Paraglider Swept Up In Thunderstorm   Saturday 31 August 2013

Paraglider survived in storm at 32,000 ft

Paraglider survived in storm at 32,000 ft

Ewa Wisnerska passed out from lack of oxygen and suffered serious frost bite to her face after a storm sucked her 32,000 ft into the sky
 By Mark Chipperfield in Sydney and Nick Squires 12:01AM GMT 17 Feb 2007

A champion paraglider described yesterday how she was caught in a massive thunderstorm over Australia, hurled to a height greater than Mount Everest and encased in ice before managing to descend safely to earth. 

Ewa Wisnerska, 35, was sucked 32,000 ft into the air — so high that she lost consciousness from lack of oxygen and ice formed over her body. Hospital staff say the paraglider suffered severe frostbite from which she almost lost her ears.

The adventurer said it was a miracle that she survived: “You can’t imagine the power. You feel like nothing, like a leaf from a tree going up,” she said. “I can’t do anything. It’s raining and hailing and I’m still climbing — I’m lost.”

“I was climbing and climbing and the air was starting to freeze my sunglasses and then it was dark.”

Miss Wisnerska, from Germany, was preparing for the 10th World Paragliding Championships above the town of Manilla in New South Wales when the storm struck on Wednesday.

After launching as usual from a hill, she appears to have flown under a black storm cloud and then, with terrifying speed, the wind whisked her upwards. She climbed from 2,500ft to an estimated 32,000ft in about 15 minutes. A 42-year-old Chinese para-glider, He Zhongpin, was sucked into the same storm and died, apparently from lack of oxygen and cold. His body was found nearly 50 miles from where he took off.

Miss Wisnerska said she encountered hailstones the size of oranges as the temperature dropped to minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit. “I was shaking all the time. The last thing I remember is that it was dark. I could hear lightning all around me,” she said.

She regained consciousness mid-air about one hour later. “I wanted to fly around the clouds but I got sucked up 20 metres (67ft) per second into it and spiralled,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“After 40 minutes or an hour, I woke up and I was at 6,900 metres (23,000ft). I was still flying but I realised I didn’t have the brakes in my hand. I saw my hands and the gloves were frozen, I didn’t have the brakes, and the glider was still flying on its own.

“I was thinking ‘I can’t do anything so I only have to wait and hope that the clouds are bringing me out somewhere’. Then I woke up and was thinking that I was maybe unconscious for about one minute. I didn’t know I was unconscious for so long.”

Her ordeal was recorded by a global positioning beacon and a radio attached to her equipment. The swirling clouds released Miss Wisnerska from their grasp and she landed safely 40 miles from her launch, suffering frostbite to her face and with ice inside her lightweight flying suit — but otherwise unharmed.

Godfrey Wenness, the president of the Manilla Sky Sailors club and organiser of the Paragliding World Championship, said Miss Wisnerska’s tale was unprecedented.

“It’s like winning the Lotto 10 times in a row,” he said, adding that the previous altitude survival record for a paraglider pilot was 24,000ft.

Mr Wenness, one of Australia’s most experienced paraglider pilots, said the chances of surviving such an experience were negligible.

“There’s no oxygen. She could have suffered brain damage. But she came to at a height of 6,900 metres with ice all over her body and slowly descended herself.”

The German said she felt like an astronaut returning from the Moon as the ground loomed beneath her. “I could see the Earth coming — wow, like Apollo 13,” she said.

Miss Wisnerska spent one hour in the local district hospital for observation and she hopes to compete in the biennial paragliding championships which begin on Feb 24.



While I believe that President Obama and his people are telling the truth about the recent gas attack in Syria, I am reminded of U.S. presidents who lied during our time, two of whom told  lies to highly respected officials and sent them to repeat the lies at the United Nations.


When he wanted to invade Iraq in 2003, George W. Bush’s people (Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al.)  told four lies, one of which was that Saddam Hussein  had weapons of mass destruction, like poison gas.  Our first black secretary of state, General Colin Powell was given false information for a speech to the U.N. that would support the Bush’s desire to invade.  In September 2005, Powell was asked about the speech during an interview with Barbara Walters and responded that it was a “blot” on his record. He went on to say, “It will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It’s painful now.”

The Iraqi people and American veterans among others are still suffering the results of that war. 


The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a 1961 attack on Cuba by a military force trained and funded by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency intended to overthrow the revolutionary government of Fidel Castro. Launched from Guatemala, the invading force was defeated within three days by the Cuban armed forces.

Shortly after the attack started, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, flatly rejected Cuba’s report of the attack, telling the General Assembly that the attacking planes were from the Cuban Air Force and presenting a copy of the photograph published in the newspapers. In the photo, the plane shown has an opaque nose, whereas the model of the B-26 planes used by the Cubans had a Plexiglas nose. Within a few hours the truth was revealed, and Stevenson was extremely embarrassed to learn that Kennedy had referred to him as “my official liar.”


In 2005, an internal National Security Agency historical study was declassified; it concluded[7] that the Maddox had engaged the North Vietnamese Navy on August 2, but that there were no North Vietnamese Naval vessels present during the incident of August 4, 1964.

Regarding August 4:

It is not simply that there is a different story as to what happened; it is that no attack happened that night. […] In truth, Hanoi’s navy was engaged in nothing that night but the salvage of two of the boats damaged on August 2.[8]

The Gulf of Tonkin incident has long been admitted to be a false flag operation to get the U.S. into war with Vietnam.


In 1960, a U.S. spy plane, the marvelous U2, was shot down in the Soviet Union.  President Eisenhower had been told that the plane had a self-destructive mechanism to guarantee that neither the plane nor the pilot could survive, so Eisenhower’s people felt free to announce that it had been a NASA weather plan that had gone off course.  Problem was that that there had been no destruct package and the Soviets were holding the fully alive pilot.  Premier Khruschev withheld that information until the Americans had had time to embarrass themselves.



Wikipedia                                                                                                                  Of course, don’t laugh.  An amateur but rich source on Cuba.

John J. Mearsheimer, Why Leaders Lie.  U. of C. professor’s slim book argues that national leaders lie more to their own people than to other countries.

Poison Gas in Syria


The New York Times


August 30, 2013  By 

Secretary of State John Kerry declared on Friday there was “clear” and “compelling” evidence that the government of President Bashar al-Assad used poison gas against its citizens, as the Obama administration released an unclassified intelligence report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

“Read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources,” Mr. Kerry said in aggressively laying out the administration’s case for strikes on Syria. “This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons. This is what Assad did to his own people.”

Mr. Kerry said that more than 1,400 people were killed in the chemical attack, including more than 400 children.

A four-page intelligence summary released by the White House said the government had concluded that the Assad government had “carried out a chemical weapons attack” outside Damascus, based on human sources as well as communications intercepts. The suggestion that the opposition might have been responsible “is highly unlikely,” the assessment said.

Mr. Kerry said the administration had “high confidence” in the intelligence, much of which was being released to the public as he spoke. But he vowed that the government had carefully reviewed the evidence to avoid the kind of intelligence failures that preceded the Iraq war.

“We will not repeat that moment,” he said.

Mr. Kerry said the time for questions about what happened in Syria had passed.

“The question is whether we — we collectively — what are we and the world going to do about it?” Mr. Kerry said. He said that taking action in the face of the use of chemical weapons “matters deeply to the credibility and the future interests of the United States.”

Mr. Kerry acknowledged that the public in the United States was weary of war, saying that he, too, was tired after the years of military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he said that should not be used as an excuse not to act.

“Fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility,” he declared. “Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about.”

American intelligence agencies in the three days before the Aug. 21 attack detected signs of activities by the Syrian authorities “associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack,” the assessment said. Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the suburb of Adra from Aug. 18 until early on the morning of Aug. 21. On that date, it added, a “Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack,” including the use of gas masks.

Spy satellites detected rocket launchings from government-controlled territory 90 minutes before the first reports of a chemical weapons attack. The intelligence agencies said they had identified more than 100 videos related to the attack, many showing large numbers of bodies with physical signs consistent with nerve agents, and they added that the Syrian opposition “does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos.”

The agencies also said they intercepted the communications of a senior Syrian official who “confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on Aug. 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence,” the assessment said. It added that on the afternoon of that day, Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations.

