Where is Chavez?

hc

Weekend at Hugo’s
Last month Hugo Chavez returned to Cuba for more cancer treatments. The Venezuelan President’s cancer has spread and his future isn’t looking good. Last week a rush of family and friends flew to Cuba to be with the ailing leader. Since that time, there hasn’t been any news about Chavez’s condition. It’s apparent the man will not be in Venezuela for his re-election swearing-in ceremony on Thursday.  Is he alive? Is he dead? Will the people around him pull “a Bernie?” Ya’ never know.

In case you don’t know what “a Bernie” is, you have to see the movie Weekend at Bernie’s. It’s a story about two employees of an insurance company who go to the owner of the company to inform him that they’ve uncovered some insurance fraud. When the two arrive at Bernie’s beach house they find their boss dead. Afraid they’ll be accused of the murder the two employees manipulate Bernie’s dead body to appear as though he is still alive. It’s a very funny movie.

Here’s the trailer for Weekend at Bernie’s:

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Pop Culture

1984 – A blast from the past
A look at some memorable events of the year:

Arnold Schwarzenegger said his most famous line “I’ll be back” in The Terminator.

Clara Peller asked, “Where’s the Beef?”

Tom Selleck and a red Ferrari starred in Magnum P.I.

Tina Turner won a Grammy for “What’s love got to do with it“.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic began scheduled service between Gatwick and Newark using a leased Boing 747-200.

AT&T was broken up into seven regional holding companies referred to as the “baby bells”.

Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro, the first-ever female Vice Presidential candidate, to be his running mate.

Clint Eastwood put a hand print and the words, “You made my day,” in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Apple Computer introduced the first Macintosh.

The movie Ghostbusters was the number one film for 5 consecutive weeks, grossing $229.2 million at the box office, making it the second highest-grossing film of 1984, behind Beverly Hills Cop.

The 1984 Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles. The USSR boycotted the games and John Williams composed the theme for the event. “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” won him a Grammy.

Michael Jackson made his hit music video, Thriller, the same year he filmed the Pepsi commercial where his hair caught fire.

The Soviets were in their 5th year in Afghanistan. After 9 years, the Soviets could not defeat the third world guerillas. It’s become known as Russia’s Viet Nam.

Ronald Reagan was reelected President of the United States.

Enjoy Tina singing What’s Love Got to Do With It:

China

Migration of the Rich
Last year, just over 3,000 Chinese “high net worth” individuals applied for EB-5 investor visas in the U.S. In the first 6 months of this year, more than 4200 have already applied. With only 10,000 of these visas available each year, they might all be taken before the end of the year.

The EB-5 visa was created in 1990 to encourage the flow of capital into the U.S. and according to the Wall Street Journal:

Under the program, applicants and their immediate families receive permanent U.S. residency if an investment of at least $1 million in the U.S. leads to 10 full-time jobs within two years. The requirement is only $500,000 if the U.S. jobs created are in a rural or high-unemployment area.

Although China is currently the economic leader of the world, it’s economy has slowed and unemployment is on the rise. In addition, a new Communist Party President will take over at the end of the year which is causing some political uncertainty.

The young, educated rich are looking to the west for a place that (hopefully) provides a bit more political stability, cleaner air and water and a place to raise more than one child.

In the meantime, when they arrive, the wealthy new residents will be putting on the the Ritz.

Enjoy Taco – Puttin’ on the Ritz:

Health of the Nation

Feed Me
Am I the only one who’s noticed how thin the President has gotten lately? I don’t think he’s taking in enough calories. Interestingly enough, it seems like all of Obama’s campaign photo ops take place in diners or fast food restaurants. In all the photos the President appears to really be enjoying all those ribs, hamburgers and fries.

Also, have you noticed the only photos we see of Michelle Obama eating are when there is a salad in front of her? Yet she doesn’t look like she’s missed a meal. Go figure.

Anyway, you might be thinking, who cares? Well, you should care because thanks to the new school lunch menu mandate put forth by the US Department of Agriculture and the First Lady, the federal government now controls how many calories your kids are allowed to eat.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 puts an 850 calorie cap on school lunches and kids just aren’t getting enough calories to perform well. Lunch needs to be the largest meal of the day for an active child or teen. Small kids need around 1,850 calories per day and an active teenager needs more than 2,200 calories per day.

