Thursday, January 29, 2015

And For Some Good News

Yay! (LINK)
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I Like This...


When I Was Young...

Talking about Matt Helm made me remember some of my favorite times of my youth (pre-puberty).  I loved the shows (like Matt Helm, James Bond and I Spy) with all the gadgets and transforming weapons (not Transformers - they were after my time).
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The Camera and the Radio turned into a handgun and a rifle (respectively)
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Here is Matt Helm running multiple gizmos at once.
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In our carport was a 62' Thunderbird that didn't run, but had oodles of knobs and pushbuttons and levers (this was when pushbutton windows were still a novelty).  I used to get into that car, and use the temperature lever to aim, and firm with the pushbuttons on the windows.  I was soooo cool.
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The car that didn't run wasn't as clean as this, but you get this idea.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Embarrassing, but Yes, I enjoyed Mortdecai

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 Of course, it rather embarrassing, but I admit to loving Mortdecai.  It bombed at the Box Office this week, but that should surprise no one.  Austin Powers, which it echoes in having an off-beat tone- but in little else, was not a box office hit at first.  The second two were only made after a life on DVD.
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Mortdecai is a candy colored tale of a daft Art lover, historian and sometimes expert called in on cases.  Gwyneth Paltrow plays his wife and love.  A running gag plays off people distaste with her in general.
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Ewan McGregor is, as always in this type of role, handsome to look at and an excellent comic foil as straight man.
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Complete with bad British accents by many and ludicrous location markers, it is a movie that doesn't take itself seriously.  It fails, for the modern office, by not making enough  crass disgusting jokes.

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If anything, Mortdecai reminds me of the Dean Martin Matt Helm movies, although with a hell of a lot less objectification of women.  Maybe if Matt Helm got married and tried to live a quiet live in the British Countryside under witness protection as an British Earl...?
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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lovely Leah

Laura's daughter Leah is just gorgeous.  She has pretty much outgrown her UCLA wear and is now into the reign of the cheeseheads  Yet, still cute.
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She has an adorable smile.
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Friday, January 23, 2015

Few days in the OC

We're in Orange County for Ed's work beautiful morning breakfast on the beach in Crystal Cove (Newport / Laguna).
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Last night I had dinner with my brother and sister and their spouses. Fun!
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And, of course, a stop at UCLA. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Boy Knows Best

Hard to believe this is real.. but it is.  This law looks set to pass very soon.  Because Republicans believe in the rights of the individuals.  As long as they are male.
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And the rape exception is only if you actually report it as rape.  No making up stories for this old Missouri fuck.
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To terminate a pregnancy, a woman needs written and notarized consent from the father.  Not just consent.  You have to take your husband, one-night stand, boyfriend, abuser, embarrassing drunk mistake, whatever, to the local notary - admit not being able to carry, care for, want the pregnancy without or without birth defects, doctor's inputs, anything.  And then turn to the man and say, "Could you, the supplier of the sperm, broken condom, attacker, please sign that it is okay that I, a silly girl, get an abortion.
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Women of Missouri already have to go to terminate a pregnancy and tell them.  Then the poor dears have to go back home and waits 72 hours (3 days) before they take more time off, drive back to the doctor, say, "Yes, I have mulled over the most painful decisions of my life to date, and I need to terminate this pregnancy. "  And the doctor says, "Do you have your noterized note from the spermy guy?"
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Temp Map for Warmest Year on Record.. OR ... How Can Ed's Brothers LIVE back there

The map of the world in temperature.  2014 was the warmest year on record.  Now, I can see trying to live somewhere that Global Warming isn't turning into a Phoenix Parking lot at High Noon.  But living in the only bubble of blue, when you were already in a damn cold place!, well that is just masochistic. (Red is hotter year than normal -i.e. everywhere but a big circle around Chicago ; and blue is colder than average).
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Original Story.

