Thursday, June 30, 2011

New "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" Movie

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is the title of John Le Carre's 1974 spy novel about the hunt for a mole at the heart of the British Secret Intelligence Service. It was famously adapted for TV in 1979, starring Alec Guinness as George Smiley.  You can watch that 6 hour TV movie from 1979 on You Tube starting HERE.

A new movie adaptation is being released in September, with an all-star cast including Gary Oldman as George Smiley, as well as Colin Firth (The King's Speech). Here's the just-released first trailer for the upcoming film:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stephen Colbert On Michele Bachmann

On the Colbert Report last night, Stephen Colbert did THIS 4 minute segment on Michele Bachmann's formal announcement that she is running for President.  The first couple minutes of this clip are pretty average.  But then Colbert begins discussing how Bachmann was mistaken when she asserted that she had the spirit of John Wayne because he was from her same home town in Iowa. It turns out that it wasn't the legendary actor John Wayne who was from her home town, but rather serial killer John Wayne Gacy.  "Like Gacy, people may think you're a clown," Colbert says. "But if they dig a little deeper, they'll find that you are deadly serious."

I thought this harmless, funny gaff was notable because just yesterday I'd watched THIS 5 minute clip in which Michele Bachmann insists to an incredulous George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America that, "the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery." She defended this assertion by repeatedly pointing to John Quincy Adams.  In fact, he was 9 years old in 1776, and was the son of Founding Father John Adams.  And of course many of the Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, owned slaves themselves.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yelena Bonner Has Died

If you're a certain age, you probably think of "Andrei Sakharov" when you hear the name Yelena Bonner. Yelena Bonner was a famous Soviet dissident who late in life married the nuclear physicist-turned-dissident Sakharov. I was astounded to read her obituary today HERE in The Economist. She died 10 days ago, apparently, at the age of 88. I had no idea she was still alive.  (Sakharov had died in 1989.)

I thought it was notable that, as an epilogue to her Cold War-era fame as a human rights campaigner and dissident in the Soviet Union, she ultimately had a falling out with each of Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin as well.

What A Snack Mix Ritual Reveals

About an hour into a flight last week from California to New York City, I noticed when the young lady across the aisle from me settled in to watch the in-flight movie. She was an otherwise attractive young woman in her early 30s, whose ill-fitting white slacks did not flatter her. First she donned an over-sized neck pillow.  Then she pulled out a party-sized bag of Gardetto's Snack Mix from her carry-on luggage.

She proceeded to eat the entire bag methodically while watching the film, one piece at a time.  She held the bag in her left hand and, as she ate each bite with her right, she would begin shaking the bag rhythmically in her left hand, the way a child might shake a box of Cracker Jacks to get at the prize, or a box of cereal to find the toy inside.

She did this over an over again, one piece of snack mix at a time for maybe a half hour or so until the entire bag was empty.   What was she doing, I wondered? (Several times.)  Was she systematically eating only the pretzels first, and then, say, all the cheese puffs next?

There was something in the practiced, casual way she shook that bag (and ate its entire contents) which told me this wasn't her first party-sized Gardetto's snack mix.  I also found myself making other unflattering inferences about her, extrapolating from her neck pillow and from the fact that she had thought in advance to pack a party-sized bag of snack mix for her flight.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pilot's In-Flight Rant Caught On Tape

This 2 minute clip from the ABC World News last night is about a Southwest Airlines pilot who was caught on an open microphone in the cockpit making some pretty amazing (but perhaps not entirely surprising) comments about his flight crew.

Mobster Whitey Bulger Arrested

Notorious Boston mobster James 'Whitey' Bulger (now 81) has been arrested by the FBI after 16 years on the run. He was one of the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted." Despite rumors that he was in Europe, it turns out he was living in Santa Monica with his 60 year old, dental hygienist girlfriend. You can read more in the Los Angeles Times HERE.

Whitey was infamous for his ruthlessness as a gangster, but even more so for the revelation that he had been a secret FBI informant for years. Whitey was using the FBI all along, however. He was getting much more (and better) information from them than they were receiving from him.  Whitey Bulger went on the run after the FBI agent in charge tipped him off that he was about to be arrested.  That was over 15 years ago.

