Monday, July 30, 2007

Animals and death, part 3

Concluding a trilogy of postings on animals and death, there's Michael Vick. The dogfighting operation that Vick and three co-defendants are accused of running was named "Bad Newz Kennels," according to a federal grand jury indictment. The dogs were housed, trained and fought at a Surry County, Va., property owned by Vick.

Part 1 of my trilogy on animals and death focused on animal who offers comfort to humans when they are about to die. Part 2 on an animal dedicated to saving human lives from the 9/11 and Katrina tragedies.

And finally, part 3: Humans purposely hurting and disposing of animals in horrific ways, for their own pleasure.

May there be greater awareness of this tragedy for the sake of some people reconsidering their behavior and society having less tolerance of such treatment of any being.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Animals and death, part 2

Search and rescue dog Jake, a 12-year-old black lab, died this past Friday of cancer. Jake assisted in the in the aftermath of several disasters around the country, including Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina. As a young dog, Jake was rescued from the pound by his owner, Mary Flood:
He had a broken leg and a dislocated hip, and it was it second break in six months... I always envisioned this great athlete that no one else saw... I remember people telling me if he can gain enough muscle and hasn't had too much nerve damage, maybe he'll be able to walk okay...

After three days [at Ground Zero], he was still looking for live people... He had tremendous grace and wisdom. I miss him.
Listen to the full interview here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Animals and death, part 1

The NPR News Blog offers some insightful responses to the story of Oscar, the Providence, R.I., nursing home cat who seems to know when people are about to die.

Among the comments on the NPR blog:
The intensity of the metaphysical changes that occur prior to death are, I'm sure, perceivable by the sense of an animal who relies wholly on not just human like senses, but extraordinary abilities of perception and the nature of SURVIVAL...all beings most basic instinct.
This story didn't surprise me. My husband, David, and I married in 2000. When we moved in together I brought my cat, Crackers, with me. David (a life-long "dog person") had been trying to make friends with Crackers for almost a year, but the cat remained loyal only to me. That's why we were so surprised one Sunday afternoon (just days before our first anniversary) when Crackers suddenly took an interest in David. The cat started following him around the house and insisted on being in David's lap. At one point, Crackers was literally circling David when he sat on the edge of the bed. Moments later, David began to complain of an ache in his back between his shoulder blades and fullness and pressure in his chest, and I could see that he suddenly started perspiring heavily and appeared to be having trouble breathing. It was obvious that David was in distress, so I got him into the car and rushed him to the hospital.

Sure enough, the doctors at the hospital told me my new husband was having a heart attack and would need emergency surgery.

I'm happy to report that my dear husband recovered from what we now refer to as his "big adventure" and he is doing very well today.

After David came home from the hospital and we were reflecting on those moments before he fell ill, we agreed that Crackers' sudden change in behavior could only mean that the cat could sense that David was about to have, or was having, the heart attack.

Naturally, since that "big adventure," David and "Dr." Crackers have been great friends.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I'm very excited about LiveFeed, a "bright-eyed, bushy tailed group of people out to make a difference" -- and also described as a St. Louis-based "grassroots organization dedicated to engaging the entertainment industry and its fans to promote hunger awareness and to provide a consistent, reliable flow of food to local food pantries."

I met some of the people in LiveFeed at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase last weekend, and the organization sounds terrific to me!

LiveFeed's first official event is a party featuring St. Louis singing sensation Javier Mendoza -- "a winner... a one-man Latin explosion... a hell of a nice guy" says the Riverfront Times -- on August 16. I'll be there as the official LiveFeed photographer for the event and hope that many of you will be there!

Monday, July 23, 2007

'Sicko' asks if America needs some health care

My freelance review:
Michael Moore's new documentary, Sicko, packs a lot of punch.

And it bloodies the noses of a lot of people along the way, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, both George Bushes, a number of congressmen and senators (including Hillary Clinton) and executives in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

This is a tough film to review. It's hard to separate the message from the film and the film from its message.

Technically speaking, the film is incredible. At a full two hours, it never bores. It moves along and tells it story, very episodically, and makes its points. And it gets quite emotional, too. It returns to certain core characters over and over again, primarily 9/11 volunteer rescue workers suffering from some horrible health problems and dying from them -- without the aid of medical care, due to a lack of insurance.

In typical Moore fashion, the film offers plenty of humor peppered throughout, but never in a distasteful way to those in the spotlight.

That is, unless you consider the millionaire CEOs of the health insurance companies in the spotlight. That's right, those CEOs who are raking in millions and millions of dollars each year and denying millions and millions of Americans access to the health care that would save their lives.

So, in that regard, Moore's humor is distasteful.

From my perspective, though, the humor is warranted. And this is where I start to have a tough time reviewing this film. I want to take the messages of the film and expound on them. I want to vigorously support the theories presented in the film that those in power have lost touch with what it really means to be human. That it's all about "me" and never about "we" anymore. That, just perhaps, the fabric of America is seriously unraveling. That those of power in our American civilization are abusing their power, and that other humans are suffering and dying as a result.

As I type these words, I'm filled with passion. Passion to say something. Passion to understand. Passion to imagine a country whose leaders' actions demonstrate concern for the "we."

I remind myself to come back to the movie. Is the movie factually correct at all times? I've read plenty of accounts to suggest not. But I'm also wise enough to know that the truth hardly ever lies at either extreme, but rather in varying shades of gray.

Do any such inaccuracies invalidate the messages in the movie? I don't think so. My take is that even if Moore is only 75% correct, America has a serious problem.

And because of that, I argue that this is not only a very good movie, but a very important one.

Oh, and one of those millions of Americans without health insurance happens to be a relative of mine, someone very dear. I worry for her, sincerely.

And if only there was a decent balance of sincerity between "me" and "we" among those in power.

A person can dream.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase

The creative part of me has always been intrigued by filmmaking. I had an opportunity to explore a little bit of that creative intrigue by attending a few filmmaking seminars at the Seventh Annual AT&T St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase on Saturday.

For example, one of the seminars was a workshop that examined the director's role by showing several directors' takes on the same scene and exploring the differences in their approaches to acting, staging and shooting. It was quite fascinating!

As part of the Showcase, a number of locally-produced films are being shown through Wednesday at the Tivoli Theatre in U City. Check out the entire program for details. Here's one of the films I'm really looking forward to seeing:

Ghost Image (Monday, 7 PM) -- "This ambitious, St. Louis-shot psychological thriller features a cast that includes Elisabeth Rohm (“Law & Order”), Stacey Dash (“Clueless”) and Roma Maffia (“Nip/Tuck,” “Profiler”). When a young video editor (Rohm) loses her boyfriend in a car crash, she finds solace in watching video of him taken the night before he died. When he starts to communicate with her through that video, however, she must decide whether he's speaking from beyond or she's slipping into madness."

Dang funny!

Remember the old days when you had to get a dang newspaper to keep up with your favorite comic strip? Well, times have changed. As proof of that, there's Dang Gnats!™, a St. Louis-based daily about "outspoken insects with too much time on their wings," according to Walt Jaschek, the human behind the gnats and cousin to the human behind scoodog's blog.

Check out Dang Gnats!™ for some dang good humor.

iPods of the future in a world of iPhones

There is speculation out there about where Apple is going to take its amazingly-successful iPod line considering the crossover between iPods and iPhones.

I found a thoughtful analysis on this by John Gruber, writer of the blog Daring Fireball. Highlights:
[A] defining characteristic of Apple as a company, today: They replace their hit products while they're still on top. Rather than building a lead over their competition and sitting on it, they just keep building. The best example of this was the introduction of the original iPod Nano. At the time, the best-selling iPods were the Minis. The iPod Mini was a smash hit product. And when Apple debuted the Nano, they killed it.

Most companies wouldn't even consider killing a product like the iPod Mini while it was still a best-seller; instead, they milk hit products for all they're worth and ride them out for years. (Exhibit A: Motorola's Razr.) One thing Apple could have done, but didn't, was continue to sell iPod Minis alongside the Nanos. Apple treats its product line-up like a product itself – it is designed to be obvious and easy to understand.

Choosing which iPod to buy is easy: Do you want to carry a huge library and/or play video? Get a regular iPod. Do you just want something small to play music? Buy an iPod Nano. Want something tiny and inexpensive? Get the Shuffle. No matter how risky it might have been to kill the iPod Mini while it was still the best-selling iPod, there just wasn't room for it in the line-up alongside the Nano.

(Compare and contrast to Verizon Wireless, whose chief marketing officer brags that they offer 18 different music-playing phones.)

The simple truth is that the iPhone user experience doesn't just blow away the experience of other companies' cell phones – it blows away the experience of Apple's own iPods. The biggest question, as I see it, is whether Apple plans to introduce iPods that are more or less just the iPod app from the iPhone (i.e. just music and video players), or iPods that are everything but phones, with Wi-Fi networking for email, web, and more.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

iPhone: The Music Video

Product reviewer David Pogue of The New York Times ditches his "made-in-hell-phone" for an iPhone -- and sings about it:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Deflecting the lightsaber

My friend Wendy's 4-year-old son, Adam, is so cute -- and articulate! The other evening, he said this to me: "When I try to hit you with my lightsaber, you'll have to try to deflect it."

He said deflect! I think that word just entered my own vocabulary not too long ago!

More photos of Luke Skywalker Adam -- and his dog, Molly -- are here (courtesy of my iPhone).

And speaking of Molly, she is eight years old already! I remember the day when Wendy and Neil, my then-apartment-neighbors across the hall -- brought her home as a tiny puppy. Wendy often mentions how Molly thought my Scooter (namesake of scoodog's blog) was her momma. A Molly-Scooter reunion is called for!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mine doesn't do all this stuff!

Touching is believing

In the 48 hours I've had my iPhone, it has far surpassed expectations. It does so much and is so easy and pleasant to use. It's a tiny computer that you control with your fingertips. It has amazing fit-and-finish (both the hardware and the software) for a brand-new product.

And it's a lot of fun!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Ugliness is so grim. A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony which will lessen tensions.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Family Reunion

Finally, my photos from the Kurtz Family Reunion (from June 23) are online. The family reunion was a great time and made for the perfect summertime Saturday afternoon! It was great seeing everyone and catching up. We all decided to make it an annual event, too, effective this year.

Below is just a sampling of the photos. Click here for the whole gallery.

The Album Leaf

Today on iTunes, I was looking for something relaxing and different to listen to... something to play in the background while doing stuff at the computer and around the house. Well, I struck gold:

An album called In a Safe Place (iTunes link) by The Album Leaf.

What an incredible album! No vocals. Borderline hypnotic. Brought about a sense of both incredible focus and relaxation for me. And after listening to it a few times while editing photos and doing some other stuff at the computer, I took a short nap (something that's rare for me to do). Did the music relax me that much? Or did the focus enabled by the music make my mind tired? Or perhaps a little of both?

You don't notice where one track ends and another begins... you don't even think about that! The integration of the tracks creates such a complete listening experience.

More about The Album Leaf here and here. I think I've become a fan!

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Oh, independence!

Fun time at Aunt Janet and Uncle Bill's for the Fourth of July this past Wednesday. Full set of photos here. Below are just a few:

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cell art

The following photo is courtesy of Jaime's cell phone camera:

Monday, July 02, 2007

Tony Soprano

My friend Carolyn S. with one of my two current foster dogs, Tony Soprano, taken yesterday in my garden:

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Hello, iPhone!

Visited the Apple Store (and the crowds!) both Friday night and Saturday to check out the new iPhone. Pretty nice device. Way more than a phone. I might get one after my contract with Verizon expires in a couple of weeks. To do so now would mean getting socked with a $175 early termination charge -- yikes! Here are some pics of my blog on the iPhone: