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Idina nails it
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Published Tuesday, March 04, 2014 @ 12:25 PM EST
Mar 04 2014

Forget the Oscars. This is the best version.

(YouTube video: Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel and The Roots perform "Let It Go" on classroom instruments!)

The song as it appears in the film was undoubtedly assembled from multiple takes and enhanced electronically- a necessity when you're planning to exhibit it in huge IMAX venues with several thousands watts of audio amplification.

(YouTube video: Idina Menzel performs "Let It Go" in "Frozen.")

Frankly, her Oscar performance wasn't her best... having John Travolta mangle her name didn't help. Think about it- you're following Bette Midler, you're the last musical performer of the night, singing what everyone expects to win the Oscar for Best Song, the live orchestra is in a recording studio over a mile away, and "Let It Go" (which its authors say was specifically written to be "Idina's Badass Song") is the Power Ballad from Hell, ranging from F3 to E♭5.

Go ahead... follow along...

(YouTube video: Let It Go arranged by Larry Moore)

Anyway, it was nice to see her actually enjoying herself with Fallon and The Roots.


Categories: Frozen, Idina Menzel, Jimmy Fallon, Music, Video, YouTube


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Cleaning off the desktop
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Published Sunday, February 23, 2014 @ 7:58 AM EST
Feb 23 2014

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"Some people, when they're slightly feverish and taking strong antibiotcs, have exotic dreams. I dream of digital rights management."

"Sounds exciting."

"Not the way we implement it."

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They used a text-analysis program to measure the tone of articles in USA Today between 2007 and 2009, and found that especially positive articles predicted a downturn in the Dow Jones Industrial Average between a week and a month later. The researchers also analyzed all twenty-one U.S. Presidential inaugural addresses between 1933 and 2009, and found that Presidents who waxed optimistic about the future saw a rise in unemployment and a slowdown in economic growth during their terms in office. It’s perhaps too strong to suggest that positive thinking, alone, produced these large macroeconomic changes, but the staggering results in this most recent paper are consistent with more than a decade’s worth of studies in Oettingen’s lab. (The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking)

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Just a reminder- Abe Vigoda's birthday is tomorrow. Get your party supplies today.

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When the next crisis happens, and by the nature of markets, it will happen again, the government will do the only rational thing it can, and once again step in and save the institutions with taxpayer money. The economy will again be wrecked and the average family will again pay the costs.

The bankers won't suffer much, not personally. That's the real stupidity tax, and we are all paying. The Powerball lottery: Is it really a stupidity tax?.

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(YouTube video: a great Vivaldi/Disney mashup.)

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Beware the meeping angels.


Categories: Cartoons, Cleaning off the desktop, Music, YouTube


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Remembering Sid Caesar
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Published Thursday, February 13, 2014 @ 12:00 AM EST
Feb 13 2014


Isaac Sidney "Sid" Caesar
(September 8, 1922 – February 12, 2014)

(Richard Drew/Associated Press)

Sid Caesar, a comedic force of nature who became one of television's first stars in the early 1950s and influenced generations of comedians and comedy writers, died on Wednesday. He was 91.

Mr. Caesar largely faded from the public eye in his middle years as he struggled with crippling self-doubt and addiction to alcohol and pills. But from 1950 to 1954, he and his co-stars on the live 90-minute comedy-variety extravaganza 'Your Show of Shows' dominated the Saturday night viewing habits of millions of Americans. In New York, a group of Broadway theater owners tried to persuade NBC to switch the show to the middle of the week because, they said, it was ruining their Saturday business.

Albert Einstein was a Caesar fan. Alfred Hitchcock called Mr. Caesar the funniest performer since Charlie Chaplin.

Television comedy in its early days was dominated by boisterous veterans of vaudeville and radio who specialized in broad slapstick and snappy one-liners. Mr. Caesar introduced a different kind of humor to the small screen, at once more intimate and more absurd, based less on jokes or pratfalls than on characters and situations. It left an indelible mark on American comedy.

'If you want to find the urtexts of 'The Producers' and 'Blazing Saddles,' of 'Sleeper' and 'Annie Hall,' of 'All in the Family' and 'M*A*S*H' and 'Saturday Night Live,' ” Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times when he was its chief theater critic, 'check out the old kinescopes of Sid Caesar.'

A list of Mr. Caesar's writers over the years reads like a comedy all-star team. Woody Allen and Mel Brooks did some of their earliest writing for him. So did the most successful playwright in the history of the American stage, Neil Simon. Carl Reiner created one landmark sitcom, 'The Dick Van Dyke Show;' Larry Gelbart was the principal creative force behind another, 'M*A*S*H.' Mel Tolkin wrote numerous scripts for 'All in the Family.' The authors of the two longest-running Broadway musicals of the 1960s, Joseph Stein ('Fiddler on the Roof') and Michael Stewart ('Hello, Dolly!'), were Caesar alumni as well. (Click here for the full New York Times obituary.)

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Comedy has to be based on truth. You take the truth and you put a little curlicue at the end.

If I don't believe it, I don't care.

In between goals is a thing called life, that has to be lived and enjoyed.

New Year's Eve we got five dollars for the evening- but that was from eight to unconscious.

The best thing about humor is that it shows people they're not alone.

The guy who invented the first wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three, he was a genius.

The remote control changed our lives... The remote control took over the timing of the world. That's why you have road rage. You have people who have no patience, because you got immediate gratification. You got click, click, click, click. If it doesn't explode within three seconds, click click, click.

The trouble with telling a good story is that it invariably reminds the other fellow of a dull one.

When I did comedy I made fun of myself.If there was a buffoon, I played the buffoon. And people looked at me and said, 'Gee, that's like Uncle David', or 'That's like a friend of mine'. And they related through that. I didn't make fun of them. I made fun of me.

You gotta come down to go up.

You have to be prepared for luck. You have to work with luck.

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YouTube video: Mel Brooks on working for Sid Caesar

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YouTube video: Sid Caesar reminisces with Barry Mitchell.
ABC World News Now

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YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 1 of 6
emmytvlegends.org


YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 2 of 6
emmytvlegends.org


YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 3 of 6
emmytvlegends.org


YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 4 of 6
emmytvlegends.org


YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 5 of 6
emmytvlegends.org

>
YouTube video: Sid Caesar Interview Part 6 of 6
emmytvlegends.org


Categories: ABC World News Now, Quotes of the day, Sid Caesar, Video, YouTube


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Cleaning off the desktop
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Published Sunday, February 09, 2014 @ 5:53 PM EST
Feb 09 2014

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I can communicate through a series of short & long groans & sighs. It's called 'morose code'.
-Robb Allen, @ItsRobbAllen (h/t David Kifer, alt.quotations)

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Somewhat alarmed to discover some teens don't recognize "Uncle Sam," I checked with my daughter about my soon to be 11 year old granddaughter's status:

KGB: Does Lea know who Uncle Sam is?

Sara: Oh, I think she would.

KGB: Ask her when convenient.

Sara: She said yes, it's the guy pointing and saying "I want you."

KGB: Excellent. Our nation is in good hands.

Sara: She said "Yes. Yes, it is."

Can't argue with that...>

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"I give them a year."
-Ray Bloch, musical director for "The Ed Sullivan Show," on the Beatles, when they made their first live appearance on American television 50 years ago.

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"Ah, hell. Let's call Froot Loops what they really are: Gay Cheerios."
-Bill Maher

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Those who feel that humans are essentially good and altruistic have never read the comment sections on YouTube.

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I actually used to date a girl named Christie Benghazi, so it's funny for me now when I flip between those two channels.
-John Fugelsang

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The Star Trek Facepalm collection, although I don't think Spock actually qualifies.

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“If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?”

Let me ask you this: If you came from parents, why are there still parents?

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"Fortunes have been lost underestimating Jay Leno."
-Lorne Michaels


Categories: Cartoons, Cleaning off the desktop, Harrison Ford, Jay Leno, KGB Family, KGB Opinion, Linked In, Michael Collins, Miscellany, NASA, Star Trek, YouTube


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Elvis!
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Published Wednesday, January 08, 2014 @ 6:17 AM EST
Jan 08 2014

Elvis Aaron Presley (January 8, 1935 - August 16, 1977) was an American singer, musician, and actor. One of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as "The King of Rock and Roll", or simply, "The King". Presley is one of the most celebrated musicians of 20th century. Commercially successful in many genres, including pop, blues and gospel, he is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music. He was nominated for 14 Grammys and won three, receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36. He has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)

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Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.

Don't let your head get too big, it'll break your neck.

Don't criticize what you don't understand, son. You never walked in that man's shoes

I believe the key to happiness is: someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.

I don't feel I'll live a long life. That's why I have to get what I can from every day.

I don't know anything about music. In my line, you don't have to.

I have no use for bodyguards, but I have a very special use for two highly trained certified public accountants.

I was training to be an electrician. I suppose I got wired the wrong way round somewhere along the line.

I'd never do anything vulgar before an audience. My mother wouldn't permit it.

Music should be something that makes you gotta move, inside or outside.

My voice is ordinary. If I stand still while I'm singing, I might as well go back to driving a truck.

Rhythm is something you either have or don't have, but when you have it you have it all over.

Singers come and go, but if you're a good actor, you can last a long time.

Talent is being able to sell what you're feeling.

The image is one thing and the human being is another. It's very hard to live up to an image.

The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. I might be herding sheep next year.

The only thing worse than watchin' a bad movie is bein' in one.

There is nothing more notable in Socrates than that he found time, when he was an old man, to learn music and dancing, and thought it time well spent.

Those movies sure got me into a rut.

Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain't goin' away.

When things go wrong, don't go with them.

When you're a celebrity, people treat you nicer. The bad part is, they also tell you what they think you want to hear, which ain't always the truth.

You only pass through this life once; you don't come back for an encore.

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Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the twentieth century. He introduced the beat to everything, music, language, clothes, it's a whole new social revolution- the 60s comes from it.
-Leonard Bernstein

We're the Axis of Elvis.
-John Lileks

America is Elvis Presley- the most beautiful, talented, rebellious nation in the history of Earth. And now, you're in your Vegas years. You've squeezed yourself into a white jumpsuit, you're wheezing your way through 'Love Me Tender' and you might be about to pass away bloated on the toilet. But you're still the King.
-John Oliver

He was a unique artist… an original in an area of imitators.
-Mick Jagger

A lot of people have accused Elvis of stealing the black man's music, when in fact almost every black solo entertainer copied his stage mannerisms from Elvis.
-Jackie Wilson

On a scale of one to ten, I would rate him eleven.
-Sammy Davis, Jr.

Before Elvis, there was nothing.
-John Lennon

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Categories: Elvis, Music, Video, YouTube


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Welcome to my existence...
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Published Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 5:12 PM EST
Jan 07 2014

(YouTube video: art imitates life.)


Categories: KGB, YouTube


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A Festivus for the rest of us!
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Published Monday, December 23, 2013 @ 4:54 AM EST
Dec 23 2013


(Photo: The Grey Lodge Pub)

Festivus, a well-celebrated parody, has become a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 which serves as an alternative to participating in the pressures and commercialism of the Christmas holiday season. Originally a family tradition of scriptwriter Dan O'Keefe working on the American sitcom Seinfeld, the holiday entered popular culture after it was made the focus of a 1997 episode of the program. The holiday's celebration, as it was shown on Seinfeld, includes a Festivus dinner, an unadorned aluminum "Festivus pole," practices such as the "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strength," and the labeling of easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles."

(YouTube video: "Seinfeld")

"The tradition of Festivus begins... with the airing of grievances!"


