Two blondes living in Oklahoma were sitting on a bench talking, and one blonde says to the other, "Which do you think is farther away.... Florida or the moon?"
The other blonde turns and says "Helloooooooooo, can you see Florida ?????"
A blonde pushes her BMW into a gas station. She tells the mechanic it died.
After he works on it for a few minutes, it is idling smoothly.
She says, "What's the story?"
He replies, "Just crap in the carburetor."
She asks, "How often do I have to do that?"
A police officer stops a blonde for speeding and asks her very nicely if he could see her license.
She replied in a huff, "I wish you guys would get your act together. Just yesterday you take away my license and then today you expect me to show it to you!"
There's this blonde out for a walk. She comes to a river and sees another blonde on the opposite bank. "Yoo-hoo!" she shouts, "How can I get to the other side?"
The second blonde looks up the river then down the river and shouts back, "You ARE on the other side."
AT THE DOCTOR'S OFFICE
A gorgeous young redhead goes into the doctor's office and said that her body hurt wherever she touched it.
"Impossible!" says the doctor. "Show me."
The redhead took her finger, pushed on her left shoulder and screamed, then she pushed her elbow and screamed even more. She pushed her knee and screamed; likewise she pushed her ankle and screamed. Everywhere she touched made her scream.
The doctor said, "You're not really a redhead, are you?
"Well, no" she said, "I'm actually a blonde."
"I thought so," the doctor said. "Your finger is broken."
A highway patrolman pulled alongside a speeding car on the freeway. Glancing at the car, he was astounded to see that the blonde behind the wheel was knitting!
Realizing that she was oblivious to his flashing lights and siren, the trooper cranked down his window, turned on his bullhorn and yelled, "PULL OVER!"
"NO!" the blonde yelled back, "IT'S A SCARF!"
BLONDE ON THE SUN
A Russian, an American, and a Blonde were talking one day. The Russian said, "We were the first in space!"
The American said, "We were the first on the moon!"
The Blonde said, "So what? We're going to be the first on the sun!"
The Russian and the American looked at each other and shook their heads. "You can't land on the sun, you idiot! You'll burn up!" said the Russian.
To which the Blonde replied, "We're not stupid, you know. We're going at night!"
IN A VACUUM
A blonde was playing Trivial Pursuit one night. It was her turn. She rolled the dice and she landed on Science & Nature. Her question was, "If you are in a vacuum and someone calls your name, can you hear it?"
She thought for a time and then asked, "Is it on or off?"
FINALLY, THE BLONDE JOKE TO END ALL BLONDE JOKES!
A girl was visiting her blonde friend, who had acquired two new dogs, and asked her what their names were. The blonde responded by saying that one was named Rolex and one was named Timex. Her friend said, "Whoever heard of someone naming dogs like that?"
"HELLLOOOOOOO......," answered the blond... "They're watch dogs!"
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Two blondes living in Oklahoma were sitting on a bench talking, and one blonde says to the other, "Which do you think is farther away.... Florida or the moon?"
The Taliban asked, "Do you have water?"
The Jewish man replied, "I have no water. Would you like to buy a tie? They are only $10."
The Taliban shouted,"Idiot! I do not need an over-priced fricken tie. I need water! I should kill you, but I must find water first!
"OK," said the old Jewish man, "It does not matter that you do not want to buy a tie and that you hate me. I will show you that I am bigger than that. If you continue over that hill to the east for about two miles, you will find a lovely restaurant. It has all the ice cold water you need. Shalom."
Cursing, the Taliban staggered away over the hill.
Several hours later he staggered back, almost dead & said........"Your brother won't let me in without a tie."
Friday, November 27, 2009
A foreign caregiver brought to Canada with a job offer from a "ghost employer" has been awarded $10,000 in damages in what is believed to be the first court victory against a nanny recruiter.
Marivic Perlas Rivera told a small claims court judge she paid $2,800 to Winlorfely Caregiver Providers "to find me a legal employer in Canada as a live-in caregiver."
But upon arrival from Hong Kong last November, Rivera was told her would-be employer, Wayne Smith, whom she has never met or even spoken to, was no longer interested in her services and she was "released on arrival."
Rivera's victory comes on the heels of a Star investigation over the past year that found numerous cases where nannies paid high fees and came to Canada on the promise of a job, but none materialized.
After six months of looking for a job she could legally do under immigration rules, Rivera, 29, sued recruiters Winston James and his wife, Lory Felipe, who run Winlorfely out of their rented basement apartment in Scarborough.
"If they didn't have an employer for me they should have told me the truth before I left Hong Kong," she said. "This was a ghost employer."
Judge Julie Hannaford agreed with Rivera, awarding her $10,000, the maximum allowed in small claims court, plus $300 in costs. She also tacked on interest at a rate of 2 per cent.
Calling the Nov. 17 award for damages "unjust," Winston James told the Star he's thinking of appealing. The judge, he said, didn't buy his story that Rivera arrived early and her employer was not in a position to hire her at the time.
Rivera was offered other jobs in the GTA but turned them down, he said, acknowledging she did not have the federal work permits required to work legally for those employers.
As for Wayne Smith, he is not a ghost, James said. Smith "lives across from me," he said.
According to Google Maps, the distance between James' apartment on Sudbury Hall Dr. and the Heatherbank Trail address listed on federal documents as Smith's place of residence, is 1.6 kilometres.
Reached on the phone, Smith said he did hire Rivera but "the story you are working on is not the way it sounds." He then refused comment.
"And don't call me back and ask about this," Smith said before hanging up.
A Filipina national who holds a college degree in accounting, Rivera worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 20 months before being recruited by Winston's sister-in-law, Fely Felipe.
Documents filed with small claims court show Rivera was directed to deposit $1,400 into "PPJ Fire and Safety," a TD Canada Trust account belonging to James. She paid an additional $1,400 before she arrived in Canada on Nov. 10, 2008.
Rivera said she began to suspect something was wrong before she left Hong Kong because she was not able to reach her employer at the phone number provided by the agency.
James picked her up at Pearson International and took her to his Scarborough home, she said.
Anxious to start work to support her husband and two young children in the Philippines, Rivera said James admitted after three days that he had no employer for her.
"I started crying. I don't know where to go, I don't know where to start," she said. "I have a lot of bills to pay. My kids depend on the money I send, and my husband was not working."
James took her to a job interview in Brampton that would pay $200 a week, far below the minimum wage and the $9.25 an hour she had been promised in her contract with Smith. She refused to take it because it would have meant working illegally, she said.
James then handed her over to another recruiter in Thornhill who housed her in "one room in the basement with eight other nannies in the same situation as me."
That recruiter lined up interviews for her with a single mother who admitted she could not afford a nanny, and with a family of 13 adults, none of whom had children.
"They all wanted me to work right away. I said I don't want to work without a permit. I want a legal employer because I did not want to get in trouble with immigration."
