Movies I cannot get enough of

My wife will walk through the room where I am watching television, observe and ask “how many times have you seen that?” The correct response is “not enough.” I have always enjoyed movies, but not all movies. I like plot and dialogue above all, but like action as well as conflict. I tend to shy away from the movies where the actors are dwarfed by these computer generated things, but that does not necessarily mean those movies are bad.

There are some movies I have seen over ten times. And, if it is on, unless there is a better option elsewhere, I will take a peek. The nice thing about movies you have seen is you can leave them at any time. Sometimes, I have seen the final two-thirds of a movie more than the start, so I will watch the starting one third and then stop. Yes, I know I am weird.

Top of mind, a few that fall into this category include:

  • The Dirty Dozen, a great movie with great actors like Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker, John Cassavettes, et al.
  • Casablanca, a movie that was not supposed to do well, but stands the test of time. It also has the most movie quotes in the top 100 list with six.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, is a must see anytime, and is one of the few I own. Atticus Finch is such a hero to many and the father-children talks are wonderful.
  • Apollo 13, the tense movie about a successful failure with Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, and, of course, six degrees of Kevin Bacon, who is in many ensemble movies.
  • Diner, about young adults finding themselves in Baltimore, with Mickey Rourke, that Kevin guy again, Ellen Barkin, Daniel Stern and others.
  • The Last of the Mohicans, whose scenery, plot and action are matched by one of the best soundtracks ever made. Daniel-Day Lewis and Madelaine Stowe star, the latter of whom is breathtaking to me.
  • Witness for the Prosecution, a terrific English court movie with Charles Laughton playing the crusty old defense lawyer, also with Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power, where Dietrich steals the show.
  • Ben Hur, the best biblical based movie, starring Charleton Heston and some of the best actions scenes, that are well filmed and play a key role.
  • True Grit, the one with John Wayne, Glen Campbell, Robert Duvall and Kim Darby. Wayne is a crusty old drunk of a marshall, but the movie is about his relationship with the Darby who has as much grit.
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral, I love this movie about good friends as the movie tracks them through these five events. Hugh Grant and Andie McDowell star, but the movie is more about all of the friends.

I have left off many from my list, but would love to hear your thoughts and movies that you must see over and over again. I tried to pick a eclectic mix of movies to start some conversation.

Words are cheap

Since politicking is endless, so becomes campaign rhetoric. Rhetoric is a fancy word for bullshit. So, we should always remember this when listening to politicians.

Words are cheap and when campaigning become even cheaper. Politicians can use more words to say absolutely nothing, not at all unlike the famous governor played by Charles Durning in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

Politicians are also renowned for making statements of goals masked as policy statements. One politician says he will make US GDP grow by 4% per annum. OK, how are you going to do this when almost all economists do not see that happening? And, one famous candidate says he has a secret to ending conflict in the Middle East, but you have to elect him to find out. He should not be allowed to get away with such a childish comment.

So, here are a few rules of thumb beyond the skepticism noted above.

– when a politician criticizes some action, ask what would they do differently.
– when a politician labels someone or something with a demonic label (Nazism, Apartheid, slavery, eg), then his or her argument must be poor.
– when someone tells that everyone else is incompetent or a loser, that is similar to the labeling above.
– people should pay attention to what folks have done as that is a better indication of what they will do (it is hard to be egalitarian when your history is one of imperialism).

Finally, to make these things happen, we must pay attention to reputable news sources. We must look at reputable survey sources and reports. Do not discount reading editorialists that you may disagree with, as it helps with fair debate.

Democracy requires an informed electorate. Our problem is we have not lived up to our end and we have been and are being taken advantage of. Words are cheap if we use them poorly.

The memory is a funny thing

My mother has dementia. After recovering from a fall due to a urinary tract infection which led to dehydration, we felt it was time to move her to an assisted living facility. The best advice came from a clinical nurse who said to move her while she can still cope with the change.

And, she is coping nicely. My mother is very social and she is having more interaction with others, eating better and taking her medicines, which she had been letting slide. We moved her from the Rehab Hospital to a nice place which incorporates some of her furniture, pictures and books. So, she feels at home, except for the people wanting give her medicine all the time,

She can sing word for word old songs or recite a favorite poem. She reads beautifully and her penmanship is far better than mine. Being a former teacher, she corrected my poor writing on a card I sent her so she could read it. And, she remembers stories about her life, but not always the who did what.

