Wednesday, January 29, 2014

State of the Union - 2014

by Bill Holmes

Before I get into the specifics of President Obama's State of the Union speech, let me say I think it was well constructed and delivered, included some good lines and had a positive tone. As for the content there is some good news, some bad news and some no news. Like most of these exercises in pomp and circumstance, it was much more rhetoric than substance. Here is the transcript of the address. ( 

As always it starts with the House Sergeant at Arms introducing the POTUS and the long slow walk to the podium. It's a schmooze fest with people trying to get a handshake, a word with the president or more importantly some face time on national TV. I'm amazed the room can hold all the egos. There is clapping and yelling the whole walk. Once Obama got to the podium, everyone sits down then the Speaker of the House introduces the POTUS again and we get another long standing ovation. All complete BS. Speaker Boehner and Vice President Biden sit behind the president during the speech. It is Boehner's job to look bored, pissed and/or disgusted. It is Biden's job to nod in agreement, smile, clap and stand up often. He's kind of like Ed McMahon was to Johnny Carson. Once the speech starts there are numerous fake interruptions with applause, cheers and ovations. All along party lines.  

Finally the speech began. It started with vague little scenarios meant to show how well the US is doing. He mentioned a generic teacher, entrepreneur, auto worker, farmer and rural doctor. This is a standard speech technique that was used throughout the address. Mention a specific individual's accomplishment and infer that is the norm. It's effective, but completely bogus. He then rattled off accomplishments about unemployment, energy and the deficit. He next spoke about the rancor and partisanship in Washington and how they need to help and not hinder the people.

Next up was his desire to rebuild the middle class. It was here that he first mentioned that if congress won't pass helpful legislation, he will use executive power where possible to effect change. He then praise Michele Obama for her work with child obesity. I guess that's worth points back in the White House.

He then had one of his best paragraphs and I quote from the transcript "The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward. They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That's what drew our forebears here. It's how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America's largest automaker -- (applause) -- how the son of a barkeeper is speaker of the House -- (cheers, applause) -- how the son of a single mom can be president of the greatest nation on Earth. (Cheers, applause.)" The line about the barkeeper's son finally got a smile and a thumbs up from Boehner. 

Obama mentioned tax reform to discourage exporting jobs. He wants to improve our infrastructure by continuing projects already started. He said he will streamline the permitting process for those projects. Increase the number of business/university innovation centers. He advocated patent reform (a great idea). He wants to eliminate subsidies to fossil fuel companies ($4 billion/yr) and spend it on alternative energy sources.

Obama stated "But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact." Climate change may indeed turn out to be a fact, but the debate is far from over. It's time to fix our immigration laws and policies. It's time to improve our job training programs too. To accomplish that, he will appoint VP Joe Biden to head up the reforms. In fact he said "So tonight, I've asked Vice President Biden to lead an across- the-board reform of America's training programs". Call me skeptical, but I bet he asked Biden before the night of the speech. I'm sure Joe will have this fixed in a couple of weeks. Obama also wants to extend unemployment insurance.

He shifted to education of our youth, particularly Pre-K for the very young. College costs and student loans need reform also.

Women deserve equal pay for equal work. That's sure a new and controversial stance. "It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a "Mad Men" episode. (Laughter, cheers, applause.)" That's the extent of his plan to fix the problem. That point flowed into the need to increase the minimum wage. In one of the few actual actions, Obama said he would increase the minimum wage on federal contracts to be $10.10/hr by executive order. He challenged congress to enact higher minimum wage legislation. In the same vain he said changes need to be made in the earned income tax laws.

He talked about a new retirement investment option from the Treasury called a MyRA. No details. There was mention about wanting legislation to protect homeowners from another housing crisis.

Of course you knew Obamacare would be mentioned. The president talked about all the good points. He didn't mention the website problems. Another good line "Now, I do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. (Laughter.) (Chuckles.) (Laughter.)" Then he made a dig about the 40+ votes in the House to repeal the law.   

