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Hey Photography Ladies, it’s Time to Ditch the Man Bag

Friday, November 11th, 2011 - by Tania Gail

With great joy I am happy to report that I’ve said goodbye to my ‘man bag’ and hello to the stylish Epiphanie ‘Belle’ camera bag developed exclusively for women.

In recent weeks, I have searched online for a new camera bag that would meet my technical and style aspirations The search lead me to Epiphanie — a website dedicated to the camera bag creations of Maile Wilson. Maile, a talented photographer in her own right, liberates women from the ‘man bag’ epidemic with her line of camera bags that are technically superb and oh so very stylish.

Epiphanie Belle Photobag at Work

As more women enter into photography either as a hobby or a business, the need for camera bags that can securely hold equipment while maintaining a feminine look has grown tremendously. Maile’s creations have answered this need. The typical camera bag found in a camera store is designed strictly for functionality, with a bewildering choice of colors — black or dark grey. Most are designed to fit a man’s’ frame and style sensibilities. For example, my Lowepro Slingshot, while very functional, became annoyingly uncomfortable during long photo shoots. It truly became a pain in the neck.

After comparing the the camera bags on offer at Epiphanie, I chose the ‘Belle’ model in pink with a lime green interior. The website provides a detailed description of Belle:

Dimensions (LxWxH) 14x8x8inches. Exterior is water-resistant, high quality synthetic leather. Interior crafted with extra padding for maximum equipment protection. Velcro panels can be adjusted & moved to any position for maximum customization & flexibility. Removable cross-body strap with padding for extra support. Two exterior pockets. One interior pocket with zipper. Light colored interior so items can easily be found.

Ordering through the website, the bag arrived at my doorstep earlier than expected. As I unwrapped the new camera bag, a thank you card attached to the packing caught my eye. The camera bag itself is packaged within a custom-sized dust bag suitable to store the camera bag when not in use. Business cards with inspirational quotes inscribed on them were tucked into the three zippered pockets. I have give the designer an A plus for excellent positive marketing technique.

How does this bag stack up to my current photo bag, a Lowepro Slingshot?  On a recent field trip to Winterthur Estate and Garden, I quickly appreciated how well this bag fit my frame. I spent less time readjusting the camera bag and more time was focusing on the landscape.

Belle camera bag interior

An immediate difference was realized in the increased amount of equipment stored in the Belle photo bag versus the Lowepro SlingShot. I was able to load the Belle camera bag holds the following items:

  • One Canon Camera body with lens
  • Two additional lenses
  • External flash plus snoot
  • Two point and shoot cameras
  • Cocoon organizer
  • Coin purse
  • One coveted tripod pass

Below is a photo of the equipment I was able to pack into the Belle camera bag:

What is in my Camera Bag

I have compiled a list of pros and cons based upon my personal use of the Belle camera bag.

Pros:

  • Weatherproof material. This is a deal breaker for any camera bag,  if the bag is not weatherproof than I am not buying it.
  • Padded customizable dividers. The dividers are of a good sized thickness with velcro tabs allowing customization within the interior of the bag.
  • Small details, like the metallic camera charm attached to camera bag handle make a big impact.
  • Padded shoulder strap. My neck is thanking me profusely.
  • Stylish design that disappears when you are working on a photo shoot and is eye-catching when you are not.
  • The design doesn’t project to the world “Hey, I have expensive photo equipment in here, come steal me.”

Cons:

  • The price. The camera bags range in price from US $154.99 through $184.99. Belle retails at US$164.99. You certainly can find camera bags that are less expensive, but I find the combination of style and function of these bags to be worth the extra dollars.

Overall, I am extremely impressed with the quality and functionality of this camera bag. I would highly recommend this camera bag to women who have graduated from a point and shoot camera into dSLR photography or a professional photographer looking for a bag she can carry on to the shoot then out on the town.

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J. Edgar: The Mommie Dearest of G-Man Pictures

Friday, November 11th, 2011 - by John Boot

Clint Eastwood’s woeful, inept biopic J. Edgar may not be the worst movie he’s ever made (that’s debatable), but it’s so histrionic, one-sided and unserious that it will stand as the Mommie Dearest of G-man pictures.

J. Edgar is a “Please don’t” picture; mentally, you’ll find yourself saying “Please don’t” when, for instance, Eastwood shows Leonardo DiCaprio’s J.Edgar Hoover lounging around in silky dressing gowns with Clyde Tolson (a campy Armie Hammer, who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network) making bitchy remarks about Desi Arnaz’s shoes. Please don’t, Clint. And if a squabble should break out between the two of them, please don’t let it end with Clyde straddling a breathless and sweaty Edgar on the floor and forcefully kissing him.

Yet that’s exactly what happens, and it’s not even the worst scene in this dreadful movie. That honor must go to the soon-to-be-notorious scene in which Edgar, stricken by the death of his domineering, gay-hating mom (Judi Dench), puts on first her necklace, then her dress, then breaks down in tears.

We can take J. Edgar Hoover as a self-aggrandizing creep who abused his authority and served eight presidents, mostly as FBI chief, by making them fear he might blackmail them with his confidential files. But must he also be a crybaby?

