Sunday, January 27, 2013

THE SUN ALSO RISES a book review



Jakes Barnes is our narrator and main character and yet the book revolves around the machinations of Lady Brett Ashley, a beautiful young woman that has everything and yet only wants what she cannot have.  The result of Lady Ashley is that most every man in the book is thrilled and miserable for her existence.  There is a lot of drinking in THE SUN ALSO RISES, that mirrors Ernest Hemingway’s own adventures in France and Spain during the 1920s.   Although Hemingway just liked to drink you get the impression that Hemingway’s characters drink to rid themselves of the pain caused by the oblivious Lady.  

The conventional wisdom of the book seems to be that Jake and Lady Ashley are in love, but unable to consummate their relationship due to Jake’s unspecified war injury.  But it seems to me that Lady Ashley’s love for Jake is precisely because his injury allows her to see herself as some sort of tragic heroine.   For his macho reputation, Hemingway writes very sensitive and complicated men that hide their emotions in booze.   The most outwardly macho of them all, Robert Cohn, is treated as a bully and loathed by everyone by the conclusion.
 
Although Hemingway’s personal adventures in Paris get much ink, I feel that the novel only offers a glimpse of that location.  The sequences in Spain are much more vivid.  You’ll learn how to fish for Spanish trout or how the bulls are herded through town rather than how to get from the Champ Elyse to Notre Dame.   The reader comes away understanding why Hemingway was so invested in the Spanish Civil War.  He really loved that country.  

I don't know whether I would recommend the book to just anyone.  I think you'd need to have some interest in the locales or activities, because the characters aren't exactly inspiring.  Hemingway's short stories from this period seem more thought provoking.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

WILD CARD GAME



The new wildcard format is a ridiculous idea destined to make the World Champion even more random than previous years.  There should never be a one-game playoff except when two teams have identical records at the end of the season.  Baseball has a 162 game schedule and you can't learn anything about the quality of those teams with a one game showdown.  Even the first round of the playoffs should be 4 out of 7 instead of 3 of out 5. 

Last night in Atlanta the umpire made a late call for the infield fly rule and the crowd was livid throwing bottles and other debris onto the field.  Joe Simpson led the announcers in denouncing the crowd.  He called it embarrassing.  That is an easy response watching for the free up in the skybox.  Imagine being a fan spending thousands over the course of the year to support your team and the game all comes down to a questionable call that is never properly explained to the crowd.  Football refs explain every penalty and the umpires would have benefited from the same practice last night.  A call such as that might make a crowd angry in a 4 of 7 series but in the 8th inning of an elimination game it naturally creates mayhem. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

1986 World Series and Bill Buckner


I was watching the MLB network over the summer and they were doing the show where Bob Costas looks at Classic Baseball games by showing key moments and interviewing the players in those moments.  There is something about the Game 6 episode of the 1986 World Series that keeps replaying in my head that I wanted to put down for posterity.

A lot of things went right for the Mets in the bottom of the 9th, but they key moment that history remembers is Buckner booting the Mookie Wilson grounder.  Buckner has had to live with that his whole life and it overshadowed his 2700 career hits.  To his credit he doesn't avoid the subject and his honesty about it reminds people that there are things more important than baseball and people who are better men than fielders. 

But this episode also revealed the shortcomings of then Boston manager, John McNamara.  Despite the fact that Mac subbed Dave Stapleton for Buckner in the late innings all through the season and playoffs, his explanation for Buckner in the game at that point was ridiculous.  It’s not hard to speculate that Mac wanted to allow Buckner to be on the field for the final out, but Mac’s explanation (pre-recorded) was that Stapleton was a horrible fielder with the nickname of “shaky.”  The players in the studio were incredulous.  They had never heard Stapleton called that.  And it doesn't explain why Stapleton subbed for Buckner so many times before that.   Whereas Bucker has always taken responsibility and still feels guilty over it, McNamara invents pejorative names for Dave Stapleton.  The contrast between the two is so great that I haven’t been able to forget it since.

The witticism “Sports do not build character, they reveal it” was never so well demonstrated than in the person of John McNamara.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

BEN FRANKLIN SERIAL KILLER OR????

Was our beloved founder a Serial Killer??

"Did America put a serial killer on the $100 bill? Almost certainly not. Continued study of the bones revealed that some of the bones had been sawed through. Others bore the marks of a scalpel. A few of the skulls had been drilled into. The evidence pointed not to murder by Franklin, but anatomical study by his friend William Hewson."

Read the full text here: http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/123480#ixzz1rypt3R3v
--brought to you by mental_floss!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

REAR WINDOW TIME LAPSE


http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/04/03/rear_window_time_lapse_video_watch_jeff_desom_s_brilliantly_remix_of_the_hitchcock_classic_video_.html

OBAMA v SUPREME COURT


I haven't heard anyone in the media mention the significance of Obama not understanding the difference between judicial review and judicial activism. The former is taking a law and weighing it through the words of the constitution and the latter is deciding a law should be written in a way that suits a court. Roe v. Wade was classic judicial activism because it found a federal right to abortion notwithstanding the 10th amendment.

For this to be judicial activism the court will have to mandate a single-payer plan or some other form of healthcare law they approve of in place of the current law. Striking it down isn't activism but review. If they can't do that then for what reason do we even need a supreme court?

Obama's presentation of this issue is significant because he became president with no personal life accomplishments. When I pointed it out it was argued that he was a respected law professor at the University of Chicago. So his most important life accomplishment reflects his inability to explain Marbury v. Madison to his students.

