Jenny, recalled some interesting family history during a family barbeque. She knew her son, the scientist, lectured about his research on violent offenders. His lectures covered what he saw in the brains of murderers and what the images revealed to him about the causes of violent behavior. That led Jenny, as she said on NPR, to challenge her son: “Jim, why don’t you find out about your father’s relatives? I think there were some cuckoos back there.”

She was right. There turned out to be numerous—and murderous— cuckoos back there, including Lizzy Borden and seven other alleged killers. They were all on his father’s side, to his mother’s amusement. Borden, the most infamous, was acquitted—quite controversially—of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in 1882. One of Fallon’s male ancestors, Thomas Cornell, wasn’t so lucky. He didn’t beat the rap for the crime he was accused of committing: the murder of his mother. He hung for it in 1667.

You should find that article interesting for a Sunday morning.

6086d9634965aaa571ced1136d830fa0Now, one to get you pissed. School Officials Take Over Student Paper After Rape Culture Article

After a student newspaper published a feature on rape culture, district officials in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin have set new rules governing the subject matter that appears in the publication.

Through Fon de Lac High School Prinicpal Jon Wiltzius the district will now determine what stories and issues the students can write about. The issue began over an article published in Cardinal Columns, the school’s student-run newspaper. The article by Tanvi Kumar was titled “The Rape Joke: Surviving Rape in a Culture That Won’t Let You,” and featured a discussion on rape culture. You can see the story here (it’s quite powerful and well worth a read). Here’s what the article entailed, according to Raw Story:

The story begins with an account of an anonymous student, “Sarah,” who stayed silent about her rape because she “didn’t know it was rape because there weren’t and drugs, and we weren’t at a party.” Despite having told her attacker “no” numerous times, her friends convinced her that sex had been consensual.

It recounts similar stories from other students — including one about a girl who had been molested by an uncle who is will be released from prison shortly — that demonstrate the way in which rape culture causes victims of rape and sexual abuse to blame themselves for the actions of their attackers.

The school district apparently balked at the idea of this kind of subject matter being in a high school paper and stepped in with the new rules for publication.

Read more about that decision at the link. It made me think of this picture I saw on Facebook the other day.

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That is some fucked up shit!

Which brings me to the last link for today’s post…Study: Barbie May Be Hazardous to Your Daughter’s Career Aspirations – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society

Supportive parents tell their daughters they can grow up to do just about anything. But this message of empowerment may be undercut by one of their girls’ favorite playthings: Barbie dolls.

In a newly published study, four- to seven-year-old girls who briefly played with a Barbie picked a more limited set of potential career options than those who had played with a Mrs. Potato Head doll. Surprisingly, this effect occurred no matter if Barbie was dressed as a model or as a physician.0e779d33fdac11d07f7733e08831ead5

“Playing with either type of Barbie reduced the number of careers that girls saw as possibilities for themselves, compared to the number they perceived as possible for boys,” write psychologists Aurora Sherman of Oregon State University and Eileen Zurbriggen of the University of California-Santa Cruz. Their study is published in the journal Sex Roles.

I bet you know where this is going.

Participants were 37 girls growing up in a mid-sized Oregon city. Fifty-nine percent of them owned at least one Barbie; 57 percent owned two or more of the famously big-busted, slim-wasted dolls.

The experiment began with a five-minute play session, in which each girl was invited to play with one of three dolls: Mrs. Potato Head, who came with a purse and hat, but lacked glamor or sex appeal; “Fashion Barbie,” who wore a “short-sleeved pink dress with black lace overlay and pink high-heeled shoes;” or “Doctor Barbie,” who wore a white lab coat over her “scrubs-style V-neck shirt” and “tight fitting blue jeans.”

Afterwards, each girl was shown 10 pictures of workplaces representing specific occupations. For example, she would be shown a photo of a diner, told “this is a restaurant, where a food server works.” After looking at each, she was asked two questions: “Could you do this job when you grow up?” and “Could a boy do this job when he grows up?”

Aside from the restaurant, which was considered gender-neutral, the girls were asked about five occupations usually associated with women (including teacher and librarian) and five usually associated with men (including pilot, doctor, and police officer).

