On Monday I got one with a link to the site of U.S. Passports and International Travel, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Department of State.
"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine, and particularly the Crimean Peninsula, due to the potential for instability following [...]]]>
It's been an pretty cold winter over much of the country, with snow down as far as Georgia and South Carolina, which is unusual but not unheard of.
However down south it has a different effect. Atlanta has been basically paralyzed for two [...]]]>
A crucial way of measuring press freedom is of course, how dangerous it is to be a journalist.
Last year 75 journalists, 4 media assistants and 8 netizens and citizen journalists were killed, down 20 percent from last year.
Looking at the list of countries where journalists are known to have been killed [...]]]>
For those of us raised with a work ethic, this is profoundly uncomfortable. You feel like you ought to be doing something for the time you are after all getting paid for.
You could go the self-improvement route and read a book, but unless you are pouring over the AP Style Handbook [...]]]>
By all accounts Seeger lived a rich and rewarding life. He died just six months after the death of his wife of 70 years, Toshi-Aline Ota. Their marriage produced three surviving children, all artists in their own right, and six grandchildren.
Seeger grew up in a world full of art and music. Scion of a family with centuries-old roots in New England, his father was a Harvard-trained musicologist his mother was [...]]]>
In June, 2005, four Navy SEALs embarked on a mission to capture or kill Taliban leader Ahmad Shah in a village deep within the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan. The mission went horribly wrong, [...]]]>
The good news is, that although employers created only an anemic 74,000 jobs in December, nevertheless the unemployment rate fell from 7 percent to 6.7 percent.
The bad news is, the reason unemployment has dropped appears to be because two-thirds of the adult, able-bodied unemployed aren't looking for work at all.
That's the lowest labor force participation since 1978.
There's an expression that's [...]]]>
The book is titled “The Triple Package: Why Groups Rise and Fall in America” for the three characteristics that Chua claims makes some groups more successful on average than others.
The three are: a group superiority complex, combined with a [...]]]>
These are the "three Ts": telepathy, telekinesis and teleportation, of "The Tomorrow People," a series which premiered last October on The CW Television Network.
Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) lives with his widowed mother (Sarah Clarke) and seems a normal enough teenager. Except he keeps waking up in places he didn't go to sleep. Such as a neighbor's bed [...]]]>
On the night of the 14th day of the 12th month of the 15th year of the Genroku era (January 30, 1703), 47 ronin, disgraced and masterless samurai, attacked the castle of Lord Kira Kozuke-no-Suke Yoshinaka in Edo (modern Tokyo) intent on taking his head.
The 47 were former retainers of Lord Asano Takumi-no-Kami Naganori, daimyo (feudal lord) of Ako, a minor holding in the country.
The ronin held Kira, an important official [...]]]>
I'll have to plead that it is after all on network television, NBC to be exact, and who watches that anymore?
It has garnered much praise from film and TV critics but who reads them anyway?
I stumbled across it as NBC was running episodes back to back to get people [...]]]>
"Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!"
-Rudyard Kipling, "Recessional"
This last week saw the 72nd anniversary of the "Day that will live in infamy," the attack by naval and air forces of the Empire of [...]]]>
The count is by official count the second most popular movie character ever. Dracula has the lead role in an estimated 217 films, only barely edged out by Sherlock Holmes (223).
This is oddly appropriate. After the publication of "Dracula"(1897) by Irishman Bram Stoker, Holmes' creator Arthur Conan Doyle sent him a warmly appreciative fan [...]]]>
"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is the second film based on Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" trilogy, set in the dystopian future state of Panem.
"Catching Fire" was preceded by [...]]]>
The Red Army, which possessed three times as many soldiers as Finland, 30 times as many aircraft, and a hundred times as many tanks, poured across the border in 1939, three months after the beginning of World War II.
The ostensible goal was to take a strip of border territory the Soviets [...]]]>
This was an exchange of the kind which reminds me of (journalist) Frank Meyer's observation, "We find comfort among those we agree with, growth among those we disagree with."
The fact is, sometimes I spend entirely too much time with people I agree with. And of the people I don't agree with, a lot of them don't argue very well. It's just not very challenging to discuss disagreements with somebody whose [...]]]>
What made this interesting was that the gun was made with a 3-D printer.
Just last year the open-source organization Defense Distributed printed a plastic gun and actually got a few rounds through it, but it broke down very quickly as you might expect.
The State Department then "suggested" Defense Distributed take down their [...]]]>
Cruz, R-Texas, said in an interview with Fusion that because his mother is an American citizen he is a citizen as well."