He's a pilot that can't land a plane. But he sounds great calling it in to the air traffic controller.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

100 Skills Every Man should Know

100 Skills Every Man http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifShould Know: 2008's Ultimate DIY List from Popular Mechanics Magazine

I was surprised when I read this recently how many of these my grandfathers and grandmothers taught me. Those really were priceless relationships. These skills are most excellent to know. I am still learning many of these and mastering others. Some I have mastered like: carving a turkey, cutting firewood, and shining shoes. It's taken me 42 years to finally feel fully comfortable with being a man. I can't tell you how happy I am really knowing myself now.

TEN THINGS I WISH I COULD TELL EVERY TEENAGE BOY

1. Girls are not a rare commodity. I know it may appear that way right now, but there will come a time when they shall chase you. Then you’ll scratch your head and wonder what happened. Just wait. You get more desirable.

2. Success and confidence are very sexy. The smarter you are, the more consistent you are, the more employed you are, the more creative you are, the more educated you are, the more amazing you become and the more attractive you’ll be.

3. Dress classically. Your friends will tell you to dress trendy. That will fade. You’ll look back at yourself and wonder why you were dressed like such a douche.

4. Society will tell you to avoid being masculine. Our culture continues to clamp down on the masculine as it over exalts the feminine. Just be yourself. Be who you are at your core. Don’t worry about what society tells you. Being a powerful man is a good thing. Being a powerful man is not a crime.

5. Playboy, GQ, MAXIM, Men’s Health, and Penthouse will not tell you how to be a powerful man. Neither will online porn. However, Popular Mechanics and the Bible will. Read both. It’ll help.

6. Speaking of Popular Mechanics, read over their list of 100 Skills Every Man should Master: http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/skills/4281414 Knowing how to do plumbing, a little electrical, build something, and fix minor car issues will have your future spouse drooling over you (in a good way). Having the skills is very impressive to the ladies and to your pals. And it will help during the Zombie Apocalypse.

7. True friends are 4 in the morning friends. Do you have a friend who would get up to help you with almost anything at 4 in the morning? Would that friend help you move? (REMEMBER: Helping you move in the male-friend world is like going “all the way”). Will that friend stand up for you and love you despite differences in belief? Will that friend respect your girl? Is that friend nice to your mom? That’s a true friend. Everyone else is not. Cultivate true friends.

8. Nothing Bad ever lasts. Ever.

9. If you can get through High School, you can get through college. It’s all about picking the major for you. The right major leads to the right career. But remember, you are NOT your career. Work is good. Work is fine. Work will help and work is awesome. BUT, Your work is not who you are. Know who you are as almost anything other than your work. Your 45 year old self will be so grateful.

10. Words are the most powerful things written or spoken. Learn how to master words. Knowing what to say will save your life in love, work, and friendship.

Friday, March 30, 2012

BYE BYE OBAMACARE

Whatever the Court's Ruling, the Political Battle Over Obamacare Has Already Been Lost

I hope so!!

I've gone back and forth over the last couple of years as to what the real thought was behind Obamacare. For all the "Commie" talk about President Obama, the truth is that Obamacare was a pragmatic lefty bit of legislation. They thought by embracing what was originally a Republican idea, "forcing all to buy Health Insurance just like the States do for car insurance will force down over all costs." As many have said, it's a silly solution to a serious issue. The federal government have forced states and any hospital that accepts federal funds of any kind to accept patients who cannot pay. That means we all must foot that bill. The Libertarian response would be to deny everyone free care. Ask yourself this, how many insurance policies would be sold if the states and all hospitals were allowed to turn people away. Much like food, clothing, and shelter, people would find a way. Further, private charities and private donations would certainly cover the costs of many of the very poor. Should there be a real safety net? Certainly. But what Obamacare (and most of Obama policies ensure) is enslavement and dependence for the middle class. President Obama wants to convince the middle class they too are part of the great "unwashed masses" and therefore must vote democrat forever.

The Liberal media has been fun to watch through all this. They are shocked SHOCKED that the Supreme Court will likely strike down all or part of Obamacare. Shocked that their lefty central planning isn't actually what the founding fathers wanted after all. They are shocked that the 7/10 people are actually quite satisfied and happy with their health care. And shocked that all their work to take over 1/5 the nation's economy may soon go up in smoke. Regardless of the election out come in November, the American people and SCOTUS have simply rejected lefty micromanagement of our lives.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

February 2012 Media Log


All Caps, bold:  MOVIE
All Caps, TV SERIES
Italics: Book
Quotation marks “Play”
Italics, quotation marks:  Short Story
-------------------------------------------------------------------


FEB 1BRIDESMAIDS
Surprisingly funny and only over the top in a few places.  Superior to farces like THE HANGOVER.  

FEB 3WALLACE AND GROMIT CURSE OF THE WERERABBIT
All ages can enjoy these characters and the latest may be the best yet.  

FEB 4CHICKEN RUN
Entertaining although I remember it being a bit better on my first viewing.

FEB 5To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

The first half of the book is a classic and the movie used the best scenes.  The second half of the novel is less interesting although the key moment with Harry Morgan was borrowed for the 1948 Bogart film, Key Largo.  A better ending could have made this another Hemingway classic work.

FEB 6BIG LEBOWSKI
Still funny after all these years.  Quotable to the end.  I saw it for the first time with Sir Saunders on my 29th birthday, a doubleheader with PRIMARY COLORS. 

FEB 11 GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO  (U.S.)
There aren't a lot of differences between the Swedish and American movies.  They both hit the big plot points.  I think the main difference is the relationship between the Lisabeth and the mukraker.  Daniel Craig seems more self-assured than the Swedish actor.   Both are worth watching.

