Guillermo del Toro Film Wins Venice Film Festival’s Gold Lion

❝ Famed Latin American director Guillermo del Toro has made history by becoming the first Mexican filmmaker to win a Gold Lion for his latest work “The Shape of Water.”

The award was announced at the close of Venice Film Festival’s ten-day program where 21 international films competed for the prize…

❝ The Shape of Water is set in the Cold-War era and combines the genres of fairytale, thriller, and romance.

The protagonist, Elisa, is a mute woman who cleans at a secret government laboratory where she discovers their top secret — a South American scaled creature with whom she starts an unlikely friendship.

The film is due to be released by Fox Searchlight on December 8.

And only a few episodes of THE STRAIN left on US television.

Arrested after beating police in doughnut-eating contest — but, no, that’s not why!

A North Carolina man who beat police officers in a doughnut-eating contest got his just desserts the next day after they realized that he was a wanted man.

Bradley Herbert entered the cuisine-eating competition at the Elizabeth City Police Department’s National Night Out Against Crime and won it by polishing off eight doughnuts in two minutes.

The field that the 24-year-old defeated included local police officers and firefighters…

The day after the contest, officials realized that Herbert was wanted in connection with two break-ins that happened at local grocery stores thanks to story about the suspect’s eating prowess.

“When I came in that morning and read that article I was pissed because it’s like throwing it in our face,” Lt. Max Robeson said. “We’ve been looking for you for months. I didn’t ask him if he won a trophy — he probably did.”

Herbert was charged with two counts of felony breaking and entering and misdemeanor injury to real property.

More balls than brains!

Ten-year-old wins Alaska’s giant cabbage contest

Bob’s the one not wearing a sign

A 10-year-old boy has won Alaska’s annual giant cabbage contest, submitting a 92.3-pound specimen named “Bob” to officials at the state fair.

Keevan Dinkel of Wasilla, Alaska, produced this year’s winning entry, which was carried in by several Boy Scouts, in the Alaska State Fair’s Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off on Friday night.

His giant cabbage, which rose to about thigh height on a typical adult, and those of other contestants were weighed at the fairgrounds in Palmer, in a contest watched by hundreds of onlookers, attended by green-clad women dressed as “cabbage fairies” and monitored by a representative of the state Division of Weights and Measures.

Produce can grow to enormous sizes under Alaska’s summer midnight sun. Growing big cabbages is a tradition in this part of the state, just north of Anchorage, which is considered Alaska’s main farm belt.

This year was the first time in the contest’s 18 years that a child has won the weigh-off, according to state fair officials. The fair offers a junior competition for growers 12 and younger, but Keevan’s entry was put into the adult open category because of its size.

Keevan, whose family operates a local farm, took home $2,000 for his prize-winner.

Bravo, kid! Kimchi for everyone.

Best Baguette in Paris

The happy winner – Ridha Khadher posing in front of his bakery

Two hundred and three Parisian bakers entered the Best Baguette of Paris 2013 competition. Wrapped in white paper with identification numbers, the entries were tasted, sniffed, weighed, and measured to determine the winner.

Fifty two entries were disqualified for not meeting the strict guidelines of measuring 55-70 centimeters long or weighing 250-300 grams…

This year’s winner was baker Ridha Khadher. His prize: The privilege of baking bread for the French President, François Hollande.

A contest truly worth winning. Only four ingredients water, a touch of salt, yeast and flour + skill. A lot of skill.

Winning design in NYC micro apartment competition

We blogged about this competition when it was initiated. Interesting to see the results, winner, etc..

Click to enlarge

The apartment of New York City’s future, as the city imagines it, has all the amenities of modern life: wheelchair-accessible bathroom, a full kitchen, space for entertaining and access to a gym, communal lounge, front and back porches and a rooftop garden — all in 250 to 370 square feet.

The city on Tuesday unveiled the winner of a competition to design and build an apartment tower on city-owned land composed entirely of micro-units, 55 homes the size of hotel rooms that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hopes will be the first in a wave of tiny apartments aimed at addressing the city’s shortage of studio and one-bedroom apartments.

Small as it might be, the winning design was chosen for the way that it maximized light, airiness and storage space through the use of 9-foot-high ceilings, large windows, lofts and Juliet balconies.

