Saturday, January 31, 2009

A DIRTY HARRY MUSICAL?

So reports Big Hollywood. . .
Magnum Force, the 1973 sequel to the Clint Eastwood thriller Dirty Harry, is getting a musical makeover and may even be Broadway bound, according to The Guardian. English singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock, an admitted Magnum Force obsessive, will compose the score and intends to produce the show with MTV executive Bill Flanagan.

That's the half-baked apology for the classic and controversial original.
TO STIMULATE OR NOT TO STIMULATE

The question that the media refuses to ask Team Obama:

1. Where do you get $1 trillion in a shrinking economy amid layoffs and negative growth?
2. How does your $1 trillion spending plan differ from the spending that has bankrupted California?
3. If, like you say, the economy is going to take years to recover then why the rush to spend so much money for no net gain? Won't the economy just recover on its own is a few years anyway?

A moment of outrage. . .
Obama also said his plan would ensure corporate executives do not siphon away tax dollars to fund big bonuses, as he again expressed outrage at big Wall Street pay-outs in 2008.

Outraged enough that he'll return the Wall Street money he raised campaigning?
WOMAN WITH SIX KIDS DELIVERS OCTUPLETS

Note to fertility doctors: It's a uterus, not a clown car.

Friday, January 30, 2009

COINCIDENCE

Our solar system formed roughly 4.6 billion years ago. Earth formed 4.54 billion years ago and the moon arrived 4.53 billion years ago. The sun radiated energy to the earth, whose orbit was stabilized by the moon, allowing for life to emerge on the earth's surface within one billion years of its formation.

The moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, but at its current distance, it is 400 times closer. That is a unique relationship between any three bodies in our solar system, which is comprised of eight planets and 166 known moons.

Since the moon initiated its orbit around the earth, it has been steadily moving away from the earth at a rate of 3.8 cm/year. That means there is a "brief" window of less than 200 million years during which these two celestial bodies appear to be the same size when viewed from the surface of earth. As luck has it, the rise of a species with intellect suitable to appreciate such a harmony lives on the surface of the earth at the proper time to view such a singular phenomenon.

The dinosaurs would have seen a much larger moon totally block out the sun; our cyberprogeny will see a smaller moon passing in front of the sun, but only we can appreciate the corona effect with the sun illuminating a heavenly glow around the moon during a total eclipse.



Makes me want to propose a Junto Boys field trip to a location ripe for the viewing the next time the umbral shadow falls on the mainland USA.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

CHANGE THEY CAN BELIEVE IN

Why Liberal Democrats Spend Your Tax Dollars So Merrily
Overall, given the choice between more government services and higher taxes, or fewer services and lower taxes, likely voters opt for the limited government/low tax option by the comfortable margin of 61% to 25%. That’s pretty much where Americans have been for some time now.

But the story is dramatically different when you break down the electorate by ideology and partisan affiliation. We all know these divides exist, but I, for one, was surprised at the extent of the chasm.

Ideologically, the breakdown looks like this:

Click the link to see the breakdown.

Note that the media said that Bush lied about going into Iraq because stockpiles of WMD weren't found.

Further note that the media doesn't seem interested in the "Tax Cut for 95% of Americans" promise now that he is set to spend out money.
THE PERFECT STORM

This article concisely explains why we are in crisis.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

REACTIONS TO THE NEWS

My first experience with John Updike was the short story "A&P" that Dude and I read for Momberger's class. It was on the strength of the short story that I eventually read the four Rabbit novels. The main character is a kind of lazy slobby lothario and yet you kind of root for him just the same. Baseball fans should enjoy his piece on Ted Williams. I read that a few years ago.

I'm not sure why I stopped with the Rabbit novels. It may have been the shock of seeing him kill off Rabbit in the last book. I think the main reason is that the descriptions of his other novels didn't seem all that interesting. But then again, the Rabbit novels didn't seems to interesting either until I read them. I have some more short stories sitting around and I wonder if it will be motivation to read them or if Updike will just drift away in my consciousness. Rick Rookhiser has a few suggestions.

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James Taranto likes to point out how the media loves to identify Republicans in ethics violations while ignoring the party when the person is a Democrat. Recent example has the Chicago Sun Times identifying a busted Prostitute as a Registered Republican while comparing the case with Governor Elliot Spitzer, a man with no party.

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Glenn Reynolds has some fun with this one:

HOPE AND CHANGE? New, Transparent WhiteHouse.gov Forgoes Press Briefing Transcripts? The obvious explanation: Bush wanted transcripts online because he expected the press to filter what he said. Obama doesn’t want transcripts online . . . because he expects the press to filter what he says.


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This takes a little more time to read, but it explains why the proposed stimulus is not a good idea.

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Joe Torre's revenge book comes out Tuesday. Here is the NYT review. Am I alone in thinking that a tell-all book is a little unbecoming a guy like Torre? I understand that he is angry and I agree that the Yankees were foolish to treat him so poorly, but what about George Steinbrenner's biography made Torre think that he would be different? George fired Yogi Berra the first month into a season.

