Monthly Archives: December 2009

If you love the cinema, I recommend The Criterion Collection site especially for their preview feature

Why? Well, it has some of the masterpieces of film available on DVD and BluRay. Works by Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Buñuel, and many more. You can buy these films, but if you didn’t want to or weren’t sure you wanted to buy these films, there is another choice.

 I found out via their FAQ that you can do this:

“I’ve never watched a movie online at the Criterion online cinematheque. How does it work? What does it cost? What do I get?

Watching movies at criterion.com is easy. Click on FILMS, choose a film, and click where it says “Watch movie $5.” You’ll be asked to enter a credit card, and for $5 you can watch the movie right in your browser or full screen, as many times as you want for a full week. For a year after that, we’ll keep a $5 credit on file for you and apply it to your purchase of that film on DVD or Blu-ray disc. Use it as a way to explore different parts of the collection, get a little daring, or just “try before you buy.” And best of all, each dollar you spend on online rentals gives you points in our loyalty program.”

This is a great feature. You can see some of the greatest masterpieces of all time for $5 a pop. Hopefully you will love them and buy them. Either way, it’s a great deal.

I should add, there seems to be a bug in terms of what is “Now Playing”. If you don’t like what you see, click Refresh on your browser and you will get a different list of films. Not sure why that is, but otherwise, it is a great site.  Go to The Criterion Collection for more info.

Taken By Trees – “My Boys”

I think this is brilliant. Taken By Trees takes Animal Collectives “My Girls” and remakes it into something all their own and appropriately renames it as well. Here they are in a video that is perfectly suited for the song:

YouTube – Taken By Trees – “My Boys”

On quitting smoking and other New Year’s Eve resolutions

The NYTimes.com has a great piece on a writer who had struggled like many people to give up smoking. Anyone who has this resolution in mind for January 1 should read this: Hurry Up, It’s Time. Let me expand that and say anyone who has any resolution they want to make on New Year’s should read it. I think this applies to anyone, for it is not about the quitting. Rather..

“I looked around the faces in the classroom. Sure enough, everyone would eventually quit smoking, I thought. Everyone except me.

Then, at some point during the meeting, it hit me. I didn’t just want to quit smoking. I wanted much more. I wanted something new in life — call it a new deal, a new me, new rituals, new friends, new clothes, a new home, a new career, new everything. This was my crazy reason. I told no one.”

It’s good. Read it. And good luck to you and to us all.

Men’s Style Tips from Bill Blass

Since alot of people come to this blog because I once wrote why I buy suits from Zara — alot of people! — I thought they might also be interested in taking lessons from a real master, Bill Blass. I saw this in Vanity Fair and thought his closet provided some good tips for people acquiring men’s suits.

First, look at suits he has in his closet. If you are going to have a number of suits, you would be well off to stick with mostly blacks and dark grays and navy blues, while mixing up the striping and perhaps the cut. The key is “mostly”. Notice he does make room for lighter suits of browns and grays and plaids.

Also note how well he spaces the suits in his closet. He doesn’t have them jammed together. This is smart. Obviously you need space for this, but it is a good way to use your closet space.

Finally, don’t do what Bill does: wear pants instead. 🙂

If you want to know more about the photo, go here: A Jonathan Becker Retrospective | vanityfair.com

The Year in Pictures, 2009 edition, at The New York Times …

..is filled with great photographs. Even at full screen mode, the clarity and the brightness and of course the composition is wonderful. See it here.

The Green Revolution in Iran continues…

..and as usual, Andrew Sullivan is doing a superb job of covering it. It’s way more in-depth than anything the majors will have in terms of coverage, although to be fair to them, they are covering it. What I think is really significant is this post, Why The Regime Is Rattled. If this is true, then expect more major events and changes in Iran.

Image of Protests in Iran - Dec. 2009

As an aside, there was a critical — and facile — article in Salon recently stating “There’s no evidence that the hot social networking site played any role in Iran’s spring revolt”. It’s hard to criticize it, since it is not so much factual as it is sophisticated name calling. One thing it did get wrong though, is this: “Sadly, though, six months later, things still haven’t changed much in Iran.” Things have changed alot in Iran since the election: what you have right now are two strongly opposing forces pushing up against each other, and while there is not much movement, there is alot of effort and pressure. In such circumstances, it would be wrong to assume nothing is changing. Instead, there will eventually be a big snap one way or the other and one side will be badly damaged.

