Sunday, February 25, 2007

Academy Award Ceremony

The intro was poignant, a montage of excerpts from interviews with the nominees. That kind of let me know that the people I want to win aren't going to win…Again. (Sorry, Mr. O'Toole, and Mr. Eastwood…I was rooting for you guys!) Ellen was cute and chatty but she was no Whoopi, Billy or Bob. (Then again, who is?)

Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman gave out the award for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration to - Eugenio Caballero, Pilar Revuelta for "Pans Labyrinth". Then a commercial, and then Will Farrell sang a song with Jack Black and John C. Reilly ("A Comedian at the Oscars"). And then they handed out the Award for Achievement in Make up to - David Martí, Montse Ribé , again for "Pans Labyrinth".

Then a pair of kids (Abigail Breslin and Jayden Smith) handed out the awards for Best Animated Short to - Torill Kove for "The Danish Poet" and Best live Action Short to Ari Sandel for "West Bank Story". (Finally, I got one right…It's "a musical comedy set in the West Bank about conflict between Palestinians and Jews set between two falafel stands".)

Steve Carell and Greg Kinear handed out the Oscar for sound editing to Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman for "Letters from Iwo Jima".

Jessica Beal and a little Scotsman handed out the award for Best Sound Mixing to Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer, Willie D. Burton "Dream Girls". That's about all they did. (First win for "Dream Girls" of the night.)

Finally, we get to one of the big ones. Rachel Wiez handed out the award for Best Supporting Actor to Alan Arkin for "Little Miss Sunshine". (Eddie Murphy, however, was the coolest looking nominee in the split-screen and, maybe, he should have won an award just for that feat alone.)

The amazing dance group Pilobolus worked their magic to interpret the night, creating the Oscar statue early on, and then the penguins from "Happy Feet". It is performances like those that add wonder and magic to this award ceremony. Then James Taylor and Randy Newman performed the song "Our Town" from "Cars". That was followed right away by Melissa Etheridge who sang her song "I need to wake up" from "An Inconvenient Truth".

In what started as a "What the hell?" moment, Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore had a mutual Green Moment when they announced that the Oscars, this year, were Eco-Friendly. Leo asked again and again if the Vice-President maybe had something he'd like to announce. Finally, at the end, a reluctant looking Gore reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a speech, and began "My fellow Americans, I'd like to take this moment to formally announce my-" Suddenly, the orchestra started up and played him off stage. Who says the old robot doesn't have a great sense of humor. He rocked on SNL and he could probably rock the vote if he were to seriously run again.

After the break Cameron Diaz awarded the Oscar for best animated feature to George Miller for "Happy Feet". Then Ben Affleck chewed up the stage as he introduced a montage about screenwriters and their trade and art. The montage was wonderful, Affleck looked bored.

The incomparable Helen Mirren and Tom Hanks gave the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. While the clips from the movie were playing the presenters read the scene from the original material, adding a new dimension to the work that Screenwriters do when they adapt a previous work. I love the format, and they should keep it for next year. The Oscar went to William Monahan for the "Departed" which was based on the Japanese film "Wu jian dao" by Siu Fai Mak and Felix Chong.

Emily Blunt and the always cute Anne Hathaway presented the award for best Costume Design. This time they had models actually present the costumes for each movie on the stage, which certainly adds more life and detail to each of these fantastic designs. The Oscar went to Melena Cononero for "Marie Antoinette".

A sedate (or sedated) Tom Cruise gave the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to more than deserving Sherry Lansing, who recently left her 30 year career in show business to devote her time to her non-profit organizations .

Ellen had Steven Spielberg take a picture of her and Clint Eastwood. (Eastwood called her "Darlin"…you can take the man outta the cowboy but you cannot take the cowboy outta the man.) It was cute. Earlier she gave Marty Scorsese a screenplay to look at.

Gwyneth Paltrow (she named her kid "Apple"?) presented the award for Achievement in Cinematography to Guillermo Navarro for "Pans Labyrinth", followed by another great moment from Pilobolus, who recreated a scene from "Little Miss Sunshine".

After the break Naomi Watts and Robert Downey, Jr. presented the award for Achievement in Special Effects to John Knoll, Hal T. Hickel, Charles Gibson, Allen Hall for "Pirates of the Caribbean"

Then Catherine Deneuve and Ken Watanabe presented a montage of foreign films, and then Clive Owen and Cate Blanchette presented the award for Best Foreign Language Film to: "Das Leben der Anderen" (The Lies of Others; Germany). It was a huge upset for Mexico and Pans Labyrinth.