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UPDATE: An Item that will interest Steve. Asimov's Foundation series is coming to the big screen.
The studio plans to develop the film for Roland Emmerich, the director of the cataclysmic sci-fi movies “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow.”
SUPPORT THE PRESIDENT

RWJ explains how much he supports the President:
1. I support him as much as Code Pink supports our troops.
2. I support him as much as N.O.W. supports Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
3. I support him as much as the Hollywood community supported Theo Van Gogh.
4. I support him as much as Nancy Pelosi supports the Catholic Church’s teachings on life.
5. I support him as much as Al Gore supports cutting down on his personal carbon footprint to save the world.
6. I support him as much as John Edwards supports The National Enquirer’s right to publish pictures of his girlfriend and baby.
7. I support him as much as Western gay rights groups support Mehdi Kazemi.
8. I support him as much as the Castro brothers support Oscar Biscet’s right to free speech.
9. I support him as much as Ted Kennedy supports renewable wind energy off the coast of his summer mansion.
10. I support him as much as Bill Clinton supports Hillary’s ambitions for higher office.
11. I support him as much as the National Education Association supports the rights of students and parents to get a quality education over the security of a teacher’s job.
12. I support him just as much as he supports the right of a baby who survives an abortion to not spend its only living moments waiting to die in a storage room.
Seems Fair

Thursday, January 22, 2009

HE NEEDS A BEATING
(This will be a running commentary on who I think in pop-culture needs a beating, it's not to say that I myself which any harm or will actually cause harm to another, rather it is saying that person is so disgusting that if they did get a beating, it would cause me glee rather than angst).

If there is anyone in the World who should be taken out back and given the beating of his life, it is Keith Oberman of MSNBC Fame. What a Hack, Over Emotional, Histrionic, Idiot. Oberman say's Bush should be prosecuted for War Crimes. If Bush should be prosecuted, then so should FDR. He ACTUALLY illegally imprisoned American citizens. And let's prosecute Truman who set up War Tribunal's that prosecuted the Nazi's, in exactly the same way. And let's prosecute Clinton, who illegally, without cause, attacked a Religious organization for no reason, killed 100's and never actually charged anyone with a crime. And finally let's not forget Obama's favorite, Abraham Lincoln, let's prosecute him for violating the constitution and imprisoning members of the press who wrote bad articles about him without a trial or charge. Bush did what he swore an Oath to do (an Oath he only had to take once) which was protect and defend this country against all enemies. I can't wait until the Military captures Osama Bin Laden and Obama rushes to give him a comfy chair.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

HE CAN'T EVEN GET THE BEGINNING RIGHT

Should Obama Retake the Oath of Office?

Carolyn Lochhead has an interesting story in the San Francisco Chronicle on the mixed-up oath at yesterday's inauguration:

The oath reads: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

In giving the oath, Roberts misplaced the word "faithfully," at which point Obama paused quizzically. Roberts then corrected himself, but Obama repeated the words as Roberts initially said them.

A do-over "would take him 30 seconds, he can do it in private, it's not a big deal, and he ought to do it just to be safe," said Boston University constitutional scholar and Supreme Court watcher Jack Beermann. "It's an open question whether he's president until he takes the proper oath."

The courts would probably never hear a challenge, and some might argue that Obama automatically took office at noon because that's when President Bush left the office. But because the procedure is so explicitly prescribed in the Constitution, Beermann said if he were Obama's lawyer, he would recommend retaking it, just as two previous presidents, Calvin Coolidge and Chester Arthur, did under similar circumstances.

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

Well, here we go. President Obama's first order of business was to undo Bush's efforts to bring prisoners at Guantanamo to justice. In a move applauded by the ACLU,

President Barack Obama's request to suspend all war crimes trials at Guantanamo was promptly accepted by military judges Wednesday in what may be the beginning of the end for the Bush administration's system of trying alleged terrorists.

The judges agreed to the 120-day halt the cases of five men charged in the Sept. 11 attacks and a Canadian accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan. Similar orders are expected in other pending cases before the Guantanamo military commission.


Obama intends to move the trials to the U.S. and grant the prisoners new rights. That does not sit well with relatives of 9/11 victims, but the Times and MSNBC approve, so there. I suggest we send the matter to Clint Eastwood for arbitration, with no cameras nor witnesses present.
OBAMA WITH MOST IMPORTANT ADVISOR
CHRONICLING THE SUBVERSION OF AMERICA

Announcing the opening of a new Facebook Group, "Not My President: Chronicling the Subversion of America"

Anyone is welcomed to post or attend this virtual group, Regardless of Race, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Belief, Greed, or National Origin. In other words, if you are Black then you're on track, if Brown then please stick around, if Yellow then you can be cool Fella', if Red you got street cred, and if White then it's ok to be occasionally right.
OBAMA AND CHENEY

More than one person told me that Obama was preferable to the other candidates because of his calm and thoughtful persona matched with his clear speaking will boost our stock in the world.