DiCaprio is awful. He spends most of the movie under about four inches of makeup as he plays Hoover in the 1960s, reflecting on his youth while trying to bring down Martin Luther King Jr. and blackmailing the Kennedy brothers. The device of Hoover telling his life story for posterity, which screenwriter Dustin Lance Black effectively used in his Oscar-winning script for Milk, this time feels forced and false, not to mention stiff and unoriginal. An FBI agent who takes down Hoover’s reminiscences keeps cross-examining and second-guessing him, as indeed do virtually all of the characters Hoover encounters in the movie.

The incessant attacks on Hoover that constitute this movie don’t even fit together. If he was such a terrifying, nearly omnipotent figure, why does everyone he meets feel free to tell him everything he’s doing wrong?

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Mike Tyson imitates Herman Cain, Life imitates ‘The Ring,’ and Ratner imitates Rizzo,

Thursday, November 10th, 2011 - by Kathy Shaidle

1. Worst of all: now we won’t get to hear Eddie Murphy’s joke about this

Just to review:

BRETT RATNER is no longer producing the next Oscar telecast because he:

a) more or less quoted a line from a movie that, er won “Best Picture” in 1970

b) said he’d had LINDSAY LOHAN checked for STDs before he slept with her

In other words, one of the last men in Hollywood who’s seen a movie older than Star Wars and demonstrates a modicum of common sense is now out of a job.

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Dunder Mifflin: Ground Zero of the Zombie Apocalypse

Thursday, November 10th, 2011 - by Brian James

The lifeless body of Dwight Schrute returned to television this year to sell paper and feed off of the living…in tiny, 30 minute increments. Most of the rest of the cast came shuffling along with him along the undead trail of tears that is this season of the office.

Night of the Living Dwight

For all intents and purposes The Office died last year when Steve Carell left the show. He apparently took their collective brain with him when he walked away, leaving the rest of the show to exist using only the stem.

The problem with continuing The Office past last season is that as far as the death of a series goes, the season finale last summer was a beautiful one. In final scene of the Steve Carell’s last episode we watched as Michael Scott removed his microphone and walked away from the film crew to board the plane that would permanently take him away from Scranton Pennsylvania and off to a new life. Pam, the only member of the office that he had not had a chance to say goodbye too, rushed into the shot, carrying her shoes (she had presumably bought a ticket and had to get through the airport security screening in order to catch up with Michael before he got on his flight). They hug, and the audience watches as the shows two principal characters share an emotional farewell. Because Michael has removed his microphone the viewers can see them speaking to one another, but are not privy to the words that pass between them.

There were no more lines spoken in this episode to spoil that scene. That moment was allowed to stand on its own. As a series finale they couldn’t have done better. It wrapped things up with emotion and grace. The Office peacefully and beautifully died right there.

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Maternal Instincts. Can You Trust Them?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011 - by Rhonda Robinson

I’ve spent my share of long nights balancing my head on the edge of a hard vinyl hospital “lounge.” Trying to sleep beside the bed of a sick child, with the constant interruption of obnoxious machines, the distant chatter of nurses echoing down the hall, and the incessant gaze of florescent lights is anything but restful.

I’ve seen needles probe for tiny veins, wide gashes sewn closed, and lethargic children attached to monitors, but never had I seen the look of sheer terror in the eyes of a newborn — until Zachary was handed to me by his weary, hospital-worn mother.

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What’s a Red, White & Blue Elephant Doing Selling Hondas?

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Since the early days of the industry, car companies have used a variety of animals as mascots and hood ornaments as well as in their logos and promotional materials. Long before Ford called a sporty car “Mustang”, Sir Lyons renamed his company Jaguar. Lyons used a cat, perhaps an idea taken from Edsel Ford, who put a dog, a leaping greyhound, on his Lincolns. Delage used greyhounds as well, but some of their hood ornaments were elephants. More famously, Ettore Bugatti fitted each of his Royales with an elephant hood ornament sculpted by his brother Rembrandt. I recently saw these and many other animal ornaments and mascots at the Classic Car Club of America’s museum on the grounds of the Gilmore Car Museum. Animals don’t just show up in the car world as classy hood ornaments, though. Auto dealers, part stores and car washes are known for renting giant inflatable gorillas, lizards, and even fish, to attract attention to their businesses. So it shouldn’t be that surprising to find an American flag painted life size elephant in front of a Honda dealer in suburban Detroit. Still one wonders just what an elephant has to do with selling Hondas.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery, Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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‘Stairway to Heaven’ Turns 40

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

You know it, you love it, you’ve heard it a bazillion times; you learned how to play the opening on guitar — the song really does remain the same:

Forty years ago today, British rock juggernaut Led Zeppelin released their magnum opus, “Led Zeppelin IV.” Rife with flourishes of haunting folk, gritty blues and rafter-shaking rock of the heaviest order, “IV” swiftly became the band’s defining album, largely thanks to the epic 8 minutes and 2 seconds of the fourth song on the LP, “Stairway to Heaven.” Rock music hasn’t been the same since.

Arguably classic rock’s preeminent ballad, “Stairway to Heaven” is a multi-tiered suite that segues from lilting acoustic delicacy into feral rock ‘n’ roll abandon and back again. It’s inspired legions of aspiring guitarists and spawned droves of ham-fisted imitations, but has never been equalled in its bombastic rock pageantry. Its lyrics are steeped in enigmatic allusions to the conflict between spirituality and earthly materialism, although a few of its verses have left even the most scholarly rock fans scratching their heads. “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow don’t be alarmed now/It’s just a spring clean for the May queen” (which, when played backwards, delivers a very different message indeed to some ears) is just mysterious enough to sound deeply meaningful, even when sung by a quartet of tight-trousered hellions.

It helps that the opening chords were “borrowed” from an earlier song by the California psychedelic band Spirit, whom Zeppelin had once toured with during their very early days. But as a piece of beautifully recorded pop craftsmanship, there’s a reason why it’s stood up this long. Here it is at Zeppelin’s career peak during their 12-year existence as a working band, their 1975 pull out all the stops extended stay at London’s Earl’s Court:

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It’s a remarkably multifaceted song. Anybody can play it!

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And it’s the one tune to have if you’re going on a three-hour tour

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Five Simple Words: Bill Murray IS FDR, Baby!

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

Even back on Saturday Night Live, Bill Murray’s always wanted to be taken seriously as an actor; he’s certainly come a long way from his days of playing Nick the Lounge Singer and being hit over the head with a menu by Belusi shooting PEPSI! PEPSI! PEPSI! But will audiences accept him as one of the most famous figures of the 20th century?

He found fame on sketch show Saturday Night Live and is most known his comedic talent in films including Ghostbusters and Groundhog day.

But there is nothing funny about Bill Murray’s latest role, he is portraying American President Franklin D.Roosevelt in Hyde Park On Hudson.

It has been a role taken on by the likes of Hollywood heavyweights Jon Voight, Jason Robards and Kenneth Branagh so Murray,61, certainly has a lot to live up to.

Murray’s latest appointment certainly raised eyebrows throughout tinsel town as the picture is set to mix political wrangling, domestic drama and infidelity, not usually seen as part of the actor’s repertoire.

I’d actually be willing to watch it, just to see if I could suspend disbelief sufficiently during Murray’s performance. Though after the big D-Day scene, I’d still be waiting for Bill to shout “We came, we saw, we kicked Hitler’s ass!”

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iBio: Why Steve Jobs’ Biography Was His Final Stroke of Genius

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 - by Amy Peikoff


I have been a loyal and enthusiastic Apple customer since 2002, when I bought my first iMac, the “Sunflower,” and wrote this review. I did not, however, get involved in the “cult” of Steve Jobs. I knew little about him until the media coverage of his deteriorating health made him almost impossible to ignore. I recall watching only one of his famous keynote addresses live, the announcement of the iPad in January of 2010. Around the time of his retirement in August, I, like so many others, watched his wonderful Stanford Commencement Address for the first time.

People like me — who love Apple products, who are grateful to Jobs for the indispensable role he played in creating them, but who knew little about Jobs the man — found ourselves “caught flat-footed”, as Jobs might have said, when we learned about the the seriousness of his illness, his retirement, and then his untimely death last month. We wanted to know more about this great innovator and businessman. We wanted a complete and accurate picture of the man who produced so much of value in his short life. Enter Steve Jobs, the authorized biography written by Walter Isaacson. For reasons I’ll explain, Steve Jobs’ getting Isaacson to write this biography was pure genius.

Before the book even came out, we learned that Jobs gave Isaacson hours upon hours of exclusive interviews, that he told Isaacson to feel free to interview anyone whom he wished, and that the interviewees were told to speak freely about Jobs, warts and all. In addition, Jobs said he would not ask to see the finished product before publication. All this, plus the fact that Isaacson was an experienced and respected journalist and biographer, someone picked by Jobs himself, combined to make the book a must-read, and so I pre-ordered it — on my iPad, of course.

After watching some of the pre-publication media appearances by Isaacson, I was concerned about the tone he would take in the biography. While Isaacson said he liked Jobs, some of the interviews seemed to emphasize Jobs’ least desirable and most controversial character traits. And, towards the beginning of the biography, when Isaacson used some of the value-laden terms critics have used to refer to Jobs — such as “Reality Distortion Field” — it seemed unjustified. But after reading about half the biography, I realized (1) there were some character traits of Jobs that served neither him nor anyone well, and (2) given the information he presented, Isaacson came across as both respectful and objective.

Next: The best and worst of what we learn about Jobs in the biography, and my opinion of Jobs after reading it.

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Midnight in Paris: The Woodman Stumbles

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 - by Bruce Bawer

It’s been a long time since I read as many reviews of a movie as I did of Woody Allen’s latest offering, Midnight in Paris.  As a native New Yorker who, decades ago, used to rush off to movie houses in Manhattan to see Allen’s earliest pictures as soon as they were released, and who has seen all but one or two of his dozens of films – some of them dozens of times – I was intrigued by the widespread and largely enthusiastic critical attention lavished on his latest effort and by the apparently healthy box-office figures, which represented a stunning departure from the widespread indifference to Allen’s work in recent years.  Could all the praise possibly be deserved?

This is not to say that I’m one of those who feel Allen hasn’t made a good movie in decades.  I  think Manhattan Murder Mystery is loads of fun.  I find Hollywood Ending hilarious.  I have great affection for Everyone Says I Love You.  Sweet and Lowdown is, indeed, sweet.  Match Point is elegant.  Vicky Christina Barcelona is engaging.  And I’m actually crazy about Whatever Works.

But Midnight in Paris, which I finally caught up with on a plane the other day, stunned me with its sheer badness.  It opens with a series of shots of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and other familiar Paris-postcard sights, which feels terribly tired and clichéd and more than a bit too reminiscent of the considerably more inspired montages of New York City at the beginnings of Manhattan and Everyone Says I Love You.  (Needless to say, there are no glimpses of the violence-ridden no-go zones in the banlieues – no car burnings, no rioters screaming “Allahu akbar!”)

The plot?  Briefly put, it’s about a hack Hollywood screenwriter named Gil who’s visiting Paris with his fiancée, and who’s taken with the idea of trading the City of Angels for the City of Light, and giving up scriptwriting for novel-writing.  Through some sort of mysterious alchemy, he finds himself transported on a series of nights, at exactly the stroke of twelve, to 1920s Paris, where he consorts with Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, Picasso, Cocteau, and Salvador Dali, among others.

In every Woody Allen movie, whatever its merits, there’s always a bit of dialogue – a line here, a line there – that makes you wince or cringe.  Invariably the subject is high culture.  And invariably the problem is that the characters are talking about it in way that rings so totally false as to be embarrassing.  Think, for example, of the Thanksgiving dinner-table dialogue about “Ibsen’s A Doll’s House” (as opposed, apparently, to Neil Simon’s A Doll’s House) at the beginning of Hannah and Her Sisters.  Well, Midnight in Paris has more of that sort of thing in it than any Woody Allen movie yet.   Only this time around, instead of people talking about Hemingway, you have Hemingway talking Hemingway.  And what does he have to say?  He keeps pontificating about “grace under pressure.”  Meanwhile Fitzgerald keeps calling people “old sport,” just like Gatsby.  The cringe factor is through the roof.  Allen doesn’t seem to be going for broad parody or caricature here – he genuinely appears to be out to capture the magic of the 1920s expatriate scene in Paris.  But it all comes off like a cartoon.   There have been countless biographies of some of these people, which might have given Allen some clues as to how to capture these characters in a few deft strokes – but Allen has obviously not consulted them.

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Down Goes Frazier

Monday, November 7th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

Smokin’ Joe Frazier died tonight from liver cancer at age 67; Richard Hoffer of Sports Illustrated has a beautifully written encomium to the former champ:

It’s a pointless speculation, but it might be interesting to wonder just where Joe Frazier would be today without those little run-ins with Muhammad Ali. Well, he’d probably be alive, for one thing. That’s a good theory for starters. Word came Monday that Frazier died of liver cancer at 67. Maybe that would have overtaken him in any event. But anybody who saw any of those three fights, particularly the two horrifying bookends of their heroic trilogy, would not be insulting medical opinion if he guessed Ali somehow had a hand in Frazier’s ultimate mortality.

Those two fights, especially their first meeting in the Garden 40 years ago, and even more especially 1975′s Thrilla in Manila, the fight that essentially ended their careers, were such violent affairs, such protracted examples of desperation, that any seasons lived beyond them have to be considered a kind of boxing gravy. They were not heavyweight title fights so much as near-death experiences, a brutally choreographed and lightly regulated self-destruction, their pride and ambition so inflamed that survival was no longer part of either fighter’s plan.

In a way though, by the time time Frazier and Ali hung up their gloves for good, it was professional boxing itself that would find itself on the ropes. This past summer, Paul Beston dubbed it “The Ghost Sport” in City Journal magazine:

With Tyson’s fall, boxing completed its transformation from central preoccupation to sideshow. For years, the sport had failed to meet the competitive challenge posed by other sports in the television age. Even as the tube brought fights into millions of homes, it hurt attendance at live events. Looking elsewhere for revenue, promoters began to stage most big fights at gambling casinos, a lucrative prospect for those in the money but one that separated the sport from a reliable fan base in major cities.

Yet the fact that TV proved a huge boon for most other sports suggests that we must look elsewhere for the true causes of boxing’s decline—above all, to changing tastes. In the long postwar boom, prosperity and higher living standards created different expectations for leisure and entertainment, as well as more refined attitudes. Boxing’s endemic corruption and scandal wore away its popular appeal and made the sport seem increasingly atavistic. Crooked managers and promoters; rankings of fighters doctored by fraudulent boxing organizations; allegations of fixed fights and bribed referees and judges; foul play in the ring, from illegal substances to doctored gloves; and fighters killed or maimed who shouldn’t have been fighting in the first place—these were among the reasons that the American public stopped taking the sport seriously.

Worst of all, though, were the sport’s effects on the human body. Boxing’s fatality rate is lower than that of horse racing and of some other sports, but its real scourge is not death but debility—particularly, brain damage. Today, the specter of brain trauma hovers over professional, college, and even high school football, posing a potential threat to that sport’s future. But awareness of boxing’s dangers long predates modern research. The image of the punch-drunk, shuffling old fighter goes back to the sport’s early days; researchers conducted studies of trauma in ex-fighters as early as the 1920s.