For the average high school athlete, carbs are needed to perform. Salad and low-fat milk simply don’t cut it. According to Leslie Bonci, Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a football player might need to eat more than 4,500 calories per day to stay at optimal strength. And for two-a-day practices during the preseason, a football player might need to eat and drink around 10,000 calories to handle the grueling workouts.

Well there you go. As Al Gore once said, “I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience.”

In the meantime, enjoy Feed Me by the late, great Levi Stubbs from the movie Little Shop of Horrors:

Google’s Brain

Teach Your Computer Well
Google Labs is the secretive part of Google that works on developing large scale projects relating to artificial intelligence and robotics.

The lab has created an artificial brain that uses 16,000 computer processors. The self-teaching “brain” was exposed to 10 million random digital images of YouTube video thumbnails. From the repetitive exposure to the images, the brain developed “concepts” from the most common pictures – faces, the  human body and cats.

Who knew there were so many pictures of cats on YouTube?

Even though the data fed into the computer is a small representation of all the images from Google searches, the computer, none the less, created a very simplified digital simulation of a human visual cortex. As a result, the computer came up with it’s own, very recognizable, image of a cat.

Amazing stuff.

Anyway, I got to thinking about the computer at the new NSA data center being built in Utah. The $2 billion dollar Quantum Computer, code-named Vesuvius, will be capable of executing more than an undecillion computations at once! That would take millions of years on your standard desktop.

Vesuvius will give the US government the world’s very first (I think it’s the first) all-knowing, omniscient, self-teaching artificial intelligence.

The computer will be fed vast amounts of complex data, including text, images, videos and sound. And, just like the Google computer, it will learn on its own.

In short time, the NSA computer will not only be able to predict the future, it will be able to completely reconstruct the human brain’s cognitive processes. We can only imagine what can be created. Remember, every person that has information, photos, accounts, etc. online, will have a file that grows exponentially as we use the internet, cell phones or cars. There will be enough information to practically create a clone of each and every one of us. It’s getting very weird very fast.

Once that genie is out of the bottle, we won’t be able to go back in time.

Enjoy Huey Lewis & The News – Back in Time:

Old Rockers

Driving Music
It’s summer and folks are driving around with the top down, windows open and the radio on. My favorite station is “80’s on 8” on SiriusXM. There are still a few deaf kids driving around with hip hop blaring from their boom box speakers, but I keep my music cranked up so I can’t hear the little buggers.

80’s music is everywhere. This summer there are so many old rockers on tour I don’t have space to name them all. Interestingly enough, it’s not just a bunch of gray-haired people at the concerts. A lot of young people are going to the concerts with their parents! Something unheard of before the 80’s. Although I do remember going to Vegas with our parents when we were kids and going to the dinner shows.  Kids could go to the early shows because there was no nudity or swearing – that was reserved for the later shows. How times have changed. Now kids can see and hear anything and everything on the 5 o’clock news.

Anyway, one of my favorite bands, Def Leppard, kicked off their 2012 concert tour at the House of Blues in LA last week. Their 1983 hit song Rock of Ages was the inspiration for the Broadway Musical of the same name. This weekend the movie version of the play is opening in theaters everywhere. What a great way to kick off the summer!

Movies

The Academy Awards
The Academy Awards began as the brainchild of Louis B. Mayer. On January 11, 1927, the MGM studio chief invited 36 people to his home for dinner to discuss the creation of an organization to benefit the film industry.

The attendees included some of the biggest names in the industry including, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil B. DeMille and Sid Grauman. Three months after that dinner, the State of California granted the Academy a charter as a non-profit organization.

The first actual awards were officially presented at a black-tie dinner at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tomorrow night people all over the world will be watching the 84 award show that will be broadcast from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood – directly across the street from the Hollywood Roosevelt.

Over the years we’ve seen many changes in the film industry. Too often art has given way to formulaic. Fortunately, there are always a few surprise films that stand out among the rest and this year’s surprise is Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. A sweet story, a good ensemble, a wonderful soundtrack and Paris. What more could we ask for in a movie?

Enjoy a cut from the soundtrack by Stephane Wrembel – Bistro Fada: