Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Eccentric Cat Lady

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

This weekend was pretty chill. I did a little running around on Saturday and then went into full spring cleaning mode with the house for a bit. It was kind of in need of it… and besides, I’m full of surprises for my roommates. First the backyard, then Tannenbaum 2: Electric Boogaloo, then clean dishes several times a week, and now freshly cleaned & vacuumed floors and some organizing of various stuffs throughout the apartment. With that… and a friendly bonus from work, and some Christmas shopping for others & stumbling upon a good deal… I rewarded myself with a new TV upgrade in my bedroom as well. It worked out REALLY well this Sunday when it was cold & rainy outside and I wanted to watch my NFL with the projector lamp burned out… but my new 32” flat screen works just fine. MUCH better than the previous 27” tube TV that I won at a raffle ten years ago… so I think I’ve gotten my use out of it. Merry Christmas to me!!!

To test out the new TV, I first watched “Source Code” starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan & Vera Farmiga. The story is about a soldier named Colter (Gyllenhaal) who wakes up in the body of an unknown man on a commuter train… talking to a beautiful woman (Monaghan) and has no idea why. The train blows up… and he awakens from it like a dream… but is now in a lab talking to another soldier (Farmiga). The government has technology that can implant a person into somebody’s last eight minutes of memory… and they have used it to place this soldier into a world based on that memory to find the terrorist who blew up the train in order to prevent future attacks. It’s a very interesting concept… but a little far-fetched? Maybe. It’s actually a pretty fantastic flick that I would highly recommend though. Some of the methods used by Colter were questionable in deducing who the bomber was… but hey, it makes for more drama that way. Check it out…

Next up was “The Devil’s Double” starring Dominic Cooper. This was a movie that I heard about a few months ago at its release & was REALLY excited about. It was touted as “this generation’s Scarface” and stuff like that… but that’s just marketing. The plot is the true story (with some touches for the movie) of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi soldier in the late 80’s who was recruited by Uday Hussein, son of the dictator Saddam Hussein, to be his faday or body double… as they famously did to avoid assassination attempts, perform civil duties, etc. When I say recruited, it’s not like he was given a choice either. Basically he was asked, refused, then thrown in prison… then told if he didn’t do it, then his family would be raped & murdered. Basically from there, he becomes the body double… but soon realizes that Uday is basically insane… and he wants to get away from this life… but how? They own him. It’s actually a pretty chilling tale of not only life in a dictatorship, but just the awkward situation of playing decoy to one of the most hated individuals in the world… and the performance by Dominic Cooper as both Uday & Latif is actually quite remarkable. I would highly recommend this flick from director Lee Tamahori (“Die Another Day”, “The Edge” & “Mulholland Falls”).

Sunday night was the 2nd round of the playoffs and we played the #1 team in the tournament. Our gameplan was very similar to last time, a kind of ameobic zone on defense where I took control of the middle and the other four played the three point line because they were full of shooters. Also, get back on defense so there’s no transition points. Rebound everything that you can with both hands & watch for hacks at the arms (they love to do it & rarely get called). On offense, work it into me & I’ll pop out when they crash, attack the basket with the ball if you can. The strategy actually worked pretty well… and if we had hit our shots a little better, it would’ve been a really good game. Alas, we lost by ten or twelve in the end… but it was to a great team. I swear, now that we’re coming together on D & forming some kind of strategy, if we can just run a few plays on offense instead of just one-on-one ball, we may have a pretty good team. Another big might work out well too… but yeah, you can’t teach tall.

Sunday night after ball was “Our Idiot Brother” starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott & Steve Coogan. Yeah, pretty good cast for an independent flick, right? Opening scene: The titular character (Rudd) plays the ultimate nice guy and hooks a guy up with some weed… even though he’s a uniformed police officer. Needless to say, he goes to jail for a quick bit. When he comes out, he’s kicked out of his vegetable farm by his girlfriend and needs a place to stay… so he goes to his mother & three LOVELY sisters who are all involved with their own personal lives of housewife (Mortimer), journalist (Banks) and superhot lesbian comedian (Deschanel… with ladyfriend Jones… rrrrrrr…). Anyway, the story goes from there as he gets involved in a web of lies and is the ultimate nice guy through it all… but still gets into shenanigans. It’s actually a pretty hilarious little flick. I recommend it. Great movie about being there for your family & just taking life as it comes. Kind of like… if the Dude had super hot sisters instead of his bowling buddies.

How to Get Time Off Work – You’ve all thought about it. You don’t want to go into work on a beautiful day. How can you get out of it? Well, you can call in sick… but what if you don’t have sick days? “Boss, I can’t come in today.” “Why not?” “Well… because… my… my mom passed away. I just don’t think it’d be a good idea for me to come in today.” “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I’m terribly sorry for your loss. Don’t worry about work today… or tomorrow for that matter. You just handle her affairs, go through the grieving process, and of course bring in a copy of the obituary for HR on Wednesday.” “Alright thanks… wait, what was that last one?” Well, a 45-year-old Pennsylvania man has been charged with a crime after publishing a fake obituary of his own mother in order to get time off work. It sounds like the sort of unfeeling stunt worthy of "Seinfeld" character George Costanza, but Scott Bennett has been charged with disorderly conduct after sending in the fake obituary to the Jeffersonian Democrat newspaper, which then ran the story. Democrat editor Randy Bartley said the obituary was accepted in good faith, even though his staff had been unable to confirm the funeral arrangement details as of press time. And to paraphrase the famous Mark Twain line, reports of the woman's death were greatly exaggerated. Bennet's mother was, indeed, the whistleblower in the case, placing a series of calls to Bartley and Democrat staffers, insisting she was in fact still alive. But like any good journalism outlet, the Jeffersonian Democrat needed more facts. So Ms. Bennett showed up to the paper in person to prove her existence. Yes… this is how dedicated they are to the facts. Bartley said that, all things considered, she was "very understanding" about her own falsely reported death. Police Chief Ken Dworek says Bennett wrote up the memorial notice because he didn't want to get fired for taking time off… but didn’t consult his mother obviously. Oh what a tangled web we weave…

