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Will The Future of Religion Mean More Pointless Murder?

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Liberty Island

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 6.54.10 AM

“You said you needed to speak to me,” Naus said.

“I was told by Nystrom to speak to you personally, and this is rather impersonal. So just tell me where you are, and I’ll head on over.”

“Don’t bother; I don’t have anything to say to you people. I’m supported by the Veethood now, and I don’t intend to have any more business with Nystrom.”

Dip spoke up. “The Veethood are a local cartel–”

“Never heard of them. Don’t care about them,” I told both Naus and Dip. The six guys around me started to stir.

“You go tell Nystrom–”

“I was not told that Nystrom cares what you have to say.” I used my firm voice, hoping that meant something to his species. “And certainly don’t care. My job is to give you a message, and then I am done.”

Naus’s eyes narrowed. Anger? “Perhaps I can tell them all I need to by sending back your corpse.”

I relaxed back in my chair. “I wouldn’t recommend it. Nystrom is known for being very dogged. You kill me, they send two people. You kill them, they send three people. Then four people. Then five people. And they’ll keep going until they get what they want.” I unfolded my arms. “Know how many I think it will take, though?” I leaned toward the screen. “I think one will be more than enough.”

I should mention that my brain is altered in more ways than one. First, my reflexes are much better than a regular man’s, but more importantly, I can actually process and perform two separate actions at once as long as one of them doesn’t require higher-level functions like speech processing. For instance, I have never had any trouble patting my head and rubbing my tummy at the same time. More practically, I can wield two guns, acquiring and eliminating a separate target with each hand simultaneously. That’s very useful when I have to quickly gun down six people — which I did as I stood from the chair. I immediately assessed the threat level of each of the six and then shot them in order. I had shot them all before any had successfully drawn a weapon.

It was a little pathetic, but the rest of the bodies Naus would throw at me would be a little more prepared and might actually present a challenge. Their blood is orange, by the way.

Naus was shouting something at me through the screen, but I didn’t pay attention and instead walked over to the receptionist, who was cowering behind her desk. “So where is Chal Naus?”

“Down the hallway in the bar!” she cried. My translator program had some trouble with her stuttered delivery.

“I know this must be stressful for you, but thank you for your help,” I said before turning away. I want to be better socially, so I try to work at it whenever I have an opportunity. It’s hard for me to analyze in which situations I actually gain something by being polite, but it usually doesn’t hurt. I really have to remember to be polite, though, because of my intense disdain for pretty much every sentient creature.

Two more purple guys came running at me, guns pointed forward, but I still shot both of them before they could fire. I stepped over them and continued to the bar.

Now you might be thinking there are smarter ways to go about this sort of thing, but then you’d be missing the point. Sure, I could sneak in and take out my targets surreptitiously, and a skilled assassin certainly is a threat to be feared. But I am a hitman, not an assassin. And there’s a good reason for that. Hiding shows weakness. When representing the Nystrom syndicate, one of the most powerful forces in the universe, one should never show weakness. That’s why I always use the front door. I let my marks know I’m coming. I walk calmly. I give them time to prepare to defend themselves. And I show them that whatever they do doesn’t matter. Because Nystrom always gets what it wants. Always. It is larger and more powerful than most people can even comprehend, and I am the human representation of that power.

Yes, one of these days that philosophy will earn me a hole burned right through my face. But everyone will have to admit that right up to that point I was extremely intimidating. Years ago, there was once a sensationalist piece in the works at the Laverk Times calling me the “Universe’s Deadliest Man.” Funny story: the day before it would have appeared, I killed the entire editorial staff in a completely unrelated matter.

Well, it was funny to me. Maybe you had to have been there.

Anyway, I met no one else on the short walk to the bar and could hear people panicking inside. I assumed security had fortified around Naus, and that would work nicely for me, because I’d rather they all just stayed put.

Bars make nice places for hits. They’re public, so there are plenty of witnesses, but they usually lack many windows and are out of the way, so too many people aren’t alerted too quickly. I’ve never liked hanging out in such places for fun, as I don’t drink; I only go to bars when I’m killing people.

I go to a lot of bars.

I stepped through the front door and started firing. The non-threats were presumably smart enough to flee through the exits, so I took aim at anyone facing my direction. It’s not like there’s a penalty for shooting innocent bystanders (besides the legal ones, but that’s always been a non-issue for me). I aimed quickly while moving in a zigzag pattern (they were expecting me, so they would inevitably get some shots off) and took them down two by two. There were nine threats by first glance, then seven, then five, then three, then… still three.

I fired again, and the shots terminated in some sort of energy field. I had heard of these but had yet to encounter one. Naus was behind the shield, sitting at the far end of the bar at his own table with a gun in hand and two armed guards standing next to him. “Really impressive,” Naus said, “but now I guess we’ll find out how many men it takes to bring you down.”

The rest of the bar’s patrons continued fleeing, and I shot two running past me who made motions that could have been reaching for guns. I didn’t know if I was right, but in the past few seconds I had developed a deep-seated prejudice against purple aliens with tentacles coming out of their heads and thus didn’t really care. In a few seconds, all that remained were me and the three behind the barrier, but more guards or police were coming, and I was out in the open with multiple entrances to watch. I probably would not last long in that situation — but, who knows? Maybe I would. Today was not the day to find out, though. I looked at Naus. “Fleeing might have been a better idea than trapping yourself.”

“If Nystrom wants to waste time sending me people to kill, then I’ll happily oblige.” Naus looked like he felt pretty invincible behind the shielding. I had noticed the lights dimming a bit when I’d shot the shield, which meant it was on the same grid as the rest of the bar. That gave me an obvious line of attack. “Nystrom doesn’t have a presence in this system — certainly not enough for the cut they’ve been demanding. Plus, I do have some standards, and I don’t want to be associated with what Nystrom has been doing on Zaldia. So I’m going to send you back to them in pieces as a little message that they should devote their time and resources elsewhere.”

He was talking about the politics behind this job as if it meant anything to me. The why was never important — that’s big picture stuff and it all gets rather pointless in the larger scheme. It’s all just power struggles that creatures have had since the first two single-celled organisms competed for the same food source.

Pointless. Never-ending.

So I don’t care about the why — just the what. And the what right now was to get past the energy shield, and quickly. I put away one gun and took out a little device that was normally a useful diversion. It was a miniature generator capable of enough power output to keep a small city running for about a second. It was pretty easy to reengineer into a nasty explosion capable of taking out a few city blocks, which made it illegal for civilian possession pretty much everywhere — something to note if you care about that sort of thing.

“Are you listening? Did you really think you could come to my home and demand anything of me?”

*****

Join us again next week for another excerpt from SuperEgo and more provocative essays from Frank J. Fleming and the Liberty Island team.

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Breaking: Actor Harrison Ford Seriously Injured in Plane Crash (Updated)

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Actor Harrison Ford was seriously injured in a plane crash this afternoon, according to numerous sources.

NBC:

Actor Harrison Ford was seriously injured Thursday when a vintage World War II training plane he was piloting crash landed on a Mar Vista, California, golf course.

The actor was stabilized and taken to a local hospital. Sources said he sustained cuts to his head. There was no word on other injuries or what caused the plane to crash. It appeared he was flying solo.

His injuries were originally described as “critical,” but sources emphasized they are better characterized as serious, including lacerations to the head and possible fractures.

Howard Tabe, an employee at the Penmar Golf Course, said ‘There was blood all over his face … Two very fine doctors were treating him, taking good care of him. I helped put a blanket under his hip.”

The plane crashed on the golf course just west of the airport shortly after takeoff from the Santa Monica Airport, according to Ian Gregor of the Federal Aviation Administration, NBC Los Angeles reported.

An avid flyer of both planes and helicopters, Ford was in a bad crash of a Bell chopper in 1999 Santa Clara, Calif. In 2008, he told National Geographic, “Well, there was a mechanical failure while we were practicing power recovery autorotations. It was more or less a hard landing. Luckily, I was with another aviation professional and neither of us was hurt—and both of us are still flying.”

To survive a crash like this is a near miracle:

000.0000

We will update this post as necessary.

UPDATE: Air Traffic Control audio

Ford reports an engine failure and declares an emergency.

As of 4:00 PM Pacific Time, Ford is listed in fair condition.

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How Much Did You Spend on Your Pet Last Year?

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The American Pet Products Association released their annual report on consumer spending for companion animals, revealing that Americans dropped $58 billion on their beloveds.

What kind of market are we talking about? How’s this for an eye opener. Stats from American Pet Products Manufacturers Association:

According to the 375 page survey that tracks hundreds of pet ownership trends, Americans own approximately 73 million dogs, 90 million cats, 139 million freshwater fish, 9 million saltwater fish, 16 million birds, 18 million small animals and 11 million reptiles.

What is that $58 billion spent on?

The association measures five areas of spending. Last year, people spent $22 billion on food; $15 billion on veterinary care; $14 billion on supplies such as beds, bowls and collars and over-the-counter medicine to fight ailments such as fleas, ticks and colds; $4.8 billion on other services; and $2 billion on animals themselves.

The “other services” category grew the fastest in 2014 and includes payments on grooming, boarding, walking, training, day care and even trips to the spa — where pets can get facials and massages, said Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the pet products association, based in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The report says trips to the veterinarian were unchanged or slightly down last year, although expenditures per visit have increased as owners green-light more expensive procedures, Vetere said. Those treatments ranged from the lifesaving to the exotic, like plastic surgery.

A robust human-animal bond still exists, especially with dogs and cats, and people are doing more to prolong their pets’ lives, from surgery to food, Vetere said.

This can’t be making Hollywood happy:

COMPARING SPENDING

People spent about five times more on their pets than they did on movies last year. The box office firm Rentrak estimated that ticket sales from 2014 totaled $10.4 billion, a 5.2 percent drop from 2013. But people spent far more on their homes than they did their pets, with expenditures from home improvements and repairs reaching $298 billion in 2013, the most recent data available.

We spend $100 a month on our three cats, including food, treats, and toys. Sue can’t resist getting the beasts toys, which they will play with for exactly three hours and then ignore forever. We tried growing our own catnip last summer but because of conflicting information, did not cure the plant correctly. We now spend a fortune on the stuff looking for a brand they like.

The best catnip available commercially used to be Cosmic Catnip, which was a company founded by a bunch of hippies who loved cats and grew catnip that the little ones went ape over. Alas, the hippies got greedy and sold the business to a large company that now sells overpriced stems and tries to pass it off as catnip.

Many of us draw the line when it comes to super-expensive procedures to keep our loved ones alive — especially if they are along in years and suffering. But more and more people are going into hock these days to give their companions life saving treatments — just as they would any other member of the family.

The human-animal relationship is evolving. The change is driven partly by commerce but mostly because we are recognizing more value to the personal relationship we have with our pets. It shouldn’t surprise us that we spend nearly $60 billion on our loved ones. When they’re happy, we’re happy.

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Ringling Brothers to Phase Out Elephant Acts by 2018

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I suppose this was inevitable given the pressure being put on Ringling Brothers by animal rights and animal cruelty groups. The fact is, the animal rights fanatics actually have a point in this case as a dozen of circus elephants over the years have died as a result of mistreatment. Many have been euthanized. Others were killed in the course of training.

For the elephants, it was a particularly brutal existence. Shackled most of their lives, forced to ride for hours in trains being unable to move, and a training regime that relied on beating the animal led to the company being cited for animal cruelty and had to pay $275,000 for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

The company is bemoaning the loss of “tradition”:

“It is a legacy that we hold near and dear to our hearts, and as producers of The Greatest Show On Earth, we feel we have a responsibility to preserve the esteemed traditions that everyone expects from a Ringling Bros. performance while striving to keep the show fresh and contemporary for today’s families,” leadership at Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, said in a statement Thursday.

The Associated Press first broke the news early Thursday.

In what Feld Entertainment is calling an “unprecedented move,” the circus plans to phase out elephant acts by 2018. Thirteen elephants currently in the circus will be transported to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida by 2018, joining 40 elephants that are already there. The circus said, however, it is not ending its other exotic animal performances that include lions and tigers.

“This is the most significant change we have made since we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in 1995. When we did so, we knew we would play a critical role in saving the endangered Asian elephant for future generations, given how few Asian elephants are left in the wild,” Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment Kenneth Feld said in the statement.

PETA Co-Founder and President Ingrid E. Newkirk said on msnbc Thursday that the move is “145 years too late, but it’s better now than never,” adding, “I think they realized we have so many whistle-blowers, so many photos of elephant abuse … [of elephants] kept in shackles in boxcars.”

“They can’t carry on, they cant hide it all from the public,” Newkirk told host Jose Diaz-Balart. “They have to do something different, finally.”

The company doubled down on its fight to keep animals from going extinct, saying in the statement that “no other institution has done or is doing more to save this species” and adding that it will continue to contribute to conservation programs in the United States and Sri Lanka.

Note that Ringling Brothers made absolutely no defense of the way they treated the animals. That says volumes there.

The whistleblowers in this case were not the animal rights activists but employees of Ringling Brothers who were sickened by the treatment of these beautiful creatures. I have no problem keeping animals in modern zoos where they have room to roam and act somewhat the same way they would in the wild.

But exotic animals in circuses have outlived their entertainment value and should all be phased out over the next few years.

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The Kiss that Launched a Thousand ‘Sh*ts’

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I don’t watch ABC’s teen drama The Fosters. I don’t watch much of anything at all on ABC Family Network except when they show a Disney classic as they occasionally do.

But I’m constantly amazed at the capacity of people to be offended by the most innocent of gestures. Either that, or some people are just professionals in the outrage business. They express their disapproval not because they care, but because it’s cool and makes them feel good to bash someone else. I think most internet bullying is like that.

Well, it seems The Fosters has aroused the Outrage Brigade because the show showed a kiss between two teenage male cast members — one of whom is apparently openly gay.

A couple of Twitter reactions:

“Gay kiddie porn”? Are you kidding me? If Barnhardt thinks that a kiss is pornography, she’d feel right at home in Iran or Saudi Arabia. Come to think of it, don’t they execute gays in those two countries?

 

Amazing. Equating homosexuality with child sexual abuse? (Sandusky was the Penn State coach who diddled little boys).

 

“Forced on us”? Is your TV remote broken? The storyline had been building to this moment for two years. Why watch it — unless you were waiting for the moment just so you could express your outrage about it?

