Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

2010 Everywhere

It’s 2010– and a new decade around the world.  Here are a few photos of the New Year’s celebration from major cities worldwide.  Wherever you may have been at midnight on New Year’s Eve, Jankenpon hopes it was a festive and memorable start to 2010.

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Above:  New Year’s celebration in Paris.  Below: New Year’s celebration in Tokyo.

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Above:  New Year’s celebration in Beijing.  Below:  New Year’s celebration in Moscow.

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Photo Credits: The New York Times

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Decade from Hell

As the year draws to a close, it’s time to say goodbye to 2009 and to the 00’s, a decade that Time Magazine referred to as “The Decade from Hell,” in their cover story on November 24, 2009.

So what happened during the decade?  Here are a few reminders:

* 9/11;
* Hurricane Katrina, which left 1,500 dead and $100 billion in damages;
* Collapse of the USA housing bubble, which was fueled by lender greed and derivatives;
* Global economic meltdown;
* Terrorist attacks around the world, including the attacks in Mumbai;
* Great Sichuan Earthquake, which killed 70,000 people;
* Cyclone Nargis, which left 150,000 dead in Myanmar;
* Bernie Madoff

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To read the full article from Time.com, click here.

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Top 10 Words

Th Global Language Monitor has announced its annual “TOP 10 WORDS” which represent the words that have had the most impact and visibility during the year.

TOP 10 WORDS OF 2009

1.         Twitter — The ability to encapsulate human thought in 140 characters
2.         Obama — The word stem transforms into scores of new words like ObamaCare
3.         H1N1 — The formal (and politically correct) name for Swine Flu
4.         Stimulus — The $800 billion aid package meant to help mend the US economy
5.         Vampire — Vampires are very much en vogue, now the symbol of unrequited love
6.         2.0 — The 2.0 suffix is attached to the next generation of everything
7.         Deficit — Lessons from history are dire warnings here
8.         Hadron — Ephemeral particles subject to collision in the Large Hadron Collider
9.         Healthcare — The direction of which is the subject of intense debate in the US
10.        Transparency — Elusive goal for which many 21st-century governments are striving

The analysis was completed in late November 2009 using GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI), the proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the media and on the Internet, now including blogs and social media. The words are tracked in relation to frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets, factoring in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum and velocity.

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To go to the Global Language Monitor’s official website, click here.

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Saint Damien

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The people of Hawaii and Belgium are celebrating the canonization of St. Damien by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome today.  Father Damien de Veuster, a much-beloved and revered figure in Hawaiian history, was elevated to sainthood in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square, culminating a campaign for sainthood that began shortly after his death in 1889 and was formalized in 1955.

St. Damien gained worldwide recognition for his selfless efforts to help residents of Hawaii with Hansen’s disease who were forced to live in isolation on the remote and wind-swept Kalawao settlement on the Kalaupapa peninsula on the Island of Molokai.  From 1873 and until his death from complications from Hansen’s Disease in 1889, St. Damien worked to improve the living conditions and quality of life for individuals with Hansen’s Disease who were forcibly moved to Kalaupapa in an effort to contain the spread of the disease.

Today, St. Damien’s pioneering efforts are viewed as an example in terms of helping address and lift the social stigma associated with disease, including HIV/AIDS.

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To go to a previous post with additional details about the life and work of St. Damien, click here.

To read more about St. Damien, visit the official St. Damien of Molokai website from the Diocese of Honolulu, by clicking here.

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Blue Angels

San Francisco welcomes the Blue Angels, who will be performing in the skies above the City By the Bay on October 10 and October 11, 2009, as part of annual Fleet Week.  Welcome, Blue Angels!

NBC11, the Bay Area NBC affiliate, estimated that up to 1 million Bay Area residents would be watching the Blue Angels during their aerial demonstration over San Francisco skies this weekend.

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To learn more about the Blue Angels, go to the U.S. Navy’s official Blue Angels website, by clicking here.

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Bay Bridge Closing

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As most residents of the San Francisco Bay Area know, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (which opened in 1939) will be closed to all traffic during the Labor Day weekend in September 2009.  During the closure, a 300-foot long double-deck section of the East span will be cut away and permanently removed.  In its place, a new double-deck section (already completed and sitting adjacent to the span on Yerba Buena Island) will be moved into place to connect the existing bridge with a short detour.  Traffic will flow on the new half-mile detour connecting the East span to the Yerba Buena Tunnel until the new eastern section of the Bay Bridge opens.