Downer Alert: Don’t Text & Drive - A 19-year-old pickup truck driver involved in a deadly highway pileup in Missouri last year sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes immediately before the accident, federal investigators said Tuesday. The driver sent six texts and received five texts, with the last text just before his pickup traveling at 55 mph crashed into the back of a tractor truck, beginning a chain collision. The pickup was rear-ended by a school bus, which in turn was rammed by a second school bus. The pickup driver and a 15-year-old student on one of the school buses were killed. Thirty-eight other people were injured in the Aug. 5, 2010, accident near Gray Summit, Mo. Nearly 50 students, mostly members of a high school band from St. James, Mo., were on the buses heading to the Six Flags St. Louis amusement park. The accident is a "big red flag for all drivers," NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman said at a meeting to determine the cause of the accident and make safety recommendations. It's not possible to know from cell phone records if the driver was typing, reaching for the phone or reading a text at the exact time of the crash, but it's clear he was manually, cognitively and visually distracted, she said. "Driving was not his only priority," Hersman said. "No call, no text, no update is worth a human life." Amen! The board is expected to recommend new restrictions on driver use of electronic devices behind the wheel. While the NTSB doesn't have the power to impose restrictions, its recommendations carry significant weight with federal regulators and congressional and state lawmakers. Missouri had a law banning drivers under 21 years old from texting while driving at the time of the crash, but wasn't aggressively enforcing the ban, board member Robert Sumwalt said. "Without the enforcement, the laws don't mean a whole lot," he said. Investigators are seeing texting, cell phone calls and other distracting behavior by operators in accidents across all modes of transportation with increasing frequency. It has become routine for investigators to immediately request the preservation of cell phone and texting records when they launch an investigation. In the last few years the board has investigated a commuter rail accident that killed 25 people in California in which the train engineer was texting; a fatal marine accident in Philadelphia in which a tugboat pilot was talking on his cellphone AND using a laptop… while allegedly driving the boat; and a Northwest Airlines flight that flew more than 100 miles past its destination because both pilots were working on their laptops. Seriously? Sh*t is real. The board has previously recommended bans on texting and cell phone use by commercial truck and bus drivers and beginning drivers, but it has stopped short of calling for a ban on the use of the devices by adults behind the wheel of passenger cars. The problem of texting while driving is getting worse despite a rush by states to ban the practice, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said last week. In November, Pennsylvania became the 35th state to forbid texting while driving. About two out of 10 American drivers overall — and half of drivers between 21 and 24 — say they've thumbed messages or emailed from the driver's seat, according to a survey of more than 6,000 drivers by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Does that scare the sh*t out of you too? And what's more, many drivers don't think it's dangerous when they do it — only when others do, the survey found. At any given moment last year on America's streets and highways, nearly 1 in every 100 car drivers was texting, emailing, surfing the Web or otherwise using a handheld electronic device, the safety administration said. And those activities spiked 50% over the previous year. The agency takes an annual snapshot of drivers' behavior behind the wheel by staking out intersections to count people using cellphones and other devices, as well as other distracting behavior. Oh it gets better too. Driver distraction wasn't the only significant safety problem uncovered by NTSB's investigation of the Missouri accident. Investigators said they believe the pickup driver was suffering from fatigue that may have eroded his judgment at the time of the accident. He had an average of about five and a half hours of sleep a night in the days leading up to the accident and had had fewer than five hours of sleep the night before the accident, they said. The pickup driver had no history of accidents or traffic violations, investigators said. Investigators also found significant problems with the brakes of both school buses involved in the accident. A third school bus sent to a hospital after the accident to pick up students crashed in the hospital parking lot when that bus' brakes failed. However, the brake problems didn't cause or contribute to the severity of the accident, investigators said. It apparently was just part of this perfect storm of f**kups. Besides, they’re slashing budgets for schools nationwide so it’s bound to happen with routine maintenance first. Another issue involved the difficulty passengers had exiting the first school bus after the accident. The bus' front and rear bus doors were unusable after the accident — the front door because the front bus was on top of the tractor truck cab and too high off the ground, and the rear door because the front of the bus had intruded five feet into the rear of the first bus. Passengers had to exit through an emergency window, but the raised latch on the window kept catching on clothing as students tried to escape, investigators said. Exiting was further slowed because the window design required one person to hold the window up in order for a second person to crawl through, they said. It was critical for passengers to exit as quickly as possible because a large amount of fuel puddled underneath the bus was a serious fire hazard, investigators said. Painting a picture yet? Please… do NOT text while driving. Holy sh*t, I can’t say it enough. At least when you’re drunk you’re watching the f**king road most of the time instead of concentrating on a 2” screen that you’re probably trying to keep down so that the cops don’t see anyway. Just don’t f**king do it. This concludes our PSA for today… oh wait, one more story about technology f**king things up…

Tweeted Off – TMI can usually be a bad thing. How bad? An Arkansas man who was sentenced to death for the murder of a 17-year-old boy… has had his conviction overturned. Why? A juror tweeted about pending deliberations--and the poor quality of courthouse coffee. In granting a request for the convicted 26-year-old defendant in the case, Erickson Dimas-Martinez, the Arkansas Supreme Court also found the verdict had been compromised when one of the jurors fell asleep in court. The offending tweets by juror Randy Franco did not discuss specific details of the case, but the judge had specifically warned jurors in advance and in writing, "Just remember, never discuss this case over your cell phone. And don't Twitter anybody about this case." Ladies & gentlemen, that’s what our society has been reduced to. When judging one of our peers on the basis of murder, we feel it’s necessary to shoot a text to friends or feel that somebody cares about the coffee… and we have to have responsible people warn us not to do it… in a courtroom… and in writing. Franco had taken to his Twitter account to announce that "the coffee here sucks"--and in another tweet protested by Dias-Martinez's defense team, he quoted a song lyric, evidently from a Christian metalcore band: “Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken . . . We each define the great line.” Franco--whom court documents only discussed as "Juror 2"--was not thrown off the case. But his tweeting did catch the attention of lawyers and the judge. "Juror 2′s tweets about the trial were very much public discussions," Associate Justice Donald Corbin wrote in the decision overturning Dimas-Martinez's conviction. "Even if such discussions were one-sided it is in no way appropriate for a juror to state musings, thoughts or other information about a case in such a public fashion. Most mobile phones now allow instant access to a myriad of information. Not only can jurors access Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites but they can also access news sites that might have information about a case." In the case's appeal, the state Supreme Court found that Franco had violated instructions to not discuss the case in any manner, including through social media. Janice Vaughn, one of Dimas-Martinez lawyers, said that the ruling was "not about your right to tweet or be on Facebook. It's about protecting the right of the person who may end up behind bars or end up losing a significant amount of money in a civil case." In the opinion summary of the appeal, the Arkansas Supreme Court wrote: "Because we conclude that the one juror sleeping and a second juror tweeting constituted juror misconduct, we reverse and remand for a new trial." In addition to approving the request for a retrial, the Arkansas Supreme Court has indicated it will also review the question of whether jurors should be permitted access to mobile phone devices during trials. Wow… just wow…

