Friday, January 29, 2016

No Matter the Facts of Real Life Escape From Alcatraz - Clint Eastwood Does just that in 1979 Film



Before Andy Dufresne endured the injustice of Shawshank Prison and turned the tides on his duplicitous, righteous jailers, Clint Eastwood engineered his own Escape from Alcatraz in 1979.

Based on the true story of career criminal Frank Morris and his 1962 escape from Alcatraz, the action generally plods along in comparison to the 1994 nominee for Best Picture. It also doesn't contain the all encompassing struggle to survive in the face of criminally violent guards, roving jailhouse rapists and an incarceration that systematically hinged on dehumanization. But it does have Clint.

Pitted against Warden Johnston, played by Patrick McGoohan, Eastwood and his fellow inmates weather a more methodically psychological megalomania from their chief overseer. 

Regardless, the film does manage to keep pace by the sheer and full range of Eastwood's signature expressions of contempt. Then piggybacking on the petty and arbitrary acts of control against his prison compatriots, Clint matches the scowls with determined resolve.

Unlike Dirty Harry or a high plains drifter, Clint doesn't push it and makes sure all his protestations directed at the warden and prison guards are measured. For example, after the prison sage and resident artist cuts his own fingers off after permanent loss of painting privileges, Clint keeps his head, while leaving the guards no room to retaliate. “Put that in your report," he instructs the negligent guard after gathering up the severed fingers.

He also carefully cultivates his friends in only the frank and fearless Clint Eastwood way. Seeking alliance with the leader among the black inmates, Eastwood defers at first to sit among “English” and his brethren - until the desired opening comes. "You're either too afraid to sit or you hate niggers," he taunts Clint.

With the perfect dose of reluctance, Clint reengages. “I guess I just hate niggers,” he deadpans without reservation. The key alliance solidified, Clint again shows he can carry it just as easily with a quip as with a gun.

Nonetheless, the four escapees slowly and smartly accumulate the tools they need to tunnel, traverse and float their way off Alcatraz. Faced with one final injustice perpetrated by  the warden, Eastwood doesn't take the bait. Instead, realizing it's now or never, he prepares to leave a calling card to signify the victory to come over the unrepentant Warden.

Not quite as in your face as the warden's fate in Shawshank but just as powerful. The outcome in real life is also much less definitive. No trace was ever found of the escapees - except the man made rafts of raincoats found on nearby Angel Island and some personal effects. Authorities at the time believed the prisoners would have drowned before leaving them behind, because these were all the belongings they had.

“Or that's just what they want you to think," one of the law enforcement officers on film taunts Warden Johnston. Seemingly not giving the agent his due, the warden resigns himself to the film's truth in the conveniently placed artifact that only Clint could have left behind.

Regardless of how fiction intersects with the historical facts and final fate of Frank Morris, which we may never know, Clint Eastwood once again comes out on top - just the way we like it.

Gravity and George Clooney Brings You Back Down to Earth


Gravity opens by setting us at ease as George Clooney nonchalantly traverses the perils of space like everything else he does in the movies. A drama set precariously above Earth in our always suspect shuttle, is there anything new in knowing that Clooney will have it covered in the end?  Disappearing 36 minutes into the film, the common place clearly doesn’t apply – that is unless it does. 

Off the signature Clooney chatter, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is weathering space sickness and diligently applying her gloved digits to a scanning satellite developed in her work below.  Her non-astronaut nonchalance applies to easily overlooking Matt (Clooney) as he seeks to frivolously set the spacewalk record and entertain and placate everyone within reach of a long backlog of monologues. “Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission,” he preempts each story in sarcastic homage to every war and science fiction film ever made.
His experience also make sure to acknowledge that being interactive helps extend the calm and ain’t so bad for us either.

Mission Control: We know the Corvette story, Matt
Matt : Even engineering?
Mission Control: Especially engineering.

But once the randomness of space forces the most important acknowledgement, he’s all business when a debris field of careening satellite fragments is heading straight for the shuttle. “Not one more second Dr. Stone, shut it down. That’s an order.”

The abrupt changeover – stored seamlessly in Matt’s standard operating manual – proves futile.  The field pulverizes the shuttle and sends Ryan and Matt hurtling through space.  The entire crew dead, Clooney doesn’t hesitate to morph again in hopes of maximizing the duo’s slim chance for survival.

“Breathe Ryan. Breath. Give me a visual so I can lock onto your location,” Clooney makes you believe and allows Dr. Ryan to get a fix on herself.

Matt then zeroes in on the space novice, and his connecting tether does all it can to make Ryan at least believe that the vastness of space has been put at the disadvantage.  Setting a course for the Russian Space Station, he lays out the plan and puts it in terms that minimize their monumental task. “I know where the Russians stash their vodka,” he jokes.

Along the way, Matt’s small talk reveals the loss of Ryan’s life and sheds light on how not even the mysteries of universe let her move on. But Clooney’s best efforts can’t deny what it will take to again maximize the number of survivors as her tether becomes entangled and secures her to the Russian Spacestation.  “Let go Ryan,” Matt soothes her a third of the way through the film as he knows there’s no way she can pull him back.