Gun control and voting rights were mentioned in passing. He moved on to world diplomacy,
national security and negotiations about nuclear proliferation in Iran. Nothing concrete.  He closed with the wars in Iran and Afghanistan. He personalized it with the story of Sgt. Cory Remsburg, a soldier he met while healthy, who was later severely wounded on his 10th tour to the middle east. Thankfully Cory got the biggest and longest ovation of the evening. Better him than the lame politicians in the room.

My assessment is it was a good exercise in oratory. When dissected, it was mostly fluff. There were cliches and parts that were meant to evoke emotion, not actually solve problems. The State of the Union speech has nothing to do with the state of the union. In fact he never actually mentioned the state of the union. Is it good, fair, bad? Obama touched on quite a few issues and offered only a couple of actions and even those were vague. It was probably a too long speech as is this post. It ran a little over an hour but without the BS interruptions would probably be less than 45 minutes. There was probably less than 10 minutes of substance.

My grades for the speech; A- minus for delivery, B+ for construction, C for real content. 

A quick word on the Republican response. It was terrible. It was delivered by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, (D) Washington. Here's the transcript. She said absolutely nothing that gives us a hint about the Republican alternatives to Obama's agenda. Still, his policies are bad. She probably pulled a muscle patting herself on the back for being successful despite starting out poor. She is to be even more admired because she has a child with Downs Syndrome. I wish her well, but what the hell does that have to do with a parties rebuttal or policies? Her solution was to offer a prayer and that with god's help we will make it. 

I heard that there were two other Republican responses. Apparently a very unified party with one voice.

What do you think?


Monday, January 27, 2014

Scattershooting 01-26-14

by Bill Holmes

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great


Pete van Wieren

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

There are two states that have legalized marijuana, Colorado and Washington. There are two teams in the Super Bowl, one from Seattle and one from Denver. Coincidence?

Google celebrated MLK Day with a doodle -

If you see a dust storm rising from northeast Bedford it's because the leaf blower brigade is in full force. I've got at least three fully armed guys trying to get every leaf rounded up including those on my patio. They have been at it for about 20 minutes by my place. I can now hear them in the distance, but the dust still hangs in the air. I hate leaf blowers, get a damn rake.

Great January day for a bike ride. Sunny, temps in the 70's, light winds and little traffic due to MLK holiday. Broke out a pair of shorts for today's ride. Lotsa dogs at the Bark Park. Of course it's going to be around freezing overnight.

While doing a bit about capital punishment, Stephen Colbert said about "cruel and unusual punishment". If we are cruel often enough it won't be that unusual. How can you argue with that?

Finally the DEA works on the real problem.

Just watched an interesting PBS Nature show about the coywolf. A coyote and wolf hybrid that is spreading in the northeast and northern midwest US and in eastern Canada, including urban areas like NYC and Chicago. Doesn't look like we have any in Texas yet, of course we do have chupacabra. Wonder why coywolf? I think I like wolfote better.

Different heavens and hells. Depends on gender. Doesn't everything?

The rollercoaster climate continues -

Flipped to the fake football game for a second. Thought Oregon was playing but it was the Pro Bowl. Those are some ugly glow in the dark uniforms for both teams.


Grammy Awards 2014

by Bill Holmes

This is not your father's Grammy Awards Show, in fact it's not my show anymore either. What was once an awards show with a few performances is now a performance show with a few awards. The program ran about four hours and gave out fewer than a dozen statues.

The show started with an overproduced Beyonce number. A little Flashdance takeoff. She was joined part way into the song by Jay Z for some rap. It seems that a rap verse is now mandatory for many songs. Not my favorite trend. It looked to me like at least part of Beyonce's performance was lip synced.

LL Cool J was the MC. He didn't add anything to the proceedings in my opinion. When they finally did get to the first award, 30 minutes in, it was the same lame fake chit chat that was supposed to be funny. It wasn't. Just read the nominees names and announce the winner. At least they kept the acceptance speeches short.