This phase of the seismic retrofit effort for the Bay Bridge is reportedly the most complex and technically difficult.  The bridge closes at 8:00 PM, Pacific, today, 9/3/09 and will reopen by 5:00 AM, Pacific on Tuesday, 9/7/09.

An estimated 280,000 vehicles pass over the Bay Bridge each day.

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Above: Aerial view showing the temporary detour bridge and the “cutaway” section that is poised to replace a section of the existing East bridge connector over the Labor Day weekend.

To learn more about the estimated $7.0 billion Bay Bridge seismic retrofit effort and to watch videos showing the planned work this weekend, go to the official Bay Bridge Informatiob website by clicking here.

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Above:  An artist’s rendering of the proposed new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge, which is scheduled to open in 2013.

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Eunice Shriver

In memory of Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009)

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“She set out to change the world and to change us, and she did that and more.  She taught us by example and with passion what it means to live a faith-driven life of love and service to others.”

   — Statement from the Family of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, 8/11/09, following the announcement of her death

“When the full judgment of the Kennedy legacy is made — including J.F.K.’s Peace Corps and Alliance for Progress, Robert Kennedy’s passion for civil rights and Ted Kennedy’s efforts on health care, workplace reform and refugees — the changes wrought by Eunice Shriver may well be seen as the most consequential”

   — US News and World Report, 11/15/93

Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who passed away on 8/11/09, at 88,  left a lasting legacy through her lifelong and tireless efforts to remove the social stigma and improve the lives of people with developmental challenges.  Among her many accomplishments, Eunice Shriver founded the Special Olympics, which today attracts 3 million athletes in 180 countries.

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Wise Latinas Rule

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Congratulations to Wise Latina Sonia Sotomayor, who became the 111th Supreme Court justice on 8/8/09, taking an oath to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”  It’s a landmark day, particularly for Latino Americans and American women of color, and reason for all of us to celebrate. 

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Above: Sonia Sotomayor, left, takes the oath from Chief Justice John Roberts on 8/8/09 to become the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice and only the third woman in the court’s 220-year history,  Her mother, Celina Sotomayor, the woman to whom Sonia Sotomayor attributes much of her success and achievement, is holding the bible, while her brother, Juan Luis Sotomayor, stands at her side.   

Photo Credit: The Los Angeles Times

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There Goes the Sun

This century’s longest solar eclipse– lasting 6 minutes and 39 seconds– occurred today, July 22, 2009,  across Asia, moving north and east from India to Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China.  It is the longest such eclipse since July 11, 1991, when a total eclipse lasting 6 minutes, 53 seconds was visible from Hawaii to South America.  There will not be a longer eclipse than Wednesday’s until 2132.

Millions of people across the region were eagerly anticipating the event and planned to watch it or were superstitious and planning to avoid being outdoors at the time.  Regardless of one’s beliefs about the eclipse, it is surely an amazing sight.

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Above:  A view of the eclipse as seen in China.  Photo credit: The New York Times.

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Above:  Children viewing the solar eclipse in South Korea.  Below: Viewers of the eclipse in Ahmadabad, India.  Photo Credits: The Los Angeles Times.

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Graphic Credit: The Los Angeles Times

Here’s a two-minute video from The Wall Street Journal showing reactions to the solar eclipse.

Video Credit: The Wall Street Journal

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Farewell, Walter Cronkite

“And that’s the way it is.”

   — Walter Cronkite (1916-2009)

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Walter Cronkite, the legendary journalist who served as anchorman of the CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962-1981) and was often cited in opinion polls as “the most trusted man in America,” died today at the age of 92.

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Remembering Sichuan

A year has passed since the 8.0 magnitude earthquake, known as the Great Sichuan Earthquake, struck the Sichuan Province of China on May 12, 2008, killing an estimated 70,000 people, injuring an additional 375,000, and leaving over 4.8 million people homeless.   Approximately 7,000 school buildings in Sichuan Province collapsed as a result of the quake, due to sub-standard construction stemming from government corruption and graft.  Official government figures estimate the number of school-related deaths at 5,300, although parents strongly dispute that number and claim that the death toll among children is much higher.

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A year after the quake, the controversy continues as residents in Sichuan claim that the Chinese government has sealed off and cleared away the collapsed schools, removing evidence that could be used to pursue investigations regarding the sub-standard construction of the school buildings. 
The loss of so many young children is particularly heartbreaking, given China’s “one family, one child” policy.  In some cases, parents are either too old or otherwise unable to bear a child.


Photo Credits: MSNBC

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Rainbow Film Festival

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This month the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, in Memory of Adam Baran, celebrates its 20th anniversary with the screening of 33 feature- and short-length films at the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii’s premier art museum.  The festival runs from May 21-24 in Honolulu and from May 29-30 in Hilo and Kona, respectively, on the Island of Hawaii. 

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Academy-award winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (pictured above) will be the keynote speaker during Closing Night of the 20th-anniversary film festival on May 24.  Black, 34, won the 2009 award for Best Original Screenplay for “Milk,” the bio-pic based on the life of San Francisco activist and politician Harvey Milk, from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Screen Writers Guild of America.  The festival will feature a special screening of Milk, which was nominted for eight Academy Awards and won for Best Actor (Sean Penn) and Best Original Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black).

To purchase passes to the film festival, click here.  If you want to learn more about the Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival or to make a tax-deductible donation, go to their official website by clicking here.

Congratulations to Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival Executive Director (and dear friend of Jankenpon) Jeffrey Davis and Founder Jack Law, as well as the HGLCF, on the 20th anniversary of the film festival.

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To go to a previous post featuring Dustin Lance Black’s speech as he accepted the Oscar Award for his original screenplay of Milk at the 2009 Oscar Awards ceremony, click here.

Photo Credit:  Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival

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Remembering Nargis

A year has passed since Cyclone Nargis made landfall in Myanmar on 5/2/08, causing catastrophic destruction and nearly 150,000 fatalities, with thousands missing, and over 800,00 people displaced.  Damage was estimated at over US$10 billion, which made it the most damaging cyclone ever recorded in the North Indian Ocean Basin.

Today, tens of thousands of people across the Irrawaddy Delta in Myanmar are still homeless and struggling.   Forty-percent of the homeless are children.

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To make a contribution to UNICEF and to support their efforts to provide humanitarian aid to the victims of Cyclone Nargis, visit their official website by clicking here.

To go to a previous post on Cyclone Nargis (from 5/13/08), click here.

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London’s Slowing Down

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London is slowing down.  Well, at least that’s the hope of the sponsors of the novel “Slow Down London” campaign which is encouraging Londoners to relax, turn off their connected devices, and enjoy life more slowly.  The campaign, which officially runs from April 24 to May 4 features a variety of events across London, including:

*  A slow group stroll across Waterloo Bridge, the campaign’s official kickoff event;
*  Lunch-time yoga events;
*  Slow walking programs across London;
*  Craft lessons; and more.

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Here’s an excerpt from the Slown Down London website regarding the purpose of the campaign:

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To learn more about the Slown Down London campaign, go to their official website by clicking here.

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AIDS Lifecycle 8

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AIDS Lifecycle 8, the fund-raising bicycle ride covering 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles, is being held May 31 to June 6, 2009.  

According to the official AIDS Lifecycle website, the annual ride:

… is the official cycling event of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center;

… is about HIV/AIDS and raising money to help the beneficiaries continue to provide the critical services and education needed to meet the growing needs of our community;

… increases awareness and knowledge about HIV/AIDS among participants, their donors and the general public;

… addresses the widespread misperception that HIV and AIDS are no longer a problem — in fact more people are living with HIV & AIDS today than ever before, which means a much greater need for services;

 

… provides a reminder that the rate of HIV infection is increasing, particularly in communities of color and in individuals under the age of 25. In California alone there are 60,000 people living with AIDS, and another estimated 91,000 living with HIV, many unaware of their infection;

… requires each cyclist to raise a minimum of $3,000. Each cyclist is assigned to a personal Cyclist Representative for assistance with training, fundraising and emotional and practical support from the moment they register through the event’s completion.

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To make a donation to AIDS Lifecycle 8 and/or to support a specific rider in this year’s event, go to the official AIDS Lifecycle 8 website by clicking here.

If you don’t have a specific friend, family member or colleague who is participating in the AIDS Lifecycle 8 this year, please consider supporting Bart McDermott of San Francisco, CA, by making a contribution that will help him get closer to (or surpass) his goal.   To visit Bart’s homepage within the AIDS Lifecycle 8 website and to make a contribution online, click here.  Any contribution helps and will be much appreciated.

