Anton Corbijn’s “A Most Wanted Man” with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright

I give this film a high recommendation.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died in February at age 46. This is his last completed film. He appears in a “truncated’ supporting role in Mockinjay to be released in the fall.  His best were The Big Lebowski, Capote, Master, Doubt, Charlie Wilson’s War….

“Wanted” is an enjoyable and suspenseful film. Hoffman’s performance was excellent, though  a bit of a “cut out” role, as so many of his have been. It’s as if his characters usually need to “get a life.”  And really, it looked as though he was afraid his face would break if he changed his expression even once during the entire film.*

English author John Le Carre’ (leh care ay) now 82, first novel was The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, while he was working for British spy agency MI6. He resigned to become a full time novelist. Most recent novel was the 2013 “A Delicate Truth”; most recent film adaptation: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” with Gary Oldman , inspired by the Kim Philby affair.

Anton Corbijn’s (COR-bane) most recent prior film was “The American” with George Clooney.

A more comprehensive review can be found here. 

*might be an exaggeration; you tell me.


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Is their “Bigfoot” “expert” Ron Brown a “doctor?” Lake Oroville State Park doesn’t care.

This Ron Brown, who sometimes claims to be a “Dr.”, sometimes an M.D, sometimes a Ph.D., gave a ‘bigfoot’ talk Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 7pm, at the Lake Oroville (CA) State Park Visitor Center, (530-538-2219) to some 160 trusting taxpayers, men women and naive children, of California. He has apparently given similar talks many times over the years.

OROVILLE, Calif. -…

Zoologist Ron Brown, who first started studying Bigfoot while attending UC Berkeley in the early 1970s, presented to a crowd of more than 160 people about evidence of Bigfoot and the legitimacy of sightings.

In fact, Brown himself says he’s seen the creature in the area.
He also says there have been dozens of documented sightings nearby.

Brown was invited to present as part of the Summer Speaker Series at the Lake Oroville Visitor Center, and has done so in recent years as well.

His visit typically draws the biggest crowd of the annual speaker series.

Here’s some “bio” from 2006, when he gave a talk:

Dr. Ron Brown received his Doctorate in Zoology from East Africa, where he lived during the 1980s. He was the co-operator of a breeding facility for Native African animals in South Africa. Dr. Brown wrote his first paper on Bigfoot at U.C. Berkeley in 1972; a non-scientific critique of the 1967 Patterson Film and has been a contributing author for books on Bigfoot. He has participated in numerous field studies and investigations and is affiliated with the only academically qualified field investigatory team he’s aware of on Bigfoot.

Ok, we must admit we balked a bit at the apparent outlandishness of the Doctorate/East Africa thing. Where in East Africa did he spend 5 years obtaining a Ph.D? He doesn’t even say if/whether/where he got an undergraduate degree. Ordinarily people give the names of their universities and the date of their graduation, and the degree they received. Why not here?  He says he was at U. C. Berkeley in 1972….well, so were a lot of people…not all of whom, I promise you, got any kind of degree. He claims to be a zoologist….that is not just someone who works in a zoo. What training does he have to make that claim? We don’t know.

Here is a link to an audience member’s account of a talk he gave in 2008, when he clearly was identified as “Dr. Ron Brown” eight times, and his presentation was described as “factual.”  How can a talk about an unknown animal be “factual?” Isn’t it likely that the audience member/writer was influenced by the claimed “Dr.” title?

Apparently to establish credibility in the minds of his audience, Mr. Brown has made a number of claims of credentials to various people over the years. Oddly, it seems that he only claims to be a “Dr.” when he talks to people who believe in “Bigfoot.” Here are the current claims:

OROVILLE–A zoologist who has studied Bigfoot claims for decades will return to Oroville this week as the featured guest of the Summer Speaker series at the Lake Oroville Visitor Center.

Ron Brown, who has a doctorate in zoology, will present “Bigfoot: The Legend Analyzed” at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Visitor Center theater.

The Summer Speaker series is hosted each week through August by California State Parks.

Brown wrote his first paper on Bigfoot in 1972 at UC Berkeley, according to a State Parks press release.

He earned his doctorate degree in Africa, where he has lived since the 1980s. Brown also operates a facility in South Africa where he breeds native African animals.

Besides the paper written in 1972, Brown authored a non-scientific critique on the 1967 Roger Patterson film about Bigfoot and has been a contributing author in books on the subject, according to the release.

Brown has also participated in numerous field studies and investigations.

For the presentation, he will include videotape footage, casting displays and other visual representations.

This makes little sense. He has certainly not been “living in Africa since the 1980’s,” as we can see from this from early 2013, on Facebook. Oddly, in this professional bio posted at the page of his employer, we see nothing here about his education, let alone a Ph.D:

Ronald Brown, 63, Oroville, has been appointed administrator at the Veterans Home of California in Redding. Brown has been a nursing home administrator at the Yuba Skilled Nursing Center since 2010. He was a nursing home administrator at Riverside HealthCare from 2006 to 2009 and a skilled nursing facility administrator at Health Care Management Inc. from 2003 to 2006. Brown was chief operating officer at Sunny View Lutheran Homes in 2002 and a nursing home administrator at Olive Vista from 1980 to 2002. He served in the United States Air Force from 1969 to 1972.

Hmmm. So he went into the Air Force age 18, out of high school, he says. Viet Nam era. Served three years,, 1969-72, he says. Then is at U.C. Berkeley in 1972? Then what? Here are (some of) the earlier claims:

In 2003:

Ron Brown a recent resident of Oroville, Rotarian and academic with a degree in medicine and a Ph.D. in Zoology, finds himself captivated by the possibility that such a thing as a Bigfoot may actually exist. “I’m not here to tell you to believe in Bigfoot. You will have to make that decision yourself,” Brown stated in one part of a program on the subject of the documented evidence that mounts in favor of the creature’s existence, which he gave Monday at the regular Rotary meeting.

In Jeff Meldrum’s 2007 book, Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, Dr. Meldrum (who is an actual Ph.D) writes, at page 116:

….Dr. Ron Brown, M.D., African game guide…

and later:

Dr. Ron Brown, exotic animal handler and health care administrator, had examined the plaster cast obtained from the mud wallow and agreed that it could not be “attributed to any commonly known Northwest animal and may present an unknown primate.”

So apparently Ron Brown, when confronted with an actual Ph.D. like Dr. Meldrum, decided to say his “Dr.” title meant a medical doctor, not a Ph.D….or…?

In this lengthy interview about health care practices in nursing homes, “Dr.” Brown doesn’t claim to be a “Dr.”, medical or otherwise, when it would seem appropriate to have done so if he actually had that sort of training. But he doesn’t. Furthermore, he says he has worked in nursing homes since 1979….how does that leave room for him to have gotten a Ph.D. or an M.D, in “East Africa” or anywhere?

Chico Enterprise Record

Posted: 01/17/2009 12:00:00 AM PST

OROVILLE — What’s the secret to providing good nursing-home care?

Having a contented, long-term staff that’s familiar with the residents, said Ron Brown, administrator of Shadowbrook Health Care in Oroville.

And how do you find and keep such a staff?

Get them to offer ideas about improving care and listen to them, Brown said. Respect them.

Shadowbrook is one of two north-valley nursing homes that rated the highest in an informal survey the Enterprise-Record made of 16 facilities in the north valley.


Recently, Medicare produced a feature on its Web page that tries to make it easier for the public to compare quality of nursing homes. It uses a five-star system for rating the facilities.

Brown said he didn’t put a lot of stock in such methods of rating nursing homes. Often, they don’t give enough information to present an accurate picture, he said. For example, a facility might get a number of complaints about alleged abuse of patients. The state can investigate and find all of the complaints unfounded. But the nursing home still gets a high number of “abuse complaints” in its ratings, and the public gets worried when it sees that, he said.

Nevertheless, Brown didn’t claim his facility’s good report card was meaningless.

He said the chief factor in its good performance is the staff. There’s been low turnover, he said, and some of the department heads have worked at the facility for many years……

Brown was asked if he thought Shadowbrook’s relative smallness (it has 50 beds, where other facilities in the area have up to 100 or more) contributed to its good performance. He said it absolutely was a factor.

Every study shows that where the staff is very familiar with nursing-home residents, the outcomes are better, he said. And where the number of patients is smaller, it’s more likely the staff will know the patients better.

Brown, who has worked in nursing homes since 1979, was asked if he thought conditions and the care provided has improved.

While he’s personally seen instances of improvement, he said, overall things haven’t gotten better.

And at present, the shortage of nurses represents a “a huge crisis,” he said.

Oddly, “bigfoot” folk singer Tom Yamarone writes:

Professional reputations have been staked on this subject [i.e. bigfoot] by Dr. Grover Krantz, Dr. John Bindernagel, Dr. Jeff Meldrum, Dr. Ron Brown, Larry Battson, Dr. Leila Hadj-Chikh, Kathy Moskowitz Strain and others.

What professional reputation is “Dr. Ron Brown” staking? as a nursing home administrator?

An attempt to interview “Dr. Brown” was made, with a call to the Veterans’ Home. The staff there said that he is no longer employed at the Veterans’ Home.  hmmm.  Seems like they had high hopes for him in January, 2013:

“The appointment of Ronald Brown as the Redding Veterans Home Administrator moves CalVet a significant step closer to opening the Home and admitting its first residents in the fall of this year,” said CalVet Secretary Peter J. Gravett. “Undersecretary for Veterans Homes of California Robin Umberg and I have every confidence that the Redding Home, its residents and its staff will thrive under Ronald’s leadership.”

The “Dr.” gets a political appointment plum job in January of 2013, and he’s gone a year later? What’s up with this guy?

For all we know, Mr. Brown may be a model citizen, and he has every right to say whatever he wishes about bigfoot; he can even stand on  street corner and say whatever he wishes about himself and his education, true or false…..but….. he is making some extensive and apparently unverified claims when he slips into the realm of bigfoot, both about “bigfoot” and about himself, and using a California State Park forum to do it, and the public has a right to know whether or not to rely on his claims. Multiple news media in the area picked up the story and printed it or broadcast it, apparently without any fact checking whatsoever, assuming that the California State Parks would do so, before advertising Mr. Brown’s supposed credentials; unfortunately, it seems that the Lake Oroville Park cares more about drawing a big crowd than taking even the most basic steps to insure some sort of credibility.

We at Over the Line, Smokey! think that since he is claiming these credentials, and the California State Park system is endorsing at least some of them, that they should be validated, or alternatively, the public should be made aware that he isn’t what he has claimed to be, by the State Park system. This is very simple in the usual, straightforward case: the speaker submits a curriculum vitae or “bio” which lists his degrees, the institution from which they were granted, and the years in which they were achieved. Any published papers or books should be listed by type, name, date, location and authors. These claims can then be verified by simple emails or phones, etc.

We would request that the State Park obtain validation of Mr. Brown’s educational accomplishments, his academic achievements, his Ph.D., and other claims he has made, and that whatever is found be disseminated to the trusting public. Recall, this man is making claims of a giant upright primate walking the forests and other areas across the country. Shouldn’t people know if this guy is truthful? or, on the other hand, shouldn’t they know if he isn’t????? and shouldn’t the State Parks, if they discover that their speaker is not what he claims to be, place a public retraction in the many media outlets they used to publicize the talk?

The citizens of the state deserve to know whether or not to place credence in Mr. Brown’s statements, and should demand that their state government not enable those who are not trustworthy. Our children are entitled to know the truth about people who are feeding them stories disguised as legitimate scientific data, so they don’t go to school and become laughingstocks of the class with unsupported statements.  Adults don’t need more excuses to carry guns around and discharge them at shadowy figures walking through the trees.  We have enough problems these days without the California State Parks vouching for unsupported and seemingly unlikely “experts”, and the Oroville Mercury Register and the Chico Enterprise Record and KRCR repeating these claims made by the Park.

Update: I spoke with Aaron Wright, Lake Oroville/Valley Sector Superintendent, who says, in the face of black and white evidence to the contrary, that the State Park did not make any claims as to Mr. Brown’s credentials. Furthermore, Aaron, says that the program is just “entertainment.’  Funny, I don’t see anything to indicate that. What disclaimer is there? Did the local media get some disclaimer? Did Mr. Brown show up in a clown suit? No. He came as a Ph.D in Zoology.  The Summer Speakers program press release promises an “analysis of the Bigfoot Legend.”  Is bigfoot a joke? not to some. And why would it be, if  the State of California advertises Mr. Brown as a Ph. D. zoologist, and he’s saying he believes in bigfoot?

Here is a letter from a supposed previous attendee; doesn’t sound like she and her impressionable age children were just there for “entertainment”:


    Dear Editor:I took my children to the Lake Oroville Visitor’s Center for their speaker Dr. Ron Brown, Ph.D. in Zoology. His talk on Bigfoot and the facts that he presented, along with forensic evidence; was one of the most outstanding and compelling as well as convincing presentations that I have ever been to. He was interesting and educational. It is a shame that this vital and highly intelligent member of our community has not had the previous press that he should have. It’s also a shame that he is moving to Africa to pursue other ventures in Zoology. My children (9 and 11) were enthralled with wonder over the footprint castings as well as the slide shows and the video’s of Bigfoot. I was unaware that there was a Bigfoot sighting on Table Mountain around 1969. He reinforced my belief in something that seemed a little farfetched. His speech was fabulous and I was so excited when I left the theater. I will be sure to check out other speakers at the Lake Oroville Visitor’s Center. It is a gem of the community and it’s too bad that isn’t taken advantage of as much as it should be. The view from the Tower is great for a panoramic view of the Lake and the bridge as well as the Butte’s and Table Mountain (my personal favorite local landmark). Our area has so much to offer and it’s such a shame that the newspaper doesn’t have a front page editorial every week on something great about Oroville. If our community were more active in things like the Lake Oroville Visitor’s Center Summer Speaker series it would continue to bring the much needed zest and enthusiasm for our wonderful town that it once had.

    I thank Dr. Ron Brown for an educational experience that my children will never forget, nor will I. I was saddened to hear that this would be the last time you would be giving a speech in Oroville. Please come back to our community to visit and talk about Africa and educate us on that too!

    I appreciate this forum for letting me say that I am proud of Oroville and that we are beginning to really be a community that can be known for something other than meth and welfare. Thank you so much Lake Oroville Visitor Center keep the interesting talks coming.

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Restaurant review: Piperade, San Francisco

Piperade is a comfortable spot at 1015 Battery at Green, between Telegraph Hill and the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Supposedly Basque, but the cuisine is not  really dominated by that influence. The food is very good, price is not bad for the City, and the service is good. Thankfully, the noise level is generally low. Access is easy, good parking nearby, and there a number of interesting spots within easy walking distance.  From the south, follow 280 to King to the Embarcadero, turn left on Broadway and right on Front, to park.  Then walk two blocks. The restaurant is on the location of the American cannon battery of 1846, (hence the name Battery Street) placed there to defend the village of Yerba Buena against the Spanish in the period after California was “conquered” by the U.S.  The battery was given the name Fort Montgomery, though it was probably not much of a fort.

I had the fried manchego, duck comfit, and for dessert the orange blossom beignets…excellent.  Others at the table had the Piperade (sauteed peppers, onions and Serrano ham with poached egg).  This is definitely a place I’d go again.

Afterwards, you can walk a block west on Green to see the place where television was invented, at 200 Green, also the the site of the infamous Gray Brothers rock quarrying operation, that brought down a substantial part of Telegraph Hill before the nefarious owner was shot and killed by a disgruntled worker, much to the delight of San Franciscans, who acquitted him of any crime.