Jolie Nerdgasm – Speaking of wowey wow wow… Angelina Jolie is in serious talks to star in an untitled big budget dramatic thriller to be written and directed by Luc Besson ("Leon: The Professional," "The Fifth Element") for his EuropaCorp says Deadline. All that's known about the film is that its rooted in true scientific elements and shooting would kick off next spring. Negotiations are already underway with a studio for domestic distribution. Jolie would shoot the film before she teams with Ridley Scott on his historical biopic about Gertrude Bell (writer & world traveler who helped to bring Iraq into the modern world at the turn of the century). Jeffrey Caine is currently rewriting that script. Jolie also has Disney's "Maleficent" and Fox 2000's film based on Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta novel series. So in short… we will get to first see Ms. Jolie in a historical biopic… then as a superhot superevil sorceress in a Disney flick… and then we FINALLY get to see her with some guns kicking some ass in a Luc Besson movie… and involving true scientific elements… which I’m not really sure what the context is… whether it’s elements like oxygen, lithium, xenon, etc or if it’s about quarks, time travel, cold fusion, inertia, or something like that… but still Luc Besson makes everybody a super badass. It’s true. Look at what he did with a preteen Natalie Portman… or a wafey supermodel like Milla Jovovich... and Jason Statham’s career. Fun fact: “Taken” super badass Liam Neeson is going to be 60 years old this year… and Luc gave his career a revival in action. Anyway, I’m obviously excited about it… but we’ll see when details are confirmed / released.

Eccentric Cat Lady – Everybody knows that when you’re rrrrrrrrich, you cease to be crazy & become eccentric. Well, a 4-year-old stray cat that was rescued from the streets of Rome has inherited a $13 million fortune from its owner, the wealthy widow of an Italian property tycoon. That’s right. A household pet has a million times more assets than you do. Question: How does that make you feel? Answer: Sh*tty. Maria Assunta left the fortune to her beloved kitty Tommaso when she died two weeks ago at the age of 94. The feline's newfound riches include cash, as well as properties in Rome, Milan and land in Calabria. Repeat: This pussy owns land… and piles of cash… and you have a Playstation 2. As her health began to fail two years ago, Assunta, who had no children, began to seek out a way to see that Tommaso was properly cared for after she died. In November 2009, she bequeathed her entire estate to the alley cat that she'd rescued. Initially, Assunta had instructed her attorneys to "identify an animal welfare association or group to which to leave the estate and the commitment of looking after Tommaso," according to the Daily Telegraph. Unable to find a satisfactory association to see to it that Tommaso was loved and cared for (REALLY? Not even for $13 million?), Assunta decided to leave all her money to the cat via her nurse, Stefania, who cared for her until her dying day. Her last name has not been disclosed (as it would soon become mine if it were). "She had become very fond towards the nurse who assisted her," Anna Orecchioni, one of the lawyers, told Il Messaggero newspaper. "We're convinced that Stefania is the right person to carry out the old lady's wishes. She loves animals just like the woman she devoted herself to right up until the end." Stefania told the Telegraph that she had no idea the woman that she was caring for was so incredibly wealthy. "The old lady suffered from loneliness. She looked after that cat more than you'd look after a son. I promised her that I would look after the cat when she was no longer around. She wanted to be sure that Tommaso would be loved and cuddled. But I never imagined that she had this sort of wealth," she said. "She was very discreet and quite. I knew very little of her private life. She only told me that she had suffered from loneliness a lot." Tommaso and Stefania, along with another cat, are living outside Rome at an address that is undisclosed, so to avoid con artists and potential kidnappers. "We have gotten lots of email messages from candidates who wanted to adopt the little Tommasino," the cat's lawyer told ABC News. The windfall for Tommaso places him No.3 on the list of wealthy pets, behind Kalu the chimp, whose owner left him $80 million, and top dog Gunther IV, a German shepherd who inherited $372 million from his father, Gunther III, the beloved companion of an eccentric German countess. Real estate magnate Leona Helmsley famously left $12 million to her little dog Trouble, although her human descendents contested, and Trouble's pot was cut to $2 million. Obviously this was nothing compared to the fantastic German lawyers who upheld Gunther III’s claim to $372 million. Cheese & rice!!! I love pets… but this is kind of ridiculous. It does however… bring up a pretty good point.

