Current Events

My Score Card on the Oscars


By Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Oscars are over and now everyone is talking about who was the best and worst dressed and their opinions of the host, Seth MacFarlane.

Of the six major categories, I correctly predicted four. I missed on Supporting Actor and Director. I predicted Robert DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook would win for Supporting Actor and Steven Spielberg Best Director for Lincoln; however Christoph Waltz won Supporting Actor for Django Unchained and Ang Lee won Best Director for Life of Pi. I was not the only who did not foresee this as the Los Angeles Times ran a headline saying, “Oscars 2013: Ang Lee, Christoph Waltz among night’s surprises.”

I correctly predicted Argo would win Best Picture; Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Actor; Jennifer Lawrence, Best Actress; and Anne Hathaway Best Supporting Actress.

On a personal note, when I reviewed Argo last October I said then to expect a lot of award nominations to come out of this movie, including Best Picture. I think I should get extra credit for being ahead of the curve.

The only big controversy of this award season was that Ben Affleck was not nominated for Best Director for Argo, however the picture won a number of other awards including Best Picture which should make up for the snub. Also, some thought Kathryn Bigelow should have been nominated for Best Director but Zero Dark Thirty also won a number of awards including an Academy Award for Best Sound Directing and a Golden Globe for Jessica Chastain for Best Actress.

There has been a lot of buzz over the host, Seth MacFarlane, who was hired to appeal to the younger demographics. Some thought he went over the line and others thought he wasn’t edgy enough. But in the words of someone (I don’t remember who), “What do you expect when you hire the creator of Family Guy?” For those who don’t know, Family Guy is an off-color, irreverent, adult, cartoon show.

I am a little older than the targeted demographic and I don’t watch Family Guy; however, I thought he was laugh out loud funny in places. The show moved along at a snappy pace and he injected a little humor, song and dance to spice it up. Some thought he was crass, racist, and politically incorrect; but I say lighten up people and laugh. The producers wanted edgy and that is what they got. However, I do agree with the critics who criticized him for his jokes about women and sexual abuse. Abuse of any kind is not a laughing matter.

This show was ten times better than a few years ago when Anne Hathaway and James Franco hosted—again to appeal to the younger generation. Hathaway had to work overtime while Franco seemed to sleep-walk through the whole show. It was safe but not entertaining.

Now the award season is over and we can start a new score card anticipating next year’s movies and which will come out on top. Did any of you correctly predict all of the major categories?




Here come the Oscars



If you are a movie fan then this coming Sunday is the night of all nights, the super bowl of talent, the parade of fashion, the Academy Awards!

There were many good movies this year but unfortunately most of them came at the end of the year. Those nominated for best picture are: Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty.

Although any of the nominated movies are good enough to win, I think Argo will win the prize. I think the Academy voters will award Argo to make up for the snub by the Academy of not nominating Ben Affleck for best director. In addition it has already won many of the other awards leading up to the Oscars.

For Best Actor I think Daniel Day-Lewis will win for Lincoln.  He doesn’t just portray Lincoln, he is Lincoln.  He is one of the most remarkable actors of our time and his portrayal of Lincoln is a jewel in his crown of achievements.

Jennifer Lawrence of Silver Linings Playbook seems to have the edge in the Best Actress category but I think Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty also has a very good chance. Also, Quvenzhane Wallis in The Beasts of the Southern Wild is the youngest actress to be nominated. She was six when she did the role and is very mature for her young years. I don’t think she will win but the movie is worth seeing just to witness her performance. However, I think Jennifer Lawrence will win for her great on-screen chemistry with Bradley Cooper and for her funny, quirky, touching, and sad portrayal of a young widowed psychiatric patient. She captures a range of emotions.

In the Supporting Actor category it is a toss-up between five excellent actors. Alan Arkin is snappy and funny in Argo, Robert DeNiro is tough and a little touched in the head struggling with his OCD son in Silver Linings Playbook, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is fiery and dynamic in The Master. I think DeNiro will win for the sensitive and vulnerable side he shows in Silver Linings Playbook.

We also have four outstanding actresses vying for Best Supporting Actress. Amy Adams is a steadying force in The Master and Sally Field holds her own against Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln; however, I think Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables will walk away with the honors. She gives a heart-wrenching portrayal of Fantine, a single mother working hard to provide for her daughter.

For Best Director I think it is between: Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild) who coaxed amazing performances from two novices—a six year old girl and a baker; David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) who told a touching story about a taboo subject (mental illness) with dignity, pathos and humor; and Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) who managed to keep the audience intrigued with a subject that is not only controversial but also one that could be stuffy and academic and one which everyone already knows the outcome. My vote is for Spielberg because his attention to detail made the viewer feel as if he is sitting in Washington watching the events unfold in current time.


The Nominees Are:


Best Picture:
  • Amour,
  • Argo,
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild,
  • Django Unchained,
  •  Les Misérables,
  • Life of Pi,
  • Lincoln,
  • Silver Linings Playbook,
  • Zero Dark Thirty
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
  • Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
  • Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
  • Denzel Washington, Flight
Best Actress in a Leading Role:
  • Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
  • Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Best Director:
  • Michael Haneke, Amour
  • Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Ang Lee, Life of Pi
  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Steven Spielberg, Lincoln

Actor in a Supporting Role


Actress in a Supporting Role


Ferris Wheels and Romance

Do you know what today is? If you said Valentine’s Day you are only half right. It is also the birthday of the inventor of the Ferris wheel—George W. Ferris.

It is interesting that the two are intertwined because I’m sure many romances began or advanced while riding ‘round and ‘round the giant Ferris wheel. The couple sits side by side on the bench of the Ferris wheel and the male uses the occasion to scoot a little closer and casually drape his arm around the female’s shoulder to steady her and console her as the seat tips making its journey around the giant wheel. Passion ensues.

George Washington Ferris designed the giant wheel for the main attraction of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The Chicago promoters wanted something to outrival the Eiffel Tower of the 1889 Exposition. They wanted something “original, daring and unique.”  While Architect Daniel H. Burnham presented his search for the perfect project before an engineer’s banquet in 1891, Ferris sketched a design on a napkin during the dinner. When Ferris made his presentation before the design committee they feared the design was unsafe but when Ferris brought in testimony from well-respected engineers the committee approved the project.

The goal was to have a structure large enough to view the entire fair. Ferris claimed his Ferris wheel would “Out-Eiffel Eiffel.” And it was huge. The giant wheel was 250 ft. in diameter and 825 ft. in circumference. It was supported by two 140 ft. steel towers and run by two 1000 horsepower engines. Thirty-six cars held sixty riders each with a total capacity of 2,160. The ride made $726,805.50 on 50 cent tickets.

After the fair closed Ferris claimed the exhibition management had robbed him and his investors of their portion of the $750,000 profit. He spent the next two years in litigation.

Ferris died in 1896 at age 37 of typhoid fever. His ashes were unclaimed at a Pittsburgh crematorium due to non-payment until the engineering society stepped in to help.

To mark the dual occasion, Google Doodle is featuring a Ferris wheel love game which is like a roulette of animals—you never know what wild match you may find. I guess you could say that is the game of life.



Google Doodle Mashup Spins Together George Ferris and Valentine’s Day

George Ferris interactive Google Doodle [HQ – YouTube

GEORGE FERRIS’s DAY OFF: To play today, Google Doodle marks…/georgeferriss…/bcc8b37c-76c2-


What can we learn from the Newtown tragedy?


Eye with tears

What can I say about the Newtown tragedy that hasn’t already been said? The nation is shocked and stunned with the slaughter of innocent young children. We try to make sense out of this tragedy but can’t. We are left with many questions and those questions may never be answered—all those who might know the answers are dead.

Like the rest of you I have heard countless discussions of the tragedy and a few points stand out to me. The first is that these mass killings are becoming even more frequent and each one is more horrifying than the last. I heard a psychiatrist say that the killings have some similar threads—most are done by society misfits and there have been warning signs. He said this is their way of gaining recognition. Each must be shocking and worse than the ones before to gather that recognition.

Similar threads and contributing factors

He said there are several factors driving these killings. One is the constant coverage by the 24 hour news channels. The perpetrator knows he is guaranteed to receive the attention he craves—he will leave his mark on society. Another factor is the dehumanization of our society driven by violent movies, TV shows and video games.

How can we avoid future mass shootings? The most obvious is the debate over gun control. Even conservatives are beginning to say something needs to be done. Yes, we have the Second Amendment right to bear arms but I don’t think anyone has ever said they want to take away all our guns, despite the fears the gun lobbyists from the NRA have tried to create.

I grew up with guns and learned to shoot at an early age. I’m not sure how young I was but I know that before the age of 12 I was hunting and target practicing with a .22 rifle. It was a rite of passage when our father took us hunting for the first time and taught us to respect and shoot a gun.

I believe we should have the right to have weapons and to defend ourselves but do we need assault rifles with the capabilities of firing multiple rounds consecutively? Do we need something of that magnitude to kill a deer?

We need guidelines for the Second Amendment

We need a limitation of the Second Amendment. We also have the right of free speech but we do not have the right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre. We cannot incite a riot and cause panic in a public place. The more powerful weapons should be limited to the military and police and kept out of the hands of the ordinary citizen.

The president has started a national conversation of the assault weapon problem. Hopefully, legislation will result that will allow gun ownership but take the powerful weapons off the streets.

Secondly, if the people doing these mass shootings are crying for recognition, then we must find a way to deny them that attention. Once the shooter is identified then we should impose a blackout of referring to that person by name.

Are we dehumanized?

How do we solve the problem of dehumanizing society? If everyone refused to attend violent and gory movies, watch brutal TV shows and refused to buy vicious video games then the problem would solve itself. If there is no demand then it is not profitable to continue producing such material.

We need to look at the mental health system of this country. In some of the cases family members recognized there were problems but were not able to get the proper help and support before their loved one turned to drastic methods.

There are some islands of light beginning to show through this dark time. Some retailers are taking the assault weapons off the shelves. A teacher’s union refused to invest with a company that invests in guns. People across the country are offering their support to the Newtown community, including bringing in therapy dogs to help ease the tensions. Others have sent Christmas trees and fresh wreaths in honor of the victims.

Mr. Rogers said it best

A quote many in the media are turning to at this time of need is one from an old friend. Mr. Rogers was every kid’s friend and teacher and it is appropriate that we should turn to him for guidance during a time of tragedy involving so many children. Mr. Rogers said:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

Let us look past this horror and take a cue from the helpers in Newtown. Take time to hug someone, or sit down and listen to what a troubled child is trying to tell you, or give a stranger a smile. You never know how far that smile will go.

And, finally, let us join hands and pray we find a way to stop the insanity.

Buy local and have a happier holiday

Reprint from




It’s that time of year again to think about what you are giving to Aunt Jane, Sister Sue, Brother Bob, the neighbor who feeds your gold fish when you are away, the mail carrier, and anyone else who has passed through your life this year. Yes, the holiday season is here once again.

The malls and big box stores are gaudily decorated and have been competing for your attention and money since before November. Most people are so exhausted by the time the holidays are over they are more like Scrooge or the Grinch rather than the smiling faces on their Christmas cards. All of this can be eliminated by making one small change this season.

The pushing crowds and rude clerks can be avoided if you think of buying locally. By joining the “buy locally movement” you are not only eliminating some of the stress but at the same time you will be helping your community and neighbors prosper. Think about it—would you rather add to China’s coffers or help a Mom and Pop business thrive?

10 Reasons for buying locally this holiday season:

  1. Shopping locally creates jobs. Shops in our town create local employment and self-employment, this helps to boost the local economy.
  2. Local independent shops invest more in our communities. Local businesses proportionally are more generous in their support of local charities, schools, and community events.
  3. Local shops sell great products at affordable prices.
  4. Shopping locally saves time and money. You travel less saving on time and fuel.
  5. Shopping locally retains our communities. Local shops and services are able to stay in business.
  6. Shopping locally retains our distinctiveness. Local businesses respond more quickly to the needs of local customers, stocking products to meet changing population needs.
  7. Shopping locally saves the environment. Less travel and transportation of goods equals less pollution.
  8. Local shops are for everyone. Less travel makes it easier for the elderly and young people to get to the shops.
  9. Local shops value you more. Surveys show people receive better customer care and service locally because they survive by their reputation and repeat business.

10.Shopping local saves services. Private and public sector services cluster around shops. As shops disappear so do hairdressers, banks, restaurants and other businesses.

Now that you are convinced to shop locally here are some “outside-the-gift box” ideas:

  1. Gift certificates to a hair salon or barber shop
  2. Gym membership
  3. Gift certificate for car washes or car detailing
  4. Driveway sealing
  5. Lawn mowing for the summer
  6. Driveway plowing for the winter
  7. Games at the local golf course or miniature golf course
  8. Gift certificates for a local restaurant
  9. Breakfast at the local morning gathering spot
  10. Oil change for the car
  11. Services of a cleaning lady for a day
  12. Computer tune-up
  13. A piece of artwork from a local gallery
  14. Jewelry, pottery, etc. from craft shows
  15. Tickets to a play or ballet at your hometown theatre
  16. A night out to hear local bands

When you buy local you are supporting someone’s dream of independence and business ownership. The new “buy local movement” is a revolution of caring about each other and isn’t that what Christmas is about?



Buy local and buy American

—the job you save might be your own