Monday, November 16, 2009

Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, and Gordon Willis get first Oscars of season

The first Governor's Awards were given Saturday night, kicking off the film awards season and marking the first time the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave out honorary Oscars at a ceremony separate from The Academy Awards. Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, and Gordon Willis were honored. Let's take a video look at their work, staring with the legendary Lauren Bacall.

Lauren Bacall

Lauren Becall was introduced by Angelica Huston, who said "Lauren Becall once said 'Stardom isn't a career; it's an accident", then observed that for Becall, celebrity was no accident.

Becall took the stage to a massive ovation and looking at her Oscar said "I can't believe it. A man, at last."

Lauren Bacall is known for being statuesque, confident, and damn sexy. With a voice that could melt you as much as it commands your attention, Becall went on to star in the classic film The Big Sleep, and was best known for her relationship with Humprey Bogart. But to many Ms. Becall was associated with a then-new cigarette-cool class and style that was the hallmark of the post war feminine image.

Here's Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep:

Roger Corman

Roger Corman was introduced by one of my favorite filmmakers Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) , said that Corman had a "mind-bloggling ability to create successful films under impossibly tight schedules and budgets."

Roger Corman is known as the "King of the B-Movie Makers." Some of Mr. Corman's films have come to define American Culture, particularly the bombastic yet creepy sci-fi / horror movie introductions of the day, like this one from Corman's It Conquered the World (1957):

Gordon Willis

Gordon Willis was introduced by actor Jeff Bridges, who remarked that Willis was being feted for his "unsurpassed mastery of light, shadow, color, and motion."

Willis said that he was fortunate that he was able to do "pretty much what I wanted to do" in his career.

Cinematographer Gordon Willis is best known for my personal all time favorite film, The Godfather, which I've seen 44 times now. Here's the final scene from part one of Francis Ford Coppola's modern epic:

In all the awards show was a success, even with the occasional flubbing of the introductory lines that one would not seen in an Oscar telecast. But then, this wasn't on television. The Governor's Awards had the feeling of a party at an exclusive club, but considering the legends in the room, that was the best way to do it.

Chabot Community College in trouble with Alameda County Taxpayers' Association over Calpine plant

The whole Calpine Hayward Energy Plant story just got more interesting for me when I happened on a "Letter to The Editor" presented on the Oakland Tribune website and dated November 6th:

Inappropriate spending

FOR THE past 10 or more years, the Alameda County Taxpayers' Association has worked to shine a light on wasteful spending by public agencies.

We are deeply concerned about spending practices at Chabot Community College.

Deep budget deficits have forced Chabot to lay off faculty and staff, cut programs and increase student fees.

At the same time, Chabot has been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to oppose a project that has no connection to the institution's educational mission.

It has hired a team of high-priced lawyers and consultants to comment on the construction of a new power plant in Hayward — a project that environmental regulators have determined has no impact to the health of the community.

In addition to having the first-of-its-kind limit on the emission of greenhouse gases, the project Chabot is trying to stop will create 650 jobs and generate $30 million in new taxes at a time when our public institutions are struggling to provide basic services.

The association believes it is irresponsible for public officials to spend taxpayer dollars in this manner, and they must be held accountable for their spending practices.

To determine how much Chabot has spent on this effort, the association has submitted a Public Records Act request.

Arthur B. Geen


But who's Arthur B. Geen?

Mr. Geen is Executive Vice President of the Alameda County Taxpayers Association, so he's in a position to know what's going on, even though he didn't use the word "I" or "we" in his letter. But that aside, the question of why Chabot may be using taxpayer dollars to fight a new plant that's over a mile away from it is a question. But what's the problem? A brief recap.

Calpine is a Texas-based energy producer which specializes in the development of clean energy plants. In fact, it's website goes so far as to make the bold claim that...

Calpine has the most environmentally friendly power plant fleet in the world. All of its plants are either fueled by clean natural gas or renewable geothermal steam. Calpine has the largest, cleanest, most fuel-efficient fleet of gas-fired power plants in North America. In fact, the company's projects frequently exceed compliance standards for environmental and public health protections, going beyond the legal requirements, and notable environmental, health and consumer groups have applauded Calpine.

For about eight years, Calpine has worked to obtain approval for the construction of a 600-megawatt "Russell City Energy Center" complex in Hayward, California, which if built would be America's first one designed to adhere to the National Greenhouse Gas Limit.

To that end, Calpine partnered with General Electric and is now at a point where the Bay Area Air Quality Management District held a public hearing to obtain community comments on the plant proposal.

Even with such a statement as on their website, and frankly some pretty determined efforts to make do on their clean energy objectives with respect to the Hayward plant proposal, some in Hayward aren't convinced. That was much was obvious at the BAAQMD meeting:

But it seems opposition to the plant has taken an unfortunate turn. If the Alameda County Taxpayer's Letter printed in the Oakland Tribune is to be understood, Chabot Community College is taking unusual steps to block the plants construction.

While Chabot is claiming to be in a budget crisis, Geen is concerned that taxpayer dollars it should be using to help maintain student-related programs are going, in part, to a legal battle against a plant who's impact on the facility may not warrant such spending.