Only a few minutes left of oxygen, even Clooney cannot escape infinity and beyond. Of course, if Matt was 2001’s Dave Bowman when all manner of things go wrong, he’d be able to deadpan, “I think I beat Anatoli’s record,” to inspire her to not give up.

On the other hand, Dave Bowman as Starchild has nothing on Clooney, and his outer worldly presence doesn’t rely on the supernatural to enable this film to go the distance.

Somers vs John Jay

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Consider This when Judging a Basketball Brawl

Can't Judge Basketball Fights
by Hockey Fights

Often after an all-out basketball brawl, sports commentators and radio call in listeners usually condemn the mayhem in a disgust that is universal. On the other hand, baseball fights elicit pride and have been later cited as the moment a team came together in a championship season. (see 2004 Red Sox-Yankees/Varitek-ARod…We don’t throw at .260 hitters). The next thing that comes is the accusation that critics are viewing the incidents through the prism of race – thus the difference reactions.  So I’m going to attempt to explain.

I think the basketball fight does look scarier. It's possible that my perception is skewed by race, and I’m probably not alone on either count. But there are factors to consider when interpreting the biased reaction.

One is the typical that these NBA guys are all street thugs who would be doing this on a daily basis if basketball was not a profession. Those people can suck it.

For others, you just can’t get around the fact that we are all human, and gut level emotion is hard to judge – especially if you try to bring rationality to an irrational emotion.

That said, I still think there are explanations that separate out the racial part. So let’s compare across the spectrum of professional sports.

First you can’t compare hockey and football to make the case against basketball. Aside from the fact that hockey fights are institutional and long accepted, the fisticuffs are inherently contained and follow a standard script.

How significant a fight can you have on a surface of ice?  Either way, the gloves go off - and sooner or later - one guy is on the ice, and that’s it. The referees wrestle them away from each other, and everyone settles back in.

Of course, the third man in rule has thoroughly contained the worst offenses of the past. 

Football also has constraints. How much of fight can you really have wearing all that equipment? Even so, I have never seen an all-out football brawl, which is striking.

Could it be that the game already is so violent that a fight just seems too much to bear? Could it have something to do with the short playing career and lack of guaranteed contracts? I’m sure it’s never far from their minds.

So the real comparison is with baseball.  Baseball fights usually occur with one player chasing down another. Batter charges the mound, throws a punch and both end up on the ground. 45 players then converge and tends to clutter in a pile on the ground.

Very predictable, which NBA fights seem not to be.  There’s usually no mad dash involved in basketball. Both players are tangled up already, and there’s less momentum for them to end up on the ground. As a result, they’re more prevalent to go toe to toe, and have the entanglement turn into a shoving fest that has a mind of its own.

At the same time, fewer players involved seems to allow the fallen to actually get up and keep the fight in motion. However, baseball fights still do have the possibility of traveling, but a significant distinction does exist that causes separation.

I’ll liken it to the manner in which movies escalate the drama by putting the plot on the clock. The bad guys have just taken the huge diamond that Indian Jones would love for the museum, and we’re certainly responsive to the chase. But the race to secure the antidote he just swallowed adds the element of time to the excitement.

In basketball’s case, a lack containment is what hangs over the main drama. In other words, there’s no partition to separate the melee from the fans. So as the focal point moves chaotically the uncertainty suddenly involves real people, and sitting at home, it’s not hard to see yourself in those seats.  

Consider that the next time you want to jump to the standard conclusions without any introspection.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Network Should have Showed us the Danger of Anger But Cable News Clearly Shows That it Didn’t

Back when George Bush was enjoying a 22% approval rating and the world's disdain, I hijacked the living room TV to subject my mother to Keith Olbermann. Having to endure Fox News daily, I was only too happy to oblige. But out of what was once known as “equal time,” I came to a conclusion that many Americans have missed. Cable news isn’t selling news, they're selling anger. That said, long before I recognized the format's potential for appeal, it was exploited by the executives in 1976’s, “Network.”

The life of UBS Anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) has fallen apart. His wife dead, he's drinking and his erratic behavior mirrors the diminished ratings. His fate is sealed. Given the chance to gracefully bow out, his explanation is simple. “I’ve run out of bullshit to tell you,” he broadcasts live.

But UBS’s scramble to contain the controversy is cut short in realization that the overwhelming attention can translate to ratings. “He’s articulating the popular rage – what’s wrong with that," Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) rationalizes to her bosses.

The fact that the network is on the verge of bankruptcy certainly helps the hierarchy seize on Dunaway's epiphany. Of course, in real life networks were beginning to challenge the idea that producing news meant company losses. Contributing to the deficit was that FCC licensing required media companies to deliver responsible reporting as a public service. 

Today, we can only wonder where that social contract has gone as the likes of Sean Hannity hyper-extenuate the truth and bends radio frequencies beyond recognition.

As disturbing an image Sean Hannity is, he pales in comparison to the overblown caricature portrayed in Finch's Oscar winning performance. He sheds his desk and becomes the “prophet of the airwaves” - stained glass and audience included.

On the other hand, he does mostly delve in truth - high gas prices, corrupt politicians, crime and broken schools. Making it all the more easy for his audience to comply when he  implores  them to go to their windows and shout, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." 

A national phenomena, Beale can even insult his audience and  commit high holy  treason against the ratings system. "Only 3% of you have read a book this year. We're all you know, but you're real not us so turn off your TV and live," he rants.

It only appears to go too far when he reveals that the network is being bought by a Saudi Company - responsible for gas prices and the foreign buying of America.

Startlingly, the UBS president decides that Beale simply needs a re-calibration that preaches the common good through corporate allegiance by the masses. Beale shifts his ideological bent and his ratings go with it.

Equally insane, the president is blind to that and believes the preacher can muster enough converts to his new cause before the company tanks.

The executives are less optimistic and realize their careers are in jeopardy. Their solution: carrying out a live TV assassination of Beale.

At this point, the film has gone too far for me - until the narrator puts everything in perspective.

"Howard Beale is the only man in history to be murdered for low ratings."

The ironic tone of the delivery is inescapable and reins in the film's excess - leaving 1976 in position to see that it's reality that's over the top and only one demand should have remained.

We're mad as hell about our news media and we're not going to take it anymore.

Cable news and talk radio, the message was clearly missed.  

The Ladykillers will Bring you Back to God

Back to God

The Ladykillers, by the Coen Brothers, somehow has been overlooked. So if you can at this late date, give Tom Hanks a gander as he heads a quartet of unlikely compatriots who join to rob a floating casino.

As "Professor" Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr – studier of dead languages – Hanks provides both the brains and the comedy backbone. But first we’re introduced to the sleepy southern town. Complete with its complacent sheriff, whose campaign slogan is “reelect Sheriff Wyner because he’s too old to work,” the town is steeped in its God fearing ways and aims to keep it simple.  

Marva Munson serves as our ambassador and the focal point for the aforementioned crime wave. An unrepentant lover of the lord and the memory of her long passed husband, Marva is all business when it comes to right and wrong.

“You know they call it hippity hop music but it don’t make me want to go hippity hop,” she lectures Sheriff Wyner.

Even so, all is good as she contently subsists with her faithful cat “Pickles” and contemplates rejoining her husband in the hereafter, while his judgmental stare guides from the portrait above her mantle. That’s until the professor’s knock on the door casts a shadow seemingly sent by God himself.

Pickles, a step ahead of the ominousness, takes flight for the oak outside and Marva is not a loss for words. “Go fetch Pickles,” she demands and holds the high ground.

The professor is up to the task. “I do apologize but won’t the feline eventually tire of his lonely perch, and pining for his master’s affection, return of his own initiative,” Hanks masterfully lays the groundwork for his dialogue.

Nonetheless, Hanks is forced to ascend and begin his fall from grace as the ancient tree is unable to support him or the plot he’s about to unfold. Still, he secures Marva’s available room and rehearsal space for his Renaissance era “musicians” in her basement.  

Connected to the bank housing the casino winnings, the plan is afoot. Thus, we meet the players.

Gawain MacSam (Marlon Wayans) is the inside man. A Hip-hop tongued janitor, his vernacular brings the endeavor back to street level in laugh out loud abundance. “What up my nigga,” Wayans’ pride and disdain take precedence the first time he meets the casino boss

J.K. Simmons as Garth Pancake serves as the demolitions’ expert. Clad in safari shorts, high socks and boots, his diligent commitment to detail and easy approach to obstacles mostly amounts to incompetence. In demonstrating the C4, he blows off his finger and shakes it off. “I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” he demurs.

Lump, on the other hand, as the operation’s muscle, lacks the mental stability to muster the explosive miscue or much of the English language. “Blood, Blood, Blood,” he panics at the severed digit.

The General, a tunneler in the French Indochina War, also dishes on providing much dialogue, and in this case, slaps the monstrosity into submission.    

Fortunately for the ensemble, the professor is able to placate Marva upon the mysterious explosion. "I will not have you missin your recital. I shall call the gas company or the water company –  whatever subterranean utility is implicated in this contretemps,” he sees her off. 

Of course, more things must go askew. Gawain’s ghetto ways are the first to give way. “Come over here and blow on these dice,” he tells a female customer, “You know, I’m a seven on the roll but a ten the hard way.”

His job lost, the professor then laments Pancake enlisting his beloved Mountain Girl to extract a large piece of Ignatius impeding their tunneling efforts. “I thought it was understood that when it came to our enterprise, mum was the word.”

Gawain is far less precise as the revelation is made at their conferencing location. “You brought yo bitch to the waffle hut,” he wails repeatedly until Pancake’s retaliation has Gawain pulling his piece.

But the professor placates again. “Please gentleman, this behavior does you no credit in the eyes of   your colleagues, nor in those of the other patrons of this Waffle Hut,” he gets the group to accept the endeavor's enlargement. 
 
Gawain getting his job back, the job goes off perfectly until the explosive device to reseal the tunnel  fails. “It is the essence of this plan that the money should simply vanish without a trace to not only   make our caper intellectually satisfying but is exigent as a matter of fact,” Hanks doctors the dilemma for Pancake.          
 
As such, Pancake goes gung ho into the tunnel and narrowly escapes death, while Gawain’s street smart explains away the mysterious noise at the casino end.  “You fart,” he redirects the happily obese safe attendee. 

But the affront to God is missed by our players. Specifically, the fatal presumption that they could outsmart their destinies.  “Let us go back to God,” the opening hymm foretells and points the finger of doom.

NYC - 42nd - 55th

Class of 80 - Trip to Boston

Ray Milland Dials M for Murder without Messing his Suit or Moving a Hair out of Place



Ray Milland conspires to commit murder with all the decency one would expect from an English subject in good standing of her majesty the Queen. Princess Grace Kelly the target in Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, no less could be expected.

A marriage dissolving, Milland as haughty tennis champion Tony Wendice, doesn’t see a divorce as tidy as a permanent disconnect from the future royal in real life. Strictly an age of amateurs on the grass courts of Wimbledon, the insurance money that goes with it is only the icing - especially since the rage he feels of Kelly’s infidelity wouldn’t do the whole discrepancy justice.

But the initial rash impulse to discard his lady is tempered upon the sudden appearance of an old acquaintance. One whose references are quite assuredly lacking.

Doing the serendipity its due diligence, Milland patiently tails “Swann” until a malfeasance reveals itself and makes the would be assassin malleable to murder. Masterfully pigeon holed to his fate, Swann relents, and the thousand pound payoff is the least the gentlemanly Milland can do for the murderous bird he has caged.

Of course, as in all deeds of dastardly cinematic origin, things go awry. As such, Milland’s grounded sensibility begs a hope that he will reassert a course more in accordance of his own good stock. In other words, when Kelly fends off Swann with a pair of scissors, Milland stays true to his duplicitous designation and leaves it to the state to do his dirty work.

This leaves Kelly suitable for framing as he rearranges all the pertinent evidence. At the same time, Milland defers on the tennis whites by placating as the loving husband and supplying the heroine with just enough conflicting testimony to caricature her as a two timing liar of the English upper crust. Thus, the court passes a judgment of death on Kelly’s passive and bewildered acceptance.

The tailored suit, manicured hair and regal stride all remain unruffled and suffice for the villainy which Milland so easily struts. Then given what Hitchcock did to Janet Leigh in Pyscho, the noose seemed tightly nestled around the princesses’ neck.

But England is also home to its share of well creased, straight laced and even headed good guys. Enter Chief Inspector Hubbard... Seizing on several loose ends, he doesn’t need to be caught up in Kelly’s grace to get an accurate read on Milland, and the events that played out on the couple’s upscale terrace apartment.

The inspector gets Milland himself to replay the key component of the crime and ties the whole story into a tidy little bow.  Nowhere to run without any recourse, Milland remains in stride. So tea not befitting his demise, he concedes the truth via 100 proof. Whiskey all around, the gentleman can only lament a nearly perfect crime which ultimately amounts to a cinematic milestone that requires your astute attention.

Cannes Festival Nominee Explores the Artistic Need to Create in Color Thief


Artists don’t just starve because the portfolio of their passions lacks buyers or livable compensation. Creation requires resources, and the drive to create for artist can often trump the necessities and security one needs to survive. Whether it's Michelangelo hanging from a ceiling, the Borglum family bounding themselves to Mt. Rushmore or even Tom Cruise swinging from the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the question is obvious. How far will an artist go to bring body and soul to their vision?

With the short film Color Thief, New York City’s Violeta Barca-Fontana is going the distance in her attempt at an answer.

While the hurdles faced in her film are significantly less dramatic, the NYC setting and circumstances brings a more relatable experience to both artists and everyday people pursuing their dreams. And the fact that the spec was sparked by an actual event provides verification.

According to a story right out of New York City, an artist finds himself one color short of what he needs to complete his work and breaks into a store to quench his creativity. “That’s what got me thinking. It’s such a powerful force – the need to create and to get something done. You are just compelled to go out and do whatever you need to do,” says Barca-Fontana.

In that, 84 year old “Lily” first came to life for Barca-Fontana. One color short, she also decides to break the law in Color Thief to complete what will probably be the last, great piece of her life.

Putting aside the obvious expediency found in the overall concept, Ms. Barca-Fontana also explores the life choices artists must make, and what's left behind in the process - which is why she aged her character. "She reflects on her past and has no trouble making peace with a life where art was put first," says Barca-Fontana.

At the same time, juxtaposing the gender of the real life artist intensified the depth of Barca-Fontana's exploration. "A woman adds dimension because the choices made in her youth had to more profound in an era where women were expected to be home," she says.

In that, the real life crossover intersects this time with Barca-Fontana's life. "My grandmother was a painter," says the New York City filmmaker, "but she was fortunate in that my grandfather was just crazy enough to let her pursue her passions."

So while a direct comparison does not apply, a familiarity will definitely be evident to her family. "They will definitely recognize the tone I take," she says.

But male or female, the artists that she's discussed the concept with can feel the connection and have given her the nod. Nonetheless, it's not only artists that will be able to relate. "Every human being has a passion," she says succinctly.

Of course, art always means business, and this time she's not handing off those duties. "In addition to writing and directing, I'm producing the film too. So that means setting up meetings, getting funding and all the things that go with it," she says.

Doing what needs to be done but it still comes back to being an artist and that means your mind must be malleable and attuned. "It's almost like somebody is whispering in your ear that you should do this film or project," she says.

A sentiment that she found among a number of artists and one's success may actually hinge on being open to it. "I believe you have to be willing to listen," she says, "even if it sounds a little crazy."

Any Rand's Atlas Shrugged - Like any Blind Ideology - Based on Irrationality


Ayn Rand believes government is inefficient. She wrote book called Atlas Shrugged to let us know. Of course, if you feel the need to confirm the sentiment, just take a trip to the DMV. As horrid as that might be, it would save you the bother of suffering through 1,200 pages in pursuit of a parallel state of utopia that is as unrealistic as the one she’s against. I offer here an explanation of the irrationality that brought her to us.
I had long been intrigued by the cover of this book and the unusual name that went with it. As blindsided market economics grew in popularity, the unusual name really began to resonate and my curiosity peaked.
I picked up her first novel, “We, the Living.” Loosely based on her escape from the newly formed Soviet Union, I was doubly hooked. Meaning, I’ve always had a fascination for Russian History – being well versed in the atrocity that was the Bolshevik State.
Less attuned to the sheer violence, this was a study in how the pursuit of the communist ideal led the country into crippling backwardness. Incrementally detailing the descent, the tragic ending of the main character served as a victory to the human spirit nonetheless.
And if I don’t say, one of the most amazing finishes I’ve ever read. Atlas Shrugged was clearly in my future.
In real life, Ayn Rand’s escape was far less dramatic, but the experience obviously drove her life’s work. Unfortunately, it influenced her to the point of irrationality. I know the feeling.
Not nearly of the magnitude of Rand’s experience, an incident in my life can sometimes suspend the equal consideration that all should be addressed with. Prejudice. I was wronged by a group – an occupation – and I find myself lumping the entire field to the individual who crossed me. Nonetheless, I am aware of this and keep it in check but it is valuable to see how people succumb to this emotion.
Hello Ayn Rand.
The Soviet Union was its brother’s keeper. On an individual basis, the results – at best – are mixed. Playing them out across an entire society is looking for trouble. The catastrophic incidences are too numerous to list.
Thus ensconced in the opposite extreme, Rand’s irrationality remained nowhere near in check but that doesn’t mean “objectivism” doesn’t contain rational purpose. “Great men” took risks and made super human efforts to cross the oceans, build the railroads and link the world together by transatlantic and coaxial cables. And she’s correct in saying that societies often unfairly criticize the virtue of those efforts – especially in consideration of the riches it brings them.
Dagny Taggert and Hank Rearden are the primary victims of the stagnant economic ideology that over took the world. The two characters and those of their literary ilk want to produce and earn based solely on their ability to meet demand. I say, God Bless ‘em
Unfortunately, this does not sound like the present day “destroyers” who brought down the world economy. In practice, too many seek unfair advantage over competitors, and often in at the expense of the public, through the purchase of politicians.
Or they’ll just break the law. HSBC is under investigation for laundering drug money for Mexican cartels and they’re not the first. The government will settle and the fine will be insignificant in comparison to the profits.
Why? Because the banks are armed with lawyers that will drag out the process and make the government look bad. I doubt Hank Rearden would approve.
Rand then turns to an industrial class that has gone on strike. They feel the world does not appreciate enough the wealth and opportunity provided through the ages. But can the same be said of the Apple subsidiary Foxconn. It was forced to place netting around the housing of its semi-enslaved Chinese workers to cut into the suicide rate bore of horrendous conditions.
In turn, sweatshops and dire working conditions go unreported around the world in compliance with a media that protects the overlords. Right here, a Florida Super Market Chain called Publix, among others, employed Human Labor Trafficking practices to increase its bottom line.
On the other hand, the unfettered system of capitalism that companies enjoy outside American borders does lead to the general uplift of those host societies, as Alan Greenspan would tell you.
This sounds awfully like the speak of other Utopian visions. But, at the same time, adding up the pluses and minuses may just justify the pain. Given the unfortunate state of the human condition, across the landscape of history and its horror, all possibly go under the heading of the price of doing business.
Why then can she not extend a similar analogy to the operation of government and the check against excess?
Did I mention irrationality, which I estimate is the reason Atlas succumbed nonviolently to the said dystopia. In this, she’s warning of the most likely manner in which our democratic system would fall to communism. The Bush tax cuts in serious consideration of repeal, we can only resign to our sealed fate.
Please!!!
Aside from the inefficiency and waste that goes with government programs, increasing taxes helps the government dole out political power – thus amounting to poor use of capital and distorting values in the market place. (Of course, I don’t see Exxon/Mobil or the nuclear industry deferring on the Corporate Welfare that Ayn Rand thinks they would.)
Given the human condition across the landscape of history, this amounts to the price of doing business. In case that doesn’t sound familiar, let’s just say, business needs government to save itself from itself and government needs business to save itself from itself.
Despite the straight forward concept, it’s understandable how Ayn Rand’s irrational experience tainted her work. But the Tea Party and all those who think Atlas Shrugged should be viewed as a biblical blue print for all economic consideration – God help us.



How Kids Lose when Everyone gets a Trophy

My 1976 All Star Trophy
It has come to my attention that children playing sports today get too many trophies. From what I've seen working in the schools for the past seven years, most children have more trophies than I have socks.