“We have a shortfall now of 800,000, and it’s only going to get worse,” Mr. Bloomberg said during the news conference announcing the winning team, a partnership between Monadnock Development, Brooklyn-based nARCHITECTS and a nonprofit that serves creative arts professionals, the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation. “This is going to be a big problem for cities with young people.”

In another futuristic twist, the 10-story tower at 335 East 27th Street in the Kips Bay neighborhood will rise thanks to modular construction, becoming Manhattan’s first apartment building to do so: units will be prefabricated, then stacked on top of one another like Legos.

Forty percent of the units will be affordable, restricted to tenants earning no more than $77,190 a year, with the rest at market rate. Rents start at $914 a month for those earning up to $38,344 a year, well below Manhattan’s average studio rent of $2,000, and go up to $1,873 for those making $77,190 or less.

Eric Bunge was quick to caution that the micro-units could be for anyone, from retirees to the nurses at nearby Bellevue Hospital Center. Apart from the kitchen and bathroom, the space is designed to be flexible, he said: “It’s all about appropriating your space, really.”

Of course, “affordable” by NYC standards is a misnomer in most of the rest of the civilized urban world.

Winner — International Garden Photographer of the Year

Click photo to enlarge

Magdalena Wasiczek has won the International Garden Photographer of the Year 2012 competition with her image called Upside Down.

Andrew Lawson, one of the judges, said: “I love the subtlety and balletic simplicity of this picture. The brimstone alighting on a sweet pea is a fortuitous event, brilliantly seen. The butterfly and the flower are the the perfect complement to each other. The outlines of the insect’s wings are continuous with the lines of the flowers; and the patterning on its wings picks up an echo of the pink colour of the flowers.”

Magdalena also won first place in The Beauty of Plants category as well as other Finalist and Highly Commended awards.


V.A. has to repay veteran denied disability check 60 years ago

The year Leroy MacKlem lost his veterans disability compensation for a bad hip, gasoline cost 27 cents a gallon, a Yankee shortstop named Rizzuto was the American League’s most valuable player and President Harry S. Truman ordered production of the hydrogen bomb. It was 1950.

He is about to get it back. All of it.

In a case as much about government bungling as one man’s perseverance, the Department of Veterans Affairs said last week that it would end years of litigation and repay Mr. MacKlem, 88, for six decades’ worth of disputed disability compensation, about $400,000…

To which Mr. MacKlem, a World War II veteran from Portland, Mich., replied, “I’ll believe it when I get the settlement…”

In 1944, he received a medical discharge and was assigned a 20 percent disability rating for service-connected arthritis in his hip, entitling him to disability compensation. Mr. MacKlem later went to work in a plastics factory in Detroit.

But in 1950, the Veterans Administration, as it was then known, severed his compensation, saying that his pain resulted from the “natural progress” of his pre-service injury. His monthly payments of $105 ended.

And there the case sat for 56 years.

In 2006, Mr. MacKlem — for reasons his lawyer could not explain — decided to appeal, saying the department made a “clear and unmistakable error” in its 1950 decision. A regional office in Detroit rejected his argument, and he submitted a notice of disagreement.

Then a curious thing happened. Mr. MacKlem received a letter in June 2007 saying that a review officer had concluded that the 1950 ruling was indeed wrong and that he should be granted retroactive benefits. Mr. MacKlem was not supposed to get that letter…A few weeks later, the department sent him another letter saying that the June notice was only a draft and that his benefits would not be restored. He appealed. And while his appeal was pending, a federal court ruled in 2009 that the department’s “extraordinary award procedure” for reviewing compensation awards larger than $250,000 or for retroactive payments dating back more than eight years was illegal.

In 2010, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled that the department had to reinstate Mr. MacKlem’s award because it had been reversed under that now illegal “extraordinary award procedure…” This month, a federal appeals court upheld that decision

“I’ve always had the feeling that the government was hoping that I would die so they wouldn’t have to pay,” said Mr. MacKlem, a widower with no children. Disability payments to veterans with no immediate survivors are returned to the department, Mr. Viterna said.

Having watched my closest friend more than once forced into battling the VA to keep benefits for injuries that kept him in hospital for 16 months after the war – I don’t doubt in the least that some petty-minded bureaucrat felt it his duty to screw some poor grunt who risked his life in one of the few worthwhile wars this nation has fought in centuries.