It is freezing in most of the country, a few days from now Banjoville will only have a high of 20 and a low of 2…
Just few cartoons to select from this week, so here they are…
That is all folks!
It’s an open thread, don’t ya know…
I’m really struggling to get going this morning, so I’m going to start you off with a few cartoons and some quick links. I have another post planned for later on today, and I hope you’ll stop by then.
Right wing “Christian” hate was a dominant characteristic of 2013,
so I guess it’s appropriate that the year is ending with an incredibly disgusting and ludicrous example of what some Americans have become.
The New York Times finally weighed in on the disastrous decision of A&E to revoke their suspension of ridiculous hate monger Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty.
The indefinite suspension of Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family at the center of the A&E Network’s huge ratings hit “Duck Dynasty,” became definite Friday — at zero episodes. The network announced he would not be suspended after all.
A&E released a statement, noteworthy both for its concessions to the Robertson family’s refusal to accept the suspension as well as its timing — at close of business on Friday of a holiday weekend on the slowest week of the year in the entertainment business.
The bottom line: Phil Robertson will resume work on the show when it begins taping new episodes in the spring.
The network moved to suspend Mr. Robertson on Dec. 18 after comments he made about gay people in a magazine interview. At the time A&E described the comments, which described homosexual acts in crude terms and labeled them a sin, as extremely disappointing and not reflective of the network, which considered itself “champions of the L.G.B.T. community.”
Shame on you, A&E!! And don’t forget the racism, misogyny, pedophilia, religious bigotry, and general overall ignorance in Roberton’s interview. A&E now tacitly supports those “values” as their “core principles.”
Way back in 1968 when I first saw Kubrick’s magnificent 2001: A Space Odyssey, I never could have imagined that the future of the U.S. would be so pathetic and embarrassing. Sigh . . . We’ve left 2001 far behind us, and this is what has become of the dreams of my generation.
The good news, at least about gay marriage, is that the battle is over and the good guys won.
Since the Supreme Court ruling in June, the writing has been on the wall for banning of marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples in the United States. Since June the number of states with marriage equality has jumped from 12 to 18. But last week’s lower court decisions in Utah and Ohio leave little doubt that the political fight over gay marriage is now essentially over and that gay marriage will be the law of the land in every state in the country in the pretty near future.
The fact that gay and lesbian couples are now lining up to get married in Utah of all places – arguably the most conservative state in the country – might tell you this on a symbolic level. But the logic that points to the end of the political fight over gay marriage is more concrete, specific and undeniable.
Utah, rightly, got the most attention. But there were two cases last week. The other one in Ohio dealt with a much narrower question: whether the state had to recognize gay marriages in the issuance of death certificates. But both cases rested on the same essential premise: that if the federal government can’t discriminate against gay couples, states – by definition – cannot either.
As Judge Timothy Black put it in the Ohio case: “The question presented is whether a state can do what the federal government cannot — i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples … simply because the majority of the voters don’t like homosexuality (or at least didn’t in 2004). Under the Constitution of the United States, the answer is no.”
The other huge story of the day (which the mainstream media will probably play down) is that more than a million Americans will lose long-term unemployment benefits today.
Here are some links, and so far I haven’t seen any on Google news from the big media outlets.
The Columbus Dispatch: 1.3 million set to lose U.S. jobless benefits
More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as extended federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend, with potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy. A tense political battle likely looms when Congress reconvenes in the new, midterm-election year.
Nudging Congress along, a vacationing President Barack Obama called two senators proposing an extension to offer his support. From Hawaii, Obama pledged yesterday to push Congress to move quickly next year to address the “urgent economic priority,” the White House said.
For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government’s “emergency unemployment compensation” will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.
Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy might suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the “emergency” program expire as part of a budget deal, it’s unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.
Voxxi: What you should know about the expiration of unemployment benefits This article lists seven reasons why the decision by Republicans to hurt so many American families will be a disaster. Highly recommended.
The federal program, which was expanded in 2008 to provide extra income to the long-term unemployed who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state benefits, lapses Saturday because Congress failed to extend the federal program into 2014. For much of the recession, the government not only offered extended benefits beyond those 26 weeks, but also introduced the EUC program to offer up to 99 weeks of assistance in many states.
In the first six months of 2014, 1.9 million additional Americans will use up their state-funded benefits and find themselves without a federal safety net waiting if the program is not renewed. That number will jump to 3.6 million people. According to a report from the White House Council of Economic Advisors and the Labor Department, in October the average length of unemployment was 36.1 weeks – two and a half months longer than state benefits will last with no extension. The long-term unemployment rate is 2.6 percent, roughly one-third of the overall employment rate of 7.3 percent.
