Monday, August 30, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Curt Jurgens, Richard Kiel

Freed from an often tense relationship with his co-producer Harry Saltzman, Albert R. 'Cubby' Broccoli took sole command of the 007 franchise following the lackluster performance of The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974. It took three years for Bond to return to the big screen, but Broccoli proved to everyone that the wait was well worth it. The Spy Who Loved Me proved to be the high watermark for Roger Moore's tenure as 007. Aside from having a compelling Cold War era plot, the film boasts amazing Ken Adam sets, beautiful women, lush locales and perhaps the greatest stunt ever shot.

Following the disappearance of British and Russian nuclear submarines, Bond is recalled to England to find out what happened, but not before a fabulous ski chase that ends with 007 jumping off a cliff and deploying a Union Jack parachute. The trail leads Bond to Cairo where he meets up with gorgeous Russian agent, XXX (Barbara Bach) who is after the same information as our James. They are menaced among the pyramids by a giant mute with metal teeth named Jaws who works for shipping magnate, Carl Stromberg, a webbed fingered madman who has hijacked the submarines in an attempt to set off World War III. Its a typical Bond plot that has echoes of earlier films in the series, but it is executed so well that you don't really mind.

Roger Moore perfectly inhabits the role of 007 in this, his third outing, by deftly balancing the action with his trademark wit. Many view this as his best Bond film (I disagree) because it nicely illustrates what Moore brought to the role- one liners, charm and the ability to show cruelty- when necessary. In addition to Moore's performance, Spy boasts a strong, interesting villain in the form of older, German actor, Curt Jurgens. Jurgens is not a physical match for 007 in the mold of Christopher Lee, but he is menacing and gets off some classic lines. Jaws is an iconic Bond villain, and unlike in Moonraker, he is sort of scary in this movie. Barbara Bach impresses in the looks category, but she leaves a bit to be desired as a thespian. With that said, she's much better than some other Bond girls. I'm looking at you, Tanya Roberts.

The Spy Who Loved Me proved Moore's viability as 007, that fans still loved the series and most importantly that Cubby Broccoli was the right man to lead the franchise. Not many men could have put something so big on their back and made it work, but Broccoli did and this film was the glossy, action packed result of his labors. Nobody did it better.

Things to watch for-

Rick Sylvester makes the greatest ski jump- EVER
Jaws vs. Bond in a train compartment
The Lotus takes a swim
The Liparus set that required the largest sound stage ever to be built
Carly Simon's classic theme song

"Bond, what do you think you're doing?"
"Keeping the British end up, sir."

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Like You

Here are a few people that I admire/enjoy/think you should be aware of.


Her songs are much more thoughtful, interesting and humorous than other female pop stars. She also writes them herself which is a huge deal considering that so many current artists don't. She's clever, savvy and kind of adorable. The other great thing about Lily is that her best song is a very cheerful telling off to George W. Bush called-  F*** You. Cheers, Lily.


This guy has been nearly perfect since he took over for Brett Favre two years ago. Nobody, including me, thought he would be able to replace Favre, but he has done nothing but make amazing throws, win games and lead one of the most storied franchises in sports out of the ashes of Favre's messy departure. I would be shocked if there is a Packers fan out there who is lamenting the loss of Favre. If they are, they haven't been paying attention because Aaron Rodgers is a stud.


As Mad Men's Don Draper, he is awesomely cool, but he's almost as cool in real life. I wrongly poo-pooed Mad Men for years, but now that I like it I can't help but be a fan of Jon Hamm. Unlike d bags like Marky Mark, Hamm is great at making fun of himself and his image. For a great example, watch 'Don Draper's Guide to Picking Up Women' from Saturday Night Live or his guest spot on 'Between Two Ferns.' I hear his middle name is 'Honeybaked.'

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Vietnam Thesis- Part IX

Lon Nol

That's part nine for those of you that struggle with Roman numerals.

If 1969 had seemed like a step in the wrong direction to the soldiers in Vietnam, 1970 was going to see the consequences of that step. Bringing units home under Nixon’s policy was good for those men, and bad for the army in general. The draft and the fixed tours of duty men served impacted the war in a negative way. Being forced to serve only one year, if the soldier lived, was nice on an individual basis. However, the light at the end of the tunnel for draftees was the end of their tour, not the end of the war. By fixing the tours of duty to one year, there was no motivation for men to fight the war to win; it was to fight the war in order to stay alive. The enemy, on the other hand, was in the war for however long it took.

Unlike the North Vietnamese, the U.S. soldiers were not all volunteers, and this coupled with a lack of solidarity in the military as a result of one year tours made U.S. victory uncertain for the first time in the nation’s history. Conflict over service was rampant in the U.S. like never before, “I couldn’t make up my mind. I feared the war, yes, but I also feared exile...I feared ridicule and censure.” Even though this quote is from a novel, Patrick O’Brien perfectly captures the dilemma of so many men who could not, and yet still did fight in Vietnam. The U.S. government did not understand this dilemma, and pressed on as if it did not exist. The price of ignorance would prove to be high, and success would not come, even with the promise of a new opportunity.

With a change of power in Cambodia in March of 1970 came a chance for Nixon and the war effort to make real strides toward victory. The new leader, Lon Nol, was more supportive of the U.S., and that allowed for a U.S. and ARVN “incursion” into a country which had been harboring Viet Cong soldiers and spies throughout the war. Having not been allowed over the border into Cambodia, the U.S. military’s hands were tied in pursuing much of the enemy force. Nixon had now given his men the opportunity to chase the Viet Cong into its hiding place and eliminate them. By doing so, many men saw a chance to take care of the enemy once and for all and win the war.

The war was being widened temporarily in order to shorten the length of American involvement. In a letter to his hometown paper, Gregory Lusco wrote, “We cheered Nixon when he sent troops to Cambodia- we are praying we’ll also see Laos.” Lusco, like many other men were happy finally to be allowed to fight in Cambodia, but like other operations deemed successes by the U.S. the Viet Cong received advanced warning about the U.S. offensive, and moved into Western Cambodia. At each turn the enemy always seemed to catch a small break.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter

This is the greatest summertime thriller ever made. Alfred Hitchcock is at his suspenseful best in this smart, stylish and voyeuristic story of a man who gets too involved in the lives of his neighbors. I place Rear Window as one of the two or three best films Hitchcock ever made. It has many of the director's hallmarks- a compelling leading man, the cool blonde heroine, great sets and costumes, clever dialogue and a plot that keeps you guessing up until the very end.

Professional photographer L.B. Jefferies (Stewart) is confined to a wheelchair for six weeks following an accident, and in the last week of his time in a cast, he takes to watching his neighbors out the window as a form of entertainment.  He gets chided by his nurse and his glamourous girlfriend (Kelly) for his peeping, especially when he thinks he sees some sinister goings on across the way. The plot thickens as the week wears on, and Jefferies looks to find more proof to support his belief that a murder might have taken place. Hitchcock expertly builds the tension throughout, throwing curve balls at the audience as the film works towards its resolution.

Stewart, a Hitchcock favorite, is the perfect leading man for this film, able to be both strong and vulnerable at the same time. He is also likable, considering that he could be considered to be doing something illegal by spying on his neighbors. The issue of voyeurism is up for debate in the movie, but Hitchcock doesn't lead you to feel one way or the other, and leaves it up to you to make up your own mind about what is right and wrong. Grace Kelly could wear a paper bag and look good, but she looks even better in Edith Head's costumes and serves as a nice 'girl Friday' for Stewart. Also of note are the great cast of characters that round out the neighborhood. I try to never remember the exact end of this film, because it is nice to see it as if for the first time every time I watch it. Rear Window takes place during a hot summer week, so make sure to watch it before there are no more summer weeks left.

Things to watch for-

Raymond Burr (T.V.'s Perry Mason) as Lars Thorwald
Miss Torso
Flashbulbs can be deadly
A cameo by Hitchcock
All the film's music is diagetic (look that word up, kids)

"A murderer would never parade his crime in front of an open window."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book of the Month

This Month,


By Hans Fallada

Many historical novels struggle to truly capture the facts and details of a time period, while at the same time creating a compelling story with nuanced characters. In his 1947 book, author Hans Fallada, who wrote it in a mere twenty four days, does both with masterful skill. Fallada used the real life story of a German couple who wrote anti-Nazi postcards during World War II as the basis for this powerful novel. Having access to the Gestapo files that detailed the couple's rebellious acts against Hitler's oppressive regime, Fallada brilliantly interweaves the story of Otto and Anna Quangel with the story of the SS and Gestapo officials who are trying to hunt them down.

The Quangels are great characters that deserve to be put up with some of the best and most revered in all of literature. It is a shame that only in the past two years Fallada's works are finally being recognized in the U.S., having been regarded as classics in Germany for decades. Fallada is in the league of Charles Dickens when it comes to creating unique and memorable characters. In addition to the Quangels, he gives us the feeble thief, Enno Kluge, the conflicted but determined Gestapo officer, Inspector Eserech and the villainous Nazi family, the Persickes. While there are many parallel narratives in Every Man Dies Alone, the story is really about Otto and Anna.

Starting out as a mild mannered, working class couple, they are motivated to act when their son is killed in battle. They begin a campaign that is aimed at saying what people in Berlin during the war feared to say, through inflammatory postcards that are dropped in public areas in the hopes of sparking some kind of rebellion. For anyone who is a history buff, this book is a great slice of information about the lives of ordinary Germans who struggled against Nazi rule during the war.

Almost as compelling as the novel itself, is the story of Hans Fallada. He was born Rudolf Ditzen and wrote many books based upon events in his life and the history of Germany. Ditzen spent time in a Nazi Insane Asylum during the war and he chronicled that story in his book The Drinker. He died of a morphine overdose in 1947, shortly after completing Every Man Dies Alone. It is sad to think that we might have had more work from this fabulous author had he not died so young. I encourage you to read this book, and look into reading Fallada's other books. I know I will.

Monday, August 16, 2010

NFL Season Preview

Drew Brees- QB New Orleans Saints

Chris Johnson- RB Tennessee Titans
Forget ESPN, Sports Illustrated and all those other "authorities," Conned! is your home for the best, most entertaining and accurate Football prognosticating in the blogosphere. Having done a good deal of research, I am now ready to give you my picks, prospects and preview for the 2010 football season. Enjoy!

2010 NFL Standings-
(*- Denotes Playoff Team)


1. Cowboys* ('boys play well, but the pressure to play the Super Bowl at home is too much to handle)
2. Redskins (McNabb makes Eagles pay for trading him, and Shanahan builds his 3-4 toward a 2011 playoff berth)
3. Eagles (Vick and Kolb do their best, but it isn't enough to make the playoffs)
4. Giants (Too many injuries and losses mount for the once strong N.Y. Football Giants. Sorry, Eli)

1. Saints* (Brees and Co. return to the big game behind high powered 'O', opportunistic 'D' and Sean Peyton's great coaching)
2. Falcons* (Ryan leads his team back to the playoffs, and maybe the birds even win a game as a Wild Card)
3. Buccaneers (Improvements abound for the Bucs, but there's too much competition in this division)
4. Panthers (Jimmy Clausen takes over at QB mid-season for this rebuilding bunch)

1. Packers* (Rodgers gets the Pack to the NFC Championship, but the Super Bowl will have to wait 'til 2011)
2. Vikings* (Whether Favre plays or not, this team is loaded, and will be a Wild Card at worst)
3. Bears (Cutler and the defense improve, but not enough to save Lovie Smith's job)
4. Lions (Lions keep moving forward, but it's too tough in this division to be any better than 6-10)

1. 49ers* (Niners get back to the playoffs behind Gore, Smith and Coach Singletary's punishing Defense)
2. Seahawks (Carroll's first year is semi-successful, but not like he is used to- let's say 7-9)
3. Cardinals (Leinart ain't Warner, and it shows as Arizona goes backward)
4. Rams (St. Louis shows signs of future greatness with some surprising wins behind rookie Bradford)


1. Jets* (Rex's kids get it done, despite high expectations, but have some work to do to go all the way)
2. Patriots* (Tom looks strong, but the no-name defense lets the Pats down in the playoffs)
3. Dolphins (Henne is a star in the making, but the fish need some more help to win in this division)
4. Bills (Buffalo isn't going to do much. Did anybody think they would?)

1. Colts* (Playoffs prove to be the Colts undoing again, as Manning struggles without a running game)
2. Texans (Houston just misses the playoffs again, 8-8 is becoming a habit)
3. Titans (Vince Young and Chris Johnson are studs, but there's not much else there)
4. Jaguars (Maurice Jones-Drew is a great fantasy pick, but sadly these guys are playing in the reality of the NFL)

1. Ravens* (Flacco, Rice and the defense are at that critical point to make the leap to the top of the league)
2. Bengals* (The T.O. experiment works until the Bengals fold in the playoffs)
3. Steelers (Big Ben's 4-6 game absence hurts Pittsburgh and they never recover)
4. Browns (Cleveland is better in 2010 under Holmgren, but it's a long road back for the nation's most depressing sports town)

1. Chiefs* (I'm being bold and saying upstart Kansas City dethrones the Chargers as the class of the West)
2. Chargers (Injuries and Norv Turner's milquetoast coaching doom the Bolts chances, despite the arm of Philip Rivers)
3. Broncos (Tebow ends up starting by week 10 when the Broncos season is mathematically over)
4. Raiders (Al Davis' team gets better, but it's pretty hard to polish a turd)

NFC Championship- SAINTS over PACKERS
AFC Championship- RAVENS over JETS
Super Bowl XLV- RAVENS over SAINTS

There you have it, kids. I welcome any comments about my picks. Discussion is good. Football is good. Discussions about football are great.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Job Hunting Tips

I rescued this from my other blog, and thought it might be helpful. Here now are some job hunting tips from someone who has done a lot of that in the last year.

Don't be too picky. This economy is so tight that you can't be unwilling to do certain jobs. With that said, don't apply for jobs that you wouldn't be happy doing.

Craigslist is a nice place to start looking for jobs, but some of their posts are suspect. Be wary of jobs that don't list the company name. is not that great of a place to find jobs. Every job I get sent to me is in New York, and while I don't dislike New York, I might like a job closer to where I live now.

Try to find some places/companies/organizations that you might like to work for, and check back on their websites periodically to see if any jobs have been posted. I have several that I frequent, and some have yielded interviews. It's only a matter of time before one yields a job.

Tell everyone you know that you are looking for a job. I have been told that "it's not what you know, it's who you know" and I now agree with that statement. Most of my best leads have come via friends who have had me on their radar.

In the same vein of the last tip, make sure to use any advantages that you have. If someone offers to make a call or send an email on your behalf- let them. It can't hurt.

That's all for now, but I have more pearls of wisdom for later.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Movie of the Week

This Week,

HOT FUZZ (2007)

Starring- Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton

While some Pegg/Frost/Edgar Wright fans think Shaun of the Dead is their best film effort, I disagree and place Hot Fuzz above it in the Blood and Ice Cream/Cornetto Trilogy. Both films are riotously funny parodies of specific genres and have great supporting casts and cameos, but as a fan of action/buddy cop movies, I am biased. Directed by Wright, and starring Pegg and Frost, Hot Fuzz follows the remarkably efficient and uptight policeman (officer) Nicholas Angel (Pegg) and his adventures in a small town known for its supremacy as "village of the year."

Angel is transferred to the charming village of Sanford when his overachieving begins to make the other members of the Metropolitan Police in London look bad. Once in Sanford, he is paired with the overweight, underachieving Danny Butterman (Frost) and sent out on relatively mundane missions like chasing shoplifters and searching for escaped swans. Despite being unhappy with his situation, Angel is forced to resume more hard core police work when a series of deaths in the town appear to be murders. Nobody believes him, except Danny, and he struggles to convince his chief (Jim Broadbent) as well as the townspeople.

Something much more sinister, and clever, lurks behind the deaths, and it all gets finished off in a fabulously over-the-top gunfight that harkens back to great cop films like Lethal Weapon, Point Break and Bad Boys 2. Pegg and Wright's style is very inventive and thorough, and doesn't allow even the most minor moments to be free of comedy. Also, unlike other parodies that mock and belittle the source material, Hot Fuzz is more of a comedic homage to the action film genre. It benefits from a strong cast, as well, led by veterans like Dalton, Edward Woodward, Bill Nighy and Paul Freeman, who play it straight amidst the silly circumstances.

Hot Fuzz is rife with great moments, and has a plot that keeps you guessing, unlike so many modern comedies that have no plot. Thanks to this movie and Shaun of the Dead, I am eagerly awaiting the final film in the trilogy- The World's End. 2012 can't come soon enough.