And then Pilobolus did a fantastic "Snakes on a Plane" scene. The always charming and ever more handsome George Clooney presented the award for Best Supporting Actress to Jennifer Hudson for "Dream Girls". In my opinion she has given the most sincere and heartfelt acceptance speech of the evening thus far.

Eva Green and Gael García Bernal presented the award for Best Documentary Short Subjects to Ruby Yang, Thomas Lennon for "The Blood of Yingzhou District". Jerry Sienfeld came out and told a few jokes before presenting Best Documentary Feature to "An Inconvenient Truth". You know, why they don't tap Jerry to host the next one? In his 45 second segment he was funnier than Ellen has been all night.

They balanced out the green talk with a real Man. Clint Eastwood strode out to the immortal Ennio Morricone score from "The Good the Bad and the ugly" and falteringly introduced Ennio Moriccone for the Life Time Achievement Award. I own more soundtracks by this man than by any other. More than James Horner, Basil Polodouris, Michael Kamen…His work always seems to perfectly capture the essence of the film he's scoring. Celine Dion took a break from Vegas and took to the stage to perform the world premier of Ennio Morricones "I knew I Loved You". Then, an emotional Ennio Morricone took the stage, delivered a moving speech in Italian, (Translated by Mr. Eastwood himself) and received a much deserved grand ovation.

After the commercial Penelope Cruz and Hugh Jackman gave the award for best Original Score to Gustavo Santaolalla for "Babel".

Toby McGuire and Kirstin Dunst came out and handed out the award for Best Original Screenplay to Michael Arndt for "Little Miss Sunshine". This award was also presented with the presenter's voice-over reading the scene from the screenplay the way it was written. I must say that I really do like the way these writing awards are being handed out. It gives people a sense of what exactly this award is all about.

Another great dance sequence by Pilopolus for the "Devil Wears Prada". They made a high heeled show with a pitchfork at the bottom of the heel.

Jennifer Lopez came out in a terrible dress to introduce the three nominated songs, sung by Academy Award Winner Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce Knowles, from "Dream Girls". It's great seeing a large woman looking good on stage. Beyonce looks too sharp edged, like you'd cut yourself if you touch her, but Jennifer Hudson had a real and honest look and sound. Her voice sounded clear and strong, without the unnecessary shrieking that has become so common in music today but it seemed to represent the film well.

John Travolta and Queen Latifah graced the stage and presented the award for Best Original Song to Melissa Etheridge for "I Need to Wake Up", from "An Inconvenient Truth". She thanked Al Gore. Travolta slipped into his "Bobby Long" accent to say that he "Luvs a full-figured woman who can get up on stage and belt out a Broadway tune…But enough about me".

A not so fresh looking Will Smith got up after the break to introduce a short film by Michael Mann that took a look at "America:Through It's movies". It was an exceptionally well made look at all the different cultures, ethnicities and influences that make America great.

A beautiful Kate Winslett presented the award for Best Film Editing to Thelma Schoonmaker for "The Departed". She credits Martin Scorsese for her career, because they met at NYU and they go back a long way.

Jodi Foster came out afterward and did the In Memorium, which included Glenn Ford, Bruno Kirby, Alida Valli, Betty Comden, Jane Wyatt, Don Knotts, Red Buttons, Darren McGavin, Joe barbera, Tamera Dobson, Gretchen Rau, June Allyson, Gordon Parks, Philippe Noriette, Maureen Stapleton, Jack Wild, Vincent Sherman, James Doohan, Shohei, Carlo Ponti, Peter Boyle, James Glennon, Sidney Sheldon, Jack Palence, Mako, Jack Warden, Basil Poladouris, Henry Bumstead, and Robert Altman.

A set change and costume change for Ellen, brought us to the Big Moments in the show. She introduced Phillip Seymour Hoffman to present Best Actress Award to Helen Mirren. (YES!! Got another one! Remember that she also won top awards for playing Elizabeth I on an HBO mini-Series) It's no wonder she stood up there, held up her Oscar statue, and said "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…The Queen!".

After that, Pilopolus made a shadow gun for "The Departed". We're in the home stretch now, with only the big ones left.

While vacuuming, (I told you, she really wasn't that funny...)Ellen found someones rolling papers, threw them to the band, and received a thumbs up from the pit.

Then, Reese Witherspoone came out and presented the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role to (crosses his fingers for Peter O'Toole…)…Forest Whitaker. DENIED!!! Although I'm glad that Forest Whitaker received the award, and he deserved it, I still feel that Sir Peter O'Toole needed it.