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Earth Hour at 8:30 PM

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Today an estimated 1 billion people worldwide are expected to observe Earth Hour by turning off their lights for one hour at 8:30 PM local time.   Earth Hour begain in Sydney, Australia in 2007, under the sponsorship of the World Wildlife Fund, to raise awareness about global climate change.  In its first year, an estimated 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour.  In 2008, the message turned into a broader movement around global sustainability, with over 50 million people participating in the one-hour event, held at 8:30 PM, local time.  Global monuments such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Colosseum in Rome and the Sydney Opera House all stood in darkness.

This year, an estimated 2,100 cities in 82 countries will join in the symbolic event. 

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To learn more about Earth Hour, visit the official website by clickin here.

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Happy Birthday, WWW

Happy Birthday to the World Wide Web, which celebrated its 20th anniversary on 3/12/09.   Twenty years ago, Tim Berners-Lee, an independent contractor for the European Organization for Nuclear Research, pitched his employers an innovative idea on how to share the lab’s research on an open computer network.  That idea is now credited as being, essentially, the basic underlying blueprint for what we know as the World Wide Web. 

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The Day The Music Died

 

This month, Virgin Megastores announced the closure of three of its six remaining stores in the USA, including the iconic store at Times Square in New York City, the Union Square location in New York City and the Market Street store in San Francisco.  The fate of its remaining three stores in Denver, Los Angeles and Orlando is unknown, but the signs are definitely not good. 

I know I’ll particularly miss the huge, three-level store at Times Square, where it was possible to roam the music (and DVD) aisles for hours.  According to reports published this week, the prime Virgin Megastore space on Times Square will be occupied by Century 21, the discount designer and major-brand fashion retailer.

In 2006, Sacramento, CA-based Tower Records shut its 89 USA stores in a final, sad liquidation sale that ended the chain’s colorful 46-year history.

What’s left?  Well, of course, there’s iTunes, Amazon downloads, and online music sharing.  But in order to roam the (physical) aisles and browse music CD covers, we’ve now got Borders Books, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, and (yikes!) Walmart, as well as the few, heroic remaining neighborhood independent music shopkeepers, who are probably counting down their final days right now. 

And where do we go for comprehensive selections of independent, international, and niche music that was available from Virgin Megastores?  I don’t think you’ll find it shopping at Walmart.

It’s sad.  Music retailing has been dying for a while now.  And so today is just the latest day the music died.

UPDATE: 3/4/09.

The Los Angeles Times published an article today confirming that the three remaining Virgin Megastores in Denver, Los Angeles and Atlanta will close by Summer 2009.

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Today’s Quote

 ”Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

   –President Barack Obama, in his Inauguration Speech, 1/20/09

To go to previous entries in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

Photo Credit: Christopher Morris, Time Magazine

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Welcoming 2009

Revelers around the world celebrated the arrival of the New Year with public displays of fireworks and lights.  Here are some of my favorite images from different cities as they welcome 2009.

FROM VIENNA, AUSTRIA…

FROM KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA…

FROM JAKARTA, INDONESIA…

FROM HONG KONG…

FROM RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL…

Photo Credits: The Los Angeles Times, except Rio de Janeiro, Credit: The New York Times

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Remembering 12/26/04

December 26, 2004.  It’s been four years since an undersea earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered the Great South Asia Tsunami, which killed over 225,000 and displaced nearly 1.7 million people in 11 countries.  The quake, which measured between 9.1 and 9.3, was the second largest quake ever recorded on a seismograph.

In spite of the unprecendented humanitarian response following the tsunami, many areas that were destroyed by the massive tsunami still have not recovered and tens of thousands of people are still homeless.

Above: A vigil being held on 12/26/08 on the beach in Phuket, Thailand, to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Great South Asia Tsunami and to remember the lives of those who were lost four years ago.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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2008 Farewells

In 2008, we lost many well-known individuals, including the following:

January 15 - Brad Renfro, actor (Mark Shay in “The Client”) age 25
January 17 - Bobby Fischer, world class chess champion, age 64
January 18 - Lois Nettleton, actor (Evelyn in “Crossing Jordan”) age 80
January 19 - Suzanne Pleshette, actress (”Bob Newhart Show” and “Rome Adventure”), age 70
January 22 - Heath Ledger, actor (”Brokeback Mountain” and “The Dark Knight”), age 28
January 26 - Christian Brando, son of actor Marlon Brando, age 49
February 1 - Shell Kepler, actress (Amy Vining on “General Hospital” ) age 49
February 2 - Barry Morse, actor (Lt. Philip Gerard on “The Fugitive”) age 89
February 5 - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, taught transcendentalist meditation to the Beatles, age 96
February 10 - Roy Scheider, actor (Police Chief Brodie in “Jaws”) age 75
February 13 - David Groh, actor (Rhoda’s husband, Joe, on “Rhoda”) age 68
February 27 - William F. Buckley, author and conservative commentator, age 82
March 18 - Arthur C. Clarke, writer (”2001: A Space Odyssey”) age 90
March 19 - Paul Scofield, actor (”A Man for All Seasons”) age 86
March 24 - Richard Widmark, actor (”How the West Was Won,” “Madigan” ) age 93
April 5 - Charlton Heston, actor (Moses in “The Ten Commandments”) age 84
May 5- Jerry Wallace,1950’s musician (1950’s country singer) age 79
May 26- Sydney Pollack, Academy Award winning director, actor and producer (”Out of Africa”) age 73

May 29- Harvey Korman, actor (best known for his role on the Carol Burnett Show) age 81
June 1- Yves Saint Lauren, fashion designer, age 71
June 2- Bo Diddley, musician (one of the founding fathers of “Rock & Roll”) age 79
June 7- Jim McKay,sportscaster (anchored ABC Wide World of Sports)
June 13 - Tim Russert, political journalist and host of NBC’s “Meet the Press”
June 22 - George Carlin, Comedian (best known for his use of off color language) age 71
July 4 - Sen. Jesse Helms, (5 term Senator from N Carolina and outspoken conserative) age 86
July 22- Estelle Getty, actress (best known for her role on The Golden Girls) age 85
August 9 - Bernie Mac, comedian (starred in his own sitcom titled The Bernie Mac Show) age 50
August 10- Isaac Hayes, musician (famous for writing the musical theme to Shaft) age 65
September 26- Paul Newman, Academy Award winning actor, race car driver, philanthropist (starred in 50 films best known for “Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid” and “The Color of Money”) age 83
October 17- Levi Stubbs,Singer (front man for the Four Tops) age 72
October 19- Richard Blackwell, fashion critic (best known for his “Ten Worst Dressed Women” yearly list) age 86
October 24- Merl Saunders, musician/keyboardist (played with The Grateful Dead) age 74
November 4-  John Michael Chichton, author (best known for his best-selling book, “Jurassic Park”) age 66
December 1 - Paul Benedict, actor (best known as the quirky neighbor on the Jeffersons), age 70
December 7- Dennis Yost, singer/musician (best known as lead singer with the Classics IV), age 65
December 12- Van Johnson, actor and dancer, age 92
December 16- Samuel “Sam” Bottoms, actor and producer (best known as Lance Johnson in “Apocalypse Now”), age 53
December 18- Mark Felt, retired Associated Director, FBI (best known as “Deep Throat” in the Watergate scandal), age 95
December 24- Harold Pinter, Pulitzer-prize winnning writer, director and actor (best known as the writer of “Betrayal”), age 78
December 25-  Eartha Kitt, singer and entertainer (best known as “Cat Woman” in the TV series “Batman”)
December 27-  Robert Mulligan, film director (best known as director of the film, “To Kill a Mockingbird”), age 83

      

Above (left to right): Sydney Pollack, Tim Russert, George Carlin, and Paul Newman

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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all!  Have a peaceful holiday.

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Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah to all!

Credit: Wondercliparts.com

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Welcome, Winter

  

Winter Solstice occurs today, December 21, at 4:40 AM, PST.  The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, as well as the official start of Winter.  The sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice. Hence the origin of the word solstice, which comes from Latin solstitium, from sol, “sun” and -stitium, “a stoppage.”  Following the winter solstice, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter.

For those of you who are missing the long days of summer, the good news is that each day will now get a bit longer. 

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NY Times Top 10 Books

Earlier this week, the New York Times published its TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2008, which were selected by the editors of the Book Review from the list of 100 Notable Books of 2008.

NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2008

FICTION

DANGEROUS LAUGHTER
Thirteen Stories
By Steven Millhauser.
Alfred A. Knopf, $24.

