Monday, September 12, 2011

Nazi Thesis- Part X

X means ten in Roman numerals. Here is part ten in my continuing series on the Nazi personality.

There have been many movements and political parties throughout history, but Nazism outmatches most when it comes to the fanatiscm of its members. Hitler was able to tap into the fears and paranoia felt in Germany after World War I, and combine it with popular doctrines of the time. Racism, nationalism and even the dreaded Marxism played into what the Nazis created to gain their “living space,” and the elimination of true evil. By borrowing what he liked from various groups and texts, Hitler could create his own utopian ideology that spoke to everyone in Germany, including the workers who were mainly socialist. The very name of the party conveys this mass appeal, the National Socialist German Worker’s Party. All of these things mean something different, in fact, they contradict each other, but Hitler knew that he needed to gain all the support he could. 

In the Nazi party there was something for everyone, and that is why there was such a grab bag of men that chose to join. No other movement could have culled such a varied spectrum of men into its ranks. Varied only applies to the places they came from, the viewpoints they held were not varied at all. The darkness in the hearts of the top Nazis was what connected them with each other and to the overreaching Nazi idea. Like all groups, the Nazis believed that they were doing good, and that Aryans were the preferred race on the entire planet. An ability to be easily swayed characterizes all die hard Nazis. 

In the Nazi personality there were varying degrees of gullibility, Goebbels represents the highest, and Speer the lowest. Certain men joined because it suited their lifestyle, and gave them the opportunity for success, like Speer. Others used it merely to fill a void in their lives, and bought into every facet of Nazism, like Goebbels. Perhaps gullible is the wrong word for those who completely immersed themselves in the party, but so large was the hole inside of them that a lack of truth in what the Nazis preached did not matter. 

The opportunism that Hitler exercised rendered any disbelievers helpless against the growing throngs of Nazi supporters. Times had been so hard in Germany following the war, and the population was so humiliated that it was easy for the Nazis to rally support, despite the lack of truth in their ideology. Also, the Nazis tapped into long standing social beliefs, mostly concerning the Jews. Among his many talents, Hitler had the ability to tell people what they wanted to hear, but even he was not able to make his people believe as the war turned against Germany.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years On

Ten years ago, during my first week of college, I remember waking up to a ringing phone. My mom was on the other end, and she frantically told me that someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. I scoffed, half asleep, and told her she must be mistaken. I tried to get off the phone and go back to sleep, but she was insistent, so I got up and turned on the T.V. She was right. I saw one of the twin towers engulfed in flame and frantic New Yorkers fleeing the scene. Moments later, another plane flew into the second tower. It was so surreal, it felt like I was watching a trailer for some cheesy terrorist movie. When the reality sank in, a feeling of sickness and shock hit me.

I remember many of the details of that day, but it was all in such a haze that it felt as if I was watching someone else's life from the outside. The whole thing was so jarring and incongruous because here I was a young, bright eyed college student embarking on an exciting new chapter of my life, and then this act of unspeakable evil occurred, threatening our safety and our lives. I knew that our nation and its people would never be the same after the attacks.

9/11 was my generation's Pearl Harbor or Kennedy assassination, not because the magnitude of either of those events is at all the same as 9/11, but because all three events robbed the country and its youth of their innocence. We were all different after 9/11. I saw firsthand how young people changed in the aftermath. Cynicism and hatred became more pronounced, war and its brutal effects were born out of those attacks, and many people I knew, and still know became irrationally fearful. Even though I wasn't directly affected by the events on that day, I do sometimes wonder how different my life would be if the towers still stood and all those people were still alive. It's silly to play the 'what if' game, and pointless because it did happen and we are living in a post-9/11 world. I just hope that we can someday get to a point where we are all a little more open, a little more trusting and a lot less fearful, like I was on September 10, 2001. That's my hope as we sit here, ten years on.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,

AMADEUS (1984)

Starring- F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Jeffery Jones, Elizabeth Berridge

Based on a Tony Award winning play by Peter Schaffer, this film is as close to perfect as any film can be. Schaffer, who adapted the play for the film, crafted an engrossing, beautiful and terrifying story about the life and death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The story is told by Mozart's chief rival, cum enemy, Antonio Salieri (Abraham) in flashbacks. The film is set up like a mystery, as the viewer tries to discover whether Salieri killed Mozart or not. While there is a bit of license taken with the historical facts, the narrative is so moving and well done that even the most strict classical music experts will overlook the inconsistencies.

Abraham's Salieri is the focal point of the story as we see the action through his eyes. He serves at court composer to Emperor Joseph II of Austria, but is quickly outshone by the young, and very uncouth Mozart (Hulce). A somewhat friendly competition between the two men turns more vengeful when Salieri, who is a model of virtue, is outdone at every turn by Mozart. While he plots to have Mozart marginalized at court, he is also secretly his biggest fan, which sets up some very amusing and riveting scenes. Perhaps the best scene in the movie illustrates this conflict best when Salieri helps an ailing Mozart write his Requiem, seeing that the voice of God is coming through the vulgar little man.

The acting and cinematography are top notch, all the mark of Director Milos Forman who shot the film in his native Prague. While there are moments of high drama, Forman and Schaffer mix in some very funny moments, namely scenes where Mozart has occasion to do something crass or giggle. It is hard not to laugh when you hear Tom Hulce laugh in this film. The supporting roles add to the richness of the film, namely with Jeffery Jones as the Emperor and Roy Dotrice as Mozart's domineering father. No score was composed for the film, because each piece of Mozart's music was chosen specifically by Schaffer and Forman to reflect the mood they hoped to achieve or the time in Mozart's life. I must say that they did a superb job and that the soundtrack is one of the all time greats in film history.

I can always watch this film if it is on, and I try to watch it at least once a year. If you have a chance, also watch the behind the scenes documentary on the DVD because it is just as compelling as the movie itself. Amadeus is easily in my Top Five films of all time. I'll favor you with that list sometime soon, but until then- watch Amadeus.

Things to watch for-

Simon Callow (who originated the role of Mozart) as Schikaneder
Nipples of Venus
Mozart changes the March of Welcome
The Requiem
The Queen of the Night
The Creature

"Forgive me, Majesty. I am a vulgar man! But I assure you, my music is not."

Monday, September 5, 2011

Five Top 5 Lists

Here now are five top five lists on a variety of subjects-

Top Five Steven Spielberg Movies-

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Schindler's List

Jurassic Park

Top Five Beers-

Newcastle Brown Ale
Miller High Life
Uinta Cutthroat Pale Ale
Pabst Blue Ribbon


Top Five Candy Bars-


Milky Way Midnight
Oh Henry!