“In no prior case has Congress allowed special extended benefits to expire when the unemployment rate was as high as it is today,” the report says.
It’s also been quite a while since anyone was able to receive 99 weeks of benefits, which average about $300 per week. Over the past two years, the average maximum weeks of available benefits has dropped from 85 to 54, or 36 percent, according to Congressional Research Service data.
That’s just sick. In fact it is so far beyond sick, I don’t even know how to begin to characterize it.
Why are the Republicans doing this?
And don’t forget what’s happening to people on food stamps.
I wish I had some cheerful news for you. I’ll look around and try to find some. For now, I’d better get this post published before everyone gives up on me!
Have a great day, and please post any links that have caught your eye in the comment thread.
**Post updated below**
“I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony.”
Funny, that quote above about the scene from Venus…its from the Boston Globe, but the thing is that is what I was going to use for the opening of this post. It is the only line I remember from that movie, the one line that stuck with me…that I made a mental note for, remember that one JJ, it is a good one.
What can I say about Peter O’Toole that hasn’t been said in obituaries and blog post or commentaries posted online the last week since his death. Hell, you will be able to read a bunch of them in a minute, I’ve got plenty of links for you below.
Peter O’Toole was more than a magnificent screen presence to me. I don’t think there has been another actor who had such a profound effect on my life, and I know that sound sappy…but you all know how important film is to me. I always felt his role as Henry II in both Beckett and The Lion in Winter is one of the reasons I decided to major in Medieval History. (I should say specialize in Medieval History.)
Then again, my adoration of O’Toole goes back before college. Way back, to 1981 when he starred in a mini-series called Masada.
At that time girls my age had pictures of the Fonz and Scott Baio on their walls. Me? My walls had photos of Peter O’Toole, Jonathan Frid and Rod Stewart. (What can I say, I was a strange kid.)
My favorite movies star Peter O’Toole…Lawrence of Arabia, My Favorite Year, The Lion In Winter, these films are the kind of movies that I can see over and over again, they are fucking awesome. (Check out some clips down at the end of the thread.)
Other films of O’Toole are outstanding as well, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Stuntman, Creator, hell…the list goes on. But for now we will get to the various links for Peter…starting with his home country of Ireland:
16 December 2013
Tributes were paid last night to actor and hellraiser Peter O’Toole, who died at the age of 81.
The Connemara-born actor, who rose to fame in the 1962 Oscar-winning epic ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ (left), died in London on Saturday.
Actors Peter O’Toole and Helen Mirren attend the Miramax Films pre-Oscar party celebrating Oscar nominees in Los Angeles…REUTERS/Fred Prouser
He is survived by his family, including his daughters Pat and Kate, his son Lorcan, and former wife, actress Sian Phillips.
So farewell then, Peter O’Toole, the man who was either born in Connemara or Leeds, depending on who you believe.
O’Toole once said that as a boy he was terrified by “the horrible sexlessness” of nuns.
He later said this phenomenon had changed dramatically.
“They’re sipping gin and tonic in the Dublin pubs now, and a couple of them flashed their pretty ankles at me just the other day.”
Saucy nuns? It is quite possible that the notoriously bibulous O’Toole had a touch too much of the gargle, and was imagining things.
Asked once what being Irish meant to him, the legendary actor, Peter O’Toole deliberated slowly, before replying: “It’s almost the centre of my being.”
The occasion was an interview with US talk show host Charlie Rose to mark the release of the first part of his autobiography, Loitering with Intent in 1992.
“Everything I think of is coloured by its history, by its literature, by its people, by its geography,” he continued.
O’Toole went on to recount how a return trip to Ireland in 1946 after the end of the Second World War, affirmed his sense of Irishness.
“I was a bit of a misfit, a bit of an odd man out, but when I went to Kerry with my friend, Father Leo Walsh, and it all clicked. I wasn’t different at all,” he said.
This particular obit has some good stories, so be sure to read that one in full. This tidbit about an interview with Letterman is something that I remember seeing when it first aired:
He appeared on The Letterman Show in London in 1995, cigarette in hand, astride a camel. As if that wasn’t suitably outrageous, he proceeded to open a can of beer and feed it to the animal.
Asked once by Lettermen [sic] had he thought about a message on his gravestone, he told the story of an old leather jacket he once had, stained “with Guinness and blood”, that his wife had sent to the dry cleaners.
“I am having that on my tombstone. That’s my epitaph,” he said.