54aea9a86474ad3913e5bca3b18d3306The good news: “Girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head reported nearly as many occupations as possibilities for themselves as they reported were possibilities for boys,” the researchers report.

However, it was a different story for those who played with either Barbie. They “reported fewer careers as future possibilities for themselves than they reported were possible for boys.” In other words, those who played with a Barbie doll “saw fewer future opportunities for themselves.”

“This was true whether the Barbie was dressed as either a fashion model or as a doctor,” Sherman and Zurbriggen add. “It appears that the doll itself trumps the role suggested by the costuming.”

The researchers noted that:

…“adding a doctor coat and a stethoscope” may not have been sufficient “to override the sexualized clues embedded in the outfit.” A Doctor Barbie in plain medical scrubs may have had a different effect. So, presumably, might the realistically proportioned Barbie-like doll which, coincidentally, has just been unveiled by its inventor.

It is a small study of course but it does make you think…hmmm.

Well, I hope you have enough there to chew on this morning. Give us some thoughts in the comments below and have a wonderful day.


Tuesday Reads: Military Scandals, Hollywood Problems and Perversions, and Other News

Hedgehog newspaper

Good Morning!!

Winter weather continues to dominate my world. I was all ready to go out for groceries yesterday when I looked outside and saw snow coming down. Sigh . . .

We’ve got a couple of inches on the ground now–not a big deal except that there are two more storms on the way. We get one day’s respite, and then a big storm on Wednesday (5-9 in.) and a nor’easter coming on Saturday.

The storm we’re getting tomorrow is already impacting the plains states of Oklahoma and Kansas and the Midwest. If you’re in its path, you’d best stay inside and find some indoor activities to keep you occupied–like reading a good book or surfing the internet. Speaking of which, let’s see what’s in the news today.

Here’s some good news from Talking Points Memo: Obama Persuades Dems To Back Off Iran Sanctions, Give Peace A Chance.

Senate Democrats came close to blowing up President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran by toying with a new sanctions bill that negotiators cautioned would poison talks.

But in recent days it has become clear that they’re going to hold off, after aggressive lobbying from the White House, as diplomatic negotiators’ attempt to turn an interim six-month deal struck last November into something more permanent. The goal is to get Iran to surrender its nuclear weapons capabilities in exchange for relief from a swath of economically devastating sanctions….

Legislation to beef up sanctions on Iran, authored by Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ), has a whopping 58 additional sponsors, 15 of which are Democrats. Criticism of the interim deal from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, boosted the bill. But in the last three weeks, numerous Democrats have backed away and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he’ll wait to see how negotiations play out before considering the sanctions bill.

Obama, Kerry and their top aides pulled Democrats back from the brink by making their opposition to any sort of new sanctions bill clear in a series of public remarks and private face-to-face meetings with top senators. They’ve warned that bringing up a sanctions bill amid talks would empower the hard-liners in Iran, making it politically untenable for President Hassan Rouhani to cut a long-term deal. They’ve conveyed their strong belief that pushing sanctions legislation at this pivotal moment would only increase the chances of a war, according to sources familiar with the matter.

It’s too bad that Obama has to deal not only with Republicans trying to undermine his initiatives, but also with Democrats who seem to be more concerned with what Israel wants then what is best for the U.S.

Recently the Navy has been caught up in a scandal involving “nuclear force officers” caught cheating on proficiency tests. According to Fox News:

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Thursday the number of nuclear force officers implicated in a proficiency test cheating scandal has grown to 92 out of a force of 500.

James spoke to reporters after touring nuclear bases around the country, which The Associated Press has revealed suffers from such low morale and burnout that they have committed serious security lapses other breakdowns.

James, who is new to the job, said the nuclear force is beset by “undue stress and fear,” and said the nuclear force suffers “systemic problems.”

Today we’re learning of a serious fraud scandal in the Army. The Washington Post reports: Army probes allegations of fraud by recruiters and others in enlistment referral program.

