Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Real Founding Fathers

So regardless of political persuasion, Republican, Democrat, or Whig -- Progressive or Tea Party, all like to point to the Founding Fathers as to being on their side. We should probably also remember the Constitution was the result of the dismal failure of the Articles of Confederation written by the same folks, and that the Constitution is representative in nature because some of the Founders did not trust the people on their own, as well as, having a congress built on the idea of two houses from England's Houses of Commons and Lords.

In reality, the view of the founders probably depends on where you sit.  Certainly from England's point-of-view they were rebels who stood against the status quo of conservative English law.  Conservative and liberal, are not really words that apply to the founders.  Republicans did not exist as a party and Democrats were not the "liberal" party.  The founders were men and like all men, they had their own beliefs and set of values.

Take for example Thomas Jefferson.  He may written the Declaration of Independence, but it is unlikely that those on the right would see eye to eye with him.  It wasn't that he had illegitimate children with a teenage slave he had turned his attention to or that he owned and English translation of the Quran that would likely get him in trouble, but it was his personal religious beliefs.  He denied that Jesus was the son of God and the entire idea of the holy trinity and the virgin birth.  He also refused to believe that Jesus actually ever made the claim he was the son of God. He believed in a creator.  He admired the moral teachings of Jesus and considered himself a Christian. He believed that no religious institution should be a part of the public realm. On the other hand, he believed in small government.  Real history is far more complex.

George Washington favored a strong central government.  Despite claims that the reason for the right to bear arms was to protect us from the government and often misquoted statements by our first president, George Washington in fact oderd the army to quell the Whiskey rebellion establishing a temporary militia law.  He also seemed to have a strong affinity for the wealthy of his time. During the Constitutional convention, he spent most of his time at the mansion of Robert Morris, the richest man in America.

John Adams defended the British soldiers who were accused of killing five colonists because no one else would defend them.  He believed in the right to a fair trial for all and took on the case knowing it would make him unpopular.  He won.

Ben Franklin's oldest son William was born out of wedlock.  It is not known who his mother was.  He would be a loyalist to the crown despite his father's opposition to English rule.  Franklin, himself, was a loyalist fairly late into the move towards revolution.  It is also believed that it was his editing that stripped most religiously connotated words from the Constitution.  Having been an ambassador and printer he was well aware of how to play politics and use words.  As the French ambassador during the revolution, he was a favorite. He often would play the part of "backwoodsman" and was a notorious flirt, his wife having died several years earlier. Early on he and his brother were at odds with the most powerful Puritan family in Boston.  He opposed the use of inoculation to fight off small pox.  That's right, the man who would be known as one of the great scientific minds of his generation, thought the new control for small pox would make people sick.  His brother James was thrown into prison for making fun of the clergy.

The point here is that the Founders were not some myth but complex, real men whose beliefs were as varied as our own.  For one group or another to try and claim them is all but wrong.  Much of the history and even more than a few quotes about these people is often out of context, if not downright wrong.  We should also not forget that among the "Founders" were some very strong women who are often forgot in the debate of things like women's rights such as Dolly Madison and Abigail Adams.  There were those who believed in slavery and who were opposed.  Some were antireligious and some were strong believers.  All were, however, careful to work together and created a document that was crafted through careful considerations and compromise.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Update...Do We Accept Less?

The plan to try and rig the election by changing how states cast votes for the Electoral College has basically collapsed.  Between media attention and various members of the party clearly uncomfortable with the idea the first bill to be put forward which was in Virginia died in committee.  Even governors who had first expressed mild endorsement of the idea have gone the other way in their support.  While there is cause to be glad that the Republican idea to split electoral votes is going to go nowhere, one must wonder at its meaning.

We seem to be more accepting these days of a much lower expectation in our politicians.  It's not that the plan has died, but that it was ever even considered viable.  Instead of saying good job at coming to your senses, we should still be appalled that it ever occurred.  We seem to be expecting less and less from our leaders.  They fear "being put into a primary,"  and they refuse to do the right thing or take a tough stance.  Always trying to keep the country going while playing to the base.

Take for example the House's passage of the raising of the debt ceiling until after the vote on sequester (massive cuts in government spending) and the continuing resolution (a resolution that funds the government).  While refusing to tank the economy again, which we congratulate, the house has again placed the debt ceiling in a position where it can  be used should they not get the deal they want on the next two fiscal crises.  There also seems to be little doubt that there will once again be a stop gap measure.  It seems to have become the norm.  Never before has any group threatened to use the debt ceiling as a political tool until recently.

It actually remains unclear why we have a debt ceiling because it really is, simply put, the guarantee the US will pay its debts.  It is not, except for interest on borrowed money, new spending but spending we already committed to make.  To use it and create one artificial financial crisis after another is not laudable, but any more it seems accepted. "Well done, Congress.  You didn't crash the economy" instead or "Why would you even consider doing this?"

Even Wall Street seems to have accepted that we will continue to" kick the can down the road" in finances and that this is becoming the normal way of things in Washington.   When they clearly had a chance to make a deal that would solve many problems with Washington's spending and deficit problem, a deal was made instead that set yet another self-imposed and artificial crisis. No one was outraged at the fact that congress and the president went on vacation rather than getting the job done.

Our congress works very few days for the money.  They average about 140 to 155 days per year. Although we don't actually know how many of the meetings our elected officials were suppose to attend that were actually attended by members of their staff. Last September when they could have easily been working on solving the Fiscal Cliff, they went into recess until after the election.  In other words, they created the need for the last minute deal having walked away from negotiations. Were we outraged? No, they prevented the fiscal cliff with an artificial crisis by their own creation.

We are not outraged that last year this congress accomplished about half as much as any congress before it.  We are not outraged by this obstructionist policy. We are not outraged by the gerrymandering of districts.  We are not outraged that there are suddenly voting machine shortages in districts where one party will have a higher turn out.  We are not outraged that lobby groups hold sway over preventing new laws when the majority of the nation clearly support them.  We are not outraged that congressmen and women make pledges to a single group or individual that are in conflict with the reason they were elected.

No, we've lowered our expectations of our leaders and congratulated them on not doing something they clearly should have never considered to begin with.  When will we be outraged?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 in the world of the trite..

I've been trying to recall if I've used the word irregardless in my writing.  Why? Because it's one of those stupid things that people do.  Putting "ir" in front of regardless does not make you look smarter.  It is non standard and a double negative.  The prefix "ir" and suffix "less" are both negative and thus the are redundant.  It is regardless.

Stupid memes aside we have a language full of stupid sayings.  It's like the picture above; we just don't think about what we're saying or writing.  "Excuse me.  I didn't mean to interrupt." Really,then what did you mean to do? "It goes without saying..." Then why did you say it?  "Think outside the box." What box? Why am I in a box? How did I get in this box? Why didn't you tell me this motivational piece of information earlier? "Upmost" is not the word.  It is "utmost."

"The glass is half full or it is half empty."  As an optimistic realist, I believe the glass to be half full, but I know that eventually it will be empty.  Actually if you think about it, if you drink from a full glass, it becomes half empty; however, if you fill an empty glass, it becomes half full.  "It's all good." Actually if your saying this it isn't. No doubt, we will all continue to do this. I plead guilty, but I will try to do it less oftener.  (An explantation for those of you who have to have humor explained "less oftener" is intentional.)

There is just so much, I cannot possibly cover all these things in a blog unless I want to make one so long, no one would read it.  I suppose if could "give it 110%" but I'm sorry coach and readers, that is mathematically and physically impossible.  "I am what I am" after all.  It's not as if I could learn to do something differently or change. Oh wait...

I've changed my mind about this.  After all "that was then, and this is now." Well what else could it be?  It is always now and a few seconds ago was always then.  So "at the end of the day" it "will be what it will be." Two thoughts here.  I am not clairvoyant and of course it will be. Duh.

Let's try to make an agreement here.  If you have heard some clever statement, it is not new.    It is trite.  It is not going to make you look smart, clever or creative. It's like all those gun, welfare, and political memes on your facebook page.  They are silly, useless, trite and probably inaccurate if not wrong.  This is irregardless of what you think at the end of the day.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Much Ado...The Size of It All


An 11 inch sandwich that's suppose to be a foot?  To quote George Takei, "Ohhhhh Myyyyyy!"

I think, perhaps, Subway should be commended.  What we're not fat enough as a nation that we are now worried that our sandwiches are an inch shorter than advertised.  I just cannot fathom why this is news.  I cannot even come up with enough words as to how much this is Much Ado.

What is barely reported is the law suit or should I say suits.  New Jersey and Chicago have now been filed based on a picture from Australia.  That's right the offending 11 inch sandwich picture is from a teen in Austrailia.  Anyways, the Chicago suit is for five million dollars, and the one in New Jersey has not yet disclosed how much in damages are being sought.  Both may become joined though as a class action suit.  Talk about a nuisance suit, if ever there was one, this is it. I am soooo very sorry you lost an inch in bread.  We know that Subway, after all does not proportion the amount of meat or other items that would go on the sandwiches they make.  That would just make too much since to think a billion dollar chain would be careful enough to do this... Oh wait.  They do know how much goes on a sandwich?  Of course they do.  That's how they make money! We are not talking ingredients; we are talking bread, folks...BREAD.

We as a nation have far too many of these silly suits and what is the primary report, a viral picture from Austrailia.  There is an old joke -- not a very good one -- that goes-

A Japanese pilot for a Japanese airline becomes suicidal.  Unfortunately, he decides to do this tragic act while flying and so flies the plane into the ocean.  Following the revelation, the company sends condolences to all the families who lost loved ones and settle claims with all, but two who file lawsuits.  Must be Americans is the punchline.  I know not funny.  But in a dark humor sort of way it outlines the idea that we have something of a reputation in this country for suing.  I mean, we've had suits over how hot the coffee was at McDonalds.

I still recall the add of the "Strongarm" attorney arriving at an accident via helicopter with an ambulance in the background, and some attorneys really try to avoid the idea of them being ambulance chasers.  Is it any wonder the US has the most number of lawyers per capita in the world?  We have one lawyer for every 265 Americans.  The largest number of lawyers, by the way, are in Washington D.C. Surprise, surprise, surprise.

What aspect of this story are we worried about? Eleven inches of bread instead of twelve.  Much Ado...Much Ado...

Friday, January 25, 2013

When in Doubt...Cheat


The electoral college has got to go and it's not for the reason you think.  Have you heard of REDMAP.  This the name given to the Republican Redistricting Project.  As a moderate independent, I am more than a little appalled by this idea.  REDMAP is a plan developed for/by local level Republican controlled states to redistrict the voting population.  What does it do? It ensures that no matter what the state vote, a Republican is virtually guaranteed to win a district because of the way the voting lines are drawn for districts.  This is how REDMAP works.  Representative districts are established not by size, but by most likely to vote for one group or another. Rather than dividing up large blocks of voters for representation, rural, typically more conservative districts are given more districts.  On appearance, it looks by mass the state is evenly divided but the division is by land not by populace. This is also known as gerrymandering, but it is more devious than that because this is very clever use of census data to create the districts.

This is not some theory from the Left, but a real idea ran by a Republican website,, which is very public. I had thought gerrymandering was illegal, but it can be done quite legally even if it isn't exactly ethical.  In fact in the last election just to show you how effective REDMAP was, it made the Republican control of the House possible.  Republicans were state-wide out-voted by votes for Democrats by more than a million votes. In other words, voters voted  only 49 percent of the time for Republicans in down ballot elections and yet they remain in control of the House.  A Republican memo on REDMAP actually states this. This was also pointed out in a Huffington Post article. REDMAP has been very successful.  Far more successful than the suppress the vote was.

So why now the electoral college.  Again this is not some hidden secret or Left wing conspiracy.  Using the information and redistricting information, the Republican controlled states that voted for Democratic presidential candidates in the election would split the electoral vote based on redistricting instead of all or none as it currently is.  That on the surface sounds reasonable until we consider the gerrymandering by REDMAP.  This means that a district with say 100 votes could vote for one candidate while a district with a 1000 or even 100,000 votes could vote for another candidate. Both would receive one electoral vote essentially weighting the vote in favor of lesser numbers.  So a rural district which typically votes Republican has a more heavily weighted vote than an urban vote which tends to vote more Democrat. The electoral college is now divided not by popular vote, but by the same gerrymandered votes used to give political advantage to one group.  The one vote idea goes out the window.

If this were in place last November, Obama despite winning the popular vote 51 to 47 percent would now not be president.  We are not talking some close split of the national vote as it was in 2000, we are talking a major failure of representative government. I know for some the idea of President Romney would be okay, until the reverse becomes true and it is your vote that is outweighed by something like REDMAP.  What is more is that it is not a move to do this in all states, but only in states that have voted Democrat in the past.

The political implications of this is astonishing.  It is a grab for power by one party. Regardless of whether it is Republican or Democrat, such moves violates everything that we believe. What is more is the idea has already begun.  During the inauguration,the senate in  Virginia, which is evenly split, realized they had one more vote than normal because one of the Virginia senate members was attending the event in D.C.  They rammed through the idea of redistricting while he was gone. The plan has also received the blessing of the national Republican chair.

An aware electorate is the most dangerous to these kind of ideas.  You can notify  Republican leaders that nobody should win this way.  If they cannot build an idea based on what is right and best, then they have no business being leaders.  I don't care if you are Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, or Green.  Either you believe in the idea of one person one vote, or you don't. Unethical cheating is not the answer to any political party's problems.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Much Ado...and Sing Sing Sing

With the press having to be more entertainment and worry about ratings - something they didn't have to do when they were journalists - I could probably come up with one of these Much Ado's for a while, hence no number on this one because there are bound to be more.

I am not a Beyonce fan.  I don't particularly like the extra note or the sliding into notes or extra vibrato.  Her voice is pleasant enough and she has a range as long as she can slide into the note and not just hit it.  That said...

