Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lost in the Amazon, or in Zabar's?

Isolated in Amazon, Visible From the Air - Aerial photos offer glimpse of an isolated community of indigenous people in the Amazon basin. Smells like Return of the Krippendorfs. When was the last time you saw Richard Dreyfus?

ps NYT Headline Gang - [i]n with a small i and [F]rom with a capital F? Does anyone read these headlines before you go to press? You have six pages in the stylebook on when to use Burma and when to use Myanmar, but when the typeface gets big nobody sees anything.

A Lifetime Amid the Lox and Rugelach - For the second generation owner of Zabar's it has actually been a lifetime, but for me it just seemed that way. It was a sunny, Sunday morning in 1978 and the entire Upper West Side was out and about. I was making my first visit to Zabar's, guided by my future wife. We browsed, bought brunch and prepared to leave. She exited briskly through the single door. I was still gawking, failed to move at the required Sunday AM Zabar's pace and fell two steps behind. An elderly couple jumped into the small gap at light speed, then, once position was established, crept at a snail's pace while I held the door. The couple's slow exit created a small line of eager patrons waiting to enter. The line's leader charged at the first sign of day light and I ...continued to hold the door. Minutes later I had my chance, a break in the line of entrants. I made my move, and nearly collided with a broad shouldered matron leading a large brood who had closed on the doorway like an all pro linebacker filling the gap on third and one. The rest of the linebacker's clan meandered in at a measured pace giving a few more entrants a chance to gather while I...held the door. Finally a disgusted Zabar's veteran snorted, pushed past me from inside the store, backed-up a startled pre-teen who had just begun her entry and escaped. I followed at top speed, avoiding eye contact with the girl, and never looked back.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Peru Guards Its Guano as Demand Soars Again aka Fuji Watch - Day 11 - Peru secures its coastal islands as a source of dried bird dung, a hot item in the organic fertilizer niche market. Isla de Asia is a key source of guano supply. The island also served as a retreat for former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. Fuji so enjoyed his island r&r that a bird species contributing much of the guano was named in his honor, the Peruvian booby.

2 Men Long Confined as Insane Regain Their Right to Vote -The Rhode Island Board of Elections has restored voting rights to two men found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity. Fear not America. Two write-ins for George W. Bush are jut not going to have any impact in 2008.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Banana Capture Day, Excellent Feature

A-1 Monkeys Think, Moving Artificial Arm as Own / Mars Lander's Arm Unfolds - Later today, the first interplanetary banana capture.

B-1 Grunting in East Side Gym Class Leads to Hospital, and to Court - Optional comma in headline? Unusual choice, Time's headline gang. Picture two beefy investment banking types in spin class. Spinner One (Sugarman) grunts loudly and shouts ("You Go Girl") as he spins. Spinner Two (Carter) hates it, asks for help from the instructor, but gets no relief. Spinner Two tells Spinner One to shut up. One replies, "Make Me". Two then charges One, thrusting his bike into the wall and then dropping it. Ouch. Grunter and charger, why not trade spin for sumo, preferably relocating to Tokyo as part of your new lifestyle.

C-1 Natural Gas in Pause Mode - See yesterday's post for pioneering use of "pause mode" in business context. Extensive shipping and storage facilities built on now disproved assumption that cheap natural gas would always be available? No problem. As the official blog of Turkmenistan, As Good As News knows where we can find massive supplies of natural gas, but there's one small precondition to access. The NY Times must get through twelve consecutive months without using "reclusive" or "hermetic" to describe Turkmenistan.

D-1 Big Brown Owner Is Trying to Put Troubles Behind - Just like the Times, always on the side of the Man, slamming the poor guy just because he's big and brown (and lied about working at Goldman Sachs, didn't pay his taxes, defaulted on a casino marker, was fined and suspended by one employer for making unauthorized trades, spent his entire Wall Street career as a penny stock broker then raised money as a "high profile investment banker" and then came up with a goofy story to explain every problem - yech). If the owners were running instead of the horses I'd be pulling for Casino Drive.