Yet, she gets confused with the current. She has called me her brother, cousin and, even got jealous when I held my wife’s hand at my daughter’s graduation. She adores my wife, but I had held her hand as I ushered her to her seat.

Intellectually, my mother is in the right place and we can rest easy. Plus, this takes a huge burden off my sister who was the primary care giver. Emotionally, it has been tough, especially when we get to go back to her house and leave her there.

If you have struggled through this, I am certain you know these emotions. If you have not yet, note the words of advice from the nurse about coping with change. She said many wait until it is too late and the paranoia defense mechanisms make it harder for them to trust.

All the best. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Wallace, Warren and W

It is a day of alliteration to the W. Three random, but related thoughts have surfaced around this starting letter. Let’s begin with Wallace. No, not William Wallace, which would have been an added alliteration, but our old friend George Wallace, the former Governor of Alabama. You know, the one who persisted on keeping the ugly Jim Crow alive against the efforts of Martin Luther King to make it go away. The one who blocked the doorway of progress for African-American students, an excellent metaphor.

You see, in an effort to compliment The Donald on his recent trip to Wallace’s home state, a fervent fan offered that he liked Trump as he spoke the truth. He went on to add, Trump is a lot like George Wallace in that regard. I recognize fully the man meant this as a compliment, but I can think of no better metaphor in defining why The Donald should not be President. He is a lot like George Wallace with his hate speak.

Skipping to the W, as in George W. Bush, his brother is doing his best to rewrite history. Jeb is doing his darnedest to say W was a better President than he was and he had won the Iraqi war until President Obama screwed it up. Having hired some of W’s people have not helped in this regard, as it appears they want to whitewash their errors hoping we don’t have a memory. Unfortunately for Jeb, too many people remember how bad W was, as he was not invited to be physically in attendance at the last two GOP Conventions. As a sitting President, he had to be televised into the proceedings in 2008, which is a major insult.

The middle W is for Warren, Senator Elizabeth Warren, that is. As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to have credibility issues, which may not go away or be let to go away (think Benghazi), the Democrat leadership is getting a little antsy. Senator Bernie Sanders is doing terrifically well speaking plainly about the issues (he actually thinks before he speaks), yet many do not think he can carry the ball to the goal line. I personally do not think America is smart enough to elect Sanders, as many will never get past the word socialist as they do not know what it means. I love Vice President Joe Biden and he gets a bum rap with people looking for him to misspeak. He has been one of the most effective Vice Presidents we have had in recent memory. Yet, I don’t know if he can carry the ball all the way, either.

So, if Hillary stumbles, I think the party needs to go hat in hand to someone who would be a terrific President if she chose to run. And, that would be Elizabeth Warren. She brings the intellect and fight of Sanders to the fray, along with terrific debate skills, story and experience. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been a huge success for defrauded and aggressively marketed to consumers. She is the reason. Her favorite quote of mine when asked if she liked Wall Street. “I like Wall Street, I just don’t like cheating.”

Senator Warren, please reconsider. Even if Hillary prevails, it would be great to have two effective women candidates in the race. And, your party and America just might need you, as there is not an abundance of good ideas coming from the party with seventeen candidates.

 

Bring me some water – Tribute to Melissa Etheridge

Several years ago, the Grammy’s had on a fresh young singer who came on stage and then belted out a very memorable and passionate song. Melissa Etheridge gave a performance of her first big song “Bring me some water,” that truly electrified the house. Now, that she is 54, she is not as fresh a personality, but very few sing with such passion. Very few move an audience like she can with her aching, yearning lyrics and raw guitar. Here is a sample of her lyrics from this first song.

Somebody bring me some water. Can’t you see I’m burning alive? Can’t you see my baby’s got another lover? I don’t know how I’m gonna survive.

Somebody bring me some water. Can’t you see it’s out of control? Baby’s got my heart and my baby’s got my mind. But tonight the sweet Devil, the sweet Devil’s got my soul.

