The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Jesse James shot down, and more

Remember the glowing reviews we told you about of the long-delayed Brad Pitt movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Howard Ford?

Well, forget 'em.

The only thumbs that count when it comes to this flick belong to the execs at Warner Brothers, the film's co-funder.

And they've decided to emulate an unhappy Roman emperor.

Warners has given up trying to get a version of the movie they feel they can sell to an audience.

According to the Times of London, the divide between the filmmakers and the studio proved to be insurmountable.

"Warner Brothers has failed to persuade the star to change The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford from a leisurely "poetic" film into an action-packed crowd-pleaser, or even to shorten its title."

"As a result studio executives have decided to put the film into a small number of American art house cinemas and cut back on advertising."

The movie, which contains scenes filmed in Winnipeg, will still be released in one form or another in September.

The Times says that "at one point there were up to half a dozen different versions of the film in rival editing suites as Pitt and Andrew Dominik, the director, raced against the clock to produce a "final cut" before Warners halted its funding."

The Black Rod carried a number of rave reviews of different test versions shown at sneak peeks. The consensus was the movie was an artistic triumph, featuring breathtaking cinematography and stellar acting, but lo-n-n-n-g and slo-o-o-w.

The DVD release should be something, though, if it contains the various versions, some of which run well over three hours, not counting deleted scenes.


Kyoto, anyone?

Motorists are crying the blues about the jump in gasoline prices.

According to regular gasoline sold in Winnipeg for about $1.04 a litre at the end of April.

April was also when a report from the Environment Department predicted that to meet Canada's Kyoto targets by the year 2012 gasoline prices would have to jump 60 percent, from roughly a Canadian average of $1 a litre to $1.60.

Green guru David Suzuki said,"Canadians know we've got a problem, and I think they're willing to suck it in and accept that they're going to have to pay more."

So a price of $1.19 a litre is cheap like borscht ( the price actually peaked at $1.214 but quickly dropped) The "greens" want to see prices go up another 40 cents.

Funny how reporters never mention that in their stories.

What about buying a hybrid car to save money?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has revised its mileage ratings on hybrids to better reflect real-world driving conditions such as "speeding, varying weather and lead-footed driving."

As a result, says, "overall, vehicle city mileage estimates dropped by about 12 percent, and some vehicles are expected to be rated 30 percent lower"

The two top-selling hybrid vehicles are the Toyota Prius and Honda's Civic Hybrid.

The Prius MPG for city driving drops from 60 to 48.The Civic Hybrid falls from 51 to 40.

By comparison, the regular Camry MPG slips from 24 to 21, and the Honda Civic from 30 to 25.

You could switch to a bicycle. Except.

Scientific American reports on a study conducted by a psychologist at the University of Bath in England that suggests cyclists wearing helmets attract cars. Believe it or not.

The researcher "attached ultrasonic sensors to his bike and rode around Bath, allowing 2,300 vehicles to overtake him." (He was actually hit twice, while wearing a helmet although he managed not to fall off his bike.)

He reported that when he wore his helmet, drivers typically drove an average of 3.3 inches closer to his bike than when he went bareheaded.

And when he wore a wig to look like a woman from behind, motorists gave him an extra 2.2 inches clearance when passing.

Go figure.

Then figure this one out.

Scientists say the planet Neptune is getting warmer.

They've been measuring visible light from Neptune at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona since 1950.

The measurements show that Neptune has been getting brighter since about 1980, and infrared measurements of the plant show it has been steadily getting warmer, too. This corresponds with solar irradiance, which is a fancy way of saying more rays from the sun.

H.B. Hammel from the Space Science Institute in Colorado and G.W. Lockwood from the Lowell Observatory wrote an article about their findings in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

Doesn't it make you wonder what the price of gasoline is on Neptune?

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