And then the legends hit the stage. "The Original Three Amigos": Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas, and gave their old friend Martin Scorsese the Oscar for Best Director. That moment, that scene, when everyone in the house, was on their feet, and to see that powerhouse of directorial power on that stage was the highlight of the night. Martin Scorsese deserved it and when they walked off that stage it was like watching the Wild Bunch of Hollywood on their way into Agua Verde. Cool Stuff.

A mean, gruff, bald Jack Nicholson came out with Diane Keaton and presented the Oscar for best picture to "The Departed". Scorsese called that film "The First movie I've ever done with a plot."

And that was the show. Commentary (maybe) to follow.

Oscar Time

As I am preparing for my Oscar party I barely have time to get a few predictions posted. Enjoy the telecast…It's about to start…

Best Supporting Actress:

Should Win: Abigail Breslin

Best Supporting Actor:

Should Win: Eddie Murphy

Will Win: Alan Arkin

Will Win: Abigail Breslin

Best Animated:

Should Win: Monster House

Will Win: Happy Feet

Best Foreign Film:

Should Win: Pan's Labyrinth

Will Win: Days of Glory

Best Actor:

Should Win: Peter O'toole

Will Win: Forest Whitiker

Best Actress:

Should Win: Helen Mirrin

Will Win: Helen Mirrin

Best Director:

Should Win: Clint Eastwood

Will Win: Martin Scorse

Best Picture:

Should Win: Letters From Iwo Jima

Will Win: Little Miss Sunshine

Monday, February 19, 2007

It’s a Science, Stupid!

I had already started to prepare a nice little entry about the NBA All Star Game, when I happened upon this response to a post in Thoth Web. See, a couple of days ago someone called "thepodule" mentioned John Anthony West over in Thoth Web and I responded with a little anecdote.

thepodule said:

Hi all,

I thought you might like to know that John Anthony West's PhoenixFire podcast is available on iTunes now, as well as his PhoenixFire blog here:

He goes into the complete background of the origins of his work with Robert Schock, and the origins of the water weathering theory of the Sphinx.

All the best


So I say:

Side note:

I remember in a class I took with Kent Weeks,
back in the early 90's (before he spent all his time on KV5) someone asked him
about John Anthony West. Without missing a beat, Doc Weeks said "John Anthony
West? What can I say? He's not a real Egyptologist...His methods are sloppy, his
ideas are ludicrous, and his mother dresses him funny."

We all had a great laugh about that.

I wasn't trying to start anything, just, really, trying to get the same kind of laugh which we all shared, at the time. Well, among the usual flutter of vapid responses this little slice of fried gold came up, purporting to be from the man himself, John Anthony West:
Jaw responds

>Without missing a beat, Doc Weeks said "John Anthony West? What can I say? He's not a real Egyptologist..<

Correct; I am not a 'real' Egyptologist. That is why I know something.

The 'real' Egyptologists (with a very few exceptions, Weeks not among them) spend their time arguing over how many asps killed Cleopatra* or, like Doc Weeks, scrabble around on their knees (apposite position) in the dust of yet another meaningless tomb, sifting rubble and eventually publishing a meaningless book or meaningless paper of zero interest or significance to anyone. **

*Serpent in the Sky, p.9, margin note.

** cf., a list of abstracts of any Egyptological conference anywhere in the world.

> His methods are sloppy, his ideas are ludicrous,

Without examples or citations it is impossible to address the charge of sloppiness, but no examples are needed to address 'ludicrous'.

If Doc Weeks is talking about my work on the water-weathering of the Sphinx and the need to drastically redate it, it should be enough to say that at two separate Annual Meetings of the Geological Society of America (1991, 2000) the overwhelming, indeed, near unanimous reaction of hundreds of professional geologists was that our evidence looked very convincing indeed. The word 'sloppy' was never used, nor did anyone shout 'ludicrous'.

I should also like to point out here, or re-point out (as George Bernard Shaw liked to say, 'I always quote myself. It adds spice to the conversation.') the argument about the Sphinx is based upon weathering patterns in rock, plain and simple, and when it comes to opinions about weathering patterns in rocks, an Egyptologist's opinion is no better than a proctologist's.

If 'ludicrous' refers to the 'Symbolist' interpretation of Egypt that I champion, as developed by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, well, that is another matter; one not to be solved by 'hard' science as such but rather supported by a corpus of meticulously accumulated and detailed factual documentation.

Thereafter, what is required is an ability to accurately interpret those facts. This is where 'real' Egyptologists like Doc Weeks find themselves in uncharted and, for them, scary territory. Their reaction to this work is, however, perfectly understandable.

The Tao Te Ching (google it up, Adrastus) summarizes the situation well.

'When the best student is taught the Tao, he practices it assiduously.

