Happy Labor Day

Today, 1 September, is Labor Day in the United States. It is a day specifically set aside to recognize the achievements of workers, to recognize their importance in the economy, and to thank them for the well being of this country. A similar day is celebrated in Canada on the same day. Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894 and occurs on the first Monday in September. As it is a federal holiday, the federal government is on holiday and there is no postal delivery. Banks are closed as well as the stock market. Every state and territory follows suit as well.

Usually schools reopen around this date. When I was a kid, they generally started just before Labor Day but back then there was a second holiday in California on 9 September-California Admission Day. So we got two holidays back then in September! However there is no legal requirement anymore to observe it. No state agency closes for the date but local governments may choose to do so. Some school districts observe it but not always on the standard date. Los Angeles school district celebrates it on the last Friday in August. None of the public schools where I live observe the holiday.

Aside from being considered the end of summer, a day for retail sales and ball games, it was also the last day you could wear seersucker or white suits. After Labor Day, wearing such clothing was considered a fashion faux pas in certain circles. You might get away with tan but it would depend on the formality of the occasion your attending.

Have a pleasant day everyone.

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Titanic II: Clive Palmer’s Rant Another Ding Against It Being Built (In China)

Shenwumen Gate, Forbidden City, Beijing Photo:Kallgan (Wikipedia)

Shenwumen Gate, Forbidden City, Beijing
Photo:Kallgan (Wikipedia)

Clive Palmer took the airwaves recently saying unkind things about the Chinese. He called the Chinese government “bastards” setting off a firestorm of criticism for his tirade. His remarks were condemned by the Australian prime minister and of course the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He sent a written letter of apology to Chinese ambassador in which he states:

“I regret any hurt or anguish such comments may have caused any party and I look forward to greater understanding for peace and cooperation in the future.”

He explained later that his comments were directed at a Chinese company, CITIC Pacific, which he is locked in a legal fight concerning cost overruns and royalties involving the Sino Iron project in Western Australia. That project is a major investment for the Chinese company which until recently was state owned (CITIC Group was acquired by Hong Kong based CITIC Pacific and will begin publicly trading under that name). As such the former state owned company will be subject to stricter rules and disclosure requirements. But many in the financial community are not sure, despite this change, it will really result in major changes. Foreign directors may or may not be involved and the CITIC chairman has said that they are not necessary.

Palmer also said of CITIC in the Sino Iron project in western Australia that it was a “small horse pulling a big cart.” That cart is bigger now. It may be officially and legally a Hong Kong corporation but no one believes it is independent of government control. Beijing calls the shots behind the scenes and Palmer knows that. And even if he had just said it about CITIC, they would still be upset that he attacked a Chinese company. At any rate, it just makes building of Titanic II even more remote unless, as I noted before, he goes to Beijing and performs the kowtow.

Sources:
1.Australian Billionaire Politician Apologizes For TV Tirade Over China(25 Aug 2014,Reuters)
2.New Name, Old Questions for China’s Citic (28 Aug, MoneyBeat Blog, Wall Street Journal)

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Summer’s End

It is the last day of August and summer vacation comes to a close for many. Labor Day here in the U.S. begins the unofficial demarcation between summer and autumn. And the Autumnal Equinox is not that far off now. Click on the image link for a musical treat.

dayatbeach copy

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Feelin’ Groovy For A Friday

Simon & Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song aka Feelin’ Groovy from their 1981 concert in New York’s Central Park. Enjoy.

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Russia May Soon Ban Movies That “Demonize” Their Country But Luckily Titanic and Original Star Wars Okay

Photo:Julmin (retouched by Surendil)

Photo:Julmin(retouched by Surendil)

Yesterday I wrote about how North Korea rigidly controls access to foreign media by banning them completely. Of course it has resulted in a large black market for western movies. Russia, which has slipped back into Czarist autocracy,now wants to ban foreign films that demonizes Russia or shows it in a bad light. The ministry has taken over all film funding causing problems with joint productions with foreign partners. The notion of limiting foreign movies shown in Russia has been around for a while but now, thanks to anti-Western sentiment, it probably will become law.

