Archive for the 'Culture' Category

Changing Seasons on the KSAT

I took these four pictures on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail in Easton, PA between October, 2016 and January, 2017, one each month, capturing the change in seasons. All pictures were taken with my iPad Pro 9.7.


More of My Favorite Pictures of 2015


Whoa, it is almost April 2016! Here are 10 more of favorite pictures from 2015. Going forward I am going feature more of my favorite pictures from prior years. I’ve been taking digital pictures since 2001 and I have amassed a fairly large number of shots that I would like to share with others on this blog. For the past few years I have posted top 10 collections for each year and in some cases expanded that number of favorites. Other times I have featured groups of pictures that I took at a particular location or event. I plan to continue to do that, but I also plan on publishing more blog posts that feature just one photo, or small groups of photos and provide a more detailed description of the subject of the photo (s) than I have previously. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes it really enhances the value of the picture when you explain the story behind it.


Podcast Listening-Part III: The John Batchelor Show

This post is part of a continuing series on Podcasts that I listen to on a regular basis and recommend.

The John Batchelor Show

This podcast is a recording of The John Batchelor Show (TJBS), which is a radio show on WABC in New York City. You can listen to this show via WABC’s website or by downloading the show’s podcasts on iTunes. The show streams on WABC from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am Monday to Friday. John Batchelor broke into talk radio as a host back in 2001, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. So, Batchelor has been a radio presence for a while now and I’m sure those of you who are talk radio fans are familiar with him.

John Batchelor is a 1970 graduate of Princeton University and a 1976 graduate of New York Seminary. The focus of Mr. Batchelor’s show is politics, geopolitics, history, science, economics and even sports on occasion. Most of the time the show discusses current events and conditions, but there are a significant number of shows devoted to the discussion and analysis of prominent events from earlier eras.

TJBS is a guest driven show and the host does not take calls from the audience. Instead, Batchelor discusses the topics mentioned above with very knowledgable, very authoritative guests that he invites from elite media, government and academic circles. I think it is fair to say his guests represent the views of the establishment, especially the gov’t, media and finance establishment based in DC and NY. Some of the regular guests on TJBS include the following:

Gordon Chang
John Avalon
Malcom Hoenlein
John Fund
Larry Johnson
Bob Zimmerman
Salena Zito
Larry Kudlow
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Steven F. Cohen
Jeff Bliss
Dennis Ross
Various writers from Bloomberg, WSJ, Forbes, etc.
Academics from the some the leading universities of the nation.

Batchelor is a Republican and a political conservative, although I would characterize him as a moderate, at least with regard to social and economic issues. His foreign policy views are somewhat internationalist, or non-isolatist, if you will. So, that pretty much puts him in the GOPe camp on most issues. I don’t share that orientation most of time, but I really enjoy hearing different views and positions if the arguments for those views and positions are made by people who are intelligent and articulate. Sometimes my mind is changed on particular issues.

One of the strengths of the show is that guests come from both the left and right of the political spectrum, although they are usually fairly mainstream for the most part. You won’t find any yelling and screaming on TJBS, nor much humor, at least not intentional humor, but I enjoy the serious, almost academic demeanor of the show. You won’t find too many bomb throwers on TJBS either. Not too many guests who appear on TJBS will be found on the Alex Jones Show or the Michael Savage Show and vice versa. I try to listen a wide variety of radio shows and podcasts, from one end of the political spectrum to the other, although I would admit to favoring hosts that lean toward libertarian views.

So, if you appreciate intelligent discussions of some of the most important facing our country and the world today I would recommend that you download a few podcasts of The John Batchelor Show. You may not always agree with all the views expressed on the show, I know I don’t, but I think you will definitely find it informative.

Comic Con in San Diego needs to be expanded

Comic Con 2013Passes for Comic Con 2014 went on sale yesterday morning and sold out in 80 minutes. Because I was a past attendee of Comic Con I received an e-mail from Comic Con International inviting me to join the pool of people signing up to buy a pass for Comic Con 2014. I knew the odds were against me, but I figured take shot at it. So, I got up early on Saturday morning and signed in the “waiting room”. Unfortunately, I got shut out of the “random” selection process this time around. Of course, I was disappointed, but not surprised.

One by one, passes for all 4 and half days were sold out in short order. The Comic Con website sent notifications to all of us in virtual “waiting room ” with the status of passes for each day of the event. First Friday and Saturday were sold out, then Thursday and Wednesday’s “Preview Night” and finally the last day of the event, Sunday, was a goner too.