When the average student is taught the Tao it seems to him there one moment and gone the next.

When the worst student is taught the Tao, he laughs out loud; if he did not laugh, it would be unworthy of being the Tao.'

Or put another way; it is futile to talk moonbeams to the blind, or music to the deaf, and dangerous to talk sex to eunuchs, they just get angry, sometimes violent.

BTW, I note that the career of the legendary Adrastus was marked chiefly by a succession of failures; certainly a well-chosen pseudonym.

>'…and his mother dresses him funny ' We all had a great laugh about that'

I trust you're still laughing.

John Anthony West

Now, I don't care if it was really him, or not, it just made my day. I shelved the rather predictable All Star game (West took it 153 to 132. Kobe Bryant got MVP for his 31 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists. Get back to me next week when I start actually playing for money on these games,) and went right to work crafting a response. This is the rough draft. Please leave any suggestions in the comments section. It is my intention to post it to him before sunset today :

"Tourists…The 11th Plague of Egypt"

-Uttered by the Expat in Egypt on several occasions

Yes, I'm laughing even more heartily, now, indeed. You see, I've heard Dr. Weeks lecture, Mr. West. I've taken several courses with him at the AUC and I continue to delight for his success with the KV5 excavation. His ideas are sound, his methods are above reproach, and his results speak for themselves. He is a real Egyptologist and a man of science. I have never heard him, or anyone else for that matter, say that they take the Cleopatra-asp-myth seriously, and I think it's unfortunate that you feel that all the hard work that serious Egyptologists are doing is meaningless.

I've got to say that I didn't realize it would be so upsetting to some people that I share a little anecdote from my freshman year at the AUC. The truth of the matter is that every year, among the serious students, we would receive a few who were compelled to ask about "re-dating the age of the Sphinx" or about the "Orion Connection". The faculty response was, at times, mixed, but it was always colorful, comedic, and clever. (You probably don't want to know what Salima Ikram had to say about it.)

I have also had the opportunity to hear you speak, Mr. West. Of course, it wasn't at the AUC, nor was it on one of your renowned "Magical Egypt Tours" which, I'm sure, delight hundreds (thousands?) of people a year. No, I've heard you speak on your "symbolist views" primarily in the various interviews you've given on television and, perhaps, in the occasional podcast. Also, I've come across your work before, and have read enough follow-up material relating to you and your work. I find your ideas, and those of Schwaller de Lubicz before you, to be novel and creative. Personally, I believe that some of them might even deserve greater scrutiny in the serious academic community. What's more, I find them to be made up of the very stuff that the masses find easily digestible and entertaining. They are, quite obviously, exceptionally marketable in that capacity.

In fact, Mr. West, may I suggest that, as a premium for your AWF club, you offer little "antiqued" scarab-shaped decoder rings, with wings that open to reveal a secret message, to your members. I know a man right off Shari'a el Muski, near El Hussein, that can manufacture them for just pennies each.

The sad truth seems to be that, for centuries, Egypt has been a lure for those who would who play at being Kharteyya , and fleece the willing for their own personal gain. Tourist hawkers still line the streets of Downtown Cairo, making a living exploiting the complex culture and ethos of the place. Under the ever-present administration there this practice has become the backbone of the industry. What's even sadder, Mr. West, is that you have made yourself a part of that.

No, you are certainly not a real Egyptologist. I think you're a huckster, today's equivalent of a sideshow barker, mixing together their patent blend of smoke and mirrors with a palatable mix of pop archeology and pseudo-history. You deliver it well, Mr. West, with all the skill and craftiness of a modern day P.T. Barnum. It's no surprise that you won an Emmy Award 6 years before Susan Lucci did. (Feel free to Google up that one.)

In short, Mr. West, you are just a tour guide; and by the look of it you are an exceptionally successful one. You lead bands of jaunty, sedate, truth-seeking Khuwaggas up the Nile and back again. They buy many pretty souvenirs at all the shops along the way, and then they go home again with their interesting and exotic stories with which to amuse family and astonish friends. For many people what you offer is enough.

They don't want the traffic and the noise and the spicy political situation there. Hell no! They don't want to deal with the rampant superfluous humanity in Cairo and all the daily travails that brings. What they want is to go to Egypt and have magical experiences from abroad. They want to purchase the mystique of Egypt and bottle it up, bring it back home with them as their very own. On the whole, what they want is fast-food-Egyptology and you, sir, are its Colonel Sanders. So, yes, the reaction that real Egyptologists might have toward your work is, indeed, perfectly understandable.