When the subject of boxing and brain trauma comes up today, the first image in everyone’s mind is that of Muhammad Ali, now 69. Afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, he moves hesitantly, is generally unintelligible, and shakes convulsively across his upper body; his moon-shaped face exhibits the masklike blankness so common to Parkinson’s—and Alzheimer’s—sufferers. Ali’s great ring model, Sugar Ray Robinson, who died in 1989, was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease in his final years. Like Ali, Robinson fought long beyond the point at which he could protect himself. Boxing’s two most gifted and stylish performers, in their prime the antithesis of the brute fighter, ended up indistinguishable from the broken-down old pugs they were sure they’d never become.

In 1984, the American Medical Association, after years of study, called for a ban on boxing, citing the sport’s object of causing physical harm and the damage its participants clearly suffered to their mental faculties. Since then, other studies have continued to link boxing to severe brain trauma. But the AMA hasn’t been able to build enough momentum to ban boxing—ironically, because not enough people in the U.S. care one way or the other. Revulsion has passed into indifference.

Even as its popularity has ebbed, boxing flickers in the American consciousness. One surprising area in which the sport has made small inroads into American habits is the growth of “white-collar boxing,” in which men and women show up after their day jobs to spar or fight real bouts in a gym. Many health clubs now offer boxing-related fitness programs, as few activities can compete with boxing’s aerobic benefits. Boxing continues to fascinate great writers, as it always has—only baseball has a comparable literary pedigree. And the ring’s elemental sense of conflict has proved endlessly adaptable for filmmakers. The prominence of some recent boxing films, like Million Dollar Baby, Cinderella Man, and The Fighter, is impressive, considering that the many fine boxing films of the past—from Body and Soul, Champion, and The Set-Up to The Harder They Fall, Fat City, and Raging Bull—could count on broader public enthusiasm for the sport.

While boxing will probably never regain its last glorious run in the 1970s, thanks to Frazier, Ali, and a certain rather loquacious television figure, we can always look back at some of the most iconic images — and words of its heyday:

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Update: Duke Energy Expands Warning About Electric Car Chargers in Wake of House Fire

Monday, November 7th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Though the investigation is still in its earliest stages, ABC News reports that the weekend house fire in North Carolina involving a Siemens EV charging station and a Chevy Volt has led to Duke Energy telling an additional 100 customers in Indiana to stop using the charger until the investigation is completed. Earlier, Duke Energy had issued the warning to about two dozen customers in the Carolinas. The 125 chargers had been installed by the utility company. Though Duke Energy insists that “there is no reason to believe” that the fire started with the charger, because the conflagration started near the charger they were issuing the warning due to “an abundance of caution”.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery, Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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Conrad Murray Convicted In Michael Jackson’s Death

Monday, November 7th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

Or as Matt Drudge puts it, linking to this CBS report, “Soothe Criminal:”

Conrad Murray, 58, has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.

A jury of seven men and five women deliberated for less than two days before convicting Murray in Jackson’s 2009 death.

Jurors had 300 pieces of evidence to consider after listening to 49 witnesses and complex medical testimony during the six-week trial.

Prosecutors argued that Murray acted in a criminally negligent manner after giving Jackson a powerful dose of the anesthetic propofol as a sleep aid.

The defense, however, maintained that Jackson took a deadly dose of propofol when Murray left his bedroom hours before the singer’s death.

Murray, faces up to four years in prison when he’s sentenced on Nov. 29, but Judge Michael Pastor ordered him to be remanded immediately.

Pastor, who said Murray “poses a demonstrable risk to the safety of the public,” ordered him to be held without bond.

Murray will also lose his medical license as the result of his conviction.

Jackson’s death in 2009 was a wall-to-wall media frenzy; our post at the time hit 142 comments in no time flat. As I mentioned shortly afterwards, compare and contrast how the deaths of famous pop musicians were recorded by “the first draft of history” in different eras, and what that coverage says about our culture, both then and now. Compare the intense, Princess Diana-like media frenzy over Jackson’s death, with this surprisingly cold and dispassionate report from ABC News immediately upon Jimi Hendrix’s demise in 1970. As ABC newsman Gregory Jackson drolly began his report, “If you’re much over 30, the odds are you’ve never heard of Jimi Hendrix. Or only dimly, perhaps a loud voice on the car radio.” In contrast, Jackson heralded an era in which everyone seemed to wish to remain in perpetual adolescence until their demise.  The Onion’s surprisingly brutal parody headline from 2009, “King Of Pop Dead At 12″ was, in retrospect, spot-on.

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How the West was Undone

Monday, November 7th, 2011 - by Mark Tapson

AMC’s new series Hell on Wheels, a western about the making of the transcontinental railroad, began Sunday night. But it’s unlikely to be a celebration of Manifest Destiny, a concept the filmmakers and cast apparently view with horror. Check out this oddly downbeat promo video, in which they fall all over themselves condemning the railroad for bringing civilization westward:

The series is an “anti-western,” according to its executive producer, Joe Gayton. “Hell on Wheels is dragging the urban blight in the industry of the East across the West, and changing it forever. It’s kind of the beginning of the end of the West as they knew it.” Another executive producer, David von Ancken, indicates the landscape behind him and describes the show as “the battle of man, scarring nature, versus this, the beauty of nature.” It’s “the story of the train cutting through nineteenth-century America and bringing ‘civilization.’” He actually gestures the air quotes around “civilization,” to make sure you know he takes the politically correct and fashionably ironic view of the concept.