Supposedly only new movies being distributed would be subject to these new controls, older movies especially those on an approved list would have no problem. Star Wars (the original and none of the sequels or prequels)is okay. James Cameron’s Titanic makes the cut as well. Not surprisingly the pro-Beijing The Last Emperor also makes the cut. Others from Hollywood include: Apocalypse Now,Citizen Kane, Cabaret, Bambi, Gone With The Wind, and Scarface. The Japanese film The Seven Samurai also makes the cut along with other movies from Europe and Hungary amongst others.

The purpose, of course, is to bully the major film companies into portraying Russia if nothing else in a positive light. They probably will like movies that show how bad things were under the Czars or how Bonaparte and Hitler were driven from Russian soil. They will likely not care for pro-Western anti-communist movies that paint them in not so favorable a light. Or ones that depict Stalin as a mass murderer instead of saving Russia from the Nazi barbarism. Or ones that show them taking over many Eastern European nations after World War II and putting in place friendly (read communist) governments.

If history is an example, the Hollywood moguls will play ball. They did so for Nazi Germany during the 1930’s and today do the same for Communist China (which is why you rarely see movies critical of that regime since they will not allow them to be shown there). But perhaps things have changed because of what is going on in the Ukraine. At least for now Titanic is allowed but of course that can change, if like the old days, when the minister has to blow his nose and has a change of heart.

Postscript:
I came across an interesting story in The St. Petersburg Times where a group of wealthy Orthodox are hoping to get Hollywood to produce movies featuring Russia. The one being promoted is the life of 14th-century Turko-Mongol conqueror Timur, also known as Tamerlane the Great. More interesting is what Andrei Poklonsky states:”Long before the discovery of America, we had a great civilization. At the end of the 14th century this was under threat. Tamerlane’s invincible army of 200,000 soldiers was set to plough through our lands of only 35,000 fighters. There was seemingly no chance for us, but after the whole country prayed for deliverance, the Mother of God told Tamerlane in a dream to retreat. Faith saved our country.” Apparently some in Hollywood are interested. And supports exactly what the Russian Culture Ministry wants to promote. (Source:Orthodox Philanthropists Planning to Finance Russian-Themed Blockbusters in Hollywood,29 Aug 2014, St Petersburg Times)

Sources:
1. Russian Officials Push for a Ban on Films That ‘Demonize’ Their Country(27 Aug 2014,Yahoo! Movies -originally from The Hollywood Reporter)
2.Russia Officially Recognizes ‘Star Wars’ as Film Classic (28 Aug 2014, Moscow Times)

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Titanic Musings

Titanic_posterTitanic Film Helps Kid Realize North Korea Is Not A Good Place To Live
When Park Yeon-mi was nine years old, a friend’s mother was executed in public for lending a South Korean movie to a friend. North Korea enforces strict rules about viewing foreign media on its soil. Bollywood and Russian movies got you jail while American and South Korean movies got you killed. Despite crackdowns, Park says there is large interest in foreign movies and music. And it opens people’s eyes to a lot of things. In her case, reports The Guardian, James Cameron’s Titanic gave her a window on the outside world.

No one is terribly surprised to learn how rigid North Korea controls its media. No dissent is allowed, no questions of policy. They do not want people to become envious of what other countries have but a large black market for foreign films and music challenges that authority. Park says that everything in the media is about the leader from books to television to films. Pirated movies smuggled through China were not cheap and as expensive as a large bag of rice. So people developed a system of swapping. A friend might have a copy of Snow White and she had James Bond, they would swap. She loves romantic movies and apparently love stories are banned.

Cameron’s Titanic showed a guy giving his life for his gal, something unheard of in North Korea. She wondered why love stories were banned. Why did the regime try to prevent expressions of love? What also shocked her was that though the story takes place in 1912, the level of development is higher than North Korea.

“The other shocking thing about that movie was that it was set 100 years ago, and I realised that our country is in the 21st century and we still haven’t reached that level of development,” she said.

That is a pretty telling statement about what is going on inside the very secretive North Korea. Despite claiming itself to be a modern form of Marxism, it really is a stagnated country that has grown very little except in the government and military sectors. So many today are turning to pirated media to find out what is outside. And she believes the pirated media has changed her generation and quietly North Korea forever. Foreign media exposes them to other ideas and concepts making them wonder why they do not have them there. And it also is resulting in many seeing the benefits of capitalism.

Park says she believes young North Koreans can, and will, bring real change to their country. She says she hopes to one day return to a reformed North Korea, where people will enjoy wealth, freedom and love. “All the foreign movies we saw about love affected me and my generation,” she said. “Now we no longer want to die for the regime, we want to die for love.”