A desperate Rivera turned to the Canadian Coalition for In-Home Care, who helped her sue the agency. Rivera is now working in Hamilton for a family with three children.
"This case is significant because most Filipina ladies in this situation are afraid to come forward," said Marna Martin, chair of immigration and labour issues for the non-profit organization. "This is the first case we're aware of where a nanny has gotten judgment against an agency."
The current Live-In Caregiver program is rife with exploitation, Martin said. "Everybody abuses it, employers, agencies and caregivers, but I truly believe that agencies have been the biggest abusers in the past few years."
A year-long Star investigation highlighted much of that abuse, including nannies paying between $5,000 and $10,000 placement fees for bogus job offers.
In some cases, the Star found nannies were housed in high numbers in basement apartments and flophouses around the GTA, and then forced to work illegally to start paying recruiters their placement fees.
The series has prompted both the federal and provincial governments to take action to rein in rogue operators.Provincial legislation banning all fees for nannies coming to work in Ontario is expected to pass before Christmas. Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has also promised to crack down on unscrupulous agencies with amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Animals left to die in cages. Some suffocating on their own phlegm. Cats with skin hanging off their bones.
That picture – painted by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – followed an afternoon raid on the Toronto Humane Society that led to the arrest of president Tim Trow and four others for a handful of criminal charges, including cruelty to animals.
During the arrests, a pit bull-Labrador cross named Bandit that lived in Trow's office was pepper sprayed into submission when he attacked a police officer. The drama ended with Trow walking out of the River St. building in handcuffs, with a police officer on each arm. As cameras flashed off the cruiser's windows, Trow stared straight ahead and did not answer questions.
"The animals are left to suffer in cages," said Christopher Avery, a criminal lawyer representing the OSPCA. He said the OSPCA has a "board room" full of vet records, photographs and video statements from current and former employees, detailing the allegations: suffering animals, food covered in feces, and a lack of disease and pathogen control.
THS spokesman Ian McConachie said there was nothing wrong with the shelter's standard of care.
"I'm in there every day. Some animals are old, some are sick, but if you go to St. Mike's (hospital), it's the same thing with people. Some get better, some pass away. We give them that opportunity," he said.
The charges came from OSPCA investigator Kevin Strooband, who has the same powers as a police officer. Toronto police were on hand for public safety during the execution of the search warrant. Avery said the search warrant will allow investigators to match alleged tales of abuse with animals currently at the shelter. The THS is expected to be closed to the public until Tuesday.
The search and charges appeared to blindside the THS. McConachie said he hadn't heard from the OSPCA since June. He was in a "state of shock" Thursday as he paced outside the building in a T-shirt, locked out of his office.
"It's a dark day for animals altogether. These charges are nothing but political motivation," he said, adding that a third party should have done the investigation.
"That's like complaining that the Toronto police investigated you when you live in Toronto," Avery responded.
Avery said the OSPCA is not against the THS, just its management. "The THS is a wonderful organization that's been around for over 100 years caring for the animals of the city, except for the reign of Tim Trow and his current management team," he said.
"We're only here to help them get back on their feet."
Thursday's raid came after a tumultuous year for the THS. The OSPCA launched its investigations in June, after a newspaper report described a dysfunctional shelter at which animals allegedly suffered because veterinarians were overruled and staff intimidated by Trow, a retired lawyer known for his reluctance to euthanize animals.
In fact, the dog that was pepper sprayed by police, Bandit, was sentenced to death by the court after he mauled a 3-year-old in 2003. The THS appealed the decision and Trow has kept the dog in his office. Bandit is in veterinary care following the pepper-spray incident.
Trow, general manager Gary McCracken, head veterinarian Steve Sheridan, manager Romeo Bernadino and shelter supervisor Andy Bechtel were charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and cruelty to animals.
Everyone but Sheridan was also charged with obstruction of a peace officer, for allegedly hiding and euthanizing sickly animals prior to a June OSPCA visit.
Avery said a guilty conviction for an animal cruelty charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in jail, while the obstruction conviction would carry a maximum two-year sentence.
All five men and the board of directors face additional charges under the Ontario SPCA Act for animal cruelty.
Avery said the charges will not dissolve the board.
"I'm sure the membership would not be pleased," he said. "We're hoping they appoint a supervisor from the office of the public guardian and trustee."
That office, which is part of the Ministry of the Attorney General, deals with dissolved corporations.
With files from Denise Balkisoon, Tamara Baluja and Daniel Dale
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
And once again, it's time for the Darwin Award Nominees. The Darwins are awarded every year to the persons who died in the stupidest manner, thereby removing themselves from the gene pool.
This year's nominees are:
Nominee No. 1: (San Jose Mercury News): An unidentified man, using a shotgun like a club to break a former girlfriend's windshield, accidentally shot himself to death when the gun discharged, blowing a hole in his gut.
Nominee No. 2: (Kalamazoo Gazette): James Burns, 34, (a mechanic) of Alamo, MI, was killed in March as he was trying to repair what police describe as a "farm-type truck." Burns got a friend to drive the truck on a highway while Burns hung underneath so that he could ascertain the source of a troubling noise. Burns clothes caught on something however and the other man found Burns "wrapped in the drive shaft.”
Nominee No. 3: (Hickory Daily Record): Ken Charles Barger, 47, accidentally shot himself to death in December in Newton, NC. Awakening to the sound of a ringing telephone beside his bed, he reached for the phone but grabbed instead a Smith & Wesson 38 Special, which discharged when he drew it to his ear.
Nominee No. 4: (UPI, Toronto): Police said a lawyer demonstrating the safety of windows in a downtown Toronto skyscraper crashed through a pane with his shoulder and plunged 24 floors to his death. A police spokesman said Garry Hoy, 39, fell into the courtyard of the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower early Friday evening as he was explaining the strength of the building's windows to visiting law students. Hoy previously had conducted demonstrations of window strength according to police reports. Peter Lawson, managing partner of the firm Holden Day Wilson, told the Toronto Sun newspaper that Hoy was "one of the best and brightest" (ed note: ????) members of the 200-man association.
Nominee No. 5: (The News of the Weird): Michael Anderson Godwin made News of the Weird posthumously. He had spent several years awaiting South Carolina's electric chair on a murder conviction before having his sentence reduced to life in prison. While sitting on a metal toilet in his cell attempting to fix his small TV set, he bit into a wire and was electrocuted.
Nominee No. 6: A cigarette lighter may have triggered a fatal explosion in Dunkirk, IN. A Jay Countryman, using a cigarette lighter to check the barrel of a muzzle loader, was killed Monday night when the weapon discharged in his face, sheriffs' investigators said. Gregory David Pryor, 19, died in his parents' rural Dunkirk home at about 11:30 PM. Investigators said Pryor was cleaning a 54-caliber muzzle-loader that had not been firing properly. He was using the lighter to look into the barrel when the gunpowder ignited.
