Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More Liberal Elitist Hypocrisy

There may not be a better example of liberal  elitist hypocrisy than the recent episode of Mayor de Blasio in New York. It’s the apotheosis of the adage “do as I say not as I do.” One of the first initiatives of the new administration was to promote a 62-point safety program to reduce traffic accidents in the city. One of the main components of the plan is to reduce the speed limit to 25 m.p.h.  “We want the public to know,” the mayor said, “that we are holding ourselves to this standard.” Well not for long.

When the mayor’s entourage was clocked speeding, running red lights and stop signs two days after announcing his plan, he was justifiably lampooned in the media.  Because of all the bad press in the aftermath, he decided to address the issue then, inexplicably, directed reporters to the comments made by the police commissioner  who defended the actions of the mayor’s detail  as being proper protocol. So far Bratton has been used twice in the span of a few weeks to  add some cover  to the mayor’s indiscretions.

A short while prior to this incident, the mayor interceded for a bishop who, when stopped for a traffic violation , was found to have some  outstanding warrants and  would have been incarcerated had the mayor  not made a call to the police. Just as he would do for you if you found yourself in a similar circumstance, I’m sure.

When Commissioner Bratton was asked by reporters if he had a problem with the mayor calling the precinct commander for the bishop’s release, in the vaguest of terms said no.  He seems to be acting as de Blasio’s mentor. I know it’s early but I wonder if Bratton is positioning himself for a run for mayor. Especially when de Blasio’s act is already starting to get stale two months into his administration. And he hardly looks like a chief executive especially when juxtaposed against his predecessor, Mayor Bloomberg.

When de Blasio beats his drum about inequality and injustice as if he has a monopoly on righteousness, he’d be smart to look within because the hypocrisy of the far left to act  so concerned with the downtrodden seems to have a double standard. They are in the 1 percent. They and their disciples  are immune from the constraints  the 99 percent of the rest of us must deal with day in and day out. Unless, of course, someone is willing to pick up the phone on our behalf.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Empty Suit Presidency

President Obama his rattling his tongue again much like the Soviets use to rattle sabers in the days of the Cold War. He has decided to voice his opinion in the latest international skirmish. This one in the Ukraine. And why not? with all the successes he has had lately in Syria, Iran, Libya and Egypt.

If one were to look in a dictionary for the definition of the term  empty suit,   you’d see a picture of our beleaguered president. You look at him and wonder how a man with no ability to lead or solve problems could ever have been elected president. Blunder after blunder after blunder and still  the fourth estate, well ,what passes for the fourth estate these days, makes his every move sound intelligent and inspired. 

JFK was inspirational, Steve Jobs was inspirational the Beatles were inspirational. If the Obama administration been in charge of procuring talent for  the Ed Sullivan show 50 years ago, they more than likely would  have chosen Freddie and the Dreamers over the Fab Four, given their keen eye for talent.

In California to speak about the drought emergency, the president was playing golf on a course using thousands of gallons of water to maintain its greens. Is he so inept he doesn’t  see the disconnect there. Myopia, apparently, is the hallmark of this administration.

So now he’s again talking about  consequences should the crackdown on the Ukrainians  abridge their democratic freedoms as our  own government continues to spy on our people, send drones to kill U.S. citizens without the benefit of due process and ignore the unsavory  IRS tactics against opposition parties right here in America.

Should we expect President Putin to impose sanctions against the U.S. soon?

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Last Caesar

When Sid Caesar’s death was announced last week, I was sorry to hear of the passing of a real TV pioneer – a term I reserve for a precious few. Sid Caesar and his “Your Show of Shows” was a little bit before my time. But in countless clips and  testimonials over the years I’ve become familiar with  the great contribution he made to not only the fledgling medium of television  but also to television as hardware. He was one of the few who made owning a television set as important as Steve Jobs made owning a personal computer decades later.

According to an article in the New York Times when Caesar’s show hit the airwaves in 1950 only 10 percent of the population owned a set. A decade later  that figure had swelled to 90 percent , largely to people like Caesar and the transmogrified vaudevillians who became the first TV personalities.

He was one of the first performers to introduce sketch comedy and recurring characters to the new format. He contorted his face in grotesque ways  and used other physical devices to garner huge laughs  from  live audiences, not sound tracks.  And not only that.  His eye for creative writing talent gave young writers like Neil Simon, Woody Allen and Mel  Brooks an opportunity to hone their comedic genius.

Sid Caesar was the inspiration for generations of comedians that would follow. Billy Crystal spoke reverently about Caesar and the profound effect he had  not only on him  but many of his contemporaries.  Caesar also germinated the ideas that would later  launch the  future programming formats of Carl Reiner (the Dick Van Dyke Show) and Larry Gelbart (Mash).

