Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Old Pueblo Blues

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2009 at 10:02 AM

Tucson City Manager Mike Letcher revealed his strategy handling the city’s $32 million shortfall this week—and the options are grim.

Letcher, who wants the City Council to vote on a plan next Tuesday, Jan. 5, laid out a framework most council members will not be eager to support.

For starters, he wants the city to institute a landlord tax of 2 percent on residential rental payments, which will raise an estimated $10 million annually.

Even if he gets the rental tax, Letcher has more nasty medicine for the council to swallow, including:

• Laying off 89 employees as part of the elimination of a total of 377 positions, some of which are now vacant;

• Cutting city employee pay by 3 percent;

• Closing 17 city pools this summer;

• Reducing city assistance for neighborhood associations;

• Suspending the graffiti abatement program;

• Closing the Ormsby Recreation Center on the south side of town; and

• Cutting outside agency funding by 20 percent.

Without the rental tax, Letcher warns, the city would need to reduce outside agency funding by 60 percent and lay off more employees, including cops and firefighters.

Trying to balance the budget by cutting employee pay across the board instead of laying off employees would lead to pay cuts that were substantially more than the proposed 3 percent, Letcher said earlier this week.

Letcher wants the landlord/rental tax to be a temporary measure that would go away once city voters agree to

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Austin's Old Fashioned Ice Cream Apparently Closed

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 8:51 AM

Austins storefront at 6129 E. Broadway Blvd.
  • Austin's storefront at 6129 E. Broadway Blvd.
Austin's Old Fashioned Ice Cream, a local restaurant that opened way back in 1959, has apparently gone out of business.

Calls to Austin's during the past week went unanswered, and a weekend visit to the eatery at 6129 E. Broadway Blvd. showed a sign taped to the window by the landlord saying that the locks had been changed because the rent had not been paid.

The eatery was originally located at 2920 E. Broadway Blvd., but moved several years back to its new location.

Attempts to reach the owners to see what led to the closing were unsuccessful.

Full Avatar Review!

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 8:48 AM

James Cameron, a director who previously could do no wrong in my book, takes a giant step into a big blue turd with Avatar, a movie packed with super visuals but sorely lacking in good writing.

Look, I have no problem with big, vacuous entertainment. If it looks good, and the principals make it fun, then I don’t really care how stupid it is. The worst thing about Cameron’s latest epic is that he wants—practically demands—for you to take it seriously, with its environmental message and “war on terror” parallels. It’s a nearly three-hour message movie that could’ve been written by an eighth grader. No, make that a fifth grader.

Set somewhere in the future, evil earthlings have set their eyes on Pandora, a big jungle planet rich with expensive minerals. Scientists have conjured a way to supposedly make nice with the planet’s inhabitants, the Na’vi.

The Na’vi are sort of crosses between Rastafarians and Wes Studi’s character from The Last of the Mohicans. They are a shiny blue color, and their fashion consists of thongs and big ear piercings. They are a quiet, kind species, although they will hiss at you like a cat if you piss them off, and will shoot you with toxic darts if you go near them without an invite. OK, maybe they’re not that nice.

Here’s the scientists’ idea: combine human DNA with alien DNA to create Human/Na’vi hybrid bodies that can be controlled by humans from sleep chambers fashioned with neural net devices. This essentially makes the sleeper a real life participant on Pandora. Oh yeah, that’s just the sort of thing to make an indigenous species feel comfortable. Make freaky, half human clones that can mix right in with you and your neighbors.

When one of the hybrid drivers, a paraplegic Marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), crosses paths with warrior princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek’s new Uhura), she takes him under her wing and shows him the ways of Pandora.

Meanwhile, Jake has a behind-the-scenes shady deal with a nasty Marine commander (Stephen Lang) to get his legs back on Earth. Will Jake help to remove the Na’vi from their land and get evil Earth its precious mineral? Or will Jake turn against evil Earth because he prefers being blue and wearing a thong? Gee … I wonder which way this thing is going to go?

Cameron infuses the film with lame dialogue like “terror on terror” and bulldozers knocking down “spirit trees” to conjure up parallels to current real-life troubles with war and rainforests. He does it in a way that is so insultingly obvious, it kills any chance to be emotionally invested in the film.