In his first collection in five years, a master fabulist in the tradition of Poe and Nabo­kov invents spookily plausible parallel universes in which the deepest human emotions and yearnings are transformed into their monstrous opposites. Millhauser is especially attuned to the purgatory of adolescence. In the title story, teenagers attend sinister “laugh parties”; in another, a mysteriously afflicted girl hides in the darkness of her attic bedroom. Time and again these parables revive the possibility that “under this world there is another, waiting to be born.” (Excerpt)

A MERCY
By Toni Morrison.
Alfred A. Knopf, $23.95.

The fate of a slave child abandoned by her mother animates this allusive novel — part Faulknerian puzzle, part dream-song — about orphaned women who form an eccentric household in late-17th-century America. Morrison’s farmers and rum traders, masters and slaves, indentured whites and captive Native Americans live side by side, often in violent conflict, in a lawless, ripe American Eden that is both a haven and a prison — an emerging nation whose identity is rooted equally in Old World superstitions and New World appetites and fears.

NETHERLAND
By Joseph O’Neill.
Pantheon Books, $23.95.

O’Neill’s seductive ode to New York — a city that even in bad times stubbornly clings to its belief “in its salvific worth” — is narrated by a Dutch financier whose privileged Manhattan existence is upended by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. When his wife departs for London with their small son, he stays behind, finding camaraderie in the unexpectedly buoyant world of immigrant cricket players, most of them West Indians and South Asians, including an entrepreneur with Gatsby-size aspirations.

2666
By Roberto Bolaño. Translated by Natasha Wimmer.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, cloth and paper, $30.

Bolaño, the prodigious Chilean writer who died at age 50 in 2003, has posthumously risen, like a figure in one of his own splendid creations, to the summit of modern fiction. This latest work, first published in Spanish in 2004, is a mega- and meta-detective novel with strong hints of apocalyptic foreboding. It contains five separate narratives, each pursuing a different story with a cast of beguiling characters — European literary scholars, an African-American journalist and more — whose lives converge in a Mexican border town where hundreds of young women have been brutally murdered.

UNACCUSTOMED EARTH
By Jhumpa Lahiri.
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.

There is much cultural news in these precisely observed studies of modern-day Bengali-Americans — many of them Ivy-league strivers ensconced in prosperous suburbs who can’t quite overcome the tug of traditions nurtured in Calcutta. With quiet artistry and tender sympathy, Lahiri creates an impressive range of vivid characters — young and old, male and female, self-knowing and self-deluding — in engrossing stories that replenish the classic themes of domestic realism: loneliness, estrangement and family discord.

NONFICTION

THE DARK SIDE
The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
By Jane Mayer.
Doubleday, $27.50.

Mayer’s meticulously reported descent into the depths of President Bush’s anti­terrorist policies peels away the layers of legal and bureaucratic maneuvering that gave us Guantánamo Bay, “extraordinary rendition,” “enhanced” interrogation methods, “black sites,” warrantless domestic surveillance and all the rest. But Mayer also describes the efforts ofunsung heroes, tucked deep inside the administration, who risked their careers in the struggle to balance the rule of law against the need to meet a threat unlike any other in the nation’s history.

THE FOREVER WAR
By Dexter Filkins.
Alfred A. Knopf, $25.

The New York Times correspondent, whose tours of duty have taken him from Afghanistan in 1998 to Iraq during the American intervention, captures a decade of armed struggle in harrowingly detailed vignettes. Whether interviewing jihadists in Kabul, accompanying marines on risky patrols in Falluja or visiting grieving families in Baghdad, Filkins makes us see, with almost hallucinogenic immediacy, the true human meaning and consequences of the “war on terror.”

NOTHING TO BE FRIGHTENED OF
By Julian Barnes.
Alfred A. Knopf, $24.95.

This absorbing memoir traces Barnes’s progress from atheism (at age 20) to agnosticism (at 60) and examines the problem of religion not by rehashing the familiar quarrel between science and mystery, but rather by weighing the timeless questions of mortality and aging. Barnes distills his own experiences — and those of his parents and brother — in polished and wise sentences that recall the writing of Montaigne, Flaubert and the other French masters he includes in his discussion.

THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING
Death and the American Civil War
By Drew Gilpin Faust.
Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95.

In this powerful book, Faust, the president of Harvard, explores the legacy, or legacies, of the “harvest of death” sown and reaped by the Civil War. In the space of four years, 620,000 Americans died in uniform, roughly the same number as those lost in all the nation’s combined wars from the Revolution through Korea. This doesn’t include the thousands of civilians killed in epidemics, guerrilla raids and draft riots. The collective trauma created “a newly centralized nation-state,” Faust writes, but it also established “sacrifice and its memorialization as the ground on which North and South would ultimately reunite.”

