Monday, April 28, 2008
I don't know why I bother, but maybe Dude cares. The Pirates released pitcher Matt Morris over the weekend after his 0-4 start and another pounding. It was clear last year, and more so in spring training this year, that the guy had nothing left.
The Pirates acquired Morris -- and his contract -- from the San Francisco Giants July 31 for outfielder Rajai Davis and minor league pitcher Stephen MacFarland. That move, Coonelly said yesterday, "did not turn out to be a sound baseball judgment."
Morris' . . . numbers began to fall off prior to the trade. Those numbers continued to track downward after he came to the Pirates. He was 3-4 with 6.10 earned run average in his 11 starts for them last season.
He struggled in spring training and struggled through most of his 22 1/3 innings this season. "I could feel it all coming to an end," Morris said.
And so could every fan and every opposing batter.
Only a losing club could miss this guy.
"One of the best in the game," first baseman Adam LaRoche said a few minutes after the Pirates officially released the right-hander. "That's what everybody who played with him and everybody who played against him say.
LaRoche, acquired from the Braves who tend to trade up, is hitting .165.
Morris' last appearance will be memorable for all the wrong reasons. He threw 49 pitches in the first inning and was lifted after recording five outs and surrendering six runs. His 2008 ERA was 9.67.
But he still gets paid.
The Pirates owe Morris, 33, a little more than $10 million, which includes the rest of his 2008 salary and the $1 million contract buyout he had for 2009.
At 10-15 (.400), the Pirates are on pace to lose 100 games. And like every year, they realize they can lose 100 games with sucky veterans or mediocre young players, and at least with mediocre young players you can try to sell hope. They announced a paid attendance of 17,588 on Sunday, fielding a 9-15 team that rested comfortably in the basement of their division, with no real chance of competing, and as long as they can draw middling crowds that enjoy a nice day out at the ballpark, they have neither the incentive to staff up with good players nor the means to do so. It's a picture of chronic mediocrity.
Full disclosure: I am part of the problem. I will probably take in four games at PNC Park this year. I enjoy a day out at the ballpark, I won't expect great baseball, I'll be pleasantly surprised if I get some and not too disappointed if I don't.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Republican U.S. presidential candidate John McCain accused North Carolina's Republican Party of being "out of touch with reality" over its refusal to pull an advertisement criticizing Democrat Barack Obama.
"They're not listening to me because they're out of touch with reality and the Republican Party. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan and this kind of campaigning is unacceptable," McCain told NBC's "Today" Show.
This is a Democrat year. McCain can only win if the Democrat is perceived as radical or out of touch. They seem to understand this in North Carolina. Why would a guy who wanted to win speak out against this ad? Obama is friends with terrorists (The Weathermen) and racial agitators (Wright). How can the company you keep not be relevant? McCain is beginning to look like a protest candidate ala Perot.
McCain flirted with party swapping a few years ago. Maybe he decided to stay and hand it to the Democrats?
Asked if the state party's unwillingness to heed his call raised questions about his leadership, McCain replied: "I don't know exactly how to respond to that."
McCain runs the mechanism of the Republican Party but not the Republicans. It's sort of the way that Captain Bligh did it.
Monday, April 21, 2008
I’m way behind. Dude's recent post got me going.
BLACK SNAKE MOAN (2007) Christina Ricci is a nymphomaniac whose boyfriend is shipping out in the service. Not a good combination we can guess. The first plot point is nympho girl refusing her boyfriend’s best friend. He gets angry and beats her up and leaves her for dead on the side of the road. Along comes Sam Jackson who nurses her to health and then ties her up to heal her of her other affliction. And somehow it all has a happy ending. It’s recommended for those who like seeing Ricci scantily clad and like feeling guilty about it even more.
RED ROAD (2006) A Scottish film where the DVD gives you English subtitles by default and you’ll appreciate it about 1/3 of the time. Our hero Jackie monitors security cameras in a high crime area of Glasgow. She’s suffering from the death her husband and child and early on in the movie she discovers the dude who is responsible. Using her power with the cameras and some cleverness, she tries to get even. I can’t say much more without ruining it, but it’s a nice change of pace overall and worth the time.
V FOR VENDETTA (2006) –The basic plot has our masked hero blowing up things and creating general havoc in London set in the not too distant future. It takes a while for us to learn that he is a revolutionary fighting against a fascist English government. It seems that the current dictator and some pals took over Britain after a series of terrorist activities that they themselves orchestrated. That could have actually worked as satire, but this movie takes itself seriously. A little research revealed that the original story was written in the 1980s and it was a nuclear attack and not terrorism that brought about the events our hero fights against. So it was really a reaction to Thatcherism, they just updated the bugaboo post 2001. The big ending that I don’t mind spoiling is V blowing up Parliament, the oldest house of representative government on the planet. For a movie like this to work, it has to have a measure of plausibility. You have to imagine that a country could actually take such a turn. Fascism will never return in the form of militarism. That card was played and defeated by the very same England. Fascism can only return in the crisis of health care and the environment, things that are hard to oppose. In this form it’s no more viable than medieval serfdom. Now forget the politics and the film is stylish and Natalie Portman’s prison sequence was pretty inventive and quite effective. It really had a lot of things going for it except believability.
PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928) Carl Dreyer’s Joan film was thought lost until the early 1980s where a copy turned up in a mental institution. This is not a life of Joan, but her trial and execution. If I had not acted in that Joan of Arc play back in college, I think I would have been lost on the background and characters, because none of that is explained. The politics behind Joan’s trial are not discussed either. I think the story works better in the context of her whole life because it’s more of a tragedy after you’ve seen her heroism. I have to suppose any Frenchman in the 1920s already knew the story and must have understood the tragedy without the prologue. As I have said before, I prefer silent comedies over silent dramas where the broad acting brings intentional laughs. This might be one of the few times where that level of intensity works in a silent drama. There is nothing entertaining here although you can appreciate technique and it will only cost you 80 minutes.