If the name 'Whitey Bulger' doesn't ring a bell, you may be more familiar with him as the inspiration for the Jack Nicholson character in the 2006 movie The Departed, which also starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.  (The trailer is below.) 

I once watched a great 1 hour documentary about Whitey Bulger on the A&E Network that you can watch HERE.  There's a lot more to his story than you might think.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sperm Donors Are Unwitting "Super Dads" Later

THIS New York Post article today begins, "When he was a cash-strapped college student 20 years ago, Todd Whitehurst didn't think too deeply on the consequences of donating sperm...So far he has found nine kids sired by his sperm. Statistically speaking, said one biogeneticist, Whitehurst could be the father of 42 to 60 children. Thanks to a lack of industry regulation, high totals are all too probable, especially for prolific college kids like Whitehurst -- who donated weekly for about three years, for $50 a pop, at a clinic on the  Stanford University campus in the 1980s and '90s... One top seed in Virginia has sired an astounding 129 kids and counting, according to the Donor Sibling Registry, a nonprofit that helps connect families with biological fathers and siblings."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day Gift Ideas

MSNBC's Willie Geist highlighted a few potential Father's Day gifts in this 5 minute clip below.  I didn't think that the first couple of minutes of this clip were all that funny.  But hold on for the SlobStopper. ("Bibs aren't just for babies!")  It's worth the wait.  Alternatively, you can just watch the 30 second SlobStopper TV commercial on You Tube HERE.

Friday, June 17, 2011

There Is No "We" In DUI

Drunk driving isn't funny, obviously.  But the eyebrow-raising allegations in a civil lawsuit filed in Maryland recently arising from a drunk driving accident, in which the plaintiff (a cab driver) is seeking a mere $75,000, have caught the attention of even the venerable Washington Post.  As you can read in more detail HERE, the allegations include:

"Paragraph 10. 'At the time of the collision, Defendant was going 85 miles per hour.'
Paragraph 12. 'At the time of the collision, Defendant was having sex with a female.'
Paragraph13. 'At the time of the collision, Defendant was driving admittedly drunk.'
Paragraph 14. 'At the time of the accident, Defendant was partially or totally in the backseat of the car.'

"Wait, WHA? 85 miles per hour? The backseat? And what happened to paragraph 11?"

Rock Stars, Then And Now

NBC has posted a slide show of 100 photos HERE, juxtaposing photographs of famous rock stars from the 1960s through the 1980s against images of what they look like now.  I was actually surprised (and maybe, if I'm honest, a little disappointed) by how well so many of them look today.

Famous Last Words of Dead Celebrities posted an article detailing the last words of 33 deceased celebrities. I didn't think the article lived up to the promise of its headline, however, because many of the 'last words' cited are from public appearances the day before their death, or something similar.  But a few of them I thought were notable, including:
  • Barry White:  "Leave me alone. I'm fine."
  • John Lennon: "Yes, I am" (while sitting in a police car on the way to the hospital, after officers asked him if he was John Lennon).
  • Joe DiMaggio: "I finally get to see Marilyn."
  • Winston Churchill: "I'm bored with it all."

Father's Day Only Made Official In 1972

I find the historical 'back story' of many of our national holidays fascinating.  I wrote last year HERE about the history of Mother's Day, which was first celebrated in 1908 in West Virginia.  As it turns out, the first Father's Day was also celebrated in West Virginia in 1908, just a couple of months later and a few towns away.    (That's not believed to be coincidental.) 

I thought it was also interesting that, while Woodrow Wilson made Mother's Day an official national holiday in 1914, Father's Day was not accorded the same status until 1972, when it was formally declared a national holiday by Richard Nixon.  Two earlier attempts to designate it a national holiday were apparently defeated by Congress. (What were the persuasive arguments against it back then, I wonder.)

On a related note, here's a 3-minute music video parody for Father's Day called "It's A Dad's Life" that I thought was pretty funny:

Fight At "Trader Joe's" Over Vegan Pad Thai

Had you heard the story about the two upper-class women who got into a fight at a "Trader Joe's" in New York City last year?  One is a doctor and the other a professional opera singer. The story caught my eye originally because it generated headlines suggesting that they were fighting over a box of 'Trader Joe's Frozen Vegan Pad Thai Dinner With Tofu.' As it turns out, that's a bit misleading.  The women ended up having an expletive-filled confrontation in the frozen food aisle of this Upper West Side grocery store because the husband of one thought that the son of the other was 'getting in his way.'  This led the two women to get in eachother's faces.  Ultimately, the opera singer slapped the doctor's face and the doctor had the singer arrested and charged with assault.

