Sunday, August 31, 2008
Here's how the left is going after Gov. Palin.
1) She is presently under investigation in Alaska for abuse of power
2) She strongly supports big oil (her husband works for oil company BP)
3) She believes creationism should be taught in public schools
4) She is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and incest
5) She has no federal or international experience. Prior to being governor (for less than two years) she was only the mayor of a small Alaskan town and a beauty queen!
6) She believes global warming is a farce and is opposed to listing the polar bear as an endangered species
7) She stands for everything that Hillary Clinton stood against
8) She supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and anywhere else big oil wants
9) She supports Pebble Mine which will destroy the richest salmon run in the world
10) She supports aerial shooting of bears and wolves in Alaska
11) She is pro-war
But the attacks are missing the point. A lot of reporters are missing the point. The GOP does not expect to, and does not need to, pull hardcore Ds over to R. That isn't going to happen. All they need to do is sway unaffiliated, undecided voters in the middle, and the early Rasmussen polling augurs well for the GOP. If it holds up that 9% of Hillary supporters are considering voting R, that is a tremendous boost to McCain. Palin made a highly favorable first impression (unlike Quayle, who was forever saddled with his negative one), with 53% positive overall and 63% among unaffiliated voters. Biden had a 43% positive after his introduction. The initial enthusiasm could wane, of course -- or could grow stronger.
I've watched some video of Palin and read a lot of reporting since Friday noon, and she has good answers to most of these attacks, at least as I see it.
1. Innocence is the best defense in a court of law, but the court of public opinion will be swayed somewhat by the endless repetition that she is under investigation. From what I have seen, there is not much to the charges in point of fact.
2. Alaska has oil that only Big Oil can get out of the ground. She is extremely knowledgeable about energy issues at a time when somebody needs to be. Her husband quit his job to avoid conflict of interest concerns when she entered negotiations with Canada over a new pipeline.
3. The context of her remarks about teaching creationism is that we should not stifle ideas and debate if we want to call it education, and that she was not advocating making creationism an official part of the curriculum. Likewise on global warming.
4. I haven't seen anything on this, but she was raised in an Assembly of God church which was likely very conservative "fundamentalist" and of course she brought her own "defective" baby to term.
5. Does any governor? She negotiated a major deal with the Canadian government, which is more than most governors have done, and dare I say more than Obama and Biden combined.
6. She sits on a grizzly bear in her office. I'll take that over nuanced global warming double talk.
UPDATE: Her dad shot the bear.
7. Good. So do I.
8. Fine by me. Americans want to drill. McCain should announce on Thursday that he wants to drill in ANWR and offshore and in his own backyard. It's a winning issue. He can finally call the environmentals on their stubborn high-minded idiocy, flip flop be damned.
9. I don't know anything about this. I like salmon though, and it's easy to cook.
10. The criticism is probably overstated, which won't be the first time or the last.
11. No one is pro-war. Some of us are anti-passivity in the face of real and gathering threats.
Count me among the wave of new enthusiasm for the Republican ticket.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Palin [Rick Brookhiser]
I have not had a TV to watch all week, though I have had internet, so I have followed the Palin pick entirely through the medium of the Corner.
I share the initial reservations of David, and to a lesser extent, Jay. The Palin pick shows a low opinion of the vice presidency, and it shows conservatives in a bad light.
1. The Vice Presidency. Either McCain thinks the war on terror isn't serious, or he thinks the vice-presidency isn't. Since the former is obviously untrue, it must be the latter. McCain is certainly following a very old conception of the job. One nineteenth century veep was reputedly so underutilized that he kept a tavern in his home state. But that is not our conception. Vice Presidents have grown in clout and responsibility. In the last fifty years, four former vice presidents have run for president (Nixon, Mondale, elder Bush, Gore), two of them successfully, while since Carter/Mondale, veeps have been given more and more to do. McCain, bless him, intends to do everything himself. Good luck! Perhaps the Palin pick is a sly diss both of Obama/Biden and Bush/Cheney. Palin will go to funerals.
2. Conservatives. Palin will also be assigned to pacify conservatives. On the evidence of the numerous emails reprinted here, that will be easily done. Reader after reader said that the base was now energized. You would have thought the base was energized by being in a war. If not, perhaps we need a new base.
We have shown the same color-by-numbers mindset that liberals did when they rallied to Obama. Liberals love Obama because he is a Numinous Negro. Conservatives love Palin because she has a Downs baby and an M-16. For both sides, that is all on earth ye know and all ye need to know. You might call it mystical and childish.
May I be so wrong that a hundred harpies will pluck my eyeballs.
The wheels are in motion for McCain to reverse course on ANWR, a winning issue.
Energy: Sarah Palin is right on the energy issues. When you are the governor of Alaska, that's a big deal. She is way ahead of Obama, Biden and in fact McCain on this issue. She also wants to take McCain to ANWR and show him how ugly the area is that would be set aside for drilling. That's a bold stance.
A photo like this would be political suicide for a John Kerry type. It is not very nuanced. Can you think of a national Democrat who could look comfortable in this crowd? The woman hunts moose -- and then eats them! And that BOLSTERS her credentials!! I am really enjoying this. For the first time in my adult life, I am excited today about this campaign.
I came upon a lengthy old interview with Gov. Palin on CNBC tonight regarding Alaska's oil reserves. Palin came across as well-informed, articulate, pragmatic and apolitical. And likeable, very likeable.
CNN has been repeatedly airing the footage of Palin firing a deadly weapon. I laugh with joy every time I see it. I hope they show it a million times. It was probably a mistake to say to my wife that that was the sexiest thing I had seen in a while. Consequently that may remain true through the weekend at least.
Friday, August 29, 2008
A friend just asked for my thoughts on the pick and I share them here with you.
My initial thoughts:
- It undermines the "lack of experience" message that he has been pushing.
- He just blew his momentum. I thought he would go for the safer pick in Romney, and thought he should.
My thoughts a couple hours later:
- She brings new attention to the "drill here, drill now" message. That is a winning message for McCain I think, and a point of disagreement between the two parties. He needs a few clear points of disagreement after the Reaganesque speech we heard from Obama last night that tried to co-opt a lot of the traditional conservative message. Alaska is home to oil reserves, and Alaskans favor drilling. She can give cover to McCain to change his mind about ANWR.