THE LEOPARD (1963) – This is my first Visconti movie and many consider it his masterpiece. I didn’t read anything going in and I was surprised that it’s a costume drama, sort of an Italian Gone with the Wind. Both GWTW and LEOPARD are set in the 1860s, both movies are about a way of life ending, and both movies are epic length. I guess I was expecting all Italian directors of this time period to be practicing neo-realism. What is weird about this movie is that it stars Burt Lancaster of all people and he’s dubbed in Italian. If I’m from Italy I probably don’t notice, but it’s Burt Lancaster and I know too well what his voice sounds like and when he opens up and I hear a husky Italian voice come out of his mouth it feels weird. There is an official release English language dubbed version and I would rent it and see the whole three hours again if I knew it was Burt Lancaster’s voice. I’m interested to see some other Visconti movies to know whether or not this is typical, because this one didn’t really rock me as I had expected, though any guy will appreciate Claudia Cardinale’s presence.
TALK TO ME (2007) – Don Cheadle plays an ex-con who lips his way into a job as a radio DJ in 1960s Washington D.C. The movie is based on the true story of Petey Greene, but rather than a pure biopic, the film tries to be a panorama of politics and race relations in the late 60s. Near the end it changes focus entirely and follows Petey’s manager played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Cheadle proves capable again and Eijofor is every bit his equal. Like most biopics they have plenty to say up front about the rise of a person, but no easy resolution. Sometimes historical figures have not the decency to die a hero or martyr for the screenwriter. Watch it if you’re in the mood for the material or skip it with little regret.
SPIDERMAN 3 (2007) – The first movie in the series was alright. The second movie was an improvement focusing on the conflict between being a hero and leading a normal life. This third film comes out of nowhere as an “everything but the kitchen sink” fiasco with too many villains, too many love interests and too many subplots. They even re-write history a little by having someone else kill Uncle Ben. The Spiderman stories are interesting for their more complex villains, but after three films, that becomes a liability. All the back stories become redundant and you long for one guy to be pure evil just for variety. The character of Spiderman ends the trilogy as more of a psychologist than a super hero. And that could have been fine had they focused on Peter Parker’s complex relationship with the new Goblin. I suppose that was too cerebral for the producers who wanted action scenes that would play better overseas. So we’re introduced to the Sandman and Venom two more bad guys that don’t mean it. They really set themselves up for a great third movie and didn’t deliver.
I AM LEGEND (2007) I would usually skip this at the theatre, but Sir Saunders and the boys were going to see it so why not. I thought the trailer looked interesting and the reviews were decent too. It based on the same source material as THE OMEGA MAN, and this one has better production values. Just a character with the whole of Manhattan to himself gives the movie an intriguing pull. It also has Will Smith going for it, a real movie star in a time of few. The plot has Smith as last man on earth fighting a gang of vampires that only come out at night. The movie grabs you in many kinds of ways. I especially fell soft for the dog, having lost my own this past year. I AM LEGEND is a vehicle movie in the best possible way.
CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938) – Gene Lockhart seems a bit too old to play Bob Cratchet and the translation isn’t nearly as grim as later ones. I guess that a plus after seeing ignorance and want between the legs of that second spirit in so many films. Lionel Barrymore was supposed to star as Scrooge, but the arthritis that would later render him to a wheelchair prevented it. If you can find a copy you have to hear the Barrymore radio interpretation of this material. Reginald Owen steps in and does a decent enough job as Scrooge. The 1951 version outdid this.
CHRISTMAS CAROL (1999) Patrick Stewart as Scrooge this time. He’s got the accent down from birth. The rest of the film follows as expected. I kept thinking that this could be a signature take on the tale, but despite Alistair Sim’s 1951 version, I still think the best telling of this material is yet to come.
My Grandmother Syble is 93 years old. She still has her cognitive faculties and is very aware. I had the wonderful privilege to live in the same town with both sets of grandparents (maternal and paternal) . My Grandmother Saunders had a profound effect on my life. She was always the happiest person I knew. She has a wonderfully optimistic attitude about life, even to this point. At this writing, she is in the hospital in the cardiac wing and denying any "extraordinary" interventions. My father says that she has a smile, even through the pain. She faces the spectre of death with the same courage as she has faced life. The family is waiting and watching.
Syble Saunders passed away peacefully in her sleep early morning on April 24, 2008.
Syble was born in 1914 to a privileged southern family. She grew up, upper middle class for the time, and attended college (unheard of for her generation of women). Her father was the first to have an airplane in the county and her grandfather opened the first peanut oil mill in the State of Georgia. Her father was a traveling salesman most of his life. Her mother also worked at the local Jewelry store. The great depression hit her family very hard. Her Grandfather spent most of his fortune helping the town stay afloat and he even underwrote the local bank so it would stay solvent. While many small town banks went belly up, no one in town lost their money thanks to the goodwill of Syble's family. She married my Grandfather Bartow in 1934 and moved to Bonifay, where she resides to this day. She was certainly the power behind the throne and even managed my Grandfathers companies (which included a small-town Bank) for a number of years until she retired at 85. She taught me to play golf, to paint pictures with oils, to cook, and was the most progressive Grandmother in the universe. When I was a young teen of 16, she gave me the key to their beach cottage because, "A hotel was no place to take a young lady, so you all go to the cottage and have a nice visit there instead." But more than anything, she gave me the courage and strength to believe I could make the most of myself; believing in me when I didn't know if I could even believe in myself.
by Syble Saunders
written on February 11, 2004 in response to a letter I sent her asking "Why have you remained so happy all these years?"
1. Joy and peace that Jesus gives me that passes all understanding.
2. Happiness from being loved by all my family and friends.
3. Happy Memories of my life with Bartow.
4. Happiness my grandchildren have always brought me. To watch them grow up and have children of their own. My great grandchildren, now this is Happiness that is indescribable.
5. I have a happy attitude toward life. I guess my mother taught me this, she was always happy. I can remember her singing as she dusted the house!