FEB 12EX MRS. BRADFORD
Classic William Powell detective novel with Jean Arthur in the Myrna Loy role.  Powell is Dr. Bradford, the suspect forced into clearing his good name.  Jean Arthur is the title character trying to worm her way back into Powell's heart.  Fun all the way through.  

FEB 14This is a Book by Demetri Martin
The closest thing to Woody Allen's early prose than anything I have ever read.  Each chapter is a stand along story of comic inspiration.  His Genie FAQ was especially funny.  

FEB 16Up in the Air by Walter Kim
A rare example of a decent book turned into a better movie.  They share the premise of a man trying to reach his frequent flyer milestone, but the book is more slice of life and about how he is looking forward to a life without flying whereas George Clooney lives to be in the air.  The other characters are drawn much better in the movie, which says a lot for Jason Reitman.  

FEB 22THE THIRD MAN
The real challenge with this film is whether you get a clean print with synched audio.  Thankfully Turner Classic Movies provided it.  It hardly gets any better than the Orson Wells reveal.  Great film making. 

FEB 24 – THE GODFATHER
Tricia's first viewing was courtesy of HD.  The three hours really flew by.  A great great movie every time.  I love the scene where Sterling Hayden punches Michael, because I already know the revenge.   

FEB 25 – LIFE’S TOO SHORT
Warrick Davis plays the title Dwarf to great humor.  Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant play themselves. Liam Neeson guests stars as himself in this episode where he asks Ricky to help him become a comic.  Hilarious Stuff.  

FEB 26 - The Empty Copper Sea by John D. MacDonald
One of the later Travis McGee stories has Travis and the ever-ready Meyer travel to the gulf coast to clear the name of an old friend.  Unlike other private eyes, there are hints that McGee is aging and his hi-jinks can't last forever.  Every one of these novels has a sort of political statement, but the one he drops here has me shaking my head.  McGee laments that county sheriffs are elected rather than appointed and labels it a right-wing thing.  He'd rather have a boost to the "good ole boy" network by letting them decide?  

FEB 28 - Meltdown by Thomas F. Woods Jr.
Thomas Woods lays the blame on the housing crisis on the doorstep of the Fed.  Their cheap money through low interest rates set the table for the shenanigans.  Taking us off the gold standard not only devalued our money but allowed the government to control the money supply at will.  He makes a decent case that the Fed has been more trouble than it's worth.  It's been robbing us for years and making our savings worthless.  We are either better off spending what we have or risking it in a volatile stock market because inflation with eat it away otherwise.   But I didn't come away totally convinced that the government couldn't have caused the housing problems with a Federal Reserve system.  Politicians still would have pressured banks to make bad loans and those bad loans still would have skewered the market.   

Monday, February 13, 2012

POLITICAL MODERATES

POLITICAL MODERATES

Among candidates, pollsters, and the media, the holy grail of winning elections is winning moderates.  Yet I think the conventional wisdom of the experts misses what is significance about moderates.      

The media tends to see all elections according to ideology and they thus see independents and moderates as people looking for the middle ground.  I tend to think it's probably true for a percentage of moderates, but I think the majority of true moderates (Or at least enough to swing an election) are that way because ideology isn't a big concern.  By not feeling strongly about the issues they can instead focus on the human beings running for office.  That is consistent with how the electorate rarely chooses the President with the worst personality.  You have to go back to 1972 to find the more affable guy losing.   

It also explains how a media cultivated moderate like John McCain could lose to a community organizer and friend of radicals.  I think the real swing voter doesn't care where you stand on any particular issue, but knows that he'll have to hear you talk for the next 4 years and wants the guy who is the least grating.  Maybe candidates, pollsters, and the media know this at heart, but also know that their work would be meaningless if they embraced it.  It also explains how hard the Left comes down especially hard on likeable candidates like Sarah Palin or Herman Cain, either of which could match Obama in the personality department.  Considering who the Republicans have left, if Obama loses the election then it will be bucking the personality trend and that would say a lot about how worried people are for their future. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND

I was talking to a co-worker yesterday whose wife is a teacher and he was complaining about NCLB.  From what I have seen on Facebook it's almost universal among teachers that NCLB results in teachers spending too much time doing things that aren't teaching kids.  I am immediately sympathetic to the idea that it mismatches priorities.  And then I think about it and I realize that although I am producing a weekly TV show I spend far less time working on content and far more time keeping track of budgets and reporting progress.  It's sort of like the question of whether a tree falling in an uninhabited woods makes a sound.  It doesn't matter if no one hears it.  In the corporate world the decision makers want to see the process unfold through a series of guidelines and measurements.  This is especially true when the decision makers have no intimate knowledge with the actual work.  Taxpayers are increasingly demanding the same kind of accountability probably due to their own experiences of living in this kind of world.  

The resulting anger over NCLB is really a result of differing expectations that can't be resolved with one another.

1.  Most agree that children need an education that will prepare them for the real world.
2.  Politicians promise with enough funding government run schools can reach 100% competency among the youth.
3.  Tax payers expect to know whether the money and teaching methods are producing measurable results.

For most of our history people have expected the first and believed the argument of the second.  As literacy rates have fallen and our schools have become dangerous and the rest of the western world beats us in competency, taxpayers have invoked #3.  

Rather than address the cause of our education problems, school systems have spent the extra funding to game the results by teaching the methods of the measurement rather than the content.  It seems perverted if you think that we are all in agreement of the importance of #1.  But what this process has taught us is that school administrators are not focused on #1.  They are focused on competing with other bureaucrats over their measurement numbers.  They are typical careerists like so many others.  It's a good reminder when someone tells you that the government should run healthcare because it's too important of a thing for someone to profit from.  Because of NCLB, the school systems have showed that you don't need the profit motive for organization leaders to put self-interested over children.