"I was a U.S. citizen by birth and beyond that I'm going to leave it to others to worry about the legal [...]]]>
For those who were wondering what they were going to get up to after Google Glass, Google announced in September a new startup Calico, dedicated to research on [...]]]>
They sure know how to hook you on "The Blacklist" and they haven't let go yet.
James Spader plays Raymond "Red" Reddington, a.k.a. "the Concierge [...]]]>
According to some reports, more people are having their insurance carrier drop them than have been able to enroll in healthcare exchanges. Others are finding their premiums increasing by significant amounts.
It's difficult to get hard numbers for this as yet and effects seem to be uneven. I walked into a [...]]]>
Observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and Keck Observatory in Hawaii have confirmed the galaxy with that unexciting moniker is the oldest and most distant in the universe found to date.
z8_GND_5296 formed within 700 million years after the Big Bang, making it about 95 percent of the age of the universe. It is about 13.1 billion light-years away, which means that we’re [...]]]>
Well actually 83 percent of the government never shut down, and most everybody never really noticed anything was different, except for tourists wanting to visit national monuments. And as it turns out, the government actually spent more money shutting down things like unmanned open air monuments and parking spaces than [...]]]>
Pirates have been the scourge of the seas since ancient times. Julius Caesar was once the involuntary guest of a band of pirates.
America's first foreign war was against the Barbary Pirates based in what is now Libya. The combined land and sea assault on the pirate capitol inspired the line of the Marine Corps Hymn, "…to the shores of Tripoli."
Piracy on the high seas [...]]]>
It was directed and o-written by Alfonso Cuarón who wanted to be a film director and an astronaut as a kid.
As the film opens Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a mission specialist performing repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope while astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is skylarking around [...]]]>
Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2
Next to a country road in rural Minnesota there is a memorial to a young teenage girl who died a suicide. It features her likeness and words of loving [...]]]>
We could refine that question. How many times has De Niro played a mafioso? As opposed to a Jewish gangster ("Once Upon a Time in America," 1984), a half-Italian wiseguy ("Goodfellas," 1990) or Al Capone ("The Untouchables," 1987).
(Capone was Neapolitan, the mafia is a Sicilian thing.)
De Niro has played young Vito Corleone ("The Godfather Part II, 1974), Lorenzo Anello ("A Bronx Tale," 1993) and Paul Vitti [...]]]>
It began when Amanda Carpenter, a speechwriter for Sen. Ted Cruz, tweeted that Republicans could defund Obamacare.
Allen Brauer, communications chairman of the Sacramento County Democratic Party, tweeted in response, "May your children all die from debilitating, painful and incurable diseases."
When some people [...]]]>
The other is that you can actually see it even if you don't live in a city with an art house cinema. You go over to Amazon.com and rent it for $6.99 to [...]]]>
This is why I always have a camera somewhere near. I have my professional camera I take on assignment and I have a smaller camera in my glove box as a backup.
I was on my way to Montevideo to sit in on a session with [...]]]>
Sure he's just humiliated the president of the mighty United States, made us a laughingstock among nations, frightened our allies, heartened our enemies and with one stroke vastly diminished our influence in the Middle East while vastly increasing Russia's. And I bet the victory tastes like ashes in his mouth.
Putin is former head of the KGB, the dreaded secret [...]]]>
I haven't read any of them.
This presents a problem only insofar as I can't speak to how well and [...]]]>
For my generation it was the assassination of President Kennedy. (Seventh grade home room.)
For my parents generation it was Pearl Harbor.
But 9/11 for me will always be the day my son got his name.
Actually his name had been kicking around for a while. I was living in Poland then and his mother wanted “Jerzy” for an uncle she [...]]]>
Aw heck, it's got some funny moments that are worth some of your time and you get to see Jennifer Aniston doing a strip tease, not too tacky! But overall it's disappointing.
And do not take your children!
David Clark (Jason Sudeikis) is a pot dealer and has been since college. They've obviously made it about pot rather than harder drugs to generate some kind of [...]]]>
I had assumed it had something to do with Twitter and "tweeting." Wrong!
Turns out tweaking refers to movements of the hips and buttocks in suggestive ways.
There, aren't you glad you know that now? I know I am.
I found this out of course, through all the outrage over Miley Cyrus' offensively silly performance at the 2013 MTV Music Video Awards.
As you might expect, when the [...]]]>
"Elysium" grossed $11 million on opening day, and $139 million box office to date. It's already made back the $115 million production costs. [...]]]>
President Obama has asked the military to “prepare options for all contingencies” in Syria, according to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
The immediate cause was compelling evidence a lot of civilians, estimates differ so widely I'm just going to say "a lot," were killed by poison gas attacks recently in Syria's civil war.