6. Happiness means being contented in whatever you do----no matter what it is.
7. Happiness is believing in myself and what I can do----with the good Lord's help.
8. Enjoy each day of life, and live by the golden rule–Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
9. I live by the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:16-23), Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, and Gentleness, and Self Control.
10. Ephesians 6:10-18. Every morning it makes me happy all day to have a quiet time in which I can put on the Whole armor of God. I also set this time to read my devotional, clear my mind of Earthly things and pray. Paul says in Chapter six of Ephesians, to put this on so you can fight off the schemes or on slaught of the devil and stand firm against him.
These are a few of the many things that made me happy. I feel so blessed. I never feel lonely, I never feel alone. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. I hold each day's gifts in my heart with Joy. Realizing the shortness of life, and Joy brings peace, and Peace brings Happiness.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
- Professional baseball began near Pittsburgh in 1876 with independent teams barnstorming the area. The strongest of these organizations joined the American Association as a founding member in 1882. This early team played across the Allegheny River in what was at the time a different city, named Allegheny.
- After five mediocre seasons, the Alleghenys became the first AA team to switch associations to the older National League in 1887. Upon joining the NL, the team renamed itself the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, although Allegheny remained a separate city until it was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907. First calling themselves "Pittsburgh" in 1887, the team did not play it's first game in Pittsburgh until 1908.
- In 1890, upon the collapse of the Players' League, the Alleghenys inherited several local players. Due to a procedure mishap, they also acquired a highly-regarded player from Philadelphia, which upset the Philadelphia Athletics of the AA, leading to cries of piracy. Although the club was cleared of any wrongdoing, the Alleghenys sportingly renamed themselves the "Pirates" for the next season.
- The Pirates lost the first modern World Series in 1903 to the Boston Pilgrims. In 1909, the Pirates won the first World Series to go all seven games, over the Detroit Tigers. In 1960, the Pirates became the first team to win a World Series on a walkoff home run and are still the only team to have done so in the seventh game of the series.
- The Pirates have never developed a Hall of Fame pitcher. There are HOF pitchers who have pitched with the club but the closest they have ever come to developing one was Burleigh Grimes, who came up with the club then spent his best years in Brooklyn before reprising his career in Pittsburgh for a few years towards the end. He won 48 of 270 career victories while with the Pirates.
- The first ever MLB game broadcast on the radio was a contest between the Pirates and the host Philadelphia Phillies on August 5, 1921, carried on KDKA-AM Pittsburgh. The longest relationship between a sports team and a radio station was ended when the Pirates moved to an FM talk station for the 2007 season.
- In 1948, the Pirates completely overhauled their team colors from red, white, and blue, to black and gold. Red returned as an accent color in 1997. In the late 1950's, the Pirates popularized the sleeveless jersey look. In 1970, the team introduced pullover spandex uniforms, which were adopted by most other teams by the end of the decade. They were then one of the last teams to switch back to the traditional button-down style in 1991. The club also were innovators of the alternate jerseys during the late '70s when they would mix and match from four different looks.
- Slugger, Ralph Kiner, led the NL in home runs for seven consecutive seasons (1946-52), despite the club being one of the worst teams in the league during that span.
- The foundations of the franchise's renaissance of the 1960s-70s was built by GM Branch Rickey. Rickey put into place one of baseball's most successful farm and scouting systems and made baseball fans of Latinos with Roberto Clemente in Pittsburgh as he had done with African-Americans a decade prior with Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn.
- Manager, Danny Murtaugh, is widely credited with inventing the concept of the closer by frequently playing pitcher Elroy Face late in close games.
- On September 1, 1972, the Pirates became the first MLB team to field an all-black starting lineup: Rennie Stennett, Gene Clines, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen, Dave Cash, Al Oliver, Jackie Hernandez, and Dock Ellis.
- During the 1979 championship season, a Pirate player was designated as MVP in every available category: All-Star Game MVP (Dave Parker), NLCS MVP (Willie Stargell), World Series MVP (Stargell) and NL MVP (Stargell, shared with Keith Hernandez of the Cardinals).
- On June 8, 1989, the Pirates became the first team in MLB history to lose a game in which they scored ten runs in the first inning. Broadcaster, Jim Rooker famously proclaimed after the inning that he would walk home (from Philadelphia) if the Pirates blew the lead. He fulfilled the vow after the season by organizing a charity walk between the two cities.
- The first combined extra inning no-hitter in MLB history took place at Three Rivers Stadium on July, 12, 1997, with Francisco Cordova pitching the first nine innings and Ricardo Rincon pitching the tenth. Pinch-hitter, Mark Smith, ended the contest against the Houston Astros with a three-run walkoff home run in the bottom of the tenth to preserve the no-no.
- The Pirates have not had a winning season since Sid Bream crossed the plate in the 1992 NLCS. With an expected sub-.500 season this year, they will tie the all-time record for futility set by the Philadelphia Philles from 1933-1948. They are a favorite to break the record in 2009.
ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939) - Cary Grant never made a movie that wasn't worth watching and neither did Howard Hawks. This is the epitome of a four-star film, not quite a five-star classic, but so worthwhile, even 70 years on, that you'll be glad you lent it an evening. I really enjoyed the sense of place it gave me - I felt I knew the people, their way of life, and the relationships and motives of all the principles. I liked Jean Arthur's sense of independence yet her desire to tame the untamed Grant. I love Grant's way of being cavalier yet sincere in that fun way of his. It's a treat whenever I get to see a film like this for the first time.
GONE BABY GONE (2007) - I really liked the story. It's based on a novel from the writer of Mystic River which explored similar territory. Casey Affleck is great as the lead. He's a youthful PI whose specialty is getting information from people who don't talk to the police. He grew up in the toughest neighborhood of Boston and knows from high school all the thugs who run its underbelly. He's living and working with a woman who looks like Daphne Zuniga and we take it on faith that we know her type since their relationship is not properly set up. Writer/director Ben Affleck does a good job with the atmosphere, deliberate pacing and plot point curveballs, making for a fine film experience. One of the better films from last year.