Categories: Dan O'Keefe, Festivus, Holidays, Seinfeld, Video, YouTube


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Quotes of the day: Saki (H.H. Munro)
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Published Wednesday, December 18, 2013 @ 6:45 AM EST
Dec 18 2013

Hector Hugh Munro (December 18, 1870 - November 13, 1916), better known by the pen name Saki, and also frequently as H.H. Munro, was a British writer whose witty, mischievous and sometimes macabre stories satirized Edwardian society and culture. He is considered a master of the short story and often compared to O. Henry and Dorothy Parker. Influenced by Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, and Kipling, his work influenced A.A. Milne, Noël Coward, and P.G. Wodehouse. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)

Saki was one of the authors presented by my high school English teacher, Ira Handelsman. He had a wonderful method of insuring his students were familiar with the material: he read the stories, aloud, to the class. I vividly recall his presentation of Sredni Vashtar, which, at least in my memory, was as riveting as this performance by Tom Baker:

Ira did not have an English accent, but he had precise diction and a voice perhaps best described in contemporary terms as serious NPR announcer-ish. Even the densest of jocks in the class fell silent as the story continued. At its conclusion, Ira received, if not applause, several grunts of approval.

Thus began my appreciation of H.H. Munro.

And my dislike of ferrets.

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A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a ton of explanation.

A woman who takes her husband about with her everywhere is like a cat that goes on playing with a mouse long after she's killed it.

Addresses are given to us to conceal our whereabouts.

All decent people live beyond their incomes; those who aren't respectable live beyond other people's; a few gifted individuals manage to do both.

Children are given to us to discourage our better emotions.

Confront a child, a puppy, and a kitten with a sudden danger; the child will turn instinctively for assistance, the puppy will grovel in abject submission, the kitten will brace its tiny body for a frantic resistance.

Every reformation must have its victims. You can't expect the fatted calf to share the enthusiasm of the angels over the prodigal's return.

He is one of those persons who would be enormously improved by death.

His socks compelled one's attention without losing one's respect.

I always say beauty is only sin deep.

I hate babies. They're so human.

I hate posterity- it's so fond of having the last word.

I love Americans, but not when they try to talk French. What a blessing it is that they never try to talk English.

I think she must have been very strictly brought up, she's so desperately anxious to do the wrong thing correctly.

I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.

In baiting a mouse trap with cheese, always leave room for the mouse.

Never be a pioneer. It's the Early Christian that gets the fattest lion.

People talk vaguely about the innocence of a little child, but they take mighty good care not to let it out of their sight for twenty minutes.

People vote their resentment, not their appreciation. The average man does not vote for anything but against something.

Poverty keeps together more homes than it breaks up.

The fashion just now is a Roman Catholic frame of mind with an Agnostic conscience: you get the mediaeval picturesqueness of the one with the modern conveniences of the other.

The young have aspirations that never come to pass, the old have reminiscences of what never happened.

There is no outlet for demonstrating your feelings towards people whom you simply loathe. That is really the crying need of our modern civilization.

Think how many blameless lives are brightened by the blazing indiscretions of other people.

To be among people who are smothered in furs when one hasn't any oneself makes one want to break most of the Commandments.

To have reached thirty is to have failed in life.

Women and elephants never forget an injury.

You can't expect a boy to be vicious till he's been to a good school.


Categories: H.H. Munro, Ira Handelsman, Saki, Tom Baker, Video, YouTube


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The Dream
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Published Wednesday, August 28, 2013 @ 5:57 AM EDT
Aug 28 2013

As long as there's a man alive on the face of the earth, this day will always be remembered the world over.
-Dick Gregory

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(YouTube video: NBC's "wrap-up" of the march on Washington.)

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(YouTube video: Peter, Paul and Mary perform prior to Dr. King's speech..)

On August 28, 1963, I was a few weeks short of nine years old and spending most of my time at the Ninth Avenue Playground across from the Homestead Police Station. It was the Wednesday before Labor Day, the end of summer vacation and the beginning of the fourth grade. I was on my way back out to the playground when my grandmother stopped me. She called me into the living room and told me to sit down and watch the television. Lots of people were in Washington, DC talking about something.

As a nine year old desperately trying to wring enjoyment out of the last week of his summer vacation, the last thing I wanted to do was watch a bunch of adults I didn't know give boring speeches about things that didn't matter to me. But She Who Must Be Obeyed wouldn't take no for an answer; she wasn't even swayed by the knowledge that the reason for my urgent trip to the playground was to retrieve a pot holder I had made for her before the lunch break.

She had been originally attracted to the newscast when she heard Mahalia Jackson singing. My grandmother claimed to be a Baptist (although I'd never seen her in a church in my life), and loved to listen to black gospel singers. I remember her sitting on her chair with her soiled apron, clutching a dishcloth and watching the screen intently.

You listen to this," she told me. "This is important."

I plopped down on the floor and watched as a black guy I didn't recognize approached the microphone. He was standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, and there were more people there than I had ever seen in my life.

Then he spoke.

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I am happy to join with you today, in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.

In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

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Even as a nine year old, I knew I had witnessed something special. Years later, it occurred to me that the first political speech to which I had ever paid attention turned out to be what most agree was the finest example of public oratory delivered in the 20th century. In fifty years, I've never heard anything that remotely approaches its perfect composition and delivery.

I looked over my shoulder and saw something that really disturbed me... my grandmother was crying.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

The unschooled old woman, born in the hills of West Virginia, shook her head. "Nothing, Kevie," she said. "You just remember what that man just said. You do what that man said, and everything will be all right."

It's been 50 years, and things still aren't "all right."

Perhaps my grandchildren will finally realize the dreams proposed on that hot August day.

America's democracy is still unfinished. The effort to create a more perfect union is a never ending one.

We must remember that. Thankfully, many do. And their efforts, like the situations they strive to correct, will never end.


Categories: History, Martin Luther King, Jr., Video, YouTube


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Bunny dash
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Published Monday, July 29, 2013 @ 3:34 AM EDT
Jul 29 2013

(YouTube video: Bunny Dash)

It's probably because 15-year-old Lucy's vision, hearing, and sense of smell aren't what they used to be, but I like to think she doesn't mind sharing the yard with the bunny that lives in the tallgrass stand. After the rabbit ran away, Lucy took no notice; she just continued her twice daily inspection of the back yard and reported in that everything was fine, and that it was time for me to carry her upstairs to watch television on the couch, and to wait for her 9 pm cheese-and-phenobarbital treat.


Categories: Animals, Dogs, Video, YouTube


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You are being watched. Might as well enjoy it.
(permalink)

Published Thursday, July 25, 2013 @ 11:41 PM EDT
Jul 25 2013

In light of the Edward Snowden/NSA scandal, CBS' science fiction series Person of Interest now more closely resembles a reality show:

While not quite as memorable as "Space... the final frontier," the series' opening voice over provides a pretty good summary of the premise:

"You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything... violent crimes involving ordinary people. The government considers these people 'irrelevant'. We don't. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You'll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number's up... we'll find you".

From the Wikipedia article on the show:

John Reese (Jim Caviezel), a former Green Beret and CIA field officer, is living as a derelict in New York City after the death of the woman he loves, and is presumed dead. He is approached by Harold Finch (Michael Emerson), a reclusive billionaire computer genius who is living under an assumed identity. Finch explains that after September 11, 2001, he built a computer system for the government that uses information gleaned from omnipresent surveillance to predict future terrorist attacks. However, Finch discovered that the computer was predicting ordinary crimes as well. The government is not interested in these results, but Finch is determined to stop the predicted crimes. He hires Reese to conduct surveillance and intervene as needed, using his repertoire of skills gained in the military and the CIA. Through a back door built into the system, Finch receives the Social Security number of someone who will be involved in an imminent crime, at which point he contacts Reese. Without knowing what the crime will be, when it will occur, or even if the person they were alerted to is a victim or perpetrator, Reese and Finch must try to stop the crime from occurring.

They are helped by NYPD Detectives Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), a corrupt officer whom Reese coerces into helping them, and Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson), who in early episodes investigates Reese for his vigilante activities. Although Reese arranges for Carter and Fusco to be partners in the NYPD early in the first season, neither learns that the other is also working with Finch and Reese until season two.

Periodically, the team also enlists the aid of Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco), a professional "fixer" who applies her skills to particularly difficult tasks. The series features several subplots. One significant story arc involves "HR", an organization of corrupt NYPD officers in league with budding mob boss Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni); in the course of this arc Fusco is forced to go undercover. Another important storyline revolves around Root (Amy Acker), a psychopathic female hacker who is determined to gain access to the Machine; she asserts the device is actually God, and that she has been summoned by "her."

Ah, The Machine...

The Machine is a mass surveillance computer system programmed to monitor and analyze data from surveillance cameras, electronic communications, and audio input throughout the world. From this data, the Machine accurately predicts violent acts. Under control of the U.S. Government, its stated purpose is the identification of terrorist and their planned assaults. However, the Machine detects future violent acts of all kinds, not just terrorism. Unknown to Finch, his partner, Nathan Ingram, installed a routine called "Contingency" prior to delivering the system to the government. The covert software causes the machine to also act on non-terrorist crime. Finch is appalled that Ingram has the data sent directly to him. After Finch fails to prevent Ingram's computer-predicted murder, he further modifies the system so that "irrelevant" non-terrorism data is transmitted to him in the form of social security numbers, via coded messages over a public telephone.

Over the course of each episode, the viewer periodically sees events as a Machine-generated on-screen display of data about a character or characters: identification, activities, records, and more may be displayed. The viewer also sees a Machine-generated perspective as it monitors New York. Commercial flights are outlined by green triangles, red concentric circles indicate no-fly zones around tall buildings, and dashed boxes mark individual people. The Machine classifies the people it watches by color-coding the boxes: white for no threat or an irrelevant threat; red for perceived threats to the Machine, red-and-white for individuals predicted to be violent; and yellow for people who know about the machine, including Finch, Reese, Ingram, Corwin and Root. The white-boxed "irrelevant threat" targets include the Persons of Interest that Reese and Finch assist.

As the series progressed, a wider governmental conspiracy emerged. Known as "The Program", it revolves around the development and utilization of the Machine. Apparently led by a mysterious figure known only as "Control", an unnamed official (Jay O. Sanders) from the Office of Special Counsel begins eliminating key personnel who are aware of the Machine's existence by deploying teams of Intelligence Support Activity (ISA) operatives who believe they are acting to eliminate perceived terrorist threats on the recommendation of a department known as "Research". The members of the elimination teams are classified by the Machine using a blue box.

Person's producers have hinted the third season of the hit series, which moves to a new day and slot (Tuesdays at 10 pm, premiering on September 24) will attempt to be more, er, science fiction-y. Like all television shows, Person does have some reality-bending elements, but the suspension of disbelief level required is remarkably low. The bad guys are still lousy shots, and the key characters make miraculous recoveries from concussions, lethal injections and various forms of physical trauma, often before the show's end credits roll. But hey, it's episodic broadcast television, right?

Where the show excels is in production values and technical accuracy. While Mr. Finch's technology boasts features which are a couple software releases in the future, the indulgences can be forgiven. The show's cellular phone networks, computers, and other devices work at blinding speed. But when you have to shoehorn a rich narrative into 40 minutes of actual episode time, you really don't want to watch systems execute communication protocol negotiations in real time; trust me.

Particularly impressive is the effort the show puts into elements that have perhaps a second or two of screen time. Thanks to high definition and digital video recording, I've been able to freeze frame some of the monitor shots- and it's obvious these guys have some real-world Unix and TCP/IP knowledge. A one-second blip of a phony newspaper article reveals someone actually wrote a faux news story and, apparently, follows The AP Stylebook.

Other one-hour drama series spend eight days or less to film an episode. Person of Interest spends nine and a half, with more camera coverage, extensive location shooting, and substantial post-production work.

They spend money on this show, and it's all up on the screen. The episodes have a decided theatrical motion picture feel.

So... when planning your television viewing for the upcoming season, give Person a shot. Like certain other Warner Brothers shows, the studio hasn't made it available for free, on-demand viewing- you have to buy the DVDs or download the show from iTunes.

Just type CBS Person of Interest into Google and you'll find hundreds of useful fan sites and video clips from key episodes.

One caveat- the series is produced by J.J. Abrams of Lost fame, which means there's a chance that at some point the whole thing could take a sharp turn into stupidity. But, based on the first two seasons, it's worth the risk.