I wonder whom exactly this serves. Unlike today's kids, I can say I actually played sports for years without winning a single trophy, but what my athletic career taught me transcended the lessons learned on the field.
My life without trophies goes back to when my brother's little league team won two straight championship trophies. I decided that I needed one of those.
Playing in prelittle league, my team finished first, but no trophy was awarded. This was tough to swallow-but I looked ahead anyway. The lineup from my brother's team had mostly moved on, but many of the same last names remained by the time I got there, which meant we had a good chance for our own hardware.
The little brothers played well but late in the season we came up short of 1st place after losing to the perennial bottom feeders in the league. We left the field in shock, but even with no trophy, I took pride as a contributor to a good team that didn't shine quite as bright as our lineage.
I did earn an all-star trophy the following year, and then had to survive until my junior year in high school without any manufactured glory.
I won a third place medal after three years of wrestling at Somers High School, but its dull glare meant little compared to what the experience taught me. My junior year I suffered weekly losses to two freshman teammates. It was, in a word, emasculating.
3rd Place - 1981 Divisionals
I hit bottom losing a junior varsity match in Mount Vernon to another freshman. That night, I got on the team bus, threw a coat over my head and cried. I had become a worse wrestler as a junior than when I began two years earlier. I had little reason to continue, especially considering the gut wrenching two and a half hour practices.
If this story was from Hollywood, a sectional championship would have followed, but this was real life. Slowly it began to click and wrestling became like writing poetry, as all my moves had a melodic rhythm to them. I earned a varsity slot and a chance to wrestle in the sectionals.
In the semi-finals of the qualifying tournament, I had my opponent facing up, with the finals clearly in my sights. Overeager, I ended up getting pinned, but still qualified for the sectionals. 


On my way to the finals until...

The following week, I wrestled the top-rated 98-pounder in the county to a first period draw before he showed me the ceiling and ended my season.
Afterwards, my coach gave me a measured compliment that didn't over-dramatize my efforts. "You're coming along just like your brother," he said, in describing another Monetti who didn't star but endured.

My perseverance ended an adolescent catastrophe, and I didn't have to wear a coat on my head. More importantly, I've drawn upon the experience in my real life struggles.
So why do parents today rob children of the chance to provide their own rewards and learn important life lessons? Could it be the guilt that accumulates over 60-hour workweeks that makes parents want to give their
children more rewards than they actually need? How about the chance for parents to erase past failures through their children's successes? I think these reasons contribute, but probably not significantly.
More likely, various organizations started this practice and it spread. From there, parents might not have wanted to come off as ogres in the community by objecting. In my less than scientific research, most parents are against distributing too many trophies. Maybe finding a more middle ground solution simply means a little assertiveness and a show of hands at the next soccer game.
Even the kids are starting to understand. One parent told me that after receiving a soccer trophy for best goal of the year (kicked in from midfield), his son was satisfied that "this trophy actually counts."

Now, if the adults could only get the message.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Liberal Rationalizing the Horror of a Trump Presidency, There might be some Positives

The Sadness of a Trump Presidency
might not be All bad

As the possibility of Donald Trump becoming president has become more of a reality, horror best describes my fears. That said, one must prepare for the worst, and in attempting to placate myself, I’ve found areas where we might actually like having his name plastered on the Washington Monument.
But if it bleeds it leads. Donald Trump on the world stage would terrify me.  Speaking loudly and wielding a big stick, see George W. Bush for details, but his missteps could be catastrophic.
I can only imagine him trying to angle Vladimir Putin out of the Ukraine like he’s some slum lord from Brooklyn. Itchy nuclear trigger fingers aplenty in the wake of Trump’s abrasive style and we could all be fired.
If you can get past the prospects of a nuclear winter, let me make a circular argument around the xenophobic rhetoric that is so disturbing.
I’ll use the expelled Muslim woman from his recent rally. I don’t have a problem with her exit, because the Secret Service looks for anyone doing something out of the ordinary. So a women standing silently in protest among the revelry probably counts.
The concern is the racist reaction to the people around her. As many have said, Trump’s success reveals the ugly underbelly of our society.
Despicable that he would demagogue his way to the top in that regard, I’m going to hope this isn’t the true Donald Trump. Mark Cuban has my back. “The Donald Trump who’s running for President is not the Donald Trump I know,” he stated flatly on Larry Wilmore’s show
So I’m going to extrapolate Trump’s version of the post primary Republican run back from the edges.  “All that building a wall stuff and banning Muslims from entering the country – I’m voicing your frustrations. I mean, do you really think I could get this country to build a 2000 mile long wall, and then get Mexico to pay for it. I’m good, but I’m not that good. It’s time to try to accept our differences and not give in to fear. We also have to begin discussing pragmatic solutions that don’t take into account the box our politicians are in, and all the special interests they are beholden to.”
Now we’re talkin (or getting delusional).  Could it be possible that just by empathizing, Donald Trump has accrued enough allegiance to the racist element of the Republican base that they would be open to suspending their irrationality in favor of real solutions on immigration.

