Monday, February 23, 2015

Oscar Afterthoughts

Even though I don't go to the movies much anymore--and I definitely can't tolerate a nano-second of any other awards shows--watching "the Oscars," Hollywood's top-ranking annual self-love festival, is an enduring habit I can't seem to shake.

Although I'd only seen one of the nominated "Best Picture" films this year, I still made my picks, set up my snacks, and settled into the sofa for four hours. (Hey, once a year can't hurt, even if it is Lent.)

Predictably, as always, the show ran overtime and straight into Downton Abbey. While much of the proceedings do tend towards boring, there were a few notable moments, both shining and awkward. Here are my winners:
  1. Julianne Moore - charming and classy in her Best Actress acceptance speech.
  2. Lady Gaga - shocked me with her gorgeous singing in the Sound of Music medley. Who knew?
  3. John Travolta - could use sexual harassment prevention training. Just ask ScarJo or Idina Menzel.
  4. Chris Pine - dude, what's with the tears during Glory? David Oyelowo, yes. You? Get a grip! 
  5. Michael Keaton - good to see him just enjoying being back on the "A" list, but I wish he'd won.
  6. Sean Penn - "SOB" to the Best Picture winner? Really? Joke or no, trashy.
  7. Neil Patrick Harris - fine job as host, but did we really need to see him in his underwear?
Last night was the 50th anniversary of me watching the Oscar telecast. I think I deserve an award.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Presidents of Note

Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota - Four Influential Presidents
Today is "Presidents' Day," a blandly impersonal, generalized celebration of national chief executives. Prior to 1971, there were two specific presidents honored in February, on their birthdays: Lincoln on February 12 and Washington on February 22. Both dates were holidays, regardless of which day of the week they fell on. However, as three-day weekends became more important in American society than our unique history, our two greatest presidents were homogenized into the colossally boring Presidents' Day.

You could call it a redistribution of our historic wealth. We might as well have an "Avocados' Day" or a "Televisions' Day," for all the meaning the day now imparts.

In honor of this watered-down occasion, here's a link to the "Top 10 Most Influential American Presidents." I disagree somewhat with order and choice, but for the most part it's a solid list:

1.  Abraham Lincoln
     No argument. He saved and preserved the nation. Number One for sure.

2.  Franklin D. Roosevelt
     A bit too much on the socialist side for my taste, but due to the events of his tenure, there's no doubt FDR belongs on the list.

3.  George Washington
     I would put "the father of our country" a close second to Lincoln.

4.  Thomas Jefferson
     This is about the right spot for TJ.

5.  Andrew Jackson
     I don't know if Jackson should be listed instead of James Monroe or James Madison.

6.  Teddy Roosevelt
     For creating the National Parks system, TR belongs not only on this list but in heaven.

7.  Woodrow Wilson
     Presided over the implementation of the Federal Reserve and the League of Nations, the precursor to the UN. Influential? Yes. In a good way? Um, I don't think so.

8.  Harry S. Truman
     In using the atomic bomb to end WWII, HST had to make probably the most difficult decision in history. Definitely deserves a place in the Top 10.

9.  James K. Polk
     Polk should be higher on the list. No, he didn't "steal" Mexico. He bought and paid for California, Nevada, and more with $15 million and opened the American West.

10.  Dwight D. Eisenhower
      What DDE is doing on this list is beyond me. See #5.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When Wrong is Right

When I was growing up, my father always had the same response to news about any murderer of innocent people: "Take him out and shoot him."

In my idealistic youth, I would be horrified that my kind, thoughtful, funny father could make such a cold-blooded statement. "Dad!" I would protest in shocked outrage. "That's just wrong!"

Time is a thorough, patient, and effective teacher. I have learned my lessons well watching world events over the decades. In the wake of the fourth US hostage, Kayla Mueller, being murdered at the hands of Islamic terrorists, I think "You were right, Dad. We should just take them out and shoot them."

A conversation we had during the Iranian hostage crisis gives me a clue how Dad might deal with ISIS. I was visiting my parents in New York; it was summer 1980. The hostage crisis had dragged on since November 1979. Dad and I were watching television, and a review of the hostage crisis showed images of our US Embassy employees when they were first seized. The American captives were bound and blindfolded; their Iranian captors were celebrating as they paraded their human prizes to cheering crowds. I had never seen my father seething with such controlled anger. Curiosity got the better of me, and I asked, "What would you do if you were in charge, Dad?"

He turned from the TV and looked at me, his eyes blazing blue fire. He pointed sharply at the screen, "I would have told them, 'You've got 24 hours to let them go. Or we're coming in to get them.'" He stopped speaking and turned back to the program, but an unspoken "Take them out and shoot them" directed at the Iranian captors hung in the air. For the first time, I began to realize that perhaps such a course of action was not "just wrong," as I had always maintained.

Whenever I see footage or photos of the current Islamic terrorist atrocities being inflicted upon innocent and helpless people in the Middle East today, "Take them out and shoot them" now makes perfect sense to me. I wish I could tell Dad.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Praying for a Leader

Most Americans have heard about President Obama's slap-down of Christianity at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. The best response I've read comes from the Louisiana governor, Bobby Jindal:

“It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast,”said Bobby Jindal. “Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam, the assassination of journalists, the beheading and burning alive of captives. We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today.”

Well said, Governor. The Crusades and the Inquisition aren't exactly front page news these days, having occured hundreds, almost thousands, of years in the past.  The president also mentioned slavery and Jim Crow. The 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries also present no clear and present danger. It's the here and now we need to be concerned with, and his job is to protect, defend, and support our nation. As usual, he's off the clock.

I don't know what's going on in the president's head--thank God. But from the pathetically stupid remarks he makes, and his reckless actions and lack of same, his thought process doesn't ever seem to be supportive of our country or history. I'm counting the days until he's gone, and I'm praying for a true leader next term.