President Obama is preparing to respond to the chemical attacks with a limited military strike on Syria despite Britain’s refusal to participate in the assault and expressions of deep reservation in Congress and among the American public.

The administration has repeatedly said there is no question that the government of Mr. Assad used chemical weapons against his own people in an attack that killed hundreds of people.

That would cross the red line that Mr. Obama drew last year, when he declared that the large-scale use of chemical weapons by Mr. Assad would “change my calculus” about American involvement in Syria’s bloody civil war.

Aides have said that the president has not yet made up his mind about whether to strike Syria. But administration officials have said they will release an intelligence assessment about the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the end of the week.

Pentagon officials have moved warships and other military assets closer to Syria in preparation for a possible attack, which would most likely involve the use of cruise missiles. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said the military is ready to execute any decision by Mr. Obama.





“I have always had a dog”


by George Lynch

George is a featured writer for his town’s newspaper, the Granby (Connecticut) Drummer. We are related through his daughter Beth’s marriage with my son John.  rjn


He’s a single guy, a loner, not much given to crowds, seemingly content with limited social interaction.  His words, “My whole life has pretty much been centered on dogs rather than society.  I have always had a dog”.  He has always exhibited a certain degree of imperturbability but this situation really threw him.

You see, he and his dogs were a family.  He loved them and they knew it.  He talked to his dogs.  If he was leaving, he told them when he would return.  When he talked, they settled down and listened, seemed to understood every word.

They never cared what kind of day he had (although they were sensitive to his moods).  They didn’t know whether he was rich or poor.  What they did know was that his caring for them was genuine and their love for him was accepting and unconditional.

The dogs were guaranteed two outings a day, the best of which was to go swimming at the Tariffville park.  He says, “Every day at 4, I would take them swimming at the river.  Rain, snow, no matter what, we would go – every day without exception.    Bella would swim.  Coby would stand in the water and splash around.  They both loved it, and I did too.”

Coby, was a “Big Yeller” sort of dog, a Lab/Shepherd mix,  about  100 lbs.  He was six weeks old when rescued.  His inherent nature was to love and make others happy.  He was gentle and sure with eyes that would move a soul.  His one quirk?  He would only eat and drink while lying down on all fours.

There were other pets in the house when Coby arrived, namely six parrots and a five foot iguana.  The dog and the iguana got a kick out of each other. They would chase each other all over the house – raising hell – great fun.

Bella arrived later.  She was a female hound, tall, 52 pounds, with a sorrowful history.  She had originally belonged to a migrant farmer who lived in a trailer somewhere in the woods.  When the season was over, he tied her to the front door and disappeared.  One of the neighbors noticed her, called the dog warden, and another rescue dog joined the family.    She was a year old at the time and starved for affection.

In the house Bella bonded instantly with everyone, especially Coby.  Though half his size, she was always protecting him.  Coby was a big “mush” and maybe she figured he was not assertive enough and needed someone to see that he was not taken advantage of.

She herself was certainly assertive enough.  For a while, it was feared that she was aggressive toward other dogs but she later proved that she just wanted to play.  People were initially afraid of her especially when they came to visit.  It was common practice of hers to suddenly jump five-six feet in the air and bop a visitor in the nose.

At dinnertime, Bella would gulp her meal down and then wait maybe five feet away from Coby and watch him.  Coby ate slowly, one bite at a time, and would always leave some food in his dish.  She learned that if she was patient, he would eventually leave and she could finish the leftovers. She could have pushed him aside and he would have let her but, they were friends.

He came home from work one day, opened the door and found the house eerily quiet.  Coby had always been the first to crash the door but this time it was just quiet. He found Coby lying in the living room; he didn’t want to get up.  He had to be carried outside to do his business.  The dog was uncommonly lethargic, devoid of any energy. Upon examination, the vet found a malignant tumor on his spleen.  Removing the tumor would give him, at best, one more month of quality life.  To avoid further discomfort, it was decided to have him put down.

