Monday, May 30, 2011
Sunday, May 29, 2011
'Tora! Tora! Tora!' is an underrated movie from 1970 that methodically details the events leading up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This is not a film that will 'Wow!' you, but it is well told and acted. I've read that the filmmakers stayed away from having big stars in it to avoid having one person overshadow the storyline. Because of this, good character actors like Jason Robards, Martin Balsam, James Whitmore, and E.G. Marshall get a chance to shine. However, the best part of the film is its battle scenes, and the film also does a good job of presenting the story from both the Japanese and American viewpoints.
Of course, Patton is a classic war film, and George C. Scott's performance of Gen. George Patton dominates the film. I did not know until yesterday that Francis Ford Coppola co-wrote the screenplay. However, this film is Scott's all the way, and it is hard to imagine any other actor who might have done a better job.
Also, I caught most of Coppola's Apocalypse Now: Redux last night, and it has been 20 years since I have seen the film. Another great film with strong performances with the best probably being Robert Duvall's. A small criticism is that there needed to be more Marlon Brando in it, but this was typical of Brando films in the late 1970s. He was in it for what seemed like 15 minutes but still got top billing. I wonder how Martin Sheen (the real star of the film) felt about that.
If you stumble across these films the rest of the weekend, my advice is to watch them.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Well, you get the picture. If the rest of the day is as good as this morning, then it will be a good one.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
In the last couple of weeks, gas prices have dropped. This news has resulted in joy in some sectors, but I do not get it. I paid $3.59 a gallon today to fill up my tank. While I am glad prices have dropped, we are still paying way too much. Yet, some people want to throw a party because prices have gone down 20 cents. Our expectations regarding what should be a reasonable price for gas has changed a lot. And not for the better.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
It has been almost three weeks since American special operations troops tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden. Unsurprisingly, conspiracy theories have flourished since then regarding his death and how it played out.
Should this come as a surprise? It really should not. For better or worse, we live in a world that is suspicious, if not paranoid, when it comes to major announcements made by the government.
We simply do not trust our government. While many say this is not bad, it is a shame in at least one way.
There is a fine line between skepticism and cynicism. When it comes to our government, skepticism is fine. Whether it is on the local, state or federal level, it is always important to scrutinize the actions and words of our elected officials.
Americans need to be watchdogs when it comes to government. However, it all starts going bad when we cross over the line to cynicism. Skepticism is healthy, but cynicism is a condition of the heart that can be damaging.
Characteristics such as contempt come into play when we become cynical. Cynicism breeds anger and bitterness. That is a big step beyond just being skeptical.
For me, the first examples of this cynicism toward bin Laden's death occurred the morning after it was announced. I was stuck in rush hour traffic in
However, I hesitated before dialing up one of those stations. I got burned out on talk radio years ago, and the thought of turning to one made me a little queasy.
Still, I went ahead and did it, and I got pretty much what I expected. It was less than 12 hours since the announcement of bin Laden's death and caller after caller was expressing their cynicism about what they had been told.
The first caller I heard claimed to be in the medical profession, and he said there was no way the DNA tests used to identify bin Laden’s body could have been done so quickly. Of course, he offered no evidence regarding his medical credentials, but he believed his death was definitely fishy.
Another caller took issue with how the government disposed of bid Laden's body. It was buried in the ocean so there could be no gravesite that could become a rallying point for other terrorists. It was also done that way in accordance with Muslim customs.
However, the caller claimed that because of how this was handled we could not be sure he was actually dead. Of course, if this caller was correct, it would mean that every Navy SEAL who took part in this action is a liar and a participant in a massive cover up.
Others debated the worthiness of releasing photos and video regarding the handling of bin Laden's corpse. Personally, I feel there would be merit in releasing photos of his body. After all, if a person can find photos of President Kennedy's autopsy on the Internet, I think the world can handle a couple of photos of bin Laden.
However, I can understand the reasons for not releasing them, and that point of view has merit. Still, the lack of photos will likely remain a rallying point for doubters.
The unfortunate bottom line in these conspiracy theories is that it keeps bin Laden alive. Obviously, he is not physically alive, but if somebody can plant doubt regarding the circumstances of his death, then bin Laden remains a powerful force.
However, it is time for him to stop being a powerful force.
He needs to rest in mangled pieces in his watery grave.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Who's Next is an album just like that. When I first discovered this album as a teenager, I enjoyed it as simply a head-banging rock and roll album. And that it is. With classics like "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Baba O'Reilly," and "Behind Blue Eyes," this album is easily one of the greatest rock and roll albums ever produced. I don't use the word "greatest" lightly. This album has a level of musicianship and songwriting rarely heard.
In many ways, Who's Next is the ultimate hard rock album, but then again, it really isn't. Calling this a purely hard rock album doesn't do it justice. There are some beautiful piano and acoustic guitar driven songs. There is an undeniable spiritual element to it, and it also includes synthesizer work that was groundbreaking for its time. However, one of the most fascinating aspects of this album is that it was born out of failure.