No one likes to hear a lecture — and this one will almost certainly fall on deaf ears anyway. But I’m sure my thoughts represent the majority of conservatives — and good-hearted, patriotic Americans as well. Someone has to tell these loutish, ignorant, bigots off and I’m just the one to do it.

Gays are with us and aren’t going anywhere. Get used to it. They are your neighbors, your co-workers, the guy who rings up your groceries, and for many, many of you, your family members.

I don’t expect those who think every word in the Bible is holy writ to change their views. But can you at least keep them to yourself? Not buying the “Hate the sin, love the sinner” BS your selling. You hate and fear the sinner and sin equally. Denying it only makes you a hypocrite in the eyes of your god.

It may surprise some of you to learn that gay people are human beings. As such, they are afflicted with every human emotion: hate, envy, joy, sorrow…and love. There are many ways to express that love. One way is by kissing. The kiss in The Fosters was so innocent, so chaste, that to get outraged about it shows a total lack of perspective on your part. Needless to say, with the rampant portrayal of full-on, nude heterosexual sex on TV, a single same-sex kiss — brief, and intelligently handled by the actors and director — should be celebrated as a sign of restraint on the part of the producers.

Gays are with us. Get used to it. And as Americans, you better decide fairly quickly whether you want a two-tiered society with heterosexuals enjoying all the rights and privileges due an American citizen while gays are denied some of those same rights. Is that the America envisioned by the Founders, all you “Constitutional Conservatives”?

Gays are with us. They aren’t going anywhere. Get used to it. Homosexuality is not a disease. You can’t catch it by breathing the same air as a gay person. You certainly can’t get it by watching two boys share a tender moment. This notion that no overt expressions of gay love can be shown on TV or portrayed in a young adult book is crazy. What are you going to do when gay kissing is as commonplace on TV as black-white kissing is today? I’m old enough to remember the huge blow-up over the kiss between Captain Kirk and Uhuru in the Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren.” How silly is it to object to that sort of thing today?

The nauseating bigotry expressed by so many on the right who see gays as second-class citizens to be shunned and thrown back in the closet is making those of us in the majority who disagree look just as hateful and ignorant as the bigots. From now on, keep your “outrage” to yourselves and try practicing that most conservative of principles…

Tolerance.

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NTSB Considers Reopening Buddy Holly Plane Crash Investigation

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The National Transportation Safety Board says it is considering reopening the investigation into the small plane crash that killed Buddy Holly and two other rock legends in addition to the pilot.

The crash occurred in 1959 outside of Mason City, Iowa.  Also killed were Richard Valenzuela, better known as Richie Valens, 17, and J.P. Richardson, known as “The Big Bopper,” 39. Two films — La Bamba, which told the story of Valens and The Buddy Holly Story — recreated the lead up of the crash.

A private pilot suggested reopening the case:

The accident, outside Mason City, Iowa, was blamed by the Civil Aeronautics Board, the forerunner of the NTSB, on pilot error and weather, but new information on the incident was suggested by L.J. Coon, a pilot. In a letter, he proposed additional investigation of the plane’s weight and balance, its rate of climb and descent and other factors.

“You have gotten our attention,” a return letter from the NTSB read in part.

The agency never closes a case, but has two months to review a petition to re-examine evidence in a plane accident, NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said.

The Feb. 3, 1959 crash has achieved mythic status in American music history. Killed aboard the plane, with pilot Roger Peterson, were Holly, 22; Richard Valenzuela, better known as Richie Valens, 17, and J.P. Richardson, known as “The Big Bopper,” 39. Each was beginning his career in rock and roll, at that time a new and emerging radio format.

Waylon Jennings, then a member of Holly’s band and later a country music legend, gave up his seat to Richardson, who was ill and unable to travel with the rest of the entourage by car to their next appearance in Moorhead, Minn., Jennings claimed his decision haunted him until his own death, in 2002. Dion DiMucci, of Dion and the Belmonts, chose to travel by car when he learned of the airline’s $36 baggage fee.

The plane crash was referred to as “the day the music died,” in Don Mclean’s 1971 hit “American Pie.”

The short, meteoric rise of Holly and Valens was typical of the late 1950′s rock and roll era. Stars were brutally exploited, making millions for record companies while seeing pennies on the dollar for themselves. By their third album, most of them were has beens.

No one knows if Holly or Valens would have gone on to have long careers. But their tragic deaths guaranteed their immortality.

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How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Who says scientists don’t have a sense of humor?

Some Cornell University geniuses addressed the question of where is the best place to hide in a Zombie apocalypse and, in so many words, said “head for the hills”:

Cornell University researchers built a statistical model to determine what a zombie outbreak would look like and how it would spread through the United States.

The model confirmed what many in the nation’s densely populated regions fear: The key to surviving the zombie apocalypse is to live as far away from a city as possible, reports The Washington Post.

The interactive model the researchers developed shows the D.C. area getting swallowed by zombies within the first 48 hours.

Other, more remote, areas could be spared for days, weeks, months or even years, researchers found.

“It’s bad to be near any big city,” Alex Alemi, a researcher with the project, said to The Washington Post.

He says in a far-removed city, “it would be a situation where you’re watching chaos on television, but where you are everything would remain unchanged.”

The researchers’ model is built on some fundamentals. One is the “bite-to-kill” ratio, which measures how often a person would kill a zombie versus how often a zombie would infect a human. Also, the model assumes that zombies can only travel by foot.

Additionally, the model says transportation breaks down during a zombie event, meaning if you live in D.C. when the outbreak occurs, you can’t get in or out.

“Transportation would likely break down in an outbreak,” Alemi said to The Post.

Alemi contends that there is really no hope in a zombie apocalypse situation and that eventually it would kill us all.

“Zombies are unique and very different than other diseases in that victims of other diseases either get better or succumb to the disease,” Alemi told The Post.

“But zombies are the undead. They don’t get better. And the only way to stop them is for a human to kill the zombie. With other diseases, no matter how many infections you model, the disease is not going to infect every single person. But in the zombie model, you really can turn every single person into a zombie.”

Don’t go packing up to head to a remote area just yet, Alemi says. A rush to underpopulated regions would only make them vulnerable.

Also, he reminds people to not get too carried away with the possibilities of an attack from bloodthirsty undead. The research is a way to apply hard science to a popular, fun topic.

The model is interactive so you can have lots of fun imagining yourself being chased by Zombies. As for the scientific paper, it’s to be presented to the March meeting of the American Academy of Physical Sciences. You can imagine those stuffed shirts getting a kick out of this:

We use a popular fictional disease, zombies, in order to introduce techniques used in modern epi-demiology modelling, and ideas and techniques used in the numerical study of critical phenomenon.

We consider variants of zombie models, from fully connected continuous time dynamics to a full scale exact stochastic dynamic simulation of a zombie outbreak on the continental United States. Along the way, we offer a closed form analytical expression for the fully connected differential equation, and demonstrate that the single person per site two dimensional square lattice version of zombies lies in the percolation universality class. We end with a quantitative study of the full scale US outbreak, including the average susceptibility of different geographical regions.

Zombies are a perfect metaphor for 21st century threats like ISIS, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Both are soulless. Both are pitiless. And both absolutely have to kill to live.

Pleasant dreams.

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Top 5 Movie Food Fights

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

There have been movie food fights since the silent days of the art. The pie in the face never ceases to draw guffaws from the audience, and directors have shamelessly used them to get a cheap laugh.