Bella initially seemed to be okay following  Coby’s death  She ate regularly and exhibited normal behavior – but gradually she began to change.  Rather than her usual assertive nature, she turned shy.  She might perk up a bit with the other dogs but then come home and just lie down.  She became restless.  She would lie down and then get up, search for her lost companion, then lie down again.  She would jump on the couch, get down and jump back up again.  She could not get comfortable.  She stopped eating out of her own bowl.  She would only eat out of Coby’s bowl. Her grief over his passing was conspicuous.  They had played together, exercised together and had fun together.  Her world had revolved around Coby and suddenly there was no one to share it with.  Someone close to her was not around anymore.


A few weeks after Coby’s death, Kevin came home from work and Bella looked sick.  It was apparent that she wasn’t feeling good. He took her outside and she settled herself in the grass.  Then she didn’t want to get up and go back in.  He looked into her eyes and it scared him.  The more he watched her, the more concerned he became.  He already had an appointment scheduled with the vet to pick up Coby’s ashes.  He brought Bella with him.   The vet listened to the symptoms and suggested a blood test but also said that Bella needed another friend.

The following day, the vet called with the results of the blood test.  Bella’s kidneys were shutting down; she was experiencing renal failure.  The vet said that she would have died soon anyway but her grieving the loss of Coby had exacerbated her disease.  She couldn’t  deal with both.

Kevin comes home to silence.  There are no dogs to talk to, no scolding, no companions scampering around his feet. He misses the commotion.   It’s quiet. It seems like, all of a sudden, it’s just him.  He fixes dinner  for one.  He hears sounds that he was not aware of before.  His light and grace have disappeared.  Nothing seems to be safe and secure anymore.

In bed he there is no pressure against his leg, no weight on the mattress. On the floor there is no sound of a dog shuffling position, of yawns. 

Later, he settles down in a chair.  For some reason he feels the need to validate his feelings so he pulls an album with pictures of the dogs.  There is Bella, sitting with her head on his lap as he works on his fly rods, a picture of Coby in his usual resting place.  He closes the album, again becoming aware of his solitude.  He wonders if he has ever experienced real grief before. 

Weekends are the hardest. He has more time to think and reflect on his losses.   He says, “I’m not a very social guy, never did like crowds – don’t know why.  It’s just a thing with me.  What the dogs did was get me out talking to people, especially other dog owners at the park. Usually the same people were there at the same time.  The dogs brought me out of my skin you know?  You don’t realize it until they are gone how good they were for you.  You think back and ask yourself, ‘Would I have talked to that person?’, ‘Would I have made conversation?’, ‘Would I have been friendly?’.  No, I wouldn’t have”.

He thinks he is feeling a little betterIt’s time to gather up the leashes and the collars and the dog dishes and the toys, throw away the leftover dog food.  He sees that it is 4:00, time for the afternoon river trip – but not today.   Someone else’s dog starts barking outside

He doesn’t talk to anybody about his feelings.  He presupposes an insensitive reaction, “Hey, it was only a couple of dogs”.  Humans have closure for their deceased: wakes, funerals, burials.  The only closure he will ever have is time. Nobody cares that his dogs were the only non-judgmental friends that he had, that they helped him to become a person that, by nature, he was not inclined to be.  That is tough.

He does know that there is one truth in his life – he might heal but there will always be a scar.

George adds:

I was in the parking lot of my church where Kevin is the sexton.  He has been there about 4 – 5 years I guess, never said a word to him other than good morning, afternoon etc.    I  saw him  from the parking lot and probably said something like “hows it going?”
He stopped his raking and came over which surprised me and then started talking about the loss of his dogs.  I think he knew that we had had several guide dogs and would understand.  Anyway, I could tell that he was in distress.  I am a bereavement volunteer so I had some idea of what to say and what not to say.  Anyway, he agreed to an article and we had a formal interview.  I thought he might take umbrage over my characterization of his person but he was fine with it.

Kevin Pelletier lives in Tariffville, Connecticut.








Woman Prevents School Massacre

  • New York Magazine    8/22/13 at 11:37 AM

Antoinette Tuff, Hero and Saint: Listen to the Moving 911 Call That Prevented a School Shooting

Saint Tuff.

A Georgia elementary school avoided another Newtown massacre this week thanks in large part to the level-headed heroics of bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff. When 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill entered Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, outside of Atlanta, with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition, he encountered Tuff in the school’s front office. “I just started telling him my life story and what was going on with me,” Tuff said after the hostage situation ended with no injuries. But her humble nonchalance undersells just how amazing she was as an intermediary between police and Hill, as heard on the newly released 911 recording.