- She is clearly pro-life, in a dramatic way. GOP can assail Obama on his radical pro-death positions.
- She's a mom. She is married and presumably in a good faithful marriage. She has 5 kids AND a demanding high profile job. She has something for everybody.
- She is a fine looking woman. She is going to generate interest just because men like to look at attractive women. (And so do women.)
- She supports and emphasizes McCain's no-pork message which has been getting lost so far. That message appeals to libertarian types. Esp. after Obama's "policy speech" last night where he promised a chicken in every pot and subsidized fuel to cook it.
- It draws attention to the fact the Dems are all talk and no action. Actually nominating a woman within an inch of the presidency is historic and bold. Although it is somewhat maddening as an American citizen, I do sort of like about Bush that he is all action, no talk. There is something macho and cowboy and quintessentially American about that. Don't know if I'd call it representative government in action but it has shades of nobility and of American individualism. Anyway, my point was that the GOP just did what the Dems did not do. (We assume for this point that Hillary is a woman.)
- He needs headlines because he himself is so dang boring. This definitely helps him in that area, that of making news and staying relevant and getting the attention off of O. Esp. after the wild Obamarama last night in Denver, he needed to do something splashy to mitigate O's bump.
- We elect based in large part on resonance and likeability. Our choices as consumers (of candidates and otherwise) are largely emotional. I don't know Gov. Palin at all but her bio suggests that she brings likeability which is important.
- It builds on McCain's major brand (maverickness) and shores up his major weakness (moderateness).
- Also I note that his team demonstrated a very impressive ability to keep a secret, which I like in a president. (And it makes me uneasy, but for our purposes here, let's leave it at I like it.)
Rethinking my initial thoughts:
- She does lack experience. But she has experiences that real Americans can relate to, which is worth something. And you can still credibly say that Obama lacks experience at the top of the ticket which is much more significant than lacking experience at the bottom of the ticket. And you can say that the voters of Alaska are satisfied with her executive performance, to the tune of an 80+ percent approval rating.
- McCain didn't really have positive momentum as much as Obama had negative momentum. The gap was closing not because of McCain's strength but Obama's many and real weaknesses. This creates an opportunity for McCain to actually create some positive momentum heading into the convention. It will also get some people to watch the convention who otherwise wouldn't, esp. after the snoozer convention we just sat through this week. She's an unknown, so people will be curious to gawk at her and meet her. Romney not so much.
So overall I started cold and am warming to the pick.
It doesn’t matter what Hilary says in a speech, she sounds too grating when she says it. Not an ounce of warmth in that woman when she speaks. She reminds you of that nasty substitute teacher or the ex-wife that wouldn’t stop nagging. Nancy Pelosi is no where near as smart as Hilary, but she at least comes off as a warm person. I kept hearing about how great Hilary’s speech was last night and if that’s her level of enthusiasm at her best, boy did my ears benefit from the results of the DEM primary.
BILL AND BIDEN
Bill Clinton pulled a Reagan and reminded Democrats that they need another guy who sounds like Clinton. And then Biden stepped forward and nearly did it. Watching Bubba this election cycle has been most enjoyable. All the embellishing, finger pointing, and self-aggrandizement was there and yet directed toward other Democrats. All the criticisms that Democrats had been defending for 16 years suddenly became their criticisms. The speech was like Hawaiian Punch. It was sweet, went down smooth, and consisted of nothing but empty calories. A day earlier he said that voters have a bad habit of choosing inexperience that will fail to get things done over a veteran that can deliver. But the next night he loved Joe Biden and he loved Barak Obama while anyone who pays attention knows that he wants McCain to win so that his wife can run in 2012.
Biden was impressive though. He’s a hard guy not to like. When he says God bless our troops and God bless America it sounds like he means it. Kerry couldn’t pull it off when he was reporting for duty. Most Democrats don’t even think of saying it. But it kills them with middle class Americans. I would much rather live in a country where all Democrats said that sort of the thing naturally and from the heart.
Biden also sounds like an adult on foreign policy when other Democrats merely nay say the Bush policies without any solution outside of kissing up to Europe. But these strengths could also be a weakness for the ticket. Biden reminds voters that Obama is a lightweight on foreign policy. And the McCain ads showing Biden’s agreement with McCain and belittling Obama can certainly pique the interest of voters just now paying attention. Do voters elect Obama because Biden agrees with McCain? It’s possible that centrists will see that Biden offers the ability to elect the handsome Obama with the ideas of McCain. But Biden’s previously favorable quotes might immunize McCain from attacks on his foreign policy ideas.
Why Democrats didn’t nominate Biden? Because of the speech he gave. The Democrats who pull the strings and push the buttons don’t want to hear about fighting radical Islam and God blessing our troops the way Biden puts it. They want to hear about Gitmo prisoners put to bed without their supper after losing their Korans down the john.
One central idea that Democrats harp on is the rich getting richer, shrinking middle class, economy in a shambles. We hear it every time and it’s always anecdotal. This time they add foreclosures and gas prices. But why is it that Democrats are always harping on money problems and yet they do absolutely nothing in their government run schools to teach kids about money. The mortgage crisis is the direct result of using school hours teaching kids to bugger each other instead of the financial impacts of compound interest. I guess the cynic would say that teaching such things would deprive Democrats of the opportunity to “solve” people’s problems.
Democrats have somehow been given the reputation as a party that is good for the economy because Clinton was fortunate enough to be checked and balanced out of his own economic ideas during the last 6 years of his presidency. But isn’t it amazing that despite the war and the housing problems, the economy is still chugging along? I’m better off than I was 8 years ago, financially and personally. But I don’t credit that with any politician.
I know some real accomplished Democrats. These are people who worked hard and were promoted on merit. They’ll complain about people shirking their duties at work and then fall for some politician complaining that the middle class are victims of the system. You can make a good living in this country with average intelligence if you commit to getting the job done. Life offers us all temporary setbacks, but in my experience permanent victims are the result of the choices more often than circumstances. Politicians can always find an individual to support any point, but how many victims do each of us know personally that didn’t bring the misery on themselves?
Like most Democrats Obama is obviously thin skinned about the patriotism question. He lent a whole section of his speech about it. Can you imagine a Republican having to defend his love of country? The question is never whether or not any particular Democrat loves his country, who can really say what lies in anyone’s heart? But Democrats open themselves up to the suspicion by criticizing the things about America that make America exceptional. Lower taxes and economic freedom built this country. To say, as Obama did tonight, that Republicans give rich people money is a Marxist bastardization of who earns the money and how it’s done.
Most Democrat proposals could be summed in the theme that Europe has it so why don’t we? And then we continually hear how the world has grown sour with us. Of course you have to follow that with a declaration of how you love your country. But if you want your country to be like someone else’s country where does your heart lie? If you kept telling your wife that she isn’t emulating Angelina Jolie to your satisfaction, do you think that she might question your relationship?
Obama has the added problem of the GD America preacher and the terrorist Bill Ayers listed as compatriots. It doesn’t mean Obama agrees with them, but does Obama have any Chicago friends that are outspoken patriots?
Barak Obama comes off like a decent enough guy. He’s not condescending like Gore and Kerry. But he follows the same tradition of matching victims to government solutions. He wants a world-class education system with merit-pay and standards, two Republican ideas that have always been thwarted by Democrats, teacher’s unions, and monopoly government schools. You’ll find a seagull on Pike’s Peak before that one comes true.
He also promised a tax cut for 90% of the people in the country. Clinton promised that too in 1992. Ha Ha. Republicans might as well say they favor universal health care, because they are more likely to deliver on that than a Democrat tax cut.
I loved the confetti at the end of the speech after hearing about how green the whole thing was going to be. Oh, I’m sure it was made out of dry Japanese noodles and will be eaten by birds before dawn. I see Gore made it to town, probably a 3 month journey by pack mule in order to save energy. But what am I saying? The whole convention was one large carbon offset, because it will result in their victory and thus their power to drive us back to the cave men days so the planet is safe for caribou.
Monday, August 25, 2008
With the Democrat Convention beginning tonight there is a hint of justice that hasn’t been much discussed even by political pundits. The Clintons rode into Washington almost 16 years ago. It doesn’t seem like a longtime ago, but it is the equivalent to when Barry Goldwater lost and Ronald Reagan won.
It wasn’t enough for the Clintons to occupy the White House. They also needed to occupy the moral high ground. These children of the 1960s were going to right the wrongs of their parents and grandparents except when they were useful as some sort of prop so that Clinton could refer to himself as a child of WWII or the Depression or whatever real challenge his parents generation lived through, he skipped the hard road. His cabinet would look like America, meaning that he would scrape three deep to get a female Attorney General, going all the way to a Miami prosecutor. If you were a minority and a female, the staff would refer to you as a twofer. Jocelyn Elders was the most famous of the twofers. Now it was Clinton’s right to pick who he wanted and let Congress decide if they were qualified, but it did no honor to those chosen to say they were considered for their looks. Isn’t that just what Gloria Steinem didn’t want?
The Clintons brought a lot of baggage into 2008. They probably didn’t think that their “looks like America” stance would be anything but a positive. After all, they were here to let you nominate the first female president. But what happened? Hilary has always been a smart political ideologue and she saw it as her strength. And she decided to run a campaign based on experience and the issues, two things decidedly not superficial. But along comes the guy who just looks like he should be President according to their standard. He’s warm and she’s cold. He’s new and she’d old. But even more important, he comes from a demographic background more victimized than hers, a background less represented in society.
How many times do you think during the debates that Hilary wanted to blurt out that Democrats were choosing symbols over substance? Yeah, and who taught them that? And when would Democrats ever get another chance after all these years of having the radical likes of Sharpton and Jackson and Maxine Watters spoiling things?
Hilary had her opportunity it 2004 and she skipped it hoping for a wide open race in 2008. She did everything right, even sending her operatives down to Iowa to get the dour Kerry nominated. You could make a case that Hilary’s pragmatic approach to the war could have beat Bush in 2004. She would have easily won the nomination in that crowd, but she ducked it.
The Clintons brought identity politics into the mainstream and finally poetic justice makes them a victim of it.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Bad journalism does not.
Research by a Washington State University linguist found that people who tell bad jokes often endure an astonishing outpouring of hostility from the listeners.
"Astonishing"? "Outpouring of hostility"? A nasty glare is more severe and traumatic than I realized, I guess.
"These were basically attacks intended to result in the social exclusion or humiliation of the speaker, punctuated on occasion with profanity, a nasty glare or even a solid punch to the arm," said researcher Nancy Bell.
Hate the joke, love the joker.
The bad joke used in the research:
"What did the big chimney say to the little chimney?
"Nothing, chimneys can't talk."
The responses to this childish riddle included insults, glares, silence or even blows.
Among the range of responses, maybe blows represent an astonishing outpouring of hostility. But even then, they would have to be some pretty serious blows, more than the disapproving punch to the arm.
There are several reasons for the strong responses.
First, such canned humor often disrupts the natural flow of conversation. And jokes that fail to deliver humor are a violation of a social contract, so punishing the teller can discourage similar behavior in the future.
Finally, a stupid joke insults the listener by suggesting that he or she might actually find it funny, Bell said.
That makes sense. But did it require research? Fortunately no tax dollars were harmed in the implementation of the research. This sounds suspiciously like a study that was conducted as a vehicle to deliver preconceived findings. Me, cynical?
The chimney joke made it into 207 conversations. An astonishing 44 percent of the reactions were classified as "impolite," intended to deeply embarrass the joke teller. The toughest responses came from people who knew the joke teller well, she found.
Again with the astonishment.
Children were especially hostile to failed humor by their parents.
Don't I know it. But I am determined to keep trying. Thankfully Junto Boys are more forgiving.
I am suffering a version of this phenomenon. My kids keep asking me to tell them funny made-up stories like I did when they were two, but now the threshold of funny is higher and I fear not clearing it and violating the social contract. The worst of it is, they remember the details of those silly stories that I have long forgotten and they want me to tell them the same way.
Thankfully, failed humor is relatively rare in the U.S., where laughter is prized, said Bell.
Is it me, or did that statement contradict the whole slant of the article? Is this what they call journalistic balance? Balancing statements that make a point with statements that invalidate the point? I thought an astonishing 44 percent responded impolitely.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
There has been much ado about the great Michael Phelps endorsing "Frosted Flakes" (They're GRRREEAAAT!). The food Nazi's would have us all eating "organic" fruit, driving electric cars, living in Yurts, and clothing our children with hand spun sack clothes. In defense of our Olympic champion's decision (I'm actually eating a giant bowl of Frosted Flakes now with banana and soy milk---sorry I'm allergic to cow's milk and Dean tells me that anything that can turn a 50 pound calf into a 500 pound cow is not something I want in my body) I shall write this entry. So in tribute to our advanced society that enables Processed foods to exist at all, I present my personal list of favorites. Now when I say favorite, I don't mean, "Oh this is good." I mean when I eat this stuff I'm like, "Ohhh, aahhhh, sweet lord, this is so insanely good."
1.The wonderful Chick-O-Stick, made in a factory somewhere in Texas, this is a regional Southern favorite. I was in withdrawal when living in Massachusetts and later Chicago and only was able to enjoy it during travel back to my homeland. It is something like a butter-finger without the chocolate and with a bit of coconut. Delicious.
2. Funyuns, have no real Onion in them (except for Onion powder) this is Cindy's favorite too. They are horribly addictive and I've never been able to stop at just one. They are salty and tangy and oh so good.
3.The Atomic Fire-ball. This one is the fotter of many a mythic moment from my childhood. I remember a lot of rumors going around. One kid said they called it "Atomic" because it was made from real atoms and likely radioactive. Another kid said that he knew of a kid, up north, who managed to fit 10 into his mouth at one time and was subsequently pronounced dead after his heart stopped from the heat. (Likely the kid was set "up North" because all the great Southern myths about buffoons usually involved a Yankee). In about 1995, I was driving into Chicago to go to class when I pulled off the road in awe. There, right by the interstate was a huge old brick building with a sign that said, "Home of the Atomic Fire Ball." I pulled off the exit to see if I could get a tour of the factory but alas, the man at the gate chuckled and smiled and said, "Son we don't give tours here." I didn't even get a sample, but I'll never forget the day I almost got to see how they were made.
4. Circus peanuts, oh circus peanuts. I had a very bad experience with you once. I loved you dearly, but my oh my. And that's all I can say about that.
5. Whitman Samplers was my Grandparent Saunders' favorite. My Grandfather Bartow used to buy these for my Grandmother when they were "courting" back in the 1930's. He was rather poor and this was a real treat back then. Every year then after, for over 60 years on their anniversary he would buy her this box of chocolates. We would all share them. I never could quite figure out where the good ones were and where the "weird" ones were, but it was always a surprise. I guess Forrest Gump was right.
6. Hershey's Kisses have always been my favorite. My Grandmother McWaters would keep a bowl of these in her living room and dole them out in exchange for Grandchild kisses. It was a fair trade and we were happy with the barter. I liked them because you could hide a few in your pocket just before church and they would be nice and soft by the time the preacher started. It made church more bearable. But if wasn't careful and accidentally got some of the tin-foil wrapper in my mouth and bit down, the electrical charge caused by hitting my fillings would send a shiver down my spine.
7. Fruit Striped Gum (with the Zebra). This is hard to find now. It was a favorite of my Uncle Dwight and we would chew it in church or when working in my Grandfather's garden. Delicious. The flavor was intense for about 30 seconds then would wear out after about 2 minutes.
8. Coke products. I love Coca Cola, I even loved the movie the "Coca Cola Kid" about Coca Cola and a love triangle with a crazy old man in Australia. Coke, it the greatest. It even has it's own myths. I enjoyed all Coke products as a kid and love it even more now as an adult. Now, I take Coke Zero, a dash of Vanilla, and 2 ozs of Knob Creek Bourbon, mix and sip. That is a satisfying drink.
9. It wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that "Icee" was a brand name. I thought it was the name for a type of drink. My Dad was/is very impulsive (usually in a good way) and would often yell to my brother and I, "Hey boys let's go get an Icee." We would go down to the Tom Thumb and get one. They were so good and satisfying on hot Florida Summer days. On our trip to Yellowstone, my Dad admitted to me, "Sometimes even now, I'll get an Icee at the store and think about you boys when you were kids." I smiled and nearly choked up and admitted I did the same and thought about him. I have a good Dad.
As a side note, Dude once chastised me for eating too much processed food at the Movie theater after enjoying a huge buffet at the, now defunct, Morrison's Restaurant. So I humbly dedicate this blog entry to Dude. After writing this blog, I now perhaps know what he meant about "careful observation."
I listened to an interview this morning with Reds GM Walt Jocketty on the fine XM Radio program hosted by Mark Patrick and Buck Martinez, which made me think about the Big Red Machine, which made me wonder whatever happened to Pete Rose, Jr. who languished long in the minor leagues.
The answer is, he is still playing professional ball at 38. His brief call-up to the 1997 Reds was his only stint in the bigs, where he managed 2 hits in 11 games. He sports a .263 lifetime average and 1,556 hits in the minor leagues. He has played professionally for at least 23 teams. He played for a while with the Reading Phillies and Pete Rose would sometimes be in the stands. I don't remember whether I ever saw Sr. at the ballpark or just heard about it.
Like his dad, Pete Rose, Jr. ran afoul of the law and is not in the Hall of Fame.
In November 2005, Rose Jr. was indicted for distributing gamma butyrolactone (GBL) to his Lookouts teammates in the late 1990s. GBL is known to be sold under the counter at retailers as a sports performance enhancer as well as a sedative. When taken orally, GBL is converted to the "date-rape" drug GHB [gamma hydroxybutyrate]. Rose Jr. pled guilty to this charge on November 7, 2005, claiming that he distributed GBL to teammates to help them relax after games.
On May 1, 2006, Rose Jr. was convicted on this charge and was sentenced to one month in federal prison, from June 5 to July 5, 2006. , and house arrest for 5 more months after release from prison.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Is there a better story than Nastia Liukin winning the Gold medal in the all-around? Her parents are former Soviet gymnasts who fled the country at their first opportunity. The kid looks Russian and sounds so American. They chose to be Americans to determine their own lives and their daughter honored their adopted country. Bela Karolyi has been honoring his country since his defection here in the early 1980s. I can think of no better contrast between an American-by-choice and a born-American than Bela Karolyi cheering Nastia in the studio next to an uncomfortable Bob Costas.
What’s impressive is that she won despite the bias against her. It was obvious in the first two rotations that the Chinese team only needed to show up to get a score whereas every slight American error was compounded in the minds of the judges. The uneven bars were a big frustration. And yet Nastia and Shawn Johnson came back and nailed the horse and the floor and even the judges couldn’t stop them.
I didn’t see the team Gymnastics event, but I read the stories of how the suspected gamesmanship from the Chinese. My friend Sean -- the citizen of the world guy -- felt that it was wrong of them to complain, but as I pointed out, the real mistake was allowing a totalitarian country to host the Olympics. Why should we think that they believe in any measure of equity? Oh sure, the country jails bloggers and blackmails Yahoo, but they’re choir boys when it comes to running sporting events.
Now China did a fine job with opening ceremonies, the facilities look great, and the Chinese athletes have been much more gracious than the Soviets of old, but they haven’t earned the honor. Yes we do business with them, but like that scene in Godfather II where the old guy tells Michael – “Your father did business with Hyman Roth, but your father never trusted Hyman Roth!” You invite them to the Olympics so that their people can get a glimpse of freedom, but you don’t reward a country with full membership to the International community until they respect the rights of their own citizens.
One more thing on gymnastic scoring . . . How does a person with a daughter stand it? The kids have been doing gymnastics since they could walk and it all comes down to some anti-American bias. I think it would be my tendency to push them toward a sport with an objective winner.
But what makes the Olympics great is that we get to meet such great Americans. You certainly don’t meet them in the media. And you wouldn’t even meet them now except NBC paid a ton of money to televise the Olympics and can only make that money back by showcasing American contests. I can almost hear crotchety old Frank Deford bemoaning it on his Wednesday NPR segment.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
McCain talked to the football team at Nancy's high school as his VP pick looked on. The coaching staff also listened in, and two lunch ladies, which boosted McCain's numbers.
Inspired by the Beijing opening ceremonies, team comrades (formerly "players") no longer wear unique numbers and about half have visited the new state-appointed barber.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The Russians are now telling the world that soft power is, well, soft. Moscow doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, the European Union, the World Court at the Hague, or any finger-pointing moralist from Geneva or London. Did anyone in Paris miss any sleep over the rubble of Grozny?
More likely, Putin & Co. figure that any popular rhetoric about justice will be trumped by European governments’ concern for energy. With just a few tanks and bombs, in one fell swoop, Russia has cowered its former republics, made them think twice about joining the West, and stopped NATO and maybe EU expansion in their tracks. After all, who wants to die for Tbilisi?
Russia does not need a global force-projection capacity; it has sufficient power to muscle its neighbors and thereby humiliate not merely its enemies, but their entire moral pretensions as well.
Russia declares: "We're back, baby!!" Perhaps words from O-ba-ma! will settle them down.
WALL-E (2008) - Some hate it (my in-laws) but most love it (film critics). I loved it as well, especially the cinematic first hour spent on Earth. I liked the character of Wall-E quite a bit and I loved the visuals and the humor throughout.
KUNG FU PANDA (2008) - I was convinced by the trailers that this was going to be stupid so I was pleasantly surprised by one of the most entertaining animated films I've ever seen. There were some great scenes and the script was true rather than aiming at toddlers. It wins an Oscar any year without WALL-E.
TIME BANDITS (1981) - It feels more dated now but still resonates as the touchstone arty picture of my youth. The visuals have stayed with me since I last saw it over twenty years ago. It's not a perfect film but it's one for the vault. I watched it as a kid and now I've shared it with my kids. It's just creepy enough that it should stick with them for awhile.
THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS (1989) - I remember wanting to see this when it was released and here it is nearly twenty years later when I get my chance. I liked it quite a bit. Michelle Pfeiffer is timeless beauty with bonus acting skills and I am quite the fan also of the Bridges brothers. I appreciated the lingering quality to the simple story from the writer/director.
THE CIRCUS (1928) - Lesser Chaplin is still plenty good. Mason and I were cracking up over the high wire sequence.
FATTY ARBUCKLE SHORTS:
FATTY'S CHANCE ENCOUNTER/FATTY AND MABEL'S SIMPLE LIFE (1915)
CONEY ISLAND/THE ROUGH HOUSE/GOOD NIGHT, NURSE!/BACK STAGE/THE GARAGE (1917-1919) - My first taste of the legendarily tragic Arbuckle gave me a good overview of his brand of comedy. I got a DVD with four featurettes in which he broke Buster Keaton into the business, then I caught the two earlier shorts on TCM. Fun Arbuckle factoids: (1) Fatty was his stage persona, he preferred to be addressed as Roscoe; (2) Here is the man who literally invented the pie in the face gag; (3) His terse scripts would generally run only a single page and here again is the man who coined the phrase "cut to the chase". Something else that surprised me was his habit of looking into the lens which immediately called to mind both Benny Hill and the Skipper, both rotund students of the master.
61* (2001) - The storied 1961 season starring Mantle and Maris as told by Mr Saturday Night is a decent little film about a living legend and a modest man performing legendary feats. The actors do a first-rate job of characterizing these guys though the film fails to be memorable aside from the excellent dual leads.
MONKEY BUSINESS (1952) - With this much A-list talent involved (stars Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe; director Howard Hawks; scribes IAL Diamond and Ben Hecht) one might expect more than this silly nonsense. At least there are a few memorable scenes of inanity.
HELLBOY (2004) - I remember hearing at the time that this was good and I recently realized that it was helmed by the talent that brought me the excellent PAN'S LABYRINTH, so I gave it a watch and was vastly underwhelmed. Ron Perlman is excellent in the title role but his performance is the only thing I really enjoyed during our time together. The stabs at humor don't work at all - it doesn't work as camp and neither does the film quite deliver as straight action/adventure.
BEYOND THE SEA (2004) - I've enjoyed the soundtrack but the film is instantly forgettable except in its conceit to explain why Spacey is fifteen years older than was Bobby Darin when he died.
I had no plans to watch the Olympics, but I tuned into the opening ceremonies for the heck of it. Nothing else was on TV. Part pageantry and part Triumph of the Will. It was both an impressive demonstration and a reminder of how China wants to be a worthy rival on the world stage. The way the Chinese have been competitive in so many events shows the determination. And yet, how much of their prowess is the vacuum left by the Eastern Block nations?
During female gymnastics on Sunday, Romania was competing and they showed Nadia in the stands all grown up. The commentator lamented that the Romanian program was no where near as good as it used to be. They have lost their greatness and such. A girl on the team made a pretty big mistake on her routine and when she returned the coach hugged her. The announcer said that they never would have hugged her for that routine in the old days. Yeah, in the old days it was off the gulag. Imagine a couple of Mississippi farmers lamenting in the 1880s that they use to have a great cotton picking program here some years back and they can’t figure out what happened.
Sports are great. Life is tough and sports teach that there are winners and losers. But the Soviets and their allies used sports as a form of war. That they could create and train the world best athletes was supposed to represent how greatness could only be achieved through the loss of personal freedom. Jimmy Carter made us wonder if the Soviets were right. It took the 1980 U.S. Hockey team to teach us differently. The former satellites have different priorities today. The kids on that team have no memory of communism or the collective mechanism that delivered Nadia. To a person so focused on gymnastics it probably looks like a great loss. But a great many Romanians are better off as a result of the same thing that makes their gymnasts stink. The Romanians could be great once again, but it’s not the same priority anymore. It will take individuals in that nation who can step up. If they were to do so it would be more significant than any medal they won before.
I like the production that NBC is putting on. Bob Costas is underused at NBC with no baseball and seeing him is always a pleasure. I suspect too that it was his idea to bring Cris Collinsworth over for feature stories. Collinsworth is a unique guy who always seems happy and yet pulls no punches when talking about football. It was a pleasure to see him show up. It has also been a pleasure not to see Keith Olbermann. I cringed when Costas invited him into the Sunday night broadcasts and maybe I wasn't the only one. I thought Costas was great in his interview with Bush too. For a guy who covers sports he seemed quite knowledgeable about the issues and he asked Bush questions that were tough yet respectful. Bush too was at his best. He is not a good speech maker but he quite good off the cuff. For instance, Costas asked if he pressed the Chinese on their human rights record. Bush replied that he doesn't need the Olympics for that. He presses them every time he sees them.
I have been staying up too late and watching every event. Phelps is a great story and that relay win on Sunday was tremendous. I wanted to jump off the couch.
I watched volleyball, cycling, gymnastics, fencing, basketball and even soccer. I have already watched more than Athens and Sydney combined. It somehow seems important since China is an up and coming nation and potential rival. The Chinese athletes themselves have been quite gracious unlike the Soviets and that has made the whole thing more enjoyable too.
It was another great night for the Americans. Despite losing two big players to injury, the men's gymnastics team won bronze in the all-around. And Natalie Coughlin's teary singing of the National Anthem after winning gold in the backstroke was the most touching Olympic moments I have seen this time around.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
We arrived in Philadelphia late morning. We found a gabby cab driver that showed us the sights on the way from the airport. I don’t think I’ve ever had a cab driver in NYC that spoke English as a first language. Maybe Philly is different. He pointed out the University of Pennsylvania campus and their old stadium that reminded me of those turn-of-the-century ballparks. I somehow thought Penn was way out in the country, and it probably was two hundred years ago. Now it's Metro Philadelphia.
Trish came to town for a work-related conference at the convention center. The Marriot near there was full so we stayed at the Omni one block from Independence Hall, a much better location for seeing the sights. And we didn't waste time. The first order of business was getting lunch at City Tavern, recommended by Sir Saunders. I tried their special brew lager and Trish refrained knowing she had to register for the conference later in the day.
The beers there are made from recipes found in George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s archives. I’m not sure if I was having a George or Tom, but lager is my favorite and I enjoyed it. The period bread they served was memorable too. It was heartier than common bread today, even heartier than steak house dinner rolls.
After lunch we took the subway to the convention center. It allowed Trish to register and get a feel for the way she would have to go the next two days. It was only two stops from where we were staying and not hard to find. Although I had nothing to do with the conference they gave me a badge anyway to boost the numbers for the trade show part of the event. For the most part, the trade show was a snooze. It certainly wasn't as interesting as the poker trade show leading up to the World Series of Poker main event. In Vegas they were drawing you into their booths. Here they were pretty lax about it. We did get pulled into the booth that green screened us into the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Our plan was to see Independence Hall, but it turned out that you have to be in line at 830am to get tickets for the day and they were long gone by mid afternoon Tuesday. Instead we checked out the Constitution Center on the next block, located between the U.S. Mint and the Federal Reserve Building. The museum begins with an intro show done up pretty nicely with projectors, gobos, and an actor presenting the story of the constitution. I don’t know what the show director had in mind, but our host was long on the phony drama with too much inflection. What ever happened to the straight forward sincere approach?
From there the museum is hard to rate. If you didn’t know the history of the Constitution it might be an interesting and educational experience. For an old pro it wasn’t really worth the $12. One highlight was the loop video of Ben Stein answering questions about the document. It’s humorous, but also pretty insightful. The best feature of the museum is a sculpture room where every signer of the Constitution is brought to life around the room. As you can see, we had some fun with it.
Trish had a pretty stern look for Alexander Hamilton, the villain of the recent John Adams series on HBO.
I enjoyed meeting Franklin.
We then went to Franklin’s museum, but it had already closed. We did get to see the frame of his house which was torn down in the early 1800s by his son in law.
To keep the Microbrew motif alive we visited Triumph Brewery, a brew pub not far the from the hotel. It was the hippest brew pub I have ever seen which pleased Trish and the beer was again fresh and tasty. It had the most unusual bathrooms. Rather than male and female rooms, it was one big room with individual compartments and a first come first serve approach. Trish kind of liked the idea and then she was kind of disgusted thinking about it further.
We were able to see Independence Hall the next morning before Trish reported to class. It looked just like JOHN ADAMS and 1776 depicted it.
The Liberty Bell is housed in a separate building across the street. It’s a long building with the history of the bell leading down to the bell itself sporting that big crack we learned about in elementary school. When we got in line outside we were behind 3 Asians from a tour group. What we didn’t know is that the group was 30+ and they had every intention of crowing all 30+ in front of us by virtue of having 3 in line already. They kept coming like an invading Army. After the number reached 20, I expressed my vocal displeasure, but they ignored me of course and kept piling in.