Nominee No. 7: (Reuters, Mississauga, Ontario ): A man cleaning a bird feeder on the balcony of his condominium apartment in his Toronto suburb slipped and fell 23 stories to his death. Stefan Macko, 55, was standing on a wheelchair when the accident occurred, said Inspector Darcy Honer of the Peel Regional Police. "It appears that the chair moved, and he went over the balcony," Honer said.
Finally, THE WINNER!: (Arkansas Democrat Gazette): Two local men were injured when their pickup truck left the road and struck a tree near Cotton Patch on State Highway 38 early Monday. Woodruff County Deputy Dovey Snyder reported the accident shortly after midnight Monday. Thurston Poole, 33, of Des Arc, and Billy Ray Wallis, 38, of Little Rock, were returning to Des Arc after a frog catching trip. On an overcast Sunday night, Pooles pickup truck headlights malfunctioned.
The two men concluded that the headlight fuse on the older-model truck had burned out. As a replacement fuse was not available, Wallis noticed that the 22 caliber bullets from his pistol fit perfectly into the fuse box next to the steering-wheel column. Upon inserting the bullet the headlights again began to operate properly, and the two men proceeded on eastbound toward the White River Bridge.
After traveling approximately 20 miles, and just before crossing the river, the bullet apparently overheated, discharged, and struck Poole in the testicles.
The vehicle swerved sharply right, exiting the pavement, and striking a tree. Poole suffered only minor cuts and abrasions from the accident but will require extensive surgery to repair the damage to his testicles which will never operate again as intended.
Wallis sustained a broken clavicle and was treated and released.
"Thank God we weren't on that bridge when Thurston shot his balls off, or we might both be dead," stated Wallis.
"I've been a trooper for 10 years in this part of the world, but this is a first for me. I can't believe that those two would admit how this accident happened," said Snyder.
Upon being notified of the wreck, Lavinia (Poole's wife) asked how many frogs the boys had caught and did anyone get them from the truck. Priorities, after all!
Though Poole and Wallis did not die as a result of their misadventure as normally required by Darwin Award Official Rules, it can be argued that Poole did, in fact, effectively remove himself from the gene pool.
Monday, November 23, 2009
I asked my friend's little girl what she wanted to be when she grows up. She said she wanted to be Prime Minister of Canada some day.
Both of her parents, NDP supporters, were standing there, so I asked her, "If you were Prime Minister what would be the first thing you would do?" She replied, "I'd give food and houses to all the homeless people."
Her parents beamed, and said, "Welcome to the NDP Party!"
"Wow...what a worthy goal!"
I told her. I continued,
"But you don't have to wait until you're Prime Minister to do that. You can come over to my house, mow the lawn, pull weeds, and sweep my yard, and I'll pay you $50. Then I'll take you over to the grocery store where the homeless guy hangs out. You can give him the $50 to use toward food and a new house."
She thought that over for a few seconds, then she looked me straight in the eye and asked,
"Why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"
I smiled and said, "Welcome to the Conservative Party."
SOCIALISM: You have two cows. State takes one and give it to someone else.
COMMUNISM: You have two cows. State takes both of them and gives you milk.
FASCISM: You have two cows. State takes both of them and sell you milk.
NAZISM: You have two cows. State takes both of them and shoot you.
BUREAUCRACY: You have two cows. State takes both of them, kill one and spill the milk in system of sewage.
CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
Alternative: A COWSMIC VIEW OF WORLD ORGANIZATION
FEUDALISM: You have two cows. Your lord takes some of the milk.
PURE SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. You have to take care of all the cows. The government gives you as much milk as you need.
BUREAUCRATIC SOCIALISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and puts them in a barn with everyone else's cows. They are cared for by ex-chicken farmers. You have to take care of the chickens the government took from the chicken farmers. The government gives you as much milk and as many eggs as the regulations say you should need.
FASCISM: You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them, and sells you the milk.
PURE COMMUNISM: You have two cows. Your neighbors help you take care of them, and you all share the milk.
RUSSIAN COMMUNISM: You have two cows. You have to take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.
DICTATORSHIP: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.
SINGAPORE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. The government fines you for keeping two unlicensed animals in an apartment.
MILITARIANISM: You have two cows. The government takes both and drafts you.
PURE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors decide who gets the milk.
REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. Your neighbors pick someone to tell you who gets the milk.
AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: The government promises to give you two cows if you vote for it. After the election, the president is impeached for speculating in cow futures. The press dubs the affair "Cowgate".
BRITISH DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. You feed them sheep's brains and they go mad. The government doesn't do anything.
BUREAUCRACY: You have two cows. At first the government regulates what you can feed them and when you can milk them. Then it pays you not to milk them. After that it takes both, shoots one, milks the other and pours the milk down the drain. Then it requires you to fill out forms accounting for the missing cows.
ANARCHY: You have two cows. Either you sell the milk at a fair price or your neighbors kill you and take the cows.
CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
HONG KONG CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows' milk back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because the Feng Shui is bad.
ENVIRONMENTALISM: You have two cows. The government bans you from milking or killing them.
FEMINISM: You have two cows. They get married and adopt a veal calf.
TOTALITARIANISM: You have two cows. The government takes them and denies they ever existed. Milk is banned.
POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: You are associated with (the concept of "ownership"is a symbol of the phallo-centric, war-mongering, intolerant past) two differently-aged (but no less valuable to society) bovines of non-specified gender.
COUNTER CULTURE: Wow, dude, there's like... these two cows, man. You got to have some of this milk. Far out! Awesome!
SURREALISM: You have two giraffes. The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.
JAPANESE DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. You give the milk to gangsters so they don't ask any awkward questions about who you're giving the milk to.
EUROPEAN FEDERALISM: You have two cows which cost too much money to care for because everybody is buying milk imported from some cheap east-European country and would never pay the fortune you'd have to ask for your cows' milk. So you apply for financial aid from the European Union to subsidise your cows and are granted enough subsidies. You then sell your milk at the former elevated price to some government-owned distributor which then dumps your milk onto the market at east-European prices to make Europe competitive. You spend the money you got as a subsidy on two new cows and then go on a demonstration to Brussels complaining that the European farm-policy is going drive you out of your job.
EASTERN EUROPEAN DEMOCRACY: You have two cows. You sell the milk (diluted with some water) at a high price to the neighbors or to anyone at the open-air market. If somebody asks for receipt, you charge for a two times higher price, so nobody will request an invoice. For concerned families with small babies you claim that the milk is "bio", though you collect the grass for feeding at the side of the highway and you keep the milk in plastic barrels used previously as containers of dangerous chemicals. Later, your neighbor or anybody from town will steal the cows and will buy their meat for a high price, and if you ask for a receipt, you will be charged for a two times higher price.