In short, she’s an angel. “You gonna be okay,” Tuff tells Hill. “We’re not gonna hate you.” She informs the operator that the gunman said he “should have just went to the mental hospital instead of doing this because he is not on his medication … He said he don’t care if he dies, he don’t have nothing to live for,” she says. “He said he’s not mentally stable.”

A woman who knew Hill through church said he’s been “diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, and other mental issues,” but that since his Medicaid expired, “he was unable to get his medicine.” Hill can be heard on the tape asking Tuff to keep the police back: “Tell them to stop bothering me,” he says.

She stays impossibly calm and talks him down by connecting on a personal level. “I just want you to know that I love you and that I’m proud of you. We all go through something in life,” she says. “My husband just left me after 33 years. I got a son that’s multiple disabled … I tried to commit suicide last year after my husband left me, but look at me now. Everything is okay.”

When Hill finally puts down his weapon and surrenders, Tuff finally exhales. “I’m going to tell you something, baby: I’ve never been so scared in all the days in my life,” she says to the operator, finally letting herself cry. “Oh, Jesus! Oh, God!” The operator replies, “You did great.”

Here’s video of Tuff telling her story:

Woman Saves Children From Gunfire

Woman Recovers After Getting Shot Shielding Neighbor’s Kids

by   National Public Radio  Morning Edition  

Carmesha Rogers snuggles with her 4-year-old daughter, Kasharee, on Aug. 22, in Muskegon, Mich. Rogers sustained a gunshot wound to the head on July 9 after removing several neighborhood children from a gunbattle's line of fire.  Rogers says her only thought was: "Just get the kids out the way. 'Cause I'd want someone to do that for my kids."

Carmesha Rogers snuggles with her 4-year-old daughter, Kasharee, on Aug. 22, in Muskegon, Mich. Rogers sustained a gunshot wound to the head on July 9 after removing several neighborhood children from a gunbattle’s line of fire. Rogers says her only thought was: “Just get the kids out the way. ‘Cause I’d want someone to do that for my kids.”

Last month, a disagreement on a residential street in Muskegon, Mich., turned into a deadly gun battle. Six men were armed, one man was killed, and dozens of shots sprayed in all directions.

At the house directly behind the gunfight, three children were playing on the porch.

This scenario is not as rare in America as we’d like to think. But what happened next is: As the bullets zipped past the children, one woman ran into the line of fire to try to save them.

‘Basically A War Zone’

It wasn’t quite yet dinnertime.

Brooke Ridge, 10, was walking her dog Scruffy up to the front porch of a gray house on Monroe Avenue in this Western Michigan city. Her friends, Cameron and Caiden, were there. Her brother was inside.

Behind her in the street, a group of men were fighting. The fight escalated.

“They started off as punching and screaming,” says Brooke. “Then it ended up as a gun battle.”

Brooke’s parents, Jim and Shannon Ridge, were in their second-floor apartment around the corner when they first heard the shots. Before they could even get down the steps of their apartment, dozens of shots had been fired.

“It was basically a war zone, you know,” says Jim Ridge. “That’s how many rounds went off.”

Carmesha Rogers, 27, was on a balcony directly above the kids when the guns came out.

These were not her kids; some, she didn’t even know. But she saw that they were in the line of fire and yelled at them. They didn’t move, so she ran down the stairs and pushed the kids inside.

She got them in the house. They were safe. She was not. A bullet hit her in the head.

‘She’s Our Hero’

Heather Tanner came out of her room to look for her sons, Cameron and Caiden.

“And then that’s when I saw Meesha, laying there. And then I just started screaming because I didn’t know what else to do,” says Tanner. “I was shocked. I thought she was dead. ”

Rogers’ sister performed CPR. Paramedics arrived and rushed Rogers to the hospital.

She survived.

I first met Carmesha Rogers as she recovered in her room at Hackley Hospital in Muskegon. She was surrounded by humming medical equipment and cellophane balloons.