I was impressed by fleeting moments in the movie, such as winged beasts flying into canyons strewn with waterfalls, and the wonders of Neytiri’s 3-D blue ass. Actually, do not go to anything but a 3-D screening if you decide to take this one in. God help those who opt for the 2-D version. That must be a slog through hell!

Earlier this year, Bruce Willis starred in a clunker called Surrogates, in which he played a detective in a world where people stayed in their apartments while robot versions of themselves ran around living their lives. It’s essentially the same gimmick as Avatar, although the robots aren’t light blue and they wear pants. Avatar is, essentially, a very rich man’s Surrogates.

Sigourney Weaver plays a head scientist occupying one of the hybrids, and it looks enough like her to give you the creeps. Her avatar is dressed as if it’s in the Peace Corps, wearing cargo pants instead of a thong. And boo to James Horner, whose score for the film often rips off the one he did for Cameron’s Titanic.

Without a doubt, this is Cameron’s worst film since Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, and that film may’ve actually had better character development than can be found in the bloated Avatar. Not a nice way to cap the decade in film.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wilco (The Dog) Wishes A Merry Christmas To All, and To All a Good Night!

Posted By on Fri, Dec 25, 2009 at 6:00 PM

Wilco (The Dog) unwraps her Christmas present
  • Jim Nintzel
  • Wilco (The Dog) unwraps her Christmas present

Picture This: Winter Wonderland by Markus Steinhauser, Con't

Posted By on Fri, Dec 25, 2009 at 5:48 PM

The first glimpses of the morning sun illuminate rock formations at Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, on Thursday, Dec. 24.
  • Markus Steinhauser
  • The first glimpses of the morning sun illuminate rock formations at Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, on Thursday, Dec. 24.

Patches of snow cover the trail to the Canyon Lookout in Zion National Park, Utah, on Thursday, Dec. 24.
  • Markus Steinhauser
  • Patches of snow cover the trail to the Canyon Lookout in Zion National Park, Utah, on Thursday, Dec. 24.

Icicles cover the walkway to the Weeping Rock in Zion National Park, Utah, on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009. Visitors had to be carefull not to get hit by falling icicles that were melting due to the warm sun shining on the wall.
  • Markus Steinhauser
  • Icicles cover the walkway to the Weeping Rock in Zion National Park, Utah, on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009. Visitors had to be carefull not to get hit by falling icicles that were melting due to the warm sun shining on the wall.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Picture This: Winter Wonderland by Markus Steinhauser

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 11:39 AM

Madeline Madilynody covers her face against the blowing snow as her father Jeff carries her to Mather Point at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Ariz., on Tuesday, Dec. 22. The Madilynodys, from Los Angeles, were visiting the Grand Canyon the first time.
  • Markus Steinhauser
  • Madeline Madilynody covers her face against the blowing snow as her father Jeff carries her to Mather Point at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Ariz., on Tuesday, Dec. 22. The Madilynodys, from Los Angeles, were visiting the Grand Canyon the first time.

A view over the Grand Canyon at Moran Point at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Ariz., on Tuesday, Dec 22. After being covered in thick clouds, the Canyon became visible at that point.
  • Markus Steinhauser
  • A view over the Grand Canyon at Moran Point at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Ariz., on Tuesday, Dec 22. After being covered in thick clouds, the Canyon became visible at that point.

Glimpses of winter weather in Northern Arizona from UA School of Journalism exchange student Markus Steinhauser.

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Facebook Mishigas

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 9:43 AM

Just when I thought Facebook was OK, I got this friend suggestion on the right corner of my screen.

Hoopleville: Santa

Posted By on Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 9:42 AM

santa-PHX.jpg

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Reading with Linda Kohanov, author of Five Roles of a Master Herder: A Revolutionary Model for Socially Intelligent Leadership

Linda Kohanov shares the experiential wisdom she has gained by studying the nonpredatory power of horses and… More

@ Antigone Books Fri., Aug. 26, 7-9 p.m. 411 N. Fourth Ave.

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