THE TIN STAR (1957) - Hank Fonda as a retired sheriff turned bounty hunter comes to town to collect some cash and finds young Tony Perkins wearing a badge he hasn't earned. Perkins is gung-ho enough but the town seems to take orders from the burly bad guy who is always rustling up a lynching party. Perkins takes back the town, burly guy gets his comeuppance, and Fonda rides off with a lady in the end. All very enjoyable.
THE MACHINIST (2003) - Tom reviewed this film a few years ago and I don't disagree with his assessment that it is a hidden gem. Christian Bale plays a guy who is atrophying away and we're not sure what his issue is as we spend some crazy time with him as he attempts to piece it together. It's a bit of a contrived story, but parts of this film have managed to stay with me over the months since I've seen it. Werner Herzog says on the commentary of Rescue Dawn that he did not like this film though he loved Bale's performance. There are some storytelling tricks at work here but it is intriguing throughout with a clever wrap-up.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (2006) - It's not god-awful but it's just not the type of film I enjoy. Cadence deemed it her all-time favorite film upon seeing it in the theatre a couple of years ago, and I finally got the chance to see it while I was at the in-laws' house on vacation. It's fun and it's not horrible. I thought Ben Stiller was good the way he played the character - he seemed to believe the goings-on without being too silly about it. He's a good everyman, not too much of a loser or a hero. There is some silliness in the script but it doesn't come across as amateurish so I can see how kids can like it.
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (2007) - It seems about twice as long as its running time suggests even though it is mostly music I love. The singing voices are great but there are no wondrous re-imaginings of any of the songs. I did very much like what they did with I Wanna Hold Your Hand, turning it from a sing-song artifact to a plaintive call of feminine yearning. The story is just there to hang the songs on - you never really care for any of the participants, although you do get to see Evan Rachel Wood's boobies, which are perfect in the youthful suppleness. Director, Julie Taymor, is the female Tim Burton - all visuals with no sense of pacing.
THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED (2005) - A documentary about the MPAA rating committee which is veiled in secrecy even though it is purported to be comprised of ordinary parents like yourself, it is interesting enough but never rises above your standard televised documentary fare.
TOWN AND COUNTRY (2001) - It's in theory a comedy, starring Warren Beatty, Gary Shandling, and Goldie Hawn, all well past their prime, although all three are still enjoyable. It was written by Buck Henry, who also once did good work. Jenna Elfman shows up to ruin a few scenes and just about nothing works as they attempt to imitate a farcical thirties era comedic vibe. Beatty gets laid repeatedly and that's all that really matters. Dearly departed Chuck Heston shows up as a gun-toting protective daddy.
THE PARADINE CASE (1947) - It's a Hitchcock film I had never seen until recently. It didn't work at all for me and afterwards, I remembered that this is considered one of the clunkers in an otherwise legendary career. I didn't realize that Gregory Peck was supposed to be British until I saw him in the barrister's wig. He's not even attempting an accent. The woman who is supposed to be transfixing him is kind of a blank slate so I didn't buy that relationship for a minute. I liked the wife character, who had some good speeches, even though I never quite believed the notion that their marriage was threatened. The courtroom scenes are boring. When the film ended, I had question marks for pupils - it's just a bad film.
ELEPHANT (2003) - Hailed by some critics, this uber-realistic mood piece is one of the most boring films I have ever endured. In fact, I watched most of the first hour on fast forward since it was comprised mostly of tracking shots of high school kids walking the halls between classes. There was occasional dialogue but it was all ad-libbed and meaningless. The movie is basically a day in the life of normal kids at Columbine High School and how it is interrupted by surprise gunfire. I guess Gus Van Sant was going for the sort of film that was ultimately done much better by Paul Greengrass with United 93. It is difficult to watch and not for the reason intended.
Friday, April 18, 2008
I post this only because it is such a great paragraph. Peggy Noonan's point is that Michelle Obama is not your prototypical first lady. The Obamas are finally being explored and exposed, and what's not to like.
All first ladies, first spouses, should be like Denis Thatcher, slightly dazed, mildly inscrutable, utterly supportive. It is the only job in the world where "seems slightly drugged" is a positive job qualification. The key is to know you are not the drama, you do not draw the lightning, you are a background player who yet has deep, unseen power. (The "deep, unseen power" part keeps you serene and energized. The constant possibility of quiet revenge keeps one peppy.)
Thursday, April 17, 2008
From what I'm reading this morning in the post-debate coverage, I'm glad I skipped the debate. Sounds like it was as unwatchable as all the others have been. What but Obama-sniping could you expect from former Clinton superboy George Stephanopoulos?
So far we haven't heard specific workable proposals from the candidates about how exactly they would solve energy dependence, soaring food prices, illegal immigration or outdated farm subsidies.
There has been no new solution offered about the looming Social Security crack-up. Few candidates have expressed novel ideas of stopping staggering deficits or bulking up a sinking dollar -- much less exactly the sacrifices necessary on all our parts to restore American financial solvency. No one has offered a better way of dealing with an ascendant but lawless China, an unhinged Iran or the ongoing war against Islamic extremism.
The networks assume we don't care about the issues--or rather, that we'd rather watch installment #803 of the Natalie Holloway non-story--and I guess Fox News' ratings prove they are right. Blame it on O.J.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
During the debate tonight I saw a commercial for dividedwefail.com. They want to see an end to the partisan bickering (and reach across the aisle) to get things done. The premise, of course, is that gridlock is bad.
We believe all Americans should have access to affordable, quality health care.
All Americans should have access to affordable health care, including prescription drugs, and these costs should not burden future generations.
Wellness and prevention efforts, including changes in personal behavior such as diet and exercise, should be top national priorities.
Americans should have choices when it comes to long-term care - allowing them to maintain their independence at home or in their communities with expanded and affordable financing options.
Who isn’t for affordable health care? But what is affordable? Is it worth having mediocre health care if it’s affordable?
No one is for wellness and prevention more than me, but how can you make individual choices a top national priority? And if you make health care “affordable” doesn’t it offer less incentive for the personal behavior push?