Had there been a line at the bell once we got inside, we would have waited, but it was a free for all. So instead of Bogarting our way in, we settled for a picture on the side with the crack barely visible and then from behind where no one wanted to be. It’s such an unlikely icon when you come to think of it. It rang after the signing. How many other things happened in relation to the signing that aren’t remembered?
We enjoyed the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. It’s an indoor farmer’s market and food stop next to the Convention Center. We tried our first Philly Cheesesteak. And although it portrayed itself as a prominent place, the owner was pictured with Bob Dole and Tom Ridge, the sandwich was no better than the one I get at a local sub shop. I had the same opinion when I had one the next day at another place. Neither was as good as the local sub shop near Sea World.
Tricia’s afternoon class schedule gave me some time to wander the city. I walked around for a while, saw the exhibit at the Federal Reserve Bank, and eventually wound up at the Art House movie cinema. We have been to the movies once since Abigail was born and we hoped to find Batman on the trip, but he wasn't playing anywhere near our hotel. So I saw a French movie called THE LAST MISTRESS. I rarely see anything without reading reviews, but foreign films rarely even make it to the U.S. without being somewhat good. Checking now, Rotten Tomatoes gives is 77% positive and I find that it's playing on only 28 screens. It’s the story of a 19th century guy trying to shake the bonds of his mistress as he prepares to marry the pretty and youthful heiress. It was enjoyable enough except that it seemed like I had seen it all before, a combination of Dangerous Liasons and Enchanted April.
I woke up early and hit the empty gym. When I was almost finished on the treadmill, two older guys wandered in seemingly together, but the conversation told me differently. One guy was the reserved type. He turned out to be 85 and looking at least 10 years younger. The other fella was in his early 70s and talked nonstop like a salesman and it sounded like he was interviewing the other guy like a talk show host. He told his whole life story. After college he worked for a pharmaceutical company, then a medical magazine, then an HMO, then his own company, and he retired rich evidently. I could tell because he took his grandkids to some sort of Sesame Street theme park and complained about the cost. Only rich guys complain in the particular way he did. Poor people are so used to blowing money that they think nothing of it.
Junto E came to meet up with me for lunch and we took in the Reading Market again to my delight. He meant it as a surprise, but I ruined it by eating there the day before. We found a nice Italian place and we chatted for an hour about what’s been happening with us lately. Then we walked to the Art Museum famous for the Rocky steps. It was 1.8 miles according to Google maps, but I hardly noticed it too engulfed in conversation with E. It was a surprisingly thorough museum. It had a great sampling of impressionists Van Goah, Monet, Manet, Renoir etc.
Me at the Rocky Steps.
PHILLY & DC TRIP
E’s living in the heart of Amish country and I use to live very close to such a community in Indiana. The Amish go through this right of passage where they raise hell as teenagers drinking and smoking for a few years and then decide whether or not to join the community as adults where they then have to mind their manners. There is such a documentary about the experience called Devil’s Playground. About 85% return to the flock, because if they don’t re-join they are totally excommunicated from family and friends. E has such a friend that dropped out and became a cop. There is a sitcom there I just know it.
I enjoyed our conversation, but it ended too soon. E wasn’t on vacation and had to get back to work. I hope that we will see E and family in Orlando in the near future.
I went back to the hotel and finished the new Easy Company memoir by Buck Compton. I’ve slowly been reading these kinds of books since watching Band of Brothers again last summer. When Trish finished with classes we went to see another French movie, TELL NO ONE, a thriller. And I’m on record previously saying that the French make the best thrillers now with Hitchcock gone. I can’t pinpoint the general reason, but French Thrillers find the right tone and our hero seems to be in real danger rather than Hollywood danger. TELL NO ONE is another example of the rule. Early in the film a man’s wife is murdered and 8 years later she sends him a message. Rather than go on I have to remind myself that I owe the blog 6 months of movie reviews.
DAY 4 On to DC
We decided to extend the trip a few days by taking a train to DC, a place Trish had never seen. It was my first Amtrak trip and I enjoyed it quite a bit. First, the two hour trip cost just $88 for the both of us. Rental car agencies wanted $140 for a one way rental. Second, the train was pretty empty so there was little noise and no overcrowding like you see in 40s movies. It was also my first time in Deleware and I’ll count it even though I didn’t actually stand on the ground. We stopped in Willmington to pick up passengers and it seemed a lot like Orlando, with industrial areas on one side and a trendy downtown on the other side. I didn’t remember where in Delaware Marci grew up.
I designed the second half of the trip with the idea that we wouldn’t have a car. Amtrak to Union Station, subway a block from the hotel and eventually the subway to Reagan Airport Saturday night. Unlike most subways, Washington has this convoluted system where each area is a different cost and you swipe a card to get in, but you also swipe a card on the way out so that you can be charged. There are peak rates and discount rates so you have to have a legend to get it right.
What do you do in DC when you only have two days? Since we had just seen Independence Hall we went to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It was a real investment in time because they only allow so many people in to see the documents at once. The constitution looked pretty decent, but the Declaration is so faded you could barely read it. Hancock’s signature jumps out as you’d expect, but it was sad to see how poorly the rest of it looks. The Magana Carta was signed in the 1200s and it didn’t look much worse.
On the way to the Archives we walked by the White House and it was a sad sight. The Clintons blocked off traffic in front of the house in the 1990s and that made it easier to see, but in the post 9-11 world it’s nothing but barricades and security checks on the road leading up to it.
We spent an hour in the National Gallery before being booted out at 5pm. Luckily the air and Space Museum was open until 7:30. There we saw a great exhibit on the Wright Brothers, a history I knew little about. I knew they owned a bike store, but I didn’t know that they first owned a print house and newspaper. I also didn’t know that they waited 5 years after flying before showing the public, trying to get someone to buy it lest it be copied during a demonstration. The plane is right in the room with the story. A good all around exhibit.
On a whim we decided to board the metro and take it down to the ballpark. The Reds and Homer Bailey were in town to face the Nationals. I read that tickets were easy to come by and although I didn’t know what station to exit, it became evident as other fans boarded the train. The train lets you off not far from Centerfield and we bought tickets in Left field an hour before the game and only sat 7 rows behind the fence right next to the foul pole.