Yet another executive producer, Gayton’s brother Tony, says in a different promo video that they’re trying to convey “the brutality of imposing civilization,” and lumps Christianity in with “prostitution, whiskey-houses, and gambling” as plagues the railroad spread to what must surely have been an edenic Native American landscape. Producer Jeremy Gold exactly echoes these phrases about urban blight and the brutality of imposing civilization “where it maybe doesn’t belong” – clearly these are agreed-upon talking points that the filmmakers desperately want to hammer home.

In all fairness, the series itself may prove to be evenhanded. But the producers and actors here seem to have bought into the naïve, multiculturalist proposition that civilization is destruction and savagery, and the primitive world is harmony and peace; that Civilized Man is corrupt and greedy, but the Noble Savage is, well, noble; and that American history can be reduced to the story of the European ravaging and exploitation of non-European peoples. Here’s hoping that Hell on Wheels will avoid derailing on these clichés and find something uplifting and grand along the journey.

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Most People have about Two People They Consider Friends

Sunday, November 6th, 2011 - by Helen Smith

A new study shows that most people have only two good friends:

About 48 percent of participants listed one name, 18 percent listed two, and roughly 29 percent listed more than two names for these close friends. On average, participants had 2.03 confidantes. And just over 4 percent of participants didn’t list any names.

The study asked what the friends did for people such as provide companionship, loan money, give you a place to crash etc. and those with one friend said that their friend would not provide such things. I wonder if people just say that they have friends when what they really have are acquaintances? And what if your spouse is your friend? Does that not count?

Maybe more of us need to read books like How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie if we want friends or Living Alone and Loving It: A Guide to Relishing the Solo Life if we don’t.

Do you think it’s important to have friends?

(Thumbnail image on Lifestyle homepage by Shutterstock.com.)

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The Inadequate Political Magick of Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney

Sunday, November 6th, 2011 - by Dave Swindle

The science and art of causing change in conformity with will.
– British occultist Aleister Crowley’s definition of magick

We sit here today with a high unemployment rate (and in our bones we know it even higher than the figures suggest) and the national disappointment, President Barack Obama, for one key reason: the magickal incompetence of the Republican Party during the 2008 election. Say what one will about the President’s shortcomings, as a campaigner and a political magician he is first in his class — and without the aid of affirmative action. Doubt me? Name a more talented political liar. Who else could spend an entire career arms locked with vulgar radicals like Jeremiah Wright and Billy Ayers yet somehow mesmerize the country into believing he was Grown Up Centrist Liberalism Incarnate?

Obama won in 2008 not just because of the fortunes of history — first black nominee, two orphan candidates, Bush fatigue, the economic crisis — but because he waged the more effective campaign. McCain/Palin did not know what hit them.

How he’ll top the potency of these — two of modern presidential history’s most effective magickal sigils — is anyone’s guess.

The magickal energy of these images still reverberates doesn’t it? Stare into them and you can still feel the illusion he wanted you to feel — just as when you always ask a Democrat about their political positions they’ll tell you how they’re driven by how they “feel” like one public policy is better than another.

And so it is that reluctant bedfellows of Republicans and Tea Partiers unite with a shared sense of clarity about the importance of a candidate’s skills in the art of political warfare.

My position is comparable to many: Obama’s defeat in office is the primary priority. Among the three front-runners of Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney I have my shifting preferences but would be more than comfortable with any as nominee and President. So the question that remains is which will have the best shot in a head to head match up with the Alinskyite Cult’s Goblin King.

The answer is whoever wins the primary.

Voters have not yet fully cemented their support behind a candidate because a combination of three magickal spells has yet to be cast effectively by any of the front runners:

  • Political Authenticity
  • Political Literacy
  • Political Competence

Authenticity — The candidate’s political efforts flow from a profound sincerity. The candidate believes in what he says and is not just “playing politics” or “just saying something to get elected.” His actions are the extension of a serious grounding in conservative political philosophy. We can trust the politician to try and do what he says. Above all he is authentically American in his values and in his understanding of the role of the federal government and his limited responsibilities as head of the Executive branch.

Literacy — The candidate knows the strange rituals and baroque customs of post-World War II American political culture. He can navigate the treacherous terrain and gaseous fever swamps of our corrupt mainstream media. He will not make easy media mistakes and lousy, embarrassing gaffes. He knows how to play defense.

Competence — The candidate can effectively unleash political magick spells to disrupt his enemies’ efforts, inspire his supporters, and ultimately capture victory. He knows how to play offense.

Each of the candidates is still trying to cast all three of these spells. On the next three pages we’ll consider each one’s Achilles’ Heel.

First: It’s just a flesh wound…

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Boss, the TV Drama: It’s Not Chicago

Sunday, November 6th, 2011 - by Abraham H. Miller

I usually don’t write about the arts.  Politics is my passion.  But when the arts cross into politics, especially Chicago politics, an interest of mine both by profession and birth, well, it’s something I just can’t ignore.

Boss is a new TV series on Starz.  It is about a political boss in Chicago.  It has gotten a lot of good publicity, especially about Kelsey Grammer’s thespian skill in his portrayal of a tough Chicago mayor, loosely modeled, some say, after the inimitable Richard J. Daley, not to be confused with his son, Richard M. Daley.