Anyway, thank you for your response. Regardless of your beliefs your thoughtful comments will certainly be taken under consideration. I have enjoyed our short correspondence. Not only have you given me another amusing anecdote to tell but it has elucidated me about you. Up until now, I was under the impression that you were an unapproachable and mystic man, with a wise mind and clever wit, but you're really rather quite sensitive, aren't you.

All My Best


Well, let me know. I'm open to ideas for the final draft.



Well, they closed the thread to further comments (most probably at his request). I sent the above missive in response to a private msg he sent me at Thoth Web (in which the tour guide called me a “windbag”). It makes me wonder how much work he’s actually doing (outside of the leisure industry) if he has enough spare time on his hands to cruise blogs and new age forums. Well, it just goes to show you, my freaky darlings, the nuttier the bird the louder it's heard .


UPDATE-8:30 pm

I recieved this information about the Lost Thread on ThothWeb from FyreSpirit:

"Mal removed it, since that horse's ass JAW broke all of our major posting rules. I was actually about to copy and paste your excellent reply into it since I can't override the admin's ability to boot you from the thread. Kudos for what you said to him, I hope your blog is widely read.


I would like to thank FyreSpirit and Kel for their supportive comments, and Mal for having the sense to put an end to that thread befor it got any worse. It's great to know that there are still some good people out there who are willing to stand up against the rising tide of ignorance and deception in our world.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


I came across a post on Surfing the Apocalypse titled "TEXAS REPUBLICANS ARE ANTI-COPERNICUS...HUH" . It was mainly one long quote from a post over on The Daily Kos which was, in turn, an editorial on a different post over on Burnt Orange Report.

Basically, the posts were gleeful, anti-Texan rants about how the chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee, the unfortunate Warren Chisum, circulated a memo, penned by Ben Bridges, (R, Georgia House of Representatives, 10th District) that was a weird attempt to "challenge the evolution monopoly in the schools". The memo stated that:

"…the Courts have ruled that "creation science" (& "ID") has a religious agenda and….[violates] the U.S. Constitution."

And that:

"Evolution science", on the other hand, has been viewed by the Courts as "secular science" with no religious agenda…has been deemed lawful under the Constitution."

Then, like the impassioned pitch of an infomercial huckster, goes on to say:

"All of that can now be changed! Indisputable evidence-long hidden but now available to everyone-demonstrates conclusively that so-called "secular evolution science" is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate "creation scenario" of the Pharisee Religion".

That's right, the Pharisee Religion. I believe that what the Hon. Ben Bridges is trying to say is that Jews are somehow responsible for spreading Biological Evolution Theory, Copernican Cosmology, Quantum physics, the whole Big Bang, and just about every other advancement in science in the last 250 years. But wait, there's more! According to this memo all of these ideas are:

"…derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic "holy book" Kabbala dating back at least two millennia. Evidence in the URLs below shows conclusively that "evolution science" has a very specific religious agenda and (as with "creation science") cannot legally be taught in taxpayer supported schools, according to the Constitution."

Aha! Why it's all been an insidious Jewish plot to bring down the good and moral Christian values of home town America. There are three links and they all lead to pages at a site called It turns out that, not only is that website extremely stupid, it is also extremely and, quite predictably, anti-Semitic. I think we can all see where they were trying to go with this one, though. They were trying to pull the old "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" on science, but once again, ignorance is its own undoing. As The Houston Chronicles "Sci Guy", Eric Berger, said about it:

"If you have a reasonable understanding of science, this is all completely ludicrous…"

So, after an immediate outcry by the Anti-Defamation League, Mr. Chisum apologized for his association with this memo, and stated that:

"I sincerely regret that I did not take the time to carefully review these materials and recognize that I may have hurt or offended some groups including some of my dear friends."

The truth is that Warren Chisum represents only about 143,979 people in District 88, which is spread out over nineteen counties in the Texas Panhandle. That's a part of Texas that I like to call "Lower Oklahoma". It is a flat and desolate place. It is isolated and remote. It is a place where the horizon and the wind can drive a person mad with the enormity and solitude of it all. It is a twisted and awful place full of cracked pots and road-kill. It is not a place known for breakthroughs in science, art, literature, or any of the Humanistic sciences or arts.

The scary part, as stated by Mr. Berger, is that:

"This would all be really funny if the Texas legislature didn't have some sway over the State Board of Education (which is subject to the Sunset Law) and if Chisum weren't a powerful Rep (he's chairman of the Appropriations Committee.) The Texas House could pass a bill ordering the board to stop teaching evolution, or perhaps Chisum could easily enough lean on some of the board's more conservative members to take action."

That's Lower Oklahoma for you.