He might even be able to convince them that giving a bit on the border would throw an entire population up for grabs in future elections – rather than being solidly Democratic.
As for his Middle East musings, his constituency probably can’t be reached.
You can’t have it all, but being on the outside in terms of the economy could be quite intriguing. Of course, among the banking and Wall Street class that always has its way and sends us periodically into chaos, he’s not financially beholden to them. Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton can’t make that claim and sending a few of them off to jail with any malfeasance might keep them all in line.  
Who knows it might set a precedence that extends beyond his term.
Trump is also from New York. A place that science has infiltrated, he knows global climate change is an issue. So while his business inclinations could deter his policy, rationality might trump the politics of stupidity that Republicans count on in this area.
At the same time, setting a sustainable course could be Trump’s version of only Nixon could go to China.  His constituency at stake of being softened, the idea of encasing policy in accordance of a new sustainable economy might now make sense since he’s doing the talking.    
A New York application to second amendment irrationality might also see progress. His urban upbringing, you really think he cares about hunting squirrels in Central Park?  He’s talking irrationality now, but he understands common sense. 
Probably not strong enough to take on NRA either, Trump’s support may lay wait, and with an obstinate constituency willing to listen, you never know.

If this has earned my unfriending, I hope my upcoming vote for Bernie Sanders changes your mind.

Yonkers Slideshow #2

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dave's Place - Seemingly out of Place - on West 42nd Street and 9th is Definitely Down to Earth

Plattsburgh should try Dave's Place

I went to college in Plattsburgh, New York – the North Country. Every weekend the downtown bars were mobbed with college students drinking one dollar beers and doing what they do. Scattered along side, "townies" tried to pass themselves off as us. It was always an uneasy piece, as it probably is in many places across the country. But if you really wanted to get a taste and put aside this youthful air of undeserved superiority that we haughtily wore among our community hosts – "The Royal" was the place to go. That said, we from our pretentious suburban, urban and middle class perches have all given these places a go. And while we hope our arrogance is forgiven, we are all the better for rising to the level of the down to earth people that are always encountered. I recently found a bar such as this in the unlikeliest place – West 42nd and 9th avenue in Manhattan.

Tucked up in next to the Port Authority, it’s called unassumingly enough, "Dave’s Place." In defiance of the space-time continuum surrounding New York City’s worldly galaxy, the dimensional plane that is broken upon crossing the sidewalk's threshold is like wedding a time warp to a parallel universe.

Drawn in, the dinginess is endeared by a bar surface that makes no pretense over its two sole purposes – separate the drinkers from the drinks and giving the beverages a places to rest before they are either consumed or spilled.

Doing the honors, the patrons seem as if a worm whole was the conduit for their arrival or some variable left unknown to the workings of Quantum Physics. Definitely working class, they beamed in from – I don’t know – a General Motors factory in decline, an upstate community that subsists off the prison industrial complex or the loading docks of Baltimore.

Anywhere but the heart of New York City, and the steam let off is that of collective working class exhale that breathes life into the revelry. In turn, the joy is simply contagious, and I couldn’t help raising my $4 Narragansett in hopes of acceptance.

Seamlessly welcomed, what struck me as “parallel” was the diversity of the bar’s make up. They say in the South that poor working class blacks and whites should be aligned economically and politically. But the racial propaganda of the Republican party acts to alienate poor whites from their African-American brethren. Here, the people are not falling for that.

Black, White, Latin – any differences fall in favor of the collective joy and pain. As such, the crowd sort of dances around the ethnic differences and make it part of seeing each other as the same. The humorous banter - a byproduct that is almost as uplifting as the beverages.

Then, there’s the bartenders.  Dressed in leather bikers tops and tight jeans that leave an alluring mid drift gap in between, they also seem adjoined to a place nowhere in proximity to the nearby USS Intrepid. Flirty and playfully condescending to dudes who know they have no shot, these two exceedingly attractive women give off a similar air of being out of their league - only the neighborhood surroundings are the sport in question. 

In other words, they are like the college townie trying to lore a Phi Beta Kappa or Air force Pilot who can rescue her from their backwoods town. Only here, it’s the businessman who might wander in off 8th Avenue. In all likelihood, it's more that they have the same dignity that their customers possess and are content to stick to the grounded aspirations that enough West Side dwellers fail to achieve.


Either way, it all seems unreal and had me in a state of awe inspiring bewilderment. I just can’t wait to take my buddies from Plattsburgh here – if Dave will have us.

Islamic Center of Peekskill Blends in on North Division Street

When our political discussions turn to foreign policy, the Middle East almost instinctively moves to the forefront of contention. "That's the reality of our times," says Papa Sall, Imam of the Islamic Center of Peekskill. But seismic shifts in today's human events do not take precedence over a permanence found in the message the Senegal born holy man has for his flock.

"We're not going to be here forever so we're here to focus more on spirituality," he says.

The center or Mosque begins with offering its 25 member congregation the opportunity to come in and fulfill the requirement of praying five times a day. Of course, not every Muslim has the chance to drop everything and face Mecca from a mosque everyday, but Imam Sall pointed out the advantage gained by an in-house engagement. "If your boss told if you work from home I'll pay you ten dollars an hour but if you come in I'll multiply it by 25 - that's the difference," he said.

He hopes his Friday sermon can return a similar payoff. Certainly using the goings on of daily life, the half hour oratory is intended to help members rise above what ultimately must be considered mundane. Reminding people of God’s will and their duty to him, he says, "It's a spiritual awakening of the soul."

Muslim men are required to cover the body except below the knee.
Muslim women the whole body except face ,hands & feet.
 

Otherwise, Peekskill will not likely notice much different about members of his congregation if seen on the street. Men must cover the body below the knee, while women the whole body including head wear but there's no restrictions on the type of attire.  "You can dress in regular clothes," he says, "so we blend into the community.”