I don’t know exactly how many people came away empty handed, but I’m sure there were a lot. The demand for passes far, far exceeds the supply. It has been that way for years. A year or two ago Comic Con considered moving to other locations, ones that could accommodate even larger numbers than those which Comic Con currently attracts (about 130,000 attendees the last few years), such Los Angeles or Las Vegas, but Comic Con agreed to stay in San Diego for at least 5 more years when the city agreed to expand the downtown Convention Center. Work on the expansion of the Convention Center will start at the end of 2014 and should be finished in a few years.

The physical expansion of the Convention Center should help quite bit, but I think the length of the event itself should be expanded to 6 or 7 days. Some people who want to attend would probably still be turned away, but if the event ran 7 days a lot more people would have an opportunity to attend. What would the down side be? I don’t think the hotels, restaurants and bars in downtown San Diego would complain about the extra business. I think some of the residents of in the Gaslamp and East Village sections of downtown might not be thrilled with Comic Con being expanded for a few days, but the number of people negatively impacted would be relatively small. The vast majority of San Diegans wouldn’t notice a difference between a 4 1/2 day Comic Con and a 6 or 7 day Comic Con.

There are many other festivals of various kinds throughout the country that run a week or longer. Take SXSW for example, if South By Southwest in Austin, TX can run for 8 or 9 days why can’t Comic-Con?

The 86th Annual Academy Awards

I consider myself a pretty big film fan, but over the course of the last year I saw relatively few films. I only saw four of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. Frankly, many of the films received nominations seemed like they told stories that were a bit depressing, films such as 12 Years a Slave, Nebraska, Her, Dallas Buyers Club, Inside Llewyn Davis and Blue Jasmine. Of that group the only film that I saw was Dallas Buyers Club. I only recently went to see Dallas Buyers Club after reading the many positive of reviews of the performances that Matthew McConnaughy and Jared Leto gave in that film. I’m sure all the films I mentioned above are very good and I’ll probably see all of them in time, although probably on my iPad.

I did see Captain Philips, American Hustle and Gravity. I thought Captain Philips was a very solid, well made film. Tom Hanks delivered a strong performance in the title role and the rest of the cast was quite good as well.

I thought American Hustle was highly entertaining. I my initial reaction to this film was that just might win a couple of Oscars because it is full of terrific performances and Director David O. Russell distinguished himself yet again. Russell has certainly become one of the best directors working today. The film did win ten nominations and they are well deserved, but the other leading films out there are so strong it may not win any Oscars. In another year, perhaps, but not this year.

I thought Gravity was a film that largely lived up to the hype surrounding it. Bullock and Clooney were fantastic and the FX may have set a new standard.

So, if I haven’t seen all the films and performances how can I make predictions of which films and performers will win? Well, I never base my Oscar picks solely on what I think of the films and the individual performances nominated. I always try to gauge which films and performers will win based the results of the other major awards and honors.

BEST PICTURE: 12 Years a Slave This film has already won Best film honors from BAFTA, Golden Globe, AFI and many others. I have to think that the win streak will continue and that the Oscar for Best Picture will be added to the list.

BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity

I thought Gravity was extremely well made. I made point of seeing this film on the big screen and I’m glad I did. I thought this space based drama was exciting and raised the special effects bar to a new height. I expect Gravity to win multiple Oscars for all things related to sound and image (Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Film Editing, Cinematography, Original Score)

BEST ACTOR: Matthew McConnaughy, Dallas Buyers Club McConnaughy delivers an outstanding performance as a rough and tumble Texas oil field worker who is diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. The film is based on a true story and McConnaughy’s character is initially a very unsympathetic, but turns out to be a very inspirational figure in the end because he is unwilling to accept the death sentence the doctors at the hospital give him when his HIV positive condition is discovered. McConnaughy’s character displays a great fighting spirit and resourcefulness in his quest to find drugs and treatments, both legal and illegal, to keep both himself and others in Dallas with AIDS alive as long as possible.