And, the regular cast includes a dog:


Categories: Amy Acker, CBS, Computers, Dogs, Edward Snowden, Enrico Colantoni, George Orwell, Google, Internet, James Clapper, Jay O. Sanders, Jim Caviezel, Kevin Chapman, Michael Emerson, NSA, Paige Turco, Peggy Noonan, Person of Interest, PRISM, Ron Wyden, Science Fiction, Signs of the Apocalypse, Taraji P. Henson, Technology, Terrorism, The Machine, TV, Video, YouTube


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Stay tuned...
(permalink)

Published Sunday, July 21, 2013 @ 2:04 PM EDT
Jul 21 2013


(YouTube video: ComiCon trailer for "COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey," a 13-part docu-series debuting in 2014 on FOX.)

The original 13-part Cosmos: A Personal Voyage first aired in 1980 on the Public Broadcasting System, and was hosted by Carl Sagan. The show has been considered highly significant since its broadcast; Dave Itzkoff of The New York Times described it as "a watershed moment for science-themed television programming". The show has been watched by at least 400 million people across 60 different countries.

Following Sagan's death in 1996, his widow Ann Druyan, the co-creator of the original Cosmos series along with Steven Soter, a producer from the series, and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, sought to create a new version of the series, aimed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible and not just to those interested in the sciences. They had struggled for years with reluctant television networks that failed to see the broad appeal of the show.

Seth MacFarlane had met Druyan through Tyson at the 2008 kickoff event for the Science and Entertainment Exchange, a new LA office of the National Academy of Sciences, designed to connect Hollywood writers and directors with scientists. A year later, at a 2009 lunch in NYC with Tyson, MacFarlane learned of their interest to recreate Cosmos. He was influenced by Cosmos as a child, believing that Cosmos served to "[bridge] the gap between the academic community and the general public". MacFarlane had considered that the reduction of effort for space travel in recent decades to be part of "our culture of lethargy". MacFarlane, who has several animated shows on the Fox Network, was able to bring Druyan to meet the heads of Fox programming, Peter Rice and Kevin Reilly, and helped to get the greenlighting of the show. MacFarlane admits that he is "the least essential person in this equation" and the effort is a departure from work he's done before, but considers this to be "very comfortable territory for [himself] personally". He and Druyan have become close friends, and Druyan stated that she believed that Sagan and MacFarlane would have been "kindred spirits" with their respective "protean talents".

(Full Wikipedia article)


Categories: Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan, Cosmos, Fox TV, National Geographic, Neil deGrasse Tyson, PBS, Science, Seth McFarlane, Steven Soter, TV, Video, YouTube


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What might have been...
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Published Thursday, July 11, 2013 @ 7:51 AM EDT
Jul 11 2013

Gary Kildall could have become a household name and, possibly, the richest man in the world.

In 1980, IBM approached Bill Gates at Microsoft to license a BASIC interpreter for their soon-to-be-released Personal Computer (PC). They mentioned they also needed an operating system, and Gates referred them to Digital Research, Gary Kildall's company.

For various reasons, things didn't work out, and IBM went back to Microsoft. You know the rest.

There are various accounts of what actually happened, and the Wikipedia article on Kildall offers what appears to be a neutral report.

I used DR-DOS. I used GEM. And I wish more people remembered Kildall's contributions.

(YouTube video: Remembering Gary Kildall)


Categories: Bill Gates, Computers, Gary Kildall, Video, YouTube


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Going boldly... insane
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Published Wednesday, July 03, 2013 @ 7:22 AM EDT
Jul 03 2013

After John Larroquette played the Klingon crew member "Maltz" in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and before Brent Spiner went on to play Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), the pair appeared together in a half-dozen episodes of NBC's Night Court. Larroquette won four Emmys as assistant district attorney Dan Fielding; Spiner played Bob Wheeler, a Yugoslavian immigrant with a West Virginian accent and incredibly bad luck.


Categories: John Larroquette, Night Court, Star Trek, TV, YouTube


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Current events
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Published Saturday, June 29, 2013 @ 12:36 AM EDT
Jun 29 2013

The Family Research Council is either adorably oblivious,
or their PR outfit is just plain evil.


Variations on a theme:




When this man smiles, a fairy dies:


Speaking of smiles:


(YouTube video: formerly captive ducks see water for the first time).


Categories: Animals, Cartoons, Church and State, Politics, Religion, Supreme Court, The New Yorker, Video, YouTube


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"I have my cape here..."
(permalink)

Published Monday, June 17, 2013 @ 6:55 AM EDT
Jun 17 2013

(YouTube video: Dean Cain on Jimmy Kimmel: Live!))

The always charming Dean Cain learns that they somehow made Man of Steel without him. Cain spent more time on screen in the iconic costume than any other actor. Hard to believe, but Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman premiered nearly 20 years ago, in September, 1993.


Categories: Dean Cain, Jimmy Kimmel, Superman, Video, YouTube


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Quotes of the day: Francis Albert Sinatra
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Published Tuesday, May 14, 2013 @ 4:58 AM EDT
May 14 2013

Baritone Frank Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was indisputably the 20th century's greatest singer of popular song. Though influenced by Bing Crosby's crooning, and by learning from trombonist Tommy Dorsey's breath control and blues singer Billie Holiday's rhythmic swing, Frank Sinatra mainstreamed the concept of singing colloquially, treating lyrics as personal statements and handling melodies with the ease of a jazz improviser. His best work is standards- Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and the Gershwins- but Sinatra, despite his 1957 denunciation of rock & roll as degenerate, recorded songs by the likes of Stevie Wonder, George Harrison, Jimmy Webb, and Billy Joel. Not only did his freely interpretive approach pave the way for the idiosyncrasies of rock singing, but with his character- a mix of tough-guy cool and romantic vulnerability- he became the first true pop idol, a superstar who through his music established a persona audiences found compelling and true. (Click for full article.)

-----

Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy.

Being an 18-karat manic-depressive and having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an overacute capacity for sadness as well as elation.

Cock your hat- angles are attitudes.

Fear is the enemy of logic. There is no more debilitating, crushing, self-defeating, sickening thing in the world- to an individual or to a nation.

For years I've nursed a secret desire to spend the Fourth of July in a double hammock with a swingin' redheaded broad... but I could never find me a double hammock.

Hell hath no fury like a hustler with a literary agent.

How can a free people make decisions without facts? If the press reports world news as they report about me, we're in trouble.

Hunger is inexcusable in a world where grain rots in silos and butter turns rancid while being held for favorable commodity indices.

I believe that God knows what each of us wants and needs. It's not necessary for us to make it to church on Sunday to reach Him. You can find Him anyplace. And if that sounds heretical, my source is pretty good: Matthew, Five to Seven, The Sermon on the Mount.

I like intelligent women. When you go out, it shouldn't be a staring contest.

If you possess something but you can't give it away, then you don't possess it... it possesses you.

I'm gonna live 'til I die.

I'm not one of those complicated, mixed-up cats. I'm not looking for the secret to life... I just go on from day to day, taking what comes.

I'm not unmindful of a man's seeming need for faith; I'm for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers, or a bottle of Jack Daniel's. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing in which man and God go it alone together, without the witch doctor in the middle.

I'm supposed to have a Ph.D on the subject of women. But the truth is I've flunked more often than not. I'm very fond of women; I admire them. But, like all men, I don't understand them.

I've always had a theory that whenever guys and gals start swinging, they begin to lose interest in conquering the world.

People often remark that I'm pretty lucky. Luck is only important in so far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After that, you've got to have talent and know how to use it.

Put your sunglasses on, because you ain't going home 'til the morning comes.

Stop worrying about communism; just get rid of the conditions that nurture it.

What I do with my life is of my own doing. I live it the best way I can.

Whatever else has been said about me personally is unimportant. When I sing, I believe. I'm honest.

When lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on Wednesday and absolution on Sunday, cash me out.

You can be the most artistically perfect performer in the world, but an audience is like a broad- if you're indifferent, endsville.

You gotta love livin', baby, 'cause dyin' is a pain in the ass.

(YouTube video: "Fly Me to the Moon")

(Today is also the birthday of Gustave Flaubert)


Categories: Frank Sinatra, Music, Video, YouTube


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My faith in the 21st century is restored...
(permalink)

Published Monday, May 13, 2013 @ 6:22 AM EDT
May 13 2013

The first Canadian commander of the International Space Station, Chris Hadfield, is scheduled to return to earth this evening with U.S. astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko.

Hadfield's been in orbit for 148 days, and during that time he's not only done whatever it this they do on the ISS, he's maintained constant contact with the people of this strange little blue ball via Twitter and other media. But he obviously saved the best for last.

(YouTube video: "A Space Oddity," from the ISS.

Godspeed, guys. May you have a safe and uneventful landing.

And eat your heart out, William Shatner.


Categories: Chris Hadfield, ISS, Music, NASA, Video, YouTube


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Khan, Bilbo Baggins, and a pair of Spocks
(permalink)

Published Wednesday, May 08, 2013 @ 7:13 AM EDT
May 08 2013

Possibly the funniest Trek-related commercial ever made. Definitely the one with the most Spocks. Congratulations to Leonard Nimoy for achieving a Shatner-esque level of self-aware self-parody, and Quinto for being such a good sport. (Quinto, by the way, is from the Pittsburgh suburb of Green Tree and is a graduate of Central Catholic and CMU.)

(YouTube video: Zachary Quinto vs. Leonard Nimoy: "The Challenge")

Speaking of self-aware self-parody, Nimoy outdid himself with this oldie but goodie:

(YouTube video: Bruno Mars - The Lazy Song [official alternate version])


Categories: Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek, Video, YouTube, Zachary Quinto


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Another giant departs
(permalink)

Published Saturday, April 13, 2013 @ 6:00 AM EDT
Apr 13 2013


Jonathan Harshman Winters III (November 11, 1925 – April 11, 2013)

When the otherwise forgettable The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh arrived here in 1979, my father was working the "extra list" at Teamsters Local #249. One afternoon they received a call from Lorimar Productions, and my dad- who had been told by a friendly union steward to make certain he was there that day- found himself with a lucrative temporary gig as Jonathan Winters' chauffeur.

At the end of the shoot, the locals working on the production received an official "Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" belt buckle, which I still have.

They also received an unpleasant surprise years later, when they learned Lorimar had never paid payroll taxes to the Feds, which caused my father and others much grief when they applied for Social Security benefits.

The situation resulted in my Dad's monthly stipend being a few bucks less than it should have been. But he didn't complain. "I spent three weeks driving around with Jonathan Winters," he recalled with a smile. "That was worth it."

-----

"More influential than successful, Mr. Winters circled the comic heavens tracing his own strange orbit, an object of wonder and admiration to his peers."
- William Grimes, The New York Times

-----

15 of the funniest people on earth died yesterday - and they all lived inside of Jonathan Winters.
-Denis Leary

-----

(from Entertainment Weekly)

Bill Cosby was once asked whom he would choose if he had $50 in his pocket to buy a ticket to see only one stand-up comedian, live, in their prime. The comic legend barely took a breath before answering, "Jonathan Winters will make every last one of us stand there in awe."

Winters, who died [April 11] at the age of 87, was a master of voices, mimicry, and right-field spontaneity. "What I do is verbal paintings," he told National Public Radio in 2011. "I paint a picture. Hopefully you'll see the characters and what they're doing and what they're saying."

For decades after he became famous for his comedy albums, he was a coveted late-night guest because no one- not the audience, not hosts like Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, likely not Winters himself- knew what he was going to do. An evening with Winters on the sofa was can't-miss television, and a generation of comics that followed him- like Robin Williams and Jim Carrey- marveled and were inspired by his daring, try-anything antics.

Winters often joked about the mental hospital, playing slightly disturbed characters who belonged to or claimed to have escaped from the asylum. He was drawing from personal experience. At the height of his early fame, he had committed himself to a mental hospital and went on to live with what he diagnosed as bipolar disorder. "I need that pain- whatever it is- to call upon it from time to time, no matter how bad it was," he told NPR.