Grammer’s Tom Kane character is tough and violent, caught between the pragmatic desire to get things done for the city he loves and the numerous obstacles presented by a multiplicity of parasitic, selfish interests wanting to forever feed on the body politic.  Kane accomplishes this by being ruthless, violent, and demanding a type of loyalty and obedience last seen when Saddam Hussein had members of the Ba’ath Party hauled out  as traitors, one by one, from a large meeting in  July 22, 1979, when those yet to be manhandled started singing Saddam’s praises hoping if they sang loud enough they wouldn’t face the executioner.

But this is not Chicago.  This is some Hollywood writer’s myopic, stereotypic view of Chicago as probably seen from the top floor of the “W” on a foggy night.  Chicago politics is not about the mayor grabbing a henchman’s ear and squeezing it until the pain is so excruciating he is about to faint.  This scene occurs because one of his underlings violated the chain of command and in so doing, stupidly threatened a major construction project that required years of negotiations and ugly payoffs to get built. It is a project that Kane desperately wants and the city desperately needs — the expansion of O’Hare Airport.

Chicago politics is about power, ambition, greed, and functional corruption, at least it was under Richard J. Daley.  Chicago politics is not about a ruthless and violent mayor torturing his henchman or his henchman demanding medieval-style tribute by taking the ears off the lackey who forgot what the chain of command looked like.  The lackey, at a very upscale festive occasion, his ears bandaged, hands over a tastefully wrapped gift box to Kane.  At home, Kane opens the box to find the man’s ears.  Without emotion, Kane simply puts the ears in the garbage disposal and grinds away.  I got the immediate impression the shows producers thought they were competing with AMC’s The Walking Dead for an audience.

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Chevy Volt Burns, Leading to Duke Energy Warning About Chargers

Saturday, November 5th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Siemens VersiCharge charging station, like the one installed in a home garage that burned in Moorseville, NC.

After a house fire in Mooresville, NC which started in the home’s garage was traced the the area near a charging station for an electric vehicle, WSOC-TV reported that Duke Energy, which installed the Siemens built charging station, has warned customers to not use similar units while the investigation into the fire proceeds. When fire investigators went through the burned out garage, they found a Chevy Volt plugged into the 240 volt station, the second garage fire reportedly involving a Volt. Since it was not the only electrical appliance plugged in that area of the garage, the charging station may not be at fault. The Iredell County Fire Marshal’s office said, “The charging station was in the known area of origin, but the cause of the fire has not been officially determined.”

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery, Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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Forget Wall Street: Occupy Hollywood!

Saturday, November 5th, 2011 - by J.J. Hunsecker

In the National Post, Rex Murphy writes that by “limiting their wrath to the sharks and swine of Wall Street,” the assorted Occupy gangs may be “shortchanging themselves:”

There are many venues and theatres of greed other than the stock market. And they are tenanted by agents of ferocity and appetite equal to any gold-lusting shill at an investment bank. Greed has many McMansions, and they are all worth the “occupying.”

Has anyone, for example, apart from her jilted “husband,” thought of occupying – Kim Kardashian?

Of course, I mean “occupy” purely in its fashionable protest sense. Occupy her, not for being even more formidably vulgar and avaricious than Paris Hilton, a truly Olympic distinction. No – occupy her for running a tawdry TV spectacle called (hand over mouth, please) Kim’s Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event, selling the rights, drowning in the publicity and then announcing the “divorce” a mere 72 days into the staged connubial farce.

Various reports – one from the New York Post, for instance – put the revenues from this mockery, the flow of cash to Kardashian Inc., at something over $17-million. Is it possible – yes I’m reverting to the great cliché without the smack of an apology – that we live in a world where children starve for want of a dime a day, while this bloated, vacuous ego gets to rake in $17-million for a gaudy, inane travesty? If greed’s the target, and vulgarity a bonus, then Occupy Kim Kardashian. Occupy the whole dam clan of Khardashians for their shameless cupidity.

Occupying Hollywood would have an additional economic benefit — lowering energy costs:

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, known for her role as Elaine on the popular sitcom “Seinfeld,” has released a video urging President Obama to reject the permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. She joins a number of other celebrities and activists who have spoken out against the pipeline, and will be participating in the November 6 Tar Sands Action protest at the White House.

You can’t complain about Big Oil keeping energy prices high, when Big Hollywood is determined to artificially prop them up. But then, as PJM CEO Roger L. Simon learned the hard way earlier this week, Hollywood isn’t too thrilled with the notion of freedom these days.

Or as Arthur Chrenkoff once wrote, Mr. Gorbachev, bring back that wall!

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Not Hawaiian Music

Saturday, November 5th, 2011 - by Charlie Martin
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The Seven Differences Between Winners And Losers

Saturday, November 5th, 2011 - by John Hawkins

Over the course of my life, I’ve read hundreds of books about how to better your life and I’ve been fortunate enough to interview and converse with an enormous number of extremely successful people.

What I’ve learned is that for most people, success is no accident. Winners are winners for a reason just as losers are losers for a reason. Here’s some of what I’ve learned.

1) Winners do things losers won’t do.