FINNISH SOCIALISM: You have two cows. Soon you have to kill one of them because in the Netherlands there is an overproduction of milk and the European Union rules say so. When you do so, you realize that it was not necessary, only the system was too slow in getting you the up-to-date news. From the stress, you get an ulcer in your stomach so you go to a doctor. The doctor realizes that this ulcer is a serious one, so you need an urgent treatment. Therefore, you soon get a call to the local hospital. The call's date is for 3 months later, because there is a queue with more urgent cases. Then your ulcer becomes even more serious because you remember that 40 percent of your income is taken for social tax.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
[Collected via e-mail, July 2008]
From: UPS Packet Service
Subject: UPS Paket N0328795951
Unfortunately we were not able to deliver postal package you sent on July the 1st in time because the recipient's address is not correct.
Please print out the invoice copy attached and collect the package at our office.
[Collected via e-mail, August 2008]
Unfortunately we were not able to deliver postal package you sent on July the 25 in time because the recipient's address is not correct.
Please print out the invoice copy attached and collect the package at our office.
In 1983, my father was in the hospital facing yet another vascular surgery. In those days antereo-vascular disease was treated by taking out the large blood vessels turning them inside out, and putting them back in. Recovery was painful, and dad had had this done half a dozen times already.
This time, he was undergoing surgery due to a series of small strokes, and the prognosis was 50/50; either he'd survive or die during the operation. Dad was emotionally worn down by the strokes and years of related diseases, and his spirits were finally flagging. Dad had never been the kind of man to give up easily. An athlete all his life, he had approached his struggles with his body with the same winner's spirit he'd approached his baseball games, with determination and confidence. In this latest depression, he'd finally made up his mind he was going to die on the operating table.
At the same time as this drama was unfolding in our lives, Michael McDonald and I had been meeting regularly to write. Our favorite unfinished melody was the one that would later become "This Is It," but as yet we were still struggling with the lyrics. We'd tried twice to squeeze "boy/girl" lyrics into it, but they were always unsatisfying. What had us fooled were the 2 lines that had shown up with the initial melody.
there been times in my life / I've been wondering why
You think that maybe it's over / Only if you want it to be
We were assuming those lines were about lost love, but we would soon see that the song had another idea. One morning, as we visited my father in the hospital, his talk of dying finally got to me, and I exploded. "You've got some say over how this goes, ya know?" I demanded. "Your attitude will determine your survival." Dad fell silent, angry and embarrassed. I looked him in the eyes and said, "This is it, dad. Make a choice!" He had stopped speaking to me, and I was so frustrated I just stormed out of the room, already late for my writing appointment with Michael. When I arrived at Mike's home, my mind suddenly connected the dots and as I once again sang the lines, "you think that maybe it's over, only if you want it to be." I began to cry. "I've got it," I announced to Michael, "it's not a love song. It's a life song." I went on to tell him about my fight with my father and his fight for life. Suddenly all the previous lyric made sense and new additional lyrics literally came flooding out. When we hit the chorus I sang out "this is it" emphatically, for the first time. Michael looked at me in shock. "Are you sure?" he asked. "Positive," I said. And so it went.
That evening I rushed back to visit my father at the hospital with my first demo of "This Is It" in my hand. As I played it for him in his room, tears came to our eyes, we held each other and silently I knew he'd be alright. My father lived four more good years before suffering kidney disease created by lack of blood flow, and died in 1987.
Thanks for helping me tell my story, once and for all.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Ending her talk show after a quarter-century "feels right in my bones and right in my spirit," Oprah Winfrey told her studio audience at the end of the taping of Friday's show.
Oprah, one of the most powerful women in the world, had promised a statement Friday after news broke Thursday that she was pulling the plug on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011.
"It's exactly the right time," she said, at times tearful.
"For some of you long-time Oprah viewers, you have literally grown up with me. You have your family and you raised your children and you left a spot for me in your morning and afternoon."
But the 55-year-old entertainer's inspirational message, like her media empire, will just keep expanding, a message on www.oprah.com said Friday afternoon.
A link from the site to her next venture, the cable Oprah Winfrey Network, or OWN, declared: "For an hour a day, she's been bringing `live your best life' television right into your living room. Well now it's time for what's next. Not just what's next for Oprah, but what's next for you. The Oprah Winfrey Network will be a 24/7 cable network devoted to self-discovery, to connecting you to your best self and to the world. Oprah will be with us every day. She's the life force of OWN."
The network will launch in January 2011, and a number of executives from her daily TV show have already signed on to the new venture, according to www.oprah.com.
In the hours that followed Thursday's disclosure, industry watchers bemoaned the end of an era and speculated about whether a supremely savvy businesswoman's decision would work to take her star power and brand from the mainstream TV milieu that created her into a more nimble niche that is entirely her own.
Her decision "will have a ripple effect through the TV industry," industry watcher Joe Flint reported on his blog at the Los Angeles Times.
"Winfrey is making the decision that she can make more money and build her brand better on cable ... A few years ago that would have seemed unthinkable, but it is clear that the greater value lies in the broadband medium," Flint wrote.
"Winfrey herself may be a loser because odds are that, at least in the short-term, she will take a financial hit by abandoning daytime talk – although, of course, in the long term she is building an asset that could have tremendous value."
The big winners, Flint wrote, are Discovery Communications, her partner on the Oprah Winfrey Network, as well as Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Bros., "which will no longer have to compete against Winfrey in daytime." The losers, he said, include CBS, which is losing hundreds of millions of fans, along with the revenue they attract and the spillover to local programming.
"Winfrey was boisterous and enthusiastic and endeared herself to her audience and guests," Flint said. "She was able to woo political leaders and movie stars to her couch and at the same time dip into the more tawdry topics that have also become a staple of TV without soiling her own reputation."
On the Broadcast&Cable website, Mark Toney, senior vice-president at consultancy SmithGeiger, said he anticipated that once stations are free of "the shackles of pricey syndicated programming," they will experiment with local content, including news and entertainment.
"But it's truly the end of a huge era," he said. "There'll be a sense of, `Man, we had a great run.'"
WHO WILL TAKE HER PLACE?
Oprah Winfrey's decision to leave CBS is nothing less than a paradigm shift, one that will roil the already fragile local TV station business for the next two years.
"It's going to be the clash of the titans," is how one syndicated-TV onlooker described what the next 18 months will look like as the big guns jostle for position.
Here are some potential heirs to Oprah's syndicated throne:
She's the most obvious choice to follow in Oprah's footsteps. Her show got its start on NBC stations, where the original licence fees, as usual in start-up deals, were quite low.
After Racking Up Thousands of Dollars In Debt during the recession, this Struggling Single Mother Reveals The Secret To Making Money From Home...Even In Tough Economic Times So Click Here!
Those NBC station deals will be coming up for renewal soon, and with ABC looking for an Oprah replacement, Ellen's timing looks impeccable. (While CBS owns the syndication rights to Oprah, ABC stations air the show in syndication.)
His hit advice talk show, Dr. Phil, aired by CBS, is a show that Winfrey helped nurture into first-run fame, and it could take advantage of the looming vacuum. Until now, his talk show could not contractually go head-to-head with Oprah in the afternoon, but once the latter is gone, CBS will be working to upgrade the relationship therapist to those coveted 4 p.m. slots.