THE WORLD IS WHAT IT IS
The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul
By Patrick French.
Alfred A. Knopf, $30.

The most surprising word in this biography is “authorized.” Naipaul, the greatest of all postcolonial authors, cooperated fully with French, opening up a huge cache of private letters and diaries and supplementing the revelations they disclosed with remarkably candid interviews. It was a brave, and wise, decision. French, a first-rate biographer, has a novelist’s command of story and character, and he patiently connects his subject’s brilliant oeuvre with the disturbing facts of an unruly life.

Source: The New York Times

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2008 Top 10 Words

“Change” is the Top Word of 2008 according to the annual global survey of the English language by Global Language Monitor.  Meanwhile, the estimated number of words in the English language has increased to 998,751, just 1,249 from the million-word mark.

 

According to Paul JJ Payack, President of The Global Language Monitor, “Global English has been driven by three notable events during the course of 2008: The US Presidential Election, the Financial Tsunami, and the Beijing Olympics.”  He added, “For 2008 our words were culled from throughout the English-speaking world which now numbers some 1.58 billion speakers and includes such diverse cultures as India, China, Philippines, and the EuroZone.”

 

The analysis was completed using GLM’s Predictive Quantities Indicator (PQI), a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in the media and on the Internet. The words are tracked in relation to frequency, contextual usage and appearance in global media outlets, factoring in long-term trends, short-term changes, momentum and velocity.

 

TOP 10 WORDS OF 2008

 

1.  Change – The top political buzzword of the 2008 US Presidential campaign.
2.  B
ailout – Would have been higher but was not in the media until Mid-September.
3.  O
bamamania – Describing the worldwide reaction to Barack Obama’s campaign and subsequent victory in the US presidential race.
4. 
Greenwashing – Repositioning a product to stress its Earth-friendly attributes.
5. 
Surge – Military and political strategy often cited as reducing violence in Iraq.
6. 
Derivative – Exotic financial instruments used to cleverly package junk-grade debt.
7. 
Subprime – Mortgages that were packaged as derivatives.
8. 
Foreclosure – The end-result of the sub-prime mess.
9. 
Phelpsian:  New word coined to describe the Phelpsian Pheat of winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.
10. 
Chinglish – The often amusing Chinese/English language hybrid that Beijing tried to stamp out before the Olympics began.

 

Source: Global Language Monitor

 

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Top 10 Irritating Phrases

Researchers at University of Oxford have announced their list of TEN MOST IRRITATING WORDS AND PHRASES FOR 2008.  According to Jeremy Butterfield, lexicographer and author of Oxford A to Z of English Usage, the ten words and phrases were identified based on results from the Oxford University Corpus, an extensive and dynamic database that compiles texts—both written and spoken—in electronic form. Containing over 200 billion words of 21st century English, the Oxford University Corpus provides evidence of actual and contextual language usage worldwide. The database documents various forms of the English language ranging from literary novels, specialist journals, magazines and newspapers to blogs, chatrooms and emails.

The database alerts them to new words and phrases and can tell them which expressions are disappearing. It also shows how words are being misused.

In an interview, Butterfield said “We grow tired of anything that is repeated too often – an anecdote, a joke, a mannerism – and the same seems to happen with some language.”

TOP 10 MOST IRRITATING WORDS AND PHRASES FOR 2008

1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It’s a nightmare
8 - Shouldn’t of
9 - 24/7
10 - It’s not rocket science

 

What do you consider the most irritating word or phrase for 2008?

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Today’s Quote

“Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

   –Mahatma Gandhi

In memory of the 163 people who lost their lives in the tragic terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India this week.

To go to previous entries in the “Today’s Quote” series, click here.

Photo Credit: Arko Datta/Reuters

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Happy Days

Happy days are here again. 

In celebration of Senator Barack Obama’s stunning, history-making victory in his bid to become the 44th President of the United States, here’s a video of one of Barbra Streisand’s early live performances of “Happy Days are Here Again,” written by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen, which is best remembered as the campaign song for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s successful 1932 Presidential campaign.  [This song appears on my list of Top 10 Favorite Songs.  Click here to see the full list.]

And, here are some of the jubilant faces of Obama supporters in New York City and Chicago following the announcement of the November 4th election results and the decisive win by Senator Baack Obama.

Photo credits: The Wall Street Journal

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