One of her gifts is she is true to herself. You might note her songs are typically devoid of masculine and feminine pronouns. While Lesbian, she knew her songs would appeal to all forms of passionate love between two adults. I heard that the record label wanted her to make her songs more heterosexual in orientation. She refused, but said I will song about passion without regard to gender identification.

She has had many hits, but another favorite is “Come to my window.” Here is a sample:

Come to my window. Crawl inside, wait by the light of the moon. Come to my window. I’ll be home soon.

I would dial the numbers. Just to listen to your breath. I would stand inside my hell. And hold the hand of death. You don’t know how far I’d go. To ease this precious ache. You don’t know how much I’d give.

I love the metaphor of the window. Come through and help salve my aching for you. I find her choice of words, extremely inviting.

A third song I will highlight is “I’m the only one.” Here is a taste of another song of passion.

Please baby can’t you see. My mind’s a burnin’ hell. I got razors a rippin’ and tearin’ and strippin’ . My heart apart as well. Tonight you told me That you ache for something new. And some other woman is lookin’ like something. That might be good for you.

In this song, she does identify a woman as another suitor, but in this case, her love could be a man or a woman, so the songs still works. In this song, she is more direct with her ache and hell. Yet, she is very vivid that her heart is not just breaking, it is being ripped apart.

A few of her other hits include: “Like the way I do,” “I want to come over,” “Similar features,” and “Chrome plated heart.” I won’t highlight lyrics from these songs, yet each has a passionate edge. And, there are many more.

Etheridge is a force, whether it is on stage or fighting for many causes. If you ever get a chance, go see her perform or just download a few songs. Make sure you car is on cruise control, as you might get a speeding ticket.

Make America Hate Again

Kevin Siers is one of the more talented newspaper cartoonists. He has a very keen eye on skewering the hypocritical or inane. I think his cartoon this morning captures the essence of why America does not need The Donald as our President. A link to the cartoon is below.

Playing off his slogan of “Make America Great Again,” Siers takes The Donald’s policy paper on immigration which codifies his lack of heart and wisdom with respect to immigrants to the United States. The catchphrase is “Make America Hate Again.” Not only are his ideas unworkable and not seasoned with a lot of thought, he has gone beyond punishing illegal immigrants and will hurt immigrants who are here legally.

But, this is not his only “Make America Hate Again” position and will definitely not be his last. He wants to invade Iraq and take what he says is “our oil.” He is not keen on negotiating with Iran, so my guess is he will want to do something less diplomatically with them, maybe following the inane “Bomb Iran” banter. He also is quite confident in his abilities to make other nations suddenly hand us their keys. I find that not only brash, but terribly naïve. Just look into how he has ticked off the Scots over an offshore windmill project to get a sense of his arrogant and ineffective diplomatic style (see link below following cartoon).

Yet, it does not stop there. He has ticked off Veterans with his comments about Senator John McCain and how Trump escaped service. He has ticked off African-Americans with his criticism of the President regarding his birth certificate and transcripts. The birther issue was only kept alive to placate the bigoted base of the Republican Party who hates Obama because he happens to be half-Black. As a former Republican, I fault the leaders of the party for letting that BS go on for as long as it still does. And, he has offended women with his rude references that go beyond political incorrectness.

He has ticked off Hispanic Americans with his stance on immigration and now ill-fated policy statement, which is equally offensive. What is interesting to me is some of the other candidates have sided with The Donald on his immigration policy, at least in tenor. That is very indicting of them, so be mindful of who they are and check that on their negative ledger, as agreeing with The Donald is not necessarily a good thing.

All of these will add up to harm for his party and platform. It will be interesting to see his next policy statement. If he follows the lead of his immigration policy, it will be a beaut.

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/editorial-cartoons/kevin-siers/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/11/donald-trump-loses-windfarm-scottish-golf-resort

Glen Campbell: Good Times Again

Last night, I caught a melancholy show where Glen Campbell took us back to the many guests he had on his TV show. Not unlike, a similar review for Johnny Cash, Campbell had a wide variety of talented performers with whom he sang duets .

Fortunately, Campbell narrates the show which was filmed in 2007 before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Ironically, one of his guests was Linda Ronstadt who now has Parkinson’s Disease, so their duet of a James Taylor song “Carolina on my Mind” was especially poignant, with it such a reflective song.