How do you finance long-term care? The people getting the care will not live past the need of the care and will thus be unable to make their payments.
We believe all Americans should have peace of mind about their future long-term financial security.
Our children and grandchildren should have an adequate quality of life when they retire. Social Security must be strengthened without burdening future generations.
Workers should be provided with financial incentives to save, should have access to effective retirement plans, and should be able to keep working and contributing to society regardless of age.
Americans of all ages should have access to tools to help manage their finances, and save for the future and better, easy to understand information to help them increase their financial literacy and manage their money wisely.
Like the platitude in the first section. The word “adequate” can mean anything. Simple math will show you that Social Security cannot be strengthened without burdening future generations.
Social Security has created the disincentive to save. The problem is that people do not realize how little money Social Security will pay them. Had the program never been invented, people would be saving more today. Everyone has access to retirement plans. “Effective” is another great sounding word that has relative meaning. The best retirement plan is getting the government to let you have your money back.
The third desire can easily be a part of public school curriculum, but that would take teachers who understand money and they weren’t taught these concepts either.
We stand as strong champions for the new American dream -- to build a 21st century America where these issues are paramount so that all people can have the opportunity for a prosperous future. We also believe that individuals, businesses, health care providers, non-profit organizations, and government must work together to find solutions - personally, privately and publicly. We represent tens of millions of Americans and we believe that all of us share a responsibility for making our society work and restoring peace of mind to all Americans.
This is a fine sentiment, but society is having trouble working because of too much involvement by do-gooders and technocrats. If they hadn’t included government in the solution I would applaud such a statement. But you don’t include the government in solutions, because they don’t partner with anyone. They only participate by regulations, laws and demands. Once you get the government involved, the other groups are merely ceremonial.
There are 300 million of us in this country and there are no solutions for 300 million people. If individuals only had these wasted resources back, so many of these issues would be nonexistent.
Hilary Clinton was asked about the D.C. gun ban and whether she agreed. She said that local areas should be able to make their own regulations. Her answer needed a follow-up. Senator Clinton, do you think that localities should also be allowed to regulate 1st amendment rights or other rights protected in the constitution? Stephanopolis and Gibson didn’t think to ask it.
Monday, April 14, 2008
I can't wait to see this movie, from this great "super trailer" of 7 minutes, it looks like Ben Stein is tackling a subject that many sweep under the rug. This is no different though than what has been happening in academia for decades. In 1994, I read a study about the homeless that was very politically incorrect for it's day (stating that over 90% of the homeless were there by choice and mainly due to drug addiction). This study was initially banned for not supporting and furthering the liberal ideology that the homeless were a result of capitalist profiteers. This new movie seeks to shed the light that academic freedom is the freedom to say any liberal, left-wing thing you want but God help you (no pun intended) if you say something that is furthering a religious view point.
By now I'm sure you have heard of Obama's comments calling rural, small town citizens in Pennsylvania "bitter" and thus they "cling to guns or religion." What is interesting to me is, why is this news? This is no different than what any elitist northeastern neo-hippy dope smoking FM type thinks and says everyday. Unfortunately for Obama, perhaps a straightforward honest man, he is coming to the realization that America is a conservative country. I certainly do not cling to my guns or religion out of some bitter resentment at the "man"; rather, I support the 2nd amendment because I believe that in order to insure a free society then common man must be armed. This is the belief of the founding fathers and will soon be reaffirmed (for the first time in American history) by the current supreme court. I do not cling to religion because I am afraid or bitter, rather I do so because I believe in a loving and omnipresent God that has my best interest at heart. I do not profess to understand it fully, but I believe nonetheless.What Obama will learn, and Hilliary and McCain will use, is that small town America is not to be trifled with. Mondale learned this, Dukakis Learned this, and now Obama will also.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Turner Classic Movies ran a ten-year-old interview with Chuck Heston on Friday Night. When they got to his politics, Heston said that that there were more closet conservatives in Hollywood than closet Homosexuals.
There are a few ways to being rightwing in Hollywood. One way is to be up front about it and then make liberal themed movies. This seems to be the approach of Clint Eastwood, a man who used to send criminals to the eternal dirt map, and now tries to exonerate them. He was a man that once created iconic American heroes and now questions the authenticity of American heroism.
Another way to be conservative in Hollywood is to make conservative movies but criticize conservative politicians. Mel Gibson, for instance, makes movies about Scottish and American independence and knocks Bush for freeing the Iraqis.
I have recently noticed a third way. Tom Hanks identifies as a Democrat and supports Democrats financially, but he makes conservative films. He has now produced three mini-series for HBO and nearly 30 hours of programming and I have yet to hear a liberal note. Hanks might see himself as a progressive of some sort, but his inclinations are about American exceptionalism. FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON and BAND OF BROTHERS are about individual bravery and the greatness of Americans without the usual mitigating political correctness that the heroes fail to achieve.
There was a time when Democrats would make these kinds of movies when America was in a war, but doing so now could justify current American wars so they make Redacted, Platoon, etc. Not only is the war wrong now, but individual Americans that fight the wars are wrong. For most filmmakers, our national character on-screen has gone from hero to animal in two generations.
So it’s hard to figure Hanks among their ranks. He’s like a criminal that can’t retire after a few scores. His crimes must get bigger and the chance of getting caught must be greater. And JOHN ADAMS is his latest caper. Here you have the founding fathers, the essence of libertarianism. And while you can cherry pick quotes from Franklin or Jefferson to demonstrate “leftwing” thoughts, Adams is an out and out conservative. He hated the French Revolution and instead respected the gentile traditions of England. So here you have Hanks who not only lionizes a bunch of dead white men, but he finds his hero in the least radical among them.
JOHN ADAMS is a thoughtful and unique mini-series with the brilliant Paul Giamatti in the title role. The series captures these men as real men and these issues as unsettled and need of leadership. It’s easy for us to say the creation of America was so natural, but the men that sacrificed to bring us this nation had to fight every step of the way and we see it episode after episode. We don’t get the white man of privilege arguments that are so common on college campuses today. Through four episodes the only patriot villain is the authoritarian Alexander Hamilton, a man who doesn’t like our hero.
There’s a great scene after the war is over when Thomas Jefferson comes to Paris to take over as ambassador for the aging Ben Franklin. The three men discuss politics and the future of the nation. Already we see the schisms that will breakup the friendship of Adams and Jefferson and we see the great shame of it as the same time. It’s also touching because we know it’s the last time we’ll see Franklin on screen. He delivers a short piece about the tenuousness of a new nation and how it will be hard to keep it together. He anticipates the in-fighting at the beginning of the new nation and the cause of our eventual Civil War.
There was a time in this country and in Hollywood where Democrats were as Pro-American as Republicans, but I don’t remember it. I was born during the summer of love. Tom Hanks may not see any politicians on the Right he can agree with, but he also has nothing in common with the “G-D America” candidates either. Whether it’s by calculation or instinct, Hanks has inoculated himself against his political leanings by supporting the “correct” candidates. It’s a small price to pay for the work it allows him to do.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Elect me and the government will hand out free money to poor souls who need it. The Sun has been running stories on how well this works -- lottery winners who wasted their little money buying lottery tickets then wasted the millions they won and now are working stiffs again buying lottery tickets.
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Rangers' centerfielder, David Murphy, has become the unlikely hero of my fantasy outfield. His namesake, a Cleveland student, has become the unlikely hero of his classmates:
The thing I take away from this story is that in our culture, we are taught from a very young age to obey authority and know your place and fall in line and don't make waves. On a school bus, your place is to sit there and obey the driver. You may talk quietly but mainly it is best if you just sit there and shut up. It takes a special kid to leap into action despite that lifetime of training to stay put.
The 11-year-old boy who steered a runaway school bus to safety said Wednesday he did it because he saw a truck coming at them and because his brother also was on the bus.
David Murphy said he worried afterward that he might get in trouble for jumping into the driver's seat, but he said police and fire officials reassured him that he did the right thing, and so did his classmates.
I love the quote. A more rambunctious kid may have realized the opportunity for an adrenaline rush and taken the bus into traffic. This kid had the common sense to aim for the pillar. I laughed out loud when I read the quote because it sounds exactly like something I would have said at that age. This kid is my new hero. I would wager that David will grow up to be a self-made man. Most of the other kids who just sat there wondering what was going to happen will end up more like the bus driver, a 57-year-old guy who left the engine idling while he went to take a whiz.
David was among 27 students headed to a charter school on Monday when the driver stopped at a service station, pumped about $40 of fuel and went into the rest room while the bus engine idled. In his absence, the bus began rolling down a side street that swoops through an industrial area and was on a collision course with an oncoming tractor-trailer rig.
David said he looked up and saw the truck approaching.
"I hurried up and turned the wheel so I could get out of the truck's way," David said.
After dodging the truck he aimed the bus for the last pillar on a bridge to avoid going farther down the steep hill. "There was nothing good down there," he said.
Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller apologized for suggesting Republican Sen. John McCain doesn't care about people because he was a Navy fighter pilot who dropped bombs on Vietnam.
Rockefeller supports fellow Democratic Sen. Barack Obama for president. He made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in The Charleston Gazette in his home state of West Virginia.
"McCain was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit. What happened when they (the missiles) get to the ground? He doesn't know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues," Rockefeller said.
He said he called McCain to apologize.
"I made an inaccurate and wrong analogy, and I have extended my sincere apology to him," Rockefeller said in a statement. "While we differ a great deal on policy issues, I profoundly respect and appreciate his dedication to our country, and I regret my very poor choice of words."
John McCain's ass-kissing the opposition hasn't yielded the high-minded campaign he expected.
Monday, April 07, 2008
The Bucs are down 7-0 with 1 out in the top of the third inning of their home opener. I am now officially a Phillies fan.
UPDATE: What is it that keeps a fan so loyal to their team? I kept listening to innings 3 thru 9, saw 10 and 11 on TV, and missed the 12th in which the Cubs pulled ahead and won, 10-8. I ended up being rewarded with a great ballgame. I didn't quit and neither did they.
Baseball is a funny game.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
I saw Charlton Heston in person one time in Pensacola. He talked about his career and signed a few autographs. He had recently appeared in TRUE LIES and told us that James Cameron asked him to take the role as boss because he needed someone who could be intimidating to Arnold Swartzenegger. He marched with Dr. King against the establishment and then later in life he took on the liberal Hollywood establishment with his conservative viewpoint. In the movies he played heroes who did great things.
He had a great sense of humor guest hosting Saturday Night live twice and poking fun at his reputation and screen image. His interview with Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine is quite illuminating. Heston is kind to Moore even as Moore goads him. He comes off as a decent guy. He will be missed.
DARK CITY (1950) – Interesting in that Harry Morgan and Jack Webb (later of Dragnet) co-star with Heston and Ed Begley as a group of con men that dupe Don Defore (Thorny from Ozzie and Harriet). Heston has the presence in even his first film.
THE TEN COMMANDMENT (1956) – The role he will forever be remembered for. I’m sure this was the first time I had ever seen him in a film. I remember being fascinated the way Moses throws his staff down and it turned into a snake. Think of Eddie Robinson saying, “Where’s your God now, Moses?” We somehow started saying that to each other during poker games.
THE BIG COUNTRY (1958) – Gregory Peck is the main star in this all-star cast. Heston is a great in the supporting role of ranch foreman. Heston tells a story in his book about Peck and Wyler getting into such an argument over a scene in this film that they didn’t speak to each other for years.
THE BUCCANEER (1958) – Cecil B Demille produced and Anthony Quinn directed. Quinn was married to Demille’s daughter. Heston is Andrew Jackson and Yul Brenner is the pirate Jean Lafitte. The background is New Orleans and the famous battle.
