Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Summing Up '08 So You Don't Have To

Too busy defrosting the gin, vodka, and Pringles for tomorrow night to come up with anything more clever than Uncle Jay.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Read F. Scott Fitzgerald First

Tales of the Jazz Age (1922)
Dust Jacket Illustration by John Held, Jr.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
was originally part of a assembly of eleven short stories written during the late teens and very early 20's by F. Scott Fitzgerald and collected under the title Tales of the Jazz Age. The book was published by Scribners in 1922. F. Scott was 26 at the time and, no doubt, drunk on his ass while signing autographed copies. Jazz Age followed publication of his debut novel, This Side of Paradise in 1920.

I believe that Benjamin Button is the only story from this anthology that Hollywood has wrapped in celluloid, but I could be wrong. Once I stop celebrating the holidays and put away all alcoholic diuretics for at least 24 hours, I plan on sitting through the nearly three hour movie version of the short story. Until that time I will stay in very close proximity to Fitzgerald's original state of mind and body as I reread his original tale. Out of copyright, the book can be found on any number of e book sites. I've picked this one because the print is large and less fuzzy.

In the wish I had money to burn category. Guess what a signed first edition of Tales of the Jazz Age goes for today?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Signing Statement Worth Remembering

A Christmas pardon and unifying a nation

Seventy-five years ago this week, amid all the demands of the New Deal moment that he was defining, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued a remarkable proclamation that had particular significance for Wisconsin.

The proclamation had practical implications for roughly 1,500 Americans.

But it also had a symbolic meaning, not just for those individuals but for a nation that was still struggling to heal the divisions of World War I. While long over, the war still strained the fabric of a nation that needed, desperately, to reconcile itself for the economic struggles of the Great Depression.

The proclamation that restored full citizenship rights to World War I dissenters took note of various laws that had been enacted during the war to benefit the efforts of the United States after we entered the fight with Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1917. After citing the statutes covered, the proclamation concluded:

Now, THEREFORE, be it known, that I, Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States of America ... do hereby declare and grant a full pardon to all persons who have heretofore been convicted of a violation of any of the foregoing statutory provisions or of a conspiracy to violate the same, and who have complied with the sentences imposed on them; provided, however, that such pardon shall not be construed to pardon such persons for any offenses other than those designated herein, whether committed prior or subsequently to the offenses herein designated.


The White House

Dec. 23, 1933

Roosevelt's decision to pardon World War I dissenters -- including some who as young men had refused to join the fight on foreign soil between kings and kaisers -- was much more than a conciliatory act.

Assuming the presidency at a time of great national hurting, with banks collapsing, unemployment surging and the Great Depression seeming to worsen by the day, Roosevelt well understood the necessity of unity. And he recognized that old divisions over a distant war posed a threat to that unity.

In many parts of the United States, but especially in the upper Midwest, World War I was never a popular war. Progressives, Farmer-Laborites, Non-Partisan Leaguers and Socialists had opposed it.

The great leader of the anti-war congressional force was Wisconsin Sen. Robert M. La Follette, a renegade Republican who would eventually seek the presidency on a platform of populist economics at home and anti-imperialism abroad. For his efforts, La Follette had been threatened with official censure. One of his allies in the fight, Milwaukee Socialist Victor Berger, was repeatedly denied the seat to which he had been elected in the U.S. House.

The great orator of the grass-roots opposition to the war, Eugene Victor Debs, was arrested, tried and jailed. From his Georgia prison cell, Debs would seek the presidency on the Socialist line in 1920 and secure a million votes. (The man who beat Debs in that election, Republican Warren Harding, commuted the aging Socialist's sentence on Dec. 24, 1921, and then invited Debs for a post-Christmas talk at the White House.)

By 1933, La Follette, Berger and Debs were all dead. But many bright young men and women had sided with them in the struggle against what they believed was an unjust and unnecessary war. Those dissenters were still struggling with the stigma of standing in opposition at a point when the federal government chose to repress dissent.

Roosevelt, who had served as assistant secretary of the Navy in the administration of President Woodrow Wilson during World War I, had been a supporter of Wilson's decision to join the European conflict. But, as president, he wanted to force an alliance of Democrats and those to their left. In those days of a richer and more diverse politics, the Congress included Republicans who proudly described themselves as "radicals," as well as Farmer-Laborites, Non-Partisan Leaguers and members of other regional parties of the left that became essential pieces of the New Deal puzzle that FDR was assembling. Many had cut their political teeth as opponents of the war; some, like North Dakota's Gerald Nye, were still pursuing investigations into war profiteering by munitions merchants.

Roosevelt made it his purpose to try to minimize and erase old differences and divisions, arguing for "the new spirit of dependence one on another; for the closer unity of all parts of our wide land; for the greater friendship between employers and those who toil; for a clearer knowledge by all nations that we seek no conquests and ask only honorable engagements by all peoples to respect the lands and rights of their neighbors; for the brighter day to which we can win through by seeking the help of God in a more unselfish striving for the common bettering of mankind."

The 32nd president's Christmas season pardon of the World War I dissenters is little recalled today. But the action he took 75 years ago did much to expand the New Deal coalition that would see America through the dark days of the Great Depression. It is a lesson that another Democratic president, who inherits his office in hard times and will need to forge broader and bolder coalitions if he hopes to meet the challenges of those times, would do well to study and emulate.

Credit: The Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin, December 24, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shoes Fly, Don't Bother Me-Part Deux

Last Wednesday, December 17, I posted "Shoes Fly, Don't Bother Me." I made this prescient comment, "Let's buy the company that makes this brand and then outsource the jobs overseas." We moved too late. We should have sent in Blackwater to secure the Turkish location. Two fastball sinkers flung in Bush-league ball, and what do we get out of it? The world is wiping the Florsheim with us? Check out this news article.

Comfortable looking shoes for the unemployment line.

From the Politically Incorrect Theatre Files

Is this not what the Christmas Season is all about?

Pretty ecumenical, eh?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Having your own government credit line

A friend of mine sent me this picture of her stockbroker, kicking back, scoring large in Cabo. Talk about taking your investors for a walk in the park! The poor woman, now broke worse than the pipes in her Sears Kit House, is freezing her backside off in Wisconsin, plowing the south forty for tonight's dinner of spuds and nightcrawlers. Who says having Henry Paulson on speed dial gets you nothing?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Shoes fly, don't bother me

By now most of us have seen Muntadar al-Zaidi throw two Hail Marys at President Bush during a hastily convened press conference in the otherwise placid Green Zone of Baghdad. Bush's reflexes are extraordinary, no doubt honed from years of dodging reality.

As Americans we need to get past this blatant and obnoxious insult to our Presidency and see whether any lasting coin can be made from it all. So marketers take note: This clown even hit our flag on the second throw, so our national honor is at stake.

The shoes pitched were not the clunky, ugly Richard Reid wingtips that came in one color, were tight-fitting, difficult to remove, and failed to ignite the public's interest. al-Zaidi's shoes appear to be both sturdy and cholera proof for the garbage-strewn streets and back alleys of Sadr City, yet easily removable and comfortable for mall walking and hiking to and from Baghdad International. Light, airy, and remarkably aerodynamic, they tend not to slice when launched which is every parent's dream when making adult points to children. Best of all, these shoes come in such a hypnotically soothing color that, when thrown, Secret Service agents stand around glassy-eyed literally waiting for the other one to drop. Let's buy the company that makes this brand and then outsource the jobs overseas.

By the time Muntadar walks out of his undisclosed black hole site, he'll be older and more doughy than Mister Six. Gone will be his opportunities for shoe endorsements. Gone will be his chance to throw out the first shoe at the start of the baseball season. Gone will be his shot at calling "outsoles or vamps" at the Super Bowl. Gone will be his book signing tour across the heartland and his chance at meeting Oprah. That's what hating America gets you, bucko!

A word to the wise is fairly sufficient. If you intend to throw shoes at President Bush, be smart about it when you're finally dragged down by security: Yell out that heaving footwear is an ancient Iraqi custom for locating weapons of mass destruction.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Greenbush Boy does Dow

Notice how clean cut everyone is. Is this 1967 or 1957? Where are the beards, the moustaches, the tie-dyed outfits, the peace beads? Don't the standing onlookers in this famous anti-war poster appear dressed for a Brothers Four concert rather than what would shortly turn out to be one of the most famous pitched battles ever to take place on a University campus?

For a full understanding of why this photograph was anything but a University of Wisconsin recruiting tool, read the superbly written account of the Dow Chemical Riots in Pulitzer Prize-winner David Maraniss's book,They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace Vietnam and America October 1967.

I'm one of the rubber-neckers several feet away from those already fallen who within seconds will nearly have his head split open during Madison's version of the running of the bulls. I found the answer to Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

I was on the ground eating them.