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Book Review: The King’s Grave by Phillipa Langley and Michael Jones

NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2013.

This is the story of the discovery and exhumation of the remains of Richard III in the floor of a medieval monastery in Leicester, England.  Certainly an interesting read, the book is flawed by the apparent intention of the author (P.L.)to make it about whether Richard was a good person or not. As a result, much of the book is consumed in attempting to read scraps of history or archeology, or indeed anatomy, in a way that would be exculpatory for Richard’s alleged misdeeds, including the killing the two boys in the Tower of London in the summer of 1483. .  Much history is provided, interspersed between episodes of the modern search and discovery.  Who knew there was a Richard III Society, the goal of which is seemingly to cast the Tudors (the family that followed Richard’s on the throne) and Shakespeare (author of Henry VI and Richard III as the bad guys, who invented nasty stories about Richard?  Well, there is, and Langley founded the Scottish Branch.

The high point of the book should have been the uncovering of Richard’s distorted bones, his “crookback’ (scoliosis) that, for all intents, proved the remains were his; instead of being thrilled, Langley writes how disappointed she was that Richard was actually “deformed.” Her thesis was that the idea of a deformity had been invented, Richard was portrayed as being deformed in order to make him seem more evil.  She then proceeds to put up a bit of a strawman of “hunchback”, saying that Richard’s deformity wasn’t actually that bad. Medically speaking, she was making the distinction between scoliosis (a lateral bending of the spine) and kyphoscoliosis (lateral and front-to-back bending).  The former is characterized mainly by a visible difference between the height of the two shoulders, while the latter is manifest by an apparent “hump” in the upper back.  This question is well-discussed here.

In studying the early descriptions of Richard’s disability, however, it is telling to notice the words which are not applied to him. To our knowledge, Richard is not described as “bunch-backed” in print until Shakespeare; the word “boss” (from the French bossu) does not seem to have been used either. Both refer to a swelling or hump. Shakespeare’s Richard is called “crookback” three times in Henry VI, Part 3, and is more specific himself about his appearance when he claims that nature made “an envious mountain on my back, / Where sits deformity to mock my body” (Act 3, scene ii), and later describes his shoulder as “thick” (5.vii). Rather than deliberately inventing the hunchbacked Richard, though, Shakespeare may have interpreted the word “crookback” as referring to this kind of spinal deformity. The OED’s first recorded use of “hunch-backed” is the second quarto of Richard III (1598), 4.iv, when Queen Elizabeth calls him “that foule hunch-backt toade” (“bunch-backt” in the first quarto; Q2’s variation is retained in later quartos). In one sense at least, it is plausible that Shakespeare (or perhaps one of his printers) is the inventor of the hunch-backed Richard, and that this term stems either from a typesetting error or from a misreading. If so, it is indicative of how influential Shakespeare’s version of Richard’s body has been.

So the high point of the search becomes, for the author, a disappointment, instead of a victory. Sort of deflates the whole book.

I recommend the book, though of course with a large grain of salt.  The historical discussions are interesting, but it is difficult to know whether the prominent bias of Langley might have introduced serious distortions. I look forward to a more balanced discussion by other researchers in in the future.


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If Our Founding Fathers Were All Christians, Why Did They Say This?


“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

- George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (1789)

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.”

- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr (1787)

and many more….


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Government Surveillance of MLK Used to Try to Destroy Him: Who’s Next?


Does anyone believe that the Karl Roves, J. Edgar Hoovers, Dick Cheneys, Chris Christies of the world won’t use surveillance against political enemies? and potential enemies? and opposing political donors? and “anti war” groups? and “protesters” of all sorts? anti pollution groups? and racial groups? and his cronies’ enemies? and on and on, right on down to YOU?  that NSA employees won’t spy on celebrities, girl friends, boy friends, etc, right on down to YOU?

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