Oftentimes, it’s the people who go to almost unthinkable lengths who manage to make it to the top. Thomas Edison reportedly tried more than 1000 different substances as filaments before he found the right one for the light bulb. Henry Morton Stanley, who was one of the greatest explorers in human history, nearly died time and time again going on expeditions across Africa that took years under some of the most dangerous and miserable conditions imaginable. Ross Perot and his wife both worked and then they lived off his salary while they saved every cent of her salary to fund his new business. These are people who went to extraordinary lengths to reach the top and they did it instead of just complaining that “life is hard” and giving up.

Henry Morton Stanley spent his afternoons doing this for years at a time

Next: EPIC FAIL!!!

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We Lost It at the Movies

Friday, November 4th, 2011 - by Ed Driscoll

Veteran movie critic Pauline Kael transformed the movie industry — and not really for the better — with her championing of films such as Bonnie and Clyde and Last Tango in Paris, but she was also perceptive enough to quickly see through Michael Moore. (Though would she have done so once he became a major institution amongst his fellow one percenters?)

NPR, where Kael’s pioneering bourgeois bohemian worldview is de rigueur, dubs her “A Critic To Remember” in a review of a recent anthology of Kael’s writing:

Many of her opinions about films like Shampoo and The Deer Hunter haven’t weathered the test of time; her hyperbolic language doesn’t always take flight. (Does Vanessa Redgrave in the 1977 film Julia really possess “maybe the most expressive huge hand the screen has ever known?”)

Clunkers like that one, however, are negatively instructive in their own right. They remind us that writing is hard, that even a magician like Kael had to work to make it look easy as she does in the masterpieces included here — like her long essays on Citizen Kane and Cary Grant, the one lusciously entitled, “The Man from Dream City.”

What Kael continues to give readers through her selected essays and reviews is her gutsy and still controversial article of faith that criticism should be rooted in emotion. She told us it was not only OK but a prerequisite that a critic be a fan. Awe, in Kael’s view, was a legitimate critical response. Consider her writing voice at the end of her 1982 review of Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial:

Spielberg has earned the tears that some people in the audience — and not just children — shed. The tears are tokens of gratitude for the spell the picture has put on the audience. Genuinely entrancing movies are almost as rare as extraterrestrial visitors.

Before Kael, no critic worth his whiskey and cigars would be caught dead talking about “tears of gratitude.”

In an excellent 1995 essay that he wrote about Kael for The New York Review of Books, literary critic Louis Menand tells an anecdote about how the eminent public intellectual Dwight Macdonald reviewed Kael’s book I Lost It at the Movies in 1965. In that review, Macdonald asked, in puzzlement, “What did she lose at the movies?” Thanks to Pauline Kael and her liberating legacy, it’s Macdonald’s fussy, over-intellectualized question, not Kael’s erotic confession, that’s the embarrassment.

Actually, we all lost something at the movies thanks to Kael (along with similarly-minded critics of her era): middlebrow culture. Kael loved to champion the sort of pulpy lowbrow culture that Quentin Tarantino has so profitably mined over the last twenty years.

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Cuban Gynecologist, American Auto Salesman – The Best Local Car Ad Ever

Friday, November 4th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

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Local car dealers have the best commercials. Rhett & Link, a couple of comedians, musicians and filmmakers, agree. They currently produce a reality tv show with them traveling around the country, visiting small towns and then developing and producing funny commercials for local businesses using local talent.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery, Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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Ridley Scott Finally Talks New ‘Blade Runner’

Friday, November 4th, 2011 - by Jehuda

And it’s a “liable to be a sequel” according to Scott himself, who was recently interviewed by the Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy blog.

When I first heard about this project, back in the summer, it was unclear whether the movie would be a prequel or a sequel.  But saying I was intrigued would be falling short.  Blade Runner wasn’t much of a hit when it was released in theaters back in 1982, but I could never get my eyes off it — without fail — every single time I rented it (Yes.  On VHS).  And I rented it several times between the age of 14 and 19.  How many, I can’t recall.  Like Scott’s prior work Alien, I just can’t get it out of my mind.

I didn’t see Blade Runner on the big screen till 1990 or so (awfully scratched print).  And when the Director’s Cut was released in theaters in ’92, I actually drove 2 hours to see it (and it’s not that I’m a sci-fi geek.  I drove 3 hours to see Robert Altman’s The Player — I was living in a small Texas bordertown at the time).  In 2007, Warner Bros. celebrated Blade Runner‘s 25th Anniversary with another theatrical release (digitally remastered under Scott’s supervision as a so-called “Final Cut”).  I drove about 40 minutes to see that one on the big screen, mostly because of L.A. traffic.  That’s how much I enjoy the film.  And I know I’m not alone in this.  The truth is, it’s a strong film.  And despite it’s sci-fi/neo-Noir wrapping, I believe it has plenty to recommend it to mainstream audiences.

The visuals and sound design in Blade Runner are simply arresting.  And the narrative — based on a short story by the prolific Phillip K. Dick — ain’t bad either, focused as it is not only on a multiple manhunt (synthetic manhunt?) but also on the existential angst of the characters, grappling from their own particular points of view with the sadness of the human condition.  But not in that annoying French New Wave way.  This is an American movie.  A Hollywood movie.  It just happens to come across as artsy because it is beautiful to watch and hear.

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