The best way to improve education is to make everyone focus on #1.  What incentive could you give government bureaucrats to make that their focus?  The only one I can think of is the portability of education dollars.  When parents can put their kids into schools that share their goals, schools management will align themselves with the expectations of their customers.  Until they are forced to do that they will put their energy instead toward competing with other bureaucrats.  
    


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

JANUARY 2012 MEDIA LOG


JANUARY 2012 MEDIA LOG

All Caps, bold:  MOVIE
All Caps, TV SERIES
Italics: Book
Quotation marks “Play”
Italics, quotation marks:  Short Story
-------------------------------------------------------------------


JAN 2 – THE HELP

The good guys and bad guys reveal themselves early on and only allow for a nuance or two through the film.  The acting is better than the other typical Hollywood productions and that's where its legacy lies.  Although Jessica Chastain seems to be a bit overpraised for a character I have seen so many times.  Maybe I will appreciate her more when I have this to compare to TREE OF LIFE.  

JAN 3 – Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson

A biography of Hemingway using his boat as the unifying force in his life.  The boat device would give you the idea that the book has a thin premise when it's really a pretty thorough biography of those twenty yeas of his life.  It was refreshing to read a biography where the author enjoys Hemingway's writing enough that he doesn't spend the lion share of the book trashing him.  Faults?  Yes.  Monster?  Hardly. 

JAN 7 – CONTAGION

Another solid effort from Soderbergh.  It reunites that Cast of Talented Mr Ripley and then some.  I like it most for surprising us about the characters.  Big stars die and the kinds of characters that might portrayed as sages in other movies are shown to be charlatans here.  

JAN 8 - IDES OF MARCH

Clooney takes the risky chance of directing himself as a not so idealistic politician.  Gosling carries the film more or less with great efforts by Giamatti and PS Hoffman.  

JAN 15 - DRIVE

Stylistic fun amid the grime and dirtbags in the city. Gosling's proves here that he can be play stoic in the vein of McQueen or Russell Crowe.

JAN 16 – BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (Disney)

I took Abby to see the re-release in non 3-D. 

JAN 18 – CALIFORNICATION (2)

The show does characters and dialogue as good as any show on TV, and yet it strives for unnecessary shock value every week.  Like NIP/TUCK they seem to want to touch upon every degradation before they finish.  

JAN 22 – XMEN 4

I can appreciate that it was better than the third film, but I'm getting so tired of comic book movies I was happy when it ended.  

SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT

The comedy that launched numerous imitation especially by Reynolds himself.  The movie is a classic and yet the cause of Reynolds uneven career thereafter.  

JAN 23 – THE DESCENDANTS

I haven't seen the Artist, but it would surprise me if I liked it more than the latest Alexander Payne effort.  Payne has an unusual talent for mixing realism and comedy.  He strikes gold again here.  

JAN 24 - Piece of my Heart by Robert Wagner

RJ tells us about his life spent in and around Hollywood.  I was most interested in his description of the Spencer Tracy mentorship and the strength of the story made me stick around and read the rest.   

JAN 25 –CASINO JACK, CALIFORNICATION (1)

Kevin Spacey plays Jack Abrahamoff in a sympathetic manner placing most of the blame on his partner Barry Pepper and Republicans in general.  I'm sure Spacey is dying to bring a Tony Rezko movie to the screen.  

JAN 26 - Rendezvous with Destiny by Craig Shirley

Shirley's in-depth description of the 1980 campaign and Reagan's journey is one of the best political histories that I have read.  On that same list is Shirley's book on 1976.  I was too young to follow this campaign day to day and the seeing how it came about explained a lot about the personalities that came to national light here and would remain in the spotlight into this century. 

JAN 28 - THE D.I.

Dad saw Jack Webb present this movie in a Chicago Premiere back in 1957, but it rarely comes on television so this was my first viewing.  Webb starred and directed this story about a marine Drill Instructor and how he turns a bunch of kids into Marines.  Webb is surprisingly effective as the sergeant.  I was expecting the campiness of his latter day Dragnet, but the opposite was true.  You can trace R. Lee Ermey's performance in FULL METAL JACKET back to this.  In fact, Ermey may have very well used Webb as a guide to his own days as a Marine Sergeant.  The movie doesn't look down on the military or have any sassy Mathew Modine characters.  It really makes you admire the men who make the Marines.  

JAN 30 – Pauline Kael:  A Life in the Dark by Brian Kellow

Pauline Kael is fun to read even if you disagree with her views.  And I frequently thought she missed the boat.  One thing she wrote that I thought was right-on was her assessment that when you are young you like everything you see because it's all new to you.  As you get older and more discriminating you start to judge movies and genres by your overall film knowledge.  This book is a good comprehensive biography of her life mixing her writing and its impact with her personal trials along the way.  I was surprised that her famous feud with Andrew Sarris was something Kael ignored after she wrote one article attacking the auteur theory.    Like a lot of celebrity biographies you come away glad you didn't know Kael personally while happy that she left her film reviews to history. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

GOSSIP by Joseph Epstein ( A Book Review)

As the subject for a full length book, Gossip doesn’t hold much interest for me. But I read everything Joseph Epstein writes and I have not yet been disappointed. Epstein doesn’t tend to write definitive books on subjects, but thoughtful ones. He explores his experience with a topic and the history of it. Why do we like gossip? How is gossip beneficial and how is it hurtful? How has it been used for good and bad. Sprinkled through this history of gossip public and private are personal anecdotes, some involving notable figures.

