Friday, April 30, 2010

Will The Real Nancy Pelosi Please Stand Up?

I never knew there was a magazine called Capitol File until this past week when Nancy Pelosi graced the cover as a test model for a new Adobe product called Photoshop Extremely Extreme.  The results were scary. 

Rumor has it, Katie Couric called and wants her face back.

I may be wrong, but the cover should look more like this:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Old Kentucky Home

We are almost on the eve of this years Kentucky Derby the number one horse racing event in the country which is held in Louisville Kentucky at Churchill Downs.  This event has become a celebration of The South and southern nobility.  Most notably during the Derby there is one moment that becomes almost hymn-like, when folks pay homage by removing their hats and singing My Old Kentucky Home. This brings to mind the author of this song, Stephen Foster and a little bit of history.

My Old Kentucky Home is the Federal Hill Mansion in Bardstown Kentucky which was built by Judge John Rowan in 1795. Many notable historical figures including Henry Clay and the Marqui de Lafayette visited the home. The home remained in the Rowan family until 1920 when it was sold to the Old Kentucky Home Commision and two years later donated to the state of Kentucky for use as a state park, which it remains today.

The lyrics to this song were changed in 1986. State Representative Carl Hines (D) was quoted as saying that the lyrics, "convey connotations of racial discrimination that are not acceptable." Hines sponsored House Bill 159 which revised the lyrics.

Stephen Foster was a cousin of Judge Rowan and visited the Rowan family in 1852. (although some doubt this occurred)  It is claimed the home inspired Foster to write My Old Kentucky Home.  I believe this is true and this is Foster's connection to my home state.

Stephen Collins Foster, who was of Irish descent, was born in Lawrenceville, now part of the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  He was born at 3600 Penn Avenue, (although some claim this to be 3414 Penn Avenue).  Foster was the youngest of ten children in a middle-class family. Due to his father's alcoholism the family became nearly destitute.

His parents were William Barclay Foster, merchant and trader, and Eliza Clayland Foster. Foster’s parents had no interest in music.  It was his sister, Charlotte Susanna Foster, who played the piano and sang songs about loss and love that became his inspiration.

Stephen grew up and received an education that was typical of Irish families living in Pittsburgh during that era, attending the Allegheny Academy and two other institutions in the Bradford County area. He enrolled at Jefferson College, but left after only a weeks stay and never returned.

He composed his first song at age 14, called The Tioga Waltz, At 17 he composed a song called Open Thy Lattice Love which was published in 1844. The California Gold Rush inspired him to compose Oh! Susanna in 1848 which became his first famous song.

Foster never lived in Kentucky however In 1846, Foster moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and became a bookkeeper with his brother's steamship company. While in Cincinnati, Foster penned his first successful songs, among them "Oh! Susanna". It would prove to be the anthem of the California Gold Rush in 1848–1849. In 1849, he published Foster's Ethiopian Melodies, which included the successful song "Nelly Was a Lady", made famous by the Christy Minstrels.

A plaque marks the site of Foster's residence in Cincinnati, where the Guilford School building is now located.

Foster then returned to Pennsylvania and signed a contract with the Christy Minstrels or Chrisy's Minstrels. It was during this period that Foster would write most of his best-known songs: "Camptown Races" (1850), "Nelly Bly" (1850), "Old Folks at Home" McDowell.(known also as "Swanee River", 1851), "My Old Kentucky Home" (1853), "Old Dog Tray" (1853), and "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair" (1854), written for his wife Jane Denny McDowell.

It was in 1850 that he married the daughter of Pittsburgh physician Dr. Andrew McDowell, Jane Denny McDowell. The couple had a daughter they named Marion.

Many of Foster's songs were of the blackface minstrel show tradition popular at the time. Foster sought, in his own words, to "build up taste...among refined people by making words suitable to their taste, instead of the trashy and really offensive words which belong to some songs of that order." He instructed Caucasian performers of his songs not to mock slaves but to get their audiences to feel compassion for them.

Though many of Foster's songs have Southern themes, Foster never lived in the South and visited it only once, by river-boat voyage (on his brother Dunning's steam boat, the James Millinger) down the Mississippi to New Orleans, during his honeymoon in 1852.