Army criminal investigators are probing the actions of more than 1,200 individuals who collected suspect payouts totaling more than $29 million, according to officials who were briefed on the preliminary findings of the investigation and would discuss them only on the condition of anonymity. More than 200 officers are suspected of involvement, including two generals and dozens of colonels.

The alleged fraud drew in recruiters, soldiers and civilians with ties to the military who submitted, or profited from, false referrals registered on a Web site run by a marketing firm the Army hired to run the program. Suspects often obtained the names of people who had enlisted from recruiters, claimed them as their referrals, and then kicked back some of the bonus money to the recruiters.

The abuse is feared to be so widespread that Army investigators do not expect to conclude all audits and investigations before the fall of 2016.

But there are even more scandals. At the National Journal, Sara Sorcher and Jordain Carney offer A Pocket Guide to the Military’s Many Scandals to help us keep score.

Hoffman

Quite a bit more has come out about the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The New York Daily News is now reporting that 70 bags of heroin and numerous prescription drugs were found in the Greenwich Village apartment he was living in had been living in.

Seventy glassine baggies of heroin packed for individual sale — at least 50 of them unopened — were discovered in the $10,000-a-month rental where the Oscar-winning actor was found dead Sunday with a needle stuck in his left arm, sources said.

Some of the envelopes had the words “Ace of Spades” written on them, and others were stamped with the name “Ace of Hearts.” Both are brands of heroin that are often cut with a powerful pain reliever called fentanyl, and have become a plague in Pennsylvania, where they were used in 22 overdose deaths.

Police are now trying to learn where Hoffman got the drugs.

Apparently Hoffman had gotten sober when he was 22 years old. He told 60 minutes interviewer Steve Kroft in 2006 that he stopped drinking and drugging because he was “panicked for my life,” and that there were “things I wanted to do” and he wouldn’t be able to do them if he kept on the way he was going. Reportedly Hoffman stayed clean and sober for 23 years, until he began using again in 2013. He checked himself into a brief rehab program last May, but he had been struggling to stay straight since then.

As a recovering alcoholic and addict who has been sober more than 30 years, it’s very difficult for me to read about this. When I went into treatment at age 33, I met people who had been sober for more than 20 years and then drank again. It’s hard to believe, but the disease never goes away no matter how many years go by. And they say if you use again, the results will be much worse than when you quit. It sounds like once Hoffman went back to the drugs, he simply couldn’t stop. Although I am one of the fortunate people who have never had a desire to drink again after I quit, I know it still could happen to me. No recovering person is immune.

Last link on Hoffman: CNN pieced together a timeline of his last couple of days. Some friends said he seemed fine, but his ex-partner told police he seemed high the day before he died. Read more details at the link.

Mia Farrow and Woody Allen with adopted children Satchel and Dylan

Mia Farrow and Woody Allen with adopted children Satchel and Dylan

There’s been quite a bit of talk lately about Woody Allen’s creepy interest in young girls, after his adopted daughter Dylan wrote an open letter to The New York Times about her childhood experiences with the famous actor and director. Frankly, I believe her, but as usual many powerful people like Barbara Walters are defending Allen and suggesting that Dylan is either lying or reporting false memories. Of course, these people must ignore the facts that when 7-year-old Dylan first spoke up, Allen had been in therapy for two years for his inappropriate behavior toward her and that the prosecutor in the case found probable cause to charge Allen but felt that Dylan was too fragile to handle a trial. Read the decision in Allen v. Farrow here.

For anyone interested in this case, I recommend reading two long Vanity Fair articles by Maureen Orth–From 1992, Mia’s Story and a follow-up from 2013, Mama Mia! I also want to point to some circumstantial evidence. Of course we all know that Allan began having sex with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn when she was barely out of high school; but I didn’t realized until yesterday that Allen’s movie Manhattan was based on a sexual relationship he had with a high school girl when she was 17 and he was in his 40s.  Predictably, the girl, Stacey Nelkin is defending Woody Allen today.

From CNN: Former girlfriend Stacey Nelkin defends Woody Allen, refutes accusations of child abuse and seductive tendencies.

…on Monday evening “Piers Morgan Live” welcomed Stacey Nelkin for an exclusive, primetime interview.