And that is exactly why the Old Guard bans such media and knows once people become aware of what they can become, their days are numbered.

Source: ‘Watching Titanic Made Me Realise Something Was Wrong In My Country,’ says North Korean Defector(26 Aug 2014,The Guardian)

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Masterchef:Apples and Dim Sum

Dim sum breakfast in Hong Kong. Photo: Public Domain

Dim sum breakfast in Hong Kong.
Photo: Public Domain

We are down to the final seven after Daniel was sent home last week. It does not seem so long ago when there were thirty finalists standing in the Masterchef kitchen. It is no surprise that Courtney, Elizabeth, Christian or Big Willie are still there. Leslie and Jaimee are not a surprise either, but The Cutter Zone is. Never thought he would make it this far. He has had some bad outcomes but shockingly others did worse paving his way into the final seven. But this episode not only saw apples being used for savory dishes but a tag teamed competition to cook dim sum that sent another popular cheftestant home.

The mystery box awaits but first they get notes from home. Real notes they can read that hopefully inspire them to go on. And the mystery box has lots of apples, so many that they fall to the floor for dramatic effect (I pity the poor staff people that have to clean them up). But they are not for dessert but for a savory dish. That keeps the show from being predictable and forces them all to be creative. The three top dishes all used pork. Christian had an apple stuffed pork chop with bacon, brussels sprouts, zucchini and red apples. Leslie had an apple stuffed pork loin with bacon and gruyere cheese with apple mashed potatoes. And Courtney had a pork loin stuffed with apple, pancetta, swiss chard with pink lady apple juice sauce and an apple and celeriac salad. A lot going on there. All three dishes were terrific and, to be honest, I would want to eat all three! But since only one can win, Courtney gets the win. Just keep a kitten away from Elizabeth who made a dumb comment about stabbing one if Courtney won.

And for I think the first time in Masterchef history, the judges decide the elimination contest will be to cook five perfectly done dim sum dishes. I love dim sum but I know it is a lot of work to pull off. It is not prepared food unless you buy it so and most good restaurants make it from scratch (frozen dim sum is about as appealing as warm milk on a hot day). Courtney gets the choice of selecting the teams. And her chief targets are Big Willie, Christian, and Elizabeth. Jamiee is good but in her mind beatable as is Leslie. The Cutter Zone is in a world of his own but easy to set up for a fall. Courtney pairs up Christian and Big Willie, Elizabeth and The Cutter Zone, and by default Jaimee and Leslie. And the twist is that this is a tag-team challenge so only one will be cooking/prepping while the other sits out watching the other working.

By putting Christian and Big Willie together, she probably knew they would clash and burn. Meaning while Christian is a decent cook, Willie does not do upscale well. He also works deliberately rather than rushing. Christian yells at him a lot rattling Willie. Jaimee and Leslie are also having problems as well. It looks like they are just not working well either. Elizabeth and The Cutter Zone seem to be humming along and working okay. Ah but looks can be deceiving and in this episode what you think you saw was not exactly as it turned out at all. You would think the worst dish would come from Jaimee and Leslie.

Au contraire! Though they seemed to be out of sync they produced the best dim sum of the challenge. Gordon thought it would be a disaster as did the others. Instead it looked beautiful and tasted great by what the judges said. It was obvious these two were not in any danger of being sent home tonight. Which brings us to Willie and Christian. Burnt pot stickers, rubber balls for dumplings, no sauce for the pork buns, and under seasoned cabbage. Really quite shocking to see it come out this way from two normally strong chefs. Gordon sums it up best and say both do not deserve to continue in this competition. Wow. What a punch in the gut that was to these guys. Elizabeth and Cutter’s was just as bad. Nothing tasted or looked good. Nothing was seasoned. Courtney hit bullseye here. In fact I really thought it would send Cutter home.

Photo:Fox

Photo:Fox

But those culinary gods are tricky and mysterious in their ways. If it had been me, I would have dropped one (the worst) from each team. My choices would have been The Cutter Zone and Willie. Not to be though. After sending up Jaimee and Leslie (and the most forced hug ever on the show), they sent up Cutter and Elizabeth. Really? They said by just the smallest margin (like .008) they eke out a save. Christian and Willie now face the angel of death and the scythe of his. I was thinking of the old nursery rhyme:

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers, let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

Or something more ominous like when that demon praying mantis on Buffy:The Vampire Slayer was deciding to mate and then kill either Zander or the other guy before they were rescued.