That said, the larger Muslim movement recently issued a call for centers and mosques to reach out to their communities. As a result, an open house was held on March 17th.

The idea was to help to introduce communities to their Muslim neighbors and diminish misconceptions bore out of the fear of the unknown. With the mayor, two members of the city council  and several local reverends, says Imam Sall, "We showed people what we do, how we pray and let them know if they see something they don't understand - they are more than welcome to ask."

As for the diversion American culture might place on the Muslim path - especially among children - Papa Sall has remained ready to redirect since taking over in 1995. There are challenges in this society that we
didn't have growing up," he says, "but we strive to raise them as good Muslims."

This might leave credence to the old adage that the Koran provides a spark to varied interpretations but not really from where his congregation sits. "If we need to consult an expert above our level we do so, but we're not here to argue A to Z - that's not the intent. It's more about reading the text and going back and forth with what is learned," he says.

No place in between can he or his members find basis for the media driven assertion that 72 virgins await so called suicidal, homicidal warriors. But voicing dissatisfaction over the facts in order to put to rest various misconceptions isn't the way in which the narrative can be changed, he believes. "Our feeling is actions speak louder than words," he says, and going forth in a peaceful, positive manner gets the real message
out, he adds.

Still, what of the possibility of profiling and law enforcement Infiltration in Peekskill?  "We're here for peace and we're not involved in anything that would subject us to it, but like anyone else, if we were generally blanketed as Muslims, we wouldn't like it," he said.

As for those of any group involved in wrong doing, he leaves law enforcement and the justice system to carry out their obligations.  In turn, he believes the typical Muslim has little correlation to the over exposure directed toward the actions of a few. "It's not a great percentage of what Muslims are about," he says.

Blending in, it can be said, speaks directly to that here in Peekskill.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Yonkers Kimball Avenue

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Class of 1980 8th grade trip to Washington

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Indian Point Evacuation Plan : Put Your Head Between Your Knees and....


photo by
Lynda Shenkman Curtis

If Indian Points happens to spring a leak, the signal will sound, everyone can check the wind and just drive the opposite way. As ridiculous as we all know that sounds, the direction of the plume isn't even accounted for in the event of an emergency. "All roads will be directed south," says environmental educator and activist, Dr. Susan Rubin, who has just made a short stinging documentary on the wholely inadequate plan are leaders have devised.

The idea to look into the issue arose of the "weird and funny" blue bus stop signs that designate a shuttle to safety for the people of Peekskill. "The more we learned, the crazier it got," she said.

In the event of a leak, Rubin learned that the plan cordons off a three mile radius as the evacuation zone. Peekskill is then instructed to find the signs and wait for the never tested bus system. “I don’t even know where the regular bus stops are,” says one of the subjects on the video.

Of course, the complacency most of us enjoy in the shadow of the 66 year old reactors doesn’t take into account the panic that would be set off by the sirens and/or the shadow evacuation that would unofficially leak out earlier.

As such, the spreading word is as likely to be contained as the radiation – leaving any ground zero public or private transportation modes at the mercy of what lays directly ahead. “The roads will be completely tied up outside the three miles,” says Rubin.

That aside, the science of radiation poisoning actually does discriminate in the confines of the evacuation plan. “Peekskill a less affluent section of Westchester, people will actually will have to wait for the bus because many don’t have cars. So this is a social justice issue too,” she says.

Even so, Rubin thinks people will get further by walking. But an exponential upage of catastrophe along the lines of a Fukushima or Chernobyl only receives incremental attention in the hopeless expediency that will follow. “The ten mile radius is an arbitrary number. It’s all the same plan,” she says of the 300,000 people encompassed in a potential death race out of Dodge.

More importantly, past disasters show that radiation plumes south would easily cloud everything from here to New York City. “That amounts to one eighth of the U.S. population,” she says, and the gases won’t hesitate to linger onto Philadelphia.

A halflife later on a mass scale, exodus still means financial survival beyond radiation affects.  “The real estate value of property and homes will plumet, and we all will still owe our mortgage,” she says.

But while public awareness was best summed up by the subject who thought an underground tunnel could traverse him to safety, Ralph Nader is far from removed on the issue and voiced a simple solution in the film. “If 1% of the population contacted their representatives, politicians would follow through on Indian Point’s stalled license,” he stated.

Probably too tall an order, Indian Point now faces an additional external threat beyond terrorism and natural disaster. A 42 inch pipeline of highly pressurized fracked gas is currently on the docket to run past the plant. “The same type of pipeline in San Bruno, Caifornia exploded in 2010 killing eight people,” said Rubin.

Nonetheless, the six minute film demands a true evacuation test, and an actual plan that lives up to the possible consequences. But the stock footage of old duck and cover film from the 50s essentially sums up the chances that such a plan could be implemented.

In other words, put your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye.

As such, Dr. Rubin recommends that concerned citizens contact their county legislators and local town officials to be begin the process of closing Indian Point

Additionally, if the pipeline is a concern contact your Westchester County Legislator today at (914) 995-2800. Tell them to demand an independent and transparent risk analysis and public health impact assessment before federal and state agencies make their decisions about the Spectra AIM Pipeline Project.To see The Plan? :