 A verdict was reached in the trial yesterday.  The opera singer was acquitted.  You can read more about it HERE in the New York Post. This article also has a photo of the doctor herself, Catherine London. Whenever I read news like this, my first thought is invariably that there must be more to the story.  What are the unreported details that contextualize it and make the whole thing seem more explicable and less crazy.

According to the New York Post, the doctor, Catherine London, is also the daughter of  fallen AIG mogul Hank Greenberg.

America's Spy War With China

Author David Wise was interviewed on MSNBC's Morning Joe today.  In the 5 minute clip below Wise discusses his new book about Chinese espionage against (and within) America. The book is called Tiger Trap: America's Secret Spy War with China. The most interesting part of this clip, I thought, was when Wise detailed how the FBI's #1 spy against China for almost 20 years, a Chinese-American woman from Los Angeles, became a double agent somewhere along the way and, among other things, end up having affairs with each of her two top FBI controllers simultaneously as well.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Is A Fork Really A "Deadly Weapon"?

Reading THIS story about a 44 year-old woman who was arrested yesterday in Indio, California for allegedly stabbing her boyfriend in the finger with a fork, I was surprised to read that she had been charged with "assault with a deadly weapon." 

A 'deadly weapon' is legally defined as a firearm or anything else that can be used to cause death or inflict serious physical injury.  Can a fork be used to kill?  (I don't think so.) And outside of poking a fork in someone's eye (literally), could a fork otherwise be used to inflict serious physical injury?  On someone's finger?

I also noted that this alleged fork attack occurred outside a convenience store, leaving me to wonder whether the fork was plastic, or even a 'spork.'

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CNN: Bill Maher Reads Anthony Weiner

Do you remember back in the mid-1990s when Bill O'Reilly and Bill Maher were populist, common sense centrists?  I liked them both back then.  The old Bill Maher is long gone, unfortunately.  But the first 1 minute of this clip from CNN, which itself is an excerpt from Bill Maher's HBO show in which he reads some of Anthony Weiner's 'sexts' verbatim, is very funny (even 'bleeped' for CNN).

Jon Stewart On CNN's Presidential Debate

Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart did this 3 minute segment critiquing CNN's coverage of the republican primary debate.

Is Weiner Cheapening "Rehab"?

There are so many things said in the first 3 minutes of this round-table discussion on MSNBC's Morning Joe today that I agree with.  The topic is whether the recent trend among celebrities like Anthony Weiner to seek safe harbor from public scandal in 'rehab' is cheapening the idea of 'rehab' in general.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

American Students Flunk Basic Questions

It seems like every year there's another story about how American students are under-performing and are unable to answer obvious questions.  (Remember that survey from 25 years ago where more American's could identify ET correctly from a photo than Vice President George Bush?)  And this 1 minute clip from the CBS Evening News last night is no exception.  Though it does have a surprising ending.

Exposing Fake SEALs

THIS article in today's Washington Post profiles the veterans' groups who investigate people claiming to have been Navy SEALs. There were several aspects of this story that I found intriguing. Here are a few selections:
  • "When news of bin Laden’s death broke, these investigators say, they were soon overwhelmed by reports of suspected SEAL phonies."
  • "The Defense Department has so far declined to make verifying war hero claims easier by centralizing records across the services. At the Washington Navy Yard, for example, the names of recipients of all Navy awards sit in boxes, recorded on 3-by-5 index cards."
  • "SEAL impostors are among the easiest to catch. With a few clicks, their names can be run through a comprehensive and regularly updated database of all men who trained and served with the Naval Special Warfare units, which include the SEALs and their precursor units, from the end of World War II to the present day."
  • "Robinson estimates there are only 7,000 living former SEALs and 2,200 on active duty. By his calculations, the odds of running into someone who has played in the NFL are better than the odds of meeting a current or former SEAL."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Wendy'sTo Sell Arby's

The headline this morning, "Wendy's To Sell Arby's" caught my attention. I had no idea that the "Arby's" chain of roast beef fast food restaurants was owned by "Wendy's."