Top Five Shows Currently on T.V.-

Mad Men

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
30 Rock

Top Five Secondary Star Wars Characters-

Bib Fortuna

Wedge Antilles
Admiral Ackbar
Aunt Beru
Jar Jar Binks (Just Kidding)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book of the Month

This Month,


By James Herriot

I am not what you would call an animal lover, and yet I love this book about an English vet who tells charming vignettes about his life and work in the Yorkshire Dales. James Herriot is the vet in question, and his life story is full of fun, touching and enthralling stories that make you keep turning the pages. This is actually just the first in a series of books about by Herriott and each one builds upon the narrative of his provincial life.

In addition to many great animal characters like Tricki Woo, the main focus is on Herriot and his two vet colleagues- Sigfried Farnon and his brother, Tristan. All three men are compelling and quirky characters that add to the richness of the book. Sigfried is an eccentric man who is always contradicting himself and making James laugh at his foibles. Tristan is a lazy prankster who sometimes allows his cavalier attitude impede his work. James functions as the everyman in the book and as the narrator he gives us good insights into what it was like to be a young vet during the 1930's in Darrowby.

This book, and its many sequels, are some of my favorites because they are so full of life and great characters. All the farmers and villagers are one of a kind people that Herriot truly relishes recounting. If you enjoy this book, I highly recommend the T.V. series of the same name that played on the BBC in the 1970's and 80's. It starred Christopher Timothy as James and Robert Hardy as Sigfried. I've been watching them on Netflix lately, so they're still available. Here's a photo of Timothy and Hardy from the show.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Ralph Macchio, Fred Gwynne

If you are looking for a hard-core, suspenseful courtroom drama- this isn't it. It is a very funny, somewhat suspenseful courtroom comedy that won Marisa Tomei a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as Mona Lisa Vito, fiance of the main character, Vincent LaGuardia Gambini (Pesci). Ms. Vito and her lawyer beau, Vinny are sent to rural Alabama to get Vinny's cousin and his friend off for a murder that they didn't commit.

This movie showcases the talents of Pesci, as he blends his wiseguy persona with a touch of heart and humor in a true fish out of water story. Vinny has no background in trial law and is up against damning evidence, a solid prosecutor and a judge with a grudge against him. The judge is portrayed by T.V.'s Herman Munster, Fred Gwynne, in a rare, but hilarious film role. Gwynne and Pesci's scenes are some of the best in the film, as Vinny tries to sidestep the judge's no-nonsense demeanor with his Brooklyn bullshit.

While the entire cast is very solid, the real kudos go to Tomei who steals every scene she is in. Her best and most memorable scene is on the witness stand, as she rattles off her vast knowledge of cars. She is all at once cute, charming, crass and trashy. The story unfolds somewhat predictably, but it doesn't matter because the audience is having so much fun and enjoying the jokes that are mixed in with a few sweet moments. My Cousin Vinny is Twelve Angry Men meets Goodfellas meets Night Court. If you see it, you'll know what I mean.

Things to watch for-

The Sac-O-Suds
Bruce McGill as the Sheriff
Lisa's pink camera
2 Utes

"Dead on balls accurate?"
"It's an industry term."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Top 10 Rolling Stones Songs

The Beatles are hands down my favorite band, but not too far off in second place are the Rolling Stones. Mick, Keith and the boys are masters and have contributed so many great songs to the rock and roll genre over their almost 50 years in the business. Here now, in no particular order are my picks for their 10 best songs. It was hard to pick only 10, kids.

GIMME SHELTER- This dark rock anthem from the Let it Bleed album is not only a staple in Martin Scorsese films, but it signaled the end of the flower power sixties and commented on the growing violence in the world, namely the Vietnam War. Of note in this song is the great complimentary vocals by Merry Clayton.

BROWN SUGAR- This has always been one of my favorite Stones songs. The song opens with one of the great guitar riffs of all time and has some of Mick's most suggestive lyrics- alluding to drug use and interracial sex. In addition to the killer guitar by Keith and Mick Taylor, the song also boasts some sweet saxophone action.

HONKY TONK WOMEN- Another song that benefits from a strong horn section, Honky Tonk Women has two versions, but the more sparse Country Honk is not as good as the more rock inspired version. Mick gets off one of the best rock lyrics of all time in this song- "She blew my nose, and the she blew my mind." The bluesy guitar, horns and vocals compliment each other perfectly.

MONKEY MAN- Not as well known as some Stones songs, this song is said to be about a bad heroin trip. Whether that is true or not, this song flat out rocks. It begins with Stones' contributer Nicky Hopkins playing tinkly piano and a guitar riff from Keith that gets progressively more aggressive as the song moves along. This song also appears in one of my all time favorite movies- Goodfellas.

JUMPIN' JACK FLASH- One of the most recognizable opening riffs of all time begins this classic tune. Mick and Keith were trying to get back to their rock and roll roots with this song, after completing the psychedelic Satanic Majesty's Request. I'll never forget the first time I heard Mick sing the opening line- "I was born in a crossfire hurricane." This is absolutely one of the best rock songs ever written.

TUMBLING DICE- Recorded during the Stones exile in France, this song has a great classic bluesy feel to it. The subject matter for the song is also very old school blues- love and gambling. While this song has the kind of impromptu feel of a blues song, it took over 150 takes to get the basic track. It was worth all the work because it is the best song on Exile on Main Street.

LET'S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER- Controversial because of the lyrics, this song almost got the Stones banned from an appearance on Ed Sullivan. It was only after they changed it to "Let's spend some time together" that Sullivan allowed them to play it. The piano and guitar drive the song and give it a fun tone while the vocals have a nice combination of blues and do-wop that I feel gloss over anything tawdry in the lyrics.

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL- Another song that sparked controversy because of the lyrics, Sympathy For the Devil is a first person narrative from Lucifer as he comments on violence and atrocities committed by mankind. It is notable for the piano riff and the opening that begins with various percussion and Mick screaming. I find it hard to dislike any song that rocks hard and has social commentary in it at the same time.

MIDNIGHT RAMBLER- This song used to be my cell phone ring, but it hardly did this hard driving blues song justice. The lyrics are a bit dark as is the very fuzzy guitar riff played by Keith. Mick gets off some good old blues lyrics while also playing harmonica. My favorite part of the song is how it changes tempo several times from fast paced to almost snail-like before coming back more aggressively at the very end.

(I CAN'T GET NO) SATISFACTION- No Stones list would be complete without this classic rock anthem. Their first big hit, Satisfaction is a great treatise on celebrity and how it can affect people caught up in it. Again, the song begins with a great guitar riff that gives way to some of the truest words ever written about rock and roll.


These songs very nearly could have made the list.

