Sunday, March 23, 2008

Quote of the Week

"If you want to start investigating from here, you are most welcome. Check our various offices. They can examine my pulse, my urine, my stool, everything."

- The Dalai Lama, reacting to accusations by Chinese officials that he has had a role in fomenting pro-independence riots in Tibet in which scores have died. He has said he may resign as the spiritual leader of Tibet if protests are not nonviolent, though many accuse the Chinese police of committing the worst atrocities.(Source: The Washington Post)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sweet Sixteen

Alright!! The Badger Men's basketball team beat Kansas State today, and are now going to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament. They played with an intensity that I hadn't seen in a long time. It was a fun game to watch. My dog's were not impressed. They are, instead, looking forward to the start of baseball season in a couple weeks.

Poodlledoc, Jr to play 'Harry Potter' as final book becomes TWO movies

Splitting the last book into two movies for "creative reasons"? Yesh, right. As many of my 6 loyal readers know, I love Harry Potter. The movies have varied in quality. In my humble opinion, the last book has so much wasted ink in it, that it doesn't deserve TWO movies. I liked, for the most part, what was done with the 5th Potter book when it was converted to a movie. They cut out a lot of that wasted ink. The movie turned out to be pretty well done. So who will play Potter in these films? Daniel Radcliffe will likely be too old (he's pushing it as it is). Perhaps Poodledoc, Jr will play Harry Potter in the last two films! For "creative reasons".

LOS ANGELES - Harry Potter was the center of seven novels, but he'll star in eight films. The final book in the wildly successful series will be made into two films, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Producers are expected to announce Thursday that J.K. Rowling's last "Potter" installment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," will be split into two parts on the big screen. The first film is slated for release in November 2010, with part two following in May 2011.

"It was born out of purely creative reasons," producer David Heyman told the Times. "Unlike every other book, you cannot remove elements of this book."

The two final "Potter" films will be shot concurrently, much like the blockbuster trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy novel "The Lord of the Rings."

Another famous Tolkien tome, "The Hobbit," is also being split into two live-action movies set for back-to-back shooting to begin next year.

Filming on the sixth "Potter" flick, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," began in September.

"It's been brilliant," said star Daniel Radcliffe. "It's also, I think, the funniest of the films so far."

The "Potter" film franchise has pulled in $4.5 billion at the worldwide box office.

The air force on the phone

In the course of watching the Badger basketball game, there was a commmeercial for the air force. In the commercial, they show a handsome air force soldier. But he isn't flying around. He's monitoring "cyber traffic". "Keeping us safe". Well, I guess he was flying aroound cyberspace. It was peculiar. And scary. Not only does our criminal president and cowardly Congress support, actively or tacitly, the monitoring of "private communications" but now there's commercials for it!

Friday, March 21, 2008

World’s Best-Known Protest Symbol Turns 50

Published on Thursday, March 20, 2008 by BBC News

by Kathryn Westcott

It started life as the emblem of the British anti-nuclear movement but it has become an international sign for peace, and arguably the most widely used protest symbol in the world. It has also been adapted, attacked and commercialized.

It had its first public outing 50 years ago on a chilly Good Friday as thousands of British anti-nuclear campaigners set off from London’s Trafalgar Square on a 50-mile march to the weapons factory at Aldermaston.

The demonstration had been organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC) and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) joined in.

Gerald Holtom, a designer and former World War II conscientious objector from West London, persuaded DAC that their aims would have greater impact if they were conveyed in a visual image. The “Ban the Bomb” symbol was born.

He considered using a Christian cross motif but, instead, settled on using letters from the semaphore - or flag-signalling - alphabet, super-imposing N (uclear) on D (isarmament) and placing them within a circle symbolizing Earth.

The sign was quickly adopted by CND.

Holtom later explained that the design was “to mean a human being in despair” with arms outstretched downwards.

US peace symbol

American pacifist Ken Kolsbun, who corresponded with Mr Holtom until his death in 1985, says the designer came to regret the connotation of despair and had wanted the sign inverted.

“He thought peace was something that should be celebrated,” says Mr Kolsbun, who has spent decades documenting the use of the sign. “In fact, the semaphore sign for U in ‘unilateral’ depicts flags pointing upwards. Mr Holtom was all for unilateral disarmament.”