He noted he likes harmonizing with female singers. He said he could sing under their voice more easily. In particular, he and Bobbi Gentry were so good together, they cut an album. They sang a beautiful rendition of “Let it be me” where there was obvious affection between the two, be it friendship or perhaps more. Maybe, that was the selling of the song, but their interaction made it special.

He also had memorable duets with Cher (“Just let me be Friends with you“) and Anne Murray (Don’t think twice, it’s alright”). He sang with Ray Charles, Ricky Nelson, B J Thomas, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, as well. He noted his friendship with Nelson dated back to when he played guitar on Nelson’s albums. They sang a terrific rendition of “Louisiana Man.”

Additionally, the show was peppered with his own hits such as “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Gentle on my Mind,” the theme from “True Grit” and “By the Time I get to Phoenix.” What was especially nice about “Gentle on my Mind,” was he played with the writer of the song, John Hartford. That is very gracious to bring on the songwriter to play and sing with him. He also had a nice story about meeting John Wayne, whose daughter was a big fan. Through this meeting, he was asked by Wayne to act in the movie “True Grit.”

But, when you see him play, you are reminded that he is quite a good guitarist having played as a session musician on many albums as a member of the Wrecking Crew, a studio house band for Phil Specter’s wall of sound concept. He did several guitar licks while singing with his guests or on his own songs.

Since my parents watched the shows when they first aired, it was like stepping back into my childhood. Back then, you only had three choices on TV, so you watched as a family. If you have not seen the review show, it is worth the time. So, give it a peek.

An Independent Voter’s Debate Questions

With presidential campaign season upon us, the debates of the many candidates have started. Yet, we need to make sure we are asking the right questions of the candidates. If the first debate is an indication of what is to come, we are not talking about the issues all Americans want and need to hear about. It would be nice if we followed the British model where the debates are segregated into topics like I have done below.

Economy

  • With the economy doing pretty well (stock market doubled since the recession, net new jobs created since January, 2009 at 8 million per the Bureau of Labor Statistics and unemployment down to 5.3%), how will you build on that success?
  • Since not every one has benefitted under the growing economy, what measures would you take to make sure that people in the lower middle class and in poverty can find opportunity?
  • With the Affordable Care Act, while imperfect and complex, working pretty well by a number of measures and sources, what improvements would you make to it? If you would replace it, what would you do instead and how would you manage the transition for the many who might lose care?

Infrastructure

  • With Congress continuing to kick the can down the road to invest in our aging infrastructure, would you make building and repairing roads, bridges, railway bridges and track, ports, and electric grid a priority?
  • Would you agree with the statement that investing in our infrastructure is a good investment in jobs for Americans?

Eco-energy

  • With climate change starting to impact us more and more due to our influence on the environment, what measures would you take to assure we migrate to more environmentally friendly renewable energy sources building upon the President’s plan to work with states on that mission?
  • With the jobs in renewable energy growing at double digits per annum, what measures would you take to help states invest in retraining of fossil-fuel industry employees and possibly provide temporary pay measures to help in the transition?
  • With water becoming a more dear resource in our country and planet, what measures would you take to help assure its protection and supply?

Global Affairs

  • With global poverty, mal-treatment of women and corruption such huge issues, what is America’s role in helping people and making sure resources get to the folks intended?
  • With the Middle East such a conundrum with disparate groups fighting with and against our allies and support, what would you do differently to define success, assure that it is attainable and define a timeline to get there?
  • With Putin trying to expand Russian influence with inappropriate tactics, what would your position be in dealing with him and supporting our allies?
  • With China’s economic slow down and its appetite for claiming territory in the China Sea, what do you propose America do to support its allies in the region, as well as garner more trade?

Social and economic injustice

  • In addition to the question above, some areas are more down-trodden than others – inner cities, rural towns and areas. What do you propose to provide hope and opportunity to these places?
  • With the “Blacks Lives Matter” campaign which is in reaction to Black men being gun downed by law enforcement officers and domestic terrorists, what do you propose to do to help assure we value those men and communities?
  • With America’s fall in the global rankings of socio-economic mobility, where to whom you were born matters more than your own merit in your success, what else would you propose we do to afford opportunity?

