- 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.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Friday, February 3, 2012
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
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
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 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
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
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
It's a sad day in entertainment. RIP Ryan. You and your cohorts made me smile.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
In many respects, this will create upheaval in industries that required many people to search for that needle. It could be in the field of academia, medical research, marketing and other information intensive industries. Our economy has been an information-based economy for the past three decades as manufacturing moved offshore. Now the information business has become hyper-efficient, in large part from smarter computing, and the workforce has to think about how to position itself during this wave of innovation.
From a technological standpoint, companies do not want to be left behind in this capability to automate tasks and bring new efficiencies to benefit customers and improve the bottom line.
This represents a sea-change in work, much like the industrial revolution. If you think about it, Facebook has a $50 billion market valuation and only 2,000 employees. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has over 2.1 million employees worldwide and a market valuation of $187 billion. In other words, Facebook is valued at $25 million per employee. Wal-Mart, which has revenue of $420 billion or about the same as the entire output of Sweden's economy, is valued at $89,000 per employee. Valuations are sometimes a dodgy prospect, since there are assumptions about growth rates.
The point that's being made here is that wealth is not necessarily determined by the size of an enterprise. Businesses are doing more with less and we will need to adapt to that new reality. Just as the car rendered horse carriages obsolete, our culture needs to think about what will be valued in the new economy.