Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Woodstock's Cranky Aftermath

Talk of “Freedom” was in the air at Tea Party Express rally for Steve Lonegan’s Senate campaign at the New Egypt Speedway on Saturday.  Add Richie Havens and some Jefferson Airplane and you are close to a veritable Woodstock, minus the idealism, marijuana and thankfully, public nudity.
Many of the people at Saturday’s rally in Plumsted Township were part of The Age of Aquarius, but they’ve traded weed for Lipitor, worry about fiber intake and sometimes need a good place to sit.  Their folk singer at the rally is lamenting government spending, high taxes and Obamacare.
The Tea Party likes to think it challenges the establishment and conveys much of the rhetoric of getting government off our backs and challenging the system.  They’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore, to borrow the phrase from Howard Beale in “Network.”
The Tea Party is the product of the politics of disillusionment.  They make an easy target for their opponents who write them off as “kooks” and “crackpots.”
Tea Party members have some legitimately overlooked grievances about President Obama and the federal government.
·         Is the government’s ability to gather my text messages a good use of resources in the name of fighting terror?  Why should they be entitled to breach our privacy?
·         Is the mandate to buy health insurance fair?
·         Why should the government bail out big businesses?
·         Do we have any business bombing Syria?  (Diplomacy may carry the day here.)
·         Why should our country continue to compound additional debt beyond the $17 trillion outstanding?
Politicians have capitalized on this disillusionment with great effect.  Saturday’s rally had its share of political double talk.
Sarah Palin, Alaska’s former governor and Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 Presidential election, lamented the disservice to our veterans by closing national landmarks and a few breaths later urging the House to hold the line on the government shutdown.
Steve Lonegan, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senator, speaking about maintaining our nation’s strong defense and the importance of the navy to protect shipping lanes and warned about the mounting debt.   Nothing was said about how defense spending – as well as entitlement spending – fuel the deficit.
To be fair, liberals have their own share of opportunists and double talkers that fail to account for the cost of expanded programs or new taxes to pay for them, when on the stump.  Also, political rallies are the last place where you’d expect candor about solving the nation’s problems, since the tone of political discourse has as much coherence as a pro-wrestling rant.
If conservatives -- or any politician in the political spectrum -- wanted to be honest and steer us away from a “socialist path” and tame the biggest risks to our government’s solvency, our seniors would lose their Social Security and Medicare. 
That would make the Woodstock generation, who spent a lifetime paying into these programs, much crankier and even more disillusioned.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Best Movies About The 80s

As a man who graduated high school in 1985, the 1980s represented my coming of age.  The Baby Boomers matured in the 70s, where they saw Watergate, the last gasps of the Vietnam War, disco and a lousy economy.  The 1980s were a big turnaround.  We had Reagan, Wall Street, "Morning in America," and a renewed optimism, except for AIDS scaring people sexless.  This blog topic came to mind after I caught Boogie Nights on television the other day.   The movie was made in 1997, but it tried to serve as a time capsule of the late 70s and early 80s.     I would welcome any debate or comments, but this is my list of best films about the 80s in no particular order ...
  • Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights (1997) captured transition from the swinging 70s in the adult film industry to the direct-to-video 80s.  The movie romanticized nothing about either era with its characters' broken souls and rampant drug use.  It featured a stellar cast:  Mark Wahlberg as a deluded star whose only gift is between his legs; Burt Reynolds' Golden Globe winning performance as a porn director who wanted stories in his movies; Julianne Moore as an actress (Amber Waves) who lost custody of her child but acts as a mother to Mark Wahlberg's Eddie/Dirk; Don Cheadle as an actor who wants to leave the business to sell stereos (his real passion); and Heather Graham as a starlet who dropped out of school.   William H. Macy's role as "Little Bill" sparked a symbolic transition from the 1970s into the 1980s.   Cocaine was a big continuing line throughout the movie, but the story captured the consequences of abuse and addiction with Dirk's downward spiral and Amber's custody battle.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High was my high school and a lot of other high schools in the early 1980s.  Sean Penn established himself as one of the great character actors as Jeff Spicoli.
  • American Psycho, a dark satire based on Bret Easton Ellis' novel, captured the smug, yuppie mores of Wall Street in New York during the late 1980s.  The role served as Christian Bale's springboard to Hollywood's A-list and gave me a whole new appreciation for Huey Lewis and the News.  
  • Oliver Stone wrote and directed Wall Street -- which was meant as a cautionary tale.  However, the film, as well as Michael Lewis' Liars Poker,  gave wannabe yuppies a playbook during the following two decades.   Michael Douglas plays Gordon Gekko, a corporate raider whose mantra of "greed is good" has inspired many on Wall Street to share his worldview.  Charlie Sheen (Bud Fox) aims to be Gekko's protege, but the values of Wall Street clashed against those of his father, who is a union representative at an airline that Gekko is targeting.  The movie created some high drama and won Douglas an Oscar.
  • "They Live" represented a different take on the "Morning in America" of the Reagan Era.  Starring pro wrestling legend, Rowdy Roddy Piper, the movie captured the widening divide between America's "haves" and "have nots" in a fashion that was every bit as knowing as "American Psycho" and "Wall Street."  Piper discovers special glasses that allow him to see aliens in our midst that have taken over the earth.    
Please contribute!  I welcome other suggestions. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Review of Vietnam: A History