PAINT IT BLACK (Sorry Emily)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Things I Think

I used to do this type of post a lot on this blog, but I stole the idea and have been using it in my podcast, Audio Vaudeville. Here now are some of the best ones from my 16 episodes of Audio Vaudeville.

I think the Jazz should hire Karl Malone as assistant coach in charge of referring to yourself in the third person.

I think that Tufts University’s mascot should be two clumps of hair instead of an elephant.

I think I’m going to write a memoir about my experiences in an Arab country. I think I’ll call it, Three Cups of Lies.

I think there aren’t enough movies based on T.V. shows. I’m still waiting for the Judge Judy movie, starring Cate Blanchett as Judge Judy.

I think the new X-Men movie is really good, but I thought they missed an opportunity by not having Kevin Bacon’s mutant power be the ability to figure out how he was connected to all the other mutants in less than six moves.

I think if James Bond actually existed in real life he would probably have serious liver problems, several STDs and tons of unclaimed bastard children.

I think Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ is probably thinking about where he left his car keys.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Julian Glover, Denholm Elliott

Even though Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favorite Indy film, this one holds a very special place in my heart, and is a very close second. Indy creators, George "childhood ruiner" Lucas and Steven Speilberg sought to bring a lighter touch to the series after the dark and monkey brain filled Temple of Doom. The suggestion was made to have Indiana Jones team up with his father in the search for the Holy Grail, but it was difficult to figure out who would play Henry Jones, Sr. It made sense that James Bond would be the only one who could give birth to an adventure star like Jones, so who better than Sean Connery?

The rapport between Connery and Harrison Ford is absolutely sparkling and it drives the story of the film. The movie opens with an action packed look at Indy as a kid (played by River Phoenix) as he evades tomb robbers in the red rocks of Utah. I always liked this part because of the fun chase on the train, and the fact that Indiana Jones, like me, was from Utah. The story then jumps ahead to 1938 where Indy is charged with finding his father who has gone missing in the search for the Holy Grail. Prof. Jones' trail leads to the Nazis who are also looking for the Grail and will do whatever it takes to get it, even if it means declaring war on the Joneses.

Julian Glover, John Rhys-Davies and Denholm Elliott round out a sterling cast and help give weight to the most comedic entry in the Jones series. Alison Doody is decent as the Nazi hottie, Elsa, but she isn't as strong as Karen Allen in Raiders. Among the best parts of the film are the motorcycle chase, Indy and his father's many arguments and the final battle aboard the tank. Very few action films boast as strong a cast, as engrossing a plot and as much fun as this one. Go watch Junior, I mean, Indiana again. You won't be sorry.

Things to watch for-

How Austrians say 'goodbye'
The Canyon of the Crescent Moon
Hitler's autograph
Lord Clarence McDonald
Ah, Venice

"Nazis, I hate these guys."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

NFL Season Preview

Well kids, despite the squabbles between owners and players, the NFL will have a season in 2011 after all. You can look no further than this blog for the correct predictions for this season's outcome. Here now are my well informed picks for how the teams will finish this season.

*Denotes playoff teams


1. Eagles* (Vick and all of his new flashy teammates take time to get on the same page, but when they do, look out)
2. Cowboys (Year two under Jason Garrett is good, but there's still something preventing this team from going all the way, could it be all the lofty expectations?)
3. Giants (G-Men have some good games and threaten to make the playoffs, but can't get it done in a very tough division)
4. Redskins (Shanahan is a long way removed from his Super Bowl wins, and it shows as his team struggles again with no franchise players)

1. Falcons* (They unseat the Saints as the class of this division with strong Matty Ice and his very talented Offensive crew)
2. Saints* (Drew and Co. still have some gas left in the tank and will be dangerous as a hungry Wild Card team)
3. Buccaneers (It's too bad they are in this division because they have all the elements of a playoff contender, unlike anybody in the NFC West)
4. Panthers (Cam Newton or Jimmy Clausen? That's just one of many problems that this rebuilding team will have to deal with this year)

1. Packers* (I hate to be a homer, but the Super Bowl champs look just as good, if not better than last year as they welcome back some good players who spent last year on IR)
2. Bears* (With a flurry of off season moves, the Bears take time to get rolling, but finish strong and snag the Wild Card)
3. Lions (Detroit is finally moving in the right direction, and they will brutalize opponents with their D-line of Suh and Fairley)
4. Vikings (There's work to be done in Minnesota where a lot of new pieces need to be put in place including at QB with a rookie vs. a veteran)

1. Cardinals* (After a sub-par 2010, Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgeral lead the red birds back to the playoffs)
2. Seahawks (A lot of new players show promise for the future, but not the immediate future)
3. Rams (Stafford keeps his team moving in the right direction with some impressive wins, but just not enough of them)
4. 49ers (Jim Harbaugh's first year will be rocky, but his boy Andrew Luck might await in the 2012 draft)


1. Patriots* (Brady likes playing with his new teammates and gets back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 18-1)
2. Jets* (The Jets do all they can to get to the big game, but they just don't have enough offense when it counts against the team above them)
3. Dolphins (They have some talent, but not enough at the skill positions to unseat the Pats or Jets)
4. Bills (They show flashes of greatness, but they are basically the JV team in this high powered division)

1. Colts* (It must be getting old for the other teams in this division because all Manning and the Colts do is win every single year)
2. Jaguars (Once again, the Jags threaten and almost unseat the Colts, but they lack a QB to put them over the top)
3. Texans (They will also play the role of bridesmaid in the South, as Arian Foster has another season of over 1,000 yards)
4. Titans (Matt Hasselbeck comes in to help groom their QB of the future in a rebuilding year for Tennessee)

1. Ravens* (My pick to win the AFC last year will be strong again with a bruising D and solid O led by Joe Flacco)
2. Browns* (I'm going rogue and picking everyone's favorite losers to make the playoffs for the first time since they came back to the league- Payton Hillis is my boy!)
3. Steelers (Losing the Super Bowl takes its toll on Pittsburgh and they just barely miss out on the playoffs)
4. Bengals (Controversy hurts this already struggling club like it always does- despite some talent at a few positions)

1. Chiefs* (I picked them last year and they didn't disappoint, so maybe they'll get even farther this year, eh?)
2. Chargers (Despite a few showy free agent signings, the Bolts can't quite get past their slightly more efficient rivals in KC)
3. Raiders (New coach, same average team. Maybe they'll surprise us and scare the teams above them, but I doubt it)
4. Broncos (Tebow or Orton? It can't be easy for new coach John Fox, and it won't be. This team won't do much)

AFC Championship- PATRIOTS over RAVENS
NFC Championship- PACKERS over EAGLES

I'm picking my boys from Green Bay to repeat. I know that seems lame, but I didn't pick them last year, so I feel okay picking them this year. GO PACK GO!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Nazi Thesis- Part IX

Here is the ninth part in my continuing series.