The press wants you to know that she may have lip-synced the National Anthem at the inauguration.  They are keeping this going as best they can and the fact the Beyonce's folks seem to have "no comment" adds fuel to the fire.  Did she or didn't she? What are the horrible consequences if she did and Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor did.

Let's put this in perspective.  Yo-Yo Ma cello-synced at the first Obama inauguration. It was freezing cold and Ma could not have kept the instrument in tune. No one reported on this horrible act then.  It was cold, although not as cold at the second inauguration. Beyonce has been working on her Superbowl show and had little time for rehearsal. So as did the other performers, she laid down a track in case.  All the music can be synced in the case of a cold day that prevents instruments from staying in tune or to protect a singer's vocal cords.  This means that every song, every piece of music for the event is pre-recorded specifically for the event. Besides, we all know what happens if someone messes up the National Anthem.

So Beyonce did the smart thing.  She chose or she didn't.  Either way she sang the song. Either way, it was not messed up.  Either way people got to see her.  Either way the day is not about Beyonce and her vocal cords.  It is about the peaceful transfer or continuation of the presidency that marks a great democracy.

Either way, it doesn't matter.  It is...Much Ado.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Much Ado and ...Invisible Girls. (Part 6)


So you knew this one was coming.  This is the story of a football player and his invisible girl friend. The story is Manti T'eo, a star of Notre Dame football who has a girlfriend who does not exist.  Apparently, T'eo met a girl online. He never met her.  They developed a loving relationship.  She was diagnosed with Leukemia and then in the same week T'eo's grandmother died so did she.  It was a romantic story.  It was a moving one. According to T'eo, it was her fight to live that inspired him to do better.  The problem is the girlfriend never existed.  She was a hoax.

If we are to believe Notre Dame, T'eo, who discovered the hoax on December 6, was completely duped by this ruse. He then notified the university twenty days later. So here are the possibilities: 1. T'eo was completely duped. 2. T'eo discovered the ploy before December 6th and went along with it.  3. T'eo was in on the hoax from early on.  It actually makes little difference if T'eo was duped and is either not overly bright or extremely naive or if he participated in the hoax and is an attention hound.  There is a certain matter of character involved here.

So I've been waiting to see how this pans out because clearly the press did not do its job.  They were so enamoured by this story with its O. Henry like properties, they never actually bothered to find out if what they were reporting was true.  Does it bother anyone else that T'eo and Notre Dame new the story was false at least two weeks before the championship game and continued to support the romantic tale?  Does it bother anyone that T'eo went on interviews at least twice after December 6 and talked about the story as if it were still true?  Does it bother anyone that there was little reporting on the rape scandal at Notre Dame and little in the way of investigation by the school. The story that isn't still in the press is much more serious.

In 2010, St. Mary's College freshman, Lizzy Seeberg committed suicide following her written report that she was assaulted by members of the Notre Dame's football team.  St. Mary's is ths sister school for Notre Dame. Following these report she received texts from a member of the team threatening her.  In September, following a panic attack, she took her own life just ten days after the report.  You would think that with Penn State's scandal there would be an outcry for a better investigation, instead of the one that did not begin until fifteen days after Lizzy filed her report. She had been dead for five days.

The player, who was never named, was found by a university hearing in February 2011 had not violated the university's sexual misconduct policy. A spokesman for the Notre Dame said there seems to be an "impression" she was raped.  He goes on to say, "In fact, it was an allegation of touching above the waist. He says it was consensual. She says it wasn’t." He also says that the accounts of what happened were different between what Seeberg reported and the football player reported as well as witnesses.  The attorney for the football player announced that it was a "completely phony lie." Yet there seems to be little discussion on intimidation via text messages. It is too bad that Lizzy was not there to give her own account

Instead, we sit discussing a covered up hoax. One that has been covered up obviously since at least December 6.  Poor T'eo.  Duped. Ironically, dear press, perhaps one of the threatening  texts was true..."Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea." We have Much Ado instead of a discussion about a the silence of a culture fostering monstrous behavior.

(Read the complete report from the National Catholic Reporter)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Much Ado...Barack Won't Play with Me (Part 5)


In the last press conference before the inauguration, Jackie Calmes of the New York Times asked a two part question.  The second part of the question, I covered earlier.  It was about the lack of diversity in Obama's inner circle and cabinet nominations.  The first part is about why the president doesn't seem to play well with others.

Jackie Calmes: "I’d like to ask you, now that you’ve reached the end of your first term, starting your second, about a couple of criticisms -- one that’s longstanding, another more recent. The longstanding one seems to have become a truism of sorts that you’re -- you and your staff are too insular, that you don’t socialize enough."

Really?  The debt ceiling, gun control, the fiscal cliff, the war in Afghanistan, Iraq's nuclear threat, the slow job growth, people starving, the issues of education, lack of investment in infrastructure, and this is the question you ask?  "Mr. President, why don't you play well with others?"

Had I not heard this before and seen it taken up on several news shows I follow, I would think such a question would be looked at as frivolous.  Honestly, it is.  Few report the number of times that Republicans have been asked to the White House to state dinners or just to see a movie. The Speaker has not attended six invitations while Senate Minority Leader has skipped on two. No Republican member of either House or Senate would even attend the premier showing of Lincoln, clearly a nonpartisan event.  They chose not to come.  There was also when the Speaker did not go through the reception line nor even speak to the President at the White House Christmas party. 

What of the fact that following the election the Republican leaders would not come to the phone to talk to Obama when he called after he talked to Romney?  How about the fact that at least twice the Republican leadership who were negotiating with the White House about the budget have simply walked away from the table just when they seemed to be reaching an agreement or have we forgotten about the walk out following Simpson-Bowles or Plan B? I am not saying that Obama is blameless either, but he is not alone in this accusation.  How about the announcement following the "fiscal cliff deal" that John Boehner  would no longer negotiate one on one.  Really, who is not willing to play here?

While the press talks about how LBJ would schmooze the egos on the Hill, I would point out that the Congress that Johnson had, heck even the congress Clinton had, was a very different Congress.  Neither of them had a group that had met on the day they were inaugurated to discuss how to get rid of this President.  Neither had a leader of Congress announce that it was his number one priority to make the president a one term president from the floor of the Senate.  No that kind of "do your job, but its not personal" Congress is gone.  Few of the old timers that operated that way remain.  Besides the job of the President and Congress is to get a job done. The problems on the Hill right now...they created.  This means that they could solve them. If only we weren't whining that Barack won't come out and play...

Once again, dear press, with all the issues facing this country this is Much Ado...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Much Ado ... Dopey Cyclists (Part 4)

(Preface: I have gone back and forth on this as to how Much Ado it is.  It is news worthy but ...)

What Lance Armstrong did was wrong.  Not just the doping but the lying and apparently the bullying of the other cyclists who apparently haven't the spine to stand on their own two wheels. That said, to hear the press it is as if he betrayed them personally.  Is it because so many of the press could not get enough of him and his cancer story?  Is it because they wanted to believe him despite all the evidence to the contrary?  Is it because they got caught not doing their job? Is it because they can now make much ado?