They apparently merged less than 3 years ago, on September 29, 2008.  The merger created the 3rd largest fast food company in the United States, according to their press release at the time.  The President and CEO is quoted therein as saying, "I am delighted to announce the completion of this merger, which creates a world-class company with the strength, scale and expertise necessary to thrive in a competitive restaurant environment. As one company, we are well-positioned to deliver long-term value to our stockholders through enhanced operational efficiencies, improved product offerings, shared services and strong human capital."

He's still the company President today.  I wonder which specific parts of the above statement proved to be untrue.

THIS article from September 2009, may shed some light on why Arby's is being sold now.  It reads in part, "Arby’s also has changes that should pay off for the brand, Smith said. The chain is focusing on getting what it calls its 'medium Arby’s customer,' he said. During the recession, these customers have cut back on visits because Arby’s average ticket of $7.50 is high for fast food, Smith said."  I was shocked when I read that Arby's (of all places) is one of the most expensive fast food chains.

THIS Businessweek article from September 2010, terms the Wendy's-Arby's merger a disappointment that's been "unpalatable to investors."  A two sentence history of the company in this article caught my eye. "Founded in 1964, Arby’s carved out a niche with thinly sliced roast beef sandwiches and curly fries. It set itself apart from behemoths like McDonald’s by appealing to an older, higher-income, and better educated consumer." Really?  Can Arby's really be the fast food chain for higher-income, better educated people?  I always thought of it as a tired and uninspiring third choice of last resort.

How horrifying (on multiple levels) would it be to learn that you had been identified by their marketing department as a so-called "medium Arby's customer"?

The 4 Most Unhealthly Restaurant Appetizers

What I enjoyed most about this 4 minute clip from the Today show this morning wasn't the specific 'bad' appetizers they name (and shame).  They're all from restaurant chains I don't frequent, like Red Lobster. But I really liked when they juxtaposed nutritional equivalents right next to them.  (One 'bad' appetizer is the equivalent of 5 McDonald's cheeseburgers apparently, and another equal to 17 Krispy Kreme doughnuts.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Debbie Reynolds' Hollywood Memorabilia For Sale

What is Debbie Reynolds most famous for?  Her own movie stardom?  That Elizabeth Taylor famously broke up her marriage to Eddie Fisher?  That she is the mother of Carrie ("Princess Leia") Fisher?  The answer may depend on your age.

What few know is that Debbie Reynolds also owns one of the largest and most prestigious collections of Hollywood memorabilia in the world.  (Yes "owns": she's still alive.) According to the 3 minute segment below from the Today show,  it's all going up for auction now, however. In this clip Debbie Reynolds shows the reporter some of the amazing pieces she's acquired over the years. It really is astounding. 

I've actually seen her collection before.  Back in the mid-1990s it was housed for a few brief years at the "Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hotel & Casino" in Las Vegas.  That is, until 1997, when the casino was forced to declare bankruptcy and the building was sold to the World Wrestling Federation, who wanted to establish their own theme casino. (This goes unmentioned in the Today show segment, for whatever reason.)

I went there several times in 1996 and 1997.   I'm not a gambler.  So when I've found myself in Las Vegas over the years, I've made pilgrimages to almost every non-gambling attraction there.  Much like the Liberace Museum, which was located in this little strip mall well off the Las Vegas Strip, I was initially shocked that the interior of "The Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Hotel & Casino," housing this much-ballyhooed collection of movie memorabilia (including, ironically, several impressive pieces from Elizabeth Taylor's 1963 film Cleopatra), was, to put it bluntly, tired and shabby. It was surprising and a little off-putting to be walking around looking at all these elaborate pieces of Hollywood history, many of them famous and perhaps 'priceless,' all left relatively unguarded in this dimly lit (and largely empty) second rate casino.  You can watch a 5 minute clip of what it was like in 1996 HERE. If you watch the clip below from the Today show first, it's interesting to then view this clip from 1996 and see how these multi-million dollar pieces of memorabilia were displayed just 15 years ago in Las Vegas.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What Politicians Eat On The Campaign Trail

I enjoyed this 1 minute video, in which several CNN political correspondents detail the junk foods that various presidential candidates ate during their campaigns.  Not surprisingly, former President Bill Clinton features most prominently.  ("He'd eat anything.  Anything," says John King.)  Though the story about him in a Taco Bell revealed as much about President Clinton's intellect as his appetite, I thought.