But some food fights have set themselves above common, run-of-the-mill slapstick to reach artistic heights. There is comedy, of course, but good food fights usually feature the good guys versus the bad guys, and when a villain gets literally creamed, there is an emotional satisfaction that you wouldn’t get if the bad guy was simply killed in a gunfight.

What makes a good food fight? Timing, timing, timing. The choreography of a food fight is important, but what sets some fights above others is the talent of the film editor. There is a pace and rhythm to a good food fight, and precise, strategic cuts heighten the absurdity and add to the comedic effect.

This is a completely subjective list, of course, and I’m sure you all have your favorites. My choices are probably more sentimental than artistic, but recalling the first time I saw them always brings a smile to my face.

5. Animal House

Some might rank this one higher, but artistically, it’s more of a free for all than something choreographed for the camera.

Still, always a pleasure to watch Bluto imitate a zit and see Neidermeyer get his comeuppance.

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7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

YouTube Preview Image

Don’t let the appearance of Rainn Wilson fool you. Everett Backstrom is no Dwight Schrute, nor is Backstrom yet another take on the Sherlock trend. This smart, funny detective series walks into dark territory to examine the human desire to look toward the light. It goes against formula and against the grain manipulating authority and questioning politically correct cultural norms in pursuit of truth, justice and even more intriguingly, redemption from evil. Here are 7 reasons why Backstrom is trendsetting, essential counter-culture conservative television that demands a place on the air.

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Independence Day 2 Casting Complete

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Major casting for the Roland Emmerich helmed sequel to the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day has been completed with the addition of Jessie Usher to play the role of Will Smith’s stepson.

Rumored to be titled ID Forever, Part I, the studio refused Smith’s demand for $50 million for the two planned sequels. Instead, Usher will play his stepson, also a pilot, fighting off the alien invaders who have returned to finish the job.

Usher is best known for playing basketball player Cam Calloway in Starz’s series Survivor’s Remorse , Also signed for a lead role is Hunger Games Liam Hemsworth, and Jeff Goldblum, who will reprise his role as David Levinson from the original.

Bill Pullman will again play the president, but many of the characters will be unfamiliar to fans of the original. “We have like maybe half of the people that you know would know from the first film and the other half people who are new,” said Emmerich in 2013.

It’s been a rocky road to get the sequel made. The two creative heads behind ID4, Emmerich and Dean Devlin, weren’t sure they wanted to make a sequel at all. But when 9/11 occurred, Emmerich thought the time was right and the two began to develop a script. After several failures, they finally brought an idea to Fox and pitched the project in 2011. There was more tinkering with the script and Fox finally signed off in 2013.

ID4 grossed more than $800 million and made Will Smith a big star. But what made the film a hit was the chemistry of the cast and the comedy of Smith who stole just about every scene he was in. The mix of comedy, drama, and horror worked well as did the state of the art special effects for the time.

Can the sequel overcome fan expectations? Critics are no doubt lying in wait to pulverize the project, but the original received mixed reviews at best, which obviously didn’t hurt it at the box office. Emmerich has shown time and time again that he can succeed with risky projects — and fail miserably as well. For every ID4, he’s directed a Godzilla, perhaps the worst remake of a classic film ever made. But Emmerich is in familiar territory with the sequel and should make the project a commercial success.

The scheduled release date is July 4, 2016.

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Gay Activist’s Claims of Being Abducted Turn Out to Be a Hoax

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

The unbelievable power of social media to do good — and evil — was on display again yesterday in Ohio when a gay activist posted to his Facebook page and tweeted that he had been kidnapped and was locked in the trunk of his car.

As a result, hundreds of people called 911, and several agencies began an intense search for the young man.

At about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday, local gay rights activist Adam Hoover, 20, started sending out messages on Facebook and Twitter pleading for help.

Hoover claimed he was stuffed in the trunk of his vehicle and a group was claiming they would kill him and his family.

Hoover told his followers, “They said they are going to kill my family. … I don’t want to die.”

An emotional sounding Hoover told a dispatcher what he said happened to him after he arrived at a Miami View Road home.

Police later said that Hoover’s claims were made up and the incident did not actually happen. He was charged with making false claims — a first-degree misdemeanor.

Investigators said Hoover’s vehicle was found abandoned in Miami Township on US 50. He was found unharmed nearby.

Deputies said Green Township police and Hamilton County sheriff’s investigators interviewed Hoover before determining his story was not true.

Hoover’s mother told WCPO that she was able to see her son after he was found. She said she was able to give him a hug and that he said he loves her.

Officers told WCPO’s Ally Kraemer that Hoover was going to be taken to an area hospital for a mental evaluation.

Green Township Lt. Jim Vetter said Hoover initially told them there was a man hiding the in back of his car when he got off work. Hoover told police that when he got into the car, the man was armed and told him to drive.

Vetter said Hoover claimed he was eventually able to escape and get to a farmhouse in Miami Township to ask for help.

When Hoover arrived at the home, the family there called 911. Hoover was eventually put on the phone with dispatchers where he shared his story.

Hoover also claimed to dispatchers that a second car was following his during the alleged abduction. He told the officers who responded to the scene that he “popped the trunk” and fought off three men.

The lieutenant said they have not been able to ascertain why Hoover would make up the story. He said it took about an hour of questioning before Hoover recanted his story.

When you play the victim for so long, eventually you not only believe it, but have to justify that belief. We’ve seen this numerous times on campus: fake racial incidents, fake homophobia, fake “oppression” by the white patriarchy.

And, of course, fake gang rapes.

This is more than just someone wanting attention they don’t deserve. It’s part of the victimhood culture — a way to prove one has the chops for leadership. To actually suffer for being gay, or black, or a woman is the ultimate mark of importance. It sets you apart from the mass of other victims, granting the victim special status.

Apparently, social media’s impact was so intense that the emergency services in the county were overburdened by hundreds of calls from concerned friends and followers of Hoover.

Vetter said emergency dispatchers were inundated with calls during the incident. He said such events are troubling because the sheer volume of calls could possibly prevent dispatchers from answering other emergencies.

“Obviously don’t make stuff up that didn’t happen, because you’re utilizing valuable resources that can be used on somebody who does truly need help,” Vetter said.

More than 1500 people shared the post on Facebook and the hashtag #FindAdamHoover swept the world.

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Baby Weasel Hitches a Ride…on the Back of a Woodpecker

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

This is a cut above your usual clickbait — and besides, baby mammals are soooo cute (except maybe baby hippos, which are even uglier than adults).

A photographer in England got this shot while strolling through a park in East London:

British photographer Martin Le May captured an incredible, real-life image while strolling through a park in East London—that of a baby weasel astride the back of a green woodpecker, holding on for dear life, like a miniature (and stupidly adorable) rendition of Bastian and Falkor from The NeverEnding Story

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Naturally, the marriage of Twitter and Photoshop produced instant classics:

 

 

 

Again, that damn dress.

Why did the little critter take his life in his hands? He was probably hungry:

That weasel is trying to murder that woodpecker.

How do we know? It’s all in the form. This fearless little flier appears to be gently nuzzling the neck of his winged steed, it is more than likely trying to gnaw through a spinal cord. Even the tiniest of weasels—Mustela nivalis, or “the least weasel,” weighs in at an average of five ounces—are bloodthirsty carnivores. And their preferred method of attack is a devastating bite to the neck, severing the jugular vein; after which it will unceremoniously drag the carcass back to its den. Like a tiny jaguar.

Sort of like cats, I guess. Felines are beautiful creatures, but lurking behind that cute little kitten face is a ferocious, implacable carnivore. That baby weasel is cute as a button — but if you try to pet it, it will probably take your fingers off.

I hope the little one has a parachute ’cause ain’t no way the woodpecker is going to land with it on its back.

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Should Parents Pay a Price for Giving Their Child Independence?

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I think if the rules that apply to parents today regarding how much independence they grant their child were in effect back then, either they would have been sent to jail or I would have grown up in the foster care system.

They actually have a name for it; “free range parenting” — as if kids were cattle allowed to roam the open range with no supervision. The term is pushback against “helicopter” parenting, but the fact that an entire movement had to be created to recognize the independence of children shows you just how far we’ve come as a society.

We’ve read several horror stories in recent months about mothers being arrested for letting their child walk to and from a park or leaving them alone for a few hours while they went to work. I think, as in all cases, the age of the child should be considered as well as the neighborhood in which the child lives.

But really, what is the problem with the state when they come down on parents who give their kids a little unsupervised freedom?

Washington Post:

The Maryland parents investigated for letting their young children walk home by themselves from a park were found responsible for “unsubstantiated” child neglect in a decision that has not fully resolved their clash with authorities over questions of parenting and children’s safety.

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv hoped the nationally debated case — which has lit up social media and brought a dozen television film crews to their Silver Spring home — would be dismissed after a two-month investigation by Montgomery County Child Protective Services.

But the finding of unsubstantiated child neglect means CPS will keep a file on the family for at least five years and leaves open the question of what would happen if the Meitiv children get reported again for walking without adult supervision.

The parents say they will continue to allow their son, Rafi, 10, and daughter Dvora, 6, to play or walk together, and won’t be swayed by the CPS finding.

“We don’t feel it was appropriate for an investigation to start, much less conclude that we are responsible for some form of child neglect,” said Danielle Meitiv, who said she and her husband plan to appeal and worry about being investigated again by CPS.

“What will happen next time?” she asked. “We don’t know if we will get caught in this Kafkaesque loop again.”

The case dates to Dec. 20, when police picked up the two Meitiv children walking in Silver Spring on a Saturday afternoon after someone reported them. The parents said that they gradually let the pair take walks on their own and that their children knew the area, which is along busy Georgia Avenue.

The Meitivs said they would not have allowed the one-mile outing from Woodside Park to their home if they did not feel their children were up to it. The siblings made it halfway before police stopped them.

I am an old curmudgeon and set in my views but from the time I was about 7 years old, I could walk or ride my bike anywhere in town. My parents were careful with their repeated instructions; don’t talk to strangers, don’t get into strange cars, the policemen are your friends, stay on the sidewalk, etc. If a 7 year old child can’t understand those simple rules, they are developmentally disabled and should be kept at home anyway.

In this case, the older sibling was easily capable of watching out for his 6 year old sister. Silver Spring, MD is a mixed race, middle-upper middle class unincorporated area in one of the richest counties in the country — Montgomery County, MD. The median family income is $84,000. No doubt there are neighborhoods where parents would be smart enough to forbid their children from walking a mile unsupervised. But the decision to put the parents into the meat grinder of the child protective services system was completely arbitrary.

The founder of the free range parenting movement had some interesting observations about this case:

Skenazy, who developed a following for pushing back against what many see as a culture of helicopter parenting, said Monday that the Meitiv case follows others that raise similar issues but that it became the “walk heard round the world.”

“I think it has shifted the national narrative,” she said, suggesting that people have reacted with more concern about government intrusion and less focus on predator danger.

“The go-to narrative in the last 20 or 30 years for parents was, ‘Take your eyes off your kid for even a second and he’ll be snatched.’ What the Meitiv case did was pivot the story to: ‘Give your kid one second of freedom and the government will arrest you.’ ”

Many years ago, people rightly scoffed at Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book  It Takes a Village. The major problem today appears to be that anyone in that village who wants to stick their noses into how someone else raises their kids, feels perfectly justified in doing so and is enabled by a child protective services bureaucracy that creates draconian policies to punish parents who want to teach their children to be independent.

It’s time for the pendulum to swing back and parents who are fanatics about not letting their kids out of their sights and controlling every aspect of their lives being the ones prosecuted for child abuse.

 

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A Film About a Film that Recreated Shot For Shot Raiders of the Lost Ark

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

I remember reading about this project a while ago. A bunch of 12 year old kids started to make a movie shot for shot of Raiders of the Lost Ark beginning back in 1982. It took the kids 7 years to make, and was forgotten until 2003 when it was finally released as Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. It became an instant cult classic both for its utter honesty — it was completely faithful to the script and the feel of the original — and its charming cheesiness.

Taking on the task of making what the American Film Institute ranked as the 66the best movie in the first 100 years of cinema was a monumental effort. This from Wikipedia:

Shooting for the film began in 1982, when Strompolos, Zala and Lamb were only 12 years old, and continued over the next seven summers It was made on a shoe-string budget of around $5000, greatly contrasting with the original’s $18 million budget. It was shot out of sequence, so due to its long filming period many actors randomly appear at different ages throughout the course of the film. As Raiders of the Lost Ark was not available on any home media format when they began filming, they were forced to collect all kinds of material about the film, including magazine articles, photographs, and even an illicit recording of the film’s audio captured during a re-release screening of the original film in 1982.

In 2014, members of the cast raised money on KickStarter so they could re-unite and film the one scene they were not able to re-create as teenagers, due to the danger of large spinning airplane propellers.

What better subject for a documentary film:

We’ve talked about the awesome shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark that was attempted by a group of 12-year old kids back in 1982 before. The film became a cult sensation when it was screened in Austin, Texas, and now the story of how the film came to be is coming to the big screen with a documentary called Raiders! premiering at SXSW next month. In addition to looking back at the making of the film with childhood friends Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos, it also chronicles their attempt to shoot the final scene they could never pull off: the infamous Flying Wing scene where the shirtless Nazi strongman is cut up by the circling plane’s propeller while fighting Indy. This looks like one hell of a cool story.

The trailer, just released in the last week, looks absolutely awesome:

This film looks so geekingly awesome I might even have to see it in a theater.

The SXSW Festival will be held March 13-22 in Austin.

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Chicago White Sox Baseball Great Minnie Minoso Dead at 89

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

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It was just 5 weeks ago that “Rm. Cub,” Ernie Banks passed away. And yesterday, Banks’ counterpart on the South Side, Minnie Minoso died of apparent heart failure.

Minoso’s age is a matter of dispute, but his visa application gives his birth year as 1925, making him 89 when he died. It was something of a joke among White Sox fans. He told various reporters different stories of his age, so that he could have been as young as 87 or as old as 93 depending on what story you want to believe.

No matter his age, Minoso was a pioneer. Coming to the US from Cuba in 1945, he played semi-pro for a few years before performing in the Negro leagues. He was signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1949, but didn’t get much playing time. He was the first black player in Chicago, having been traded to the White Sox from Cleveland in a three team deal with the Philadelphia Athletics. Minoso made an immediate impact, hitting a 2-run home run in his very first at bat with the team.