Let me try and put this into perspective.  The seven yellow jerseys taken or vacated from Armstrong have not been awarded to any other cyclists.  Why? Because the sport is so tainted at the top, the cycling association cannot find any others who actually haven't also been accused or convicted of doping.  Why is this not a much larger sports scandal than just Armstrong?  Not one of the winners of major cycling events in the last ten years have been without a doping violation.  If everyone really was doing it then did Armstrong really have an advantage?  I know.  I know.  If everyone else is doing it doesn't make it right.  The point is the sport has a problem.

I also know that many kids look up to these athletes as examples, but do you really think there are that many aspiring Lance Armstrongs who haven't also heard how wrong his actions were?  You see, while they may have admired him, most are also going to be aware of the price he has paid and may end up paying the law suits that are now coming down.

Another point I would like to make is effect on the sport.  All are acting as if the Tour de France and cycling is one of the big sports.  This may be true in some circles, but let me ask you a question or two.  Without looking it up on the internet, who else has won the Tour?  Can you name tow other famous cyclist?  Can you name one other winning American cyclist?  Now name two quarterbacks or famous basketball players.  Name two professional wrestlers.  The last are not so difficult to do.  I can do the latter parts, and I'm not even a sports fan.  Cycling is not a premier sport and Armstrong has also done a lot of good.  What he did? Wrong.  His behavior surrounding it? Also, wrong. The actual cost to him may ultimately be a law suit involving 100 million dollars. There was also a cost to those who he "bullied."

While this is certainly more of a scandal than some of the things the news spends its time on my question is exactly how long do we need to spend on it?  The press's massive coverage of it, including a three hour interview on Oprah's OWN,  as if it were an earth shattering, sports altering event? Much Ado...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Much Ado ... Where Are the Women? (part 3)


So what's wrong with the picture above? According to the New York Times this is President Obama and his advisors.  They are all men and most of them are white.  Unless you see the leg behind the guy in the in the middle.  That's the leg of the only woman in the meeting fo this particular group.  Yet to one degree of another, those on the far left are truly upset by this picture because they see Obama as betraying the trust of women and minorities by surrounding himself with powerful, primarily white men.  We will leave the fact that the most powerful person in the room is a person of color to the side.  His top cabinet posts have so far gone to white men.  Yet to hear the pundits on the left, this picture ignores his promise.  One even asked him the question about the "lack of diversity" at a recent press conference.

Obama's response was half his staff were women and his two appointments to the supreme court were women.  His top advisor on foreign affairs was a woman. Quite simply it is a bit too early to be making such judgements.  You see this picture is not the only one taken of the President and his advisors, but it doesn't make quite as good of press if it looked like...oh this...


Any one else seeing yet once more Much Ado...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Much Ado ... and Lopez Tonight? (Part 2)

I'm sorry to report this to all you Team Coco fans, but he's not funny for a lot of folks.  I have attempted to watch Conan O'brien more than a few times, and the guy has drawn maybe one chuckle from me and the ratings agree.  One of his most recent post on Facebook status was "Myspace is this generation's disco." Really? That's today's original joke.  You need new writers.

I know that the controversy surrounding the departure of O'brien from NBC is old news, but there was a reason he was moved from the Tonight Show and Leno returned.  He's not funny and he was floundering as the host of an NBC staple for late night television.  Had there been no stirred controversy, Conan would have either been returned to his own successful late night slot which had also begun to lose ground before his move to the king of late night shows the Tonight Show to the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. It is also true that none of these guys are Johnny Carson.  The point is how do these people become so famous?

Okay so why this rant?  This won't be the last about much ado reporting.  The fact is the whole scandal about Conan's loss of the Tonight Show and the involvement of Letterman into it was much ado.  Like Brent Musburger's going gaga, the entire thing was way, way out of proportion.  I don't know any of these folks.  I have followed David Letterman since I was a kid and he had a short lived daytime talk show.  I personally think he is still upset that he didn't get the job on the Tonight Show and Leno did.  But that is ancient history and HBO has even made a movie of it.  Does Dave really not like Jay?  I don't know, and what is more, I don't care.  Conan took the job from Leno after Leno made a really stupid deal involving an attempt at a primetime show and that he would move from the Tonight Show slot.  Leno's show floundered, but so did Conan's.  Why? Because he is really not that funny and NBC made a horrendous error in taking the top rated host, Jay Leno, out of the time slot.  Had Leno not wanted the show back, Letterman would have quietly taken over the domination of late night television except for the fact that all of them were being out done in the ratings by Nightline.

And so Conan went to another network and did exactly what was done to him to another talk show host.  Didn't hear much about that though because there were not two titanic-sized television personalities involved and I am not referring to Conan O'brien.  He has near zero power, and his new network was counting on the over-hyped scandal to draw viewers hoping that enough would stay afterwards to keep the show alive.  Has any one wondered what happened to George Lopez whose time slot Team Coco took?  It was quietly canceled.

This is the nature of the business. If you do not succeed you will be canceled or replaced. O'Brien knows this.  Letterman knows this. Leno knows this. Lopez knows this.  In fact, the entire entertainment industry knows this, including the press that made this much ado.  By the way, Craig Ferguson decided to stay out of the fray and do no jokes about the supposed battle.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Little Kids...


In a long forgotten movie, Paternity,  Burt Reynolds plays a childless bachelor who wants a child.  He and the prospective mother of his child, Beverly D'Angelo, sit in a park watching a young boy ride his bicycle atop a 5-foot-high brick wall.

"Do you know why he doesn't fall?" Reynold's character asks. "Because nobody has taught him about gravity. Someday, a teacher will tell him about gravity, and the next time he tries to ride his bike like that, he will fall. I want to be there when my son learns about gravity."

For some reason, this line from this mediocre 80's comedy stuck with me.  It is funny how such things stick in one's head. I have been thinking of late at what point  is it that we lose our child-like wonder?  If you watch little kids, you quickly realize something: all of them believe they can and all of them believe in magic.

For my daughter growing up, her dolls were real people to her.  One has become an important part of the family.  When he was three or so, I would awaken to my son sitting on my chest every Saturday announcing, "Thundercats, Dad.  Thundercats!" They were so much more than just a cartoon in his head.  Every child believes he can sing.  Every child believes she can dance.  Every child writes his or her own musical opus.  Every child stars in a self-made play or magic show.  It is the belief and is more than imagination.  It is the magic of which Merlin would be envious.

And at some point it is gone.  Perhaps it is when they learn the rules or the reality that there really is gravity.  Perhaps it is a result of those awkward years of puberty when kids become self-conscious and when "going out" with someone involves more than a checked box on a note and sitting with him or her at lunch. The kids that once went out for every play and played badly and loudly in the band, suddenly don't tryout for the play or quit the choir.  Still, even at that point the theatre, the band, the choir, the flag team, the football team, the volleyball team...all become a place to belong.  

For me, I dreamed that I was a good singer.   My sister had even wanted me to sing at her wedding, but that was not to be.  Reality hit. A friend of hers and her husband to be was asked to sing instead.  Then I was moved from the school choir.  It wasn't because I couldn't sing but because there were only two boys who had signed up for the choir.  The logic was to turn the choir into a girl's glee group.  Secretly, I'd wanted to sing, but I understood the reality of what needed to be done. A few years later, I tried my hand at a church choir.  I hated it.  It was obvious that the choir director thought it was too late for me to learn to sing. I went to rehearsal twice and quit.  The magic was gone.  I learned about gravity.  

But still, I found my magic.  I found it on the stage.  I was a mediocre athlete and my school only had two after school productions:  the junior class play and the senior class play.  We didn't have theatre classes, but I was involved in every possible  production I could be in and I had the band.  It was in college that I found the theatre.  It was a gift.  It was magic.  It was a place to belong.

Magic for some stops.  They suddenly see the world as a dangerous place. They live in fear of magic.  They have not just learned about gravity, but have allowed it to become a heavy force grinding them to the earth's surface.  They live in fear of the government they elected.  They live in fear of losing things like imaginary rights that they never had.  Magic is gone.  They will never sing with joy, even if it is only when they are alone.  I wonder how it is that some never seem to find that magic again. 

When do we learn about gravity?  I was fortunate because I had people who were there when I learned and helped me defy gravity.  I hope you too still see some magic some place, even if it is with that child who drags you onto the couch and makes you watch her newest musical extravaganza using sheets and a cardboard box. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

On Stage...

On Sunday, my wife and I went to see the Tony Award winning War Horse.  Before it was a Spielberg movie, before it was a play, it was a book for adolescents written in 1984.  The plot is a simple one and somewhat predictable. The characters are not terribly deep.  What makes the play are the astonishing puppets.  They move like real horses.  There are more puppets than just the horses, but they truly take the play to fascinating levels.  I know many connect to the puppets and react, but I never really forgot that they were puppets.  I didn't really feel like I related to them as I would the actual animal, but still I was drawn into the story of a boy and his horse.

Joey, a hunter, is a horse.  He is a cross of thoroughbred and draft horse.  We first meet him as a foal who is soon sold at auction.  All of the full bodied horses require three operators.  Two for the body and one at the head.  You soon forget that they are there and get used to the horses actually having eight legs.  What works here is that the operators are not hidden, but dressed in period costume and a part of the play.

Joey is raised by a boy named Albert Narracott whose drunken, prideful father causes no end of problems for the family.  In true melodrama fashion, Joey is eventually sold on the sly by the dad to the calvary for World War I.  Joey has of course already demonstrated himself an extraordinary horse having won  back his price in a bet. What follows is Albert's quest to find his horse on the battle fields of France.  Joey, of course, has his own adventures as he falls from British hands into the hands of a kindly German calvary captain, Fredrich Muller, who helps to make sure the horse is kept as safe as he can while he tries to help a French girl and her mother try to escape the war devastated country.  

Gone are glories of war, as men and animals die in terrible numbers.  Families lose sons and wives lose husbands and for some of these folks they may never know of this loss. Historically speaking, we are told in the program, Britain conscripted more than 1 million horses for the first world war and only 64 thousand would return.  We have seen Joey grow and to a certain degree we see this war through his eyes.  One of the more troubling aspects is that Albert and Fredrich, as is pointed out by characters in the play, are both seemingly more concerned with the horse than those dying around them.  It emphasizes the relationship with Joey and that so many lives were dependent on the animals, but at the same time reminds us of the terrible cost of war.

There were a few problems with the production we saw.  I have to admit the singing narration that become the musical voice of Joey, caught me off guard, but it too added to the theatricality of the show. While for the most part the cast performed their roles very well, I did have a slight problem with the little French girl.  Other than her name, I didn't understand a single word she said.  I checked with my wife and she said she had that problem too, so I know it was not just my ancient ears.  The actor who played Albert was quite good.  He was the understudy to the regular Albert.  My issue was that it was a bit hard to buy him as the fifteen year old Albert as he looked quite a bit older, this includes a receding hairline.  

The only other part was a slight technical design flaw.  At one point the horses are towing a large cannon for the Germans.  The gun swings around so that the audience can see it from the rear and there it is...the casters that very clearly are what make the gun move and not its fake wheels.  Surely, they could have covered them a bit.  I know with the theatricality of the horses, the design team probably didn't think anyone would think about them and with an exception of one old technician in the audience,  they are probably right.  By the way though, the tank is a wonderful set piece. The torn page that gives us projections of everything from a passing countryside to the explosions was a wonderful piece as well, although from my seat which was almost straight out, the animation could become a bit distracting.

What about the puppets? There are more than horses on stage.  There are ravens, flying swallows and even a goose that has personality plus. The horses, which were designed to respond to the nuances of the real counterpart were really amazing. In the pic below you can see how astonishing they are and the torn page projections screen pretty clearly.   

There is one thing I could not help but think, as a director of many an amateur production, is when this show becomes available for others to produce, how could any one do it justice or afford to perform it? All in all, it is an astonishing theatrical work. It is pure theatricality that is involving and draws its audience in. If you get a chance to see War Horse before the run closes or when it returns, it is well worth the dollars.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Best of the Worst

The Razzies are out.  Yesterday, I posted a link to the nominations for the Golden Raspberries  For the past several years, before I retired from the classroom, I would share the Oscar nominees and  the Razzies and then post them on the bulletin board outside my door.  For those of you who do not know what the Golden Raspberry is, it is the award for the worst of Hollywood. Every year since 1981, the Razzie has been presented on the eve before the Oscars.  The Razzie award is a small "golf-ball sized raspberry" glued to an 8mm film canister and then spray painted gold.  It is stated to be worth about $4.79.

What makes the Razzie unique is it has a little fun with the movie industry.  It has awarded everything from of course Worst director and Worst film to more unusual awards like Worst Screen Couple, Worst Screen Ensemble and Worst Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel. and   This year's nominees include That's My Boy, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part II, A Thousand Words, Medea's Witless Protection, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance along with other movies

While for the most part, Hollywood has tried to ignore the Razzies two notable exceptions have shown up to accept their awards.  Halle Berry, for Catwoman, accepted her award in a humorous eight minute speech (warning the speech contains a few expletives).  There was also the arrival of Sandra Bullock for All About Steve who arrived with "team Bullock" and a red wagon full of the DVDs of the movie in question.  She also carried a shooting script of the movie announcing that the members could either promise to watch the movie or she would go through the script line by line and ask anyone to tell her how she could have delivered a line better.

The Razzies  uses the votes of its membership of 647 to determine the nominees with the exception of Worst Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel which uses the 48,000 members of Rotten Tomatoes to make that nomination. The current ten categories have been done now for nine years.  The Razzies were a response to the "Tinsel Town’s annual glut of self-congratulatory awards." In 2010, that honor (dishonor?) went to Battlefield Earth. There was one award that is only offered every 10 years: Worst Film of the Decade.