Foster is notable for popularizing the use of the "honky tonk" piano style and the use of the Swanee whistle aka as a slide whistle for effect.

In an era in which copyrights were limited and ignored Foster attempted to make a living as a professional songwriter.  Composer royalties did not exist at the time. So Foster realized very little income from his works.  For Oh! Susanna he earned a meager $100.

In 1860 Foster decided to move to New York City. Things did not work out for the family and his wife and daughter moved back to Pittsburgh. Foster faced difficult times due to lack of work. He kept on writing songs, but the quality had diminished. Foster became an alcoholic and moved to the North American Hotel at 30 Bowery on the lower east side of Manhattan, New York. 

It was during this period he wrote two more songs that went on to achieve fame. One was Old Black Joe, written in 1863. His final song was deeply personal and perhaps allows us a view into Foster’s dispair and desire to escape his condition. This was Beautiful Dreamer.

According to his brother Henry, Stephen had been ill for a number of days and was confined to his bead with a persistent fever.  Foster had called out for help and when no one came, he attempted to stand up only to hit his head on a washbasin.  The basis shattered and gouged his head.  Foster was taken to Bellevue Hospital although the trip took over three hours.  Due to injury and possible sepsis, Foster died three days later at age 37.

In his worn leather wallet there was found a scrap of paper that simply said "Dear friends and gentle hearts" along with 35 cents in Civil War scrip and three pennies.

Foster did not live to see the success of his final song, Beautiful Dreamer, for he died on January 13, 1864 and the song was published in March 1864, two months after his death.

His brother, Morrison Foster, is largely responsible for compiling his works and writing a short but pertinent biography of Stephen. His sister, Ann Eliza Foster Buchanan, married a brother of President James Buchanan.

Although there are many honors, theaters and academic awards for this man that was the Father of American music, one that is close to my home is in Alms Park in Cincinnati, overlooking the Ohio River, where there is a seated statue of him.

The Lawrenceville (Pennsylvania) Historical Society, together with the Allegheny Cemetery Historical Association, hosts the annual Stephen Foster Music and Heritage Festival (Doo Dah Days!). Held the first weekend of July, Doo Dah Days! celebrates the life and music of one the most influential songwriters in America's history.

36 U.S.C. § 140 designates January 13 as Stephen Foster Memorial Day, a United States National Observance.

In 1936, Congress authorized the minting of a silver half dollar in honor of the Cincinnati Musical Center. Stephen Foster was featured on the obverse of the coin despite his tenuous links to the city.

On a personal note, one of the families that lived nearby his Pittsburgh home was that of General James O’Hara who served in the Revolutionary War and had successful businesses in Pittsburgh. Although it’s doubtful he was my relation, I find it interesting.

As a child of around 12 my family visited the Federal Hill Mansion in Bardstown Kentucky, which is said to have served as the inspiration for My Old Kentucky Home.  We stayed to see The Stephen Foster Story, which is an outdoor musical held in an amphitheater that is nearby the structure.

Two things touched me during that visit. I wondered if My Old Kentucky Home was about the mansion or the slave quarters behind the home or perhaps they were intertwined. Certainly the lives of white people and black people became intertwined in a way that seems strange and horrible to us living 160 years later.

There was a very small family cemetery on the grounds. One of the graves read, “Weep No More My Lady.”

I could not help but think Foster knew one of the family members at the home that was suffering due to her health.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Signs I Would Like To See

No Drooping Pants Zone

No Loud Vehicle Music Zone

No Racoon Eyes Zone

Clueless People Zone

Friday, April 16, 2010

I Read The News Today Oh Boy

The following stories came from a variety of news sources including the AP and FOX exclusively for your amusement.  Real Life is more bizzare than any situation comedy.

A computer game retailer revealed that it legally owns the souls of thousands of online shoppers, thanks to a clause in the terms and conditions agreed to by online shoppers.

The retailer, British firm GameStation, added the "immortal soul clause" to the contract signed before making any online purchases earlier this month. It states that customers grant the company the right to claim their soul.