Having dated Allen as a teenager, when she was 35 years his junior, Nelkin remains skeptical of the statements penned by Dylan Farrow, who is alleging to have been molested by her adoptive father as a seven-year-old. To Monday’s guest, the latest claims are simply an extension of the ugly separation between Allen, and Dylan’s adoptive mother, Mia Farrow:

“These accusations came on the heels of a horrible custody battle, Mia being extremely upset, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and she was hell-bent and determined to destroy something that he loved,” said Nelkin, who insisted her own relationship with Allen was entirely consensual and not corrupt in the least. “Woody loved Dylan. We were in contact at the time, and he would talk about her a lot. He loved the kids that they had adopted together, and she took Dylan away by creating this whole scenario.”

Maybe Nelkin is hoping Allen will finally acknowledge her and give her a part. She had a small role in Annie Hall, but here performance was left on the cutting room floor. How would Nelkin know what is true–I wonder if she knows that Woody was having sex with Soon-Yi while he was adopting his two children with Mia Farrow?

One more bit of circumstantial evidence from a 1976 People article about Woody Allen’s neuroses:

Woody will admit now only to “dating around” and living with girls for stretches ranging from “two days to two weeks—if you call that living together.” Could he possibly have mellowed from the days when his movies rated horniness as a human malaise second only to bubonic plague? “I try to have sex only with women I like a lot,” Woody explains solemnly. “Otherwise I find it fairly mechanical.” (He has little interest in family life: “It’s no accomplishment to have or raise kids. Any fool can do it.”)

He goes on: “I’m open-minded about sex. I’m not above reproach; if anything, I’m below reproach. I mean, if I was caught in a love nest with 15 12-year-old girls tomorrow, people would think, yeah, I always knew that about him.” Allen pauses. “Nothing I could come up with would surprise anyone,” he ventures helplessly. “I admit to it all.”

Okay, enough about the problems and perversions of movie stars. Did you hear about the man who claims he survived being adrift in a boat for more than a year? BBC News:

“I want to get back to Mexico,” Jose Salvador Albarengo reportedly said as he was taken to the islands’ capital, Majuro, for a medical examination.

Mr Albarengo said he left Mexico with a friend for a trip in a fibre-glass boat in December 2012.

He was found by people living on the island of Ebon Atoll on Thursday.

He had initially identified himself to authorities as Jose Ivan.

The castaway told the local deputy US ambassador Norman Barth, who was acting as an interpreter for Marshall Islands authorities, that he was originally from El Salvador, but had been living in Mexico for 15 years before his epic voyage.

From ABC News:

Alvarenga, who said he got lost after a shark fishing trip off the coast of Mexico in December 2012, said he survived 13 months drifting in the Pacific Ocean by eating fish, birds and turtles, a representative at the  Washington D.C. Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands told ABCNews.com.

The man also scooped up little fish that swam alongside his drifting boat and ate them raw, while also drinking bird blood to quench his thirst, Thomas Armbruster, U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, told the Associated Press.

Alvarenga told officials he is  from El Salvador but had been living and working in Mexico as a fisherman for 15 years before his ordeal.

In December 2012, Alvarenga said he left Mexico in a 23-foot fiber glass boat with a teenage companion named Ezekiel for what was supposed to be a day trip of fishing, the ambassador said.

A storm blew their boat off course, Armbruster said, and caused them to become disoriented and adrift. He said the castaway told him Ezekiel died a month later.

Who knows if it’s true?

Now it’s your turn. What stories have captured your interest today? Please post your links in the comment thread.


Wednesday Reads: Booklist, Playgrounds and Lawsuits

Magic Circle, Stonehenge Librarian via Pinterest

Magic Circle, Stonehenge Librarian via Pinterest

Good  Morning

Running a little late this morning, so thanks for bearing with me…

I want to start this post off with a few links to end of year book list.

First, the New York Times Sunday Book Review: 100 Notable Books of 2013 – NYTimes.com

The year’s notable fiction, poetry and nonfiction, selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review.