Sadly Willie is sent home in the end. A really nice guy with a positive attitude. He was liked by just about everyone because, well, he was a nice guy who rarely said anything nasty about anyone. Even Courtney. They sent him home because his time was simply up. Christian is the better upscale cook of the two (and the ego that goes with it). I wish Cutter had been in that spot and sent home. Willie has ten times more ability than Cutter in this competition. Cutter has gotten lucky but that will run out eventually. And next week it looks like Leslie and Cutter are getting into it in another restaurant episode.

So here are my power rankings:
1. Courtney
2. Jaimee (moves up since Elizabeth tumbled this episode)
3. Elizabeth
4. Leslie
5. Christian(moves down due to being in last place)
6. The Cutter Zone

So who do you think will make top four and top two?

Masterchef Cookbooks

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Shania Twain For Your Monday

This is from her UP! album and is the red version of Forever and For Always.

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Sunday Titanic Musings

Photo:Public Domain

Photo:Public Domain

The Iceberg Comes For You
Some months back there was a news report about a new study on icebergs. It revealed that 1912 was an exceptional year for icebergs with higher than average numbers of them about in the North Atlantic. That study has now been formalized in a paper titled The Titanic Year of 1912: Was It Exceptional? by Gary Bigg in Significance magazine. But the story is not just about 1912 but also a warning that iceberg risk is about to increase, so they are still a great threat to ships. No further comment except to say I hope tax dollars were not used in this study.

Tattoo Titanic
Tattoos are popular these days. You see lots of men and women adorning various parts of their bodies with them. Some are small and others cover entire backs and fronts. And in areas no tattoos ought to be. So it come as no surprise that some have decided to adorn with Titanic-themed tattoos. Turns out a lot of people like them that there was a recent convention in Belfast. From pictures I saw, these are serious Titanic tattoos. And once you get them, they are practically for life since they are difficult to remove (it can be done but from what I have heard it can be expensive and painful.)

When Music Goes Bad
Most people who hear My Heart Will Go On usually like it but occasionally someone gets the needle stuck in their head. Not only does the music play but causes attachments to form. Perhaps ones that are completely wrong. Like Ashley Formby, age 27, in the U.K. He is or was an aspiring singer and his teacher, Helen Sedgwick (age 27), taught him that song. And then it went bad reports the Mail Online. He messaged her stating he wanted to be more than a music student. He followed up with flowers, emails, and gifts. She apparently shunned his advances but to no avail. She got a harassment notice (the U.K. version I assume of a restraining order) but he still continued to attempt contacting her via emails. So it finally ended in his arrest for violating the harassment order and the contacts ceased. And a judge now has made the restraining order indefinite.

Visiting The Apple Store
My iPhone decided recently that I ought not hear calls anymore. I could listen to them via the speaker (or talk) but that was a nuisance. My first clue was getting a call and thinking there was dead air. It frustrated a relative of mine thinking I was pranking them! I followed all the recommend procedures suggested by Apple and others to no avail. So I had to head to an Apple Store and let a tech figure it out. I went to the Apple Store in Burlingame, California. In retrospect, another place probably would have been better. Downtown Burlingame on historic Burlingame Avenue is always an experience but midday when it is warm and sunny means lots of people are about. It is a day the Beach Boys would sing about. Lots of pretty girls, young mothers with strollers, parents with kids are about. The store itself was pleasantly cool but when I entered it was like being in a noisy restaurant. Now the staff was very pleasant and I was on time for my appointment. And the guy that assisted me did a great job. Thankfully my iPhone is still under warranty (and with AppleCare+). The receiver was shot so they gave me a new phone. Could not have been nicer and easier to deal with. I asked him though if it was always this noisy at lunch time. He smiled and said yes. I said my voice was going hoarse from having to talk louder than normal. He laughed and understood exactly what I said. But heading back home I could hear The Beach Boys singing a song about sunny days and happy people strolling down the street near a beach. Burlingame is not near a beach but it can be as close as your imagination.


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Happy Sunday

Image:Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)

Image:Petr Kratochvil(publicdomainpictures.net)

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