For me, though, my favorite remembrance of Sid Caesar is the character he played in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In the film’s  star-studded cast Caesar plays the even tempered husband of Edie Adams, who tries to find an equitable solution   for a host of treasure seekers all intent on reaching the booty first, until he too, succumbs to the avarice.

It’s too bad that his career flickered instead of flamed. For there are several generations who have grown  up not appreciating  Caesar’s significant contribution  to popular culture and TV set sales.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today

Before Sgt. Pepper , the Maharishi, Yoko Ono, the internecine in-band haggling , there was an event so mesmerizing it was witnessed by 40% of the population on a mid-winter night in 1964. An event that in the expanse of three months had eclipsed the assassination of JFK in historic significance. The Beatles single-handedly expunged the malaise of a presidential assassination.

Timing is everything.  Many   have said that The Beatles filled a void at a particular moment  in  American history, transformed the American psyche –  it did. The naysayers at the time said it was a fad, a flash in the pan – another P.T. Barnum-like gimmick that would soon fade like hoola hoops  and coon skin hats. But 50 years later we are marking the event  with a myriad of celebrations worldwide.  But for most, The Beatles have been cosmic companions who we have  weaved  into the more intimate fabric of our lives.

The group guided myself and my pubescent friends  along the periphery of romance, much to the chagrin of Sr. Cecilia,  my  sixth grade teacher, who confiscated my pictures of the band, culled from the pages of Sixteen Magazine and meticulously pasted into the hard covers of a denuded writing tablet, I passed around to all the girls in class to demonstrate my coolness. Beatle boots would further attest this premise soon after.

 The Beatles provided   the soundtrack to our early lives. Local bands played their songs to the first dances we attended; their music provided the soundtrack  while we maneuvered our  first stolen kisses and touches;  they encouraged  our first thoughts of  rebellion and  independence from our parents.

Of course my friends and I   were part of the 20 million new bands that were formed on February 10, 1964. The fact that we didn’t have any guitars or instruments of any kind did little to dissuade us from our mission. That we too could be chased around by swarms of girls dying to get at us.

Eventually we did get those guitars; and more importantly learned to play them. And 50 years later we still get together from time to time, doing gigs or grabbing the acoustics and playing something from the Beatles’ catalogue.

So much has happened to us all since Ed Sullivan brought The Beatles to America. John and George are gone as so many of our own  family members .  I remember my mother hearing a DJ attributing something to the Beatles circa 1969. She looked at me and asked. “They’re not the same Beatles from a few years ago, are they?”  I simply nodded in the affirmative. And their music is still with us and I trust it will be for a long, long time.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Blow - Phillip Seymour Hoffman

As I was watching Super Bowl  XLVIII , and things looked brutally desperate for the Denver Broncos, my mind wandered back to those first couple of Super Bowls when one team looked woefully overmatched by the other. That was the case this past Sunday. I was thinking seriously about possibly breaking out my paint brush and doing a wall  just so I could watch  the paint dry. Even that would be more exciting than the one-sided game.

Interest in the game had already waned  by the third quarter when I was informed about the tragic death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, an actor whom I considered one of the most gifted of his generation. Sensitive and intense, his presence in any film lent immediate gravitas to it.

From the first time  I had seen him in the movie, Scent of a Woman, he displayed an onscreen presence that matched the  film’s leading man, Al Pacino. And that, even then, I thought, was quite an accomplishment for a young actor. Subsequent films and stage productions he appeared in gained him world wide acclaim and award nominations even an Oscar. But his flamed flickered out in prologue. And avid film buffs like myself were hoping for so much more to come.

By all accounts, he was a workaholic as his resume would attest. And he could be crumpy and curt as has often been said. Once in the Washington Square Hotel just off the park in the West Village, I was sitting in the hotel bar chatting with a young, aspiring actor working there in between auditions. He was  telling me about various  celebrities who lived in the area: Sam Shepard, Ron Perlman and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The young man  related a story to me about the very private Mr. Hoffman.

He walked  into a coffee shop to  find his cell phone on the fritz and Mr. Hoffman waiting for his coffee. The young man started shaking his phone, waving it around trying to get it to return it to functionality. Hoffman saw him and immediately thought he was trying to snap a picture of him.

The famous actor became quite surly, according to the young man, saying to him. “Hey, we all live in this neighborhood and we all should be afforded a certain degree of privacy. No pictures, please.”

The young man responded he had no intention of taking pictures, he was only trying to get his   service back, his phone  was broke. To which Mr. Hoffman responded with his trademark  sigh and raised eyebrow, “yeah sure you’re phone’s broke.”