We all need a little humor in our lives.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Much Ado...and Brent Musburger Too (Part 1)


A ferry crashes into a pier critically injuring 85, two critically.  Vice President Biden discusses gun issues with survivors of mass shootings.  Day three of the Aurora Theatre Massacre pretrial continues. The Republicans in the House continues to threaten to use the debt ceiling to get what they want.  Two nominees for the cabinet are under close scrutiny by far right conservatives and far left liberals.  Two people are killed in shootings in Dallas Texas.  Some governors and mayors think arming teachers is a good idea.  Chris Christie is still unhappy about the delay in government aid for the survivors of hurricane Sandy.  AIG, subject of the bailout, considers suing the US Government for the bailout that saved them.  And the  story seemingly to get the most air time that has played consistently since Monday night?

It is the story of 73-year-old Brent Musburger was extremely complimentary of 23-year-old model and Miss Alabama, Katherine Webb who is the girlfriend of the Alabama quarterback.  What did he say besides she is very pretty? "Wow, I'm telling you quarterbacks: You get all the good-looking women." It was a boring game and commentators were no doubt looking for something to spice up the air time. 

And that has been a main story on every news program, local and national for now going on 48 hours.

We wonder why we have so many who are so poorly informed?

Much Ado...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The History Channel that Was... this is not really just about the History Channel.  It is about "themed" TV stations or the lack of what they used to be.  I used to watch the History Channel and Discovery and Biography.  I enjoyed looking and learning about the past, the universe and famous people.  I have to admit, I seldom watch The Learning Channel who I think wish now their call letters were  just TLC.  MTV many remark was once Music TeleVision.  They even went so far to start MTV 2 so they could play music videos and then when that became the alternate of MTV 1, they considered doing MTV 3. The fact is they don't do music much any more.

MTV has become the home of Jersey idiots show,  promiscuous and not overly bright teen mothers, and the original big brother of reality TV.  In other words MTV has become what REALITY TV wishes it was. It also has/had wondrous shows like Beavis and Butthead,  Jackass, and others,but again it is supposed to be MUSIC theme not COMEDY themed.  We have a station for that. It's called Comedy Central. One blogger I read went so far as to state that the channel that once promoted music has really ended up damaging it.

What about the History Channel and its History Channel 2?  Yes it still does have the occasional World War documentary and how the States Got Their Shapes.  But then they also have Pawn Stars, Axe Men, Ice Road Truckers, Modern Marvels, Life After People, The Nostradamus Effect,  UFO Hunters, Ancient Aliens, and a host of doomsday, aliens, and prophesy shows.  And so we have History without history.  In fact,we have a host of shows that are the opposite of history.  I once met a guy who told me that he had been to the store where Pawn Stars is shot.  It is a dump he told me. In short, he was not impressed and was surprised that anyone would be impressed by this show.

I've quit watching Biorgraphy.  I just don't get how people's near brush with death or the celebrity ghost stories give me insight into the human condition.  I've become as disappointed with this channel as I was when AMC decided it show colorized films and sell advertising.  (On a side note would someone tell me why the Independent Film Channel showing ads about itself helps pay the bills?  I miss watching movies uninterrupted there too.)

The point is, I miss channels that are actually about the theme they promoted.  I blame MTV for the glut of talentless non-reality shows the same as I blame American Idol for the glut of talent shows about judges. It bothers me that History panders to those who really think we are invaded by aliens and should spend money looking for ghosts and big foot.  Think I am wrong...Honey BooBoo apears on The Learning Channel.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Vandalization of American Classics

The first colorized movie I recall ever seeing was Yankee Doodle Dandy starring Jimmy Cagney as song and dance man George M. Cohan.  I was appalled by what was done to the movie.  It wasn't just the muted colors of the process; it was also the fact that colors were often just wrong or left out.  Take the picture above and notice the background.  Yep, it's black and white. Even the boots and whites of the costumes retain a grey over-cast tone.  Don't get me wrong, I am in favor of saving and restoration of these classics.  Coloization is vandalization, not restoration.

I once saw one of these fiascos of colorization where a group was sitting around a table and a kitchen door opens showing clearly black and white activity in the kitchen through the door.  The server enters the room magically turning from black and white to semi-color as he crosses through the threshold. The walls of the room would also change color from black and white to a lovely rose depending on the camera angle.  I think it may have been one of the Thin Man movies, but I'm not sure.

Okay.. how about the recent colorization of The Three Stooges? Look at Moe's pants, the checkered floor in the background the items on the walls, the table leg sitting on the floor even the eyes of the performers, all still in the grey shades of black and white. Except for Larry's eyes and I am not sure what is up there.  They look like a bad job that was done using one of those red-eye reduction programs.  It is a distortion and for the most part badly done.

The first film ever digitized to color was done in the 1980's.  It was the Cary Grant. Grant was said to be delighted with the results who even convinced Frank Capra to allow it to be done to It's a Wonderful Life.  Capra originally agreed and invested but when it was thought the film was in the public domain, the investment was returned and control of the colorization take away from Capra.  Jimmy Stewart who testified before congress about the vandalization of these films reported that Capra, who was ill called him and told him that he had just seen what they had done to his film. According to Stewart, Capra told them they had to prevent this from happening to any other film.

Those who favor the process swear that it will capture the nuances of the grey shades and correctly translate the colors correctly.  Not so, said screen star diva, Bette Davis.  She remarked that the famous red dress from Jezebel was not actually red but in the colorized movie certainly made it so. According to Davis the costumer was well aware of what black and white would do so he costumed  to correct for it.  If I recall correctly Davis said the dress was actually deep black and metalic while on IMDB it is noted the dress was actually a bronze color.  Both would read better than red on black and white film.                                                          


Every year, around the holidays, an number of these films show up and it is appalling to see AMC who once touted the purity of classic movies decide to shoe Miracle on 34th Street in its colorized form knowing how so many classic film makers and modern film makers feel about it.  There was even an attempt to colorize Citizen Kane until it was discovered that Orson Welles and his estate still control the film and could stop them.  As public domain films, Roger Ebert notes that they could be cut up and made into guitar picks.  Little can be done to stop this distruction of classic work, except for public demand that it stop and refusal to watch these vandalized films.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A House Divided

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Perhaps, and solely in my belief, one of the great conservative minds among the news pundits is George Wills.  That is unless he suddenly goes off on one of those extreme points that he some times does.  Nevertheless, he is one very smart, well versed man and few understand history as he does.  I would never presume to match brains with him. There is something that he has stated a number of times about the current state of congress.

On  any number of occasions he has stated that Congress was purposely designed to be divided -- adversarial in nature.  While I have little doubt that it was to supposed to be adversarial by nature, I don't think that our framers ever intended it to become inoperative.  First off, the division was by setting up three distinct sections of government: executive, legislative and judicial.  Then dividing the legislative into two houses for the purpose of debate.   Both houses are clearly set like the houses of Parliament - House of Lords and House of Commons. Our two houses were also designed so that no state could rule by evenly dividing the Senate into only two representatives each and giving them the longest term.  The idea of adversarial houses and branches were to ensure checks and balances.  At no point, however, does the Constitution  discuss that any branch should be divided by political parties.