It is a staple read for me…and it goes without saying, that I must include the kids list of books too:

Notable Children’s Books of 2013 – NYTimes.com

Then we have this interesting grouping from The New Statesman: Books of the Year 2013

Each year we ask regular contributors to the Critics pages of the New Statesman, together with other friends of the magazine, to write about their favourite books of year. There are no constraints on what kinds of books they are able to choose, so the results are often intriguing.

John Gray  ❦  Ali Smith  ❦  Ed Balls
Stephen King   ❦   Rachel Reeves  ❦  Sarah Sands
William Boyd  ❦  Alan Rusbridger  ❦  Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Simon Heffer  ❦  Andrew Adonis  ❦  Craig Raine
Felix Martin  ❦  Frances Wilson  ❦  John Burnside
Jesse Norman  ❦  Alexander McCall Smith  ❦  Richard Overy
Jason Cowley  ❦  Mark Damazer  ❦  Lionel Shriver
Jemima Khan  ❦  Geoff Dyer  ❦  Laurie Penny
Vince Cable  ❦  Alan Johnson  ❦  Leo Robson
Jane Shilling  ❦  John Bew  ❦  Ed Smith  ❦  Richard J Evans
David Baddiel  ❦  Michael Rosen  ❦  John Banville
David Shrigley  ❦  Chris Hadfield  ❦  Tim Farron
Toby Litt  ❦  David Marquand  ❦  Robert Harris
Michael Prodger  ❦  Michael Symmons Roberts  ❦  Sarah Churchwell

One book that was picked by a few of the folks up top:

Andrew Adonis

The trials and tribulations of modern France yielded my two best books. Robert Harris’s An Officer and a Spy (Hutchinson, £18.99) breathes deep pathos into the Dreyfus affair, electrifying the bitter divisions of Third Republic France, which led ultimately to its disintegration in 1940.

I looked into it, and it is not being publish on Kindle or here in the US until January 2014. It sounds really good.

Anyway, check those list out and let us know what tickles you, or what books you would suggest.

One of the books in that New Statesman link connects to another article I have for you this morning. Look here:

David Shrigley

My favourite art book of the year is Inside the Rainbow: Russian Children’sLiterature 1920-35 (Redstone Press, £35). It juxtaposes beautiful illustrations with texts from writers such as Daniil Kharms and missives from the Soviet state. The artworks are photographed: they retain the flat, matt, paper quality of the originals. It’s a lovely book and there’s nothing in it that is too familiar. I love the subheading, too: Beautiful Books, Terrible Times.

And since the Holidays are about the little ones…both young and old alike, here are some awesome kick ass playgrounds around the world: The Most Amazing Playgrounds in the World (PHOTOS) – weather.com

Playgrounds have certainly come a long way from the ubiquitous swing sets and monkey bars – just visit your neighborhood fast food joint. But lately, we’ve noticed some amazing play spaces popping up all over the world that ditch the plastic ball pit in favor of truly imaginative designs.

Hakone Open Air Museum, 'Woods of Net'

From the whimsical and fantastical to the just plain cool, these amazing constructions are setting a pretty high bar for your local schoolyard. Whether it’s integrating seamlessly with the natural landscape, creating living storybooks or recycling trash into treasure, these playgrounds make brilliant kid-friendly design look like child’s play.

Seriously, take a look at some of these fun grounds.  The ones from Denmark, like that photo above, are really surreal. Then there is a playground in St. Louis that looks like the one from the movie The Wiz.

Okay, just one more “book” link for you. Fifty Years Later, Why Does ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ Remain Contentious? 

Each week in Bookends, two writers take on pressing and provocative questions about the world of books. This week, Adam Kirsch and Rivka Galchen on why Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” remains contentious fifty years after it was first published.

I don’t know why, even though that New York Times Review of Books article is new…there is something Déjà vu about it.

And sticking with history a bit longer: Slave artifacts found at Georgia highway project site

In a spring 2013 photo provided by New South Associates Inc., archaeologists Brad Botwick, left, Cory Green, and Nicole Isenbarger, right, excavate, sift soil, and map part of a former plantation site in Savannah, Ga. The site, which is being excavated prior to construction of a highway project, yielded thousands of artifacts that archaeologists believe belonged to slaves.

