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.