Health guru and Columbia University professor of surgery, Dr. Oz is another Oprah acolyte; his talk show, launched this fall, is produced by Winfrey's Harpo firm.
Another frequent Oprah guest, this interior designer has a daytime talk show with a lifestyle theme that is set to launch in September 2010.
Hatching babies: Our black market in human eggs
November 21, 2009
The minute hand has just ticked past 11 a.m. Thea glances at her cellphone, then at the door leading into the busy coffee shop. A woman enters, but not the right one.
"She's late," says Thea, dipping a spoon into her latte and giving it a slow stir. "She probably won't come."
Thea is waiting to meet a stranger she met on the Internet, a tall woman with long, brown hair who is selling something Thea desperately wants: fertile human eggs.
At 39, and after four years of failed fertility treatments and false pregnancy tests, Thea, who asked for anonymity, is still trying to have a baby. In May, her doctor told her and her husband that they were running out of options. Their last hope, he said, was to use eggs from another woman's ovaries.
However, finding an egg donor in Canada is fraught with difficulties. Current laws make it illegal to buy human eggs, and the number of couples who are looking for altruistic donors far exceeds the number of women willing to give away their eggs for free. But as with any prohibition, a ban has not halted the trade of human eggs.
A black market is booming in Toronto. Every day, women post want ads for eggs on free Internet classified sites, including Craigslist and Kijiji. Others offer their eggs for cash, listing their facial features and other traits as if they were selling used cars or antique crockery.
And – despite the threat of a $250,000 fine and a five-year jail sentence from the federal governing body, Assisted Human Reproduction Canada – little is being done about it.
Doctors, lawyers, fertility experts and frustrated would-be parents are asking why Canada bans the purchase of eggs if there is no intent to enforce the laws. As they stand, critics say, Canada's assisted human reproduction laws are hurting the same people they are supposed to protect.
Four months into the search, Thea is increasingly bewildered by the process of finding an egg donor. There must, she says, be a better way to find the other half of her baby's DNA.
The Mississauga woman has no friends or family to ask for donated eggs, and she and her husband can't afford the $20,000 it would take to go to the U.S. to buy eggs, where it is legal to pay for them. Thea's fertility doctor said she should look for eggs online. He told her not to offer more than $3,000, an amount he said could be argued as payment for reasonable expenses, which is allowed under the act. He then asked Thea to return to the clinic once an arrangement was made.
"I can't believe I'm doing this," she says. "I don't know what to look for, what questions to ask. It's not like I'm looking for someone to babysit my child. I'm looking for someone to help me create my child."
FIVE YEARS AGO, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act made it illegal to buy eggs, sperm and embryos in Canada. Legislators had hoped an outright ban on the purchase of these human gametes would prevent the commodification and commercialization of human life.
But almost everyone in the fertility community says the legislation, in which altruism is supposed to trump capitalism, is unrealistic.
"The laws are trying to enforce a moral vision on a society that does not share it," says Bernard Dickens, professor emeritus of health law and policy at the University of Toronto. "Of course women are going online to search for ovum. What other choice do they have?"
Dickens draws comparisons between the ban on payment for human eggs and previous prohibitions on reproductive technologies, including abortion.
"We've come out of criminalizing and punishing people who don't want to have children," he says. "Now we are doing the same – criminalizing and punishing people – who do want to have children.
"These are not wicked people who are trying to shake the foundations of society. They are infertile people, usually couples of so-called advanced maternal age, who want to have children."
Doctors, fertility experts and patient advocates are calling for a regulated market for human gametes that would protect both donors and recipients.
Right now, they say, Canada's fertility laws are out of step with the practical care of patients.
Women and couples who have been told egg donation is their only option for infertility are shocked at being forced outside the clinic for part of their care. They call the process of finding an egg donor intimidating and emotionally draining. They are upset they can no longer opt for an anonymous donation through a clinic-run program. And they are afraid they will be duped by sophisticated sellers.
Egg sellers, beguiled by the prospect of easy cash to pay off student loans or to start a business, are also at risk in Canada's underground egg market.
Whether an altruistic donor or a seller, women intending to pass along their eggs must first take drugs to stop menstruating and to stimulate their ovaries. In rare cases, those medications cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, a condition that can have life-threatening complications, including blood clots and kidney failure. The long-term health effects of repeated ovarian stimulation are unknown, which has prompted some fertility groups, including the American Fertility Association, to recommend that a woman's eggs be harvested no more than four times in her lifetime – something that cannot be monitored when deals are made outside a regulated system.
And, beyond the immediate risks to egg donors and recipients, some experts wonder how children, whose conception stemmed from online deals, will feel about their origins as they grow up.
"You're talking about 50 per cent of your future child's DNA," says Sherry Levitan, a Toronto lawyer specializing in third-party reproductive law. "Forcing people to shop for each other online does not befit the gravity of what they are doing. Certainly, we need to respect the process a little bit more."
No one in Canada keeps track of the number of women and couples who need egg donors to conceive, but Dr. Ellen Greenblatt, clinical director of the Centre for Fertility and Reproductive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital, says the demand greatly exceeds supply.
"And there will be a need for more and more and more as people delay child-bearing and get into the issue of age-related decline of fertility," she says. According to the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, 405 women used donor eggs in 2007 as part of their infertility treatments. But experts say that number represents a fraction of the women seeking donors.
Greenblatt sees at least two such women a week. Yet because so few are able to find an egg donor, Greenblatt can only help about 10 women a year.
"Our program is purely a known-donor program, and that's not easy to come by," she says, noting almost all of her patients ask friends or family members to be donors. From her view inside the clinic, Greenblatt says it is clear Canada's reproductive laws were implemented without proof the concept would work.
"They didn't ask what the supply of donors would be if it was totally altruistic."
THEA PLACED HER ad on Kijiji at the end of June. It was simple, just a few lines, stating that she and her husband were in need of an egg donor to help them build their family. The ideal person, it said, would be Caucasian, 5-foot-6 or taller, and in good health.
Within days, Thea started to get email responses. Few of the replies were worth considering: some women were too short, others the wrong ethnicity, one woman was from California, and several were too weird to take seriously.
The woman Thea has planned to meet at the coffee shop is tall, like her. In their email exchange, the woman described her four children, sent pictures of herself, and said she wants to help other women get pregnant. There was enough in the brief correspondence to spark hope that this stranger could be The One to help Thea have a baby.
But, along with hope, Thea feels disgust that her desire for a baby has brought her to a suburban coffee shop in Burlington.
"This shouldn't be up to me," she says. "They are sending me out for my own body parts. I wouldn't go out looking for a liver if I needed one of those."
At 15 minutes past 11, Thea notices a woman standing in the doorway.
"That's her, I think," she says, and shyly waves the woman over. The two shake hands, smile and sit down next to each other. Their eyes are a similar purplish-blue.