If you don’t believe that, go to Andrew Sullivan’s blog and check out the posts and the YouTube video. Or follow Iranians on Twitter. You know, all those social networking things that Salon says don’t matter but for some reason both sides continue to use and try to stop.

(Image from the Nytimes.com)

60 seconds: what can happen in that short a period of time?

Quite alot, when you take the whole world — or large parts of it — into account:

Just one of the great things on the posterous blog, – ReflectionOf.Me

All things Chocolate

This article, The Chocolate Wars – NYTimes.com, has a great rundown of the state of affairs when it comes to chocolate in the world today. The article starts with the fight for Cadbury, with Kraft on one side and Hershey on the other. This is not appealing to the British, I suspect, based upon the comments of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnston, who says they…

“…face an appalling choice of succumbing either to Kraft, makers of the plastic flaps of orange cheese, or to Hershey, whose Hershey bars have been likened in flavor — by independent experts — to a mixture of soap powder and baby vomit.”

Ouch!

Chocolate is big business, especially as places like India start substituting traditional treats for chocolate ones. (Think of all the cultures that don’t have chocolate desserts: those will be the countries and cultures that the big chocolate makers will go towards.)

But it’s not just business. The article has a summary of the history of chocolate over the 20th century and some guesses as to why we find chocolate so appealing. So break open a box of Christmas chocolate — or heck, have the last one! — and check out this article.

Best 12 Days of Christmas ever.

You thought singing “12 Days of Christmas” was difficult? Watch these guys sing “it”.

YouTube – Straight No Chaser – 12 Days of Christmas

Christmas Carols Deluxe! The Three Tenors sing “Sleigh Ride”

Anything the Three Tenors sing is rich and worth listening to, including the Christmas classic, Sleigh Ride.

BTW, Pavarotti muffs a line around the 36 second mark. He sings “Hoo Hoo” instead of “Yoo Hoo”. Carreras notices this: watch his expression!

YouTube – CARRERAS DOMINGO PAVAROTTI – Sleigh Ride

A early Christmas present to people: Letter to Jane Magazine

Folks, as you relax and unwind over the holidays, I strongly encourage you to check out the first edition of LETTER TO JANE Magazine.

Honestly, it’s great. Go take a look: it’s a visual feast.

And hats off to Tim for putting together such a strong digital publication.

Bah Humbug! The infamous CHRISTMA exec worm

Back in the 1980s when I worked on VM as a system programmer, people used to send around VM executable code like the CHRISTMA exec that people would run. The execs (as we called them)  would show a text message like the one in this picture. Pretty harmless and nice.

However, the CHRISTMA EXEC was different. It was not harmless or nice. It was dangerous and sneaky. It would not only display a Christmas message, but, without you being aware of it, would read a file (the NETLOG file) that would find out email addresses of people who sent and received email from you and send itself to them as well. A worm, essentially. Since people were used to getting scripts as Christmas greetings, they ran it without looking at it (indeed, the comments even tell people: “browsing this file is no fun at all       just type CHRISTMAS from cms “…sneaky). The next thing we knew, this worm was showing up all over the place. A nice way to spend Christmas time, killing this worm.

So to the CHRISTMA EXEC I say, “Bah Humbug!”.

But to everyone else I say: Merry Christmas!

Yuken Teruya and the transformation of mundane things into things of beauty

When I have to deal with a paper bag or a paper tube, I think: I need to recycle this. Yuken Teruya thinks: how can I make this into a beautiful work of art (like the Happy Meal bag above). If you go to the site, Notice – Forest Series – Yuken Teruya Studio, you will see many more works like this. Stunning. (Via Swiss Miss).

Jane Hamsher’s “10 Reasons to Kill the Senate Bill” and a rebuttal to those reasons…

..can be found here: xpostfactoid: Eight rebuttals to “10 reasons to kill the Senate bill”

I think Hamsher makes some good points, and even this rebuttal cannot overturn them all. That said, I still think the HCR bill before the Senate provide a great benefit to Americans. I was going to say, “despite it’s flaws”, but like all legislation, it goes without saying it has flaws. (Even the U.S. Constitution has its flaws (and the Amendments to correct them)).

People on the left who are agreeing with Hamsher should check out the link above.

Coffee Mona Lisa

According to the great tumblelog, Inspire me, now!, that’s 3604 cups of coffee put together to make an amazing rendition of the Mona Lisa.

African Graphic Novels


I came across three great links on a tweet from @gkofiannan who was retweeting @emeka_okafor and pointing to African graphic novels that will be interesting to anyone interested in Africa, graphic novels, or smart things in general. “aya” is one, and you can find it here: Africa Unchained: Search results for aya.  As well the Guardian has a story on “Marguerite Abouet’s hugely popular series of books, centred on the life of a young woman in a cheerful Ivory Coast suburb, show an Africa far from stereotypes of war and disease” which also sound interesting. Finally there is a good blog post on “The Shadow Speaker”, another such work.

I believe France has a strong tradition of graphic novels. And I noticed that two of the authors here are associated with Côte d’Ivoire. I wonder if there is any connection there? Regardless, they look great. Check them out.

On NORAD tracking Santa


CNET News has a great story on NORAD tracking Santa with some good gems in it, including this one!

“…it actually began in 1955 with a wrong number.

One morning that December, U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the director of operations at CONAD, the Continental Air Defense Command–NORAD’s predecessor–got a phone call at his Colorado Springs, Colo., office (see video below). This was no laughing matter. The call had come in on one of the top secret lines inside CONAD that only rang in the case of a crisis.

Grabbing the phone, Shoup must have expected the worst. Instead, a tiny voice asked, “Is this Santa Claus?”

“Dad’s pretty annoyed,” said Terri Van Keuren, Shoup’s daughter, recalling the legend of that day in 1955. “He barks into the phone,” demanding to know who’s calling.

“The little voice is now crying,” Van Keuren continued. “‘Is this one of Santa’s elves, then?'”

The Santa questions were only beginning. That day, the local newspaper had run a Sears Roebuck ad with a big picture of St. Nick and text that urged, “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct…Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night.”

But the phone number in the ad was off by a digit. Instead of connecting with Santa, callers were dialing in on the line that would ring if the Russians were attacking.

Before long, the phone was ringing off the hook, and softening up, Shoup grabbed a nearby airman and told him to answer the calls and, Van Keuren said, “‘just pretend you’re Santa.'”

Indeed, rather than having the newspaper pull the Sears ad, Shoup decided to offer the countless kids calling in something useful: information about Santa’s progress from the North Pole. To quote the official NORAD Santa site, “a tradition was born.””

The whole article in CNET is good. Go see!

The long arm of the law catches underage drinkers using a Facebook sting

As if we don’t have enough examples of why it is bad to break the law or the rules and post it on Facebook, here comes another example where police in Wisconsin used Facebook to catch underage drinkers by friending them. You can see the details here on Wired Campus.

You know those hundreds of friends you have on Facebook? Some of them are not your friends. Beware.

What will Health Care Reform (HCR) mean for the rest of the world?

I believe that HCR is actually great for the rest of the world. Because with HCR, Americans will be spending more of their money on Health Care, versus other Things (Things = cars, houses, etc.). As more money gets devoted to Health Care, there will be a greater focus on Health Care generally. I believe the result will be more innovations in the area of Health, with more cures and better ways to deliver health care. This will benefit Americans, but indirectly it will benefit the rest of the world as well.

I used to be envious of Americans because they received tax deductions on their mortgages. Sadly, this likely led to the Great Recession we are just starting to pull out of. If Americans put their money into better Health Care versus better houses and better cars, we all will benefit.

What will Health Care Reform (HCR) mean for most Americans?

Simple. It will mean they get Health Care, and they get it for alot less money than if there was no HCR. See this chart:

Whatever else people say about HCR, it looks like a good deal for Americans. Will it cost them? Certainly. But the alternatives are surely worse. See The Senate Bill Saves Families Money – Kaiser Health News for the details.

The oddly negative articles of Konrad Yakabuski in the Globe and Mail

His latest, With bitter pills, Obama gets his health vote, is typical of his articles in the Globe. While it’s a good thing to have editorial columns criticizing Obama (and all other politicians, left and right), to see it in articles is another thing. If you read this, and his other columns, you will see how Yakabuski sees Obama and his situation in a very negative light. The overall column is more balanced. For example, this is true:

That is a singular achievement and the second in as many days for the President, who also extracted a commitment from developing countries to join the fight against global warming. But in both so-called successes, Mr. Obama acted as a broker of deals rather than a principled idealist. As such, he risks alienating his most fervent supporters.

Sounds pretty positive, yes? There’s lots more, too. And that’s what makes them odd: the articles themselves are balanced and well written, but there is almost an attempt to make them more negative then they are or need to be.

For example, on this article that I referenced, it is true that there is a strong negative reaction to this. But there’s also columns by such notable people like Paul Krugman and over at TPM media that balance that out. That’s the bigger picture, and from the Globe and it’s writers, I would like the bigger picture. If I want smaller more partisan pictures, there’s lots of blogs and other places for that.

There’s alot of good coverage in Yakabuski’s articles. But his negativity is odd, to say the least.

P.S. Thanks for reading this. If you have found it useful and you’d like to say thanks by buying me a coffee, you can do so here. Thanks! That’s awesome!

He’s almost here

Jingle Bells

Not your usual Jingle Bells, for sure. But definitely entertaining!

YouTube – Indian version-Jingle Bells Jingle Bells-Punjabi Style

Want to be “green”? Keep the SUV…ditch the dog.

Yikes! If you believe this, it looks like you may be greener to own an SUV than a dog! (Cat owners may smile at this…)

Now I would argue that if you are going to have a vehicle at all, you should aim for something greener than an SUV. As for dogs, it’s clearly not a choice of: should I get rid of the dog or the SUV. Still, it’s interesting food for thought. See here for more: Is Owning a Dog Worse than Owning an SUV? – GOOD Blog – GOOD

Crossdressing for freedom in Iran

Why are these men dressed as women? Apparently it happened when the activist Majid Tavakoli was arrested in Iran, and the government released (doctored?) photos of him wearing a chador and a scarf around his head in a suspected attempt to embarass him. Instead, it encourage other men in and out of Iran to post photos of themselves dressed the same way as a brilliant way to protest against the government and their actions.

 See IRAN: Apparent attempt at humiliating activist sparks widespread hijab backlash in the Los Angeles Times for more details.

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Mitchell Kanashkevich’s Travel and Photography Blog


Mitchell’s Travel and Photography Blog not only has great photographs, like this one, but good posts on his travels around the world. He also writes well about photography and his thoughts on it. Anyone interested in good photography and how to make it should pay his blog a visit. I am taking the liberty of linking to this photo of his to encourage you to go see the rest of his site.

What do you get when you combine 21st century technology with 1950s design?

THIS!

While normally I am not a fan of desktop computers, I would make an exception for this baby. For more photos and details, see:

Philco PC Retro Re-design by SchultzeWORKS designstudio » Yanko Design

Things to do in winter: ice fish (Canadian style)

Since non-Canadians must sometimes wonder: what do Canadians do for fun in the wintertime, we’ve decided to put together this little instructional video showing one such wintertime activity and how it’s done, Canadian style:

Building with paper

Shigeru Ban creates building like this out of paper:

The tubes you see are paper. Unlike some of his buildings, this one is permanent. Regardless of how long it is meant to last, his work is striking, and it’s featured in the latimes.com. Go see.

Step 1: The banks blow off Obama Step 2: U.S. Said to Rethink Quick Sale of Citigroup Stake

The head of Citigroup was one of the bankers that could not make Obama’s meeting the other day due to bad weather. Now comes word that the  U.S. Said to Rethink Quick Sale of Citigroup Stake in the NYTimes.com. No doubt this is not done just for spite. Citigroup has it’s troubles. Still….anyway, read it and decide.

French Health Care beats American Health Care

If you are to the left of the political spectrum in the U.S., then this article, Why I Prefer French Health Care by the head of Reason Magazine, is not going to tell you anything you don’t already know.

But if you are to the right of the political spectrum, you owe it to yourself to read it. The author has lots of experience with the French and the U.S. health care system, and he makes the case for the French system over the U.S. with strong personal examples. And face it: reason.com is all for free minds and free markets, and yet they (or the author) argues this.

Americans deserve better health care. Certainly they deserve care that’s as good as the French (and Canadian, etc.) Hears hoping they get it.

If someone would like to make this for me….

I’ll be happy to come over and eat it! 🙂 It just screams “delicious”! LOL!
Chocolate-Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart Recipe at Epicurious.com

What to watch during the holiday season? What about the best films of the decade?