So there was a bit of the tortured genius to him, but his comedy was rarely dark. It was manic and sly. Cosby compared Winters' talent to jazz master John Coltrane, a improvisational artist who could inflate whole stories and characters off a single verbal cue. He was unstoppable, unpredictable, and inimitable.

(YouTube videos: Jonathan Winters on The Jack Paar Show)

Jonathan Winters quotes:

God is in my head, but the devil is in my pants.

I couldn't wait for success so I went ahead without it.

If God had really intended man to fly, He’d make it easier to get to the airport.

If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to it!

Improvisation is about taking chances, and I was ready to take chances.

Nothing is impossible. Some things are just less likely than others.

Now the freaks are on television, the freaks are in the movies. And it's no longer the sideshow, it's the whole show. The colorful circus and the clowns and the elephants, for all intents and purposes, are gone, and we're dealing only with the freaks.

When you wear so many hats in society, you never know who you are. That's the beauty of it. Because once you find out who you are, you're screwed.

You come into this world, not knowing who you are, and sometimes, if you live long enough, you go out not knowing who you are.


Categories: Jonathan Winters, Passages, Video, YouTube


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Saying goodbye
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Published Monday, April 08, 2013 @ 12:38 AM EDT
Apr 08 2013

In life one has to go to the funerals of the people we like and the birthdays of those we don't.
-Wieslaw Brudzinski

I'm attending my cousin Mary Lou's funeral today.

I have no words.

See you tomorrow.

YouTube video: Mary Lou Siesky
(Here I Am Lord," by the Purple Daisies,
Windover Hills UMC)


Categories: KGB Family, Passages, YouTube


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45 years ago today, things changed.
(permalink)

Published Tuesday, April 02, 2013 @ 12:42 AM EDT
Apr 02 2013

Remember when technology was fun?

The future ain't what is used to be...

(YouTube video: the official trailer for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which premiered 45 years ago, on April 2, 1968.)

A linear projection into the future of any science or technology is like a form of propaganda- often persuasive, almost always wrong.
-Pamela McCorduck

All scientifically possible technology and social change predicted in science fiction will come to pass, but none of it will work properly.
-Neil Gaiman

All technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent.
-David Ross Brower

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.
-James Klass

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
-Arthur C. Clarke

Cheese in an aerosol can is the greatest advance in technology since fire.
-James Angove

Each fall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, football fans cheer for their favorite irrational number: “Cosine, secant, tangent, sine, three point one four one five nine!”
-Bruce Watson

Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human relationships. That's why it's a good idea to keep engineers away from ustomers, romantic interests, and other people who can't handle the truth.
(From Engineers Explained)
-Unattributed

Even though today's technology provides us with mountains of data, it is useless without judgment.
-Felix G. Rohatyn

Everyone has a right to a university degree in America, even if it's in Hamburger Technology.
-Clive James

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.
-Alice Kahn

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
-Richard P. Feynman

Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.
-Buckminster Fuller

I may be just an empty flesh terminal relying on technology for all y ideas, memories and relationships, but I am confident that all of that, everything that makes me a unique human being, is still out there, somewhere, safe in the theoretical storage space owned by giant ulti-national corporations.
-Stephen Colbert

If the Catholic church couldn't stop Galileo, then governments won't be able to stop things now.
(re: regulation of information technology.)
-Carlo de Benedetti

If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is gambling in human lives.
-Freeman Dyson

If we had had the right technology back then, you would have seen Eva Braun on the Donahue show and Adolf Hitler on Meet the Press.
-Ed Turner

In the old days, writers used to sit in front of a typewriter and stare out of the window. Nowadays, because of the marvels of convergent technology, the thing you type on and the window you stare out of are now the same thing.
-Douglas Adams

[Information Technology] people are so hypnotized by the technology hey don't look for real results.
-Peter Drucker

Levitt's First Law of Information Technology:
If it's free, adopt it.
-Unattributed

[N]either technology nor efficiency can acquire more time for you, because time is not a thing you have lost. It is not a thing you ever had.
-James Gleick

Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.
-Stewart Brand

One can prove or refute anything at all with words. Soon people will perfect language technology to such an extent that they'll be proving with mathematical precision that twice two is seven.
-Anton Chekhov

Screams erupted at a nearby hotel, where Microsoft founder Bill Gates was addressing an education and technology conference.
(Associated Press report of a Seattle earthquake)
-Unattributed

Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we need not experience it.
-Max Frisch

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.
-Unattributed

Technology is really civilization, let's face it.
-Arthur C. Clarke

Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology.
-John Tudor

Technology today is the campfire around which we tell our stories. There's this attraction to light and to this kind of power, which is both warm and destructive.
-Laurie Anderson

The Bible, it seems certain, was the work of sand-strewn men and women who thought the earth was flat and for whom a wheelbarrow would have been a breathtaking example of emerging technology.
-Sam Harris

The human race has today the means for annihilating itself-either in a fit of complete lunacy, i.e., in a big war, by a brief fit of destruction, or by careless handling of atomic technology, through a slow process of poisoning and of deterioration in its genetic structure.
-Max Born

The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.
-E.O. Wilson

There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology- the tendency to do what is reasonable even when it isn't any good.
-Robert Pirsig

We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.
-Douglas Adams

We have lots of information technology. We just don't have any information.
(New Yorker cartoon caption)
-Sydney J. Harris

We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
-Carl Sagan

While modern technology has given people powerful new communication tools, it apparently can do nothing to alter the fact that many people have nothing useful to say.
-Lee Gomes


Categories: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, Quotes of the day, Stanley Kubrick, Technology, Video, YouTube


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Chaka Khan is 60 today
(permalink)

Published Saturday, March 23, 2013 @ 8:39 AM EDT
Mar 23 2013

(YouTube video: The Wrath of Chaka Khan)


Categories: Chaka Khan, Music, Star Trek, William Shatner, YouTube


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Ramblings
(permalink)

Published Tuesday, February 26, 2013 @ 1:27 PM EST
Feb 26 2013

I imagine our Shelties all would have Scottish accents if they could speak, and Lucy, the oldest, would sound just like Deborah Kerr in the original Casino Royale.

They should just create a "Best Quentin Tarantino Film" category and be done with it.

How can you not like an Oscars show with two Captain Kirks?

I wish Spielberg had won best director. How great would it have been for him to talk too long and to have the Jaws music start..

The Pope's tweets come from an Apple device, which is kind of funny when you think about it...

Since I'm not a fan, I was a bit apprehensive about Seth McFarland hosting the Oscars. His performance reminded me of Calvin Trillin's suggested state motto for New Jersey: "Not as bad as you might have expected."

"Why Seth MacFarlane's Oscars were mean spirited and misogynistic, coming up next after our review of the worst dressed women."
-@Crutnacker

Totally unrelated: It turns out Person of Interest is more of a documentary...


Categories: Apple, Calvin Trillin, Dogs, Jaws, Nova (PBS), Observations, Oscars, Person of Interest, Quentin Tarantino, Religion, Seth McFarlane, Star Trek, Steven Spielberg, Video, YouTube


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Why I love Jim Cantore...
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Published Sunday, February 10, 2013 @ 7:25 AM EST
Feb 10 2013

Jim Cantore renders Al Roker speechless.


Categories: Al Roker, Jim Cantore, The Weather Channel, Video, Weather, YouTube


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49 years ago today...
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Published Saturday, February 09, 2013 @ 7:41 AM EST
Feb 09 2013

The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. The show was watched by 73 million people.

Trivia: The Beatles' performances and recordings of "Till There Was You," the love ballad from the Broadway musical "The Music Man," earned writer Meredith Willson more money than all of the show's royalties combined. The Fab Four wanted something in their repertoire that would appeal to parents and critics. Sir Paul McCartney now owns the publishing and performance rights to Meredith Willson’s music catalog.


Categories: Ed Sullivan, Meredith Willson, Music, Paul McCartney, The Beatles, Video, YouTube


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When Things Were Rotten
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Published Monday, December 10, 2012 @ 7:11 AM EST
Dec 10 2012

On December 10, 1975, the 13th and final episode of Mel Brooks' When Things Were Rotten aired on ABC.

Hoping to do for the Middle Ages what Blazing Saddles did for the Old West, the absurdist comedy premiered in the top 20 but quickly tanked. A critical success, it couldn't survive in its Wednesday 8 pm time slot opposite Tony Orlando and Dawn on CBS and Little House on the Prairie on NBC.

In that primitive age- before the Internet, before DVRs, yea, verily, even before Betamaxes- moms and dads opted for musical variety and wholesome viewing on the family's two television sets.

It was a shame. In addition to Brooks, the series boasted top-name talent. The show's bouncy theme was written by Charles Strouse and Lee Adams, the guys who did Bye Bye Birdie, Applause, and Annie. Four episodes were directed by Peter Hunt, better known for directing the Tony-winning musical 1776 and its movie adaptation.

And it featured great stuff like:

Villain: "Are you ready to tell that to your maker?"

Victim (to camera): "Mel! I didn't do it!"

(YouTube video: Opening credits and theme, "When Things Were Rotten")

Once upon a time when things were rotten
Not just food but also kings were rotten
Everybody kicked the peasants
Things were bad and that ain't good
Then came Robin Hood... ba-bah!

Soon the band of Merry Men begotten
They wore outfits made of plain green cotton
Helping victims was their business
Boy oh boy was business good
Good for Robin Hood!

They laughed, they loved, they fought, they drank
They jumped a lot of fences
They robbed the rich, gave to the poor
Except what they kept for expenses!

So when other legends are fogotten
We'll remember back when things were rotten
Yay for Robin Hood!


Categories: Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks, TV, When Things Were Rotten, YouTube


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Engage
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Published Wednesday, December 05, 2012 @ 5:45 AM EST
Dec 05 2012

This might be what finally motivates me to get a Blu-Ray player. The third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was when the show finally jelled. Most of my favorite episodes come from that year: "Who Watches the Watchers?"; "Déjà Q"; "Yesterday's Enterprise"; "The Offspring"; "The Most Toys"; and the terrific cliffhanger, "The Best of Both Worlds".

(YouTube video: Star Trek: Next Generation - Season Three Blu-Ray trailer from CBS Home Entertainment. Turn off the lights, be sure you're in hi-def, go to full screen and crank up the sound.)


Categories: Patrick Stewart, Photo of the day, Star Trek, TV, Video, YouTube


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How "White Christmas" and "The Ten Commandments" begat "Star Wars"
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Published Tuesday, December 04, 2012 @ 12:46 PM EST
Dec 04 2012

Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" was the first film shot in Paramount Pictures' proprietary VistaVision widescreen process. Twentieth Century Fox's previously introduced Cinemascope used anamorphic lenses to squeeze a wider image onto the film; the process was reversed during projection. When you see a film clip where everyone looks extremely tall and skinny, you're seeing a widescreen anamorphic print being projected in error by a normal lens.

The problem with all this image squeezing and unsqueezing was the effect on image quality. Distortion was introduced which couldn't be completely eliminated during projection. Color motion picture film in the 1950s was also rather grainy, and the fuzziness could be detected when the image was projected on the larger, wider screens.

Instead of using lenses to squeeze a wider image on the negative, VistaVision cameras moved the film horizontally past the lens, exposing the equivalent of two standard 35mm frames. This doubled the width of image without the introduction of anamorphic distortion and graininess. Think landscape vs portrait photo printing on your computer, and you'll get the idea.

Very few VistaVistion projectors were built, and they were used only at special previews and premieres. Since twice as much film was used to record the image, it had to move through the projector twice as fast, at a somewhat terrifying three feet per second. For regular exhibition at the local neighborhood movie house, the VistaVision negatives were printed down to standard vertical 35mm reels, while keeping the widescreen aspect ratio. A VistaVision print could be projected with a regular lens, which meant theater owners didn't have to buy special equipment or deal with switching lenses when the second movie on a double feature was shot in non-widescreen format.