Soon, the woman is chatting about her family and job, and pulling out photographs of her children. Ten minutes later, she smoothly moves the conversation to egg donation.
A two-time donor, the woman, who has a warm smile and easygoing demeanour, is well versed in fertility terminology, reproductive technology and the legal ins-and-outs of exchanging eggs. She wants to help other couples, she says, especially since she is so fertile. Besides, she adds, it would be a waste for those extra cells to be flushed down the toilet every month.
It is a slick, sophisticated sales pitch, complete with a high price tag. She tells Thea that she would expect a "donor gift" of at least $7,900, plus expenses – that's what she got last time – but suggests $9,500 would be more appropriate, since she is a proven donor.
After an hour, the meeting fizzles to an end. Thea says she wants to talk things over with her husband. The woman stands up, shakes Thea's hand and walks to the door.
Thea waits for her to leave. Then sighs.
"I don't think I'm going to find anyone this way," she says.
Levitan, the Toronto lawyer, says women like Thea would have received more guidance and be better educated about the legal, medical and ethical complexities of egg donation under the old system, before assisted human reproduction laws were enacted in 2004.
"Reputable clinics had programs that were run, in their mind, to the highest standard," she says. "Not only were the intended parents well taken care of, but the donor was taken care of. Everyone's needs were considered at every stage of the process."
Now, she adds, many of the women who go online are naive enough to think they'll find an altruistic donor there.
"It's really very sad to watch," she says. "They put their ad out with open hearts and sometimes the responses are quite materialistic. Sometimes the responses are less than what they had hoped for.
"Some of them can see through the inappropriate responses very quickly, while others get led down the garden path."
TAMMY ZUPO POSTED her ad on Kijiji on Sept. 21.
The 32-year-old did not include as many personal details as others who advertise their eggs online. Her message was short, to the point. "I am a proven egg donor," it read. "The couple that I helped out are now on the way to being parents. I am a healthy young Caucasian woman willing to help another couple looking for their little miracle."
Zupo, who has a toddler son of her own, is pretty with long blond hair and light blue eyes. In the U.S., where donors can be paid tens of thousands of dollars for their eggs, these would be desirable – and expensive – features.
The well-spoken Mississauga woman says she goes online to advertise her willingness to donate eggs because she wants others to feel the joy of being a parent. She donated her eggs to a couple in July. When the woman called to tell her she was pregnant, Zupo says she cried. Later, she received a card and necklace from the couple.
"My experience with my son is my life," she says. "To me, nothing is more important. I knew I could help these people."
Zupo says she only asks for the family to pay for her medical care and travel expenses to and from the fertility clinic, as allowed under Canada's fertility laws.
Other egg donors who were in contact with the Star said they were asking between $2,000 and $6,000 for their eggs. Two women wanted money for school. Another, to start a business. And one woman wrote that she needed quick cash; donating eggs seemed an easy way to pay her bills.
"None of this feels quite right, does it?" says Levitan about the online egg trade. In her practice she has seen the damage done by the most mercenary egg donors.
"There are a few who turn this into a lucrative prospect," she says. "They will be the first to respond (to ads). They know so much more about the process than the intended parents, so it is easy for them to take advantage of the intended parents. Some ask for outrageous amounts of money. Some ask for advances, and then don't appear when and where they are supposed to ... This has become very difficult for intended parents."
Those in the fertility community agree that Canadian laws, which were supposed to prevent the commodification of life, have backfired. What, they ask, is more commercial and more disrespectful of the origins of life than an underground Internet trade in human eggs?
Critics say the government, via Assisted Human Reproduction Canada needs to enforce the laws – or amend them.
"You know it's happening, so control it," says Roger Pierson, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at the University of Saskatchewan and spokesperson for the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society.
In an emailed response to questions, AHRC insisted that it is enforcing the Assisted Human Reproduction Act and its regulations.
"Each (violation of the act) has been fully investigated and appropriate action taken within the authority of the agency. The specifics of any particular file cannot be disclosed, but the agency has acted at all times in accordance with its authority."
But Pierson says no one in Canada has been prosecuted. The agency asserts it conducts website monitoring to "ensure that Canadian websites dealing with assisted human reproduction subject matter are aware of the act and regulations as well as to ensure that any potentially non-compliant findings are addressed appropriately."
But these actions are not stopping online deals from taking place.
Dr. Paul Claman, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Ottawa and medical director of the Ottawa Fertility Centre, the largest of its kind in Canada, argues there is no inherent moral conflict in paying individuals for an act of kindness.
"A doctor spends his whole life and vocation doing kindness for people, and no one begrudges a doctor for being paid for his time," he says.
Claman and other fertility experts suggest that paying an egg donor a set fee – an amount that would not be considered coercive or payment for eggs, but a recognition of the time, inconvenience and medical risk – would weed out those who are doing it for the wrong reasons.
THEA IS STILL searching for an egg donor.
It has been six months since her doctor told her that she needed eggs from another woman's ovaries to bear a child.
Her ad is still posted online, and she continues to meet with women at coffee shops around southern Ontario.But, with each meeting and with each passing month, Thea's hope that a stranger can help her with her dream is dwindling.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Consumer bankruptcies jump 45.5 per cent
OTTAWA — The number of Canadian bankruptcies jumped by an annual rate of 43.3 per cent in September, as consumers continued to take the brunt of the economic downturn.
The Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy reported Friday that total insolvencies rose to 16,044 during the month, up from 11,198 a year earlier. That was also up 28.4 per cent from 12,499 filings in August of this year.
Consumer filings rose 45.5 per cent to 15,465 in September from a year earlier, and were 28.5 per cent higher than in August when bankruptcies totalled 12,033.
Meanwhile, business filings rose 1.6 per cent to 579 during the month from 570 in September 2008. On a monthly basis, bankruptcies increased 24.2 per cent from 466 in August.
"Historically, monthly variations between the months of August and September have been mostly positive," the bankruptcy office said. "In the last 10 years, total insolvencies filed in the month of September have been higher than in August on seven occurrences."
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Cruise On A Luxury Liner
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
-- Friedrich Nietzsche
We never have enough information to enable us to fully understand the truth of the reality around us. And there is never only one correct perspective about anything.
Knowing this helps me let go of my tendency to label things as good or bad. I suffer least when I can accept reality just as it is. And I benefit most when I open my heart and mind in appreciation.
“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”
-- Marcus Aurelius
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Barack Obama has come under fire in the US for bowing to Emperor Akihito of Japan. Critics claimed the sign of deference went against state department
Barack Obama has come under fire in the US for bowing to Emperor Akihito of Japan. Critics claimed the sign of deference went against state department protocol, which decrees that presidents bow to no one
During 17 NHL seasons, Mario Lemieux was a big draw, a guy whose presence in the lineup boosted ticket sales.