 To summarize the section involving gossip in America, Epstein quotes Ben Franklin, the original gossip columnist in his opinion, “…if any are offended by my publicity their private vices, I promise they shall have satisfaction, in a very little time, of their good friends and neighbors in the same circumstances.” Later Epstein shows how high society in 20th Century America sought out the attention of gossip columnists and how Hollywood moguls fed gossip to Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons to promote their films and worry their wayward stars. He shows how Walter Winchell used his gossip column to become one of the most power private citizens in the country and how that hubris eventually led to his downfall. What about modern gossip? 
Like me, Epstein doesn’t recognize most of the names in The New Your Post’s Page 6 Column, but he can see that gossip isn’t about to go out of fashion.

 You come away not sure how much Epstein endorses gossip or dislikes it. But you have a much fuller knowledge of the subject before you began the book. Even if you are not interested in gossip pick up a book of essays by Joseph Epstein and enjoy a great mind at work and play.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paris Trip 2010





A WEEK IN PARIS == March - April 2010
Note: I originally wrote the synopsis after returning, but I didn't like the flow of my prose. Other distractions kept me from re-writing it immediately. With the passage of time I hope to find greater insight from the experience.

SATURDAY March 27 /SUNDAY March 28We flew overnight to get into Europe on KLM Airlines. It re-affirmed that the Dutch are sweet people and the airline was as friendly and efficient as any we ever traveled on. They offered us the last upgrade to something called comfort class, but as I was saying yes and she was typing the information in the seats were sold from under us in a different line. Our person felt so bad she put us in the emergency exit line for no charge, seats that had more legroom than the comfort upgrade. There are places to save money when traveling overseas, but I am a believer that paying for comfort when trying to sleep on an overnight flight is money well spent. Not sleeping enough can make you groggy and ruin a couple of valuable days when you do arrive.
I felt like an old hand walking through the Amsterdam airport. It was entirely different than in 2003 when the experience was dreamlike. The layover in Amsterdam was long, but not long enough to feel comfortable riding into the city for breakfast. Instead we sat at the typical airport cafe with CNN International on the television. Larry King was interviewing SnooopDogg. The sound was turned down so we had to rely on Info Graphics to give us the highlights.



Snoop on Susan Boyle “She is a great talent”

Snoop on Tiger Woods “Everyone makes mistakes”
Snoop on Obama “He's doing a great job”
Snoop on Weed “I only smoke it in a blue moon”
I went up the counter to purchase refreshments and when I returned a new friend was sitting next to Trish at our table drinking one of those strong thimble sized cups of coffee. Now it felt like Europe, the invasion of personal space.



Arriving in Paris: Taking the train from Charles DeGaulle Airport into the center part of the city showed the part of Paris they don't romanticize in Hollywood movies. There are some pretty rundown suburbs on the way in. It reminded me of the drive into New Orleans from Sliddell. The guidebooks cautioned against the train, citing pickpockets. But I hate taking buses anywhere and a cab ride would be ridiculously expensive. Had it been my first trip to Europe I would have heeded the warnings, but I've been enough times now that I'm confident that we aren't the most obvious target anymore. On this particular train another American lady was with two high school aged girls talking at twice the accepted volume begging to be targets of someone. Through good luck it only took one train transfer to be spit out 100 meters from our intended apartment. I still wonder if the loud lady found a predator.

The apartment was in the 6th Arrondissement, on the Left Bank about a 10 minute walk from Notre Dame. The place had a full kitchen, Satellite TV, Internet Connection, and a washer/dryer that allowed us to pack lightly for no more money than a hotel room would have cost.



We arrive at the place at dinnertime so we decided to explore the general area around the 6th Looking for a grocery store. It didn't occur to us that it was Palm Sunday until we saw a flock of worshipers leaving the church with tree branches. Palm fronds must be hard to get in France. We located a little corner market and a neighborhood bakery and enjoyed quiche and baguettes for dinner. Sleeping was easy.

MONDAY MARCH 29Our first stop the next morning was Notre Dame, a ten minute walk from the apartment. I read that the Gargoyles were installed after the Hunchback of Notre Dame book was written meaning that the Disney cartoon was anachronistic. They turn out to be so high off the ground that you can't get much of a look at them unless you want to climb the tower. We decided not to (Trish is pregnant with Emmy, although we hadn't made the public announcement yet). The inside of the church warned of pickpockets, much like the guidebooks, but we got in and out unscathed. One key is never carry a wallet. I stopped doing so anyway several years ago when Kevin said his chiropractor claimed it would put your back out of alignment.





We walked east across the bridge from Notre Dame to Ile Saint Louis, a small river island known for ice cream. We walked down the center street and there were easily 8 ice cream stands within 2 blocks.


Crossing over into the Left Bank we walked along the river heading toward the Louve. The area on both sides of the river house book sellers, and there are plenty of them, although not all of them were open on Monday. It was a shame to be such a bibliophile and not be able to enjoy the selection. A few of the vendors had art work. One guy had a picture of portly Jim Morrison with the caption “Last known of picture of Jim Morrison before his death.”



Morrison who fashioned himself a poet traveled to Paris as the right of passage of any serious American writer. The tradition began with Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald etc. in the 1920s. They only reason they chose Paris is that it was a very cheap place to live after the war. Now Paris one of the most expensive places to live on earth, but the tradition isn't very easily broken. In our lifetime the poor young artists flocked to Prague after the Iron Curtain fell. The rich kids travel to Pairs. 

When people praise the French healthcare system they do not talk about how this once inexpensive place has become one of the most expensive on the planet. I can buy Perrier water cheaper at Publix in Orlando than at the super market in Paris. It's obvious that French politicians are afraid to tax wine and beer though. Or maybe they figure that people are less likely to revolt with a steady buzz from cheap wine. At the supermarket I bought a 750ml bottle of Kronenberg Beer for 90 cents (Euro). The same size bottle of water was 1.40 (Euro).

Eating in restaurants is even crazier. The simplest meal for two is going to cost at least 30-35 Euro. A nicer meal would easily cost 80-100 Euro, and many a gourmet restaurant was charging 400-800 Euro for a meal. We ventured by the cheap cafes that Hemingway use to frequent and ordered an open face melted cheese sandwich with Chicken – 12 Euro.

The writer's of guidebooks are uniformly Left of center and it's entertaining the way they reconcile the great palaces and museums that are a spoil of war and imperialism with their love of European passivity. Not once does an author note that without the European blood lust of the past, few would much care to visit these places today. Rick Steves, the best of all European travel writers, seems painfully aware of this when he suggests in “Europe Through the Backdoor” that people should venture in the quaint villages to see how the locals really live. That idea allows progressive writers the idea that they are catering to open-minded multiculturalists when the average traveler would rather see the castle.

It was mid-afternoon when we arrived at the Louve, and much too late to make the cost of admission worth it. And the line was wayyyyyyyyy too long? Steves gave us a good tip when he suggested the Museum Pass. It allows you into over 30 museums and the best feature is getting through the side door of busy museums. The pass saved multiple hours at the Louve and the D'Orsay.

We sat a while in the gardens around the Louve and eventually got the umbrella out for the first of the rain that we would see every day. The temperature was in the 60s on Monday and that was as warm as it ever got, falling into the 30s on some nights. Continuing West from the Louve we came to the Corcorde, a square with an Egyptian obelisk and roundabout traffic. There is a little fountain pond that we sat by before heading toward the Arc de Triomphe. It's not a bad walk although thousands of years of civilization still have not resulted in the paving of the first half of the path. On both sides of the road were little snack stands selling fresh crapes. Trish tried applesauce and I had fromage. It was a nice change of pace snack.

After the crepes the homogeneous global economy took over with McDonalds, Virgin Megastore, Hagen Daas, Gap etc. littering the street up and down. The sidewalks were nice and wide which was unusual for the city and The Aviators Club Casino was so unobtrusive that I didn't even notice when I passed it.

To get to the Arc you have to do so underground, but we had to walk to the other side of the arc to find the pathway down. Part of the arc was going through a rehab and it was our luck that a little military ceremony was taking place and the entire French Army showed up, pictured here.

Trish had enough walking by that time and we took the Metro back to the place. To our surprise the train elevated before crossing the river by the Eiffel Tower and stayed above ground for several stops before submerging into the 7th Arrondissement. The only negative to this way home is that our normal stop wasn't functioning on this line and we had to find an alternative in the dark.

For dinner we ventured to the American Breakfast, a diner joint opened by an American in 2004. At 9pm on a Monday night there was a line out the door with mostly French college kids waiting to get in for a stack of pancakes or a burger. The burger was much praised online, but it was pretty standard, no better than Orlando Ale House at three times the price. It was a fun place though, and our American waitress mistook us for French with our black garb and laughed when we spoke English back. That's the way it usually went. The French made us for Americans from 20 feet, but fellow Americans thought we were European. I did fool a German once, struggling with French and asking if I could speak English.

Tuesday March 30We had every intention of seeing the D'Orsay, but it was nearly noon when our Orlando-time bodies awoke and the line at the museum was 2 hours long. That's when we sought out the Museum Pass and planned to do everything on Wednesday and Thursday. We strolled the city again on Tuesday and wound up back at the Concorde.I made the mistake of looking at the Metro Map, and a kid spotted me and asked if I spoke English. I nodded and he produced a postcard with a story about how he was a refugee from Bosnia in Paris for the last two months and his sister has leukemia. Could I spare some change? This is something I rarely do, but he just looked too young to want booze and he didn't look like an addict so I gave him some change and then laughed at how I deserved to be taken by staring at a tourist map. About 10 minutes later I saw the same kid eating a bag of potato chips and as we walked further away I felt that I should have given him more money as he had obviously just wanted some food. Later I would read his note is typical of syndicates that hire kids to do begging.Raining again as we sought the Presidential Palace that revealed itself to be right on the pathway behind the crepe stands from the day before. We had to come at it from the back in order to realize where we were. Security was pretty tight and it seemed that Sarkozy must have been at home, although Drudge would reveal that night he was in Washington handshaking Obama. Trish told me of the rumors of Carla Bruni stepping out on the President.Next, we made our way up to the Sacre-Coeur, a 19th century cathedral on the tallest hill in Paris. When we were looking for an apartment, many options were available in the area, but Trish had been to Paris once before and knew the area well enough to steer clear. The litter everywhere in Paris is a bit disappointing. I certainly don't want to hear the French complain about global warming when they can't even pick up their trash. But up in the 16th it looks as bad as Boubon Street in New Orleans or the Red Light District in Amsterdam. The Sacre-Coeur itself is a great location to see the entire city. The only thing missing is the Eiffel Tower that is blocked by buildings in that direction. It took us a while to make the walk up the stairs though, because a strong rain came and pushed us to a cafe across the street. We ate and drank and watched the tour crowds bump umbrellas for 45 minutes before we tried it ourselves.The Sacre-Coeur was the first place where we saw the West Africans, who provide the same nuisance that Bangladeshis do in Rome. They have a dozen scams to get your money and the preferred one is a friendship band they tie to your hand and then ask for payment. We steered clear but they caught quite a few in their traps.After some rest back at the apartment we bought our museum tickets on the Champ Elysees and Trish then sought Ice Cream despite the cold weather. It did bring a heated seating area.

Wednesday March 31Back in 2005, we saw two General Strikes in Italy, with old Soviet flags waving and 1930s type speakers blaring. I half expected Mussolini to show up. The only strike we saw this time was on Wednesday morning. This strike was medical workers complaining about the low wages. I read an article before I left about how French Doctors are unhappy with the money and they argue that it's not a career for upwardly mobile people anymore. And that's kind of the problem with Europe in general. They try to split the pie in so many pieces that no one gets what they earn any longer. The last thing you want in a country is a feeling among your brightest children that medicine is no longer worth the pursuit. How long until we feel the same here?The D'Orsay was a great a museum to see. It was packed full of people and great impressionist and post impressionist works. Renoir, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Cezzane were all thoroughly represented. The Museum Pass allowed us to circumvent the two hour line for a 10 minute one. The downside is that I wasn't able to obtain an audio guide, a favorite accoutrement of mine. Later after we left the museum we realized that we never saw Whistler's Mother. I don't think we missed any rooms. I wonder if it is on loan somewhere.In the afternoon we crossed the bridge to the Louve and gladly bypassed that line as well. Here they had an audio guide, but they were all sold out. On the bottom floor is a sort of reconstructed medieval castle. The first major work we found was the Venus de Milo which was fun to see in person although nowhere near as impressive as Michaelangelo's David. The story goes that it was found on a Greek Island in the 1800s and bought cheaply by a French Ambassador who sent it back to the home country. Now it's priceless, someday to be sold by the French government for more social programs.The Mona Lisa was an experience all to itself. The painting is behind glass with a stanchion around it and then ten feet or so back another wooden barrier making a semi-circle. People were lined up to that barrier 5 deep and holding their cameras above their heads to snap photos. The effect made it seem like a Press Conference. If you were too short to see the painting above the crowd you would have thought that some French movie star was walking down the red carpet or some French President was announcing his resignation. I couldn't figure out why they all wanted their own photos. The glass made a flash picture useless and you can find the image in a thousand places on the net. The painting looked exactly as it was supposed to but the barriers kept you so far away that it could have been a copy from a color printer.Although I had wanted to see the Louve for most of my life we didn't spend more than 2 or 3 hours there. Like the Uffizi in Florence, it's full of old Medieval and Renaissance works that will quickly feel redundant if you stare too long. One thing nice about impressionist art is that each artist has their own look. The older stuff all seems to be a copy of other older stuff. Another thing getting us on our way was the immense crowd. But I probably would have spent twice as long at each place with just a simple audio tour. I wanted more history and the significance weaved into the experience.On the way back from the museum we walked the streets of St. Germain near the apartment and we came across the Supermarket that was closed on Sunday and Monday. The store sold Lays potato chips and Special K cereal like home, although this small store had a cheese selection bigger than any specialty market I've seen in America. I chose a good looking inexpensive bleu cheese that went great with Baguettes. The nearby bakery provided quiche and we had a better dinner than anywhere in the city thus far.

THURSDAY April 1Versailles. Palace to kings and the place where the ill-conceived treaty was signed that many believe led to World War II. It's an easy train ride from the city center and it took about 30 minutes. The suburbs on the way to the palace were nicer than the area from the airport, although the living quarters still looked pretty tight.The palace is quite striking from the outside, gilded at every possible location and expansive. The inside of the palace was much like the Doge's palace in Venice so I felt that I had been there before. Squeezing through some of the smaller rooms was difficult especially when a private tour guide would constipate a walkway to tell a punch line or two. The Hall of Mirrors is the real highlight although I had seen enough pictures to have felt that I had been there before.The landscaped grounds are just as impressive especially in their size. Even standing on the hill they looked like they went on for eternity. The gardens themselves probably look more lush in the summer but the fountains and statues and staircases were everywhere to make up for it. Again the Museum pass made it much easier to enter the grounds.After getting back to the city we saw Center Pompidou, the modern art museum. This was a chance for Tricia to see her favorite, Picasso, since the actual Picasso Museum in Paris is in the midst of a rehab that will keep it closed for several years. The museum building is as unique as anything inside the building. It also gives a pretty decent view of the city when you ride to the top. Like much of modern art, there were some striking pieces, some silly pieces, and many that were meant for shock value.Paris is full of cinemas. I read that Paris has more cinemas than any other city in the world and I can believe it. In the 6th near the apartment movies screens were up and down rue St. Germaine and the Latin Quarter. Many of the screens show American movies in English. The biggest shame is that French thrillers are one my favorite genres and yet you can't find a screen with English subtitles anywhere. It's an incentive to learn French and return some day. Due to Herzog's strong European following, Bad Lieutenant was playing all over the city and reviewed in the current Cahiers du Cinema magazine.That night we finally saw the Eiffel Tower. You can buy advance tickets online to go up in the tower but we waited too late and the line outside was two hours+ according to the experts so we skipped the climb and enjoyed it from the park. We found another market and got a snack and watched the sun go down and the lights go up.

