Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Five Movies Abut the Oil Industry

Here's an inforgraphic about five of the biggest films that deal with the effects of the multi-billion-dollar oil industry  It provides a look at each movie and break down the film's plot as well as the actors in it, if it won any awards and how it was received by critics.  There are also its most iconic quotes, some bloopers and some fun trivia from each movie. One example of this is the movie Deep Water Horizon, which broke the record for the biggest set ever built, when an actual oil rig was constructed.   I hope you find it informative and interesting.


Movies That Struck Oil by Fuel Fighter.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Utopia, Dystopia and John Lennon's "Imagine"


For centuries, philosophers and scribes have explored the concept of an ideal society, Deep thinkers from Plato, Aristotle and Cicero to Saint Augustine and Karl Marx have put forth their perceptions of a perfect community or "utopia."  Descriptions of ideal societies go as far back to the biblical Garden of Eden, depicted in the Book of Genesis, chapters 2 and 3. Adam and Eve lived the perfect life until they ate of the forbidden fruit.  Corruption entered the world and they lost their paradise.

Below is a painting of The Garden of Eden as shown in the first or left panel of Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Around 380 B.C., the Greek philosopher Plato published his Republic, which contained a proposal for a utopian society.  In Plato's Republic, citizens were divided into "golden," "silver." and "bronze" socioeconomic classes.  The golden citizens were placed in stringent 50-year educational program and trained to be benign oligarchs or "philosopher kings."  "The "philosopher kings" rulers would be intelligent, erudite, wise and willing to live a simple life.

The Roman politician, lawyer and philosopher, Cicero (106 B.C.-43 B,C.), envisioned an ideal society as having a mixed constitution and involved citizenship.  In the The City of God, which was written n the 5th century A.D., Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote of an eternal Jerusalem, which is the city of heaven.  For Karl Marx (1818-1883), co-author of The Communist Manifesto, the ideal society is one in which individuals are freed from what he regards as the chains of capitalism.

The word "utopia" is derived from a Greek term that literally means  "nowhere." It is an imaginary place where government, laws and other conditions are perfect.  It was coined by Sir Thomas More for his book Utopia, published in 1516 in Latin.  More (1478 - 1535) was an English lawyer, author, philosopher, statesman and Renaissance humanist.  He was a councillor to King Henry VIII and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529 to 1532.  The Roman Catholic Church has venerated him as a saint.

On July 6, 1535, Thomas More was executed for treason because he refused to recognize Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England.  In More's classic work, "Utopia" is the name of an island paradise with a perfect social and political system.

Below is the title woodcut for Utopia.

Thomas More

The English novelist James Hilton (1900-1954) was the author of Lost Horizon, a story about a utopia called "Shangri-La."  In his best-selling novel, Hilton describes Shangi;La as a mystical, earthly paradise in the Kunlun Mountains of Asia.  Hilton's 1933 novel was turned into a momentous 1937 film, directed by Frank Capra and starring Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt.

James Hilton

All of this brings us to former Beatle John Lennon's 1971 hit song Imagine.  Here are the provocative and thought-provoking lyrics to Lennon's composition:


Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today... Aha-ah...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace... You...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world... You...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

In "Imagine," John Lennon (1940-1980) envisions a perfect world.  He imagines a society where everyone lives in peace and "brotherhood of man."  It is a society without borders, possessions and religion, all of which Lennon considers divisive.  His vision of "utopia" is strictly secular, with "all the people living for today."  Lennon sings of an impossibly idealistic society with "no need for greed or hunger" because everything is shared.  He knows he will be called a "dreamer," but it doesn't matter to him.

It is clear that the aforementioned concepts of a perfect earthly societies are purely fictional. They are theoretical, but not practical.  Perfect societies cannot exist as long as human beings are imperfect and fallible.  Even the term "utopia' means "no place." This does not mean that humanity should not strive for social justice and peace.  These are goals of the highest order. However, absolute perfection will never be achieved in an imperfect world and it will never be achieved in a material world. There is no earthly paradise because a perfect world has to have a spiritual dimension.  For Christians, it is "the kingdom of heaven."  For Buddhists, it is "nirvana."

Belief in a spiritual dimension or afterlife, certainly does not absolve humans from trying to alleviate poverty and social injustice in this world.  To use the promise of the next world 'to "keep the poor in their place" is unconscionable and immoral.  To use religion as a cover for violence, intolerance and terrorism is utterly reprehensible.  John Lennon may not have realized it, but his dreams can be compatible with those of religion.


Writers and philosophers have also conjured up nightmare scenarios, known as "dystopias," where everything is unpleasant or bad.  The word "dystopia" was apparently coined by John Stuart Mill in 1868.  It comes from the Greek "dys" meaning "bad,"abnormal, difficult" plus "utopia," - an imaginary bad place.  Dystopian states are usually post-nuclear, totalitarian or environmentally degraded.  In his 1949 novel 1984, British author George Orwell offers a bone-chilling portrait of a totalitarian society controlled by "Big Brother."  In 1953, the great American science fiction writer Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) published his acclaimed dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451.  Bradbury's novel presents a future American society in which books are banned and "firemen" burn any that they find. Canadian Margaret Atwood is the author of well-known 1985 dystopian novel, The Hand Maid's Tale, about a future totalitarian theocracy.

George Orwell

More recently, Suzanne's Collins' popular The Hunger Games was released in 2008.  The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian country called Panem. Panem is comprised of the prosperous Capitol and 12 districts in various levels of poverty.  Each year, children from the districts are chosen to take part in a televised death match known as "The Hunger Games."

- Joanne

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Dale Chihuly glass sculptures at the Royal Ontario Museum

On January 2, 2017, I viewed an exhibition of the work of glass sculptor Dale Chihuly at the Royal Ontario Museum (The ROM) here in Toronto.  The exhibit did not receive good reviews from critics such as James Adams in The Globe and Mail who wrote: "It's a sensational show - albeit in the pejorative sense of sensational  Meaning: Full of Teletubby colours and flash and bigness and strange shapes drawn from some Baudelairean fever dream or the remnants of Pee-Wee's Playhouse."  That's a pretty scathing critique!

I am certainly no art critic.  However, I did enjoy the exhibition.  Here are some photos I have taken and I will let you judge for yourself.


Laguna Torcello is part of Dale Chihuly's Mille Fiori series (Italian for "thousand flowers").  It is named after a lagoon island in Venice, Italy, Chihuly's favourite city.


This work was specifically designed for the Royal Ontario Museum.


Chihuly originally created these floral-like forms in 1986.  He installed them in the ceiling of the Seattle Art Museum in 1992,


Dale Chululy is born in Tacoma, Washington, USA on September 20, 1941 and is based in Seattle. He studied interior design at the University of Washington.  In 1968, he worked at a glass factory in Venice, Italy and observed the team approach to glass blowing.  In 1971, he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School near Stanwood, Washington.  In 1976, he was involved in a head-on car crash in England.  His face was severely cut by windshield glass and he lost the sight in his left eye.  He also injured his right shoulder in a 1979 bodysurfing accident and was no longer able to blow glass, so he employed others to do it for him.  In 1995, he began Chiluly Over Venice, for which he installed glass sculptures over Venice's canals and piazzas.

 Chiluly's art is included in museums and collections around the world. The ROM has two Chiluly's in its permanent collection.

Chiluly's  well- known series of works include: Cylinders and Baskets in the 1970s; SeaformsMacchiaVenetians, and Persians in the 1980s; Niijima Floats and Chandeliers in the 1990s; and Fiori in the 2000s. 

- Joanne

Monday, January 9, 2017

Whatever happened to Claudine Longet?