Wanted Man On The Lam Gets Sex Change

Remember the simpler time in America when infamous wanted criminals merely got plastic surgery to change their appearance, in an attempt to hide from the authorities? Men like John Dillinger, who in May 1934 had plastic surgery performed on his face at the home of a mob-connected, Chicago-area bar owner while on the run from police. (It didn't work, incidentally. Less than two months later he was gunned down by authorities after leaving a movie theater.)

Perhaps inevitably, someone has finally taken this one step further. According to THIS story, a 42 year old Oklahoma man faked his own death and got a sex change try to to avoid his outstanding warrants. Interestingly, I couldn't find any news article about this story detailing what his warrants were for.

Leona Helmsley's Dog Has Died

You'd have to be a certain age to remember all the controversy sparked in the 1980s by Leona Helmsley, dubbed the so called "Queen of Mean." Even in death (in 2007) she sparked controversy by stipulating in her will that $12 million of her fortune be left to her dog. Her 'heiress' dog died earlier this week, prompting this interesting piece from Good Morning America examining how much of that money was spent on the dog over the last 4 years.

Creator of "Mad Libs" Has Died

Do you remember "Mad Libs"?  If you do, you may want to watch this obituary about their creator, who died recently, that aired on the NBC Nightly News last night. It includes a 2008 interview with him, where he explains how he stumbled on the original idea.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jon Stewart Referenced In Weiner's "Sexting"

Here's a 5 minute segment from The Daily Show last night. Jon Stewart reacts to the revelation that he and his show were apparently referenced repeatedly by Anthony Weiner and his secret Facebook friends during their 'sexting.'  Stewart also discusses the news that Anthony Weiner had called former President Bill Clinton to apologize to him personally. ("He called Him?!? What's he have to apologize to Bill Clinton for?  Copyright infringement?")

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Weiner's Facebook 'Friends' Interviewed

It was ABC News' pending on-camera interview last night with this 26 year-old Texas woman, Meagan Broussard, one of Anthony Weiner's surprising Facebook friends, and the photos of him that she provided to Andrew Breitbart and to ABC, that prompted the New York congressman to confess all at a press conference yesterday afternoon.

In this 4 minute clip from last night's program, the woman says that her online chat with Weiner became dirty within 3 days.  At one point, the interviewer, Andrew Cuomo, asks her how much of their interaction was sexual. "He would attempt all the time," she says. Do you think he's a bad guy, Cuomo then asks her. "I don't think he's a bad guy," she responds, matter of factly. "I just think he's got issues."

This morning the New York Post has published a much more explicit, R-rated article detailing Weiner's online chats with another woman, a 40 year old Las Vegas blackjack dealer named Rachel Weiss. You can read it HERE. This relationship allegedly began less than a month after his marriage last year. "[I'm] dying of boredom over here. Plus my tights really itch," is the least salacious thing Weiner is quoted as having said to her.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fake Moon Rock Bust In A Denny's

Did you see the news last week about the woman who was busted in California after an undercover investigator with NASA's Office of Inspector General agreed to purchase a purported Moon rock specimen from her for $1.7 million?

There were several aspects of THIS STORY that I found notable.  One is that NASA apparently has undercover agents.  A second is that, if you're trying to sell someone a fake Moon rock for $1.7 million, the scam would probably be more credible if you arrange to meet somewhere a little more upscale than a Denny's.  A third intriguing aspect of this story was the history of other "Moon rock busts" by NASA over the last 30 years included at the end of the article.  I was particularly intrigued by the 2002 heist of a 600 lb. office safe containing lunar samples by four students working at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"Throw The Book At Her"

After a string of teacher-student sex scandals in recent years, I guess authorities are now inclined to really "throw the book" at any new offenders. That was my first thought when I read THIS story about how 38 year old high school biology teacher Carrie Shafer was found in her parked car "with steamed windows" along with a 17-year old student, both "partially nude."