Technology marched on; higher quality film stocks were created as well as better anamorphic lenses. VistaVistion's bulky cameras and high film costs doomed the format. After being used on about three dozen or so films, VistaVision disappeared for the most part in the early 1960s.

Jump cut to the mid-1970s. John Dykstra was looking for cheap motion picture cameras suitable for shooting special effects. Effects shots require multiple exposures and multiple printing steps, each resulting in increased film grain and loss of detail. The old VistaVision cameras, with double the negative size of a standard 35mm frame, were ideal-- and were dirt cheap, since no one had used them for 15 years. Even better, the lens mounts on the old cameras and printers could be modified to use readily available, high-quality Nikkor lenses from 35mm Nikon still cameras. (I vaguely recall an ad by Nikkor on the back cover of Popular Photography magazine boasting how their lenses made Star Wars possible, but the issue's long gone and I can't find the ad online anywhere.)

Dykstra bought the old equipment, added motion control hardware and software, and the VistaVision cameras that shot Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in White Christmas and Charleton Heston in The Ten Commandments (a 1956 Paramount release) became the Dykstraflex system that made Star Wars' groundbreaking effects possible. The old VistaVision equipment carried Industrial Light and Magic's multiple award-winning efforts until the replacement of optical-based special effects with computer generated imagery.


Categories: Movies, Star Wars, Video, YouTube


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"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly..."
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Published Thursday, November 22, 2012 @ 8:30 AM EST
Nov 22 2012

WKRP in Cincinnati: "Turkeys Away" (Season 1, Episode 7, aired 10/30/1978)
Mr. Carlson is beginning to feel useless at the new formatted rock station so he decides to create a big Thanksgiving Day promotion. His idea? Get a helicopter, with a banner attached to it saying "Happy Thanksgiving From WKRP", and drop live turkeys from the helicopter. What could go wrong?

(YouTube video: "The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!")

See the full episode on Hulu.


Categories: Holidays, Hulu, TV, Video, WKRP in Cincinnati, YouTube


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Happy birthday, Dick and Larry
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Published Monday, November 19, 2012 @ 12:05 AM EST
Nov 19 2012

Larry King is 79 today; Dick Cavett is 76.

Two legendary talk show hosts with entirely different personalities and approaches; yet the prosaic King and the cosmopolitan Cavett both killed on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson earlier this year.


(YouTube video: Larry King inhabits the body of Geoff the Robot. Hilarity ensues.)


(YouTube video: Including such delights as a joke based on an obscure reference to Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.)


Categories: Craig Ferguson, Dick Cavett, Larry King, TV, Video, YouTube


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Miscellany
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Published Saturday, November 17, 2012 @ 2:19 AM EST
Nov 17 2012

I think America might just have spent all day obsessing over loss of Twinkies. This is why we're not getting a greatest generation book.
-@pourmecoffee

What if the Mayan calendar ends in 5105, and we've just been holding it upside down?
-Aaron Karo

Hostess will sell the rights to all their snack cakes, and Twinkies will once again pour off the production line of a different company. I wouldn't be surprised if several years' worth of Twinkies aren't already stockpiled in a warehouse somewhere. I mean, It's not like they're going to go stale or anything...

A blonde walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a double entendre. So he gives it to her.

This new thesaurus isn't just terrible, it's also terrible.
-Justin Shanes

Viagra can cause sight loss. So, you can go blind either way.


(YouTube video: The Big Bang Theory Flash Mob!)

James Bond beat Abraham Lincoln at the box office. Boy, it's really been a lousy week for Republicans, hasn't it?
–David Letterman

No hurry- take all the time you have.
-The Covert Comic

Isn't the Twinkie too big to fail? Where's the bailout, Obama?
-The Beachwood Reporter

If you were born in or after April 1985, you have never experienced a colder than average month. If you've lived in Pittsburgh during that period, you've experienced the highest and lowest temperatures on record as well as the greatest 24-hour rain and snowfall totals. So if grandma or grandpa start to tell you how bad the weather was when they were growing up, tell them to stick a sock in it.

It's also interesting to note that in April 1985 Coca-Cola changed its formula and released New Coke.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc?


Categories: Aaron Karo, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, Climate change, Coca Cola, Covert Comic, David Letterman, Drugs, James Bond, Mayans, Miscellany, Observations, The Beachwood Reporter, The Big Bang Theory, Twinkies, Video, YouTube


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You skipped over the good part
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Published Friday, November 16, 2012 @ 2:09 AM EST
Nov 16 2012

There are really only two small sections of the Unites States Constitution that I've memorized. There's the last part of Article VI:

"...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public trust under the United States."

The emphasis is mine, and identifies the only place in the entire document where the word "ever" appears. This is handy when dealing with those who refuse to acknowledge the founders' intent to keep religion and government separate. I mean, what part of "ever" don't you understand?

And I also know the Preamble.

Boy, do I know the Preamble.

I recited it for a Veterans Day program in Homestead's Frick Park in 1962. I remember it was cold, and I was wearing my Cub Scout uniform. And I didn't make any mistakes, because I had been studying it, living with it, for an entire month.

I learned the Preamble from Margaret McGeever, the principal of my elementary school. And when Margaret McGeever taught you something, you not only memorized it, mastered it, and could recite it on command, you assimilated it into your very DNA structure. It left a virtual, indelible mark on your psyche, not unlike the actual physical hand print of hers that I still have on my left shoulder, a result of The Bell Telephone Movie Incident In The Auditorium.

Miss McGeever not only principaled, she taught drama. She emphasized that the Preamble was not a jumble of words to be hurriedly recited in a dull monotone. It had to be read correctly, with a combination of zeal, reverence and perfect enunciation. "This is the very foundation of who we are," she rumbled in her high-pitched yet gravelly voice. "Just fifty-two words that define who we are."

And I learned them. Really learned them. I spent a half hour every day finding the words in the huge dictionary in her office and transferring their definitions to sheets of blue-ruled white bond paper, the good stuff we used when taking our penmanship tests.

It took me more than a week. She looked through the sheets. She stacked them, placed her folded hands on the neat pile, then gazed at me over the top of her glasses.

I froze. It was not the look of satisfaction I had expected.

Her brow was furrowed. Actually, it was always furrowed; the woman had the forehead of a Shar Pei. But the creases were even deeper, and her voice was sharp.

"Mister Barkes," she intoned. "Your work is not acceptable. You have forgotten one very important word: Preamble. You've managed to omit the title of the work."

I looked at the copy of the Constitution I held in my pudgy, shaking hands. I didn't see the word "preamble" anywhere.

"You won't see the word 'preamble' anywhere," Miss McGeever said, which was simultaneously comforting and terrifying. "I don't see your name written anywhere on your body, but I know who are, and if I were to write about you, I would certainly put your name at the beginning."

"Preamble," she said. "An introduction. From the Latin 'pre', meaning 'before', and 'ambulare', to walk. Literally, to walk before, or to lead. 'Ambulare' is interesting. So many English words are derived from Latin. What English words come from 'ambulare'?"

"Ambulance?" I asked. She nodded. "Amble?" She nodded again.

I was blank. "Do you know what they call baby strollers in England?,"

"Prams?" I replied. "Right. Pram is English slang for perambulator. 'Per' from the Latin through or for, and 'ambulator' from..."

"Ambulare!" This was fun.

Miss McGeever spent the next half hour listing Latin antecedents ("ante-", before; "cedere", to go) for English words. I was sorry when the end of day bell sounded.

"I'll tell Miss Sullivan she has a prospective Latin student," she said, smiling. Miss Sullivan taught first year Latin in ninth grade at the junior high school.

Then the smile disappeared. The stack of Preamble words reappeared. "Review them. We'll have a verbal quiz on Monday."

Wait. Where was I?

Wow. I hate when I have one of those Billy Pilgrim unstuck in time moments.

Right. The Constitution.

There are a lot of people who say the Constitution has but one purpose: to restrict the federal government and limit its power. Anything not explicitly covered within its original 4,543 words and subsequent amendments should not even be considered.

I think they're missing the big picture. Miss McGeever explained it quite well. I remember her florid cursive writing on the blackboard:

Who are "We"? The people of the United States of America.

What do we want? We want to:

1. Form a more perfect Union. (The Articles of Confederation just weren't working.)

2. Establish justice.

3. Insure domestic tranquility.

4. Provide for the common defense.

6. Promote the general Welfare.

7. Secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. (We're serious about this.)

How are we going to do this?

We do ordain (from the Latin ordinare, to arrange or order) and establish (from the Latin stabilire, to make stable) this Constitution (from the Latin constituo, to confirm, arrange, decide) of the United (L. unus, one, a union) States (L. status, fixed, set) of America.(Mod.L. Americanus, after Amerigo Vespucci).

Pretty straightforward.

Sometimes I think this guy must have been one of Miss McGeever's students. And after this past election, I know how he feels:


Categories: History, KGB Opinion, Observations, Politics, Star Trek, U.S. Constitution, Video, William Shatner, YouTube


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The Wrath of the Whatever from High Atop The Thing
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Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012 @ 12:55 AM EST
Nov 13 2012

Failure to write a concession speech is what sealed Mitt Romney's fate:

(YouTube video: "Election Night" episode, The West Wing)

Sam Seaborn: You wrote a concession?
Toby Ziegler: Of course I wrote a concession. You want to tempt the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing?
Sam Seaborn: No.
Toby Ziegler: Then go outside, turn around three times and spit. What the hell's the matter with you?


Categories: Elections, Mitt Romney, Politics, TV, Video, YouTube


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"I reject your reality, and substitute my own."
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Published Thursday, November 08, 2012 @ 3:00 AM EST
Nov 08 2012

That famous quote by Mythbuster Adam Savage is, simply, the reason why the Republicans were handed their lunch on Tuesday.

Here are two essays which address the issue in a sane, rational manner. The videos that follow, from last night's Daily Show, are a bit more... bombastic.

-----


Ohio really did go to President Obama last night, and he really did win. And really was born in Hawaii. And he really is legitimately President of the United States. Again. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month. And the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy. And the polls were not skewed to over sample Democrats. And Nate Silver was not making fake projections about the election to make conservatives feel bad. Nate Silver was doing math. And climate change is real. And rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes. And evolution is a thing. And Benghazi was an attack on us. It was not a scandal by us. And nobody is taking away anyone's guns. And taxes have not gone up. And the deficit is dropping, actually. And Saddam Hussein did not have Weapons of Mass Destruction. And the moon landing was real, and FEMA is not building concentration camps. And UN election observers are not taking over Texas. And moderate reforms of the regulations on the insurance industry and the financial services industry in the country are not the same things as Communism.

Listen. Last night was a good night for Democrats and liberals for very obvious reasons. But it was also possibly a good night for this country as a whole. Because in this country we have a two party system in government. And the idea is supposed to be that the two sides both come up with ways to confront and fix the real problems facing this country. They both propose possible solutions to our real problems. And we debate between those possible solutions. And by the process of debate, we pick the best idea. That competition between good ideas from both sides about real problems in the real country should result in our country having better choices, better options, than if only one side is really working on the hard stuff. And if the Republican party and the conservative movement and the conservative media are stuck in a vacuum-sealed door-locked spin cycle of telling each other what makes them feel good, and denying the factual lived truth of the world, then we are all deprived as a nation of the constructive debate between competing feasible ideas about real problems.

Last night the Republicans got shellacked. And they had no idea it was coming. And we saw them in real time, in real humiliating time, not believe it as it was happening to them. And unless they are going to secede, they are going to have to pop the factual bubble they've been so happy living inside... if they do not want to get shellacked again. And that will be a painful process for them, I'm sure, but it will be good for the whole country, left, right and center. You guys, we're counting on you. Wake up. There are real problems in the world. There are real knowable facts in the world. Let's accept those and talk about how we might approach our problems differently. Let's move on from there. If the Republican party and the conservative media are forced to do that by the humiliation they were dealt last night, we'll all be better off as a nation.

And in that spirit, congratulations everybody.

- Rachel Maddow

-----

If You're Surprised By The Election Results, You're The Reason You Lost, Or: A Plea for Useful Republicans.

Dear Republicans:

I know the despair you feel this morning, and sympathize, because I've been there. In 2004 my stiff, robotic millionaire lost to a President he should have soundly thumped, and I was so hurt I took a week off from the Internet afterwards. I am completely sympathetic with that slow terror that the country is now in the hands of an incompetent, and the voters don't even know it.

But I noticed a weird difference between the way Republicans and Democrats reacted to a losing candidate. In 2004, when the polls turned against Kerry and it was obvious he was going to lose, the Democrats asked "How can we fix that?" Oh, they asked in their glum, incompetent way, but when I personally talked to other Democrats both in real life and online, we were all pretty cognizant of the fact that Kerry was the underdog.

The Republicans of 2012, however, became increasingly convinced that Romney was going to win.

Everywhere I looked on Twitter and Facebook, I saw my Republican friends- not straw men, but actual people- talking about how terrible Nate Silver's methods were, how these Rasmussen polls showed Romney's real strength, and eventually you got the travesty of UnSkewedPolls.com, which cherry-picked the data and even today has their prediction of not just a Romney win but a landslide, Romney 311 to Obama 227. (Actual result: Obama 332, Romney 206.)

It all crystallized for me when my friend Brad Torgerson said, "Liberals and Democrats have Nate Silver and his 538 blog. Conservatives and Republicans have the U of CO guys. It's an epic cage match of predictive numbers geekery!"

Look there. Right at that post- one not too dissimilar from a thousand other dismissals of Nate Silver and the other aggregated polls. See what Brad did there? The way the guy bringing you news he didn't like was automatically assigned a partisan bias, and the only rational solution was to get a guy on your side with better numbers? As if reality was merely a function of getting enough guys on your side?

That's why you lost.

Stop confusing hard reality for partisan opposition.

It's time to step out of the bubble, dear Republicans, because we fucking need you. I don't trust the Democratic party to run the country single-handedly. I want a Republican party I can rely on for real solutions- and you've become lazy, voodoo-like, dismissing any data you don't like as partisan opposition.

Jay Lake is fond of saying, "Reality has a liberal bias." That's not because reality inevitably verifies liberal thinking, but because the Republican response to anything that challenges them is now to write off the data.

And let me repeat: we need you. I want a counterweight to Democratic power, not a deadweight that refuses to acknowledge the issues. I want a Republican party that will look at the numbers for climate change and not go, "I don't like what those scientists are saying, so I'll call it a silly liberal bias!" but say, "We're business experts, we know how to motivate rich people to do what we want, how do we fix this?" I want a Republican party that will realize while yes, we're spending far too much and should cut down, the results of thirty years of trickle-down theory and tax cuts won't actually provide enough revenue, because we are at the lowest effective tax rates we've had in thirty years.

And yes, you can argue all my statements here. But in that, smart person, you're like a driver with an SUV in Alaska. A person with a car in Alaska is going to get stuck in the snow eventually; that's a fact. But if you have an SUV, you're gonna get stuck way the heck out in the woods where no one can get at you, because you have the strength to do it and won't stop when common sense tells you to. I had a ton of Very Smart friends dissecting all the reasons why Nate Silver was wrong, why his methodology sucked, why these pollsters who said what they liked over here had better ways of slicing the data- and all that flurry of so-called "facts" amounted to was an elaborate justification of personal biases that had no basis in reality.

It's time to stop fighting the obvious. It's time to stop assuming that anyone who presents contradictory data is out to get you.

You should have won, guys. You had a President with an economy in the doldrums, a guy who'd lost a lot of his electoral mojo in the realities of politics. But instead of rising from the grave, you chose a candidate who never actually gave us firm numbers on what expenses he'd cut to fix the economy. You chose a candidate who said he'd get rid of Obamacare, but never actually named the parts he'd destroy. You chose someone who, though all politicians lie, lied a lot more than almost any modern Presidential candidate.

You had a guy who should have sliced Obama to ribbons- and he lost, in large part, because he said, "Trust me" instead of giving us a plan. And you let him get away with it.

You let him get away with it because you're indulging in a great deal of magical thinking. You let him get away with it because facts have ceased to matter; as long as someone tells you something you want to hear, you'll find a way to justify it with pseudo-science and trust and spit and baling wire. You don't like to hear how bad a candidate Mitt was, because you came so close this year, but it's true; the problem is that so much of the country has abandoned listening to reality that you can get massive votes and never touch a fact.

If you can't be honest today, in the aftermath of this great defeat, then you're never going to see the truth.

If you seriously thought that Romney had a good chance of winning, then you're part of the problem. Wake up. I implore you: learn from this. Look at your deepest beliefs, and see whether the numbers support them. Start thinking, maybe those people with data I don't like are right.

If you think the lesson to be learned is "We weren't conservative enough," then you're handing me a great victory in 2016. I want to have a real choice then.

Love,
T.F. (The Ferret)

---

Megyn Kelly teaches Karl Rove the power of scientific gobbledygook.

"If only President Bush could have been so lucky as to have a massive hurricane on his watch, then... oh, right..."

It's just arithmetic.


Categories: Barack Obama, Bill O'Reilly, Chick-fil-A, Daily Show, Elections, Fox News, Hypocrisy, Jon Stewart, Karl Rove, Megyn Kelly, Mitt Romney, Nate Silver, News Media, Politics, Rachel Maddow, Sarah Palin, The Ferret, YouTube


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"Fly, you fools!"
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Published Saturday, November 03, 2012 @ 10:06 AM EDT
Nov 03 2012

(YouTube video: Air New Zealand pre-flight safety video. Really.)


Categories: Video, WTF?, YouTube


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Sandy Frankenstorm
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Published Saturday, October 27, 2012 @ 2:15 PM EDT
Oct 27 2012

Pittsburgh generally only gets remnants of hurricanes, but sometimes they do wreak havoc. The heavy rains and flooding from Agnes in 1972 and Ivan in 2004 come to mind. And we've been nailed by large cyclonic storms, like 1993's "Storm of the Century." But I don't think we've ever had to deal with a hybrid beast like this one, especially one with high winds over a sustained period of a day more.

As a public service, here's something to take your mind off the coming apocalypse: one of the dumbest- and funniest- movies ever made. Absurdist humor at its best.

Bob: I didn't know you smoked.
Nick: Just after sex, Bob. I'm trying to give it up.
Bob: Well, at least you don't smoke that much.
Nick: About a pack a day.
Bob: That'll kill ya!
Nick: Bob, it won't kill ya. But it will make you very sore.

(YouTube video: "Real Men" (1987) with John Ritter and Jim Belushi)


Categories: Movies, Video, Weather, YouTube


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Political joke of the day, Presidential edition
(permalink)

Published Thursday, October 25, 2012 @ 7:59 AM EDT
Oct 25 2012

(YouTube video: President Obama answers Jay Leno's question, "What's this thing with Trump and you?" )


Categories: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Elections, Jay Leno, TV, Video, YouTube


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A pair of parodies
(permalink)

Published Wednesday, October 24, 2012 @ 8:28 AM EDT
Oct 24 2012

It's the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Allan Sherman's first record album, My Son, The Folk Singer, which broke sales records and hit number one on the 1962 Billboard pop album chart.

I was eight when I first heard Allan Sherman.

I memorized all of the songs on all his albums.

That should explain a great deal.

Sherman is best known for his hit single Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. My favorite Sherman pieces aren't even complete songs, but medleys comprised of two or four lines, or a single verse, concatenated, recorded before a live audience, and positioned as the last track on the record.

Herewith are Shticks and Stones from My Son, The Folk Singer, and Shticks of One and a Half a Dozen of the Other from My Son, The Celebrity.

For those of you not familiar with early 60s culture, you may need to click the links which following to appreciate the references to Levittown, David Susskind, Geritol, Billy Sol, and Metrecal.. As for the Medicare reference, the songs were recorded prior to the program's creation in 1965.

Also note my cats were fascinated by the pigeon in the second video. Turn down the sound, put it on an endless loop, and watch the ensuring hilarity.


Categories: Allan Sherman, Music, Video, YouTube


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Happy birthday, Johnny!
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Published Tuesday, October 23, 2012 @ 12:29 AM EDT
Oct 23 2012

John William “Johnny” Carson (October 23, 1925 - January 23, 2005) was an American television host and comedian, known for 30 years as host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992). Carson received six Emmy Awards, the Governor Award, and a 1985 Peabody Award. He was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1987. Johnny Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992 and received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1993. Although his show was already successful by the end of the 1960s, during the 1970s Carson became an American icon and remained so until his retirement in 1992. Click for full article.

(A portion of David Letterman's 2005 tribute show for Johnny Carson.)

Visit our Johnny Carson page.

---

One of Carson's funniest routines was Carnac the Magnificent, an alleged psychic who would hold to his head a sealed envelope, divine and announce the answer, then open the envelope and read the question. He adapted the bit from routines previously performed by Steve Allen and Ernie Kovacs, but Carson perfected the format.

Herewith are some of the more memorable Carnac gags. For the complete list, go to the source at www.nightscribe.com, But be certain to watch the video at the end...

A: Peter Pan.
Q: What do you use to fry a peter?

A: Mount Baldy.
Q: How do you play piggyback with Telly Savales?

A: A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
Q: What were some of the earlier forms of Preparation H?

A: Clean air, a virgin and a gas station open on Sunday.
Q: Name three things you won't find in Los Angeles.

A: Black and white and twenty feet tall.
Q: Describe Sister Mary Kong.

A: An unmarried woman.
Q: What was Elizabeth Taylor between 3 and 5 pm on June 1, 1952?

A: Cyclone.
Q: What do call the clone of a guy named Cy?

A: ”Hi diddly dee.“
Q: How do you say "Good morning" to your diddly dee?

A: The Orient express.
Q: What is a drink made with soy sauce and prune juice?

A: Gatorade.
Q: What does an alligator get on welfare?

A: Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
Q: What's the best thing to do if you swallow a hand grenade?

A: Until he gets caught.
Q: How long does a United States Congressman serve?

A: Kumquat.
Q: What do you say when calling your quat?

A: Defrost.
Q: On a cold morning, what forms on de-grass?

A: Gunga din.
Q: What do you hear when you put an amplifier in your gunga?

A: Igloo.
Q: What do you use to keep your ig from falling off?

A: Shoo be doo be doo.
Q: What do you look for when you're tracking a shoo be doo be?

A: Trapper John.
Q: What do you call an outhouse built on quicksand?

A: Rub-a-dub-dub.
Q: What does a masseuse do to your dub-dub?

A: Zeppo Marx.
Q: What do you get when something gets caught in your Zeppo?

A: Touchback.
Q: What's the smart thing to do if a Dallas Cowgirl touches you?

A: The big ten.
Q: Describe the five finalists in the Miss Universe contest.

A: All the President's Men.
Q: Who won't be let out to see the picture?

A: Bifocal.
Q: Name a focal that goes both ways.

A: Timbuktu.
Q: What comes after Timbuk one?

A: R-O-L-A-I-D-S.
Q: How does a stupid person spell “backgammon?”

A: Jello and “Charlie's Angels.”
Q: What looks delicious, quivers all over and can't talk?

A: The Loch Ness Monster.
Q: Who will they find sooner than Jimmy Hoffa?

A: The diamond lane.
Q: What does Zsa Zsa Gabor call the center of a church?

A: A nine foot base with two feet of powder.
Q: Describe Mick Jagger's nose.

A: Putting on the dog.
Q: What do you call dressing up as a tree?

A: "Yes man."
Q: What should you answer to everything George Foreman says?

A: You asked for it.
Q: How do you get it?

A: Big Ben, Joe Namath and the candidates' campaign promises.
Q: Name a clock, a jock and a crock.

A: Groundhog.
Q: What's in Jimmy Dean's sausages?