For parts of 10 seasons, Minnie Minoso played left field for the White Sox. He had tremendous speed and could hit for power, as well as for average. His peculiar batting stance — crouching low and standing close to the plate — resulted in him being hit by the ball an astonishing 192 times in his career.

But it was his infectious personality and determined effort on the field that endeared him immediately to fans. As a fan, you can tell when a ballplayer is having fun on the field and Minoso used the baseball stadium as his own, private amusement park. He was one of baseball’s best “free swingers” — swinging hard and making contact with balls not necessarily in the strike zone. It is a trait of most Latin players even today and Minoso could hit a high fastball around his neck as far as any man ever to play the game.

A quirk about Minoso’s career — he played in 5 different decades. The New York Times explains how that happened:

Minoso seemed to have retired after the 1964 season, but he later played in Mexico. Veeck, in his second stint as owner of the White Sox after his years with the Indians, brought back Minoso in 1976. Minoso had a single in eight at-bats as a designated hitter, making him a four-decade player. Minoso was a White Sox coach in 1980 but was activated by Veeck for the last three games of that season and was 0 for 2 at the plate.

Nick Altrock, a pitcher who began his major league career in 1898, was the only other five-decade player; he appeared in a few games in the 1920s and 1930s.

Under the ownership of Jerry Reinsdorf, the White Sox considered getting Minoso into uniform again in 1990, their last year at the original Comiskey Park. Minoso turned aside suggestions that he would be making a travesty of the game.

“I have a professional respect for baseball players,” he said at the time. “I’m going for a record. Everyone asks and calls, ‘We want to see Minnie.’ It’s like a pitcher trying to pitch to make 300 wins. I have ambition.”

But Commissioner Fay Vincent did not allow Minoso to play.

Minoso played for the Sox seven seasons before being traded back to Cleveland prior to the 1958 campaign. Traded back to the White Sox in 1960, he appeared in his 9th and last All-Star Game while winning his 3rd Gold Glove. Traded away again in 1962 to the St. Louis Cardinals, he returned to the Sox once again in 1964 for his final full year in the majors.

Minoso, like Ernie Banks, was a fixture at both old Comiskey Park and US Cellular Field, mixing with delighted fans — most of whom had only heard of his exploits. President Obama mourned his passing, releasing a statement from the White House:

“Minnie may have been passed over by the Baseball Hall of Fame during his lifetime, but for me and for generations of black and Latino young people, Minnie’s quintessentially American story embodies far more than a plaque ever could.”

In truth, Minoso’s career stats are borderline for the Hall of Fame. There are many players with worse numbers who are in and some with better numbers who have also been snubbed. His .298 career batting average, 186 home runs, 1963 hits, and 1023 runs batted in should have been good enough considering the era he played in was rich with talent. But I’m with President Obama on this one. His American story adds up to so much more than a plaque in Cooperstown ever could.

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Art for Art’s Sake: Artist Paints Clinton Portrait with ‘Shadow of Blue Dress’

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

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One can imagine the rage of Bill Clinton when he found this out.

Politico:

An artist who painted a portrait of former President Bill Clinton says there’s more to the piece than one might see at first blush.

Pennsylvania artist Nelson Shanks told the Philadelphia Daily News that he included a shadow of a blue dress in the 2006 portrait that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. It’s an apparent reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, with Shanks adding that the 42nd president is “probably the most famous liar of all time.”

“If you look at the left-hand side of it, there’s a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things,” the painter said.

“It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him.”

Shanks claimed that the Clintons have been lobbying the National Portrait Gallery to remove it, but a gallery spokeswoman denied that to the Daily News. Clinton reportedly chose Shanks to paint the portrait back in 2001.

A spokeswoman for the gallery confirmed to POLITICO that the Clintons have not contacted the museum about the painting, nor has the artist made any other statements to the museum regarding its content.

The portrait caused a bit of a stir when it was first unveiled nine years ago, as Clinton’s wedding ring was absent from his likeness.

The man who made a career out of playing vicious “gotcha” games has been gotten. Even if the artist is pulling our leg (the shadow didn’t appear to be a dress until he mentioned it), the fact that we’re all now looking at that portrait in a different light must be driving the ego maniac wild.

For someone as obsessed with his legacy as Clinton, this is an embarrassing blow to him. And what about Hillary? Any reminder of the blue dress dredges up memories in the public that I’m sure she’d rather keep buried.

Watch how quickly the National Portrait Gallery pulls it now that Clinton is on the warpath. I mean, it’s only a museum. He intimidated a gigantic corporation, Walt Disney Company, preventing them from releasing the 9/11 mini-series “The Path to 9/11.” Browbeating a portrait gallery is going to be child’s play.

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Hippie Dreams Come True: Pot Now Legal in D.C.

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Back in the 1960s, it was believed by a lot of people — admittedly, people high on drugs — that all the world needed to solve all its problems was to smoke grass, drop acid, or eat mushrooms. The hippies actually believed that if all politicians got high, there wouldn’t be any more war or poverty.

On Thursday of last week, a voter-sponsored law went into effect in Washington that made it legal to smoke marijuana in private. You can also grow your own — up to six plants are legal.

A voter-approved initiative legalizing limited recreational use of marijuana took effect Thursday. But with some Republicans on Capitol Hill threatening legal action against the District of Columbia, the future of pot in the federal city remains a bit hazy.

“It’s legalization without commercialization,” Adam Eidinger, chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign, told “Power Players.”

While adults can now legally possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana — about a large sandwich bag’s worth – it’s still against the law to buy or sell it and smoke in public, according to city officials.

“There are no store fronts where people who are 21 and older can just walk in and buy a bag of marijuana, unless you’re a medical marijuana patient,” said Eidinger, who’s has spent the last 15 years campaigning for legal pot in his hometown.

For now, the only legal way to get weed is to grow it. Under the law, District residents are allowed up to six plants.

“And they just can’t sell it,” Eidinger said. “As soon as you start deriving income, you’re violating the initiative.”

But some Republicans in Congress, which provides a check on District governance under the Constitution, say steps to legalize weed in the District amount to dangerous defiance of federal law.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, has even threated prison time for Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The budget bill passed by Congress in December and signed by President Obama explicitly bans D.C. from enacting the marijuana legalization initiative — despite the fact that it was approved in November by voters at a 2-to-1 margin.

Eidinger says the interference by lawmakers is “undemocratic and offensive.”

“When these out of state, mostly Republican congressman, try to interfere with local democracy here … they make their party look bad,” he said. “They’re supposed to be the party of home rule, of local democracy, of states’ rights, of business entrepreneurship, of freedom, and when they go against marijuana, they contradict every one of those things.”

Yeah, those Republicans are party poopers. Legalizing a substance that is illegal in 47 states has nothing to do with “freedom,” or “states’ rights” (DC isn’t a state), or “business entrepreneurship,” and everything to do with congressional authority to regulate the affairs of the District of Columbia.

I love Chaffetz’s threat to throw Bowser in the clink. Given the history of corruption by Washington mayors, it might be a good idea to give her a head start in serving her inevitable prison term.

In the privacy of congressional offices across Capitol Hill, one wonders if hippie dreams of a stoned Congress are beginning to take shape. Will they install a snack machine in the cloak room to deal with the congressional munchies? Will congressmen work to a Grateful Dead soundtrack? Female staffers, already on their guard against these leches, better be extra careful given what pot can do to a man’s libido.