The phrase 'throw the book at her' came to mind when I read this sentence about what she was charged with initially. "At the time, Shafer was charged with engaging in an unlawful transaction with a minor and unauthorized parking in a handicapped zone."

Actually, That's Not In The Bible

I thought THIS article on today was interesting. Titled, "Actually, that's not in the Bible," it examines the reasons why people so often mistakenly attribute various quotes and 'pithy maxims' to the Bible, and why they so frequently go uncorrected by others when they do.  Here's a few interesting selections:

"The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches - all types of people  - quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say... But people rarely challenge them because biblical ignorance is so pervasive that it even reaches groups of people who should know better... 'Most people who profess a deep love of the Bible have never actually read the book,' says Rabbi Rami Shapiro, who once had to persuade a student in his Bible class at Middle Tennessee State University that the saying 'this dog won’t hunt' doesn’t appear in the Book of Proverbs... People may get verses wrong, but they also mangle plenty of well-known biblical stories as well. Two examples: The scripture never says a whale swallowed Jonah, the Old Testament prophet, nor did any New Testament passages say that three wise men visited baby Jesus, scholars say."

Bunny Mellon's 'Green' From Listerine

You may have heard in recent days that 100 year-old heiress Bunny Mellon was the source of  $725,000 in 'campaign donations' that John Edwards and his team allegedly used illegally to secret away Edwards' mistress and love child in the midst of his 2008 presidential run.  (Bunny reportedly gave the Edwards campaign a total of $6 million because she was, "horrified at the 'imperial rule' of Bush and Cheney.")

I thought it was interesting that, while (as her name implies) one source of her wealth is the Mellon Bank fortune, much of the money from her particular line of the family tree actually came from Listerine, of all things. When she was mentioned in the press in the years before this Edwards scandal she was repeatedly referred to (even by the New York Times) as "the Listerine heiress."  You can read more about the source of her family wealth in Forbes HERE. Here's the key sentence, "Her father Gerard Lambert was the one-time president of Gillette and made a fortune through his Warner-Lambert pharmaceutical company, inventors of the mouthwash Listerine."

Her 'real' name is Rachel Lambert Mellon.  'Bunny' is just her nickname. Vanity Fair magazine ran a profile of her colorful, full life last August, which you can read HERE.  It states in part, "Bunny was widely venerated as the epitome of good taste and the true queen of green, thanks to her prowess with gardens, both her own and those she designed for friends such as Hubert de Givenchy and the Kennedys, for whom she did, most notably, the White House Rose Garden."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

In Search Of... Chinese Explorers

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a History Channel special that you can watch HERE called, Who Really Discovered America? Over 2 hours it examined various claims that the Chinese, Vikings, Polynesians and others may have made landfall in North America centuries before Columbus. As it turns out, the 1970s TV show In Search Of... aired an episode in February 1981 called "In Search of....Chinese Explorers," examining the possibility that a Chinese monk had sailed to America in 570 AD, almost a thousand years before Columbus.  You can watch it HERE.

"About 1500 years ago a sudden cultural surge occurred in Central America which has mystified the world of archaeology for many years," explains narrator Leonard Nimoy. "Some believe this may have been brought about by contact with China... In China we filmed many serpent heads, only to find identical figures in Central America... The Mayans believed these serpents to be the representation of the man-god who brought them knowledge.  Is it possible that this contact with Chinese culture accounts for the Mayan's remarkable knowledge of astronomy?"  (I suppose that's a slightly less insulting possible explanation than attributing their cultural achievements to contact with space aliens.)

"Recent discoveries from the ocean floor may provide answers to some of these questions," Leonard Nimoy concludes. "Bob Meistrell and Wayne Baldwin have discovered what are believed to be Chinese stone anchors."  These are purportedly stone anchors from ancient Chinese ships dating to the 6th Century, the show posits.  In Search Of... then includes a brief interview with both divers wherein they explain how they found the stones in 1972 while diving for lobsters off Palos Verdes, California

As 2010's  Who Really Discovered America? makes clear, however, as it turns out, while these stones were in fact anchors from Chinese ships, they are from fishing vessels that crossed the Pacific in the 19th Century, not the 6th Century.