E-5 A Feisty String Orchestra With Shades of Pop Music - Capital [W]ith? Are there no rules whatsoever when it comes to headline capitalization? Vince McMahon is slobbering at the opportunity to add a new division to the WWE, but can even the feistiest strings take on the percussionists?

F-1 Keeping Chlorine Out of the Pool - Chlorine smell a problem? Really? In my pool it beats the alternatives - the tangy odor of drowned mice, the faint but unmistakable whiff of duck feces. I'll take that antiseptic aroma anytime, it sends the right message to the neighboring wildlife, who would like to make my pool part of their environment.

While we're at it -G-6 Coffee tastings? Visit a Dunkin Donuts and put your money in an IRA.

NY Times endorsements in the New Jersey primaries. Lautenberg? OK, he'll be 91 but Andrews reneged on his deal not to run. In the Seventh Congressional District As Good As News takes Martin Marks over Leonard Lance. Both alliterate for alphabet day, but only one is an M & M. Young at Heart coming to the Beacon. See review here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Hint of Hope as Childhood Obesity Rate Hits Plateau - Don't hit that that plateau too hard kids, it may not hold. Is the obesity plateau a successful steppe for dietary education, or have America's obese merely put the growth rate in unhealthy eating on pause for a few years while this generation's children grow into next generation's parents? As Good As News opts for hope - now pass the chips while we look for an item with a hot photo.

Truth or Consequences - Thomas L. Friedman opines on the energy policies candidates should be talking about, if they were not cravenly pandering for votes in a democracy. As usual, he has a point, but...

Parents Grief Turns to Rage at Chinese Officials - Public officials responsible for shoddy school construction contributing to quake damage? Don't just get mad, vote change, vote for the opposition party in the next election.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cool and Hot

On the Court and on the Trail, One Aide Looms Over Obama - "There's no doubt Reggie is cooler than I am", says Barack Obama about right-hand man Reggie Love. Of course he's cooler, for starters your name is Barack Obama and his name is Reggie Love.

Time Ebbs for the Heros Who Saved the Harbor - Thank you to Seymour Wittek and his Coast Guard colleagues, who, on April 24, 1943, voluntarily boarded the burning, munitions laden freighter El Estero to fight an oil fire which started while the ship was docked in Jersey City. Surrounded by other munitions ships and rail cars, the fire on El Estero could have triggered a chain reaction of explosions that would have killed tens of thousands and destroyed vital shipping facilities throughout NY harbor. It didn't, thanks to the action of the Coast Guard volunteers. For an inkling of how bad this might have been, consider the 1917 explosion of a single munitions ship, the Mont-Blanc, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Halifax blast killed 2,000 and obliterated much of the town. An excerpt from the Times captures the courage of that moment in 1943:

An officer announced that he needed volunteers to board the burning ship and man fire hoses. The freighter’s deck and its holds were becoming perilously hot. “Nobody looked left,” Mr. Wittek recalled. “Nobody looked right. Nobody looked backwards. The men that volunteered all stepped forward — immediately.”

About 60 men raced to the pier, joining others who had been on fire watch and were already pouring water on the flames. Standing on the ship’s decks, Seaman Wittek could feel the heat through the soles of his shoes.

The fire was beyond control. In no time, an order came to scuttle the ship. It was
the only way to forestall an explosion. In a race against time, tugboats towed the Estero to deep waters in Upper New York Bay. Coast Guard and New York City fireboats pumped water into the cargo holds. Not quite four hours after catching fire, the Estero sank to the bottom. As she headed toward her death, most of the coast guardsmen were ordered off her, Seaman Wittek among them. Before he climbed down a rope ladder to a small boat bobbing alongside, some of his mates who had to stay a bit longer handed him their wallets. He remembers one man saying to him: “Wittek, if it blows, at least they’ll know I was here.”

No one died.

Monday, May 26, 2008


A Few Tremors in Oprahland - Fear not readers of the headline only, Oprah's ratings have dipped but she has not gone off her diet.