Friday, January 16, 2015

For Laura

Well, Ed and I took Laura to Newsies when it first opened.  Newsies started Jeremy Jordon (who was on TV in SMASH and a couple of movies).  Anyway, he was recently at 54 Below (a Nightclub) as part of "Broadway Sings Celine".  And, he sings Celine Dion's power ballad "When You Touch Me.."
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It is funny and amazing.  I wish I could sing.  I probably won't sing Celine, but I still wish I could do it.
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What is wonderful is how he over-emotes and over guestures and generally sings it like we all sang it in the car when we were very very alone on the 405 at 2AM.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This goes towards explaining it...

When Eddie and I first met (those 20 years ago), I was rather amazed by his limited exposure to different types of food (say any of those not based on cheese).
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A map in Huffington Post (world master of meaningless maps) goes aways in explaining this.  It shows the most disproportionally popular food.  Let us look at California:

California

  1. Taiwanese -- 264 percent higher than national average.
  2. Filipino -- 226 percent higher than national average.
  3. Vietnamese -- 143 percent higher than national average.
  4. Korean -- 143 percent higher than national average.
  5. Hawaiian -- 125 percent higher than national average.
That means that that we eat a hell of a lot more of these foods than average.  And this is only the top five where we are above the national average.
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So what are Wisconsin's top five disproportionally popular foods.  And what do you mean, Scott, when you say this explains a lot?
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Let's look and see.

Wisconsin

  1. Traditional American -- 52 percent higher than national average.
  2. Soup -- 34 percent higher than national average.
  3. New American -- 25 percent higher than national average.
  4. Sandwiches -- 21 percent higher than national average.
  5. Pizza -- 20 percent higher than national average.

Full listing here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Second Start for a Cloud Leopoard

The Formosa Cloud Leopard was hunted to extinction by the 1980s in Taiwan (Taiwan and Formosa are, essentially, different names for the same Chinese island).  Since the 1980s, the Taiwan government has been seriously working on reforestation and habitat conservation.
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It is now estimated the the island could support 500 - 600 cloud leopards.
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The good news is that Formosa Cloud Leopard is not a distinctive sub-species and so the mainland cloud leopard can be used for re-introduction.
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Why do this?  I mean, in the big scheme of things, what difference does it make?  Probably none.
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But in the little scheme of things, in the efforts of people how have tried conservation, it is a huge thing.  It is the North American Bison on the plains, it is the California Condor floating on thermals.  It is humans being good custodians of the planet, either because it makes us happy or it is God's direction (depending on your motivation).
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It is great.

Freedom of Religion and Free Speech - Let's Clear a Few Things Up

Once again, Religious Freedom is being debated because people can't find enough bad shit to say about fags.
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Oye.
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I going to try to say this simply.
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Religious Freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution, just like Freedom of Speech.  But that does't mean they are consequence free.
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For example, if I write (which is a form of Free Speech in this country) that I think Hillary Clinton is a terrible person, a traitor to liberal causes and a not a very good feminist, I am free to say that.  If I then apply for a job on Hillary Clinton's campaign staff and they respond that I am not the right fit - because of my statements - that is legal.  I am free to say that Hillary Clinton sucks - and they are free to use those statements as part of their evaluation of me.
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Just like the Christian brothers Benham brothers were free to say "homosexuality and its agenda are attacking the nation" and "demonic ideologies" are taking hold in colleges and universities.  The Home and Garden TV network is free to say, we aren't giving you a TV show because a large percentage of our audience is homosexual. (LINK - to this old topic)
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Free speech protects your right to say things, it does not protect you from repercussions.
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Freedom of Religion has similar, but more limited repercussions.  Fro example, you can't be terminated or have your hiring effected by your Religious beliefs (obviously there are exceptions for Religious institutions).
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Which brings us to the kurfufle de jour.  Atlanta Fire Chief  Kelvin Cochran.
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Chief Cochran wrote, and self-published, a book about his religion.  Of the 160 pages, 80 of them were devoted to explaining why gays were perverted and going to hell (from a supportive article LINK).
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This book being published did not get him into trouble, despite what might have heard or read (even in the LINK I gave you).
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No, what got Chief Cochran into trouble was that after writing it,  he distributed this book to his subordinates in the Fire Department.  When the boss gives you a book that calls out your subordinates as sexual perverse sinners, people deserve to burn in hell and should be shunned in life, well that is out of bounds as a manager.
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Had he distributed that same self-published book stating (also based on the Bible) that  female Fire Fighters should burn in hell if they worked during the menstrual cycle - he would have been fired.
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Fire Chief Cochran's Freedom of Religion allows him to believe and say whatever he wants.  But once you say things, it is no longer consequence free.  And if you are a public employee and a manager where anti-discrimination laws apply, they your actions in public and on the public payroll must meet certain standards.
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Fire Chief Cochran is allowed to hate and disapprove of whomever he pleases - after all hate seems to be a big part of his life (1/2 of his self-published book is dwells, rather obsessively with the perversions of gays) - but as a manager he isn't allowed to bring that to work.  Nor is he allowed to actively push that hatred on to his subordinates in a discrimination free environment.
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You want to hate fags, go work at Hobby Lobby.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Amazing Recoleta Cemetery