The nature of the adversarial debate in either of the houses or between the branches was never intended to be more than that which would cause our leaders to think about what they  were doing and compromise as needed.  At no point did our founding fathers intend for congress to become so dysfunctional that they can barely operate.  They've signed non-constitutional pledges, they've gerrymandered, they've done just about everything they can and did it not for the people, but so they can keep their jobs, become the most powerful at any cost, even to the point of suppressing the vote.  Our founding fathers, in fact, worried about the dangers of having a two party system rather than a multiple or single one.

John Adams wrote in a letter to Jonathan Jackson:,"There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution." George Washington said, "However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."

I part ways with Mr. Wills on his belief that the houses are operating the way they were intended.  They were never intended not to operate, not to allow compromise, to become more about whose in power than why they are in power.  Ronald Reagan once said that the founding fathers did not conceive of those in congress becoming a profession. They "envisioned a fellow serving a couple of hitches and then eagerly looking forward to getting back to the farm." So no, the house is not operating as it should.  The adversarial idea does not mean absolute, obstinate unwillingness to work together.

Sadly, when the elections roll around, people will return these folks back because too many think it's not their representative who is the problem, but someone else's problem.  With the new gerrymandering, the days of swing districts are gone, as well.  Add to this primaries which allow only the loyal base following to put forward a candidate, it is unlikely much in Washington will change.  Adding to this is the idea of equity in the press.  Until the press starts calling the baloney and lies that politicians use for their base and the other stories they use for those of us who are not on the fringe, it will also continue.

"A house divided cannot stand," said Abraham Lincoln. Our house needs a good cleaning and we need to send more than a few back home to the farm.

It is time we remember that “it is the people who control the Government, not the Government the people.” - Winston Churchill

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Real JFK

So I did a post on the icon and myth of the Right, Ronald Reagan, but what about the icon and myth of the one on the Left?

Who was the real JFK? I don't really recall that much about John Kennedy.  He died when I was six years old.  Like everyone else, though I remember where I was the day they announced his assassination...I was on the playground when other kids started saying that the president had been shot.  I think one actually told me that President Lincoln had been shot but that was probably because we had studied two presidents: Lincoln and Washington.  Lincoln freed the slaves and grew a beard because a little girl told him in a letter she thought it was a good idea, and Washington who never told a lie were who we had heard of.  While this may seem like a digression to you, you may also begin to see how these myths grow and take on lives of their own.

The fact is that Kennedy didn't live long enough as president to really see what his legacy might be, but when you look at the progressives of today, you would think he was a crusading civil rights supporter who would have kept us out of Vietnam and whose strong stance against the USSR on the Cuban missiles and stellar foreign affairs would lead us into a new age.

What I've actually been able to find was the new "Camelot," as this time has been referred to, is something of a myth as well.  It was Kennedy that started the Peace Corp and called to America's youth.  It was JFK who wanted us to go to the moon by decade's end and insisted on emphasis on math and science. If you think about this, the students in school at the time of this push would hardly be the great scientists and mathematicians ready to lead us to the moon, since they would barely be out of school by decade's end if at all.

Kennedy won the Pulitzer prize for his book Profiles in Courage. Most agree now that while the idea was Kennedy's the true style of the book was by his speech writer, Ted Sorenson. There is much debate as to how much writing Kennedy did on the book or whether Sorenson was actually the ghost writer of the book.

Kennedy was a long ways from the "middle class" guy the progressives used to attack Romney.  Kennedy, like Romney, was a child of privilege too.  He was, however, a consummate politician. He was also something of a playboy having had affairs with the likes of Marilyn Monroe. He was a strong Catholic and was, as many of that generation, anti-Communist and most likely anti-Semitic.  As President, Kennedy was frequently attacked for his tepid stance on Civil Rights.  As a member of Congress, he strongly supported the anti-Communism policies of Truman.  As a senator, he supported Joe McCarthy's extremist hunt for the Red Stain.  Brother Bobby worked on McCarthy's staff and Dad Joe viewed McCarthy as an ally.

To raise his own polling points, John and Bobby, went after Union corruption.  This brought about a round of hearings on Unions and resulted in several Federal laws controlling Union activity.  During his time, as Representative and Senator, Kennedy knew Richard Nixon and despite the myth that he hated him, he actually respected the man.  It was fellow liberal Democrat, Adlai Stevenson, that he did not trust.

As President, his foreign policy was far from successful.  It was because of his seemingly weakness in the area that Khrushchev believed he could put missiles into Cuba and it was possibly the US strong dislike of Castro that caused Castro to allow the missiles.  Few realized at the time how close we came to a nuclear war.  Kennedy also used a completely fictitious "missile gap" that he blamed on the Eisenhower administration to start a new round of building ballistic missile in a race with the Russians.

He barely won his first bid for the White House.  It was not some popular land side.  He actually won by just 100,000 votes of the 69 million cast.  There was some talk of voter fraud at the time.  His famous quote of "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country" wasn't just a reminder of the Peace Corp, but just as likely a reminder that the government wasn't going to be expanding the social welfare program.

While he was alive, many pundits of the time considered his presidency as mediocre at best which was largely a series of crisis.  Kennedy committed to getting rid of Castro.  This led to  the Bay of Pigs fiasco followed by the Missiles of October.

One of the more recent speculations is that Kennedy would have kept us out of Vietnam.  It is exactly that, however, a speculation.  The fact is though that he increased our involvement in that particular war and it was his former vice president, Johnson, that built on that expansion.  One of the largest myths about Kennedy getting us out of Vietnam is probably this idea.  It was Kennedy's desire to regain some credibility following the Bay of Pigs that led him to sending "military advisers" to Vietnam.  It has been reported that he said to one of his advisers, "Now we have a problem in making our power credible, and Vietnam is the place." So Kennedy escalated to the point where we were essentially fighting a ground war in Vietnam.  His few hundred advisers, quickly became 15,000 in 1963.  There in no evidence that he would have pulled out of Vietnam had he lived.

I like both Reagan and Kennedy.  Both did great things too, but the myth has grown around the two to make them icons for the Right and the Left even though it is unlikely that either would now fit into the extremes of the Left or the Right.  There is an effect that occurs after the presidency is over and that is a rising in the polls of approval for most presidents. Even Richard Nixon who resigned rather than face the likely first successful impeachment of a President,  enjoyed a rise in approval years later.  We forget the politics and deal making that a man like Lincoln was forced to make to pass an amendment or heal a torn nation. It is clear that presidents are men and good ones may reach beyond their actual accomplishments.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Real Ronald Reagan

An old friend put up the simple words of  "Ronald Reagan" in his Facebook timeline the other day.  When someone asked him why, my friend put up the words we need someone like him.  It got me to thinking.  In the past few months Ronald Reagan's name has been bandied about as if he was the ultraconservative that the ultraconservative wing of the GOP remember.  He is the patron saint, but was he really the ultimate conservative, tax cutting, morality fighting, super hero that they believe he was.  His own son, Ronald Reagan Jr. has stated that his father would not have made the cut of the current GOP, but is he right?