In 1969, The Who released Tommy, which was a huge worldwide hit. After years of laboring on the edge of success, the band became superstars. The Tommy breakthrough culminated in August of that year when they knocked the socks off everybody at
The project the band decided upon was actually a film to be called Lifehouse. It had a science fiction plot, but it eventually collapsed. However, sometimes in the rubble of failure lay the seeds of success. And that is what happened when the band decided to go ahead and record the songs written for Lifehouse.
Taken all at once, this is an overwhelming album. The two best songs are "Behind Blue Eyes" and "Bargain." "Behind Blue Eyes" has become a radio staple over the last 40 years, and its twin themes of self-pity and rage are both emotions in which everybody can identify. By probing these two universal themes, the band committed to album what rock critic Dave Marsh described as one of the fiercest prayers ever sung. The song's thunderous final 90 seconds are nothing less than a universal prayer spoken with pain and honesty.
"When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool,
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool.
If I swallow anything evil,
Put Your finger down my throat
If I shiver, please give me a blanket,
Keep me warm, let me wear Your coat"
Each line reveals fears and insecurities that all of us have had at some point. The songwriter, Pete Townshend, has taken his fears to the Source, and it is delivered with sledgehammer force. Some may believe this is a disrespectful approach to God, but above all things, I believe God wants our prayer life with Him to be totally honest. Sometimes a person needs to tear the bark off the tree and tell it like it is.
On "Bargain," the spiritual yearning is no less intense. The delivery is still fierce, but the writer's heart has moved from rage to what he will do to have a closer fellowship with God.
"I'd gladly lose me to find You
I’d gladly give up all I had
To find You, I’d suffer anything and be glad
I'll pay any price just to get You
I'll work all my life and I will
To win you, I'd stand naked, stoned, and stabbed
I call that a bargain, the best I ever had"
There are no duds on this album. When originally released, the integration of the synthesizer into the band's sound was unique. At the around the same time, Stevie Wonder was also pushing the envelope in terms of synthesizer use. The Who wanted to use it to add atmosphere to the science fiction plot of Lifehouse. They wisely chose to keep it for the Who's Next album. In addition to "Baba O'Reilly" and "Won't Get Fooled Again," the 'popcorn' synthesizer effect on "Goin' Mobile" added much juice to the song.
"Getting in Tune" has a beautiful piano and backing vocals, and Roger Daltrey's vocals have never sounded so vulnerable. Written by bassist John Entwistle, "My Wife" includes his trademark wit and includes some nice horn work.
The Who never reached this album's heights again. They had moments, but much like The Rolling Stones, once they hit superstardom, their genius came to the surface only occasionally. However, an album like this is more than enough to ensure their place in musical history.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Of course, last week, Trump played a major role in pressuring the release of President Barack Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate. For the last couple of years, a very small group has perpetuated the lie that the president was not born in the
This issued was resolved a long time ago, but some people lacking the political originality to address serious topics kept pushing this issue. Most right-thinking Americans understood that the birth certificate controversy was a crock, but I guess we must give Trump some credit for getting this resolved once and for all.
Actually, I am not going to give Trump any credit. If the life of Trump has proved anything over the last 30 years, it is that he loves publicity. His number one priority in life is to generate a spotlight for himself.
We have seen this with his business dealings. We have seen this with his television show. We have even seen this with the women he has dated, married, and divorced.
The man knows how to generate publicity, and his jousting with the president is the most recent example of this. The president indirectly referred to Trump as a "carnival barker" last week, and this may be his most memorable quote during the first two-and-a-half years of his presidency.
As for Trump's alleged presidential aspirations, I hope no one reading this genuinely believes he will run for that office. If Trump tried to run, he simply would not be able to stand the scrutiny he would experience.
People like Trump can maintain their bravado when they are in control of the situation. However, when they lose that control, they often like to take their ball and go home. And in a presidential race, not even an image merchant like Trump can control how the media and political opponents go after him.
I can already see how it would all end. Trump will continue to build some momentum, but when the scrutiny gets too hot, he will quit. Instead of simply leaving, he will blame distractions created by his opponents that make it impossible for him to discuss important issues.
Trump will cloak his exit in nobility. Despite his spin control, he will leave as the victim of the same tactics he successfully used against the president. Payback is often delicious in politics, and Trump will likely be another example of that.
However, this does not mean he is going to disappear. Celebrities like Trump maintain their status by simply creating noise. It does not matter what tone that noise takes. It can be meaningful, but often it is shrill.
And when considering our nation's current political landscape, the last thing we need is somebody else being shrill. This is especially true if the shrill person has a hairstyle that defies the laws of physics.
Still, Trump does have a following, and that is something that can never be taken for granted. The man does know how to maintain the interest of people.
Then again, so does Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Charisma can carry a person a long way these days whether it is in politics or in pop culture. Trump’s future is obviously in pop culture.
Trump will continue to have a place on the national scene. Perhaps that is a good thing.
After all, carnival barkers are entertaining people. They have a good way with language and are fascinating to observe in an odd way.
This is fine as long as we do not take people like them too seriously.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Grinnin' at his gun
Fingers start shakin'
I begin to run
Bullets start chasin'
I begin to stop
We begin to wrestle
I was on the top"
From 'Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)' by Sly and the Family Stone