Vietnam: A HistoryVietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An in-depth look at Vietnam's embattled history, lost opportunities by the United States, and the in-fighting that crippled South Vietnam's ability to fight the Viet Cong and increasingly North Vietnam soldiers. Karnow highlights the debates among Washington policymakers and the decision making about combat and diplomacy in great detail. Karnow's background as Time's Southeast Asian Correspondent gives him a great deal of authority to engage a wide range of sources about how the war was fought and the negotiations behind the scenes until the fall of Saigon.
The book is a companion to the PBS series that aired during the early 1980s, which is also required viewing for anyone wanting to learn about the Vietnam War.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Review of Michael Lewis' "Boomerang"

Michael Lewis captured many of the elements of the financial crisis and now looming threats to sovereign debt, since nations have decided to socialize the risks taken by reckless banks. His book examines the financial crisis from the viewpoints of Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Germany and the United States. The compelling question he raises is: Left alone in a dark room with a pile of money, what did these people do with it?
While there is a great depth to the reporting and witty writing, there appears to be a lot of missing parts. He didn't look at Asia with Japan's lingering malaise after its bubble burst in the early 1990s or China, the world's second largest economy with an abundance of poor people. However, a lot of eyes are on China to subsidize the folly of relatively affluent Westerners. He also hasn't looked at other emerging markets. In a topsy turvy world, emerging markets are now deemed less risky than many euro-zone nations. His coverage of the U.S. was centered on California, which is a financial basket case. But there is so much more of the story to tell about the financial crisis in the U.S. None of the people who were victims of subprime loan fraud were interviewed. The incomplete feel of the book led to a one star deduction.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Review of "Exile on Wall Street" by Mike Mayo

Securities analyst Mike Mayo recaps his career on Wall Street, where he covered the banking industry. Mayo outlines where the banks went wrong during the course of his career and what his independence and honesty cost him. As someone who was a financial reporter, I found myself nodding along with many of the points he raised in Exile on Wall Street. Executives and corporations will freeze you out if you don't "play along." Analysts who are on the team get rewarded with access and their banks are the ones who get deals. The financial stakes are much higher in that regard compared with the "media relations people" who will freeze out reporters who are too critical.
the book also included a concise history of Citigroup, a company that represents much of what's wrong with banking. It's too powerful, takes a careless approach to risk and it expects the Fed and government to step in when it runs into trouble. TARP is only one of several bailouts it has received over the years.
It is definitely a worthwhile read if you are interested in a behind the scenes look at finance and corporate management. Some of his recommendations and conclusions shouldn't surprise anyone though, since they are sound calls for smarter regulation, more accountability in management and greater transparency among banks.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Robert Kennedy announces death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King represented what the United States could have become if they were not cut down by bullets. In their place, we got Nixon, Watergate, the Carter years, and a callousness toward our less fortunate over the past 30 years. RFK and Dr. King battled for what is right to make America realize its potential -- a land of not only the free and the home of the brave -- but also a land that recognizes the dignity of every human being. I would like to say RIP, but I don't think either will until America's dream is realized.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

RIP Patrice O'Neal

I am saddened by Patrice O'Neal's death at the age of 41 after a severe stroke. I was a big fan of his from his appearances on the Opie & Anthony show over the years. His comic brilliance elevated the show consistently and his career as a comedian was on the verge of taking off. He recently had a successful Comedy Central appearance and also was featured on the Charlie Sheen roast (check link in at 58 minutes when he eviscerates all the speakers before him). My favorite comedians die too soon. First Sam Kinison and now Patrice. He died just when opportunity was starting to knock.

Comedians and fans have been venting on Twitter and Facebook about Patrice's passing and extending condolences to his family. I would like to extend those condolences as well.

I would like to direct you to some of his work online, but it's not safe for workplace listening. His "Black Phillip Show" on XM was great and captured on this page. Patrice just riffs on a variety of topics for two hours. This is a video that compiles some of his scenes from different TV spots (late night, Tough Crowd, Opie & Anthony, etc.).

Please enjoy this clip and look for others on youtube to appreciate his work...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shatner shows his comedy skills in Thanksgiving safety video

This was just too funny not to share.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ryan Dunn, Daredevil Comedian of ‘Jackass,’ Dies at 34 - NYTimes.com

Ryan Dunn, Daredevil Comedian of ‘Jackass,’ Dies at 34 - NYTimes.com

It's a sad day in entertainment. RIP Ryan. You and your cohorts made me smile.