EDIT: I found out after the Awards that although Dallas Buyers Club is based on a true story, but that large parts it were totally fictional. The person that McConnaughy’s character was based on was not a cowboy, and was in fact bisexual, not hetrosexual so in that respect it is more understandable how he ended up with AIDS to begin with. The transsexual (played by Jared Leto) that McConnaughy partners with was a fictional character, as was a doctor (played by Jennifer Garner) that played a key role in helping McConnaughy’s character. That doesn’t diminish the fine performances all these actors gave, but it does diminish the film itself in my view. I felt the same way when I find out that important parts of the film Argo, which won Best Picture, were total fiction. Maybe Hollywood should describe these films like these as “Loosely Based” on the truth.

BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine Blanchett is always solid and easily one the best actresses working today. She seems to be a lock for this award.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club Leto was very convincing in his role has a HIV positive transgendered person who forms a seemingly unlikely partnership with McConnaughy’s character to sell drugs and vitamins to AIDS victims in late 1980’s Dallas.

The girls in the Best Supporting Actress category should be thankful that the Academy did not put him in their category because he might well have won. (JUST KIDDING!! Calm down all you members of the PC Thought Police!!)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave Based on the posted odds this seems to the most competitive category. Looks like a race between newcomer Nyong’o and Hollywood Golden Girl Jennifer Lawrence. I’m going with Nyong’o because 12 Years seems to have more momentum behind it and that film addresses more serious subject matter. I thought Lawrence was very good in American Hustle (although I thought Amy Adams was even better), but I didn’t view her performance in AH as the type I would call classify as a strong Oscar contender.


Well, that pretty much went as expected. All the favorites won, at least in the major categories. I really can’t say it was too much of a challenge to pick the Oscar winners this years. All in all, I think 2013 was a pretty strong year for films. In a less competitive year one of the films nominated for Best Picture may have swept the awards, but this year the split of major awards among leading films was justified because there were so many distinguished performances.

Medieval Times

Medieval Times.

Scenes from Comic-Con 2013

Welcome to Comic-ConWell, San Diego’s annual celebration of the entertainment arts is in full swing and I have spent the last few days taking quite a few pictures of Comic-Con displays and the people (I use that term loosely in some cases) who attended the massive event. I’m sorting through my pic’s right now and I’m going post the ones I find to be the most interesting, bizarre, entertaining or funny (some could be all the above).

I live on Cortez Hill, in downtown San Diego, about a mile from the San Diego Convention Center and the Gaslamp Quarter is even closer to my neighborhood, so it has been fairly easy for me to trot on down to where all the Comic-Con action is. I really lucked out this year because I did not have a pass, but I was able to attend the preview night of the convention because I bumped into a few people in the Gaslamp who were handing out free passes on Wednesday, the 17th, when everything kicked off.

Comic-Con was already a pretty big deal by the time I moved to San Diego from New York City back in 2003. That year the attendance was 70,000. I had heard of Comic-Con prior to moving to SD, but I didn’t fully appreciate what an important event it had become for serious fans of comics, sci fi/fantasy movies and TV shows, video/computer gamers, etc. until I saw how downtown San Diego was invaded every summer by the Comic-Con folks. As you might expect, it attracts mostly younger people, but it does draw a fairly diverse group of people. It is multi-generational and draws people from all over the States as well as many foreign countries. The last few years the attendance of the 5 day event has surpassed 130,000. The first Comic-Con was held at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego back in 1970 and the attendance was 145. Back then it simply an event that gave comic fans an opportunity to buy, sell and trade comic books. Over the years it evolved into something that covers all forms of media related to the entertainment arts.

Has Comic-Con become too big? I don’t think so, but I’m not so sure I would want to see become any larger than it is right now, but I think it probably continue to grow. The city of San Diego agreed to expand the size of the Convention Center in order to ensure that Comic-Con stays in San Diego for at least the next few years.

Here am I leaning on a replica of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) frozen in carbonite. All of you Star Wars fans remember how that happened to Solo. Those of you who don’t can watch The Empire Strikes Back or just search for the scene on You Tube.


Here are some more pictures from inside the Convention Hall



Hulk at CC2013

Yes, they still buy, sell and trade comics at Comic-Con.

Yes, they still buy, sell and trade comics at Comic-Con.

Pacific Rim  Comic-Con

Pacific Rim Comic-Con

A lot more to come, but I think I’m going to put up a separate post for the pictures I took outside the Convention Center.

George M. Fattell.

The gmf journal is a general subject blog that reflects my thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics that are of interest to me. Current home base is Easton, Pennsylvania, USA. Retweets do not equal an endorsement.

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