Cops look for copper crooks

Until a week ago, I hadn't set foot in a public library in 25 years. Back in the 1980s, my favorite Saturday afternoon stop before going down to the beach was the Santa Monica Library, several blocks from the Pacific on Wilshire Blvd. The building was a clunky box but the library was far easier to get to than the glorious art and architecture featured in the Central Library downtown (pictured above).

As you would expect from a Southern Californian location so close to the ocean, the librarians at the Santa Monica branch were hot, tanned, and full of the love for the Dewey Decimal System. I stared at them for hours, as they patiently diagrammed the intricacies of the DDS classification system for me as if it were a complex compound sentence. Their mastery of library science fervor almost made me want to check out a book. And who could not love the snot-nosed urchins, devoid of both visible parents and any form of social graces, running around the stacks like Huns sacking Rome?

I can't remember why I stopped going to the Santa Monica Library. Too many children sneezing in my face? Perhaps. Not enough face time with one particular librarian? Maybe. Or perhaps I simply became tired of the improvisational theatre-in-the-round carried on by customers, librarians, the homeless, and the psychotics.

Walter Kerr would have had a difficult time critiquing this production.The play was free; the price for the seats was free; the actors worked for nothing; refreshments were by way of bag lunch or vending machines. The play's ending depended both on audience participation as well as actor reaction.
Act One: The homeless camping out in the self help section enraged customers in search of the latest in Werner Erhard transformational stimuli by sitting still in what best can be described as nouveau sculpture still-life. Screaming ensued.

Act Two:Psychotics, confusing the main floor with that of the north-east corner of Hyde Park, kabuki pranced from table to table, spitting forth venomous Dadaist expressions, that scared the wayward children back into the arms of their parents. Librarians attempt to calm the rants, but receive punches to the nose or bites to the face.

Act Three:Police arrive, usually three, the size of NBA power forwards, packing heat and ready to add their own muscular method acting technique to this guerrilla theater by the sea. Much rough house shoving and pushing ensues. Clubs drawn; fists raised; patrons whistling for encores. Some in the audience don't want the play to end. They turn out to be anarchists.
I leave the library still without any phone numbers, but with a better appreciation for the meaning behind the words "he's off his meds."

Perhaps you've heard. The economy is imploding. Money is tight. Knocking off ATM's is currently out of the question for me because of a trick knee and a back that locks every time I even think of exerting myself. So I say to myself, "Self, it's time to finally return to the public library," especially since I have no overdue fees. I never checked out a book.

Free volumes is cost effective in this day and age. And I have already enough books to brace a lean-to under an overpass if necessary.

Filling out a form for a laminated library card, probably with a Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil, is an activity I haven't done since the invention of the spinning jenny. My excitement builds.

I shower and shave and put on clean jeans and my favorite Bucky Badger sweatshirt and drive down to the closest public library in my neighborhood, the Palms Rancho Park. I'm as excited as a gopher in mud.

I am greeted by this:

Again I leave the library without any phone numbers. Some things never change.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Looking Down from My Treehouse

Photo by Arthur Vinge; Credit Wisconsin Historical Image 55342

I said earlier that this would not be a blog about me growing up in Madison, Wisconsin. But this aerial view of some of my old neighborhood (courtesy of the Wisconsin State Historical Society) is simply too good to pass up. In fact I’m certain I’m the kid in the upper corner running from a bunch of Mound Street bullies as a fast speeding Nash Rambler bears down on me. Or am I the little tyke peeing in the bushes as a Studebaker roars by. Perhaps I am neither as this picture appears to have been taken several years before I was conceived.

Convixens: A trailer for a movie that doesn't exist

Besides women in prison who doesn't love a women's prison film? Made in Madison, Wisconsin this one stars Emily Mills and much of the crowd behind Chad Vader.

Why didn't I think of this? - "Director Stitches 45,000 Photographs Into a Music Video"

A video made from still photographs. A fascinating idea I read about on Wired.com:
Good video doesn't always need a great video camera. A still camera, imagination and a lot of hours can also get you there.

Cesar Kuriyama, a New York animator and lighting technical director, has directed a visually arresting music video using an interesting technique.

Eschewing a video camera, he took 45,000 photographs with a Nikon D200 DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera and stitched them together to create the illusion of video.

Read the entire story by Priya Ganapati
Watch the video right here -- and leave a comment telling me what you think about it. You may also view a larger version of the video on Kuriyama's website.