FRIDAY April 2This was the day that we would have gone to Normandy to see the museum and landing beaches, but we instead decided to use the last day to soak up the city. We bought Abby a few dresses and ate at Les Deux Magots, one the Hemingway haunts.We also saw the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore that is right across the river from Notre Dame. It's an English language bookstore opened in the 1950s by an American who studied in Paris. The shop is now run by his daughter. There was a good selection of books, but I hadn't been reading as much as on earlier trips and I still had plenty of material. Like everything else in the city, the prices were steep. The atmosphere reminded me of the French quarter used book stores in New Orleans. The political books dealing with America were anti-American, which seems counter intuitive to why someone would come into an American book store in the first place. The political philosophy books were socialist. No Bill Buckley, no Thomas Sowell, no Milton Friedman. Finding a book by Noam Chomsky wouldn't have been an effort though. Outside of the shop was a short biographical sketch of the founder explaining how Dostoevsky wrote his life story before he was born, The Idiot. It was quite a charming little piece and it made me wish I had met the man.

SATURDAY April 3Friday night in Paris so close to the colleges was not a recipe for good sleep. Add that to my cellphone ringing twice and I was asleep at 11pm, awake by midnight and never to sleep again. Benjamin the apartment owner met us at 5am. He was a gentleman during the entire trip even printing out our boarding passes for the plane. I had luckily collected euro coins during the trip for the ticket machine on the way back to the airport, because the ticket office wasn't manned at 5:15am. We made it to the airport in time to get through inspection and make the plane. The Europeans let you keep your shoes on which is a nice thing. I'm convinced that American airport security has little to do with our safety and lot to do with political CYA.The long layover Amsterdam afforded us a short trip to the city Center where we ate at the Cafe Luxembourg, a place we visited in July of 2003. The weather was actually a bit warmer this time. The city was pretty quiet at 11am.The trip back to the states is the worst part of every European trip for me. It takes longer than the trip over and it's in full daylight making sleep very difficult. Like usual, it was full of kids on their way to Disney World. So what began as a normal flight generally morphs into kids running up and down the aisles. The good thing is that the ear plugs and the eye mask helped me sleep a little to make up for the lost night. I also finished reading a Travis McGee book on the flight.Security coming through Orlando just wouldn't quit. First was customs and only one line for U.S. Citizens. Then we took our bags to another area where they would have riffled through them had we bought any duty-free items. I'm so glad we didn't have time to buy any. After that we went through a line where we once again had to take off our shoes and send our liquids through a conveyor xray. I asked the lady why we had to do this all over again since we had already done so in Amsterdam. She said that we were not sterile entering a sterile environment. I should have scheduled surgery.

PARTING THOUGHTSWe didn't have any experiences with rude Parisians. Now it might have helped that we skipped the high end restaurants, but people were very friendly and everyone except one bakery clerk spoke English. I didn't get any hint of anti-Americanism or superior attitudes. It felt like Paris was a great city for Americans. I was expecting the worst what with their opposition to Iraq. But maybe since the French didn't send any troops to Iraq they weren't really invested in the war the way the English were. Their opposition was theoretical whereas the English are now angry for their involvement. What's one fewer Middle Eastern dictator to them?The most disappointing thing about the trip is that I've seen enough of Europe now that it feels repetitive in places. I've seen so many castles, palaces, and ancient art that I am no longer overwhelmed by the experience and instead feel the touristy element more. To see new unique things like the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower is still great, but the 14th Century painting looks the same in Florence or Paris. When we make it back to France I am looking forward to Normandy and wine country and the French Riviera. I look forward to more of those subdued experiencesThe French are still a great people, but burdened by a government that no longer seeks their greatness. I can only imagine how hard it is for Benjamin and his brother to try and operate a business renting out property. It would be a lot harder than trying to do the same thing in America. The current French system couldn't build a city like Paris, but they do inhabit the one created for them quite well. I can see how Americans with money come to live there and have a hard time leaving. People without money should just wave as they pass by.
I hope to bring the girls back to Paris when they are old enough to enjoy it. I liked it more than I had expected.

BUY A KINDLE

BUY A KINDLE

They looked intriguing at $400, but I never would have spent that kind of money, especially when I wasn't sure I'd like the interface more than a printed book.  The price is right at $114 and I decided to buy mine at Best Buy thinking it would be an easier return if I didn't like it.  I knew I wasn't returning it within an hour.  A deciding factor in the purchase was travel. Lugging books on vacation is no fun especially when you can't predict the variety you might want on a trip.  Another fun reason to own one is the access to thousands of pre-1923 books for no cost.  I read an 1870s biography of Davy Crockett that has long been out of print.  I think what surprised me most is my reading speed has increased due to the mechanics of the device.  With the promise of lending library books coming soon, the Junto Boys could do worse than this handy friend.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Too Tender for Facebook

Too Tender for Facebook

Sometimes I have the hankering to post something personal to Facebook but refrain. Ironically, this blog feels more personal even though it's read by anyone with no "privacy" filters. In the end, I know it'll be my five buddies who'll read it. One of the far lefty's posted in the "Rat's Nest" that he noticed I often agreed with him that Corporations used the Government to enact their policies or regulations against the "little guy" to keep down competition. However, I always offered as the solution less government and term limits for congress. I don't actually "hate" the Federal Government nor my country. I love them both. I worked for the Feds for seven years. I do dislike and work to change the system. The reason I do not rail against corporations is that corporations never reached into my bank account and seized (without cause) money from me, but the IRS did just that. No Corporation ever audited me or threatened me with jail for filing an incorrect form mistakenly, but the Feds via Medicare did that. No Corporation ever kicked my door in and gunned down my family. But the Gov. did that to my Uncle, unjustly. Perhaps my own personal experience has led me to my beliefs that the "Government that Governs least, Governs Best."