"By placing an order via this Web site;

On the first day of the fourth month of the year 2010 Anno Domini, you agree to grant us a non transferable option to claim, for now and for ever more, your immortal soul. Should We wish to exercise this option, you agree to surrender your immortal soul, and any claim you may have on it, within 5 (five) working days of receiving written notification from or one of its duly authorized minions."

GameStation's form also points out that "we reserve the right to serve such notice in 6 (six) foot high letters of fire, however we can accept no liability for any loss or damage caused by such an act. If you a) do not believe you have an immortal soul, b) have already given it to another party, or c) do not wish to grant Us such a license, please click the link below to nullify this sub-clause and proceed with your transaction."

The terms of service were updated on April fool’s Day as a gag, but the retailer did so to make a very real point: No one reads the online terms and conditions of shopping, and companies are free to insert whatever language they want into the documents.

While all shoppers during the test were given a simple tick box option to opt out, very few did this, which would have also rewarded them with a £5 voucher, according to news:lite. Due to the number of people who ticked the box, GameStation claims believes as many as 88 percent of people do not read the terms and conditions of a Web site before they make a purchase.

The company noted that it would not be enforcing the ownership rights, and planned to e-mail Customers nullifying any claim on their soul

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal judge in Wisconsin ruled the National Day of Prayer unconstitutional Thursday, saying the day amounts to a call for religious action.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb wrote that the government can no more enact laws supporting a day of prayer than it can encourage citizens to fast during Ramadan, attend a synagogue or practice magic.

"In fact, it is because the nature of prayer is so personal and can have such a powerful effect on a community that the government may not use its authority to try to influence an individual's decision whether and when to pray," Crabb wrote.

Congress established the day in 1952 and in 1988 set the first Thursday in May as the day for presidents to issue proclamations asking Americans to pray. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Madison-based group of atheists and agnostics, filed a lawsuit against the federal government in 2008 arguing the day violated the separation of church and state.

President Barack Obama's administration has countered that the statute simply acknowledges the role of religion in the United States. Obama issued a proclamation last year but did not hold public events with religious leaders as former President George W. Bush had done.

Crabb wrote that her ruling shouldn't be considered a bar to any prayer days until all appeals are exhausted. U.S. Justice Department Attorneys who represented the federal government in the case were reviewing the ruling Thursday afternoon, agency spokesman Charles Miller said. He declined further comment.

Obama spokesman Matt Lehrich said in an e-mail to The Associated Press the president still plans to issue a proclamation for the next prayer day.

"As he did last year, President Obama intends to recognize a National Day of Prayer," Lehrich said.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which represented 31 members of Congress who joined the federal government as defendants, called Crabb's ruling flawed and promised to appeal.

"It is unfortunate that this court failed to understand that a day set aside for prayer for the country represents a time-honored tradition that embraces the First Amendment, not violates it," ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said in a statement.

The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based group of Christian lawyers, issued a statement saying Crabb's ruling undermines American tradition dating back to the nation's birth.

Freedom from Religion Foundation attorney Richard Bolton didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

Crabb wrote that her ruling was not a judgment on the value of prayer. She noted government involvement in prayer may be constitutional if the conduct serves a "significant secular purpose" and doesn't amount to a call for religious action. But the National Day of Prayer crosses that line, she wrote.

"It goes beyond mere 'acknowledgment' of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context," she wrote. "In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience."

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld the use of the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance and "In God We Trust" on U.S. currency, rejecting arguments on Thursday that the phrases violate the principle of separation of church and state.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejected two legal challenges by Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow, who claimed the references to God disrespect his religious beliefs.

His reason: The Greatest Generation didn't pledge 'under God'

"The Pledge is constitutional," Judge Carlos Bea wrote for the majority in the 2-1 ruling. "The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded."

The same court ruled in Newdow's favor in 2002 after he sued his daughter's school district for forcing students to recite the pledge.

That lawsuit reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004, but the high court ruled that Newdow lacked the legal standing to file the suit because he didn't have custody of his daughter, on whose behalf he brought the case.