The tops of tombs in Recoleta...
I know that it is odd to find a cemetery as a tourist attraction.  I mean Evita is buried there, and a lot of very famous Argentinos, but not a lot of people you know.
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However, it is gorgeous.  Look at this architecture.  There are literally thousands of beautiful tombs, and I have included a few.  More than most time,s so I won't make them too big.  But if you are interest, select them to expand.  They are amazing.
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Soraya and I in front of an Early Argentine President's resting place.
The one below I loved, I have to make it large so you can see the work.  It is gorgeous.  This is the first publisher of the newspaper La Prensa.  The figures below represent his contributions to the public life, and above is an angel taking him to heaven.  Check out how pretty below, then look at the size of it when Eddie and Soraya are included for Scale.
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And belwo si a family that moved from Europe to Argentina, and converted to being Catholics from Judaism.   If you look on the chapel walls, up high you can see the menorah.
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And finally the creepy factor as Ed peers into one tomb where they were recently buried, and there are fresh caskets along with steps to a secondary crypt below.
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Friday, January 09, 2015

Islam and Terrorism

We are stuck in a odd time and place between religious extremism, terror and prejudice.  It is difficult to navigate, but not impossible.
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.... And difficult to navigate means that we don't like to talk about it.  But ignoring this won't make it go away.  To address the issue, we can't ignore the tie between Islam and Terrorism, nor can we blame Terrorism on Islamism.
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I realize that, for a moment, I ask for nuance; but we are capable of it.  I think there is a very easy way for all of us to look at the terrorism committed in Islam's name, by Islamic crazy people but not support by most Muslims.
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So I propose that we look at this fairly honestly on both sides.  And I think that for most of us, I have a way.
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Use the war in Northern Ireland and the terror fermented by the IRA as an analogy.
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In the 1970s, there were a massive number of terrorist attacks in London (and other parts of England) by the IRA - the Irish Republican Army.  This was a Catholic Terrorist organization that believed that all Ireland should be run by Dublin, even though Northern Ireland voted to stay with the Commonwealth of England, Wales and Scotland.
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During this terror campaign a number of (primarily Irish) Catholics outside of England and Ireland, including a massive number in the  United States, supported the general aim of the IRA, but denounced the tactics.  Sometimes denounced, sometimes explained but finally supported the terrorists.
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Now the general London population had no issue with either side.  They hadn't voted,and probably didn't give a shit, whether the suburbs of Belfast were run out of Belfast, Dublin or Far Rockaway.  But they were pretty damn pissed and angry about being the focus of bombs and attacks.
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But neither the British or the Americans or anyone else blamed all Catholics for the violence.  EVEN when many Catholics in the United States actively supported the IRA (albeit the disapproved of killing civilians in London).
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Think of the current batch of terrorism in Paris (and most other places) like that.  They aren't particular furious at the editors in Paris, the film makers in Holland or the people that worked in the World Trade Center.  They attack them in order to scare (terrorize) the rest of us into abandoning a position.  In this case, they believe that the Western World imposes rule in the Middle East or supports horrible rulers in the Middle East or supports Israel too much.  I am not agreeing with their position.  I am not certainly not agreeing with their methods or goals.  But we have to understand them in order to respond effectively.