Claudine Longet.  Now there's a name from the 1960s and 70s!  Wasn't she married to singer Andy Williams?  That's right.  She and Williams were married from 1961 until 1975.  Wasn't she embroiled in a scandal?  That's right, too.  In 1976, Longet was arrested and charged with reckless manslaughter in the death of her boyfriend, U.S. Olympic alpine ski racer Vladimir "Spider" Sabich.  Her trial was a media circus.  It was comparable to the O.J. Simpson trial of the 1970s, only there was no CNN back then. Here's how it all happened.

Claudine Georgette Longet was born on January 29, 1942 in Paris, France.  Her father was an industrialist whose expertise was x-ray technology.  Her mother was a doctor.  There was a younger sibling too, a sister named Danielle Longet..  As a teenager, Claudine became a show dancer.  At the age of 18, she went to the United States to seek fame, fortune and the elusive American Dream.  She was hired by famed nightclub impresario Lou Walters (father of Barbara), who had noticed her on French television.

Claudine began her career as a Las Vegas show girl, the lead dancer of the Folies Bergère revue at the Tropicana Resort and Casino.  In 1960, she met crooner Andy Williams in Sin City while they were both performing there.  The pair used to relate a romantic tale about how Andy, who was passing by in his limousine, spotted Claudine on the Vegas Strip, at the side of the road.  He pulled over to help her with some car trouble and found himself smitten with the petite French brunette. The story, however, may be apocryphal.  Robert Chalmers in his May 2013 article in GQ magazine ("Claudine Longet: Aspen's Femme Fatale.") writes that it seems more likely that they first met while she was dancing at the Tropicana casino.

Andy and Claudine married on December 15, 1961 in Los Angeles California when Claudine was 19 years old Williams was 34. They had three children: daughter Noëlle (born on September 24, 1963), and sons Christian (born on April 15, 1965) and Robert ("Bobby") (born on August 1, 1969). Their youngest child was named after Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968. Andy and Claudine were close friends with Bobby and Ethel Kennedy.  In fact, they were at the Ambassador Hotel in L.A. on the night Bobby was shot and Andy sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" at his funeral Mass at St.. Patrick's Cathedral.

Claudine and Andy and their three children

During the 1960s, Claudine Longet appeared in a number of popular TV shows.  Her first acting roles on television were in two 1963 episodes of the sitcom McHales's Navy.  She also appeared on Dr. Kildare (1963), McHale's Navy (1964), Mr. Novak (1965), 12 O'Clock High (1965) (1966), Hogan's Heroes (1966), The Rat Patrol (1966) (1967), Combat! (1964) (1967) and The F.B.I. (1969).

In 1966, Claudine appeared as a guest star on the NBC television adventure series Run for Your Life, starring Ben Gazzara. She played Nicole in an episode entitled "The Sadness of a Happy Time" (Season 1, Episode 30, Air Date: May 16, 1966).  In the episode, she sang a bilingual version of the bossa nova song "Meditation" (English and French) and was subsequently signed to a contract by Herb Alpert's A&M Records.  She recorded five albums under that label between 1966 and 1970.

Claudine had the lead female role in director Blake Edwards' classic 1968 comedy The Party.  She portrayed Hollywood starlet Michele Monet in the film, opposite co-star Peter Sellers.  Sellers played a bumbling Indian actor who, due to a clerical error, is mistakenly invited to an exclusive Hollywood party, instead of being fired.

Claudine Longet in The Party

In the 1970's, Longet landed some more television guest roles on Love, American Style (1970), Alias Smith and Jones (1971) and the Streets of San Francisco (1973).  Her last television acting role was as Marie Antoinette in the 1975 TV movie The Legendary Curse of the Hope Diamond.

In 1971, Claudine signed a contract with Barnaby Records, Andy Williams' label.  She released some singles and two albums (We've Only Just Begun and Let's Spend the Night Together) for the company.
In his 2010 book, Aspen Terminus, author Fabrice Gaogmault writes that "Claudine Longet succeeded in doing what no French woman singer since Edith Piaf had done: selling records in the United States"

After a lengthy separation (about five years), Claudine Longet and Andy Williams divorced in 1975. Nevertheless, they remained the best of friends.  She even continued to perform with him on his annual Andy Williams Christmas television special.