They should have loved Dick Cheney!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

EASTWOOD READING

Clint was interviewed over at Esquire in November. Here are some highlights:
We live in more of a pussy generation now, where everybody's become used to saying, "Well, how do we handle it psychologically?" In those days, you just punched the bully back and duked it out. Even if the guy was older and could push you around, at least you were respected for fighting back, and you'd be left alone from then on.

You wonder sometimes. What will we do if something really big happens? Look how fast -- seven years -- people have been able to forget 9/11. Maybe you remember if you lost a relative or a loved one. But the public can get pretty blasé about stuff like that. Nobody got blasé about Pearl Harbor.

My father died very suddenly at sixty-three. Just dropped dead. For a long time afterward, I'd ask myself, Why didn't I ask him to play golf more? Why didn't I spend more time with him? But when you're off trying to get the brass ring, you forget and overlook those little things. It gives you a certain amount of regret later on, but there's nothing you can do about it. So you just forge on.

Children teach you that you can still be humbled by life, that you learn something new all the time. That's the secret to life, really -- never stop learning. It's the secret to career. I'm still working because I learn something new all the time. It's the secret to relationships. Never think you've got it all.

Eastwood was my dad's favorite actor. When he was stationed in Japan in the late 60s he watched "The Good, the Bad, and Ugly" ten times or more at the base cinema. He always thought it was the best movie ever made. It was the first movie I bought him when he got a DVD player.
POST-RACIAL

We need a black president to get to the place where the conversation can stop being about race. We had the first black football player, then the first black QB, then the first black QB in the Super Bowl, then the first black coach, then the first black head coach, then the first black head coach in the SB, then the first black head coach to win the SB.... until finally Mike Tomlin can coach in the SB and just be a coach in the SB. I would have preferred that our first black president be elected on merit, and be a conservative, but you can't have everything.
"A NEW ERA OF RESPONSIBILITY" by President Barack H. Obama

All the libs in my office are huddled around a small TV right outside my office, so I had no choice but to listen to Obama's empty platitudes, I mean soaring rhetoric, in his inaugural address. Quick hits:

This new era of responsibility translates I think into heavy federal regulations that will stifle the economy. Lawyers are giddy.

We must be citizens of the world, helping everyone everywhere. Free money for everyone. Maybe Biden can lead the charge on this, he who gave $900 to charity in his most generous year.

On defense, we must be grounded in humility and restraint. This of course was a swipe at Bush, not magnanimous to say the least. A good applause line though.

To our enemies: "We will outlast you and we will defeat you." How? "Because we are a melting pot, old hatreds will fade and peace will prevail." Oh. That's our new foreign policy. God help us. Lord, stay the hand of our enemies.

Obama promises big government. He hints at efficiency checks and accountability. That I will believe when I see it. I am eager to review his first round of cuts.

We need big government to make the playing field fair and equitable for the little guy. I am thinking about trading my sedan for a pickup truck so I can catch some of the free money that will be falling from the sky.

Overall, a grim view of the landscape. I am reminded how much liberals loathe America. Naturally the address was greeted by applause here in the office, and the requisite jabs at Bush's atrocious speechmaking skills. I too will be glad not to hear from Bush any more (which had become rare anyway, while he hid himself away and ceded the narrative to his opponents), but not so glad to hear President Obama taking my inventory and telling me how my behavior should improve.

Our system is set up so that no president can screw things up too badly in four years. Congress, however, will try. My expectations are low enough that there is the possibility of being pleasantly surprised.

If you heard/saw/read the Inaugural Address, I would like to hear your comments.
OBAMA ADMIRES THE ONLY AMERICAN DICTATOR

Obama to be sworn in on 'Lincoln Bible' WASHINGTON — The Bible Barack Obama will use at Tuesday's swearing-in ceremony carries great historic and social significance. It was used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inauguration in 1861.
It's quite fitting that Obama so admires President Lincoln. The only American Dictator. As H.L. Mencken said of the Gettysburg Address, in which Lincoln absurdly claimed that Northern soldiers were fighting for the cause of self determination ("that government of the people . . . should not perish . . .": "It is difficult to imagine anything more untrue.
Lincoln was "Pro-Slavery" until it suited him to change it. Lincoln saw the England was inclined to intercede on the Southern cause and use their Naval power to stop the Northern blockade. So Lincoln, in a stroke of political (not humanitarian) genius, issued the "Emancipation Proclamation" which then later on, ended slavery (after the war of Northern Aggression had concluded and the occupation of a independent nation began for the next 10 years). Another Lincoln myth was that he "saved the Constitution." But this claim is an outrage considering that Lincoln acted like a dictator for the duration of his administration and showed nothing but bitter contempt for the Constitution. He suspended the "Writ of Habis Corpus", He jailed Newspaper reporters who wrote negative articles about him, he threatened to jail the Chief Justice when he was going to rule in Southern favor (that Succession was actually legal), and he invaded the South without consent of Congress to declare war. Yes, Lincoln= Obama? I couldn't agree more.

As Obama is sworn in today, ask yourself this over the next four years, "Am I more or less free?" This wonderful video below speaks eloquently about the "dual sovereignty" and the almost forgotten doctrine of "States Rights." The Federal Government expanded greatly under the Bush administration (via the so-called "Patriot Act"). Will Obama advocate MORE freedom for the "Common man?" Or will he advocate further expansion of an oppressive over-lord, central planning Federal Government? He has shown NO indication that he will ADD to our freedom. On the contrary, he plans the biggest erosion of your rights since Lincoln. This is why we all must realize that IDEAS matter, not Parties, not individuals. Freedom, liberty, and individual as well as States Rights, truly do matter.

Monday, January 19, 2009

McCAIN

doesn't make you sad that he lost. . .

Over the last three months, Mr. Obama has quietly consulted Mr. McCain about many of the new administration's potential nominees to top national security jobs and about other issues — in one case relaying back a contender's answers to questions Mr. McCain had suggested.


Mr. McCain, meanwhile, has told colleagues "that many of these appointments he would have made himself," said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a close McCain friend.

And maybe that is why he lost.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

ORLANDO SENTINEL TACITLY ENDORSES 2ND AMENDMENT, GEE THANKS ALOT.

We think: It's risky, but citizens have right to fight back against criminals

With some criminals able to skate through the judicial system without major consequences, life on the streets is getting more and more dangerous.

For them.

Average Joes and Janes have served notice they don't intend to stand by and let crime spin out of control. In Central Florida, a series of recent incidents is proving that people are taking a proactive -- and perfectly legal -- approach to protecting themselves and others.

In Ocoee, a customer shot and killed a robber at a convenience store. The customer was leaving the store when he noticed someone suspicious. He went back inside when he heard a clerk screaming for help, and used a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol to kill the thief.

What a ridiculous article. On the on hand Orlando Sentinel readership is so far down that they have stopped "endorsing Presidential candidates" and are tacitly endorsing the right of a law-abiding citizen to defend themselves, but on the other hand say "Leave it to the professionals" when using a firearm because "someone could get hurt." Yeah, the one to get hurt is the moron whose stupid enough to break into my house and face my giant German Shepherd then a 357 Magnum right between his eyes. Gee! Thanks a lot Orlando Sentinel for giving me permission to exercise my 2nd amendment rights. Why don't you now advocate for a genuine tax break for us all and an end of these stupid bailout plans.
HALL OF FAME HATS

Hey Baseball fans. Take this Quiz. I scored 12 of 14.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Here is info from the Annenberg Foundation website about the Annenberg Space for Photography, set to open in late March. I just came on as the Audio Visual Specialist. I'm still learning my way around the particulars of the gig but suffice it to say that there is some high-end machinery involved.

The Annenberg Space for Photography to Open in Century City, California in 2009
Free Community Center will Feature Both Digital and Print Photography

 Los Angeles, CA: The Annenberg Foundation, one of the nation’s largest private family foundations, announced today plans to open a new community space dedicated to both digital images and print photography in Los Angeles, California.

The Annenberg Space for Photography will open in spring 2009 at 2000 Avenue of the Stars. Located on the former site of the Shubert Theater, the Photography Space will be a 10,000 square foot facility which will feature a state-of-the-art digital projection gallery along with a traditional print exhibit area. The combination of these galleries will enable the Annenberg Space for Photography to show an unprecedented number of images to the general public in a dynamic environment. General admission to the Annenberg Space for Photography will be free.

In addition to being a cultural experience that celebrates photography as an art form, the Photography Space will present images focused on the human condition as an expression of the philanthropic work of the Foundation and its Trustees. The Annenberg Space for Photography will be under the stewardship of the Foundation’s Los Angeles-based Trustees -- Wallis Annenberg, Lauren Bon, Charles Annenberg Weingarten and Gregory Annenberg Weingarten.

The Trustees will work directly with guest curators throughout the year on all exhibits and programming.

Work by photographers at all levels of expertise from around the world will be featured. The galleries will also exhibit often unseen photographic collections held by museums, galleries and media organizations.

“Photography is one of the most accessible and personal forms of art. We are thrilled about creating a space completely dedicated to it which will compliment the landscape of existing cultural institutions nationally and in Los Angeles. Our Foundation will continue its multi-million dollar grant support of the existing arts and civic life. We see the creation of the Annenberg Space for Photography as a service to the community where visitors can see the world through a different lens and leave feeling motivated to make positive change,” says Wallis Annenberg, Vice President and Trustee of the Annenberg Foundation.

Background
The Annenberg Space for Photography was conceived by the collective Board of Trustees of the Foundation. The original inspiration was sparked by Wallis Annenberg’s personal devotion to photography. A passion for the artform led Wallis to examine the challenges most traditional museums experience exhibiting photographic work. These museums have remarkable photography collections, and in many cases their archives are more comprehensive than exhibit space is available. This motivated Wallis and the Foundation Trustees to create a new paradigm for experiencing photography. A state-of-the-art digital presentation system will allow thousands of photographs to be readily accessible to the public in large and high resolution format.