Himmler and Heydrich bear much of the blame for the Final Solution, but every wing of the Nazi party became a cog in the machine to rid the world of Jews. Even though there were differences in opinion among the top Nazis, each man did believe that Jews were a pathogenic race. Hatred of Jews bonded the top Nazis together, and masked by the legitimacy of Hitler’s leadership they used their departments in cooperation with each other. Goebbels, for instance, raided Jewish factories and neighborhoods in order to rid Berlin of its Jewish population. Even the propaganda minister was not above rounding up Jews for his Fuhrer. 

The most telling bit of evidence of the existence of a Nazi personality, is to what lengths each man was willing to go for Nazism and Hitler. Hitler’s love of Germany during World War I was recreated in his own men and directed back at him during World War II. Unwavering devotion to the movement was what made it successful and popular, but this would also be its undoing, just as German defeat in 1918 had been Hitler’s.

Fragile. That is a word that can easily describe any one of the top Nazis. Hitler and all of his inner circle were men who had very little strength. Most of them only had success after joining the party, and the thought of living without it was unbearable. Not one of the top Nazi leaders was able to escape their role in the war because they were all so wrapped up in the party. Speer got the least amount of punishment, but as a high official he still received his due. 

Speer, with Hitler

Going into the movement, these men were already on the margins, and at any given time a twist of fate could have plunged them into grave misfortune. Nazism was what brought them back into the mainstream, and perhaps in gratitude they poured every ounce of their being into the ideology of National Socialism. Many men had given so much to party in its early years that they were glorified by the other members, and this in turn made men who were new to the party want to give as much as they could. Hitler, of course, set the example and began to use his power to create martyrs of certain party members who had been killed, always in the service of the party. Service of the party was what usually came first to the top Nazis, and life was forced to assume a back seat.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Well people, it looks as if the two major parties put aside their differences enough to get something done for once tonight. If all goes well, the House and Senate will be able to put into effect a measure that will allow our country to avoid default before the August 2nd deadline. This entire process has made me very uncomfortable because of the seemingly endless back and forth from our leaders. Several times in the last few months people on both sides snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and kowtowed to extremists on each end of the spectrum. I know that there is enough blame to go around, and that neither party is completely innocent or completely to blame, but I do see one group as a bit more guilty than the rest- the Tea Party members of the House of Representatives.

These people, most of whom have spent precious little time in office, have come to Washington angry and full of bitter cynicism about how our government functions. It's too bad that they don't know how our government functions. I won't name names, but as I have watched this debt ceiling debacle play out, I have to say that never in my life have I seen a group of people so angry and ignorant at the same time. I know that people are upset about the economy and that the Tea Party has harnessed that anger and turned it into seats in the House and Senate, but anger isn't an agenda, and neither is simply saying no to anything and everything people to the left of you propose. There needs to be something else besides blind, ignorant anger.

I commend some of the older, more seasoned, level headed and capable people in the GOP who have stood up to the new breed of conservative legislators and told them that compromise isn't the end of the world, and that there needs to be substance in their political message. John McCain, John Boehner and others are not on my list of favorite people by any means, but these guys need to continue to put these flash in the pan Tea Partiers in their place because even though they want to make sure Obama loses in 2012, they can't have the debt crisis blood on their hands. I hope so much now that clearer, more pragmatic heads have prevailed that the uber-conservative newbies in the House will see that just being pissed off and saying 'no' doesn't amount to a rat fart when it comes to legislating and being a good public servant. It just breeds more anger, and that's what will get someone else elected in their place in two years.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Christopher Lloyd

Most Trekkers maintain that the only good Star Trek films are the even numbered ones. I agree, except for the new Star Trek film (number 11), and this one, which I feel is too often maligned. It follows the events of Star Trek II, with the Enterprise returning to Earth after being battered by Khan, and the death of Spock whose body was left behind on the newly created planet Genesis. What follows is an exciting and moving adventure that I can still watch over and over again.

As they return to Earth, the Kirk is called to Spock's quarters because of an intruder who turns out to be Dr. McCoy. McCoy is out of sorts and it becomes clear, after a visit from Sarek, Spock's father, that before he died, Spock put his Katra, or living spirit, inside McCoy via a mind meld. Kirk must now defy his orders in order to rescue Spock's body from Genesis and return his Katra to him. Meanwhile, Kirk's son David and Lt. Saavik are exploring the Genesis planet, but their trip takes an unexpected turn when they find a Vulcan boy who turns out to be a regenerated Spock.

The Klingons are also in the picture, as they race to Genesis to discover its secrets. Kirk and crew are able to steal the Enterprise and get to Genesis just in time to fight the Klingons, but not before Kirk suffers yet another devastating loss- or two. Star Trek III, which was directed by Leonard Nimoy, is a darker chapter in the series, but has all the ingredients that people enjoy about Star Trek. There is a good amount of action- especially Kirk and Kruge's final fight, there is a lot of heart, and some good laughs- McCoy trying to nerve pinch the security guard is hilarious.

I probably watched this Star Trek movie more than all the others as a kid because of the amount of excitement in it. The crew stealing the Enterprise and the dog fight with the Klingons are still my favorite parts that I could watch anytime. The best thing about this film is that it set up one of the best entries in the series- the one with the whales.

Things to watch for-

John Larroquette as Maltz
Kruge's dog
The Excelsior
The final voyage of the Enterprise
Sulu kicks some ass

"Jim...your name is Jim."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book of the Month

This month,


By Robert Ludlum

After having seen all of the Bourne films starring Matt Damon, I decided to see what the source material was like. While very, very different from the onscreen adventures, the first book in the Bourne saga was still a very gripping, action packed and fun to read. The book is a product of its time, and one can see why the films did not follow the story of the books, but that does not mean that Ludlum's Bourne is not as compelling as Damon's.

The plot is very complicated and has many twists and turns, so I will not explain them here. I will say that the hook that gets you into the story is good and is one of the few elements that is the same as the movie. A man is discovered by a trawler in the Mediterranean Sea, almost dead and suffering from amnesia. The story follows him as he tries to discover who he is and why there is information about a bank account in Zurich embedded in his hip. Once in Zurich he discovers that his name is Jason Bourne and that he has money and knows how to fight and kill. These skills come in handy as he is hunted throughout the course of the novel.