TOUCH OF EVIL (1958) – Orson Welles was signed to play the heavy when Heston was offered the lead. He suggested that Orson direct and he said the response was no different than if Heston had asked if his mother could direct. They did allow Welles to direct and it became one of his signature films. The movie takes place just across the Mexican border where Mexican Heston and his new wife American Janet Leigh get embroiled with crooked cop Welles. I had the fortune of seeing it on the big screen after the 1997 re-mastering using Welles notes. Great Henry Mancini soundtrack. Heston only wished he’d given his character a Mexican accent.
BEN-HUR (1959) – All those Oscars and that chariot race that can be watched again and again. I liked the way Wyler always obscures the presence of Christ. That he isn’t seen by the camera makes him seem more holy.
EL CID (1961) Heston said that this would have been an all-time classic had William Wyler directed it. I remember it being somewhat interesting but it doesn’t really stay with you as it should.
THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY (1965) – Heston plays Michelangelo and Rex Harrison plays the Medici pope insisting that he paint the Sistine Chapel. The movie begins with a travelogue of the Chapel and the paintings in color. It now seems outdated since the restoration has brought out the colors more vividly. Still, Heston is great and the film is really compelling.
WILL PENNY (1967) – Subdued realistic western with Heston as a scraping by cowboy when he meets Joan Hacket and her son on a journey of their own. It’s much more about character and subtle attraction than plot which I can’t even remember. Heston said that Joan Hackett was perfect in the role.
PLANET OF THE APES (1968) – This is the second Heston film I watched as a boy. I stayed up late on Saturday night to be horrified by the statue at the end. No one to discuss it with was the hardest part. But it really stuck in my consciousness. Looking back, I was supposed to be anti-nuke. But the message I took was that America had to protect itself against all enemies. I wonder why we didn’t see chunks of anything else?
THE OMEGA MAN (1971) – From the same source material of the recent I AM legend. Heston as the last man on earth after germ warfare killed most humans and rendered the rest of them mutants. It’s a pleasure to see Heston machine gun those mutants every time.
SOYLENT GREEN (1973) – The third in Heston’s post-apocalyptic trilogy. Heston plays a New York City cop in the horrific 2022. Eddie Robsinson plays his sidekick and pal. Heston wrote a lot about his friendship with Robinson and how he died a week or so after shooting his last scene in this film. You either know the punchline to this or you don’t but it is an interesting film to see. What’s great about all the trilogy is that it shows how much those worries were unfounded and how America and world are much better off.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS + THE FOUR MUSKETEERS (1974) – Richard Lester shot these comedies together and released them back to back. Heston plays the infamous Cardinal Richelieu, a looming figure in both pictures but no the focus. I liked them a lot as a kid, but when I saw the first one a few months ago it didn’t retain the same magic, although I still enjoyed it.
HAMLET (1996) – Kennth Branaugh’s full length film of the famous play is full of stars. Heston plays the leader of the actor troupe in the play within the play. It was inspired for Brannaugh to think of Heston and his Shakespeare experience. The film itself is interesting although I don’t know why the director decided to set the production in the 1800s.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY (1999) – Oliver Stone movie about the politics of the NFL. Al Pacino plays the coach of the Miami team. It’s probably full of too many stars to really take seriously. Cameron Diaz owns the football team. The quarterback controversy between Dennis Quaid and Jamie Foxx. Heston has a small part as the NFL Commissioner. I thought it was okay when I saw it but I don’t remember many details.
New York Times Obit
Thursday, April 03, 2008
It's time to buy stock in chicken wire because it's going to take a lot of it if we are to start rounding up Chinese-American engineers in the aerospace and tech industries.
Prosecutors called Chi Mak the "perfect sleeper agent," though he hardly looked the part. For two decades, the bespectacled Chinese-born engineer lived quietly with his wife in a Los Angeles suburb, buying a house and holding a steady job with a U.S. defense contractor, which rewarded him with promotions and a security clearance. Colleagues remembered him as a hard worker who often took paperwork home at night.I was always amazed at the amount of paperwork he would take home every night. I also wondered why he had a camera in his cigarette case and an ethernet port in the heel of his shoe.
The Chinese government, in an enterprise that one senior official likened to an "intellectual vacuum cleaner," has deployed a diverse network of professional spies, students, scientists and others to systematically collect U.S. know-how, the officials said. Some are trained in modern electronic techniques for snooping on wireless computer transactions. Others, such as Mak, are technical experts who have been in place for years and have blended into their communities.
Does anybody doubt that our grandchildren will be learning Mandarin in school and calling their principal "Chairman"? We teach our children Kwanzaa and Earth Day while the Chinese learn English and calculus then come take all the good jobs. Our cultures are polar opposites - ours is obsessed with the next quarter while theirs is equally concerned with the effect of every decision on their grandchildren's grandchildren. It takes us only a few months of crazy profiteering in the lending markets to nearly collapse our economy while the Chinese have the patience to seed our tech industries with loyalist moles who will not pay off for decades. It's just a matter of time before they rule the world.
"Chi Mak acknowledged that he had been placed in the United States more than 20 years earlier, in order to burrow into the defense-industrial establishment to steal secrets," Joel Brenner, the head of counterintelligence for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in an interview. "It speaks of deep patience," he said, and is part of a pattern."
The Mongols took it to you on horseback and it was hard not to notice you were being invaded but this is an example of a modern invasion. It will not make the headlines and we will barely see it coming but some day we will suddenly realize that we are no longer the sole superpower.
At least the Bush administration has had the foresight to buck public opinion (and international treaties) to weaponize space. It was the great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu in The Art of War who taught us to always keep the high ground.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
I thought it took a lot of nerve for the national parties to penalize states for moving their primaries, especially since the states pay for the primaries. But if the point was keeping states from moving primaries in the future, seating the delegates anyway erases any benefit the penalty might have had.
This is the same problem Democrats have in foreign policy. They love laws and they hate enforcement. It's why they support the United Nations 17 resolutions against Iraq, but oppose Bush enforcing those resolutions. And they wonder why they struggle for credibility.
