Just happened upon this PBS special on the making of the movie Giant and found it very well done and interesting. Begun 60 years ago and released in 1956 the Movie was directed by George Stevens and stared a beautifully captivating Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and an emerging super star James Dean who fatally crashed his new Porsche in Sept 1955. He became an overnight icon for teenagers who thought the accident report was a publicity stunt and lined up in droves at the movies premiere to catch a glimpse of his surprise appearance. The movie was based on Pulitzer Prize winner Edna Ferber’s novel of the same name. I watched the movie as a teen ager and enjoyed it because it was exciting, had great music and a couple of great fight scenes, and while I was not blind to the underlying themes of discrimination I was not as socially conscious then as now. Watching the movie now ( I own the DVD) I find it to be as socially relevant in todays culture as it was in the Texas culture of the 50’s. Ferber had spent months living with the big cattle and oil ranchers and the Mexicans in the area and saw and wrote about the discrimination by Anglos towards Hispanics. George Stevens was one of the fine Directors written about in Five Came Back, a bio I recently read on Directors who went into WWII and made films and documentaries.

He was the director who led his film crew into Dachau as the war ended and filmed the Holocaust. He became the chronicler for film used at the Nuremberg War Trials and was powerful gut wrenching evidence used to convict the Nazis on trial. Much of the footage he took was not released until his death as he could not stand to look at it himself having confined it to storage. What the Nazis did changed him and helped to shape the sympathetic director to view discrimination for what it was. His cinematic genius for story telling really stands out in this special as it does in re-watching the film. It so incensed much of Texas that the ‘swells” threatened to boycott the film if it wasn’t redone. It wasn’t and years later the Texas legislature voted to adopt the Giant Theme Track as the state song. The musical score and direction was done by Dimitri Tiomkin a Russian Jew Composer Director Conductor who scored some of the great Hollywood movies, and was also sympathetic to Ferber’s Novel, and Stevens direction.

It was a perfect marriage of sympathetic Writer, Actors, Director and Musical Composer. They created a lasting testament to the evils of discrimination and the struggle to overcome it a decade before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I recommend the PBS special and the movie to all.


“Megagap” Insurance -The False Promise Of Affordable Healthcare

Obamacare aka the Affordable Healthcare Act, has hit us squarely in the pocket book in 2015. Our health insurance provided as a benefit from GE for all retirees changed overnight, without explanation or much education for it’s 65,000 retired employees. Several are fighting the good fight and suing, interestingly the suit is being led by former HR execs who state they now feel like they have spent decades lying to GE employees after the change pulled the rug out from under them. But I am not inclined to sue a global behemoth like GE as they are still providing a pension and a cash stipend called a Retirement Reimbursement Account (RRA). The net annual premium increase to us this year is 25%. After all the pension and RRA, the net premium increase is 25% before we have any use of it.

Since we have medicare covering 80% of our medical expense what we are dealing with is the remaining 20% and prescription costs not covered by medicare. These are called Medigap and prescription supplemental coverage’s. (to Medicare)
We could have scaled down our coverage to higher deductibles and co-payments and HMOs but chances are strong that would have cost more in the long run as we both have medical conditions best managed with close care and a variety of specialists. So after much analysis in November and December we prepared to enter the wonderful world of navigating through insurance exchanges. There were over 60 combinations of plans to delve through. There were hours of inane and duplicative phone conversations looking at the fine print coverage of doctor usage and possible hospital stays, prescription and durable medical equipment equipment, and extended care situations. It was a daunting experience. And we are both adept at wading through the bureaucracy of healthcare.

So we replaced our coverage previously administered by GE and a mail order prescription service which we both used with 7 different elements of service providers, a jump from 2 elements to 7. All have different websites to master and different levels of competence in customer service to manage. The prescription coverage is a maze of pricing variables to grasp, 4 different stages (determined by cumulative spending) and 5 different tiers of pricing. The tiers are beyond standard accounting principles explanation, I suspect the costs determination are more convoluted than a moon shot. So I just try and manage the lowest possible cost for satisfactory meds.

I wondered why AARP endorsed Obamacare and lobbied hard for its passage. The preferred plan we opted for, the one most like the good coverage we had before, is under the AARP umbrella, although it is administered by Towers Watson, so I’m a little fuzzy on what AARP actually does to collect their 4.95% royalty on the premium in addition to the annual membership which we now have to have in order to participate in the coverage. They make a ton of new profit off of this coverage even though AARP membership polled 50 to 1 against passing the legislation.

All thanks to Barack Obama, and the false promise of the AHCA.

Jesus, Girls, Marcus Mariota, and Geese!

College football is a passion many folks enjoy, myself included. It’s great fun and over the many years of “fandom” I have gained much enrichment. The media coverage has recently become over the top because there is so much money in televising these events. Much of it is pure nonsense ESPN has so much air time to fill that they are employing some really disappointing commentators who could best make their marks in other endeavors. And the entire media is leveraging readership with lurid stories around the participating colleges and athletes. Some of it is true but sadly some of it is yellow journalism at its worst.

But much of what happens is really fun. Here are two examples from the past week end of what I call good clean fun. They are both unique and hilariously funny.

Hold the Pickle Hold the Lettuce Hold the Taxes

The big business story of the month is BK announcing plans to buy Tim Horton s in Canada AND move their new headquarters there since they will now get more profit from the new Canadian company than  their American parent. At least that’s what they are saying but it just might be that they can reduce their total tax bill by “inversion” that “underhanded” tax avoidance that so many US Companies are resorting too. The White House is livid and Obama is blowing hard about executive action to prevent. Hah! That would be the ultimate ad campaign for the upcoming midterms wouldn’t it? The American King tops Burger King, pulls lettuce from their buns.

Thought it might prove interesting to visit with Tim Horton’s which most American never heard of. It is an institution there just like Hockey, which is totally appropriate since Tim Horton was a Canadian Hockey Player. And it might also be interesting to take a nostalgic trip back to the fantastic Iconic  marketing slogan that became part of Americana. Finally to see it’s global impact.  






The Golf Address

It goes without saying that the NYT is a liberal newspaper, and that its most acerbic Pulitzer Prize winning columnist is one of the most widely read of liberal scribes. So when she takes to ridiculing the Presidents actions and words he should take note.. Of course she helped elect him twice while pillorying, Bush, McCain and Romney so it’s a little late there Mo. Wink wink.

Others are also amazed at the Presidents lack of strategy regarding terrorism in the Mideast 

 and his lack of  defense of our borders. After all both sides agree that job one is to keep the country safe.  

Sending the AG to Ferguson Missouri seems to grab more of his attention because it is a racial powder keg than defending

our country against terrorism. There MAY be an issue of inequality in Ferguson or not, we haven’t heard the full Police report

yet although strangely enough it was referred to a grand jury,  We have however seen the video of an American journalist

being beheaded by terrorists who threaten to behead more Americans and plant their flag on top of the White House.  Well

hell, as long as we don’t have to put boots on the ground Obama seems OK with war from a distance just not too close. After

all it might tarnish his “legacy” as a peace President and interfere with his golf game, it’s difficult to play golf from the

situation room. He just doesn’t seem to want to understand that it takes two to have peace. He doens.t seem to listen to

anyone except Valerie Jarrett who listens to Al Sharpton, so there you go. Al Sharpton is running the country.

I would ask one question if anyone would listen, what good is elevating civil right conflict ahead of national safety if all sides

are wiped out by terroists Perhaps the answer might be we can do both. To that I would respond, OK then go



The Best There Ever Was

Once in a great while in the human experience one comes along that is so rich and so enjoyable we wish it could be prolonged. Please don’t let it be over, your mind races ahead to possibilities of prolonging the interaction. Frequently we drift along afterwards vainly trying to recreate that panacea of celebrating the glorious mountain top euphoria of Bernard Malamud’s Roy Hobbs (“the best there ever was”.)

I approach each episode of Madmen with that kind of anticipation, will this episode give me that kind of adrenaline rush?…… 0-60 in a 1969 GTO Judge…….whooosh. Madmen is now in it’s 7th season 703 is behind me, I can’t help the feeling of pending doom, not so much for the (almost certain inevitable Dark Knight crash and burn?) but for the already determined conclusion. The director, Matt Weiner, is already shooting the announced concluding episodes, there will be 4 more Sundays this season and 7 next year. Weiner who cut his teeth as a writer for The Sopranos has almost single handedly ushered in the Second Golden Age of TV by bringing back high quality dramatic programming to Cable TV, which of course has had the copy cat effect on Network TV as well as most of the Cable Channels. Beginning with HBO, then AMC, followed by Showtime some of the finest entertainment in decades is available throughout the week. Thank God for DVR’s.

It is difficult to single out the best scenes of Madmen, there are so many to choose from, and so many richly developed characters, but I have selected 2 as representative of everything that separates the show from the pack; dialog, editing, timing, attention to period detail are all on display. I feel like I am in the room, back in the 60’s on Madison Avenue relying on wit and imagination and guts to close the deal. John Hamm has his character down perfectly in the scene, Don Draper is the creative genius behind the Ad Agency, the ticking time bomb waiting to disintegrate Manhattan. But here he makes you weep with the majesty of creative genius.

The second clip reveals Peggy Olson played by Elizabeth Moss metamorphosing from secretary to Ad Man (gender reference intended) much to the delight and chagrin of Roger Sterling Company President, played by John Slattery my favorite sob. She has struggled to play in a mans 60s world but she is learning how to be as ruthless as the rest of them.

These clips are not necessarily the best but they are representative of the shows quality and do not require years of show familiarity to follow.

This weeks show ended with the word Okay……and many of were practically screaming at our TV’s nooooooooooooooo. Then, as usual, the ending music was an authentic piece form the 60’s Jemi Hendrix 6-9. And I thought ohhh okay I get it.

Why Study American History?

The answer for me is pretty simple, I have just always found it compelling. I think now, in today’s divisive and confrontational American Culture, it is more interesting than when I was a student. There are new and vibrant narratives arising from the tombs of “original scholarship”, narratives that develop history from diverse perspectives rather than traditional American “Exceptionalistic” interpretations. The interesting thing about that is that the new narratives still point to America as exceptional. Not in the sense that I was taught, which was there was a group of men who drew “divine profound philosophy” from a sacred mountaintop and gathered a leaderless group of colonies together and successfully revolted against the most powerful nation in the world. But that there were a group of disjointed British Colonies, without a common set of codified laws, or united government; nor any kind of organized militia, fleet, or manufacturing capacity; citizens that began slowly to come together through the freedom of assembly and expression that existed precisely because there was not a centralized American government and in defiance of British restraints.

So I was taught about the Founders and what they did and said, not much about the 99.9% of the rest of the people, nor how they evolved from vastly different life styles and emerging cultures to choose to unite and fight for freedom. Freedom from what they feared the most….slavery to Great Britain. Learning how they looked past their own internal terrible slavery contradiction until it exploded. Learning how they united in a world with no instant messaging, or broadcast media, but with home spun presses, whose pages were mostly local until a horseman would carry it to another press in another town to be included in the next printing.

It is fascinating to me to read about the birth of the sons of liberty in one New York town and how this concept on unity swept slowly through ununited colonies and then ebbed as the stamp act was repealed only to rise again and spread throughout the colonies and across the Atlantic to Great Britain, France and even Italy and how this passion for freedom rose in the hearts and minds of citizens throughout the Western World. And also to learn about the town meetings, non importation committees, largely women, who restricted the sale of British goods as a protest to onerous taxation. How the Boston Tea Party was actually a quiet,last resort and self policed resistance.

It was the 99.9% that empowered the Founders, not the other way around. Studying them is where the action is and I am thrilled to find that the new and emerging scholarship is delving through the written legacies from those times and bringing them to light. For what was achieved was the beginning of government not of Kings and despots and religion but of the rule of law. The rule of law structured to bring all the points of view of citizens to the table, to prevent the rule of the few, and to enable shared (compromised) agreement of the many.