A wander around the International Centre in Mississauga Sunday showed that his star power hasn't waned. More than 400 people paid up to $999 to get pictures, jerseys, books, pucks and hockey cards autographed by the man dubbed "Super Mario" and "Mario the Magnificent" during a spectacular career with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the team he now owns.
"This is essentially the backstage pass for people to see Mario Lemieux," said Al Sinclair, organizer of the Sportcard and Memorabilia Expo, a twice-yearly trade show deemed a can't-miss event by those selling the accoutrement of the game that is our national obsession. "For lots of people, that's priceless."
Actually, in this big business, everything has a price. The VIP package, which had about 40 takers at $999, included a photo with the man plus a picture of him from his playing days, one of three replica jerseys, a copy of Mario Lemieux Over Time and front-of-the-line access to get them all signed before the main session.
Worth the price? "Oh, definitely," said Pat McAdam, 43. "Just to get access to him is amazing. You won't see him at the neighbourhood Wendy's grabbing a hamburger."
And therein lies much of the appeal. Lemieux, a Hockey Hall of Famer who retired for the second and last time in 2006, is not a regular at these events. Organizers billed it as his first show in Canada and something he'd done only once before, in Chicago, years ago.
Lemieux, who was said to be too tight for time to talk to a reporter after about two hours of signing, was paid by the autograph. While some with knowledge of how this business works said he might fetch six figures for the appearance, Andrew Goldfarb of A.J. Sportsworld in Vaughan, who sells memorabilia and cards in addition to arranging up to 70 such appearances a year, refused to talk numbers.
But he also wouldn't apologize for his prices, which included $179 for an autograph on each regular item such as a photograph, or $299 on a premium item such as a jersey.
"Think of it as the cost of a ticket to go to one Leafs game," Goldfarb said with a laugh as folks in line nodded in agreement. "And for it, you get to meet a legend."
Not to mention market value. Goldfarb said a signed Lemieux jersey sells for $800 to $900, an autographed photo for about $250.
Though for most, who waited in line for up to two hours, the signing was genuinely about getting the autograph of a hockey idol, just as it was in simpler times when their fathers and grandfathers hung out outside arenas to await players.
"He's one of my heroes," said Brian Hartman, 24, a Pittsburgh area resident. "I couldn't get him near home."
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
shoes in the first shop and a beautiful dress on sale in the second. In the third everything had just been reduced to a fiver when her cell phone rang. It was a female
doctor notifying her that her husband had just been in a terrible accident and was in
critical condition and in the ICU.
The woman told the doctor to inform her husband where she was and that she’d be
there as soon as possible.
As she hung up, she realized she was leaving what was shaping up to be the best day
ever in the shops. She decided to get in a couple of more shops before heading to
She ended up shopping the rest of the morning, finishing her trip with a cup of cof-
fee and a beautiful cream slice complementary from the last shop. She was jubilant.
Then she remembered her husband.
Feeling guilty, she dashed to the hospital. She
saw the doctor in the corridor and asked about her husband’s condition.
The lady doctor glared at her and shouted, “ You went ahead and finished your shopping trip didn’t you? I hope you’re proud of yourself! While you were out for the past four hours enjoying yourself in town, your husband has been languishing in the Intensive Care Unit!
It’s just as well you went ahead and finished, because it will more than
likely be the last shopping trip you ever take!
For the rest of his life he will require
round the clock care. And you’ll now be his care giver!”
The woman was feeling so guilty, she broke down and sobbed….
“I’m just pulling your leg. He’s dead. What did you buy?”
Thursday, November 12, 2009
But at a trial to determine whether or not the lawsuit could continue, Steele's own musicologist claimed the songs aren't alike. A judge ruled that the case should be thrown out, but Steele is still fighting, going to the Court of Appeals.
Dude, just scale back your asking price a bit, and maybe you can get a settlement. Go down to like $34, and maybe JBJ will throw you some paper
Monday, November 9, 2009
Restaurant probe finds $40M in 'phantom' sales Cash income hidden using illegal software to avoid paying taxes
OTTAWA–A two-year probe of the restaurant industry in Canada has uncovered at least $40 million in "phantom" cash sales so far, says the Canada Revenue Agency.
The amount of hidden cash income – with no taxes paid – is likely to be much higher once the pilot project concludes in March, officials say. Agency auditors are swooping in on restaurants across the country to determine whether their electronic cash registers contain illegal software that selectively deletes sales from official accounting records.
So-called zappers and phantom-ware have been around since at least the mid-1990s, but few were prosecuted.
The agency launched a two-year pilot project in 2008 to improve its investigations into so-called "electronic suppression of sales" by sending teams to selected establishments to ferret out hidden software in cash-register systems.
Before the project began, the agency had identified 11 such cases. It since has found others, although a spokeswoman would not provide details. The new cases have been referred to enforcement officers.
"Preliminary work indicates that (practice) is prevalent across Canada," Caitlin Workman said by email. "These are ongoing investigations, and the CRA has identified additional businesses using electronic sales suppression."
The agency's new enforcement phase will start this spring, she said.
Workman declined to indicate how agency auditors determine whether cash sales have been hidden or deleted on computer systems, saying it could jeopardize investigations.
The Quebec government, Canada's leader in hunting down cash-register fraud, estimates cheats in that province cost its treasury $425 million in 2007-2008. It passed legislation prohibiting the design, manufacture, installation and use of zapper-type programs.
Federally, it is a criminal offence to alter accounting books and records to dodge taxes, with penalties of up to five years in prison and fines up to twice the evaded sums. The fraud works on cash sales only; credit and debit cards create separate readily traceable audit trails.
Phantom-ware is factory-installed software within electronic cash registers that can selectively delete sales records, leaving no audit trail. Not disclosed in the user manual, it is often passed "verbally" to the business owner. Zappers are temporary installations, such as a memory stick that can be removed to hide the fraud.
Workman said no businesses have come forward so far to confess to fraud, under the agency's Voluntary Disclosures Program, which can allow cheats to avoid prosecution.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
(CP) – 4 hours ago
TORONTO — There is one winning ticket for the $50-million jackpot prize in Friday's Lotto Max draw - and it was sold somewhere in Manitoba.
The ticket holder has one year to come forward to claim their prize, which is just $4.3-million shy of the biggest lottery prize ever awarded in Canada. That $54.3-million jackpot was won in 2005 by 17 oil and gas workers in Camrose, Alberta in a Lotto 6-49 draw.
Each share was worth $3.2-million.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Disney's A Christmas Carol
* Directed and written by Robert Zemeckis
* Starring Jim Carrey
* Classification: PG
Confined in our personality, our nature, our genetic prison, we struggle to change even as everything around us, everything larger than us, changes with lightning speed. Often, then, we feel like the only fixtures in a world of flux. Happily, life's recipe for frustration can be fiction's hearty meal, and no one prepared it better than Charles Dickens. The classic make-over tale, A Christmas Carol says “Yes we can” to the possibility of personal transformation. Easily forgotten, though, is what fuels the change: Crooked old Scrooge is scared straight, terrified into niceness. There's a lot of dark magic in this Dickensian Yuletide.