Loneliness makes you do some crazy sh*t. One of my favorite things to do when I’m feeling lonely (oh yes, it happens) is to think about what I would do with copious amounts of money. Like… lotto money or signing bonus for a teenager with potential in the NBA type money. Honestly, I don’t need the $15 million villa on the coast or anything like that. I’m a simple man with simple pleasures. I’ll randomly ask people from time to time “What would you do with $10,000?” Obviously it’s not a whole lot of money… but you get some interesting responses… especially if you make them think about it. Pay off student loans, college fund for kids, get out of debt, buy a car that doesn’t break down every month, outstanding medical bills, the answers typically fall under the generalization of “Get out from under the Man a little bit.” Follow that questions up with adding another zero to make it $100,000 and you start getting answers like buying a house, starting a small business that they have a passion for, startup for an invention idea, take some time off to write the next great American novel (or Italian or Chinese because I roll international) and answers more like that to become independent. Add yet another zero to a cool million… and that’s when you start getting answers like buying a Ferrari & traveling the world forever like it’s a permanent vacation. What’s my point? Were I Oprah rich, I would definitely consider giving money to friends, family & loved ones if they could convince me that it was for a good idea or a good cause. Now if my brother comes up and says he wants to use it for a super badass computer… “Why?” “So that I can play games with a great connection and…” “Let me stop you right there. How would this benefit you & yours?” “Oh ugh… I’d also use it to get a degree in computer programming… or something?” “Okay… so what about schooling for that? Have you looked into it?” “Not really.” “Maybe you should & get back to me.” It’s my money… I’ll turn it into an assignment if I want. Sh*t ain’t free. Anyway, why am I getting on this point? Many of us have plans for copious amounts of money… usually involving ourselves and our loved ones.

However, what if we don’t have loved ones? What if its just you… and your money? Sure, people want to hang out with you all the time to get some of that secondhand benefits of money… but you have this sneaking feeling that they only hang out with you because you’re rich. They don’t want to know the real you. Sure, ditzy supermodels chill by your pool after heating it up on the boudoir… but are they really with you… or just doing it for your lifestyle? You travel to your homes in Malibu, Capri, Martinique, Sanya, Sharm El Sheikh, Nice, St Moritz, wherever… but they always seem empty & unfulfilling. You long for a sense of true connection… and come up wanting because you no longer trust people that you didn’t know before the money… as those that you do pass on one-by-one… until you’re completely “alone” with your money. Then one day, you find a stray cat on the Spanish Steps… and you take it home… and you finally feel that sense of connection that you’ve been longing for so long. You feel your own time is drawing near… and you have this vast wealth that you simply can’t take with you (or I guess you could but… that would seem even more ridiculous… and then you have to worry about grave robbers). So you leave it to your loved one… that stray cat Tommaso. Doesn’t sound quite so crazy now… just sad, terribly terribly sad. The point of this rant… is that Life is about Love and building strong relationships with your family & friends and those around you, not about money (though it’s nice to not have to worry about it). Just something to think about during this holiday season when you’re around those important to you. Make sure that they know they’re important to you. You may think it goes without saying… but it’s always nice to hear it every once in a while, right? Have a great day everybody!!!

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