Which is why I was smiling when I saw this tribute Peter O’Toole obit by Political Cartoonist Milt Priggee
If any of you get to see the dvd commentary that goes with the film My Favorite Year, you will hear some great stories about Peter O’Toole. He sounded like one of those actors you would love to work with. One of the interesting things Richard Benjamin said was, O’Toole had not done a comedy, and because of that…
Peter O’Toole was originally hesitant about doing the film. However, in the script, the date of Swann’s death was, in fact, the date of O’Toole’s birthday. O’Toole phoned Richard Benjamin to find out if they did that with all of the actors they had offered the part to. The director replied that the script had not been given to anybody else, at which O’Toole agreed to do the film.
Anyway, back to the links:
Much of the British commentary on O’Toole since his death has painted him as a rather anachronistic actor, a 19th-century heroic performer in an age of method psychological realism. It is certainly true that, with his fellow so-called Celts Richard Burton and Richard Harris, he was a rebel against the new method orthodoxy. What is not true is the general depiction of the trio as Romantic, emotional, hot-blooded Celts at odds with the realism that was in the ascendant from the 1950s onwards.
Quite the contrary: O’Toole’s acting, like Burton’s, was sceptical, cool, intellectual. Far from being a fruity thesp, he was, at his best, almost a meta-actor. His best screen performances all comment on the nature of performance.
Of O’Toole’s other best roles, two (in My Favourite Year and in Venus) are satiric portrayals of washed-up actors and one, in The Stunt Man, is a satiric portrayal of an insane film director. O’Toole’s best performances have quotation marks around them.
But what of the role that created the star in the first place? It too is a “performance”. O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia is so uncannily beautiful, so eerily mesmerising that you almost don’t notice that he’s just another actor: a strange Englishman, dressed in foreign clothes, pretending to be an Arab. O’Toole’s brilliance is to create a man who is utterly convinced by the role he is playing. But he himself was never so convinced: what made him great was the keen, appraising intelligence with which he seems to stand outside himself, undazzled by his own star.
It looks like O’Toole had two films in production, one Katherine of Alexandria is in post-production according to iMDB.
O’Toole announced in July 2012 that he was retiring from acting. “The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back,” he said. He did, however, return with announced parts in Katherine of Alexandria and Mary, two films yet to be released.
During a career that spanned nearly six decades, the son of an Irish father and Scottish mother also received Oscar noms for his turns in Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2006). No one else has ever earned as many acting noms without a win.
He was fearsomely handsome, with burning blue eyes and a penchant for hard living which long outlived his decision to give up alcohol. Broadcaster Michael Parkinson told Sky News television it was hard to be too sad about his passing.
“Peter didn’t leave much of life unlived, did he?” he said.
A reformed – but unrepentant – hell-raiser, O’Toole long suffered from ill health. Always thin, he had grown wraithlike in later years, his famously handsome face eroded by years of outrageous drinking.
But nothing diminished his flamboyant manner and candor.
“If you can’t do something willingly and joyfully, then don’t do it,” he once said. “If you give up drinking, don’t go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt.”
His sensitive portrayal of Lawrence’s complex character garnered O’Toole his first Oscar nomination, and the spectacularly photographed desert epic remains his best known role. O’Toole was tall, fair and strikingly handsome, and the image of his bright blue eyes peering out of an Arab headdress in Lean’s film was unforgettable.
Playwright Noel Coward once said that if O’Toole had been any prettier, they would have had to call the movie “Florence of Arabia.”
That is another good Obituary…give it some of your attention too.
I remember another story O’Toole told, about the filming of Lawrence of Arabia. The scene where he walks down the stairs after telling the general about taking Aqaba was shot a year apart. So when he starts walking down the stairs, he is one year younger than the age he is when he reaches the bottom step.
O’Toole’s last years were quiet, but that doesn’t detract from his stalwart presence throughout much of the 20th century. Here’s a look back at a handful of his most iconic roles.
Peter O’Toole, who has died aged 81, possessed a prodigious acting talent, heart-stopping good looks, and an enormous capacity for booze. Here, he is remembered by those who knew him
Michael Caine, who had been his understudy for the 1959 play ‘The Long and the Short and the Tall’ at the Royal Court Theatre went out to dinner with O’Toole and woke up in a strange flat days later.
“There was a wild weekend that I don’t remember… ‘What time is it?’ I asked. ‘Never mind what time it is,’ said O’Toole. ‘What fucking day is it?’
I love it!
Peter O’Toole with daughter Kate and son Lorcan
More pictures of Peter here: Peter O’Toole’s Life and Career in Pictures Gallery – The Hollywood Reporter
The deaths, over the weekend, of Peter O’Toole and Joan Fontaine reminded us, once again, what a strange principality movie stardom is. Think of it as a kind of Monaco: few are born there, but many arrive, some to disport themselves at the watering holes and gaming tables, others to cultivate that notorious anonymity that is the last redoubt of fame. The church mouse may be the neighbor of the libertine. Costs of living (not merely financial) can be exorbitant, and personal loyalties prone to decay; expulsions are cruel and common, and you dare not appeal against them, for they are ordained not by a court of the land but by the judgment of the world beyond. On the other hand, re-admittance to stardom, after exile, is not unknown; in the case of O’Toole, he would drift away, out of sight but never quite out of mind, and then, just as we—and, by all accounts, he himself—started to ask if he were technically alive, he would stroll back into the light.
Now don’t forget, TCM is going to have a tribute to Peter O’Toole on Sunday, December 29th: TCM Remembers Peter O’Toole (1932 – 2013)
BTW, we lost quite a few people this year…you can find a gallery of pictures here: Hollywood’s Notable Deaths of 2013 Gallery – The Hollywood Reporter
Anyway, enjoy the videos below, some are clips but…the last two are full interviews. One, the Charlie Rose interview. The other is the hour-long interview with Robert Osborne. It is fantastic!
The Lion in Winter:
My Favorite Year:
Lawrence of Arabia:
Interview with Charlie Rose:
Interview with Robert Osborn, at TCM Film Festival April 2011:
The special wraps with O’Toole providing his personal definition of acting: “In the beginning was the word and the word was made flesh. That is, to me, is what acting is. You make the words flesh.” Which is exactly what the man did…
Think of this as an open thread.
(Just a note, it is now 4:45 am and I am finally finished with this post. The formatting was a bitch! So I probably won’t be seeing you any time soon…have a great day!)
**Updated post with added links**
Since it is a very slow day, I’ve decided to just update this post with a few newsy links…in a dump-a-roo fashion.
Starting of with a bit of sad news, Claire Davis, the shooting victim from Colorado, has died:
A statement from the Davis family
It is with unspeakable sadness that we write and say that Claire has passed away from the gunshot wound she received at Arapahoe High School on December 13, 2013. Although we have lost our precious daughter, we will always be grateful for the indelible journey she took us on over the last 17 years—we were truly blessed to be Claire’s parents. The grace, laughter and light she brought to this world will not be extinguished by her death; to the contrary, it will only get stronger.
Last week was truly a paradox in that we lost our daughter, yet we witnessed the wonderful love that exists in the world through the tremendous outpouring of support we received. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the first responders, the school resource officer, security guard and vice principal at Arapahoe High School, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office, and the physicians, nurses and staff at Littleton Adventist Hospital. Each played a significant role in giving Claire a chance to live, and demonstrated extreme amounts of professionalism, courage and love. Please know that we will never forget the extraordinary work you did on Claire’s behalf.
We ask that you give us time to grieve the death of our daughter by respecting our wishes for privacy.
With much loving-kindness,
The Davis Family
I don’t know what you can say about that. It is so painfully sad.
There is another heart-wrenching story out there, remember Jaycee Dugard? Jaycee Dugard’s new “terror”: Her father – Salon.com
The road back home hasn’t been easy for Jaycee Dugard. She was only 11 years old in June of 1991 when she was abducted from a California street in full sight of her stepfather, Carl Probyn. Last August, when she and the two young daughters she bore while in captivity were rescued, Probyn described their return as “a miracle.” But while her captors, Phillip and Nancy Garrido, are behind bars and Dugard is quietly rebuilding her life with her mother and children, she now faces a new “terror”: her biological father.
Kenneth Slayton, who has had no prior relationship with the young woman, has been speaking out lately about the child he never knew, and his wish “to be united with my daughter ASAP.” To that end, he’s retained the services of scandal magnet Gloria Allred, has filed a court petition to definitively prove his paternity of Dugard, and held a press conference last week to plead for an establishment of family ties. Slayton claims that “The first time I knew there was a possibility that I had a daughter was when the FBI told me that she had been kidnapped.”
Dugard’s family, however, tells a different story. In a statement issued last week, they claim that Dugard’s mother, Terry Probyn, “told Mr. Slayton when she learned she was pregnant that he was the father and again when Jaycee was born. He showed no interest. The police advised him when Jaycee was kidnapped and again he showed no interest … At no point did Mr. Slayton offer any assistance beyond what was requested of him while Jaycee was missing. It is now Jaycee Dugard’s turn to express her feelings and she has no interest.”