(The best of Carnac.)


Categories: Johnny Carson, TV, Video, YouTube


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Boom!
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Published Friday, October 19, 2012 @ 2:48 PM EDT
Oct 19 2012

(YouTube video in which The President of The United States offers hope to those suffering from "Romnesia")


Categories: Barack Obama, Elections, Mitt Romney, Politics, Video, YouTube


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Quotes of the day: Arthur Miller
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Published Wednesday, October 17, 2012 @ 12:00 AM EDT
Oct 17 2012

Quotes of the day- Arthur Miller:
 
Arthur Asher Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005) was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas that include plays such as All My Sons (1947), Death of a Salesman (1949), The Crucible (1953), and A View from the Bridge (one-act, 1955; revised two-act, 1956).

Miller was often in the public eye, particularly during the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s, a period during which he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee, received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Prince of Asturias Award, and was married to Marilyn Monroe. (Click for full article)

A character is defined by the kinds of challenges he cannot walk away from. And by those he has walked away from that cause him remorse.

A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.

A suicide kills two people... that's what it's for.

An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.

Don't be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.

Few of us can surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that The State has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.

He's liked, but he's not well liked.

I believe in work. If somebody doesn't create something, however small it may be, he gets sick. An awful lot of people feel that they're treading water- that if they vanished in smoke, it wouldn't mean anything at all in this world. And that's a despairing and destructive feeling. It'll kill you.

I figure I've done what I could do, more or less, and now I'm going back to being a chemical; all we are is a lot of talking nitrogen, you know...

I love her too, but our neuroses just don't match.

If a person measures his spiritual fulfillment in terms of cosmic visions, surpassing peace of mind, or ecstasy, then he is not likely to know much spiritual fulfillment. If, however, he measures it in terms of enjoying a sunrise, being warmed by a child's smile, or being able to help someone have a better day, then he is likely to know much spiritual fulfillment.

If I have to be alone I want to be by myself.

Immortality is like trying to carve your initials in a block of ice in the middle of July.

It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time- the heart and spirit of the average man.

Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.

The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.

The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.

The enemy is within, and within stays within, and we can’t get out of within.

The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.

The wedding of Christianity or Judaism with nationalism is lethal.

The world is an oyster but you don't crack it open on a mattress.

There might be a dragon with five legs in my house, but no one has ever seen it.

Until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven.

When any creativity becomes useful, it is sucked into the vortex of commercialism, and when a thing becomes commercial, it becomes the enemy of man.

When the guns roar, the arts die.

Where choice begins, Paradise ends, innocence ends, for what is Paradise but the absence of any need to choose this action?

Why is betrayal the only truth that sticks?

Without alienation, there can be no politics.

Work a lifetime to pay off a house- You finally own it and there's nobody to live in it.

You can quicker get back a million dollars that was stolen than a word that you gave away.

You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away- a man is not a piece of fruit.

You specialize in something until one day you find it is specializing in you.


Categories: Arthur Miller, Church and State, First Amendment, Politics, Religion, Video, YouTube


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Fifteen years...
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Published Friday, October 12, 2012 @ 8:42 AM EDT
Oct 12 2012

Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997), known professionally as John Denver, was an American singer/songwriter, activist, and humanitarian. After traveling and living in numerous locations while growing up in his military family, Denver began his music career in folk music groups in the late 1960s. His greatest commercial success was as a solo singer. Throughout his life, Denver recorded and released approximately 300 songs, about 200 of which he composed. He performed primarily with an acoustic guitar and sang about his joy in nature, his enthusiasm for music, and relationship trials. Denver's music appeared on a variety of charts, including country and western, the Billboard Hot 100, and adult contemporary, in all earning him 12 gold and 4 platinum albums with his signature songs "Take Me Home, Country Roads", "Annie's Song", "Rocky Mountain High", and "Sunshine on My Shoulders".

Denver further starred in films and several notable television specials in the 1970s and 1980s. In the following decades, he continued to record, but also focused on calling attention to environmental issues, lent his vocal support to space exploration, and testified in front of Congress to protest censorship in music. He was known for his love of the state of Colorado, which he sang about numerous times. He lived in Aspen, Colorado, for much of his life, and influenced the governor to name him Poet Laureate of the state in 1974. The Colorado state legislature also adopted "Rocky Mountain High" as one of its state songs in 2007. Denver was an avid pilot, and died while flying his personal aircraft at the age of 53. Denver was one of the most popular acoustic artists of the 1970s. (Click for full article.)

Perhaps love is like a resting place
A shelter from the storm
It exists to give you comfort
It is there to keep you warm
And in those times of trouble
When you are most alone
The memory of love will bring you home

Perhaps love is like a window
Perhaps an open door
It invites you to come closer
It wants to show you more
And even if you lose yourself
And don't know what to do
The memory of love will see you through

Oh, love to some is like a cloud
To some as strong as steel
For some a way of living
For some a way to feel
And some say love is holding on
And some say letting go
And some say love is everything
And some say they don't know

Perhaps love is like the ocean
Full of conflict, full of change
Like a fire when it's cold outside
Or thunder when it rains
If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you.

And some say love is holding on
And some say letting go
And some say love is everything
And some say they don't know

Perhaps love is like the ocean
Full of conflict, full of change
Like a fire when it's cold outside
Or thunder when it rains
If I should live forever
And all my dreams come true
My memories of love will be of you.


Categories: John Denver, Music, Video, YouTube


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Quotes of the day: a quasi-cosmic perspective
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Published Friday, October 05, 2012 @ 12:55 AM EDT
Oct 05 2012

Quotes of the day- Neil deGrasse Tyson:
 
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson (b. October 5, 1958) is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and Visiting Research Scientist and Lecturer at Princeton University. Click for full bio.

(YouTube video: Neil deGrasse Tyson debunks the 2012 Mayan calendar apocalypse.)

As your area of knowledge increases, so does your perimeter of ignorance.

Curious that we spend more time congratulating people who have succeeded than encouraging people who have not.

Dinosaurs are extinct today because they lacked opposable thumbs and the brainpower to build a space program.

I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you.

I simply go with what works. And what works is the healthy skepticism embodied in the scientific method. Believe me, if the Bible had ever been shown to be a rich source of scientific answers and enlightenment, we would be mining it daily for cosmic discovery.

I would request that my body in death be buried not cremated, so that the energy content contained within it gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora and fauna during my lifetime.

If aliens did visit us, I'd be embarrassed to tell them we still dig fossil fuels from the ground as a source of energy.

If all that you see, do, measure and discover is the will of a deity, then ideas can never be proven wrong, you have no predictive power, and you are at a loss to understand the principles behind most of the fundamental interconnections of nature.

If pizza sizes were given in area not diameter, you'd see instantly that a seven inch is less than half the size of a ten inch pie

If scientists invented the legal system, eyewitness testimony would be inadmissible evidence.

In modern times, if the sole measure of what's out there flows from your five senses then a precarious life awaits you.

My view is that if your philosophy is not unsettled daily then you are blind to all the universe has to offer.

Not only are we in the universe, the universe is in us. I don't know of any deeper spiritual feeling than what that brings upon me.

Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us.

People cited violation of the First Amendment when a New Jersey schoolteacher asserted that evolution and the Big Bang are not scientific and that Noah's ark carried dinosaurs. This case is not about the need to separate church and state; it's about the need to separate ignorant, scientifically illiterate people from the ranks of teachers.

Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance.

Scientific inquiry shouldn't stop just because a reasonable explanation has apparently been found.

Seventy percent of Earth's surface is water and over 99 percent is uninhabited, so you would expect nearly all impactors to hit either the ocean or desolate regions on Earth's surface. So why do movie meteors have such good aim?

So what is true for life itself is no less true for the universe: knowing where you came from is no less important than knowing where you are going.

The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.

The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.

The more I learn about the universe, the less convinced I am that there's any sort of benevolent force that has anything to do with it, at all.

The remarkable feature of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them. After the laws of physics, everything else is opinion.

There is no shame in not knowing. The problem arises when irrational thought and attendant behavior fill the vacuum left by ignorance.

We fail in even the simplest of all scientific observations- nobody looks up anymore.

We spend the first year of children's lives teaching them how to walk and talk, and the rest of their lives telling them to shut up and sit down.

When scientifically investigating the natural world, the only thing worse than a blind believer is a seeing denier.

Whenever people have used religious documents to make accurate predictions about our base knowledge of the physical world, they have been famously wrong.

Within one linear centimeter of your lower colon there lives and works more bacteria (about 100 billion) than all humans who have ever been born. Yet many people continue to assert that it is we who are in charge of the world.

You don't take a dead cat to the vet. I mean you might, but why?


Categories: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Observations, Philosophy, Quotes of the day, Religion, Science, Video, YouTube


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Remembering Chuck
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Published Thursday, October 04, 2012 @ 1:35 AM EDT
Oct 04 2012

When I think of Charlton Heston (October 4, 1923 – April 5, 2008), I can't help but recall his performance in the 1974 disaster epic, Earthquake.

At the end of the film, Heston's character; his soon-to-be ex-wife, portrayed with delicious villany by Ava Gardner; and his stunningly attractive mistress, played by Geneviève Bujold; are trying to escape from a sewer being rapidly flooded by a deluge from the earthquake-shattered Mulholland Dam.

Geneviève Bujold's character has already climbed to safety. On her way up the ladder, the totally unsympathetic Ava Gardner falls into the raging torrent and is swept away.

In probably the best display of stereotype self-awareness ever committed to film, Charlton Heston first looks up the ladder, to safety and the braless Bujold, who is reaching out to him.

He then looks over his shoulder to see the rushing water carrying away the überbitch Gardner.

Watch Heston's face. This is a man in torment, a man struggling with the most important and painful choice he will ever make.

He doesn't utter a word, but his decision and internal dialogue is nonetheless writ large upon his handsome face:

"Oh, God damn it. I'm Charlton Heston."

And he hurls himself into the rapids, where he, Gardner, and countless extras are washed into oblivion.

I remember seeing this in its original release at the Warner Theater in Pittsburgh (remember "Sensurround"?). The cries of disbelief and despair when Heston made the plunge rose easily above the loud subsonic rumbling.

"Chuck! You're an idiot!"

No, he wasn't.

He made the only choice available to him.

He was, after all, Charlton Heston.

(YouTube video of Charlton Heston being all Charlton Heston-y in "Earthquake.")


Categories: Charlton Heston, Movies, Video, YouTube


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Lydia The Tattooed Lady. Annotated.
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Published Wednesday, October 03, 2012 @ 2:44 AM EDT
Oct 03 2012

(YouTube video: "Lydia the Tattooed Lady,")

Yesterday was Groucho's birthday, and every other year or so I post this clip of him singing Lydia, the Tattooed Lady from the classic Marx Brothers film At The Circus.

I was just about to re-post the video when I remembered an e-mail I had received from a reader the last time I published it. A 21-year-old college student asked if Lydia was a "gibberish" song, because many of the lyrics made no sense to him.

No sense?

Lyricist E.Y. "Yip" Harburg was at the top of his form when he wrote Lydia. It's fiendishly clever, invoking historical and contemporary references, and he effortlessly blends them with oblique asides describing Lydia's impressive physical characteristics. The result was an instant classic.

I watched the video again, and then it dawned on me... if my young reader had failed to pay attention during his history, literature, and geography classes, he just wouldn't get it.

So, if you've listened to Lydia and found yourself not only tapping your toes but scratching your head, here are the lyrics. With footnotes.

There will be a quiz later, so please pay attention.

Lydia The Tattooed Lady
(music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E.Y. Harburg,
the guys who also did "Over the Rainbow.")

Ah, this meeting brings back memories. Childhood days... Lemonade! Romance! My life was wrapped around the circus... Her name was Lydia. I met her at the World's Fair in 1900 (marked down from 1940). Ah, Lydia...

She was the most glorious creature under the sun...
Thaïs!(1)
du Barry!(2)
Garbo!(3)
Rolled into one...

Oh......

Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
Lydia The Tattooed Lady
She has eyes that folks adore so,
And a torso even more so.
Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopedia.(4)
Oh Lydia The Queen of Tattoo.
On her back is The Battle of Waterloo,(5).
Beside it The Wreck of the Hesperus(6) too.
And proudly above waves the red, white, and blue(7).
You can learn a lot from Lydia!

La-la-la...la-la-la.
La-la-la...la-la-la.

When her robe is unfurled she will show you the world,
If you step up and tell her where.
For a dime you can see Kankakee(8) or Paree(9),
Or Washington Crossing The Delaware.(10)

La-la-la...la-la-la.
La-la-la...la-la-la.

Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
Oh Lydia The Tattooed Lady.
When her muscles start relaxin',
Up the hill comes Andrew Jackson.(11)
Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopedia.
Oh Lydia the queen of them all.
For two bits(12) she will do a mazurka(13) in jazz,
With a view of Niagara(14) that nobody has.
And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz.(15)
You can learn a lot from Lydia!

La-la-la...la-la-la.
La-la-la...la-la-la.

Come along and see Buffalo Bill(16) with his lasso.
Just a little classic by Mendel Picasso.(17)
Here is Captain Spaulding(18) exploring the Amazon(19).
Here's Godiva,(20) but with her pajamas on.

La-la-la...la-la-la.
La-la-la...la-la-la.

Here is Grover Whalen,(21) unveilin' the Trylon.(22),
Over on the West Coast we have Treasure Island.(23)
Here's Najinsky(24) a-doin' the rhumba.(25)
Here's her social security numba.

Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclopedia
Oh Lydia the champ of them all.
She once swept an Admiral clear off his feet.
The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat.
And now the old boy's in command of the fleet,
For he went and married Lydia!

I said Lydia...
He said Lydia...
I said Lydia...
We said Lydia...
La la!

Notes:

 (1) Thaïs, a stunningly beautiful and rich fourth century courtesan who lived in Roman-controlled Alexandria, Egypt. She eventually saw the error of her ways, converted to Christianity, gave her money to the church, spent three years immured in a convent cell as extreme penance, and died 15 days after her release.

 (2) Jeanne Bécu, a.k.a. Madame du Barry (August 19, 1743 - December 8, 1793), the stunningly beautiful and, alas, final Maîtresse-en-titre (chief mistress) of King Louis XV. She was convicted of treason for helping people flee the French Revolution and was beheaded on the guillotine.

 (3) Greta Garbo, born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson, (September 18, 1905 – April 15, 1990), the stunningly beautiful Swedish film actress and international star. She made fewer than 30 films during her 1920-1941 career, retired at the age of 36, and spent her remaining years shunning publicity.

 (4)A book or set of books containing articles on various topics, usually in alphabetical arrangement, covering all branches of knowledge or, less commonly, all aspects of one subject.

 (5)The military engagement in which an imperial French army under the command of Emperor Napoleon was defeated by the armies of the Seventh Coalition on June 18, 1815.

 (6)The Wreck of the Hesperus is a narrative poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow describing... well, bottom line, we're talking about a tattoo of a wrecked, ice-covered ship on a reef with a dead little girl tied to a broken, floating mast.

 (7)The colors of the U.S. flag, a reference to the flag itself, or a reference to the country.

 (8)Kankakee, Illinois, a city about 60 miles south southwest of Chicago.

 (9)Paree (Paris), France's capital and largest city.

 (10)German-American artist Emanuel Gottlieb's 1851 oil-on-canvas painting depicting, with numerous inaccuracies and anachronisms, then-General George Washington standing in a boat, leading his troops in the Christmas 1776 sneak attack against Hessian mercenaries stationed in Trenton, New Jersey.

(11)Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845), the seventh President of the United States, serving two terms from 1829 to 1837. He's best known as the guy on the $20 bill and the first President someone tried to assassinate. Prior to entering politics, he was a noted military leader whose exploits included leading his troops up a steep hill near Tohopeka, Alabama on the March 27, 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend during the War of 1812. (The War of 1812 lasted until 1815.)
The reader is encouraged to learn more about Jackson. His presidency makes the current situation in Washington look like a 60s' hippie love-in. Old Hickory was ill-tempered, unforgiving, and the target of vicious personal attacks. During the 1828 election, his opponents called him a jackass. Political cartoonist Thomas Nast later used the jackass to characterize members of Jackson's then newly-formed Democratic party, a symbol that remains to this day. Jackson had been involved in numerous duels and had so many bullets lodged in various body parts that it was said he "rattled like a bag of marbles."

(12)25 cents. The etymology is left as an exercise for the reader.

(13)An upbeat Polish folk dance.

(14)Niagara Falls, the three cataracts located on the border of New York state and the province of Ontario, Canada.

(15)The island in San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary operated there from 1933 to 1963.

(16)William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917), whose eponymous wild west shows toured the U.S. and Europe.

(17)Either badly-punctuated references to geneticist Gregor Mendel and artist Pablo Picasso, or lyricist Harburg coupling the last name of a world famous artist to a funny-sounding Jewish first name. You know, like Shlomo Warhol. Come to think of it, Shlomo Picasso is funnier.

(18)The character Groucho portrayed in the stage play and film Animal Crackers.

(19)The river in South America, not the website.

(20)In 1028, Lady Godiva repeatedly asked her husband Leofric (the Earl of Mercia) to not pass along to the impoverished citizens of Coventry the taxes levied on him by the King of England, Edward the Confessor. ("Trickle down" had a different meaning then.) Leo told Lady G that if she'd ride naked through the town market on a horse, he'd nix the tax hike. The next day she did just that. Leofric kept his promise and eliminated all taxes in Coventry except for those related to boarding horses. The bits about her covering her, uh, bits, with her long flowing hair- and the story that Tom the Tailor was struck blind when he took a peek as she passed by his shop (the origin of "Peeping Tom")- are later embellishments.

(21)President of the New York World Fair Corporation.

(22)One of two large structures located at the center of the 1939 World's Fair in New York.

(23)A man-made island in San Francisco Bay between San Francisco and Oakland.

(24)Vaslav Nijinsky (March 12, 1889 or 1890 – April 8, 1950), considered by many to be the greatest male dancer of the early 20th century.

(25)A style of ballroom dancing based on the Cuban bolero-son. Not to be confused with the terminal emulation software. Or the autonomous robot vacuum cleaner.


Categories: Groucho Marx, History, Lydia, The Tattooed Lady, Music, Video, YouTube


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Three decades of iconic wonderfulness
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Published Tuesday, October 02, 2012 @ 6:18 AM EDT
Oct 02 2012

Late Night with David Letterman observed the 30th anniversary of the iconic disco tune It's Raining Men yesterday with a big end-of-show production number featuring surviving Weather Girl Martha Wash; Paul Shaffer on keyboards; an augmented CBS orchestra; six(!) backup singers; three female dancers; and three male acrobats suspended from ceiling-mounted silk streamers.

No wonder it's Homer Simpson's favorite song.

Why Letterman, you may ask? The song was co-written by Shaffer, the late night host's sidekick/bandleader, and was featured early in the run of Letterman's late night show on NBC- episode 174, which aired on January 12, 1983.

Originally written in 1979 by Shaffer and Paul Jabara, the song was rejected by Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Cher, and Barbra Streisand. Martha Wash and the late Izora Armstead, originally performing as "Two Tons O' Fun," became "The Weather Girls" and released "Men" in October, 1982.

An international hit, it sold 6 million copies worldwide. While it reached #1 on the US disco chart, it only climbed to #46 on the Billboard Hot 100. In April 2001, Geri Halliwell released a cover version that was used in the film Bridget Jones' Diary. It was a big hit in the UK and Europe, but received little airplay in the US.

Used for decades in dozens of films and television episodes, "Men"'s most recent reincarnation is in the Broadway production of the stage musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert- The Musical. It was performed by the show's cast, plus Wash and Shaffer, at the 2011 Tony Awards.

The clip from last night is at the bottom of this post.

My all-time favorite version remains this one. The quality leaves a bit to be desired and the audio is slightly out of sync for the first minute or so, but it's, well, two tons o' fun. Watch the audience, especially when Martha heads into their midst and intimidates those in the aisle seats with her powerful gospel soprano. As Letterman commented later in the show, "They ripped the roof off the joint."

(YouTube video: The Weather Girls perform live on NBC's "Late Night with David Letterman" in January, 1983.)

(YouTube video: Martha Wash and Paul Shaffer lead a lavish (for late night TV) 30th anniversary performance on CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman".)


Categories: David Letterman, It's Raining Men, Martha Wash, Music, Paul Shaffer, Video, YouTube


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Klingon Style
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Published Saturday, September 29, 2012 @ 4:17 PM EDT
Sep 29 2012

(YouTube video: Star Trek parody of "Gangnam Style")

You're welcome.


Categories: Music, Star Trek, WTF?, YouTube


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Silver Trek
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Published Friday, September 28, 2012 @ 12:05 AM EDT
Sep 28 2012

Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG) premiered 25 years ago today, the week of September 28, 1987, to an eager audience of 27 million viewers. With seven seasons and 178 episodes, ST:TNG surpassed the original series' 79 episodes and three year (1966-1969) run on NBC. ST:TNG's two-hour finale, "All Good Things...", aired the week of May 23, 1994. Both series were created by Gene Roddenberry. ST:TNG is set in the 24th century, 80 years after than the original series.

TNG was broadcast in first-run syndication. Like the original series, it remains popular in syndicated reruns. Three additional Star Trek spin-offs followed The Next Generation: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–1999), Star Trek: Voyager (1995–2001), and Star Trek: Enterprise (2001–2005). There are also 22 half-hour episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series which originally aired on Saturday mornings on NBC in 1973-74.

In its seventh season, Star Trek: The Next Generation became the first syndicated television show to be nominated for the Emmy Award for Best Dramatic Series. The show received numerous recognitions, including Emmy Awards, Hugo Awards, and a Peabody Award. Click for the full Wikipedia article.

"Relics," TNG's 130th episode (the fourth episode of the sixth season), features James Doohan as Montgomery Scott, the legendary chief engineer of the original series. Technobabbled into the 24th century, this is no mere cameo appearance. Scotty appears to be an antique out of time but -of course- he ends up saving another starship named Enterprise. And kudos to LeVar Burton (Geordi LaForge) for holding his own in the presence of an iconic scenery chewer.


Categories: Gene Roddenberry, James (Jimmy) Doohan, Jimmy Doohan, LeVar Burton, Montgomery Scott, Star Trek, TV, Video, YouTube


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It's Raining Mitt!
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Published Saturday, September 22, 2012 @ 8:36 AM EDT
Sep 22 2012


(YouTube video: Martin Short sings "It's Raining Mitt")

He likes firing people
("I like being able to fire people...")
Doesn't care about the very poor
("I'm not concerned about the very poor...")
He's wealthy and good-looking
("My name is Mitt Romney...")
Yes, that's I guy I'm for

When campaigning in the Deep South
He pretends to like eating grits
Rick Santorum's gone post-mortem 'cause
It's gonna start raining Mitt

It's raining Mitt
Holy heaven
Everyone needs a hit- of Mitt
Under Romney
There's a future in sight
Where all our trees are the right height

It's raining Mitt
What a wager
I'll make you a ten
Thousand dollar bet
So white, rich and fit
It's stormin' for a moment Mitt

President Obama
Mitt Romney says you're to blame
For too much federal spending
Though your healthcare plans look the same
I don't know economics
But when Mitt mentions income tax
Then I guess he must know something
Since his wife drives two Cadillacs
(She drives two Cadillacs!)

It's raining Mitt
I ain't lyin'
It's raining Mitt
No s**t
It's raining Mitt
Let's show the kind of Mitt that we are
And tie the dog to the roof of our car
Mitt, hallelujah
It's raining Mitt...
Good God it's raining mitt, yeah...


Categories: David Letterman, Martin Short, Mitt Romney, Music, Politics, Video, YouTube


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