It afforded us shade before the game started and a view of Adam Dunn strolling toward fly balls. It was the first MLB regular season game I’ve attended since seeing the Yankees and Marlins in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series. In short, Homer Bailey was knocked around pretty good and the Nats won 5-2 or something like that.
We left after the 7th inning to beat the rush to the train and it was a fiasco anyway. The city was running some sort of line maintenance and we waited 15 minutes for a train, which by that time became crammed like an olive jar. Send trains to the station where the ballpark is dumping fans. Save maintenance on the line for two hours. You hear about DC being run poorly and it was a great example.
We slept later than normal the next morning, a rare day with nothing to get up for. Our intention was to head to the Ronald Reagan building and eat at the food court so highly touted in Frommers, but we arrived to learn that it doesn’t open on Saturday until 11:30am. We settled for a stale and tasteless pretzel from a vendor near the Washington Monument.
Last time I was in DC, the Washington Monument was closed for rehab. This time you could take an elevator all the way to the top, but we skipped it. I figured after being captive for so long at the Archives, we’d be better to walk on by.
A definite highlight was the World War II monument. It’s a striking area, and it was placed in a most appropriate place between the Washington Monument and the reflecting pool.
One side commemorates the European theatre and the other side the Pacific theatre. Each has important battles and quotes about the campaigns. Surrounding the structure are wreaths to the U.S. states and territories that participated in the war. The fountain water was chlorinated and very clean, which isn’t the case with the reflecting pond behind it.
From the WWII we headed toward the Lincoln Memorial and it was quite a walk along that dirty reflecting pool. That thing is full of geese and feathers. The sides are littered with bird droppings as pictured below. The pathway beside the pool is beaten dirt path. The whole thing looked so low class. It’s a great example of the government insisting on doing things outside of their constitutional mandate, while neglecting our national treasures. It’s simple though, taking care of the monuments has no constituency, unlike all the government waste.
The Lincoln Memorial was quite busy, unlike my trip in 2001 when John and I got there before 8am. I read the Gettysburg Address again because how often do you get to do so in such a grand manner.
Next we went to the spooky Korean War Memorial. Only spooky because the soldiers faces look ghoulish with crazy eyes and distorted faces. It was another reason why I was glad the WWII Memorial was straightforward.
Now we took the long walk to the Jefferson Memorial, stopping midway to see FDR. The FDR Memorial is really too big and spread out. Put me in the minority maybe, but I don’t think we need an FDR Memorial. His legacy lives every week in our payroll taxes. I did have some fun with the “Brother can you spare a Dime” statutes though.
What’s interesting about the Jefferson Memorial is that the Jefferson statue has a perfect view of the White House and Vice Versa. It’s one of the few views of the White House in the city. I enjoyed reading his writings, but the letters were bleeding and dripping down the wall. This memorial takes some heat for being too similar to Lincoln, but I like the similarity.
We kept going past the Jefferson and it took us to the Holocaust Museum, a place I know I should see, but a place I dread going into. Seeing Ann Frank’s attic 5 years ago was tough enough.
We walked to the Smithsonian metro stop and took the train to Capital Hill where we enjoyed quiet pub grub and then headed for the Library of Congress. Our original plan was to tour Congress, but I learned that afternoon you must stand in line for tickets early in the morning and then you can see a 30 minute guided tour. Pre-9-11 you could simply go through security and tour at your own pace. There is a ton to see. Statue galleries, the old Supreme Court room, etc. That the terrorists have deprived us of this is enough to attack a dozen countries.
The library of Congress offers Jefferson’s books and a nice exhibit of Bob Hope memorabilia. Not as good as the Capitol, but better than living in a third world country.
Our last stop of the day and the trip was the National Portrait Gallery housed in the same place as the Museum of American Art. The Portrait Gallery has a great collection of famous Americans, some iconic like Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington.
A special display featuring Katherine Hepburn was especially interesting in that is contains her 4 Oscars.
It would be easy to spend 4 days in DC. I’ve been twice now and still haven’t seen everything that I wanted to. A year ago we may have stayed longer, but we had already been away from Abby for 5 days and it was time to get home.
Here is my favorite picture of the whole trip.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
25. Agent Smith, THE MATRIX, 1999.
24. Khan, STAR TREK: WRATH OF KHAN, 1982.
23. Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), BLUE VELVET, 1986.
22. Cruela de Vil, 100 DALMATIONS, 1961.
21. Denzel Washington in TRAINING DAY, 2001.
20. Lex Luthor, SUPERMAN, 1978.
19. Joan Crawford, MOMMIE DEAREST, 1981. Makes me hungry even now for maggot ridden steak.
18. T-1000 (Robert Patrick), T2, 1991. He is nothing without Ahnold paving the way.
17. Dr. Christian Szell, MARATHON MAN, 1976.
16. Annie Wilkes, MISERY, 1990.
15. Tom Powers (Cagney), PUBLIC ENEMY, 1931.
14. Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury), MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, 1962.
13. Freddy Krueger, 1984. Now you're talkin'.
12. Michael Myers, HALLOWEEN, 1978. He raised the possibility of a sharp butcher knife behind every open door.
11. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, 1955.
10. Queen, SNOW WHITE, 1937.
9. Max Cody, CAPE FEAR, 1991.
8. Hans Gruber, DIE HARD, 1988.
7. Chigurgh, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, 2007.
6. Goldfinger, 1964.
5. The Joker, 2008.
4. Hannibal Lecter, 1991.
3. Wicked Witch of the West, 1939. A cackle that transcends generations.
2. Darth Vader.
and the #1 big screen villain of all time is....
1. Lord Voldemort.
All right, all right, I'll go see Dark Knight.
Lex Luthor? Khan? Goldfinger? Hans Gruber at #8?!! Come on.
I would add Bruce (the shark from JAWS), the original Terminator, and Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers franchise for their cultural impact.
And Rutger Hauer in THE HITCHER. Evil with no redeeming qualities.
Shane Victorino hit a 2-run homer off this pole last night in an 8-2 loss to the Marlins. How far did it fly?
UPDATE: Replay clearly showed that this HR was in fact a foul ball. We were much closer to the foul pole than any ump and we all thought it bounced off the pole. Bring on instant replay! It would have taken much less time for someone in the booth to wave it foul than it did for the umps to convene and blow the call, and for the opposing manager to argue.