When the Foundation announced its plan to move its administrative offices from Westwood to its current location at 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles Councilmember Jack Weiss and real estate developers at Trammel Crow approached the Foundation with the opportunity to operate a community space on the property, providing the perfect location for the realization of the Foundation’s plans for the Photography Space.

Councilmember Weiss comments, “I am grateful that the Annenberg Foundation, with their vision and standards of excellence, is helping enrich the city by bringing world class digital art and photography to Los Angeles. This space will add cultural vitality and excitement to Century City.”

The creation of the Photography Space builds upon the Foundation’s long history of supporting visual arts. Most recently the Foundation demonstrated it’s commitment to the arts by giving a grant to help LACMA acquire the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, an important group of 19th and 20th century photographs, featuring more than 3,500 prints which include the work of Ansel Adams, Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Steichen, W.H. Fox Talbot and Edward Weston. In recognition of this support, LACMA's Department of Photography is being renamed the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department.

Opening Exhibit
The Annenberg Space for Photography’s opening exhibit will be a group show of eight Los Angeles-based photographers in the genres of fine art, architecture, documentary, fashion, photojournalism and celebrity portraits. The show, soon-to-be-titled, will feature the work of John Baldessari, Catherine Opie, Greg Gorman, Douglas Kirkland, Tim Street-Porter, Julius Shulman, Lauren Greenfield and Carolyn Cole. All based in Los Angeles, these artists work in the city in which the Foundation has expanded its philanthropy in recent years. The exhibit will also include work from staff photographers at the Los Angeles Times. Anne Wilkes Tucker, renowned photography curator from the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, will serve as a Special Advisor for this inaugural exhibit.

Ms. Tucker comments, “The opening exhibit inaugurates an exciting new space with work by eight internationally recognized photographers. Their work represents richly diverse aspects of contemporary photography and of Los Angeles itself, from film and television celebrities to the Los Angeles Times coverage of international and local news, to city’s rich cultural scene. The multifaceted displays of prints and digital projection, along with interviews with the artists speaking about their projects and careers, are uniquely innovative. This exhibit should appeal to the public and to many artists who might participate in future programs in this new space.”

In addition to featured exhibits which will change several times a year, shorter weekly shows will enable visitors to have different daily experiences with multiple visits. Simultaneously, videos of photographers discussing their work will give guests the often rare opportunity to hear directly from the artists.

Workshops, lectures and discussions featuring artists will be a prominent part of the ongoing programming. Educational opportunities will be created for adults, children and teens. Guests of the Photography Space will have access to Century Park and its restaurants within steps from the Photography Space doors. The Photography Space is adjacent to 2000 Avenue of the Stars, the location of the Foundation’s Los Angeles headquarters.

The interior design by architects DMJM Design was influenced and inspired by the ergonomics of cameras and lenses. The building also includes a residential-style workshop area that will be used for intimate discussions with photographers. The technology of the Photography Space enables extreme digital clarity, sound and multiple image presentation --giving artists a wide range of creative possibilities for showing their work.

Photographer Greg Gorman comments, “I worked with film for decades before converting to digital. As the artform has evolved, I’m excited to see a space celebrate both. I expect that this will change the way we all think of a traditional photography gallery.”

Fulfilling a Mission
The Annenberg Space for Photography aligns perfectly with the mission of the Foundation -- to improve the well-being of the community through the exchange of ideas and new ways of thinking. The Trustees believe that the experience of this art form and images exhibited there will further their vision as philanthropists for a better world.

About the Annenberg Foundation
Established in 1989 by Walter H. Annenberg, the Annenberg Foundation provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally through its headquarters in Radnor, Pennsylvania, and offices in Los Angeles, California and Washington, D.C. Its major program areas are education and youth development; arts, culture and humanities; civic and community life; health and human services; and animal services and the environment. In addition, the Foundation operates a number of initiatives which expand and complement these program areas. The Annenberg Foundation exists to advance the public well-being through improved communication. As the principal means of achieving this goal, the Foundation encourages the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.

DUDE'S REVIEWS

I have been lax on my reviews and now I've got a list of 35 titles going back half a year. I'm going to purge the list of films I saw in 2008 by listing all of them here with a quick impression of each:

five stars (loved):
TITANIC (1997) - The greatest film of all time? Still a treat.
ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953) - One of my faves, shared with the family.
THE QUEEN (2006) - Among the most well-written films I've ever seen.
YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU (1938) - Took me 70 years to discover this feel good film.
KING KONG (1933) - Dated effects but they're pretty good and the story is involving.

four stars (really liked):
JOHN ADAMS (2008) - Great period reconstruction with time to enjoy the intimate moments.
IN BRUGES (2008) - An overlooked gem with plot points you don't see coming.
THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR (2000) - I was surprised how much I liked it.
INTO THE WILD (2007) - Penn crafts a pleasant journey towards preventable death.
THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) - Ledger wins an Oscar and joins the pantheon of great villains.
THE VISITOR (2007) - Involving tale about individual goodness vs the coldness of the state.
EL MARIACHI (1992) - Amazing film considering its $7k budget and definitely entertaining.
PICKPOCKET (1959) - The best part is the scholarly commentary explaining its importance.
THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972) - A childhood favorite shared with my children.
IRON MAN (2008) - Favreau has a nice touch for tone with just the right amount of levity.