Fat City Reprise - Long Gone

from Cesar Kuriyama on Vimeo


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Books to read your children during a financial crisis

Slate has a great article by Erica S. Perl about "Books to read your children during a financial crisis." It's accompanied by a slide show, featuring covers such as this one for "Spuds."

Sidney Iwanter begins to blog

I’m a boy who spent his formative years bicycling around taverns, drunks, prostitutes, late night poker games, homeless bums, abandoned buildings, scrap yards, poultry slaughter houses, algae-filled lakes, and murder sites, all the while bothering lonely old Mediterranean and Eastern European immigrants with chants of "feed me please." "Greenbush" was the name of the area, an old world refuge for some, but a smoldering eyesore to those who really mattered in Madison. Located an embarrassingly close distance from the State Capitol Building, The Greenbush Area beckoned to be redeveloped.

By the time I began pedaling the streets and back alleys and learning how to spit professionally on sidewalks, little greenery remained outside of the well-tended backyards of fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Most bushes especially along West Washington Blvd were soaked brown or dead by the pee of the intoxicated. The park across the street was vile and dangerous, filled with unsavory people performing acts that I still can't locate videos of to download. Lake Monona had more dead fish wash ashore on a daily basis than were caught by local fishermen. The Brittingham Park Shelter never smelled anything short of a dozen clogged outhouses. I peed in the park bushes rather than step inside that building. Yes, I admit it. I helped deforest the Greenbush enclave as well.

The Greenbush was eventually redeveloped in the late 1950s (my family migrated several blocks west at the end of that decade). By the early 1960s,the destruction of the community was complete, with most buildings razed and the old time occupants tossed into the wind like so many dead leaves.

But this blog is not about the Greenbush neighborhood, although psychologically speaking I don't really believe I ever walked away from the place. I hope one day some enterprising Ph.D. student meanders through the old files and photos and compiles a true history of that area bordering West Washington, Regent and South Park. For those who can't wait there is always the Greenbush Cultural Tour website as well as well as the 32 page pamphlet entitled "The Spirit of Greenbush" which can be borrowed from the Madison Public Library.

I've set this blog up for several reasons. One, I think it's really cool. I can pontificate and bloviate and hyperventilate about subjects I know nothing about and be part of the blogging "in crowd" -- even though the "in crowd" now numbers in the tens of millions.

Secondly, I plan to place online all my concepts, proposals, and show ideas now languishing on my hard drive. It does me no good to keep them hidden, locked away in some digital attic like the first wife in Jane Eyre. I've spent most of my adult life in children's television programming as part of a team developing some great shows like X-MEN, BATMAN, SPIDERMAN,and GOOSEBUMPS along with some terrible ones like...well never mind. Companies are disappearing. Markets are shrinking. Consolidate or die. The motto is no longer 54-40 or fight. It's go global before going postal.

These live-action and cartoon ideas are open to anyone who wants to read them. Don't worry. The PDF files are not fifty page behemoths, the likes of which I read by the carload when I was both a development executive and network programmer. Those days are long gone. Today, we are all dues-paying members of the ADD society or paid in full subscribers to short-term attention span theater. So they are short, sweet, and hopefully enjoyable.

Am I scared of being ripped off? No: They're all copyrighted. I’m more frightened of a committed relationship than intellectual property theft. I suppose villains can abscond with my concepts, call them their own, and make zillions of dollars in licensing and merchandising off of them. But this is a sadistic game. Doing that would deprive producers of opportunities for kicking me around and forcing me to rewrite everything a dozen times. Just like I used to do.

By exploiting my ideas this way, I can remain out of the room and forestall watching executives fall asleep, play with their Blackberries, yawn, spill coffee on themselves, put on make-up, receive calls from frantic nannies, boyfriends,and upper level management. I would no longer need to correct anyone hailing me as either Seymour or Stanley because my first name, like the city in Australia, is so difficult to pronounce.

I started in children’s programming when there were but three broadcast networks. I am thankful for this occupation, for it has allowed me to remain an emotional twelve-year old for much of my adult existence. Is it any wonder that my favorite book is Peter Pan? Friends will definitely attest to that -- and then not invite me anywhere for fear I will embarrass them in restaurants where cutlery is mandatory.

I still view the world as a 7th grader, forever chased down high school hallways by a principal out to lock me away in the big house for crimes no one has any proof I committed. Accusing me of exploding the boy's toilets with a cache of M80's. Now why would I do that? Probably for the same reason I know a simpleton stupid enough to see what would happen when a warm tongue licks a street lamp pole in 20 below temperatures.