In a book to commemorate the symbol’s 50th birthday, Mr Kolsbun charts how it was transported across the Atlantic and took on additional meanings for the Civil Rights movement, the counter-culture of the 1960s and 70s including the anti-Vietnam protests, and the environmental, women’s and gay rights movements.

He also argues that groups opposed to those tendencies tried to use the symbol against them by distorting its message.

How the sign migrated to the US is explained in various ways. Some say it was brought back from the Aldermaston protest by civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, a black pacifist who had studied Gandhi’s techniques of non-violence.


In Peace: The biography of a symbol, Mr Kolsbun describes how in just over a decade, the sign had been carried by civil rights “freedom” marchers, painted on psychedelic Volkswagens in San Francisco, and on the helmets of US soldiers on the ground in Vietnam.

“The sign really got going over here during the 1960s and 70s, when it became associated with anti-Vietnam protests,” he told the BBC News website.

As the combat escalated, he says, so did the anti-war protests and the presence of the symbol.

“This, of course, led some people to condemn it as a communist sign,” says Mr Kolsbun. “There has always been a lot of misconception and disinformation about it.”

As the sign became a badge of the burgeoning hippie movement of the late 1960s, the hippies’ critics scornfully compared it to a chicken footprint, and drew parallels with the runic letter indicating death.

In 1970, the conservative John Birch Society published pamphlets likening the sign to a Satanic symbol of an upside-down, “broken” cross.

While it remained a key symbol of the counter-culture movement throughout the 1970s, it returned to its origins in the 1980s, when it became the banner of the international grassroots anti-nuclear movement.


The real power of the sign, its supporters say, is the reaction that it provokes - both from fans and from detractors.

The South African government, for one, tried to ban its use by opponents of apartheid In 1973.

And, in 2006, a couple in suburban Denver found themselves embroiled in a dispute over their use of a giant peace sign as a Christmas wreath. The homeowners’ association threatened them with a daily fine if they didn’t remove it.

The association eventually backed down because of public pressure, but a member told a local newspaper it was clearly an “anti-Christ sign” with “a lot of negativity associated with it.”.


CND has never registered the sign as a trademark, arguing that “a symbol of freedom, it is free for all”. It has now appeared on millions of mugs, T-shirts, rings and nose-studs. Bizarrely, it has also made an appearance on packets of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

A decade ago, the sign was chosen during a public vote to appear on a US commemorative postage stamp saluting the 1960s.

The symbol that helped define a generation of baby boomers may not be as widely used today as in the past. It is in danger of becoming to many people a retro fashion item, although the Iraq war has seen it re-emerge with something like its original purpose.

“It is still the dominant peace sign,” argues Lawrence Wittner, an expert on peace movements at the University at Albany in New York.

“Part of that is down to its simplicity. It can be used as a shorthand for many causes because it can be reproduced really quickly - on walls on floors, which is important, in say, repressive societies.”

And can its success be measured? Fifty years on, wars have continued to be waged and the list of nuclear-armed states has steadily lengthened.

But the cup is half-full as well as half empty.

“There are many ways in which nuclear war has been prevented,” says Mr Wittner. “The hawks say that the reason nuclear weapons have not been used is because of the deterrent. But I believe popular pressure has restrained powers from using them and helped curbed the arms race.

And the symbol of and inspiration for that popular pressure, says Mr Wittner, is Mr Holtom’s graphic.

Peace: A biography of a symbol is published by National Geographic Books in April.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Things that splash and things that fly

I just got back from spending time with my friend Julia out east. Lots of time by the ocean.

After the ocean, we traveled to the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in southern Maryland. They have Bald Eagles and even a so-called "Eagle Cam" so you can watch the Bald Eagle parents feed the two chicks. Sorry I don't have streaming video of that, but this link takes you to the Friends of the Blackwater Refuge site

Some of the wonderful flying and splashing birds we saw are shown below:

Northern Harrier Hawk

American Black Duck

Greater Yellowlegs

And my favorite, the Tundra Swan. Plus many many more!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mr. Obama’s Profile in Courage

I found myself deeply moved watching this speech on YouTube. Yes, I know, he's a politician. Yes, I know, he's cozying up to Israel. Yes, there are several things I am not comfortable with about Mr Obama. But shouting for some kind of lefty, progressive purity will not bring about real changes. Will not help us get out of the disastrous course the past few administrations have set us on. If we look for perfection, instead of a human being who cares, we will wind up bitter, angry and cynical. And nothing will change. I encourage you to go to YouTube and watch excerpts of the speech of March 18....

Published: March 19, 2008
New York Times Opinion Online

There are moments — increasingly rare in risk-abhorrent modern campaigns — when politicians are called upon to bare their fundamental beliefs. In the best of these moments, the speaker does not just salve the current political wound, but also illuminates larger, troubling issues that the nation is wrestling with.

Inaugural addresses by Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt come to mind, as does John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on religion, with its enduring vision of the separation between church and state. Senator Barack Obama, who has not faced such tests of character this year, faced one on Tuesday. It is hard to imagine how he could have handled it better.

Mr. Obama had to address race and religion, the two most toxic subjects in politics. He was as powerful and frank as Mitt Romney was weak and calculating earlier this year in his attempt to persuade the religious right that his Mormonism is Christian enough for them.

It was not a moment to which Mr. Obama came easily. He hesitated uncomfortably long in dealing with the controversial remarks of his spiritual mentor and former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who denounced the United States as endemically racist, murderous and corrupt.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama drew a bright line between his religious connection with Mr. Wright, which should be none of the voters’ business, and having a political connection, which would be very much their business. The distinction seems especially urgent after seven years of a president who has worked to blur the line between church and state.

Mr. Obama acknowledged his strong ties to Mr. Wright. He embraced him as the man “who helped introduce me to my Christian faith,” and said that “as imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me.”

Wisely, he did not claim to be unaware of Mr. Wright’s radicalism or bitterness, disarming the speculation about whether he personally heard the longtime pastor of his church speak the words being played and replayed on YouTube. Mr. Obama said Mr. Wright’s comments were not just potentially offensive, as politicians are apt to do, but “rightly offend white and black alike” and are wrong in their analysis of America. But, he said, many Americans “have heard remarks from your pastors, priests or rabbis with which you strongly disagree.”

Mr. Obama’s eloquent speech should end the debate over his ties to Mr. Wright since there is nothing to suggest that he would carry religion into government. But he did not stop there. He put Mr. Wright, his beliefs and the reaction to them into the larger context of race relations with an honesty seldom heard in public life.

Mr. Obama spoke of the nation’s ugly racial history, which started with slavery and Jim Crow, and continues today in racial segregation, the school achievement gap and discrimination in everything from banking services to law enforcement.

He did not hide from the often-unspoken reality that people on both sides of the color line are angry. “For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation,” he said, “the memories of humiliation and fear have not gone away, nor the anger and the bitterness of those years.”

At the same time, many white Americans, Mr. Obama noted, do not feel privileged by their race. “In an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero-sum game,” he said, adding that both sides must acknowledge that the other’s grievances are not imaginary.

He made the powerful point that while these feelings are not always voiced publicly, they are used in politics. “Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan coalition,” he said.

Against this backdrop, he said, he could not repudiate his pastor. “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community,” he said. “I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother.” That woman whom he loves deeply, he said, “once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street” and more than once “uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”

There have been times when we wondered what Mr. Obama meant when he talked about rising above traditional divides. This was not such a moment.

We can’t know how effective Mr. Obama’s words will be with those who will not draw the distinctions between faith and politics that he drew, or who will reject his frank talk about race. What is evident, though, is that he not only cleared the air over a particular controversy — he raised the discussion to a higher plane.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thanks to the TSA (Transportation Safety Administration)

Dear Transportation Safety Administration:

On my recent flight to Washington, DC, I receieved a "Notice of Baggage Inspection" in my blue Wilson duffle bag. I am, of course, glad that you inspected my bag "to protec you and your fellow passengers". I am intrigued that this is the second time in as many trips that my blue Wilson duffle bag has been inspected. Part of me wonders if you are "bag profiling". What percentage of bags inspected are Wilson duffle bags? Duffle bags in general?

However, I must thank you for re-packing my bag with such care. When I packed, I did my usual hasty packing job and my bag was bulging to the point that I could barely zip it up and apply the "TSA Approved" lock. When I retrieved my bag, I was extremely pleased to see that it had been re-packed SO WELL that there was now SPACE in my bag. I was wondering if I could have a representative come to my house prior to my flight to pack my bag! Then, you could inspect it at the same time! I would feel safer knowing my bag was packed properly. My mother would definitely approve.

Thanks for all your help,