Who is hunting him, Bourne does not know, but evidence points to the assassin, Carlos the Jackal, an expert killer whose trademark is a bullet to the throat. Along the way, the reader and Bourne pick up clues as to his true identity and the larger game being played. Ludlum does an expert job of dropping crumbs along the reader's path as the story meanders through heart pumping action and exotic locales. This book is half mystery, half spy/military story. I did find myself to be confused at points because of the complexity of the plot, but thankfully Ludlum masterfully exposes all the various strands by the end. I haven't picked up The Bourne Supremacy yet, but you can bet that I will.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Top 10 Stand-Up Comics of All Time

I enjoy the comedy, especially when it is of the stand-up variety. Having done stand-up briefly, I know that it is very difficult to do well. The men and women on this list are part of the most brutally honest and challenging genre of comedy. Please feel free to challenge my picks- discussion is always good. I have chosen not to rank order the list, so as to avoid the difficulty of picking a number one best comedian. That would be hard. Harder than stand-up comedy.


Before his career became a series of fart jokes in fat suits, this man treated us to two of the best stand-up comedy films/albums ever. Delirious and Raw both so raunchy and hilarious that even though they were made in the early 1980's, they still make you howl with laughter 25 years later. Murphy's stories and impressions show why he was such a big star. What happened to him?


No woman working in comedy today is as salty, dirty and insulting as the 'Queen of Mean.' She spares no race, religion or sexual orientation in her quest to get laughs. Just like the great insult comics before her, audiences hope that Lisa will call them out with some kind of absolutely offensive joke because it is an honor to have her mock you. You don't want to laugh because it feels wrong, but you just can't help it.


Offbeat and controversial, David Cross is a mixed bag of political, gross-out, and provocative humor. He goes off on rants that wouldn't be anywhere near as funny coming from someone else because he is so full of angst and quirky weirdness. One of my favorite things he ever did was naming the tracks on his comedy album after things that had nothing to do with his act, i.e. one of them was Batman vs. Superman vs. Wonder Woman on the rag. So bizarre, so hilarious.


Excuuuuuuse meeeeeeee, but this guy is wild and crazy, and ridiculously funny. Blending props, magic, oddball antics and banjo tunes, Steve Martin changed stand-up to include more variety than anyone before him. His act was like a modern-day vaudeville show with all manner of humor weaving through his stage performances. His book, Born Standing Up, is a great explanation of how he crafted his unique style over many years.


Perhaps the best observational comic ever, Jerry parlayed his everyday musings into the wildly popular show, Seinfeld. His humor was accessable to anyone because the subjects he tackled were universal. Laundry, food, shopping, dating were things anyone could relate to. I will never think about cereal or watching T.V. or many other mundane topics the same way again after hearing Jerry's take on them.


A master of words, George Carlin was not only crass and provocative, but also a master of getting people to think about things in new ways through his use of words. Almost as funny as his classic routines (see 7 Words You Can't Say on T.V.) are his books because the wordplay is absolutely sparkling. He was so cutting edge and set the stage for many comedians who used the medium to advance new ways of thinking while also making people pee their pants laughing.


Pryor set the table for many comics that came after. There would be no Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock or many, many others without Richard Pryor's groundbreaking stand-up. He pushed the boundaries of what you could talk about on stage and made himself the first really bankable mainstream black comedian whose name wasn't Bill Cosby. I'll never forget hearing Pryor's hilarious and yet scary story about burning himself while freebasing. He was one of a kind, that's for sure.


Anyone who knows me knows of my love for Patton. His comedy speaks to me as a nerd, a pop culture guru and a liberal. I can quote endless bits of his material, and will laugh like I've never heard his routines before, even though I have heard them again and again. I can never think of Carvell's Ice Cream or Cops or Robert Evans and not giggle at Patton's jokes about them.


She is what I would call "a hoot." Her comedy is similar in nature to Seinfeld's with it's smart observations and quirky takes on everyday subjects, but she does have a bit more conscience in her act, as she grapples with being gay without getting preachy about it. Ellen's stand-up peaked for me with her fabulous HBO special, Here and Now, which she parlayed into her daytime show. I say it was very, very well deserved.


The lone Brit on the list and self-labeled Klingon motivational speaker, Bill Bailey is about as weird and offbeat as comedians get. You might not know him, but you should because his routines of are a mix of philosophy, pop culture references, history and music that will have you howling and scratching your head at the same time. He is both deep and shallow at the same time, and he plays one hell of a cockney piano tune.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Annette Benning, Robert Prosky

As I prepare to take a short family vacation at a cabin in the woods, I thought it would be appropriate to feature this funny, vacation themed film starring a pair of comedic geniuses. Written by the master of 80's comedy, John Hughes, this film follows Chet Ripley (Candy) and his wife and two sons as they try to have a relaxing, fun filled family trip at a cabin the Wisconsin wilderness. Unfortunately for Chet, his rich, boorish, yuppie brother-in-law, Roman (Aykroyd) crashes the vacation with his wife (Benning) and two creepy twin daughters.

This film is full of funny moments that highlight the abilities of the two stars. Candy does a great job as the regular everyman dad, and Aykroyd is perfect as the slimeball. My favorite parts of the movie showcase the two opposing personalities of the main men. For example when Chet plans to have hot dogs for dinner, and is one-upped by Roman who fixes lobster tails, or when Roman puts Chet up to eating a massive steak in order to get their meals for free. The two wives add the hilarity as well, with Annette Benning in her first role as Roman's obnoxious yuppie wife.

If you have ever stayed at a cabin in the woods, or taken a family vacation, some part of this movie will speak to you. Maybe bald bears haven't ever chased you around the woods, or your twin daughters haven't gotten trapped in an old mine shaft, but you probably have been annoyed by family members, played games, bonded, and had fun on purpose and by accident with your extended and immediate family. That's what happens in The Great Outdoors. Happy summer vacations, everyone.

Things to watch for-

Suck My Wake
Chatty Raccoons
Chet's Bear story
Aykroyd does Land of 1,000 dances
The old 96er

"If I can get a dessert down him, think you can throw in a couple of Paul Bunyan hats for the kids?"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Look, A Schmohawk!

I now present to you a new group of Schmohawks. Ridicule them, as I have done, for they carry high the standard of Schmohawkery.


This guy is golf's greatest Schmohawk. So much so that it's clear most of, if not all, his fellow broadcasters at NBC barely seem to be able to tolerate him. His ridiculous comments and holier-than-thou attitude make the tournaments he calls almost unwatchable. We get it, you were a good player, but Jack Nicklaus he isn't. He's from Utah so maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt, but I can't. Johnny Miller is an insufferable gas bag, i.e. a Schmohawk.


Like many people, I laughed at some of his jokes when he first came on the scene, but then I just stopped laughing. Why? Because this Schmohawk really isn't that funny. Guess why we haven't heard his name lately- it's because he ran out of material about two years ago and made some of the worst movies ever. I hope he didn't blow all of his money when he was popular because Schmohawk comedians don't make that much once the pubic moves on to people who actually have talent.


I've never seen people with less reason to be famous than the Schmohawkians. I didn't know dating/marrying athletes was something that got you an automatic ticket to stardom. I guess you have to give them credit for parlaying something any half decent looking woman could do into money, fame and the most god-awful excuse for a T.V. show in the history of the world. The only people who are bigger Schmohawks than the Kardashians are their fans. People usually go away if they're ignored, so please, stop keeping up with them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Nazi Thesis- Part VIII

Here is part eight in the ongoing series based on my undergraduate thesis on the Nazi personality.

The deception that was such a cornerstone of the Nazi personality served to allow them to carry out their worst atrocities. Without being able to project a good side to the public while engaging in such terrible deeds, the Holocaust might not have been executed as smoothly as it was. That is why Reinhard Heydrich is such an interesting Nazi personality. It was easy to see the evil in SS head Heinrich Himmler, or in the seedy Joseph Goebbels, but this was not true of Heydrich. Despite his genteel outward appearance, it was Heydrich that designed much of the process of the Holocaust at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942. At that historic conference, which on its face looked like a simple policy making meeting, was in actuality the starting point of mass genocide. 
The villa where the Wannsee Conference was held.

The Wannsee Conference was just another in a series of great Nazi deceptions. While having coffee and pastries, the Nazis at the conference, led by Heydrich, calmly discussed how best to kill an entire race of people. To keep the genocide a secret Heydrich and the others decided to engage in yet another lie. In order to deceive others about the fate of Nazi prisoners the camps would be placed in desolate areas in occupied territory, far from the German population. While Heydrich was present at the meeting, the execution of the Final Solution should not be completely credited to Heydrich. Himmler and the other SS heads also masterminded perhaps the greatest and most terrible of all Nazi deceptions.

It is this ability to be so at ease with such evil acts that makes the Nazi personality so compelling and enigmatic. In many ways the Nazis even deceive themselves into thinking that such acts are justifiable. In films of Himmler visiting the death camps, he smiles, as if a part of a lush travelogue of Eastern Europe. The Nazis, and the SS in particular were so blatant in their acts of immorality that it is difficult to understand how a person is capable of such evil. Such is the entire Nazi party, an entity which through opportunity, was able to convince its own members to carry out genocide in the name of the cause. 

Not all Nazis maintained this ability to participate in such dark deeds, but those who did not actively participate could rarely achieve greatness within the party. Those at the top were so committed to becoming the heads of the Nazi movement that nothing would stand in their way, not even deception and murder. The head Nazis were able to make all of the horrors seem alright to their low-level functionaries, and in turn their compliance would gain them great face with Hitler.

All Nazis’ main focus was the good of the German “volk” or people. Obviously, the people were only those that Hitler deemed acceptable. For this group of men to categorize people into desirable and undesirable illustrates another key Nazi trait. The dehumanization of Jews was made possible due to a complete lack of empathy. Without being able to put themselves in the shoes of their adversary, the Nazis could do the unthinkable to them, and not feel any remorse. Originally, the plan had been to deport Jews to the French controlled island of Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, but that fell through. A lack of success in the Battle of Britain made it impossible to carry out a mass deportation of Jews, and so it was necessary to find another way, a deadlier way. 

By the time the Final Solution had been put into place in the 1940’s, the Nazis had been marginalizing the Jews for such a long time that it was easy to sign their death warrant without even a second thought. This talent for desensitizing themselves makes the Nazis a unique group. No one at the the top could see their actions as wrong, and more importantly they could turn their backs on horrific human suffering. Even those who did feel uneasy about the killing of Jews were given new methods to further distance themselves. The development of poison gas at the death camps was in response to many SS camp guards who could no longer stand to shoot Jews to death. Once again, Hitler and his men found a way to eliminate contact with their victims and keep the process moving forward.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Movie of the Week

This Week,

DR. NO (1962)

Starring- Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Joseph Wiseman, Bernard Lee

The first big screen film featuring agent 007 is also one of the best. After a few failed attempts to get Ian Fleming's master spy on film, producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman chose one of Fleming's most exciting and lush books for Bond's screen debut. Many actors were considered for the role of 007, including Cary Grant and Roger Moore, but the role went to an actor whose only leading role prior to Dr. No was in the musical, Darby O'Gill and the Little People. That man was Sean Connery, whose blend of power, charm and menace made him a screen icon as James Bond.

The plot of the film follows the mysterious Dr. No who has designs on tampering with the U.S. space program in order to forward the diabolical agenda of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate, and once there he teams up with his suave CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) and local agent Quarrel. The three men are on constant watch as Dr. No's deadly operatives try to stop them from uncovering what he has hidden at his lair at Crab Key. Once Bond and Quarrel get to Crab Key their mission is complicated by the presence of the beautiful and sultry, Honey Ryder (Andress). It all ends in a spectacular fight between Bond and the claw handed Dr. No.

While the series was still figuring out its formula, this film has many hallmarks that would be defining characteristics of the Bond franchise. We see Bond at the gambling tables, seducing many an attractive lady, drinking vodka martinis, getting lectured by M, flirting with Moneypenny and evading all manner of danger. These elements are the cornerstones of what we think of when we hear the number 007. Director Terence Young does a superb job of mixing humor with danger and suspense, and does it all in such a stylish 1960's way. It is no wonder that so many copycats followed in Bond's onscreen footsteps.

For anyone looking to get into the Bond films, this is a great start. Not only does it introduce you to one of the great movie characters of all time, but it does it in the most entertaining way possible. The action is top notch, as are the locales and the acting (i.e. Wiseman's monotone creepiness as Dr. No). The best part though is Bond, James Bond.

Things to watch for-

Sleeping with Tarantulas
The Three Blind Mice
Bond and Sylvia play "golf"
Walther PPK
Bond's first gadget- a Geiger Counter

"That's a Smith and Wesson, and you've had your six."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

To Blog or Not To Blog...

I have been struggling to write blog posts of late, mostly because my creativity has been spent on my podcast. It seems to be serving much the same purpose of this blog, but in a slightly different format. I want to keep blogging, but it is difficult to come up with enough material for a blog and a podcast when I still have to go to work, and do all of the other things that life demands. You might think that I'm leading up to saying that this is an end to the blog, but you'd be wrong. I feel that it is important to keep this bad boy going- if for no other reason than to do movies of the week and books of the month.