When she first arrived at the hospital, her family had been told she might never walk, or talk again

But three weeks later, she was doing both. And her memory of that day was starting to come back: The fight. The guns. The kids on the porch.

“I didn’t have a thought. Just get the kids out the way. ‘Cause I’d want someone to do that for my kids,” says Rogers.

Says Heather Tanner: “She’s our hero. She saved our children.”

First woman to head Air Force Academy

 (Brennan Linsley/ Associated Press ) – New U.S. Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, at her office at the Air Force Academy, near Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday Aug. 27, 2013. The first woman to lead the Air Force Academy says she faced resistance and harassment in her career, but that competence and confidence helped her push through the ranks to one of the top jobs in the service.

By Associated Press, Published: August 27 | Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2:46 AM

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Years before she became the first woman to lead the Air Force Academy, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson was at the controls of jet-powered transport planes, and in her 20s, she often commanded aircraft crews that included men old enough to be her father.“That opens a lot of doors,” she said.
Johnson, who became superintendent of the academy on Aug. 12, said she faced resistance and sexual harassment in her career, but competence and confidence helped her push through the ranks to one of the top jobs in the service.
She isn’t surprised that 32 years passed between her graduation from the academy in 1981 — in the second class to include women — and her appointment as its first female superintendent.“It takes 32 years to make a lieutenant general,” she said in an interview Tuesday, referring to the experience and training to reach the required three-star rank.She became superintendent during a time when the military is under increasing pressure from Congress and the president to prevent sexual assaults.She acknowledged she suffered sexual harassment but didn’t provide specifics.“It’s not been a systematic thing,” she said. Her response was along the lines of “Knock it off,” she said.The Pentagon estimated in May that up to 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year. A series of sexual assault scandals made clear how serious the problem is, including allegations of misconduct against officers who led sexual assault prevention programs and a commander overturning a sexual assault conviction.

Johnson brushed aside questions about whether the military as a whole is improving and whether changes proposed by Congress would help, but she said the academy is making progress.

The number of sexual assault victims at the academy who are willing to provide information to investigators and prosecutors has risen about 50 percent in the past six months, she said, although the overall numbers are small.

An academy spokesman said later that specific numbers on recent months weren’t available yet.

A sexual assault scandal shook the academy a decade ago. In January 2003, female cadets said that when they reported being sexually assaulted, they were punished for such minor infractions as drinking. Some sought help from a civilian rape crisis clinic, saying they feared their careers would suffer if they spoke with military commanders.

Top leaders at the academy were replaced and programs were put in place to prevent sexual assaults and encourage cadets to report incidents.

Johnson said the academy emphasizes caring for the victims of sexual assault and teaching cadets about the broad range of sexual violations, from harassment to violent assault.

“I think we’re on to something here,” she said.

The academy opened its doors to women in 1976, and the first female cadets encountered hostile faculty, commanders and male cadets. Some reported pressure to quit.

Johnson enrolled the next year, in “the bow wave of history,” she said.

She became the school’s first female Rhodes scholar and first female cadet wing commander. She played varsity basketball all four years at the academy and is the women’s second-highest all-time scorer with 1,706 points.

Not everyone was happy to see women as cadets, she said.

“When I showed up, it was about change, and not everybody is happy about change,” she said.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz was the first woman to lead a U.S. military academy, becoming superintendent of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., in 2011. Johnson is the first woman to be superintendent at any of the three best-known academies, Army, Navy and Air Force.

Johnson said she’s grateful for the opportunity to lead the academy.

“It’s kind of an amazing closure to be the superintendent of my alma mater.”


Dustin Hoffman and Women


 ‘Tootsie’ Role Opened Dustin Hoffman’s Eyes About Women’s Looks

By Dan Harris   Jul 11, 2013 7:42am

In the film “Tootsie,” Dustin Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey, a down-on-his-luck actor who dresses up as a woman to land a role on a soap opera. The film was released in 1982 and became an enormous hit.

Despite all the jokes in the film about his character being a “nottie” rather than a hottie, Hoffman has revealed that when he saw the screen tests of the film he was shocked to see how he looked in drag.

“If I was going to be a woman, I would want to be as beautiful as possible, and they said to me, ‘That’s as good as it gets.’ Uh, that’s as beautiful as we can get you, Charlie,” Hoffman said in an interview with the American Film Institute.