three stars (liked):
THE SEA HAWK (1940) - Unlike Tom, I prefer CAPTAIN BLOOD.
THE COURT JESTER (1956) - I liked the intricate plot, thinking it ripe for retelling.
THE COUNTERFEITERS (2007) - The protagonist isn't really the hero but it is interesting.
I AM LEGEND (2007) - Loved it for awhile but it wrapped up before I was ready.
BLOCK HEADS (1938) - Classic Laurel and Hardy buffoonery.
BOLT (2008) - Follows the formula and produces solid entertainment.
FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (2008) - Overrated but funny and charming enough.
DEATHPROOF (2007) - Tarantino delivers style over substance for a good throwaway film.
VANISHING POINT (1971) - The reference point for DEATHPROOF has not aged well.
THE HOST (2006) - Atypical creature feature about a kooky family rising to the occasion.
SUNSHINE (1999) - Loved it until the third act which ramps up the bizarro level to eleven.
WAY OUT WEST (1937) - Laurel and Hardy on a mission to be funny in western garb.
THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG (1975) - Enough Disney charm and Don Knotts to satisfy.
SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (1980) - Several gags I've never forgotten since first viewing.

two stars (didn't like):
NODODY'S FOOL (1994) - Sure Newman's great, but the story heaps on the blandness.
AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007) - So long and boring, I can't believe it was a critical darling.
PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES (1964) - Watchable only because its stars are easy to admire.
JAMAICA INN (1939) - Hitchcock's British swan song is a bit of a stinker.
BABES IN TOYLAND (1934) - Laurel and Hardy once again but not as good.
WORD WARS (2004) - Predictably engaging, but not an impressive film.
THE SHAGGY DOG (1959) - Even with a dopey story it manages to be thoroughly lame.
AMAZON VINE

This is a pretty neat idea. I’ve reviewed 150 books on Amazon.com, but my interest in it has waned over the last few years. I had only reviewed two in 2007, two in 2006, five in 2005 after reviewing 30 in 2004. I hadn’t reviewed in anything in 2008 when I received the November invite so I reviewed the last two books I had read. One was Buckley’s last book a memoir of Reagan and Peter Fonda’s autobiography.

Since Dad went into the hospital the week before thanksgiving I have read quite a few books and even a few long ones. Rather than be distracted as I assume I would have been, books offered me a diversion where I had almost perfect concentration. Amazon Vine offered me a chance to review the upcoming Yogi Berra biography and considering what I was going through it was almost a perfect offer.

Growing up, dad still had all of his old baseball mits, one being a catcher's glove with the name "Lawrence Peter Berra" on it. Have you ever caught with a 1950s style catcher's mit? They were nothing like today's gloves. A 1950s catcher's mit is not for catching but for padding. The ball doesn't actually stop in the glove. It hits the glove and then falls downward to the meat hand ready to make plays on runners. Playing with it convinced me that I didn't want to be a catcher. As a kid, I had no idea that gloves had gotten easier to use.

My first baseball game was in 1975 at the old Commiskey Park. My dad, his older brother and two other rare Yankee fans from Northern Indiana made the trip. I was 6 years old and don't remember the game because I didn't understand the rules. It was a year before I played my first organized baseball and I only knew how to play whiffle ball in the yard with dad pitching.

What I do remember about that trip was eating popcorn that came in a cardboard container shaped like a megaphone. It didn't make megaphone noise, but as a kid it was just as alluring. When the popcorn was finished I safely put the megaphone in the empty seat next to me, making sure that it didn't get damaged before the trip home. To my utter dismay some punk little girl and her father eventually took up seats on the other side of my megaphone and the girl had the audacity to pick it up and yell through it. Her father that bum said nothing. I wasn't happy with the outcome cursing myself for letting it out of my grasp. As the game went on she manhandled the thing and even roughed up the mouth end. Near the end of the game she had finally returned the megaphone to the seat between us. Now it was the prized item she was saving for later. When dad said that it was time to go and we had to pass that little shrew and her father I grabbed the megaphone from the seat and she looked at me and started to protest, but I was through the aisle before the adults even knew what happened.

I remember being proud that I did the bold thing but I also felt bad like maybe I did something wrong. It must be my oldest memory of ambiguous morality. I thought justice was on my side but maybe with time the object was actually her's especially since she probably thought the item discarded and adults would have seen it as trash. I never got in trouble or even talked to about it because dad was unaware of the entire drama.

I remember two other things from that trip. I got carsick so bad that Uncle Larry had to stop the car. I also remember going to a steak place I think called "Lou Diamonds" or something close to that. They served these rare filet mignons and I remember it tasted great. Dad said that I ate the whole thing. He also told me that we went to a Greek place and I ordered chicken but I hated it expecting to get Colonel Sanders.