So, I pledge to keep on writing, even though it might be less frequent and on a smaller array of topics. I would hate to disappoint all my throngs of readers. I also want to have an outlet for some things that aren't podcast appropriate. Conned! is here to stay, people. At least until my podcast takes off and I can hire someone to write this blog for me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Podcast- Audio Vaudeville

As some of you know, I have been doing a podcast with my friend Ryan Shattuck since January. We have done 13 episodes and have covered topics as diverse as, the Super Bowl, Protests, the Future, Unemployment, Graphic Novels and Ira Glass. We work really hard to bring our small, but stalwart audience the best shows that we possibly can. Do me, and Ryan a favor and check us out. I wrote a similar plea a few months ago, so if you haven't listened yet- do it! If you already listen, keep it up, and tell your friends.

Here are our links-

Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,

POPEYE (1980)

Starring- Robin Williams, Shelley Duvall, Ray Walston, Paul Dooley

This movie was one of my trifecta of favorites as a kid. When hanging out at home on the weekends, you could safely bet that either Ghostbusters, The Great Muppet Caper or this movie was in the VCR. While some find it odd and creepy, Popeye is one of the great films of my childhood. Directed by Robert Altman, the story takes the Popeye cartoons and comics and turns them into a stylish, fun and surprisingly accurate onscreen depiction. It is hard to think of anyone else as Olive Oyl and Popeye after seeing Shelley Duvall and Robin Williams.

Washed ashore in his dinghy in the town of Sweethaven, Popeye the Sailor is on a quest to find his father- Pappyeye. He stays in the boarding house of the Oyl family, and searches the local town for his long lost dad. While there he runs afoul of Bluto, the large, brutal right hand man of the Commodore, a mysterious man who is the overseer of the seaside community. Olive Oyl is at first betrothed to Bluto, but begins to have affection for Popeye- especially when the two team up to raise an orphan baby by the name of Swee'Pea. The story culminates with a squinty eyed reunion and the final showdown between Bluto and Popeye on deadly Scab Island.

Popeye is by no means a perfect film, but it is fun and funny, with many great nods to the cartoons. Wimpy, Olive's brother Castor (get it?), Rough House and many other supporting characters from the cartoons make this a true Altman ensemble cast, rife with overlapping dialogue. The songs by Harry Nilsson are also a high point, and give yet another quirky layer to the silliness of the story. I Yam What I Yam, Everything is Food and He Needs Me are among the best tunes. See this movie if you ever watched the cartoons or if you want to see a young Robin Williams channel a corn cob pipe smoking, large armed sailor. Either way, you'll be hungry for spinach by the time the it's over.

Things to Watch For-

Dennis Franz as one of the toughs
Me Son
Oxblood Oxheart
The Tax Collector

"I ain't no doctors, but I knows when I'm losing me patience."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book of the Month

This Month,


By Paul Johnson

Unlike so many biographies of notable people, Churchill by Paul Johnson is quite short. I have seen and read many tomes about historical figures, but I sometimes feel that they are more exhausting than exhaustive. This is not the case here, as Johnson keeps the narrative light and interesting throughout.  It would be very easy to let a book about Churchill get too long and detailed because of all his many achievements, but Johnson hits all the high points and peppers in some fun anecdotes as well, while keeping things concise.

If you are looking for a very fair and even somewhat unflattering portrait of Churchill, this may not provide the best example. Johnson is very reverential in his tone, and tries hard to explain away some of the man's faults as he takes the reader through Sir Winston's life. Failures in World War I and the inter-war years are glossed over a bit, but despite this, the book does bring together some of the best stories in the Churchill legend.

I am a fan of Churchill, like Johnson, and I am aware of the shortcomings in his character, like Johnson. I also, like Johnson, choose not to dwell on the negatives too much, like Churchill's thoughts on India and Gandhi, for example. There are so many good things to be admired about him and such compelling tales in this book that the reader is instantly drawn in by one of the world's most noteworthy men. I am not at all taken in by the somewhat rosy picture painted in this book, however, but I recognize that some of the 20th Century's greatest accomplishments can be attributed to Winston Churchill. For historians who have a discerning eye and a desire to be entertained by truly engrossing stories, this book will not disappoint.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Best

Let's just call off the dogs and stop all the speculation once and for all. Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time. Period. There isn't even a close second. Kobe is a nice player with many similarities to Michael, but he won't ever be able to surpass Jordan because he won his first three rings as Shaq's sidekick. Also, Michael never had as many hiccups as a leader as Kobe has. LeBron proved in this year's NBA Finals that while he might be more gifted athletically, he has nowhere near the level of mental fortitude that Michael possessed. There's no need for any more arguing on the subject. I am not trying to say that my opinion matters more than other people's and that it is the definitive one. On the contrary, I am stating fact.

I don't want to bore you with numbers, but consider these as the irrefutable evidence.

6 NBA Championships as the featured player on his team
6 NBA Finals MVP Awards
5 Regular Season MVP Awards
14 Time All Star
10 Time Scoring Champion

I could go on, but why should I? Those credentials are more than enough. Let's also not forget that Mr. Jordan took a couple of years off to play baseball, so those numbers could actually be inflated. He might have had 8 rings and 7 MVP awards if he hadn't spent time as an outfielder. With all the talk about LeBron and his legacy, I just wanted to bring this up because the comparisons need to stop. Nothing LeBron does will get him anywhere near this level and it isn't fair to compare him to the best that ever played the game. Number one, with a bullet- Number 23.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,

APOLLO 13 (1995)

Starring- Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Bill Paxton

While this film has been lampooned and referenced for its now famous quote, "Houston, we have a problem," it is so much more than that one moment. Ron Howard's space drama is a riveting trip back in time that keeps you on the edge of your seat- even when you know the outcome. Despite being a bit technical, Apollo 13 gives you a great inside look at one of the pivotal moments in NASA history. Bored with moon missions, the American public only turns on their TVs when an accident puts the mission and the lives of the three main characters in danger.

Hanks is his usual steady self as mission commander, Jim Lovell. Hanks was actually so taken with his role that he went on to co-produce the series From the Earth to the Moon, an HBO series that picks up where Apollo 13 leaves off. Alongside Lovell are pilot and ladies' man Jack Swigert (Bacon) and family man Fred Haise (Paxton). The chemistry between these veteran actors is what drives the film as they try to avert disaster in their space capsule. Howard does a masterful job in giving his film pageantry, importance and tension in all the right spots. Going to the moon is a big deal, and we know it after watching this film.

What many praise the film for is its technical accuracy. Howard and the actors spent a great deal of time making sure that this film was as close to real as possible. It would have been easy to Hollywoodize this film and ratchet up the drama even more, and while there are a few liberties taken, they aren't enough to derail the real story. I can always watch this film when it comes on because it is part riveting human drama and part history lesson. It also gives anyone who has ever been interested in space a reason to hope that we will continue to explore and discover new frontiers.