David Denby of the New Yorker has his list here. It’s a varied list, from different years, genres, nationalities and of course, directors. There’s comedy, documentaries, drama, animation and action: something for everyone. Fire-up the popcorn machine — or perhaps roast some chestnuts — and enjoy.

Cute food

What is Cute Food, you may ask? I give you exhibit A:

THAT is a sandwich. There’s more! Go to EpiCute and see.

Goats: a great Christmas gift idea

Yes, that’s right, these things:

If you have a friend or loved one who doesn’t really need anything for Christmas, why not buy a goat for them? Now, if you go here, you will see that if you Donate a Goat you Give Charitable Gifts to a Family in Need via the program Oxfam America Unwrapped. It provides food, fertilizer, and empowers women. Not bad for $50.

Or consider this: if you have to buy a present for someone you would rather not, you can give them a pile of manure! How awesome is that? 🙂 Either way you can helps others and help yourself with your gift list.

Oxfam America has a video describing the program. Watch it, then go get someone a goat or something else for this December.

The Big Banks blow off Obama

What’s impressive about this photo is who’s not in it. Namely, the heads of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. Apparently bad weather meant that they could not make the meeting. But really, if they were looking for money, do you think they would have missed this? No, me neither.

I find this interesting. Clearly they think they no longer need taxpayers help. Which is good, in a way. They probably think that it’s unlikely that Obama will do the same thing that Gordon Brown is doing in the UK with the Bonus Tax. And they must have been checking their Blackberries when Paul Volcker was lecturing them recently. Otherwise they would have made this meeting, even if they had to have their limo drivers drive them here.

Post meeting, it will be interesting also to see what happens between when Health Care gets settled and when the 2010 elections get going. Either Obama and team take their eye off this ball and focus on something else, or, they remember this meeting when the bankers decided to try and show them who’s the boss. My guess is that beating up the big banks will make for good electioneering by the Dems. So if they decide to ignore him when Obama Presses Giant Banks to Make More Loans then he’ll give them something to pay attention to later.

Opposition to Expanded Access to Health Insurance Will Cause People to Die in the U.S.

Says Matthew Yglesias. This seems harsh, almost propagandistic. Left wing nonsense, you might say.

So look at this chart:

It may be possible to explain it some other way. If so, I’d like to hear that argument. To me, it appears to make the case quite strongly.

This is embarrassing: the new LRT track on St. Clair in Toronto

Apparently this is part of the new Light Rapid Transit line being put in place on St. Clair Avenue in Toronto:

I can’t imagine under what justification could such work would be acceptible. Any thoughts? If you go here, St. Clair ROW – Page 53 – Urban Toronto, you can see more photos of the — not very straight — line.

If you like Scotland, Johnnie Walker or Robert Carlyle, watch this

It’s a well filmed, single shot monologue by the great Scotch actor, Robert Carlyle, walking down the road in some remote place in Scotland, talking about Johnnie Walker blended whisky. Sounds simple, yes? It’s actually really well done. Like I said, one take, but with all the props in it as Carlyle strides down the road matching perfectly his monologue, it must have been very challenging to do.

I love the scenery as well as the use of English subtitles, despite Carlyle speaking English (but of course with a Scotch accent).

Brilliant.

YouTube – Johnnie Walker – The Man Who Walked Around The World

Art Interiors / Emily Bickell update (or, if you are STILL Christmas shopping… :))

The art interiors festival of smalls is still going on, and they still have lots of great art work by Canadian artists selling at a very low cost (I would say “cheap”, but there is nothing inferior about these paintings).

I got an update from Emily Bickell that she is sending more of her work to the sale, which is great, because her painting are selling fast!

Which gets me to my last point: if you are STILL Christmas shopping and you find the thought of crushing in with the crowds and lining up with the lineups depressing, you can order online from art interiors! But do it fast: the paintings ain’t hanging around (in any sense of the phrase).

Finally, here is another of Emily’s work, which is related to but different from her abstract water works.

I am a big fan of Christopher Pratt and Winslow Homer and this painting and the ones like it remind me of that, though it is calmer than some of Homer’s painting and not as stark as some of Pratt’s. Great stuff, all, though. And since you likely can’t afford Homer or Pratt…

To paraphrase Edna Mode: Go! Shop! Buy! And tell me all about it when you get something… 🙂

Emily Bickell / Red Sailboat / Affordable Artwork / Canadian Art / Gallery / Framing / Canvas / Art Interiors – Toronto, ON