Clinton Could Face an Uneasy Return to Senate Seat - Uneasy for Hillary, maybe, but her senate colleagues are beyond tremors, they are quaking in fear. They smiled when she looked like the next President, taking campaign help all the while, then ran to Obama when it counted. Hillary returns to the Senate as one very angry lady with nothing to lose. SNL, start your sketches now - this will get interesting.

A Glimpse Of Weekend At McCain's - The headline gang at the NY Times is a devious lot indeed. Note the subtle aroma of Weekend At Bernie's for the most senior candidate still standing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Owl and the Sparrow

Owl and the Sparrow - Thuy (Han Thi Pham) is a ten year old orphan working in her uncle's bamboo furniture factory in the suburbs of Saigon. When her uncle berates her, warning her that she needs the factory work because she can't survive on her own, she takes off for downtown Saigon. Thuy survives in Saigon selling roses, thanks to some help from Lan and Hai, two adults who befriend her. Lan (Cat Ly) is a glamorous stewardess with a company paid hotel room and a life that is starting to seem like a dead end thanks to a long affair with a married pilot. Hai (Le The Lu) is an unassuming zookeeper, happy in his work but heartbroken by the recent desertion of his fiance and concerned by the zoo's impending sale of his favorite animal, an elephant he has raised from birth.

Thuy is ready to take on any challenge, escape her uncle, save the elephant, even make a romantic match of her reluctant friends to create her own family. This sweet, simple story features modern Saigon as its fourth star, weaving the theme of the old versus the new, sometimes ruthless Saigon into a reasonably engaging character study.

W.C. Fields notwithstanding, writer/director Stephane Gauger succeeds in working with both children and animals in his first film, shot in Saigon in fifteen days entirely with hand held cameras. The story is predictable, dragging a bit at times, but Saigon and little Thuy make it work well enough.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mr. Foe

Mr. Foe - Hallam Foe (Jamie Bell) is confused. He's an aging boy who likes to hang out in a tree house, no he's a creepy peeping tom with a notebook. He's a disturbed adolescent who's mother died and now he hates, no loves, no blames his stepmother Verity (Claire Forlaini). After a particularly creepy scene with Verity, young Mr. Foe runs away from home to Edinburgh, where he spots his dead mother, well Kate (Sophia Myles) her younger doppelganger. More confused love ensues until Father (Ciaran Hinds) and Verity show up to drive Hallam into crisis and ultimately, resolution . This sounds awful, but Hallam Foe, with his badger hat, Braveheart makeup, serious mother issues and unnerving propensity for heights, is an engaging character coming of age in a minefield of stereotypes, most neatly avoided. The stepmother is a step or two beyond credulity and the film drags a little in the middle, but Jamie Bell's performance and an ending that dodged a lot of bullets carried the picture for me. The Igby crowd will thrive on Mr. Foe and most of the rest of us will have that confusing I liked it, well except for... well I think I liked it, reaction when we get home.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hidden Joys of Secret Law

Justice Department Will Share Interrogation Opinions - Relax, this is not another As Good As News diatribe on severe interrogation, the posts themselves have become a form of torture. No, the news here is the President's belief that he can ignore or modify previous executive orders without telling anyone. This is the best idea since double secret probation. Maybe the next secret executive order (so secret that only the President knows about it) will require that all Federal government vehicles on interstate highways drive on the left side of the road.

Arizona Adds Digit to License Plates to Keep Up With Growth - In recognition of its increased population and the resulting uptick in snarled traffic and angry drivers, Arizona, has deleted the purple mountains and cactus from its license plates and substituted a highly stylized pictograph of an upraised middle finger emerging from a clenched fist. State officials explained that the pictograph of the middle digit, which conveys a striking sense of frustration and imminent violence, would preserve the State's Native American tradition and enhance safety by allowing Arizona drivers to vent frustration and anger with both hands on the wheel.

OK, seriously, Arizona added a seventh digit because it needs more numbers to keep up with increased vehicle registrations. North Dakota is contemplating a cost-saving switch to three digits early next year.