As an aside, I thought it interesting that Bob Meistrell had actually co-founded Body Glove in 1953, after he and his brother invented the first practical wetsuit.  I also thought it noteworthy that interviews with two different experts were featured extensively in this episode of In Search Of: one with a marine archaeologist named Larry Pierson and the other with a professor of history and archaeology from the University of San Diego named James Moriarty III.  It goes unmentioned, however, that in 1980, just months before this episode first aired in February 1981, the two had co-authored an article published in the Anthropological Journal of Canada arguing that these stone anchors were convincing evidence of this earlier arrival by the Chinese.  As an epilogue, Larry Pierson still lives and works in San Diego today.  Both he and Bob Meistrell were interviewed on camera again 30 years later for Who Really Discovered America? Though in this 2010 interview, Pierson has ditched his full beard and also makes no assertions about what century these Chinese stone anchors date to.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jon Stewart On Weiner's 'Investigation'

Last night on "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart did this biting 3 minute critique of Congressman Anthony Weiner's announced plans to conduct a third party 'investigation' into whether the offending photo is actually of his own groin.

Unabomber Auction Raises $190K

I wrote HERE a few weeks ago about an upcoming auction of the Unabomber's personal possessions. Well, that auction concluded yesterday and ended up raising $190,000, which will be distributed to his victims.

You can read more about the results of the auction HERE. But I thought the most interesting sentence was this one. "Kaczynski’s personal journals fetched $40,676; the iconic hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses depicted in police sketch artist renderings accounted for $20,025; and his handwritten 'manifesto' sold for $20,053. Other popular items included $22,003 for the Smith Corona typewriter used to write manifestos sent to newspapers and later seized from the cabin and $17,780 for his autobiography."

The relative amounts of these bids surprised me. I would not have expected the original, handwritten copy of his "Manifesto" to sell for less than  the typewriter he later used to type it.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Anthony Weiner's Playboy Past

This article, titled "Anthony Weiner's Payboy Past," details the 46 year-old Congressman's active social life as one of the most eligible bachelors in Washington, D.C. until he married last year. It begins with an incident two days after September 11, 2001, when Weiner allegedly tried to pick up a young congressional staffer in a Washington, D.C. bar and later sent her an e-mail inviting her to visit his office "in person."

Weiner's "Certitude"

I liked a line from a Washington Post article about this scandal that you can read HERE.  The article begins, "In a moment that will probably go down in the annals of how not to handle a crisis, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) insisted again on Wednesday that he was not the one who sent a suggestive photo from his Twitter account- but he told NBC News that 'I can’t say with certitude' whether the now-famous image is of his own crotch."

Here's the line from the article I really liked. "His answer ranks somewhere below 'no controlling legal authority' and above 'wide stance'” said Democratic crisis-management specialist Chris Lehane. Lehane was referring first to the infamous phrase that Vice President Al Gore used in 1997 to describe questionable fundraising activities, and then the one that then-Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) used in 2007 to explain how he came to be arrested for lewd conduct after tapping the foot of an undercover officer in a restroom stall in the Minneapolis airport."

(As an aside, I also noted with interest that in the above Larry Craig's party affiliation was specified, while Al Gore's was not.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Weiner Photo Scandal Raising Eyebrows

You may have already heard about how 'someone' sent a lewd photo to a female college student from the Twitter account of Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, a woman he had been following on Twitter for some time. When this came to light yesterday, Weiner claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked by his political enemies, and that he had not sent the photo.  But, as this report this morning from NBC News explains, "Weiner's refusal to answer basic questions about the incident has raised eyebrows on Capitol Hill."

This 3 minute clip also contains footage of an amazing exchange between Weiner and a group of reporters yesterday. He is asked, "Did you send it or not?"   To which Weiner responds, "If I were giving a speech to 45,000 people, and someone threw a pie..."  When he's then asked a follow-up question about why he hasn't asked police to investigate the matter, he again responds, "You know, if I were giving a speech to 45,000 people..."

When he's then asked why a married, 46-year old Congressman would be following a 20 year old college student on Twitter in the first place, Weiner responds, "I am not going to allow myself to be distracted by this issue..."