Here Comes the Repbulican Congress

With all the fanfare of a new Rollercoaster a Great America (the Tallest, Faster, Highest, Most Christian Congress in decades!!!), the Republicans have rolled into town to take over both branches of Congress.
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The Right(wing) press is thrilled!  And they predict, finally, government will get to work.
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The Wall Street Journal says, "..the new, center-right majority will focus on economic growth, regulatory restraint and corporate tax reform to show how they'd govern if given the keys to the White House in 2016."
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The Baltimore Sun expands on the great areas of working together they will focus on, cyber-security, repair crumbling infrastructure, or close special-interest tax loopholes The even said, "Republicans are serious about leading the country, not just currying favor with the Fox News and talk-radio crowd."
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New Senate Leader Mitch McConell said the GOP could offer, "responsible, right-of-center governing majority."  His priorities were to approve the Keystone Pipeline and reduce the coverage requirement for Obamacare  pool by covering not workers working 30 hours but only those working 40 hours.
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So, what were the first, critical bills introduced?!?!?
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Surely something that the entire country can get behind.
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plus ├ža change

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Hugh Jackman was great in The River

The River is one of those plays that only gets to Broadway because of a big name.  Hugh Jackman stars in The River - and he is fantastic.  All the acting is fantastic.  Which I suppose, in some ways, is to be expected.  You get a guy like Hugh Jackman and you are going to get only the best on stage with him.
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Hugh Jackman as The Man
But The River isn't an easy play.  If you like your plays linear, and easy to understand, it's a slog.  If you like be challenged a bit, wondering afterwards what the hell just happened, and making sense of it slowly, it was great.  Really great!
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So I loved it.  It has been open long enough for me not to review it, so that is good.  I am not sure how I would couch this show.  I mean I loved it, but a lot of people were exasperated t the end.  I went alone (which is often fun) and heard all kinds of comments.  Most along the lines of "what the hell was that?"
The Woman and The Man
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To be honest, most people went to see Hugh Jackman, not to try to figure out what was going on.  It was essentially 2 or 3 different timelines, mixed up.  Hugh bought two different women to a cabin for a romantic get- away 2 different times, but the play presents them kind of simultaneously (sometimes one woman would got the bedroom and return as a different woman.  On top of this, which wasn't that hard to figure out, both Hugh and the two women were telling their own back stories to each other, but you didn't know what was real - if anything.
The Man and The Other Woman
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Sounds goofy, but it worked out well.  Hugh was amazing in the silent sections, which is always tough for an actor (for another amazing example of what I mean, watch The Imitation Game and see Keri Knightly's performance).  It was really fun.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

He DOES take after Ashford

Ashford was a great dog in all ways.  The funniest thing he would do is have to eat kibbles and bits in an emergency.  That was all the little store at the end of the hill had (this was before Todd's store was around).
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He liked kibbles and bits, except for the rice balls.  He would take a mouthful of food, chew and swallow and somehow be able to shoot the little white rice balls right onto the floor, unchewed.
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It was amazing.
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Well, Trevor gets Innova Farmhouse Stew at night.  This morning I found Trevor's version of Ashford's rice balls.
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Trevor ate the stew, except around some root vegetable (It felt vaguely "beet-ish" when I had to pick it up.) When he couldn't eat around it in the bowl, he simply spit it out on the floor when he was done.
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Lovely.

Argentina's Interesting relationship with Evita Peron


Juan Peron's Official Presidential Portrait
It is one thing to watch the movie Evita or to hear about it, it is another thing to see her memory in Action in Buenos Aires.
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In the Casa Rosada - the Eva Peron Salon's meeting room (still used).
If you don't really know much, let's put her a bit in context.  She was a beautiful young woman, who represented "the people" as the first lady of a popular military leader who was elected President, then manipulated things to stay in power.  Evita was very much his partner, and unofficial ambassador of the country through-out Europe and the World.  She also ran an charity that benefit from "required" donations.
Evita's Desk in the Eva Peron Salon in the Argentine White House
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She became first lady at a young age, only 27 years old.  She was very active in organizing the Labor Unions and championed women's suffrage in the 1940s in Argentina.
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She died young (33!) and is remembered for her public works.  Much of her legacy has been tarnished by the unmasking of corruption in her husband's regime, much that she was involved with as head the Eva Peron Foundation.
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But even with this, many people today remember her with admiration for her works.  Even people that don't idolize her agree that although her government stole, like most others, but at least she gave a lot back.
The sitting room in the Women's Lounge in the home she set up - now part of the Evita Museum
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So it is a odd mix of people that idolize her, that admire her works, and some that hate the right-wing Peron-ista party and don't like her (but don't hate her like they do the rest of the Peron-ists.)
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So within this context, the depiction of her is surprising.  The Casa Rosada (their White House - essentially) still maintains an Eva Peron Salon - with her meeting table there, and one of her simple dresses on display in the corner.  Her portrait hangs, massively, in the offices with her husband, although she wasn't elected to anything.  She is the only first lady so honored.
Evita's dresses and gowns used in her trip to Europe in the early 1950s.
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We also went to a museum of hers.  It is in a expensive part of town where she "liberated" the house and turned it into a boarding house for woman who were learning a skill (and their children).  In the museum, there is no discussion that she might have done anything wrong.
The outside of the Evita Museum
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But, fascinatingly, there was a lot of video of her speaking and her funeral.  It was even more impressive than expected. The funeral seemed to surpass even the pictures I have seen of John F Kennedy's funeral!  People lined  as deep as you could see for miles.
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A quirky footnote.
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After she died of cancer, the body was whisked away and buried in an unmarked grave in Italy - so that it did not become a locus for demonstrations.  While Juan Peron was in exile through 1971, he and his second wife took the body to Spain. When he returned in the 70's to Argentina, Evita's corpse returned and was buried in the Recoleta Cemetery.  If you read the details about the lengths the government has gone to in order to make sure it stays buried there - it is funny.  It is two stories down in a crypt within a crypt covered by cement - and able to withstand a "nuclear attack".

Friday, January 02, 2015

If you have very had a little diva in you...

This is a fun mix from TheaterMania.
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The College Football Playoff - and, Ha ha.

See, here is the thing.  Year after year, those of us  in the PAC 12 and Big 10 are subject to the comments that the SEC and Florida schools are soooo much better than we are.  The SEC has "won" the college football playoff year after year, usually playing another SEC or Florida team.  The BIG 10 and PAC 10 sitting on the outside - not due to anything except East Coast media expectations.
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Now, I get it.  There are a couple of big excuses reasons.
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The first is timing.  The schools in the SEC and ACC (which Florida State and Miami belong to) play on East Coast Schedules.  Those in the far west play late afternoon (if they play "early") or well in the evening - since the first games in the desert schools have to be played at night.  A 7:00 PM start in the Arizona desert is a 10:00PM start on the east coast.  The writers don't watch those games and the newspapers don't report on them.  So there is a void unless a writer tries to find out information (and football commentators are, in the main, not terribly motivated to find out about other teams).
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The second reason is that many media folks are from those conferences.  I am not saying that 2nd string Bible-thumping washed up quarterback can't get a job reporting news from Syria, but it is easier to pull in millions of dollars telling people how great football in the Sunshine state is.  Communications Majors from the PAC 12, Wisconsin and Northwestern go into entertainment or news media - as a rule (or porn, but that is mainly a USC thing).  So there is a natural bias of college football experts to sheer on the SEC and ACC.  And it is self-reinforcing.  If they tell people year after year, that the SEC is the best conference, people start to believe it (see "Obamacare is a failure").
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The exception to this rule is the great folks at ESPN's College Game Day, but that occurs before the football day starts and their comments are forgotten in the drunken revelry of Saturdays.
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So the football playoffs happened yesterday.  And with playoffs, they invited 4 teams.  In this, they decided to invite Oregon and Ohio State University (Pac 12 and BIG 10 respectively).
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Oregon played the defending "National Champions", and winners of 29 in a row (although that 29 game win streak doesn't include any games against a Pac12 or Big 10 team).  Their non-conference foes (that is teams that aren't in their little conference) in those 2 years were made up of the titans Pittsburgh, Nevada, Bethun-Cookman, and The Citadel.
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The result of the game between the undefeated national champions and their first PAC 12 or Big 10 opponent since 2006? Oregon 59;Florida State 20.  Teams that played Oregon closer than that this year... Michigan State (Big 10), and every PAC 12 conference team.
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Ohio State was the fourth team selected for the Bowl Playoff, and many people argued that honor should go to TCU or Baylor.  Well, Baylor was beaten by the 3rd place finisher in the BIG 10, so enough of that.  Ohio State got top ranked Alabama.  And the might Elephants of Alabama did give the 3rd string quarterback of Ohio State quite a fight before losing Ohio State 42;Alabama 35.
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Of course, in 11 days, our happy home might not be so happy as I cheer on the Mighty Ducks, and I am not sure who my Cheesehead husband will be rooting on yet.  But either way, that sound you will hear will be the millions of ACC and SEC fans, fingers firmly in ears - going "la la la..."
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He even has the "SEC-Swoop"
Oh yes, one last thing that made yesterday a happy trifecta in the Mitchell/Neppl household.
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Wisconsin (Big 10) played Auburn (another SEC team) yesterday in the "Outback Steakhouse Bowl".

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Mascot of the Month: The Ambassador Hotel


Actually the Mascot of the Month might better be described as an homage to the buildings that couldn't be saved.  The lush life that used to be, then was swept away and the beauty inherent in the gorgeous Ambassador Hotel.
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The Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles was a product of Los Angeles' golden years, and then a victim of Los Angeles' lean years.  The Wikipedia entry captures the details, but not the magic.
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The Ambassador, and the attached Coconut Grove Nightclub, were the haunts of early Hollywood Royalty.  It hosted the six different Academy Awards and seven Presidents.  Much like the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, except it didn't make it to the renaissance of later years.

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As I get old, I find the memories of a Los Angeles I hardly (or never) knew call to me with a plaintive, but resigned voice.  Places that will never again reach their history and potential.  The age of innocence lost.  Oddly enough, in the headed days of vice and sin, innocence is probably the last thing it would have been called.  But they had an exuberance and life that is hard to replicate today.  The glamour of the Coconut Grove looks positively elegant against the drunk ravings of the latest celebrity brat at Chateau Marmont.
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It probably wasn't like that in reality, but reality right now - with screaming news anchors and a 24 hour entertainment cycle that find introspection a sin is something I am choosing less and less.
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The hotel never really recovered from Robert Kennedy's assassination there in 1968, but I think it was more the time rather than the event that brought ruin to the hotel.
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It has been memorialized a few times, and a recent one is why it comes to my brain.
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First, the movie The Thirteenth Floor is filmed almost entirely in the hotel, dressed up in it's 1930's finest.  Despite the title, there is no horror side to this movie, and I recommend it.

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The second, and more immediate trigger is that of a performance.
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This past month, BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music) hosted a performance based on The Ambassador - an album with each track written about a building in Los Angeles, but composer Gabriel Kahane.  I purchased the album, which is very slow and kind of experimental - but I do love the track The Ambassador.
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Here is a trailer for that performance - it is evocative of me.  Which means there are at least two of us (Mr. Kahane was also born in LA, and now lives in New York....)