In the interview, Hoffman said he’d initially had doubts about making the movie unless he could be made to look like a beautiful woman.

Video of the emotional interview was posted to YouTube in December, but it’s only now going viral.

In the moment he was told that he was as attractive as he was going to get as a woman, the actor said he had an epiphany.

“I went home and started crying, talking to my wife, and I said, ‘I have to make this picture,’” Hoffman said, choking up as he recalled his reaction. “And she said, ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Because I think I’m an interesting woman, when I look at myself on-screen, and I know that if I met myself at a party I would never talk to that character because she doesn’t fulfill, physically, the demands that we’re brought up to think women have to have in order for us to ask them out.’

“She says, ‘What are you saying?’ And I said, ‘There’s too many interesting women I have … not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed. And that was never a comedy for me,” he said.

Video of Hoffman’s comments was posted to YouTube on Dec. 17, 2012. As of Wednesday night, it had been seen more than 3.3 million times.




Giant Vermont Puppets


Bread And Puppet Marks 50 Years Of Paper Mache And Protest


The Bread and Puppet Theater, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, performs "The Total This & That Circus" on Sundays this summer.

The Bread and Puppet Theater, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, performs “The Total This & That Circus” on Sundays this summer.

Mark Dannenhauer/Bread And Puppet Theater

Bread and Puppet Theater performs during a protest in New York in June 1982.


Bread and Puppet Theater has been a familiar presence at political demonstrations since the anti-war protests of the 1960s. Its giant puppets and raucous brass band also marched against wars in Central America, Afghanistan and Iraq. In 1982, Bread and Puppet led a parade in New York that, according to police estimates, consisted of more than a half-million anti-nuclear protesters. Though massive street protests may be a thing of the past, Bread and Puppet’s work is still unapologetically political as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The theater is based on a farm in northern Vermont, about 25 miles from the Canadian border. There’s a pine forest on the property with small, colorful huts that memorialize puppeteers who have passed, and a huge barn jammed with the company’s puppets, some of them nearly 20 feet tall.

The barn is used as a rehearsal space on a rainy summer afternoon. Outside there are old bathtubs full of clay dug from a nearby river. Bread and Puppet’s founder Peter Schumann uses it to sculpt his puppets and masks, then covers them with paper mache made from discarded cardboard.

“It’s the freedom that you get when you can do things because of America’s garbage and the freedom of doing gigantic things for almost nothing, with just collaboration, with just people power,” he says.

Schumann brought people power to New York’s Lower East Side when he founded the theater in 1963. He grew up in Germany as a refugee of World War II. His company’s name comes from the peasant bread his mother baked to survive. Schumann’s low-tech, home-made puppetry became part of New York’s thriving avant garde art scene, and early on Bread and Puppet put on free shows with inner city kids, including one called Chicken Little in Harlem.

In honor of its 50th anniversary, Bread and Puppet staged a revival of a show they first performed in 1971 called “Birdcatcher in Hell.” Forty-two years after the first performance, the revival starred many of the original actors.

Massimo Schuster/Bread And Puppet Theater

The company eventually moved to Goddard College in Vermont where it was theater in residence for four years before getting its own farm. It was there that Paul Zaloom joined the company. He went on to an Obie Award-winning career of his own and to star in the children’s TV show Beakman’s World.

“Being a member of the Bread and Puppet Theater was really the coolest and best thing that ever happened to me,” Zaloom says. “I loved being in puppet shows. I loved the politics of the theater, the aesthetics, the camaraderie we all had, the relationship we had to the community. I feel very lucky and very privileged I was a member of the company.”

On 20 acres of its pastoral landscape, Bread and Puppet still stages morality plays in which good eventually triumphs over evil. Giant puppets of seagulls or soldiers make dramatic entrances over a hilly meadow. Bread and Puppet’s shows have featured a host of political bad guys, but they’ve also celebrated garbage men and washerwomen as they go about their daily tasks.