Read more about this asshole at the link, and then think of the real motivation behind his lawsuit…and how much it must weigh on Dugard’s emotions.
Okay, did you all catch this other news story? Like I said, I’ve been awol from the blog so I don’t know if it has been mentioned.
The EPA’s highest-paid employee and a leading expert on climate change deserves to go to prison for at least 30 months for lying to his bosses and saying he was a CIA spy working in Pakistan so he could avoid doing his real job, say federal prosecutors.
John C. Beale, who pled guilty in September to bilking the government out of nearly $1 million in salary and other benefits over a decade, will be sentenced in a Washington, D.C., federal court on Wednesday. In a newly filed sentencing memo, prosecutors said that his lies were a “crime of massive proportion” and “offensive” to those who actually do dangerous work for the CIA.
Beale’s lawyer, while acknowledging his guilt, has asked for leniency and offered a psychological explanation for the climate expert’s bizarre tales.
If you want a good report of these “tales” check out the video of Jon Stewart here: Jon Stewart Goes Off on Perhaps the Best Political Scandal of All Time | Mediaite
There are scandals, and there are SCANDALS. And the story of an EPA official who cheated the agency out of a million dollars with an incredibly elaborate hoax might very well be, in Jon Stewart‘s opinion, one of the most amazing and unbelievable political scandals of all time. But despite the sexiness of this story, Stewart said, “this man is a liar and boring as f*ck!” John Beale even lied to get a handicapped parking space, which wasn’t even necessary, because “he could have gotten a handicapped parking space for a legitimate medical reason: his gigantic balls.”
But hey, not all of us can lead exciting lives: Hullabaloo
Oh boy. Howie has the latest on the Duck Dynasty flap:
Do you know what a fluffer is? The clinical Wikipedia definition: “A fluffer is a person employed to keep a male adult film star aroused on the set. These duties, which do not necessarily involve touching the actors, are considered part of the makeup department. After setting up the desired angle, the director asks the actors to hold position and calls for the fluffer to ‘fluff’ the actors for the shot. Fluffing could also entail sexual acts such as fellatio or non-penetrative sex.” …
Fluffer is also the name of a 2001 gay porn film that got a buzz because Blondie (Debbie Harry) was in it. But it will have a whole new life now because so was Scott Gurney, the creator of Duck Dynasty.
Howie’s got clips at the link. They’re actually quite tasteful, all things considered. Mr Gurney played one of the leads by the name of Johnny Rebel. He’s quite attractive.
Read more about Johnny Rebel at the link…
Since we touch on the subject of right-wing shitstorms…Keep Fox News out of the classroom! Rupert Murdoch, Common Core and the dangerous rise of for-profit public education – Salon.com
Take a look at that, but it isn’t only right wing…a big portion of the for-profit group is Bill Gates and friends.
Following the rich people connection: These 2 Cities Are Now Exclusively For Rich People
Few cities in the U.S. embody the growing divide between rich and poor quite like New York and San Francisco. In just the past 20 years, both have changed from economically diverse melting pots to exclusive playgrounds for the rich.
The change is clear in striking new visualizations from the U.S. Census Bureau, crunching data from its latest American Community Survey of population and income.
In each of the pictures below, the image to the left represents median household incomes in 1990 (“before”), and the image on the right is 2012 (“after”). Darker shades correlate with higher income, and brighter shades represent lower incomes. Use the slider tool (the button in the middle) to go back and forth in time between 1990 and 2012.
That is a fun interactive map, but to be honest…San Francisco hasn’t changed all that much.
That story about McAuliffe is disgusting and it pisses me off…although it doesn’t surprise me.
Two links on the Boston Bombing brothers:
Some history articles for you:
And a couple of Christmas stories:
The pointe shoe room
I look at that picture and I know what those new pointe shoes smell like.
And finally, tomorrow is Festivus!
The Earth’s axis tilts at a 23.5-degree angle, which is what brings the seasons, and at the point of the winter solstice, the North Pole is tilted furthest from the sun. Starting Saturday afternoon, the tilt will begin shifting upright until the Vernal Equinox.
The solstice marks the start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, of course. Although the hemisphere reaches its furthest from the sun Saturday, the coldest weather lags a month or two, with January and February, on average, colder than December here.
At the solstice, the Arctic circle is in 24-hour darkness, while it Antarctica is in full sunlight.
The moment of transition to winter has already been welcomed with a traditional ceremony at Stonehenge. BBC News:
Kate Davies, who manages Stonehenge for English Heritage, said: “We were delighted to welcome over 3,500 people to Stonehenge to celebrate winter solstice.
“The wind and the rain did not dampen the celebration. And the ancient stone circle was filled with the sound of song, drumming and chanting….
Claire, a pagan from Bristol, attended the event with her seven-year-old daughter. She said: “We arrived at 5.30am – it’s a wonderful place. You don’t have to be pagan to enjoy it – even the weather won’t put you off.”
From the Irish Independent: Hundreds gather at Newgrange for winter solstice celebration.
John Cantwell, (49), a healer and member of Sli an Chri or “Pathway of the Heart”, from Dublin, heralded the first ray of sun by blowing on handmade horn fashioned from a bull and ram’s horn as part of a large group of New Age and pagan celebrants who formed human circles linking hands at the base of the monument.
“Our ancestors who built this temple thousands of years ago were great astronomers and they knew something about the sun. I’ve been coming here for years and the majority of times, irrespective of the weather in Dublin or Belfast, the horizon is clear and we get an extraordinary experience of the sun like we do right now,” he said.
“It’s difficult to feel in any way negative about anything right now,” he told the Sunday Independent.
Here’s some background on Newgrange from the Guardian:
Compared to the vast crowds of druids and pagans expected to gather at Stonehenge on Saturday 21 December to celebrate the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice event at Newgrange tomb in County Meath, Ireland is a rather exclusive affair. Just 120 people get the privilege of standing inside the monument to witness the remarkable illumination that occurs when a beam of sunlight shoots down into the narrow corridor that leads into the chamber, flooding the entire 19-metre stone passage in a warm orange light.
The people who built this neolithic structure over 5,000 years ago were evidently keen timekeepers. Above the entrance to the Newgrange tomb, which takes the form of a large grass-covered mound, is a small “roof box” that is aligned to the rising sun, a piece of design believed to have functioned in the past as an indicator of the new year. And for six days each year, around the winter solstice, the effect is at its peak.
The article lists some other sites where the Solstice is celebrated, including the Great Serpent Mound in Southern Ohio.
Finally, in Iran the winter solstice is marked by an “ancient tradition” linked to Mithra, the sun god. LA Times:
The winter solstice may mark the longest night of the year, but for Iranians, it’s also known as Shab-e Yalda, a celebration with ancient ties that commemorates the triumph of Mithra, the Sun God, over darkness.
Feasting on fresh fruits from the summer season and reciting works by 14th century Persian poet Hafez, Iranians all around the world stay up to mark the start of winter.
“It’s not an official holiday in Iran, but similar to many other ancient traditions, it has become a significant cultural celebration observed by all Iranians,” said Bita Milanian, executive director of Farhang Foundation, a nonprofit that celebrates Iranian art and culture in Southern California.
The celebration, which translates to “Night of Birth,” has come to symbolize many things for Iranians, said Touraj Daryaee, a UC Irvine professor of Iranian studies.
“This is part of Iranian tradition where evil will run havoc on the longest night of the year,” he said. “So people gather to be together until evil is gone… it’s an old idea where you need protection from evil.”
When the sun rises, light shines and goodness prevails, he said.
In other news,
President Obama said yesterday that the revelations about NSA surveillance programs have “damaged America’s security and intelligence gathering capabilities.”
The president’s year-end press conference was sprinkled with laughter and seasonal well-wishing and covered Obamacare’s poor rollout, the health-care program overall, reasons for his planned absence from the Olympic Games in Sochi – and whether his sagging poll numbers reflected his “worst year” as president. But questions about surveillance and privacy resurfaced throughout.
Obama was asked how he viewed the NSA’s mass surveillance programs after a momentous week in which a presidential panel recommended scores of major changes, CEOs of Internet companies implored him to rein in the NSA, and a federal judge ruled that an NSA program that collects “metadata” on every American phone call likely is unconstitutional.
Referring specifically to the NSA’s metadata program, which stores data on every phone call made in America for five years, Obama defended the program while also promising to change it….
“It’s important to note that in all the reviews of this program that have been done, in fact, there have not been actual instances where it’s been alleged that the NSA in some ways acted inappropriately in the use of this data,” he continued. “But what is also clear is from the public debate, people are concerned about the prospect, the possibility of abuse. And I think that’s what the judge and the district court suggested. And although his opinion obviously differs from rulings on the FISA Court, we’re taking those into account.”
Obama is now on vacation in Hawaii.
J.J. sent me some weather news this morning: Big storm hitting U.S. this weekend. Once again, the bad weather is mostly in the South and Midwest. From EarthSky:
A monster storm system will affect millions of people in the United States during the weekend of December 21-22, 2013. It’s expected to produce a wide range of nasty weather – including severe thunderstorms, flooding, snow, and ice. If you’re in the eastern half of the United States, you will feel the full force of this storm either at home or if you plan on traveling this weekend. A potential severe weather outbreak is also possible across the U.S. Southeast from Louisiana into Mississippi and Arkansas. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has already been hit hard with significant icing across Oklahoma City and into Tulsa.
The local National Weather Service offices have been busy issuing plenty of watches and warnings all across the United States. Flood watches extend from the U.S. mid-South all the way into the Ohio River Valley.
There are four threats with this storm system. One of those threats has already occurred overnight across parts of Oklahoma as freezing rain fell (and as of Saturday morning, continues to fall) across a large part of Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Read more at the link.
Here’s an interesting science story for you. From the LA Times: Sex, gluttony and hoarding marked evolution of flowering plants.
Never mind the selfish gene – the cellular family history of the oldest living species of flowering plants is marked by enough sex and gluttony to earn a place in Shakespeare’s folio.
The powerhouse organelles inside cells of Amborella trichopoda, a woody shrub that grows only in the humid jungles of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, gobbled up and retained the entire genome from the equivalent organelles of four different species, three of algae and one of moss, according to a study of the plant’s mitochondrial DNA published this week in the journal Science.
The results are the product of a years-long effort to sequence the full genome of the plant, a crucial step in solving what Charles Darwin once called “the abominable mystery” — the sudden flourishing long ago of several hundred thousand species of flowering plants.
An analysis of the nuclear DNA of the species, published in the same edition of Science, revealed that the plant is the equivalent of the animal kingdom’s duck-billed platypus — a solitary sister left behind more than 100 million years ago by what became a panoply of flowering, or fruiting, plants.
Read the rest at the link. More from Science Recorder: Oldest flowering plant genome explains Darwin’s ‘abominable mystery’
One question that plagued Darwin was why flowers suddenly proliferated on Earth millions of years ago. He referred to it as an “abominable mystery.” A new study published in Science by the Amborella Genome Sequencing Project decodes the DNA of the oldest living relative of those flowers, the Amborella. It grows natively in 18 spots and its reproductive organs are closed in by tepals, a hybrid between petals and sepals, Nature explains. It is also the only species in its genus, family and order, making it unique specimen to study.
The flower is the only link to the ancient flowers that covered the planet and is helping scientists understand the evolutionary processes that led to the 300,000 species of flowers that currently cover Earth.
“In the same way that the genome sequence of the platypus — a survivor of an ancient lineage — can help us study the evolution of all mammals, the genome sequence of Amborella can help us learn about the evolution of all flowers,” said Victor Albert of the University at Buffalo in a press release.
By comparing the genome of Amborella with other plants scientists were able to determine that about 200 million years ago a genome doubling event occurred that allowed the plants to take on new functions, such as flowering. They believe that the genome doubling may also have led to the diversification and spread of different species of flowers.
I’ll wrap this up with a couple of reactions to the Duck Dynasty kerfluffle.
This one from ABC News goes in the “Duh!” file: Phil Robertson and A&E Fight Not About 1st Amendment, Expert Says.
Kermit Roosevelt, a constitutional law professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, said the issue is not actually a First Amendment violation.
“The First Amendment, like the constitution generally, only applies to the government, so if the government stops someone from talking or punishes them, that’s a First Amendment issue. If a private person says I won’t hire you or let you be on TV anymore, that’s not,” Roosevelt said.
“The idea is we don’t let the government decide what’s a good opinion, but we do let individuals decide what they think is offensive and what should be rewarded and what should be discouraged. That’s the way the marketplace of ideas is supposed to work,” he said.
Roosevelt also pointed out that the U.S. has anti-discrimination laws that bar a company from firing someone for their race or religion, but allow it to fire someone if they have opinions the company doesn’t like.
“There’s a line that is difficult to draw between religious beliefs and religiously motivated conduct, but what the Supreme Court has said is you can’t treat people differently because of their beliefs but if those beliefs lead them to engage in certain actions, you can treat them like someone who had engaged in those actions for a nonreligious belief,” he said.
It’s really too bad that people like Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin need an expert to explain how the first amendment works.
And from Darren Leonard Hutchinson at Dissenting Justice: Duck Dynasty and Discrimination: Firing Phil Robertson Will Not Advance Gay Rights Or Racial Justice! I’ll let you read Hutchinson’s argument at his blog.
Those are my offerings for today. What stories are you focusing on? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread.
Happy Winter Solstice!!
I think this editorial cartoon by Paul Berge below about sums up the whole Megyn Kelly thing perfectly:
Now that is hilarious!