Photo by Rita Elliot, AP Photo/New South Associates Inc.

In a spring 2013 photo provided by New South Associates Inc., archaeologists Brad Botwick, left, Cory Green, and Nicole Isenbarger, right, excavate, sift soil, and map part of a former plantation site in Savannah, Ga. The site, which is being excavated prior to construction of a highway project, yielded thousands of artifacts that archaeologists believe belonged to slaves.

A Mexican coin punctured with a small hole, nails from long-decayed wooden dwellings, and broken bits of plates and bottles are among thousands of artifacts unearthed from what archaeologists suspect were once slave quarters at the site of a planned highway project in Savannah.

A team hired to survey the site by the Georgia Department of Transportation spent three months excavating 20 acres of undeveloped woods tucked between a convenience store and apartments off busy Abercorn Extension on Savannah’s suburban south side. Archaeologist Rita Elliott said the project yielded a staggering 33,858 artifacts believed to date from about 1750 until after the Civil War.

Historical records show that a wealthy Savannah attorney named William Miller owned a large plantation at the site and at one time had 87 slaves, Elliott said. Archaeologists didn’t find the main plantation house but believe many of the artifacts they found are consistent with slave dwellings.

“These people are pretty anonymous in the historical records,” Elliott said. “The archaeology may not tell us much about their names, but it will tell us about their lives.”

As for the sheer volume of items recovered at the site, Elliott said, “It’s not unheard of. But this is a lot of artifacts.”

Take a look at the rest of that piece…what a story.

Of course I will use that tale of slavery, forced labor and submission to segue into this next article: Forced into a C-section: The latest violation of pregnant women’s rights

In a surreal case that’s lawyers are calling “unprecedented,” an Italian woman who was visiting the U.K. last year for work while pregnant with her third child says she wound up undergoing a forced caesarean and had her baby taken away from her. She is currently waging a legal battle to have her returned.

The story, which broke Sunday in the Telegraph, is a harrowing one. The woman, whose family says she is bipolar and needs medication, had “something of a panic attack” in her hotel room, and called the police. After telling her they were taking her to the hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK,” she says she was shocked to find herself instead in a psychiatric facility, where she was restrained for several weeks. Eventually, after being told one morning she couldn’t have breakfast, she was forcibly sedated and woke up several hours to the news that her baby daughter had been removed by social services. Soon after, she was sent home without her child.

Back home and back on her medication, the woman embarked on a quest to have her baby daughter returned to her. But the Italian court said that “Since she had not protested at the time, she had accepted that the British courts had jurisdiction – even though she had not known what was to be done to her.” And a British judge declared that “He could not risk a failure to maintain her medication in the future.” The woman’s American ex-husband and father of her eldest daughter even tried to plead for the baby to be sent to his sister in Los Angeles, but because the baby isn’t a blood relation to her, the court struck that down too.

The woman’s lawyer, Brendan Fleming, told the Telegraph, “I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job. I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented.” And Liberal Democrat M.P. John Hemming, added, “I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme. It involves the Court of Protection authorizing a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed.”

It seems crazy to me…but things are unreal in this world. (I will say for the record, women who refuse c-sections that eventually cause the death of their child…that is another matter. I do have problems with the women who do that. When cesareans become a necessary procedure, and the woman is determined to have a vaginal delivery at any cost, she is taking that “fucked up” ideology just as far as those fetus fanatics do…to the point beyond reason.)

Case in point: ACLU sues US bishops over Catholic hospital ethics

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a sweeping federal lawsuit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops over its ethical guidelines for Roman Catholic hospitals, arguing the directives were to blame for negligent care of a pregnant woman who went into early labor and whose baby died within hours.

The ACLU alleges the bishops were negligent because their religious directives prevented Tamesha Means from being told that continuing her pregnancy posed grave risks to her health and her child was not likely to survive. She was treated at Mercy Health Muskegon, a Catholic hospital in Michigan.

“It’s not just about one woman,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU. “It’s about a nationwide policy created by nonmedical professionals putting patients in harms’ way.”