The gas presumably came from the nonexistent stockpiles Saddam Hussein didn't have [...]]]>
In the mountains the suns come up over the rim of the narrow gorges and daylight creeps down the opposite side at a snails pace. Heavy dew forms early in the night and may never burn off entirely if the day is cloudy.
The tent has a heavy layer of beaded raindrops from yesterday’s shower and the inside walls are damp with condensate. If the clouds don’t part and [...]]]>
This past Sunday 22 American embassies and consulates across the Muslim parts of the world were closed down due to fears of terrorist attacks. At the time of writing it had not been revealed how long they are expected to be closed, but at least until [...]]]>
The Anthony Weiner scandal has been called “the gift that keeps on giving” by commentators with a low taste for word play. But after we’ve rung all the fun that can be had about a sexting politician with [...]]]>
I reacted differently. I bought a canoe.
Well I was going to anyway, but it was sort of waiting on paying off some bills, studying, getting some fairly serious dental work done etc etc.
But after [...]]]>
"Pacific Rim" is director Guillermo del Toro's take on the Japanese genre of Kaiju and mecha films, with he says a dash of inspiration from Francisco de Goya's painting "The Colossus."
"Kaiju" means “strange creature” in Japanese and is used to describe big monsters who destroy Tokyo regular as clockwork. The original kaiju is of [...]]]>
The Zombie Apocalypse is coming and we've got to be ready!
In 2003 Max Brooks published "The Zombie Survival Guide" describing in detail how to survive the Zombie Apocalypse, based on historical zombie outbreaks going back to ancient Egypt and the Lost Colony of Roanoake. Brooks followed this up in 2006 with "World War Z: An Oral History of the [...]]]>
People are lining up on opposite sides of the question of whether a murderer got away, or Zimmerman never should have [...]]]>
I told my son this guy was a bombastic braggart with no solid accomplishments to his name. Though highly intelligent and quite well-read he couldn't, or wouldn't hold down a job.
He sponged off friends and was a fine example of what I call the "third time deadbeat." Meaning he'd borrow a small amount of money from you [...]]]>
Ordinarily I don’t get excited about shoes, as long as they cover my feet and are comfortable.
But these are really comfortable. I went up to the Mall of America and thought maybe I’d just pick up some shoes when I got [...]]]>
I have a guest from Poland staying with me who I will take to the celebrations at our town's biggest park to see the display.
Poland is a country connected to ours through much history from the very beginnings of our country.
A Pole Kasimirz Pulaski helped found the U.S. Cavalry and died leading a charge at the Siege of Savannah in our Revolution. The U.S. [...]]]>
Well I took my son to see “World War Z” the other day and will probably be reviewing it week after next unless something more compelling comes along.
(Sneak peak: as an action movie it’s pretty good. [...]]]>
Something happened on June 10, the Man of Steel returned and he's… the same but different.
"Man of Steel" is of course the latest reboot of Superman, directed by Zach Snyder ("Watchmen," "300") and produced by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy.)
Superman was created in 1933 by two nerdy high school students from Cleveland, [...]]]>
I got a new desktop a couple months ago. A professional writer needs to have two computers and my laptop sat on the desk 99.999% of the time anyway. So [...]]]>
In his address to the graduating class of Ohio State University on May 5, President Obama sounded the alarm against alarmists.
"Still, you'll hear voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's the root of all our problems even as they do their best to gum up the works; or that tyranny always lurks just around the corner," Obama said. [...]]]>
"The Purge," directed by James DeMonaco, operates on many levels: dystopian fantasy, home invasion thriller, political allegory, and moral fable. And it's unbelievably stupid on every one of them.
The year is 2022. The New Founding Fathers have instituted the Purge, a yearly 12-hour period in which all laws, including [...]]]>
The film is loosely based on "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs" by William Joyce, who also created the animated world of "The Guardians" (2012). Very
loosely from what I can gather from the book blurb. The film is set in Joyce's fictional world and borrows a few characters is about it as far as I can tell. [...]]]>
"After Earth" directed by M. Night Shyamalan, appears to be one of those films audiences like and critics loathe.
It's been treated pretty badly by reviewers, though it seems to be doing all right at the box office.
Shyamalan could use a hit about now. After the initial success of "The Sixth Sense" his movies have declined in profitability, [...]]]>
This Memorial Day weekend I stayed home alone and got some productive work done, in between even longer bouts of productive loafing. And of course I watched a lot of old war movies.