It would be about 6 years when we went to our next Yankees-White Sox game. Yogi was a coach at the time and we saw him in arriving at the ballpark in a cab. Dad said that Yogi was the best bad ball hitter he had ever seen. Yogi could hit a pitch over head hit or at his ankles for a home run. The last game I saw at the Old Commiskey Park was with dad, mom, and brother John in April of 1985. Yogi was now the manager and Joe Cowley was pitching for the Yankees that day. Don Mattingly went 1-4 with a single. Carlton Fisk hit a big home run to left field. It was the fourth baseball game I had been to and the first homer I had ever seen. The Yankees never trailed in the game and with the bases loaded in the 9th, Cowley walked rookie Ozzie Guillen, a guy that was always loathe to take a walk, and the White Sox won 5-4. Guillen walked 12 times all season and never more than 26 times in any of his 16 seasons.

We were still in the parking lot navigating traffic when the radio was reporting that Yogi Berra was fired as Yankees manager. Billy Martin would return. Yogi wouldn't return to Yankee stadium until 1999 for Yogi Berra day.

I knew I was going to New York in 1999 and decided to make the trip revolve around the Yankees schedule. When I saw Yogi Berra Day I bought tickets immediately. The best I could do even in January was the upper deck behind home plate. I was also able to buy lower level tickets to see the Yankees play the Braves on the Thursday night. Though I didn't see him, JFK Jr. was at the Thursday game, and it was his last appearance in public. The New York Post had a picture of him at that game a few days later when his plane disappeared. But the Sunday game may have been even more unusual.

Before the game Yogi was welcomed back into the Yankee family with gifts and appearances by his old teammates. Mickey was gone. Billy was gone. Joe had passed earlier that year. But there were still a lot of players on hand. Don Larsen was there and he threw out the first pitch to Yogi and then David Cone threw the 16th perfect game in MLB history. It was the last game I saw at the old Yankee Stadium. I never felt like I needed to go back after that.

Anyway, I didn't mean to go on and on, but I better write this stuff while I am young before the memories are lost forever. Here is the Yogi book review:



It would be easy to string together a biography of Yogi based on malapropisms with an occasional World Series heroic thrown in for good measure. In fact, I think I’ve read that book. Luckily, Allen Barra’s biography of Yogi is more interested in making known Yogi as the one-of-a-kind catcher. . . and an above-average manager.

What you get with Barra’s book is a real understanding of how Yogi rose from humble origins and had to fight everyone including his own parents to play baseball professionally. Most scouts thought he looked awkward so they wouldn’t sign him. Branch Rickey offered Joe Garagiola $500 to play baseball but would only offer Yogi $250 and Yogi declined out of principle.

After signing with the Yankees he made so little money he couldn’t afford to eat playing minor league ball. No one thought he looked like a ballplayer. The author explains that during his service in World War II people thought Yogi was putting them on when he said that he played in the Yankees organization. And it wasn’t until another team offered $50,000 for Yogi’s contract that the Yankees paid attention.

One of the most important questions that the author raises in the book is why 1947-1964 isn’t considered the Yogi Berra era despite the fact that he won the MVP three times and was the only guy around for the entire period. With DiMaggio in decline in the late 1940s, Yogi so often carried the team while playing the toughest position in the game. He continued to do so as Mickey Mantle established himself in the early 1950s. In the Appendix, Barra puts together a lengthy and persuasive argument that Yogi was the greatest catcher in baseball history by making his case as a hitter and showing how his pitching staff seemed to improve when he was behind the plate.

Yogi’s life doesn’t end after he retired in the mid 1960s. The author does a thorough job of explaining Yogi’s season as Yankee manager in 1964, his stint with the Mets including managing them in the 1973 World Series, and then back to the Yankees for coaching and managing before ending his career in Houston. In doing so he also recounts Yogi’s rift with George Steinbrenner and their eventual reconciliation.

In addition to the life of Yogi, you also meet some other interesting people along the way. For instance, I have never read so much about Elston Howard and now I wish I’d known him. We read about Whitey Ford here as you’d expect, but we also get to know Allie Reynolds, the best pitcher and during the 1949-1953 era. We get to see Casey Stengel up close by one of the few players that seemed to understand him. The author does a good job of recounting Yogi’s friendship with Phil Rizzuto including their business partnership and Yogi’s persuasive case to the HOF veterans committee to induct Phil. The reader also learn why Toots Shor was such a popular saloon with ballplayers and celebrities. There is also a thorough recap of the Copacabana incident with many details I had never read.

Simply put, if you are a baseball fan interested in the life of Yogi Berra and/or this era in Yankees baseball, this book is well worth your time.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

BACK TO WORK

I miss the blog. For the last two months it has been hard to write anything because everything seemed trivial. My dad was such an important person in my life. He shaped me in a number of ways that influenced how I see the world and he introduced me to many of the things that I will enjoy until I leave this earth. I've been watching baseball, football, and golf from my earliest memories alongside my dad. No one was more happy with the Yankees resurgence in the mid 1990s than dad. And had he lived to see the Lions complete an 0-16 season he would have shook his head insisted that they find some linebackers.