Things to watch for-

Ron's brother, Clint Howard
Neil and Buzz
Ed Harris' awesome crew cut
The 'Spirit in the Sky'
Mount Marilyn

"We've never lost an American in space, we're sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch."

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nazi Thesis- Part VII

This is part 7 in the ongoing series- for those of you who struggle with Roman numerals.

A key component to the Nazi personality, along with ambition, insecurity and intelligence, was manipulation. Hitler was the master of this trait, but others close to him were able to manipulate people and circumstances to forward their own goals as well as the party’s. Himmler and Heydrich were able to use manipulation to create a power base for themselves and get rid of their competitors in the SA. Goering too, had designs on power, and while he noticed “Himmler’s spinsterish face...concealed a ravenous ambition,” he was also secretly concerned with attaining a higher post for himself within the regime. 

While Himmler and Goebbels’ quest for power was well evidenced at the time, especially with Rohm’s execution, Goering played a significant role in implicating the SA head, and used it to vault himself higher in the Nazi pecking order. Goering, clearly seeing that Himmler and Heydrich were the men on the rise in Hitler’s eyes backed their SS consolidation of power by giving them control of the police in states which he administered. Now with Himmler firmly in power, Goering no longer had to worry about Rohm, and Himmler had to only report to Hitler himself. 

Deception was another a key element to the makeup of the ideal Nazi. Throughout the time leading up to the assassination of Rohm and his SA confederates, Himmler, Heydrich and Goering lied to Hitler to protect their own personal interests. These men were not above lying to their beloved Fuhrer to obtain their goals. Manipulation and deception went hand in hand, and the deception that went on in the Nazi regime was done to manipulate circumstances for the success of the Third Reich. During the war, the deception among the party elites was so prevalent that it led to widespread corruption. Each of the top Nazis was so good at deception and shady dealings that it crumbled the bureaucracy as time wore on. Hitler’s closest advisors were almost taught to lie by the Fuhrer himself. 

Not only was Hitler a master manipulator, he was also a great deceiver. He was able to create enough deception in Germany to convince the people of the Jewish threat, and that the only way to achieve his Aryan utopia was to get rid of the Jews. As time went on, Hitler and the SS heads lied more and more to the German people about the course of the war, and the fate of Jews and other undesirables.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I'm Glad...

I'm glad for many things, but here are a few that I am especially glad about at the current time.

I'm glad that my last name isn't Weiner, and that I'm not dumb enough to Tweet pictures of my man bulge to girls to whom I am not married. And I'm glad that I'm not dumb enough to deny it and then retract my denial.

I'm glad that I'm not graduating college right now. This is a tough job market for our 22 year olds. Hang in there, kids.

I'm glad Donald Trump isn't running for president. He would have just continued to piss me off.

I'm glad we got three free months of Starz from DirecTV when we moved and upgraded our service. Now I can watch Zombieland every day.

I'm glad my dog has a big backyard to play in.

I'm glad for the fact that John Edwards didn't end up as our president. His transgressions make Bill Clinton look like a monk.

I'm glad it's golf season. Maybe I'll recant this one after I play a few more rounds.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Movie of the Week

This Week,


Starring- James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, January Jones

Thank the mutant gods for this solid reboot of the X-Men franchise. After the grave disappointments of X-Men 3 and Wolverine, the series gets back to its roots with an origin story that focuses on the early careers of Professor Xavier and Erik Lensherr (aka Magneto). The reason why this film is so much better than the last two installments, and much more like the first two, is because of the involvement of the great Bryan Singer, who supplied the story for First Class.

It is 1962, and amid the rising tension of the Cold War, the stories of many a young mutant are unfolding. A young telepathic professor named Charles Xavier (McAvoy) is being charged with helping the U.S. government hunt down a group of mutants led by the sinister Sebastian Shaw (Bacon). At the same time, a Holocaust survivor named Erik (Fassbender), who can manipulate metal, is hunting Shaw to avenge his mother. The two young men meet and join forces to form a mutant team that will help avert World War III. On this team are Xavier's "sister" Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence, a kid with a killer scream named Banshee, Cyclops' brother, Havoc, and the scientist turned Beast- Hank McCoy. Shaw is not without support, and boasts a team of dark mutants led by his own telepath, Emma Frost (Jones).

I don't wish to spoil this film, so I won't get too far into the plot, but let's just say that a lot of stuff that is alluded to in the earlier films gets explained and fleshed out here. The film is stylishly retro with a nice Mad Men/James Bondish feel to it. It also boasts strong acting with the Charles/Erik relationship, portrayed by McAvoy and Fassbender, as the centerpiece. It isn't hard to believe that those two turn into Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Also, Kevin Bacon is a first class villain- no pun intended.

If you enjoy the X-Men, this film will shed new light on what is a very compelling comic book saga. It also draws on parallels from the Cold War and Civil Rights movement that enrich the plot. Mutants are the future, and it looks like a bright one for the franchise.

Things to watch for-

An old friend at the bar
The coin
The X plane
Xavier's "groovy" pick up lines

"A new species is being born. Help me guide it, shape it... lead it."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Top Ten Things I Love About NPR

For years I wrongly poo-pooed NPR as being radio for old people. Even though I am older now, I was wrong. NPR is a source of interesting, thought provoking and entertaining information that makes me feel more knowledgeable about and connected to the world around me. Here now are my Top Ten favorite things about NPR.

10. The Political Junkie- Every Wednesday Ken Rudin comes on Talk of the Nation and spews his vast knowledge of US politics for 35 minutes. It's very informative.

9. The website is chalk full of articles and audio clips from all the NPR contributors and programs.

8. Dori Anisman- The lady who answers the phones on The Diane Rehm Show- you my girl, Dori!

7. Frank Deford- Every Wednesday on Morning Edition, sports writer Frank DeFord gives a great 3-5 minute commentary on a pertinent sports topic. He's been doing this a long time, and it shows.

6. Salt Lake's local NPR stations- KUER and KCPW

5. Lakshmi Singh- She is easily one of my top three favorite Sikh reporters.

4. Science Friday- Ira Flato is a science master, and he sounds exactly like Alan Alda.

3. Diane Rehm's Friday News Roundup- A nice capper to the week that was. I always feel very smart and connected after both the international and domestic hours.

2. Ira Glass- Even though he isn't actually employed by NPR, his immensely popular show, This American Life, is featured on many NPR affiliates. He's coming to Salt Lake later this month, and I intend to see him.

1. RadioLab- I've already sung the praises of this show in an earlier post, but I don't care because it is that good.

Support for this blog entry came from NPR listeners, like you.