He died over a week ago, but I just heard the news. Widmark seemed to be transitional figure between the classic actors of early talkies like Gable, Cooper, and Grant and the method actors like Brando and Clift. He had the approach of the former and the intensity of the latter. He didn’t make his film debut until he was 33 playing a psycho in the movie, KISS OF DEATH.
Looking over his filmography, I realize that I have seen far fewer of his films than I would have predicted. It’s a credit to his skills that I think of him highly with only a few examples.
KISS OF DEATH (1947) – A great debut and it impressed audiences enough that he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. He lost to Edmnd Gwenn playing Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street.
PANIC IN THE STREETS (1950) – Elia Kazan film that pits health official, Widmark against a gang of outlaws on the lam and carrying a deadly plague. Like a number of early Kazan films, it doesn’t seem dated. Widmark is solid, but not as interesting as the villains led by Jack Palance.
NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950) – In my opinion, Widmark’s best performance and one of the great noir characters of all time. I first saw the early 1990s remake with Robert Deniro and I liked it enough, but I was really impressed with original. After seeing both I understood why the remake received such low marks. Widmark is a hustler trying to promote a boxing match and getting into all kinds of trouble along the way. It would be hard for me to rank the greatest noir films since so many great ones exist, but I can’t imagine this one not being in the top ten.
THE ALAMO (1960) – Like a lot of Widmark’s later ensemble work, The Alamo mixes him in with other big actors. Here John Wayne (who also directed) plays Davy Crockett and the consistently wooden Lawrence Harvey plays Colonel Travis against Widmark’s Jim Bowie. I remember Widmark being mostly wasted in the role and the film being a little too plodding at nearly 3 hours. Maybe I was ruined by seeing the Disney version first which plays more like a romp.
JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961) - Widmark plays the prosecutor to Spencer Tracy’s judge. His screen time is significant and his role is crucial to the storyline. The most interesting thing about the movie is it’s a liberal justification for doing the sort of thing that liberals now abhor, making evildoers pay for their crimes. Like all the late Stanley Kramer/Spencer Tracy collaborations, Spence gets a huge moralizing monologue rumored to be shot in one take.
HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962) – Told as a long history lesson, none of the actors or storylines spend all that much time on screen, Widmark is overshadowed by John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck and Henry Fonda. I saw a pan and scan version on VHS as a kid and it kind of ruined it for me. Ron Howard used this film as an example of why Letterbox makes all the difference. It was shot in the wide wide format of 2:59 to 1. The widest modern movies are 2:35 to 1, with the common ratio being 1:85 to 1. That ratio was meant to be project on curved screens something like I-Max, but it never took off as a format.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974) – Agatha Christie whodunit with a cast of stars big enough for three epics. Widmark’s role is crucial and yet it’s the surprise ending that I remember most.
ROLLERCOASTER (1977) – Timothy Bottoms plays a deranged guy who likes to blow up roller coasters and kill passengers. Widmark shows up in a smaller role so you can say, hey that’s Richard Widmark.
HANKY PANKY (1982) – I was 13 or so when this came out and like all things Gene Wilder I watched it again and again on HBO, proving that kids will watch anything. I seem to remember that Widmark was the villain and it was directed by Sidney Poitier, who starred with Widmark 30 years earlier.
TRUE COLORS (1991) John Cusack plays the scheming social climber while his pal, James Spader plays the moral guy. Widmark plays an aging Senator that Cusack tries to blackmail to get ahead in politics. It was Widmark’s last film role and he was so interesting it is a shame that he spent the last 15 years of his life with no further roles.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
McCain would do well to get Dennis Haysbert signed up to narrate his ads. (Trouble is, Haysbert would have a hard time ever finding work in Hollywood again.)
Throughout the series , Palmer's role as President is often vital to the successful foiling of terrorist plots. Palmer is seen as a good leader who makes difficult decisions without much hesitation. On several occasions, his intervention as President and the execution of his Presidential powers helped the Counter Terrorist Unit.
Yesterday was Obama's Iraq Withdrawal Day. The Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007, which he described in a speech on the Senate floor on 1/30/2007, called for a phased redeployment of US troops and 100% removal of US combat troops from Iraq by 3/31/2008. Earlier that month he had opposed the surge, saying "we will not in any imaginable way be able to accomplish any new progress." A few months earlier he had declared Iran and Syria benign observers of Iraq. His public statements took the usual "make love, not war" or "talking is acting" tone. See this article at American Thinker for details.
Rasmussen reports that her support is slipping significantly in PA.
Support for Clinton slipped from 52% early in March, to 51% in mid-month, 49% a week ago, and 47% today. During that same time frame, support for Obama has increased from 37% to 42%
She needed a big win in PA and it does not appear she's going to get it.
I'm not sure why people needed to be reminded that the Clintons lie without conscience, but apparently they did.
Forty-seven percent (47%) say they have followed news stories Very Closely about Clinton’s Bosnia misstatements. Another 27% have followed those stories Somewhat Closely. Overall, 19% consider that issue to be Very Important in their voting decision.
Although, in fairness, most of those who said her lying was "very important" to them were Obama supporters. Clinton supporters know the Clintons lie, but heck, so does everyone. It's a postmodern thing.
Meanwhile, these findings do not bode well for Obama's candidacy:
Clinton voters, by a 64% to 26% margin, believe that American society is generally fair and decent. Obama voters are evenly divided—45% hold that optimistic view while another 45% say society is generally unfair and discriminatory.
Nearly half his support is from the blame-America crowd. The Politics of Victimization is a high-stakes gamble that I hope will not carry the day. This is why McCain is running an ad right now that oddly describes him as "the American candidate Americans have been waiting for." Obama will be on defense for months. He will be asked to produce evidence that he loves America and all Americans. I haven't seen anything yet that he can use to make that case. The only evidence he can produce is linked to his work through the Trinity UCC and he won't want to go there.
Like Tom, I'm not a McCain fan but I do enjoy watching the Democrats screw it up again.