The lawsuit comes amid a wave of mergers between Catholic and secular hospital systems throughout the United States, raising questions about how much religious identity the hospitals will retain and whether they will provide medical services that conflict with church teaching. Advocates for abortion rights and others fear the mergers will limit access to a full range of medical care for women. About 13 percent of U.S. hospitals are Catholic.

It is a familiar story, we all know too well from personal experience what this woman went through…

According to the lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Michigan, Means was 18 weeks pregnant in 2010 when her water broke and she went to the nearest hospital in Muskegon. The ACLU said that over several emergency visits, Means was never told that “the safest treatment option was to induce labor and terminate the pregnancy” because the hospital was following the conference’s ethical directives. She eventually delivered the baby, which died after less than three hours. The ACLU says the pathology report found that Means had infections that can result in infertility and other damage.

Under the conference’s “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services,” abortion is barred, along with other procedures that go against Catholic doctrine, such as specific infertility treatments or sterilization. However, each bishop has the authority to interpret the directives within his diocese and it is common to find some variation in how the guidelines are applied among dioceses or according to individual cases.

For example, the directives allow for treatments to cure a grave illness in a pregnant woman even if they result in the death of the child. That issue drew national attention in 2010 with the case of a nun and administrator at a Phoenix hospital who, in her role on the hospital ethics committee, approved an abortion to save the life of a pregnant woman. Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted said the decision meant automatic excommunication for the nun and the hospital could no longer identify itself as Catholic.

Robin Fretwell Wilson, a University of Illinois professor who specializes in family and health law, said a negligence claim would hinge in part on whether the ACLU can establish that the conference has some direct control in this case or in hospitals in general. The bishops have moral authority over local Catholic hospitals but are not involved in the day-to-day business of administration.

“It’s so many layers removed,” Fretwell Wilson said, that she has “a difficult time buying” that the bishops’ conference is legally responsible in this case.

Sigh, well…I guess we just have to wait and see.

All this talk about the Pope and his new focus on the poor is great, but I still can’t fully get on board with Francis and his shitty attitude towards women. Then there is this crap too: Vatican refuses to share sex abuse investigations with U.N. panel | Reuters

The Vatican refused to provide a United Nations rights panel with information on the Church’s internal investigations into the sexual abuse of children by clergy, saying on Tuesday that its policy was to keep such cases confidential.

In response to a series of tough questions posed by the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Holy See said it would not release information on its internal investigations into abuse cases unless required to do so by a request from a state or government to cooperate in legal proceedings.

The response of the Holy See, which will be directly questioned by the panel in January 2014, will be closely watched as it tries to draw a line under financial scandals and abuse by priests that have damaged the standing of the Roman Catholic Church around the world.

Since becoming the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years, Pope Francis has largely succeeded in changing the subject after the resignation of Benedict XVI in February.

You bet your ass he has changed the subject!

The questions from the panel aimed to assess the Church’s adherence to the 1990 U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty guaranteeing a full range of human rights for children which the Holy See has signed.

In its response the Vatican said internal disciplinary proceedings “are not open to the public” in order to protect “witnesses, the accused and the integrity of the Church process”, but said this should not discourage victims from reporting crimes to state authorities.

However, it said state laws, including the obligation to report crimes, must be respected.

The Holy See noted it was “deeply saddened by the scourge of sexual abuse” and emphasized that it had changed the requirements for admitting candidates for priesthood, updated canon law, and asked bishops’ conferences to draw up guidelines to combat abuse.

But it indicated the Vatican could not be held responsible for the behavior of institutions or individual Catholics around the world and said local bishops had the responsibility of ensuring children were protected.

“The Holy See does not exercise effective control over the local activities of Catholic institutions around the world,” the response read, indicating the Catholic Church’s central administration could only be held accountable for events within the Vatican City State.

That makes me think of one thing:

Honestly. Maybe all this brouhaha over the Popes comments is nothing but smoke and mirrors? Get everyone distracted and flustered about one thing over here and they forget about priest molesting little boys over there.

Another news item that could use that Naked Gun clip as an afterthought, Radioactive Japanese Wave Nears U.S. : Discovery News

In the wake of the deadly tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 and severely damaged a nuclear reactor, Japanese officials say the levels of radiation are safe for everyone outside the reactor area itself. But as radioactive water from the plant nears the West Coast of North America — the water is expected to hit in 2014 — can we be sure it’s safe?

The nuclear reactor continues to leak radioactive water due to poor management, while Japanese subcontractors at the plant have admitted they intentionally under-reported radiation and that dozens of farms around Fukushima that were initially deemed safe by the government actually had unsafe levels of radioactive cesium.

Fukushima locals also claim they’re seeing cancer at higher rates and the Japanese government is covering up the scale of the problem.

I really don’t think we are getting all the story from Japan either.  The US EPA monitors Radiation levels around the US, you can see near real-time results here: RadNet | US EPA

The nationwide RadNet system monitors the nation’s air, drinking water, precipitation, and pasteurized milk to determine levels of radiation in the environment. RadNet sample analyses and monitoring results provide baseline data on background levels of radiation in the environment and can detect increased radiation from radiological incidents.

EPA’s RadNet Data | RadNet | US EPA

EPA’s nationwide radiation monitoring system, RadNet, consists of two components. First, stationary and deployable air monitors measure radiation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The map below provides monitoring results as graphs that are updated several times daily. You can also search the RadNet database in EPA’s Central Data Exchange (CDX) to find monitoring data. Second, EPA samples precipitation, drinking water, and milk on a routine schedule and tests them for radiation in a laboratory. The latest RadNet sampling results are available in Envirofacts.

RadNet Data

Give that some of your time today, it is interesting indeed.

Y’all probably saw this crap yesterday: Zucker plans massive change at CNN | Capital New York

After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone.

So he is planning much broader changes for the network—including a prime-time shakeup that’s likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe.

Once, CNN’s vanilla coverage was a point of pride. Now, the boss boasts about the ratings for his unscripted series, and documentaries like the Sea World-slamming film Blackfish. Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage “that is just not being so obvious.”

Instead, he wants more of “an attitude and a take”:

“We’re all regurgitating the same information. I want people to say, ‘You know what? That was interesting. I hadn’t thought of that,’” Zucker said. “The goal for the next six months, is that we need more shows and less newscasts.”

Can you see where this is going?

Zucker—“rhymes with hooker,” he likes to say—also expanded on comments he has made about breaking CNN out of a mindset created by historic rivalries with MSNBC and Fox. He wants the network to attract “viewers who are watching places like Discovery and History and Nat Geo and A&E.”

Hmmm, up next on CNN…

Moving on. Two quick links:

Photo-shopped picture falsely portrays Obama as child molester

Asshole actually tries to pass this shit off, and even the idiots who follow him on facebook call him out on it.

And check out The Very Best of ‘Right-Wing Art’ | Mediaite  

Oh, there are no words…

Did you see what happened in Iceland yesterday?

BBC News – Rare Iceland armed police operation leaves man dead

Icelandic police have shot dead a man who was firing a shotgun in his apartment in the early hours of Monday.

It is the first time someone has been killed in an armed police operation in Iceland, officials say.

Wow, the first time?

I don’t know, but with all the shit going on around here, Iceland is looking pretty good.

That is all for me this morning, except for this last story…BBC News – Chess boxing catching on in India

Chess boxing
There are 300-odd chess boxers in India

Chess boxing, a hybrid sport combining the mental workout of chess with the physical challenge of boxing, is catching on in India, reports Shamik Bag.

Wearing boxing wraps around their palms and seated on a bench inside a gym in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta, two players match moves while huddled over a chessboard.

Caught between the mind and muscle, the recently-introduced game of chess boxing is seeing an early surge of interest in India. The game involves alternate rounds of chess and boxing.

Now, that takes the whole hybrid sport thing to a new level doesn’t it? Forget kick-boxing, mixed-martial arts, wrestling stuff they do in world extreme cage fighting. This chess boxing takes brains! However, I don’t see it catching on here in the States. So don’t expect a reality show on chess boxing competitors to show up on CNN any time soon.  I bet we could come up with a catchy title though…”Left Rook and Check Mat.” (Maybe not.)

Have a great day!