Monday, February 13, 2012



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

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

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

Friday, February 10, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 01, 2012



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


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

JAN 3 – Hemingway’s Boat by Paul Hendrickson

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


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


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


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


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


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

JAN 22 – XMEN 4

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


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


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

JAN 24 - Piece of my Heart by Robert Wagner

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


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

JAN 26 - Rendezvous with Destiny by Craig Shirley

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

JAN 28 - THE D.I.

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

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

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