In 1972, Claudine met Spider Sabich at a celebrity ski tournament in Bear Valley, California.  Sabich had competed for the U.S. alpine ski team at the 1968 Winter Olympics and was the pro ski racing champion in 1971 and 1972.  The grandson of Croation immigrants, Spider was blond and athletic, a carefree bachelor who enjoyed the party scene in Aspen.

The French chaunteuse and her California-born Golden Boy quickly became an item.  They set up housekeeping in Aspen, Colorado, at Spider's luxury chalet and Claudine became a leading socialite in the high-living community, The couple resided in the posh Starwood complex, near Spider's friend, singer John Denver.

Claudine with Spider Sabich

Everything looked rosy for Claudine - until it all came crashing down one horrible Sunday afternoon. On March 21, 1976, police were summoned to the home that Sabich shared with Longet and her three children.  Spider's blood was all over the floor of the chalet's bathroom, The 31-year-old skier had been shot in the stomach with an imitation World War II model Luger pistol, purchased by Spider's father in Grenoble, France.  A single bullet had been discharged at close range from the .22 calibre pistol in Longet's hand.  Police confiscated the gun and some papers, including Claudine's journal (The contents of the diary were later ruled inadmissible as evidence because the diary had been confiscated without the proper warrant).

The Pitkin County sheriffs made another procedural error that was beneficial to Claudine's defence. They took a blood sample from Claudine with a warrant.  Prosecutors later argued that the sample showed evidence of cocaine in her blood and that the diaries belied Claudine's contention that her relationship with Spider had not soured.  There was speculation that Spider had been feeling tied down by Claudine and the children and that they had cramped his bachelor lifestyle.  According to People magazine (April 5, 1976), it was widely reported in Starwood that he had asked her to move out by April 1st.

Spider Sabich died in an ambulance en route to Aspen Valley Hospital.  Claudine, 34, was arrested and charged with reckless manslaughter. She admitted to holding the gun when it killed Sabich but insisted that the weapon went off by accident. Through it all, Andy Williams was very supportive of his ex-wife.  He staunchly defended her in the press and accompanied her to court proceedings.  At her trial, Claudine, who had been seen on that tragic day at a local pub with friends, claimed that the gun had accidentally discharged while Sabich was showing her how it worked.

Claudine's trial was a media sensation.  Press from all over the world descended upon Aspen, Colorado.  Journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who was a resident of Aspen at the time, said that the trial was "like fouling your own nest."  In a deposition, Claudine's daughter, 12 year-old Noëlle affirmed that her younger brothers were sledging when the tragic incident occurred.  She stated that she heard Sabich shout "Claudine! Claudine!" and witnessed her mother calling 911.

Since prosecutors were unable to refer to the inadmissible evidence, they focused on the autopsy report instead.  They contended that when Sabich was shot he was bent over, facing away, and at least 1.80 m (6 ft) from Longet, which would not be consistent with the position of somone demonstrating how a firearm works.

On January 31, 1977, a jury rendered its verdict in the case of Claudine Longet.  Claudine was found not guilty of reckless manslaughter, but of the lesser charge of criminal negligence. An Associated Press (AP) account of the outcome. reported that Claudine begged District Court Judge George Lohr for mercy as the mother of three young children.  Clad in a flowered mindress, Longet pleaded with the judge to spare her offspring the stigma of having their mother imprisoned.  She argued that they would become resentful "against a system the would send the mother "they trust and believe in" to jail.

Judge Lohr said that although he felt compassion for Claudine and her children, "releasing her on probation without a jail sentence" might weaken respect for the law.  Longet was sentenced her to thirty days in Aspen's Pitkin County Jail at a time of her choosing, provided it was before September. The judge also put her on two years' probation and fined her $25 to defray the costs of the probation report.  On April 18, 1977, she entered the county jail and began serving her sentence.

Claudine may have received a light penalty from the judge, but she did not fare well in the court of public opinion. Many regarded her as as a femme fatale who got away with murder.  There was a great deal of animosity toward her because Spider Sabich was regarded as an American hero,  The animosity only increased when Claudine began a relationship with her defence co-attorney, Ronald D Austin, was married with two children at the time of her trial.

Below is a photo of Claudine and Austin arriving at the Pitkin County Courthouse at the time of her trial (July 1, 1976).

Judge Lohr criticized what he described as the hostile attitude of Aspen residents toward Longet. "The defendant will have to live with that for a long time," Lohr stated.  Claudine told reporters that she was not bitter.  "Because of the many cards and letters I've received, the prayers, I feel good about everybody," she declared.

Judge Lohr's prophecy seems to have come true.  Robert Chalmers, in  his 2013 article in GQ magazine, writes that a source told him that, all these years later, Claudine is "still widely detested" in Aspen.  Over 40 years later, the tragedy has not been forgotten.

In 1978, Claudine signed a confidentiality agreement with Sabich's parents after they agreed to drop a civil suit against her.  She is prohibited from ever telling or writing her story.  However, according to the Chalmers piece in GQ, Spider's friend, Bobbie Beattie, former coach of the U.S. ski team, believes that Claudine actually meant to scare Spider, not to murder him.

On June 1, 1985, Claudine married her defence co-attorney, Ron Austin.  She and Austin live in Aspen in a house on Red Mountain.  On May 3, 1991, Andy wed Debbie Haas, a hotel executive about 30 years his junior.

According to the website of the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center in Branson, Missouri, Andy visited his friend Ray Stevens in Branson in 1991.  Ray had just opened a theatre in the growing country music and entertainment locale.  Andy was so impressed by the town that he opened his own theatre in  Branson, named after his signature song.  Thus, the $12 million Andy Williams Moon River Theatre opened its doors on May 1, 1992, two days shy of his and Debbie's first wedding anniversary.

In an August 2000 interview on CNN's Larry King Live, Larry asked Andy how Claudine was doing. Not surprisingly, he was rather tight-lipped on the subject.  He only said that she was "very good" and that she she still lived in Aspen.  He denied that there was any bitterness between them and claimed that they were "still very good friends."

On September 25, 2012, after a year-long battle with bladder cancer, Andy Williams died at his home in Branson, Missouri.   He was 84 years old at the time of his passing.


On January 24, 1977, Claudine Longet appeared on the cover of  People Weekly magazine's first cover involving a criminal case.

*Claudine and ex-husband Andy Williams attended Spider Sabich's memorial service in Aspen.

* Mick Jagger composed a song about the Longet case entitled "Claudine."  The song contains provocative lyrics and was supposed to be included in The Rolling Stones' 1980 album, Emotional Rescue album.  Due to legal pressure, the group dropped the song before their album was released.  It was, however, included in some bootleg Rolling Stones albums.  In 2011, the "Claudine" was included in a deluxe edition reissue of Some Girls.  It has lines such as "Now only Spider knows for sure but he ain't talkin' about it anymore, is he Claudine?  An April 24, 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live featured a skit entitled 'The Claudine Longet Invitational" in which male skiers were "accidentally" shot by Claudine at the end of a slalom race.  The producers of SNL issued an apology when threatened with legal action.

* In 2003, Claudine spoke to the press for an A&E television documentary on Andy Williams.  Her remarks were broadcast over still photographs.

* Now 74 years old (She turns 75 on January 29th), Claudine Longet has not performed publicly since that 1976 tragedy.

Sources: GQ magazine, People magazine, Associated Press, CNN transcripts

- Joanne

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Toy Storage Story: Ways to keep your children's toys in order

Here is an infographac on ways to store your children's toys.  It gives you ideas on how to keep your place clean and orderly, even it is filled with young children and and their playthings.  A home with kids does not have to be messy and disarrayed.  Neither do you have to put heavy plastic toys in stacks of cardboard boxes.

I hope you find the ideas in this infographic useful and informative.

- Joanne

Storage Ideas for Toys
Storage Ideas for Toys by Wooden Toy Shop