Ronald Reagan, was often called the "Great Communicator."  He was an actor, after all.  His speaking skills should be pretty good, at least I would think they would be.  He was an actor, a governor of California, and president of the Screen Actor's Guild.  He had made his reputation on westerns in the 1950's and a series of bad movie comedies involving a monkey named Bonzo.  He also was well known for his portrayal of football  star earning him the nickname, The Gipper.  All in all, he made over 50 films and was actually fairly famous.  He was also a Democrat until the 1960's.

While a strong supporter of the 2nd amendment, he also supported background checks, the 7 day waiting period, assault weapons ban and the Brady Bill after leaving office.  As governor he signed a bill which banned the carrying of guns on your person, vehicle or any public place and also required a 15 day waiting period.  In 1991 he said "With the right to bear arms comes a great responsibility to use caution and common sense on handgun purchases. And it's just plain common sense that there be a waiting period to allow local law-enforcement officials to conduct background checks on those who wish to purchase handguns." He also supported the fire arms owner protection act which repealed parts of the 1968 gun bill which many experts had deemed unconstitutional and at the same time he banned fully automatic weapons.  His gun stance may have changed though because of the attempted assassination of him which left his press secretary Jim Brady wounded and disabled.

In 1980, he ran for President against Jimmy Carter, the incumbent.  He ran for a second term winning against Walter Mondale.  He was though above all a pragmatist.  He did what needed to be done and if that meant making deals, he did.  He was willing to make compromises and in fact did.  His compromises would be heresies by today's Republican standards.

 Stuart Spencer, a Reagan adviser who was there from the beginning says "He had a strong set of core values and operated off of those, but when push came to shove, he did various things he didn't like doing, because he knew it was in the best interests of the state or country at the time." He continues in an article in the LA Times about today's conservatives, "A lot of those people running out there don't really understand what he did. It's just a matter of attaching themselves to a winner."

Reagan did a number of things like raised the nation's self-confidence, and his strong stance and understanding that Gorbachev was not the typical Soviet president of the past, helped to tear down the Berlin wall which lead ultimately to the end of the USSR and the Cold War.  As today, Reagan's first term was marked by recession, high interest rates, a soaring budget deficit, and strong anti-American feelings in the Middle East.

That all said, Reagan also held the belief that compromise was good policy.  He believed that government needed to invest in things during the tough times.  He was unafraid to raise taxes and did so for seven of the eight years he was in office.  He raised taxes eleven times in total.  He gave amnesty to three million undocumented immigrants.  He increased the size of government.  He tripled the national debt.  He did try to cut taxes on the rich and adding to the tax burden of the middle class and poor causing a rise in unemployment.   Oh and did I mention that one of his cuts, school lunches had ketchup declared as a vegetable? 

By Tea Party standard on fiscal policy and never compromise  he would most likely be labeled a RINO (Republican In Name Only). The Reagan of the Tea Party is a carefully constructed myth.  When Reagan left office, the Republicans enjoyed a 63 percent approval rating.  Today, the Republican lead house has a less than 25 percent approval rating.  The Reagan who had failings and successes was a solid president.  The ultra conservative a myth. Next up...The Real JFK.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Life of Pi...A Boy, a Tiger and a Life Boat

I am a bit behind the time for this review, but...

It has been a while since I read the Life of Pi. I try hard not to be a book snob and forgive film makers as they adapt a beloved and brilliant novel to the screen.  I will not forgive film adaptations that don't even try to follow the book.  Why bother adapting a book if you're not even going to try and tell its story?  I am for example still waiting for someone to actually do an adaptation of Planet of the Apes. I have forgiven Peter Jackson for leaving out Tom Bombadil in  Lord of the Rings and for leaving out actual killing of the Saruman the White (while he did do a killing in the extended cut but still not right.) So I must also forgive the cutting down of a few plot points in the movie version of Life of Pi.  Since I have distance from the book, that may make it easier too.

Life of Pi is a movie based on a book by Yann Martel and it is a remarkable book and a visually stunning movie.  The premise is a simple one: Pi Patel, played by Suraj Sharma, is the sole human survivor of a shipwreck.  Pi and his family are traveling from India to Canada transporting their zoo.  One night a massive storm swamps the ship and it sinks.  Pi ends up alone on a lifeboat with an orangutan, a zebra with a broken leg, and a Bengal tiger, named Richard Parker. Needless to say Richard Parker makes quick work of the zebra and orangutan, although much faster in the movie than in the book.

The tiger is a stunning visual effect.  He is CGI for the most part.  At no point was actor and tiger ever together on the boat.  Richard Parker was created by using four different tigers for reference and visual mapping.  The four tigers, used primarily for single shot scenes like when Richard Parker is swimming, made for a high standard  for the CGI version that would appear on the boat with Pi.

So Pi and Richard Parker set off on a remarkable journey lasting, according to the book, 227 days as a castaway with a Bengal tiger in a twenty foot lifeboat.  Pi learns to live at sea and eventually masters the tiger.  It is an astounding story that draws us in and gives us hope bonding us to nature and God as Pi feels he too is bonded.  There are scenes from the book that are not there, but like the cutting of Tom Bombadil, I understand the need. Although one particular scene in the book in which Pi is about to be killed and cannibalized by another castaway who is killed by Richard Parker before he can act, I did miss.  I always thought of this scene in the book, one of the more unbelievable ones, as showing the difference between the tiger which kills to survive and man that will not only kill to survive, but because he can.  Man is the moral beast in the book. Nature does what is needed, only man can reason beyond this.  It gives us some insight just as learning that Pi is a Hindu-Muslim-Catholic believer gives us insight into the nature of the man who tells us the story of his survival as a boy.  Still this scene would be hard to work into the movie and even harder to explain.

Others have remarked that there is a few awkward spots in the movie.  Oddly those did not bother me because I felt those same pacing moments in the book at the same moments in the film.  To me it was actually a remarkable sign of adaptation.  The film must also telescope time.  If the production pushed the feel of the 227 days at sea that Pi lives through in the 100 or so chapters of the book, it would have indeed suffered from pacing issues.

The movie is visual and for the most part easy to watch and like the book draws you into Pi's tale, almost fable, like stories of having survived as the sole survivor.  The movie, obviously filmed to take advantage of 3-D effects, is still stunning to see in the 2-D format.  The acting is well done and the story remains basically true to the novel.  The only thing that was, I thought, underplayed a bit too much was the end of the story.  I don't want to spoil it for you, but in the book it is one that is so carefully crafted, it catches us a bit off guard but does not cheat having laid the ground work throughout the book.  I think it could have been stronger in the film so it would better balance with Richard Parker walking into the jungle.

We must sometimes forgive filmmakers for failing to include every detail or plot point from a book.  Let's face it, movies have a limited time in which to tell the story.  I will, however, never understand those who decide with why bother with making the story, we will just use the title...I'm looking at you Tim Burton and your adaptations of Planet of the Apes and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. As for Ang Lee's direction of  David Magee's adaptation, it is a good one, well worth the look.