I got to see "Destination Tokyo" again, with Cary Grant as a submarine skipper on a mission to insert a weather observation crew ashore in Japan to guide [...]]]>
Well Gov. Dayton has signed the marriage equality act, and depending on which side you line up on either the sky if falling or Minnesota has leaped into the forefront of human progress. [...]]]>
"Iron Man 3" is awesome. At least according to the unanimous vote of this older dad, pre-teen son, and six-year-old daughter.
How's that for broad-based appeal? My daughter is pleading to see it again.
Perhaps not so surprising. According to Marvel Comics, though fan mail from females is much rarer than from young boys, most of it is for [...]]]>
I ran into this film quite by accident on Sunday. I was pressed for time, had to have something to review and I really didn't want to see another iteration of "The Great Gatsby." I've seen the Robert Redford version, a work of genius about people I don't give a flip about.
I knew "Home Run" was about baseball, [...]]]>
The FBI press release had it that someone named Buford "Bucky" Rogers had been arrested in a raid on his parent's trailer home on Friday. The FBI claimed they'd seized lots of guns, including a Romanian AKM assault rifle, Molotov cocktails and pipe bombs.
It's a bit outside of our coverage area but it seemed serious,
"What are you talking about?" (I hear you say.) "All we do is argue these days. About gun control, abortion, Obamacare…"
No, we don't argue about these things at all. Or at best, only one side argues.
"What? Doesn't it take two to argue? Or fight, make up, or tango?"
Let me back up a bit.
I'm using "argument" in the formal sense used in logic. You have a set of statements, one of which is the conclusion. You're [...]]]>
Yesterday, May 1, I saw a Facebook post by an academic I’ve known for… a long time. He teaches history in an east coast college and advertises himself as a “labor historian.”
He, or somebody, had filched the classic “We can do it! [...]]]>
Not surprising, she used to write for MAD Magazine back when it was still good, and is the author of http://www.stjamesnews.com/article/20130428/BLOGS/304289981/-1/blogs01
Then out spake brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late;
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods,
"Horatius at the Bridge" by Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay
Don't worry, [...]]]>
Tamerlan Tsarnaev is dead and his brother Dzhokhar is in custody, which is the way it ought to be by rights. Yet there are people unhappy about it.
The two brothers were from Chechnya, a majority Muslim territory in the Caucasus, occupied but never completely subdued by Russia since 1834. After the breakup of the Soviet Union the Chechens attempted to win back their independence, a rebellion that was broken with Soviet-style brutality. [...]]]>
Darn it! Another case of Celebrities Behaving Badly, and this time with one I kind of liked.
Reese Witherspoon and her husband Jim Toth were arrested and very briefly held in Atlanta, he for alleged DUI and she for allegedly disobeying the police officer’s instruction to remain [...]]]>
According to Entertainment Weekly, "42" made Hollywood history with the highest-grossing premier of any baseball-themed movie. Which is true but almost beside the point. It's not just about baseball, it's about honor.
It's about men doing the right thing at a time when it was unpopular and dangerous to do so.
It's good for people [...]]]>
There are great movies, good movies, bad movies, and awful movies. Then there's movies like "The Host" which are just kind of blah.
The movie is based on the book by Stephanie Meyer, a writer of great wealth and surpassing awfulness who makes every writer who can string a coherent set of sentences together wonder why he's reviewing this swill [...]]]>
The late great science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein once told a crowd at a convention, "Some of you will see a nuclear war within your lifetime."
The crowd, to say the least, did not want to hear this.
A few years ago when I was the world's oldest journalism intern in Washington, D.C., I coined the term "no-name nukes," in the context of the sentence, "We're living at Ground Zero for the no-name nuke."
During my three months [...]]]>
Well, we know the rest of that old saying isn't true. Words hurt. Sometimes a lot, depending on who says them.
In every society children are taught social rules for what kinds of speech are appropriate, when and with whom. Rules backed by sanctions ranging from dirty looks to social ostracism, or in extreme cases an educational beat down.
These days though, speech is policed on many university campuses by speech codes – and [...]]]>
On March 13, the white smoke let the waiting world know the conclave of cardinals had elected a new pope, following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on 28 February.
The new pope is a Jesuit, which is the first interesting thing about the election. The Jesuits, though technically in subordination to the pope, have throughout history often [...]]]>
Kine die, kin die
And so at last yourself:
But this I know that never dies
How dead men's deeds are deemed.
- Hávamál: The Words of Odin the High One, from the Elder Edda
"Vikings" is I believe, the first venture of the History Channel into historical [...]]]>
"Jack the Giant Slayer" did not do very well opening weekend, earning only $28 million of the $200 million they need to break even.
On the other hand, nothing else that weekend did either and "Jack" wound up on top anyway. There have been indications it's been picking up, perhaps due to word of mouth advertising.
I went to see it with [...]]]>