Will we hear a soft chorus of “Don’t Bogart that Joint, My Friend” and the pungent odor of grass coming from congressional office buildings?

Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Long live Congress.

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The Case Against Synagogue: 4 Reasons My Jewish Family Doesn’t Go

Sunday, March 1st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

A few years ago my husband learned that the cantor who had supervised his Bar Mitzvah was forced into retirement. More than one member was floored that the now elderly man who survived the comings and goings of countless rabbis would be sent out to pasture because he didn’t fit the board’s “youthful” marketing strategy. Over five years later that same “out with the old” synagogue is struggling for membership. Every once in a while we’ll see signs in yards throughout our area offering an inclusive experience for Jews (“especially intermarrieds!”, often code for desperation) who want to find a “synagogue home.”

For us, the irony of the cantor’s story is one of the many elements that arise during the yearly “should we join a synagogue” discussion. Inevitably, we reach a series of conclusions common among Gen-X/millennial crossovers like ourselves. However, contrary to the popular opinion that money is the bottom line, our reality is that we don’t need to affiliate with a synagogue in order to live Jewish lives. And apparently we aren’t alone.

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Game of Thrones: Looks Like it’s Going to be a Very Long Winter Beyond the Wall

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Which beloved (or hated) Game of Thrones character will be the first to be capped in Season 5? No use to hazard a guess because anyone in the series is likely to die at any time.

That, of course, is one of the attractions of the series. The Game of Thrones universe is a brutal place and death lurks behind every rock and tree — and even in great banquet halls celebrating a wedding.

HBO released a couple of new clips today that don’t tell us much, but suggest a darker, more foreboding atmosphere to the show. The first clip features Podrick Payne and Brienne of Tarth, apparently following some horrific battle that the Amazonian goddess won:

The next clip features Jon Snow offering a question to the former King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder, played by Ciarán Hinds.

I am replacing my Chicago Bulls wallpaper with the poster released today:

000000With the dragon flying free, you have to wonder if Dani’s babies are going to get out of the dungeon they’re confined in. Let’s hope so. There are probably a couple of armies they could barbecue.

All in good fun, of course.

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Leonard Nimoy Dead at 83

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

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Actor, poet, author, songwriter Leonard Nimoy, who played one of the most iconic characters in the history of series television, died at his home in Los Angeles today. He was 83.

Nimoy’s portrayal of Star Trek’s Mr. Spock made him an international star and celebrity. For more than 40 years he played the half-human, half-alien character on Star Trek TV shows and movies.

The New York Times described Spock as “a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: ‘Live long and prosper’ (from the Vulcan ‘Dif-tor heh smusma’).” Mind melding, 3-dimensional chess, and that marvelous knock-out pinch made Spock a singular character — one to be admired and parodied over the years.

The Times recalls an episode that expressed Spock’s dual nature:

In one of his most memorable “Star Trek” performances, Mr. Nimoy tried to follow in the tradition of two actors he admired, Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff, who each played a monstrous character — Quasimodo and the Frankenstein monster — who is transformed by love.

In Episode 24, which was first shown on March 2, 1967, Mr. Spock is indeed transformed. Under the influence of aphrodisiacal spores he discovers on the planet Omicron Ceti III, he lets free his human side and announces his love for Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland), a woman he had once known on Earth. In this episode, Mr. Nimoy brought to Spock’s metamorphosis not only warmth, compassion and playfulness, but also a rarefied concept of alienation.

“I am what I am, Leila,” Mr. Spock declares after the spores’ effect has worn off and his emotions are again in check. “And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.”

We all have our favorite Spock episodes or movies. Mine is The Wrath of Khan * which shows him making the ultimate sacrifice for his friends and the ship. The scene of his death with Kirk on the other side of a glass wall is full of pathos and a surprising tenderness. He also directed the film and was given a writing credit. Unforgettable.

The Times lists some of his other credits:

Though his speaking voice was among his chief assets as an actor, the critical consensus was that his music was mortifying. Mr. Nimoy, however, was undaunted, and his fans seemed to enjoy the camp of his covers of songs like “If I Had a Hammer.” (His first album was called “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.”)

From 1995 to 2003, Mr. Nimoy narrated the “Ancient Mysteries” series on the History Channel. He also appeared in commercials, including two with Mr. Shatner for Priceline.com. He provided the voice for animated characters in “Transformers: The Movie,” in 1986, and “The Pagemaster,” in 1994.

In 2001 he voiced the king of Atlantis in the Disney animated movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” and in 2005 he furnished voice-overs for the computer game Civilization IV. More recently, he had a recurring role on the science-fiction series “Fringe” and was heard, as the voice of Spock, in an episode of the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.

Nimoy won an Emmy for his portrayal of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s husband. He also played Paris for three seasons on the original Mission: Impossible. He has numerous credits for TV movies and episodes.

There is little doubt that the character of Mr. Spock will live long after the Star Trek franchise remains viable. He has taken on a life of his own and it wouldn’t surprise me if, 50 years from now, kids were still trying to knock out their friends by pinching them on their shoulders.

Live long and prosper.

* An earlier version of this article featured a major league brain cramp on my part, when I combined The Wrath of Khan death scene with The Voyage Home plot. Not the most embarrassing error I’ve made, but it’s in the top 5 for sure.

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NASCAR Driver’s Car Stolen From Hotel Parking Lot

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Travis Kvapil, a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, woke up this morning to a nasty surprise: his race car had been stolen from the hotel parking lot.

Kvapil drives for Team XTREME Racing, a relative newcomer to the circuit. Ultimately, it’s the team’s responsibility to secure the car, but one wonders how a thief could just waltz in and steal a trailer in a hotel parking lot.

The driver sent a series of tweets this morning reflecting his bemusement:

 

 

The team’s owner, John Cohen, says they will have to withdraw from the race.

ESPN:

Cohen said he used to own a truck company and was worried about ice in Atlanta on Wednesday night, so he sent the hauler to the track early without the race car. The team didn’t have the car ready after the team had wrecked a car in Daytona 500 qualifying Feb. 15 and had to spend time a week ago getting a new one prepared for the Daytona 500.

The car for Atlanta went down Thursday night in an enclosed hauler towed by a dually.

“With everything that happened at Daytona, it set us a week back,” Cohen told ESPN.com in a phone interview Friday morning. “I’ve got a decent staff, [but] not a big staff. … It’s getting frustrating. I’ve got four cars at the shop now.”

Oglesby said there is video surveillance of the alleged robbery.

“We’re going to say [it is a] stolen vehicle at this point in time,” Oglesby said. “That’s as much as we know. We have no idea where it is. … (The video) shows one male walking up to the vehicle between 5:30 and 5:32 [a.m.], you see him get out of the vehicle and then you see him walk up to that vehicle about 5:34 and the vehicle is driving out of the location.”

Kvapil, who said many of the parts and pieces needed for next week at Las Vegas were on the Atlanta car, got a call at 8 a.m. Friday. At first, Kvapil said he was told about trouble with the car and he thought maybe there was a problem in tech.

“Come to find out, we had big problems with the car,” Kvapil said. “It’s really a crazy story. I feel bad for the guys, John Cohen and the team … they worked so hard the last couple of days and a lot of hours to get us here, and to have it kind of just pulled out right from under us …”

Oglesby asked for help in locating the vehicles — a black 2004 Ford F-350 pulling a white trailer. Both had New Jersey tags. He estimated the overall value of all vehicles — including the $250,000 race car, engine, parts, etc. — was between $350,000 and $400,000.