The blog is already scattered with references to dad because of his influence on me and I suspect that will only increase over the next year. It is easy to write a tribute to people who have had an influence on you and I have done so many times here. But it's not easy to sum up a person who had the most direct and lasting influence. It's going to take time to do it right and I need time to get use to the idea before I can accomplish it.

Only a few weeks before dad's heart gave out I was asked by Amazon.com to join their Vine program. They let me choose free items and I agree to review them. Being responsible for reviews and writing them this past week got me going again with words and now I'm ready to re-join my Junto brethren. The timing of the invite is curious. John was asked to join Vine over a year ago. I thank the good lord for the timing of it and I will post my Yogi Berra review on the blog this weekend.

Thanks everyone for your emails and phone calls during this unexpected life changing time. John and I have probably spent more time together in the past two months than in the last year before that and he said he's ready to come back and contribute to the blog as well. You can find his early entries as far back as 2003. I'm looking forward to him participating in our dialogue.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

PACMAN JONES RELEASED BY COWBOYS

But he is taking it well.
"If I beat myself up, who will take care of me?" Jones said, according to the report. "Football means a lot to me, but it's not everything. It's not like I'm taking it pretty good. I love me some me."

Monday, January 05, 2009

2008 MUSIC

I got home after midnight on New Year's Eve and decided that I was much too square and needed to buy some new music. Now that Billy Joel and Danny Elfman don't make records anymore, there are not many current bands that I keep up with. I do try to keep up with the new releases from The White Stripes, Coldplay, The Finn Brothers, and Beck. Other than that, 95% of my music is older than my kids and much of it is even older than me.

So, I spent the first few hours of the New Year researching some top 10 lists to point me towards some good contemporary music. I went to All Music and found 13 lists, which I cross-referenced, winnowing the titles down to only those that appeared on multiple lists. Next, I went to Metacritic, which has 47 lists and also a handy summary of which titles appear on mulitiple lists. They also have a list of the top reviewed albums of the year, which has little overlap with the favorite albums. I was mainly looking for music that people like and listen to, rather than just recommend and put on the shelf.

My final visit was to Rolling Stone, who have posted a list of the top 50 albums of the year. They seem to weight more towards the popular stuff rather than the avant garde or experimental. Ranking high are the new releases from Coldplay and Beck, which I will own soon enough, but not yet. I've had good luck finding those artists' previous releases at the public library so I'm willing to wait it out. I was aiming to discover new artists, and those still on the upswing rather than the established vanguard, so I discounted any bands with more than a few albums already. Of the remaining titles, I gave a listen to everybody at iTunes and then put my $100 budget to work. Here are the 2008 albums which I now own:

Dear Science by TV on the Radio - seemingly the top album of the year. Number one with a bullet at RS and one of only two albums to appear on all four sources I scoured.
Rolling Stone: 1
Metacritic: 4
Meta top: 26 of 47
AMG top: 3 of 13

Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes - the only other album to appear on all four lists. I haven't listened to it yet.
Rolling Stone: 10
Metacritic: 7
Meta top: 17 of 47
AMG top: 3 of 13

Santogold by Santogold - popular amongst some of the AMG editors. I have listened to it and like it. I can't understand the words, but I like the voice. I also like the melodies and grooves.
Rolling Stone: NR
Metacritic: NR
Meta top: 0
AMG top: 2 of 13

Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend - I recognized the name as a band that played on SNL last year. I always skip the music on that show, so it's new to me.
Rolling Stone: 6
Metacritic: NR
Meta top: 0
AMG top: 2 of 13

Third by Portishead - this sounds like good slow groove music for old guys like me. They have a fantastic reputation amongst critics. I also bought their first album, Dummy.
Rolling Stone: NR
Metacritic: 18
Meta top: 20 of 47
AMG top: 3 of 13

Midnight Boom by The Kills - wildy popular at AMG but non-existant everywhere else. I liked what I heard in the samples, so I bought it.
Rolling Stone: NR
Metacritic: NR
Meta top: 0
AMG top: 5 of 13

Robyn by Robyn - one of the top reviewed albums of the year, but nobody's favorite, maybe because it is the US release of a 2005 Swedish album. I liked the sound of it and bought the clean version.
Rolling Stone: NR
Metacritic: 11
Meta top: 0
AMG top: 0

A Little Bit Longer by Jonas Brothers - I didn't buy this, but I include it here since it made the RS list and I've been listening to it lately with Mason after finding it at the library last month. It's aimed at kids, but it's good enough that the parents won't toss it out the window.
Rolling Stone: 40
Metacritic: NR
Meta top: 0
AMG top: 0

I also purchased At Budokan by Cheap Trick (1979), which is now Mason's wake-up music entering the new year. We played Rock Band at his cousins' house over the holiday and he loves the song Hello There, which was made famous by this live album.

Now that I've got some new music, I am not only a little less of a dexter, but I've got some good grooves to enjoy during the commute to my new job (more on that soon).