For another example of the perfect execution of the art-form that is political editorial cartoons, h/t Kathy for this link:
Art can be used to express powerful ideas and messages, and Cuban cartoonist Angel Boligan’s political and social cartoons are a perfect example of just how expressive and critical art can be. His extensive collection of comics provide a scathing commentary on contemporary politics and society.
Each comic bears a deep and powerful meaning. Don’t just take our word for it – Boligan has received more than 130 international awards for his work. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his comics is that, no matter how diverse the subject matter, they always seem to hit hard. Although he often takes on on topics like consumerism, corruption and hypocrisy, he has no problem transcending the public political topics traditionally handled by artists and take on social and emotional issues like loneliness, vanity and despair, which are more often handled by the fine arts and literature.
Take a look at those cartoons, but this one is wonderful:
The rest of tonight’s funnies in no particular order.
(and that was from Politico!)
There’s something I should probably come clean about at the start of this piece. I didn’t read the whole thing—but why should I have to read the whole thing? Lord knows Sarah Palin didn’t write the whole thing.
Another confession: I haven’t even started to read the thing.
I’ve been carting Sarah Palin’s new book around with me for weeks. My copy of Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas has accompanied me to work and to the gym and back home again. This book has been to bars in four states, it’s been stuffed in the lockers of three gyms, it’s been stowed under the seat in front of me on six flights—it’s even been to a kink-world-famous dungeon in San Francisco that I recently toured for professional reasons. (You know how Jen Graves visits artists’ studios and Bethany Jean Clement eats in nice restaurants? It was like that, just with hooks in the ceiling.)
About the only place this book hasn’t been is in my hands, open and upright, with my eyes pointed at it. But that’s about to change. Because I’m going to read this book in 20-minute bursts over the next eight hours. Why 20-minute bursts? Because that’s how long it takes for a batch of my mother’s Slog-famous Christmas Snowball cookies to bake. I’m going to put a tray in the oven, read, swap trays out, read some more.
And I think it’s fair to say that by the end of the day today—after all my Christmas cookies are baked—I will have read more of this book than Sarah Palin wrote.
Here’s a picture of Sarah Palin’s grandson—who for a time was the most famous fetus on the planet (2008, Republican National Convention)—and a quote:
“‘All this for me? And I wasn’t even very good!’
—My grandson, Tripp Easton Mitchell [Johnston], upon seeing the presents beneath the Christmas tree, 2012″
All this for me—and I wasn’t even that good. Translate that into Latin and it could be on the Palin family’s coat of arms.
Ha, okay, but this is the part that connects to the cartoon above:
Page 5: Here I learn something I didn’t know and, if I were Sarah Palin, something I wouldn’t want anyone to know. But Sarah hustles this fact to the front of the book because she sure as hell wants us to know it: Sarah surprised Todd with a “nice, needed, powerful gun” for Christmas in 2012. It was a “small act of civil disobedience,” Palin writes, prompted by “the anti-gun chatter coming from Washington.”
What was inspiring that anti-gun chatter in Washington in December of 2012? Oh, right: Twenty children and six teachers were shot dead in their classrooms by a deranged asshole with a “powerful gun.” And before the grieving mothers and fathers of Newtown, Connecticut, could put their dead children in the ground, Sarah Palin ran out gun shopping. Buying Todd a gun in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary was “fun,” Palin writes—and, again, an act of “civil disobedience.” Because gun nuts are a persecuted minority.
This paragraph about gun shopping in December of 2012—one first grader at Sandy Hook was shot 11 times—ends with Palin bragging about her tits. I’m not kidding.
Okay, I have to put the book down. I’m five pages into Good Tidings and Great Joy and… Jesus Fucking Christ… I have got to put down this toxic little shitstain of a book. I’m going to go wash my eyes out with hydrogen peroxide. Be right back.
And what was the brag about her tits? Something about Todd may have the gun, but Sarah has the rack. (Per one of the comments in that link.)
Embattled “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson has been suspended from his show by A&E for his remarks about gays and African-Americans, and now some high-profile conservatives are rallying to his side and defending him. On Friday, GOP congressional candidate Ian Bayne went all in, comparing Robertson to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
“In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians,” Bayne said in an email to supporters.
“What Parks did was courageous,” he added. “What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.”
Robertson’s anti-gay remarks in an interview with GQ comparing homosexuality to bestiality have received quite a bit of attention. But he also commented on the state of African-Americans during the Jim Crow era, claiming that they were all carefree and totally happy with their (unequal) status:
I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.
These people are real assholes!
Duck Nasty is right!
This is an open thread…