To his credit, director Robert Zemeckis doesn't flinch from that darkness and hews faithfully to the book. Too faithfully, some might think. Kiddies beware, because the Disney has largely been excised from this Disney flick. Instead, fittingly, Zemeckis applies to a story about change our most powerful instrument of change – technology itself. As in two of his earlier films, the underrated The Polar Express and the underwhelming Beowulf , he uses the “performance capture” technique here, where the visuals lie somewhere between animation and live-action. That makes for a happy marriage with Dickens, a writer famous for creating flat characters who themselves fall somewhere between fantastic and real, exaggerated cartoons one minute and entirely credible the next.
This time, though, Zemeckis has another technical trick up his sleeve – 3-D – and for once the gimmick succeeds. Yes, even the math works out, a dimension for each Christmas ghost.
The proof comes as early as the opening scene. A gorgeous aerial shot takes us giddily over the architecture and the alleyways of Victorian London, with the snow seeming to fall right into our goggled eyes. Suddenly, there's a plunge down and into the cold of a cramped office, where in lieu of snowflakes we get a face-full of Scrooge – his sharp nose and pointed chin are twin daggers, his jagged teeth complete the arsenal. Typically, directors try to harness 3-D for expansive effects; in these ingenious frames, however, Zemeckis deploys it claustrophobically to imprison the audience. Like poor Bob Cratchit, we're hemmed in by humbug and trapped in a cage of meanness, bound on all sides by a miser's lethal protuberances.
Then Jim Carrey clangs shut the door. The performance captured is his, and Carrey never allows the pre-transfigured Scrooge to slip into safe caricature. The guy isn't comically nasty; he's truly, madly, deeply mean. Gary Oldman does similar work as Marley's chained ghost, wrapping him up in the very human torment of regret. Marley, of course, is Dickens's device for introducing another transformation act, whereupon the Christmas spirit morphs into Christmas spirits, a trio of spectres taking Scrooge on his frightful trip through the Past, Present and Future. Drawing on his rubber body and elastic tonsils, Carrey plays all three – the first an ethereal candle, the next a robust Eric the Red, the last, simply and ominously, a palpable shadow.
On the ensuing journey, the bulk of the film, Zemeckis borrows from other classics too. From Spielberg's E.T. , when, rocketing up into the night sky, the angular Scrooge is silhouetted against a full moon. And from Swift's Gulliver's Travels , when, before getting nice, Scrooge gets small, shrunk to Lilliputian proportions as his narrow future catches up with him. Yet these frames, essentially an extended chase scene, are a bit of a muddle, the one occasion when Zemeckis seems at cross-purposes with himself and the book, labouring to brighten its darker grain.
The four Goldberg brothers, Lowell, Norman, Hiram, and Max, invented and developed the first automobile air-conditioner.
On July 17, 1946, the temperature in Detroit was 97 degrees. The four brothers walked into old man Henry Ford's office and sweet-talked his secretary into telling him that four gentlemen were there with the most exciting innovation in the auto industry since the electric starter.
Henry was curious and invited them intohis office. They refused and instead asked that he come out to the parking lot to their car.
They persuaded him to get into the car, which was about 130 degrees, turned on the air conditioner, and cooled the car off immediately. The old man got very excited and invited them back to the office, where he offered them $3 million for the patent.
The brothers refused, saying they would settle for $2 million, but they wanted the recognition by having a label, 'The Goldberg Air-Conditioner,' on the dashboard of each car in which it was installed.
Now old man Ford was more than just a little anti-Semitic, and there was no way he was going to put the Goldberg's name on two million Fords.
They haggled back and forth forabout two hours, and finally agreed on $4 million and that just their first names would be shown.
And so to this day, all Ford air conditioners show Lo, Norm, Hi, and Max on the controls.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Same As It Ever Was. Really.
MONTREAL–The widow of late boxing champion Arturo Gatti has been awarded $40,000 to cover legal fees and child-care costs, but her fight with his family over his sizable fortune looks set to go the distance.
The sum falls far short of the $150,000 advance that Amanda Rodrigues was seeking from Gatti's estate.
And in another blow to the 23-year-old Brazilian native, Superior Court Justice Paul Chaput concluded in his ruling Thursday that custody of the couple's dog is not an urgent matter for the time being.
Chaput awarded Rodrigues $30,000 to cover legal fees and $10,000 in eventual child-care costs for their son, Arturo Jr.
But the stakes in the bitter dispute are way higher – as in $6 million, the estimated worth of Gatti's estate.
The former world champion, who was born in Italy and raised in Montreal, was found dead under mysterious circumstances at a posh Brazilian seaside resort last July 11.
Brazilian police initially ruled the death a homicide and detained Rodrigues for a few weeks. They then ruled it a suicide.
At issue in the legal battle is the validity of two wills that greatly differ on how the estate should be divided.
Rodrigues' lawyers claim a will signed in Quebec this June, which left the estate to her, is the valid one.
However, Gatti's family contends that a will signed in 2007 in New Jersey, where the boxer amassed much of his fortune, is in fact valid and that the Quebec one was signed under duress.
The 2007 will leaves control of his estate to his mother, Ida.
The family has been unable until now to come up with a signed copy of the will.
Grace Di Pace, a lawyer for the Gatti family, said an attorney in New Jersey has forwarded an unsigned copy.
She said regulations in New Jersey don't require attorneys to keep signed copies on file and that the state doesn't have a signed copy either.
On Thursday, the judge rejected attempts by Rodrigues' lawyers to get the court to dismiss the Gatti family's challenge of the newer will.
As he addressed lawyers on both sides, Chaput also expressed reservations that a lengthy court battle could eat away at the money available.
"I think the judge was careful in his judgment in the sense that he assured the succession would be protected at this stage," Di Pace said.
"It's not going to be divided, it's not going to be touched until the proceedings go on."
The legal battle is also being fought in New Jersey.
Last week, a U.S. judge rejected certain requests from Rodrigues' lawyers, but did award a $2,500 monthly support payment for the couple's son, who is about one year old.
Rodrigues will also be allowed to enter their condominium in Montreal to collect her belongings.
"The judgment . . . is a very preliminary stage," said Pierre-Hugues Fortin, a lawyer representing Rodrigues.
"There's many, many more proceedings to come, this is not the final hearing."
Rodrigues was not in court Thursday.
She arrived in Montreal on Monday from Brazil and her lawyer claimed she was penniless and needed access to the condominium and cash.
Chaput said he hopes to iron out a plan to proceed in the case and urged both sides to talk before returning to court on Nov. 17.
Authorities determined Gatti hanged himself with a bag strap that he tied around a wooden staircase column more than two metres off the ground.
They say he looped it around his neck before stepping off a stool.
Gatti's relatives refuted the claim and had his body exhumed in order to conduct a second autopsy, but the full results of that autopsy have not yet been released.
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