Balance between security and liberty

  • Since 9/11, times have changed in America and planet. The pendulum fulcrum has swung more to security and away from individual liberties. In your view, what is the appropriate balance?
  • Would you support heightened governance over drones, spying, and the NSA than exists today to assure protection, but let us remain true to our quest for individual liberty?

Gun control

  • With America having more gun and child gun deaths than the next twenty-two wealthiest nations combined, what do you propose we do about that?
  • With suicide accounting for two-thirds of our gun deaths in America, what else would you propose we do to limit access to weapons?
  • With Americans supporting background checks on all transactions and extended waiting periods, would you support legislation that would accomplish these things, even though the NRA is a powerful lobby?

I have a few more questions, but these would glean answers from candidates rather than mere words from a campaign slogan. It is easy to say you don’t agree with something, but the key question is what would you do? Also, we need to know how something will be achieved, not just what it is. At the last election Mitt Romney said he would get the unemployment rate down to 6% by 2016. Well, it is 5.3% and still in 2015, so I would expect an “atta-boy” from him to President Obama.

Please take note on issues that I did not mention, as we have heard enough about them. Planned Parenthood is actually a good organization and helps reduce the number of abortions, reduce unwanted pregnancies, and reduce poverty. We should fund it more than it is funded today, not less. Religious Freedom exists today, but it is and should be usurped by individual freedoms if one person’s religion allows unfair discrimination against another in a public transaction. That is the beauty of our constitution and Bill of Rights.

Feel free to react to these questions and offer your own. I would love to hear from you.

The stuff dreams are made of

While this is the pivotal quote from the movie “Maltese Falcon,” this movie will not be mentioned further. The quote is germane as I am remembering various beautiful actresses in movie roles in which they looked most appealing, at least to me.

Michelle Pfeiffer in “The Fabulous Baker Boys” who is a favorite actress of mine

Nicole Kidman in “Cold Mountain” where she would take your breath away

Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca” whose beautiful sadness made you pine for her

Isabella Rossellini in “Cousins” as she reminds me of how beautiful her mother was in “Casablanca”

Jean Seberg in “Paint your Wagon” who looked and sang better than her two husbands

Jane Seymour in “Somewhere in Time”  for whom you would also want to travel back in time

Katherine Ross in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” especially during one of the most sensuous foreplay movie scenes

Teri Hatcher in “Tomorrow Never Dies” as my favorite Bond actress who I became infatuated with as Lois Lane on TV

Kathleen Turner in “Body Heat” where the verbal foreplay when she and William Hurt’s character first meet is scintillating – of course the other foreplay is memorable

Jacqueline Bissett in “The Deep” where the wet T-shirt contest may have been born and was very impactful on this teen boy

Jessica Lange in the remake of “The Postman Always Rings a Twice” where need and want become the same thing

Catherine McCormack in “Braveheart” where you mourn her loss as did William Wallace

I am leaving so many actresses out, so I would love to hear your favorites. Also, commenters are welcome to mention actors that float your boat.

A couple more retailers going solar

As solar energy continues its downward trend in cost, it is matched by an upward trend in development. Companies with huge data centers like Google, Apple and Facebook, e.g. have been leading the pack with solar energy to power their buildings. Yet, cost conscious retailers are also tacking solar panels to their roofs.

IKEA was an early adopter with solar panels on 40 of its then 42 US stores. Last November, Walmart announced they would power 400 more stores by solar energy with a goal to be 100% renewable energy powered. In July, Target announced they would follow suit and is powering its 27 North Carolina stores and a total of 180 US stores with solar energy. Target’s goal is to have 500 stores powered by solar energy by 2020. Not to be outdone, Aldi is placing solar panels on ten of its North Carolina stores plus its distribution center.

With tight margins in retail, especially in the grocery market segment, to move down the path of solar energy speaks volumes. A retailer would not do this if it was not value accretive to the bottom line. Although it is still a surprise to many who limit their news sources, solar energy is growing rapidly and is a viable energy source. It is also clean and will avoid the health and environmental risks that come with fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Plus, the solar energy jobs are increasing at a double-digit rate with over 170,000 jobs at year-end 2014.

The future of solar energy is very bright indeed. And, wind energy continues to build on its success in Midwestern US and select other states. So, a little sun, a little breeze and we will be in a much better position to combat climate change and improve our health and environment.