So Newdow, who is an atheist doctor and an atheist lawyer, filed the challenge on behalf of other parents who objected to their children being required to recite the pledge. In 2005, a federal judge in Sacramento decided in Newdow's favor, ruling that the pledge was unconstitutional.

"I want to be treated equally," Newdow said when he argued the case before the 9th Circuit in December 2007. He added that supporters of the phrase "want to have their religious views espoused by the government."

In a separate 3-0 ruling Thursday, the appeals court upheld the inscription of the national motto "In God We Trust" on coins and currency.

Starting Them Young On The Cube Farm

For only $2500 you can get your young'un their very own Tiny Tykes office cube with a built in computer.  They can learn send updates and office memos to the other junior office "worker bees" at the daycare.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Last Supper Paintings Point to Ungodly Portions

Paintings Reveal That Plate, Portion Sizes Gradually Grew in the Past Millennium
By Bill Hendrick from WebMD Medical News Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 24, 2010 -- Paintings of the Last Supper over the past millennium show that plate and food serving sizes have gotten larger throughout history, possibly foretelling today’s supersized portions, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that the phenomenon of serving bigger portions on bigger plates, which pushes people to overeat, has occurred gradually over the past 1,000 years, says co-author Brian Wansink, PhD, a marketing and economics professor at Cornell University and an expert on eating habits.

“We took the 52 most famous paintings of the Last Supper and analyzed the size of the entrees, bread, and plates, relative to the average size of the average head in the painting,” he says in a news release.

Wansink and his brother and co-author, Craig Wansink, professor of religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College, used computer-aided design technology that allowed items in 52 paintings to be scanned, rotated, and calculated, regardless of the orientation of the objects in the artwork. “To account for the varying dimensions of the paintings, the average sizes of these items were indexed based on the average size of the heads depicted in the paintings,” the authors write.

The main discernable dishes depicted in the paintings included fish or eel (18%), lamb (14%), and pork (7%), and 46% of the paintings had no discernable main dish.

Last Supper' Portions Growing

The study, published in the April 2010 issue of the International Journal of Obesity, finds that the size of the entrees in Last Supper paintings has progressively increased 66%, plate size 66%, and bread size 23% in the past 1,000 years.

“The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance, and affordability of food,” says Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.

“We think that as art imitates life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history’s most famous dinner,” he says.

The researchers used 52 paintings depicting the Last Supper that were featured in the 2000 book Last Supper by Phaidon Press.

Craig Wansink tells WebMD in an email that “the use of the head in measuring the size of the bread was simply to focus on proportionality between the paintings.”

In short, the scholars say the trend of larger plates and portion sizes detected in recent years and linked to obesity is a phenomenon that started hundreds or even more than 1,000 years ago.

They examined 10 paintings of the Last Supper completed between 1000-1300, five done between 1300 and 1400, 15 between 1400 and 1500, 13 between 1500 ad 1600, and nine between 1600 and the year 2000.

“Perhaps the increasing portion sizes and food availability we have recently noticed is rooted in a general trend that has been artistically depicted for more than a millennium,” the authors write.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Venezuelan Space Craft

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited Venezuela on Friday to discuss oil, defense and nuclear energy cooperation with Latin America's main leftist foe of the United States, President Hugo Chavez.

The talks involved a deal to launch a $20 billion venture between Russian firms and Venezuelan state company PDVSA to pump 450,000 barrels a day -- almost a fifth of the OPEC member's current output -- from the vast Orinoco heavy oil belt.

In return Chavez wants nuclear energy, space technology and beefing up defenses with Russian arms.

I can’t help wondering what a Venezuelan space ship would look like.


This blonde girl set out to prove to her husband that she was not a dumb blonde.  So she waited for him to leave for work. And then she set about painting the living room.

When her husband came home he was amazed at the new wall color, but baffled when he saw his disheveled wife laying on the couch.  She was perspiring profusely since she was wearing a winter jacket and a parka.

He went over to her and asked, "Why are you wearing a jacket and a parka?"

She replied, "Well the instructions on the can said, 'For best results put on two coats'."