Moreover, what does not make sense to me is why Chabot would alledegly spend tax dollars to block a project that helps make tax revenue for it? That's a real head shrinker to me. An online petition gained only 94 signatures of Chabot students and staffers, so if there's not an overwhelming opposition to the plant, why all the expenditures by the college? 

It's just the proximity.  Even at just over a mile, the idea of a plant just doesn't sit well with some of the Hayward folks.  I don't think it's an issue of not being able to be convinced eventually, but given the urban setting it's a hard task. 

Still, I'm not understanding the whole tax dollar use - if it's true.  If it is, the next question is how much and what in student services is being given up to do this. 

Will Chabot reps have an answer for me?

Stay tuned.

Sarah Palin not "buzzing" in Internet search trends

Ok, it's 4:12 PST and the long awaited interview between Sarah Palin and Oprah is on - and I'm missing it. I'm working online but had to click over and check Google Trends, expecting to find "sarah palin" among the top 10 search trends, but not. It's not there, and there's no derivative keyword term in the top 20 or 30 results.

Gov. Sarah Palin

It's not until number 39 that we see "oprah sarah palin interview" as a trend, and even then it's not a search trend that's "On Fire" or "Volcanic". Nah. It's just "Spicy". Moreover, its near the bottom of the list of 40 results, which means that since "sarah palin" hasn't been hot all day long, this term's going to drop from the list soon.

Why is it not a really hot search? Well, I think we're seeing a saturation of news and views on Sarah Palin. And while she's a top Yahoo Buzz search trend, that's for a longer period than just today and reflects the still respectable but not incredible level of interest in her. But Yahoo only controls at best 20 percent of the search market,

But there's interest in the interview. Oprah's instincts were correct. America's love of public displays of conflict and controversy created the desire to see Oprah and Sarah Palin together. It's no wonder Oprah, but not "Sarah Palin" or even "palin" is a top trend on Twitter. It's the interview more than Palin herself.

From a trend standpoint, this buzz surrounding her book Going Rogue will last for another month, then poof, gone. Without Sarah as Governor of Alaska there's nothing else to hang on to except the occasional blasts courtesy of newly minted porn start Levi Johnston.

A good source of evidence to support my claim is called "Google Insights for Search" (GIS) which is excelent at revealing long term keyword search trends. At GIS, a strongly searched or term is over 50. Sarah Palin didn't top that until last Thursday November 12th, peaked on Friday at almost 100 and then fell to just over 70 on Sunday.

If one drills down more, the two top terms containing "Sarah Palin" or "Palin" are some combination of sarah palin and oprah. In other words, again, it's not Sarah Palin herself, but the interview with Oprah fueling search trends.

All of this should give Sarah Palin supporters cause to question her real level of popularity as well as if it can translate into a Presidential run. I don't think she's as popular as some contend and I hold that her overall buzz-factor is weak on its own.

The best future course for Sarah Palin is as a talk show host but her future as a politician is just not there. A future Rush Limbaugh? For some reason I don't see that formula working in her favor. She has the capacity to build her own audience with its own unique flavor. It's just not going to translate into votes for the White House.

President Obama's bow: Fox News' silly attack on Obama

Fox News. I'm not surprised the latest mainstream media attack on President Obama's bow to the Emperor of Japan comes from Fox News, and equally I'm not shocked to see the captions "Take a Bow" and "Sign of Subservience" used in their telecast. Further, I'm not at all taken aback to see the Fox and Friends female host wearing a real short skirt and sleeveless blouse. Goes right along with my video on Fox News' habits:

It proves the point I've crafted and made all along. The Couch Potato Conservatives have no interest in applying, clear, intelligent, critical thinking to political matters. They'd prefer to use "red meat reporting" to appeal to what they perceive as the "Angry White Male" demographic.

And if you think I'm making that up to be provacative, click on the link and you'll find it comes right from a "Freeper" (Free Republic blogger and reader), Douglas Turner. Turner also mentions Fox News as a key player in the effort to stoke the passions of "Angry White Males."

Opposing Republican senators acted out a version of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” of appealing to angry white males, now backed by the drumbeat of hired brown-shirts wrecking Democratic town meetings in the August recess, racist cartoons flooding the Internet and the rant on Fox News that President Obama has a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

I can't figure out which one's I can't stand more: Angry Black Men, Angry White Men, Angry Black Women, or Angry Asian Men. Lot's of anger out there, but I digress.

The main point is right wing Fox News covers up the truth about the appropriateness of Obama's bow by showing its viewers a lot of female leg combined with a heavy dose of macho political ideology plus the creation of the idea that it's wrong to bow to a non-white monarch.

Unfortunately, this "Obama bow" issue is divided along racial and political lines, with black blogs like Jack and Jill Politics in agreement with me, and liberal blogs like the Daily Kos providing the evidence of Fox News' unfair and unbalanced reporting.

This Daily Kos video neatly displays the way Fox News distorts the "Obama bow"issue, and presents MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show presentation of President George W. Bush holding hands with and kissing Saudi King Abdullah.