Things to watch for-

Crusty Jugglers
Angel's Peace Lily
A great big bushy beard
Cousin Sissy
Mr. Peter Ian Staker (Come on!)

"Ever fired your gun in the air and yelled, 'Aaaaaaah?' "

Sunday, August 8, 2010

1st Anniversary

One year ago, the world changed forever. It was a date that will be remembered in the annals of blogdom as long as bloggers blog. As a way to celebrate the one year anniversary of this blog, I will now post a list of some of the highlights from  the past year- just in case you missed them the first time or want to reflect back.

The First Post- Why you should read this blog

One of the first Movies of the Week- I review Point Break

The Beatles- Need I Say More?

I like James Bond

I review the Saddest Christmas Song- EVER!

Middle School can be rough- Here are my thoughts

My NBA All-Time Team

Poems I Wrote

Why the Future isn't what it should be

I review the best movie ever made

I hope you enjoyed the clip show. Another year begins...I'll keep bringing it, if you keep reading it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Vietnam Thesis- Part VIII

The men in Vietnam in 1969 saw first hand how overmatched the ARVN was, and how there was no way for them to stave off the North without U.S. support. Lieutenant William Bentley knew, like many of his fellow soldiers, that for the war to be deemed a success the South would have to win out, and it could not do it with fewer American troops. “The government was fully perpetuating the lie of the righteousness of our cause, our imminent victory...Anyone who had a brain could see that the politicians’ pacification plan wasn't working and that once we left, the South Viets would be "duck soup" against the VC and NVA.” These remarks, show that the soldiers saw the Nixon plan as deeply flawed, and while most were preoccupied with staying alive, they knew how it looked good on the outside, but that it was really just done with smoke and mirrors. The basis for Vietnamization was to provide the Vietnamese with the know how and equipment to fight the war without a major U.S. presence. 

Nixon’s actions painted a rosy picture that the war might be over soon but according to Lt. Bentley it was not as it seemed, “How many times did we have to take the same ground and then give it back so it would look good on the pacification maps and then have to go in and take it back again? Troops will fight all day and all night if they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. If they can't see that light, morale suffers greatly and the troops feel betrayed.” Betrayal became a regular emotion among troops as the war dragged on.

Statistically, Nixon’s plan looked good, and the American people at home became convinced that the war was not far from over. Joseph Morrissey, a Staff Sergeant wrote, “I think the 70’s will see a lot of things changed for the better.” Other soldiers were not as sure, writing home to tell their families the truth about the flawed Vietnamization policy. Marine Archie Biggers wrote of his reality, “The people in Washington setting policy didn’t know what transpired over there.” The new initiatives were turning out more disillusionment than before. Even though, “The average soldier (with the American army) is too busy trying to stay alive to get into opinions,” Lt. Bentley said of the soldiers’ thoughts on Nixon’s policies, “we knew the war strategy was deeply flawed.” Knowing what they knew, soldiers still continued to do their duty for the government, even though that government was oblivious to the reality of life as a soldier in Vietnam.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Farewell, Brett (that's sarcasm)

So, apparently Brett Favre is retiring. I'm so sad. Boo hoo. I'd actually be sad though if he hadn't retired and unretired, retired and unretired so many times already. Dude, just make a decision and stick with it. Ordering pizza with Brett must be impossible. "I'll have Hawaiian. No actually I'll have cheese. I don't know though, that Hawaiian looked pretty good." Jesus.

I'm really happy, though that the Vikings are being held hostage by Favre's decision because of my deep dislike for them. Favre did this retirement tango for years with my beloved Packers until they finally grew the onions to tell him to go away and do it to another team. Indeed he did, and the Vikings seem perfectly happy to cater to Favre and his ego, even while his teammates are working hard at training camp, and the team's two other quarterbacks sit around wondering if this is more Favre bull plop or the real deal.

Do us all a favor, Brett, retire this time. Not because you torched the Packers twice last year, and not because ESPN will probably go out of business when all this speculation about you finally goes away, but because you have worn out your welcome. Some people say that Brett has earned the right to do this because of his many years of greatness, but I say- NO. Just like any indecisive person, he needs to be slapped for all this waffling. Be it retirement or pizza, eventually Brett will be forced to come to a decision, and it won't be his anymore. And by the way, we're getting pepperoni and olives- that's final.