“I just can’t believe it. I’m sure that whoever stole it had no idea they were getting a Cup car and a spare engine,” Kvapil said. “There’s a lot of money inside that little trailer right now. For the team’s sake and John Cohen’s sake, hopefully the parts and pieces can be recovered or it will be a really huge setback for the team.”

Cohen is hoping that because it’s a race car — which can’t really be sold without someone knowing where it came from — that authorities can recover the car.

Kvapil has one top 10 finish to his credit and is a newcomer to Team EXTREME. He previously drove for BK Racing.

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This Surprising Piece of Advice Could Save Your Life if There’s a Cataclysmic Event

Friday, February 27th, 2015 - by Paula Bolyard

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We lived in an electric world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out. Everything stopped working. We weren’t prepared. Fear and confusion led to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the cities. The government collapsed. Militias took over, controlling the food supply and stockpiling weapons. We still don’t know why the power went out. But we’re hopeful someone will come and light the way.

This was the intro to NBC’s post-apocalyptic series Revolution, which painted a bleak picture of how the United States might fare in the event of a massive — fifteen years in the show — power outage. After I recovered from my initial shock at an America gone so wrong that in fifteen years no one could figure out how to generate electricity (Common Core math, anyone?), I began to wonder how long it would take our country to descend into the near-anarchy portrayed in the show — where people panic and the government collapses in the wake of a nationwide emergency.

In his new e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror, James Jay Carafano says there are two crucial moments that determine whether someone will survive a disaster. The first is the “golden hour,” when a seriously injured individual needs to receive emergency medical care in order to survive. The next tipping point is the 72-hour mark. Individuals who can’t get water or are exposed to harsh weather for up to three days will likely die.

But what happens if the crisis is extended and ongoing and the government is unable to provide assistance in the wake of a catastrophic event?

In his book, Carafano, the Heritage Foundation’s leading expert on national security and foreign policy challenges, gives examples of events in the United States that took a tragic turn when a disaster struck, like during a major power outage in New York in 1927 when a cascading power failure produced a blackout. Despite the fact that the blackout only lasted for a day, Carafano says, “In a city already on the edge with sky-rocketing crime, racial tension, and civic unrest, the dark unleashed a night of terror and looting unseen in New York since rioting during the Civil War.”

Other communities Carafano studied handled crises significantly better, in part because members of the church or the community pitched in to help. Carafano notes:

There is a pretty broad consensus that faith-based organizations are among the top performers during a crisis. The tasks they perform, such as supplying food, clothing, and shelter to those in need, or providing mental health responses for everything from stress and grief counseling to recovery from spousal abuse, can be immensely valuable for communities struggling to survive in the wake of a catastrophe. Being connected to a faith-based organization could well be critical for staying alive when nature or men do their worst.

Carafano is spot on with this advice.

Our family attends a church with about 500 members, representing a wide range of ages, income levels, job skills, and life experiences. We have engineers, carpenters, welders, counselors, lawyers, nurses, business owners, auto mechanics, hairstylists, teachers, farmers, computer specialists, and homemakers. We also have a collection of wise, white-haired men, who slogged through the jungles of Vietnam or marched across Europe during the time they served in World War II. No matter what the crisis, I have no doubt our tightly knit church community would rise to the occasion, beginning on Day One with an enormous pool of skills and talents from which to draw. Moreover, the extensive experience and wisdom in the group could be combined and leveraged to provide leadership and innovative solutions to problems that arise in a doomsday scenario.

According to Carafano, decision-making during a crisis is crucial:

It helps to have a strong moral core to drive that decision-making. … Ethical decision-making helps individuals during stressful situations determine the right course. Further, the more collaboration there is among the right people at the right time focusing on the right issues with the right information, the better are the decisions that get made. That kind of trusting relationship makes it a lot easier to get the right things done.

Churches are well suited to the task of producing ethical leaders with a “strong moral core” in the wake of a disaster. In most churches, the individuals best prepared for leadership in a crisis (qualified in part by their good moral reputation) have already been identified and are likely already serving in the church in some capacity.

But Carafano warns,

Sadly, America is going the way of Europe. According to surveys, the number of Americans who identify themselves as having no religious affiliation has been growing rapidly. By some estimates, the percentage has doubled since 1990. The best advice—if you want to up your odds of surviving a disaster—is don’t become a part of that statistic.

Which brings me back to Revolution. Other than a token nod to a religious relic now and then or a discussion between characters about “something out there,” no reference was made to organized religion. It left me wondering how the writers envisioned it. Did the disappearance of the churches in Revolution’s America precede the Blackout and the collapse of the government or was it the other way around? Did the churches die after everything collapsed?

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Are You Kidding Me? Llamas on the Loose? In Phoenix?

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

Clickbait warning. But in this case, I have a good excuse.

Watch and be amazed as we present all 18 glorious minutes of the cops chasing 2 llamas that got loose in Phoenix, AZ:

Here’s a 26 minute version for those who wish a deep analysis of the incident.

If you just want the highlights, here’s the version for those of you with Attention Deficit Disorder:

Llamas, by the way, make excellent pets. Their milk is reportedly delicious. They are used as a pack animal by mountain folk in the Andes as well as a source of meat.

I’ll pass on that last part.

You just never know what will cause the social universe on the internet to explode.

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Scientists Stumped by Bright Lights on Dwarf Planet

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 - by Rick Moran

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Two bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres have scientists scrambling for an explanation. The spots were seen by an imager on the space probe Dawn, which settled into orbit around  Ceres on March 6.

Some scientists are speculating that the bright spots may be volcanoes. If true, it would mark Ceres as the smallest body in the solar system with active geology.

Fox News reports:

The planet, which lies between Mars and Jupiter, has an average diameter of 590 miles and is the largest body in the main asteroid belt and is believed to contain a large amount of ice.

“Ceres’ bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin,” Chris Russell, a principal investigator for the Dawn mission, said in a news release from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“This maybe pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations,” Russell said.

Scientists hope to get a better view of Ceres in the next week as Dawn is scheduled to enter the planet’s orbit March 6. The bright spots that have captivated the world might soon come into sharper focus.

“The brightest spot continues to be too small to resolve with our camera, but despite its size it is brighter than anything else on Ceres,” Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planch Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, said in the release.

The Dawn spacecraft has already delivered more than 30,000 images of Vesta – the second largest body in the main asteroid belt – during an orbit in 2011 and 2012.

The volcanic activity on Ceres could be ice geysers, a phenomenon common on other icy bodies in the solar system. But the ice geysers on Jupiter’s moon Europa are thought to be connected with the constant pulling and pushing of Jupiter’s gravity on Europa’s core, which causes heat and pressure to build, melting the ice, and sending the geysers skyward through cracks in the crust. If there are ice geysers on Ceres, it must be through a previously unknown process.

This is an exciting year for space enthusiasts. In addition to Dawn, the spacecraft New Horizons will have its close encounter with Pluto on July 14. When the spacecraft launched from earth in 2006, Pluto was still considered a planet. Now, it is one of several hundred dwarf planets, having been downgraded when other bodies of similar size were found in the Kuiper Belt.

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