“Bread and Puppet also makes shows about celebrating the tiny moments in daily life that are full of joy and need to be celebrated in the face of all the horrible things we have to deal with,” explains Claire Dolan, who joined Bread and Puppet after college and now serves on the troupe’s board of directors. “I think it’s easy for people to sort of dismiss Bread and Puppet in some way by saying political theater is a quaint throwback to the ’60s and not really relevant to art making today and sort of naive, and perhaps also pedantic and boring.”

John Bell is a Bread and Puppet alumnus who directs the University of Connecticut’s Ballard Institute of Puppetry. “What I learned from Bread and Puppet was that it was possible to make good political art,” Bell says. “You want to do a show about global warming or something? Go ahead. You want to do a show about stop and frisk in the streets of New York? It’s OK. You don’t have to shy away from it. There are ways to talk about serious ideas in a way that’s entertaining and I think that articulating that as a possibility for modern art was super powerful.”

Bread and Puppet performs during a rally on the Statehouse lawn on Aug. 24, 2011 in Montpelier, Vt.

Toby Talbot/AP

The company also has a powerful do-it-yourself ethic. Founder Peter Schumann says that with two exceptions, the company has never accepted outside funding.

“From the beginning, even in New York, we have said ‘Let’s not have a theater that is dependent on private or government money. Let’s make only theater with money we can make with theater.'”

That money comes from ticket sales when the company performs in professional theaters and from visitors who make donations at its farm in Vermont, where the troupe performs every weekend this summer. At age 79, Schumann still bakes the coarse sourdough rye bread that he learned from his mother and that Bread and Puppet gives away at every performance.

Facebook Fatigue


ALL TECH CONSIDERED Technology News from NPR

Facebook Makes Us Sadder And Less Satisfied, Study Finds


Researchers say Facebook use can lead to a decline in happiness and satisfaction.

Joerg Koch/AP

Facebook’s mission “to make the world more open and connected” is a familiar refrain among company leaders. But the latest research shows connecting 1.1 billion users around the world may come at a psychological cost.

A new University of Michigan study on college-aged adults finds that the more they used Facebook, the worse they felt. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, found Facebook use led to declines in moment-to-moment happiness and overall life satisfaction.

“There’s a huge amount of interest … because Facebook is so widespread,” says research co-author John Jonides, a University of Michigan cognitive neuroscientist. “With something like half a billion people who use Facebook every day, understanding the consequences of that use on our well being is of critical importance.”

Researchers tested the variables of happiness and satisfaction in real time on 82 participants. The researchers text-messaged them five times a day for two weeks to examine how Facebook use influenced how they felt. Participants responded to questions about loneliness, anxiety and general emotional well-being.

The study authors did not get at the reasons Facebook made their test subjects feel glum. But Jonides suspects it may have to do with social comparison.

“When you’re on a site like Facebook, you get lots of posts about what people are doing. That sets up social comparison — you maybe feel your life is not as full and rich as those people you see on Facebook,” he says.

Interestingly, Jonides notes, the study found the effects of Facebook are most pronounced for those who socialize the most “in real life.” He says the folks who did the most direct, face-to-face socializing and used social media were the ones who reported the most Facebook-related mood decline.

“It suggests that when you are engaging in social interactions a lot, you’re more aware of what others are doing and, consequently, you might be more sensitized about what’s happening on Facebook and comparing that to your own life,” Jonides says.

The researchers also tested and discounted other reasons for our unhappiness. TheUniversity of Michigan notes:

“[Researchers] also found no evidence for two alternative possible explanations for the finding that Facebook undermines happiness. People were not more likely to use Facebook when they felt bad. In addition, although people were more likely to use Facebook when they were lonely, loneliness and Facebook use both independently predicted how happy participants subsequently felt. ‘Thus, it was not the case that Facebook use served as a proxy for feeling bad or lonely,’ says [lead author Ethan] Kross.”

We reached out to Facebook for a response, but got an automatic reply. These findings, however, add data points in our quest to understand Facebook and other social media’s effect on our emotional well-being, whether it’s the behemoth social network’s role after relationships end or our feelings of regret after pressing “share.”

If you’re feeling bummed, researchers did test for and find a solution. The prescription for Facebook despair is less Facebook. Researchers found that face-to-face or phone interaction — those outmoded, analog ways of communication — had the opposite effect. Direct interactions with other human beings led people to feel better.

Read the full study at PLOS One.