Fox News: they report and they decide for you.

Cal 30, Stanford 21 - Golden Bears win Big Game (here's how)

The 113th annual Big Game is this Saturday at Stanford, and everyone's picking Stanford to wax California that evening. But I know the California Golden Bears are capable of beating the Cardinal and by the score of 30 to 21.

The Big Game

Here's how.

First, some sobering observations. The Stanford Cardinal carry the same 7 and 3 overall record into this game. Cal is 4 and 3 in the Pac-10; Stanford is 6 and 2. So in terms of record, Stanford and Cal are the same, but this game's important for Cal because it could place them at even with the Cardinal in the Pac-10 from a loss standpoint.  And Stanford and Cal are 17th and 25th respectively in the BCS rankings. So Cal has motivation and a way to beat the Cardinal.

Stanford has one glaring weakness that Cal must take advantage of: Quarterback Andy Luck.

(Yes. Luck is the weak link for the Cardinal. I know some of you scoff at my claim and mightly, but I argue forcefully that Luck can't carry a whole game for the Cardinal and win. The running game makes him a better quarterback.)

Unlike Kevin Riley, who's completion percentage virtually dictates if Cal wins or loses, Andy Luck's numbers have nothing to do with Stanford wins; in his last three games, including the blow-outs of Oregon and USC, he was below 65 percent in pass completion rate. Against USC, he was 12-of-22 for 144 yards passing and two touchdowns. Not superhuman numbers.

What this tells me is I can develop a game plan that places the ball in Luck's hands and forces Stanford to throw, where they're not as successful as when they run. Stanford uses the run to set up the pass, but so much so it's better to use eight-defenders, play tight coverage, blitz one or two backers (not more) - smother the run game, and force the pass.

Stanford's receivers both have over 16 yards average per catch, so throwing short is not Stanford's habit; blitz the Cardinal. (And blitz on the offenses left side where Stanford has had protection problems all year long with the injuries to their left tackle Allen Smith.)

Toby Gerhard, Stanford's terrific running back, is second in the nation in rushing with 1395 yards on 262 carries for a 5.3 yard average and 19 touchdowns. Stop him and Cal stops the Cardinal.

But stopping Gerhard also means keeping the ball away from Stanford, and Cal can do that but it must be willing to commit to throwing the ball short and often. If Cal can concentrate on installing high-percentage passes and working toward a 60-40 run-pass play mix it can move the ball downfield to score.

Where Cal gets into major trouble is in trying to force the deep throw and what bothers me is some of the passing plays of that variety lack an appropriate safety valve for the quarterback; a running back just running a short pattern.

The most successful pass plays against Stanford actually come out of spread dive play fakes (as Arizona runs and Cal does have in its playbook), pulling the linebackers in. So, play action passing is the way to focus on gaining yardage against Stanford.

But again, Cal can't get greedy in trying to gain yardage. (Got that Cal Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig?) The Golden Bears must focus on gaining four to six yards per play and let the plays open the way for more yardage after the catch or a missed tackle on a running play.

The only place where I break that rule is the opening play. Cal must make a statement here. It must say to the Cardinal, "We're here to blow you out of your house." The best way to do that is open the game with a flea-flicker.

Cal Coach Jeff Tedford was once known for trick plays (in fact he opened his Cal career with a flea-flicker against Baylor seven years ago) but hasn't called many this year, really almost none. A dive-play, toss back to the quarterback who throws to the split end out of a running formation, will fire up Cal players and fans, and it might just work for a touchdown because Cal's not done it this year.

That's just the "punch in the gut" that will lead to a Cal victory. Anything less, even a reverse, is just not daring and not what this game calls for. After all, it's the Big Game.

Cal can win the game, 30 to 21. If my pattern is used, Cal will go up by as much as two touchdowns before Stanford's running game takes hold, but then and because runs eat clock time, it will be too late.

Bears win!

(Hey Alumni! It's BIG GAME week! Get fired up!) 

Tom Hayes: Another gender barrier drops

Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore is the first non-male pilot to join the Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team. Moore was already exceptionally familiar with the Hawk aircraft used by the Red Arrows as she's a Qualified Flying Instructor coaching "fast jet pilots" on that aircraft at RAF Valley in Wales.

That's Lietuenant Moore, second from the left in the image above, returning from a flight with team-mates at RAF Scampton on Nov. 12 in Lincoln, England. From the left: Ben Plank, Moore, Zane Sennett, Ben Murphy, and Dave Davies following the launch/unveiling of the 2010 team line-up.

For a dozen more beautiful images, see the article Red Arrows present their first woman pilot at the Sacramento Bee. To see any of the images here in a larger scale, just click the pictures.

Footage from the RAF Red Arrow exhibition over Weymouth Bay watched by an admiring crowd on the Weymouth Beach and Esplanade during Weymouth Carnival 2009:

Thomas Hayes
is an entrepreneur, journalist, and political analyst who contributes regularly to a host of web sites on topics ranging from economics and politics to culture and community.