The first few performances were big productions with dancers, backup singers, big bands, flashy costumes, elaborate sets and special effects. I remember when singers or groups would walk out on to a bare stage and sing. Another Grammy tradition is to pair artists who don't normally perform together. Sometimes it's the old with the new, sometimes it's two big stars, sometimes it's artists from different genres, sometimes it's a new artist with their mentor or inspiration other times it makes no sense. Sometimes it works, many times it doesn't. One of the pairings was Chicago with Robin Thicke for a medley. Robin ruined the Chicago hits with oversinging and Chicago didn't add anything to the one Robin song they did. This was a bust.

Just when I was getting tired of the overblown performances, a great artist saved the day. John Legend performed All of Me with just him, a piano and a spotlight. Perfect. Then another pleasant surprise, Paul McCartney won a Grammy for Best Rock Song, Cut Me Some Slack. He along with three other guys wrote and recorded the song. I think this McCartney kid might have a future in the music business.
John Legend performing All of Me
 Of course Taylor Swift had to perform. She too sat at a piano but also had four backup singers and a big band. She also was over dramatic and proved once again that her voice is mediocre at best. I am not a fan and have no idea how she got or stays popular. She also was shown doing some over exaggerated dancing in the aisles during some rap performances. She is ultrahip you know.

Pink then did an outstanding aerial silks and acrobatic performance. I don't even know what song she sang, or lip synced, but it was pretty amazing. She has done this before. If the singing career ever tanks, she can join Cirque du Soleil. Enjoyable.

Ozzy Osbourne introduced Ringo Starr who performed Photograph. Ringo had a lot of help including Peter Frampton. Ringo is certainly not a good singer, but he is fun. Ozzy proved once again that he speaks a completely different language.

There were a few other performances and awards and then Paul and Ringo performed together. This is the 50th anniversary of the Beatle invasion. There will be a special commemorating their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show next month. It was a new McCartney song, Queenie Eye, and not an old Beatles tune. It was still nice to see the old lads together. They hugged and took a bow together after the song. Yoko Ono was there too.

Another highlight was when Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Blake Shelton performed a Highwaymen, Merle, Willie & Waylon medley. 

Stevie Wonder and Carol King were paired with contemporary artists. Nothing spectacular but not terrible either. Steven Tyler and Smokey Robinson were paired as presenters. Tyler tried to sing a little bit of You Really Got a Hold on Me. That was not a good idea. Leave that song to Smokey.

Then there was the hot mess of 33 couples being married in the aisles while Madonna and others sang. The couples were of all varieties which was to show support of same sex and interracial marriage. That's great, but it was a pretty awkward moment. Not helping at all was Madonna who looked like hell and had no energy or enthusiasm. Isn't it past time for her to retire and fade away?

They tried to do a Phil Everly tribute with Miranda Lambert and Billie Joe Armstrong singing When Will I Be Loved. Nice try, but they didn't have very good harmony, the one thing the Everly Brothers excelled at. I will say that Miranda looked way better than Don or Phil ever did.

I didn't pay a lot of attention to the actual awards. There were several categories that I didn't recognize any of the songs/albums or the artists. I am glad Bruno Mars won for Best Pop Album and that Sir Paul won again. You can find all the 2014 Grammy Winners here.

I guess I need to listen to some Daft Punk because they seemed to be the big winners along with Pharrell Williams. Robots are taking over our music world too.
Daft Punk
Besides winning several awards, Pharrell Williams made the fashion statement of the evening according to Twitter. Apparently there is no dress code at the Grammy's. Nice Hat.
Pharrell Williams
So, some good, some bad. Way too many commercials and BS filler. They could have easily cut out an hour of the show. What did you think of this year's Grammy's? I give it a B-.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Black Sails

by Bill Holmes

Black Sails is a new original series on Starz, the first episode was aired on Saturday, 1/25/14. It is about a band of pirates. It is set in the early 1700's in the Caribbean. The promos for the show refer to this as the golden age of pirates.

A few housekeeping chores before I get into the review. The series will have eight episodes airing on Saturday nights. It is rated TV-MA so there is language, violence and nudity. In the premiere I did not see one peg leg, hook hand, eye patch or parrot. No one said aaaaargh. The characters don't even talk like pirates. So, you see it's obviously not about real pirates.

The majority of the cast is made up of British and Australian actors. I didn't really recognize any of them. As with most new series, this one spent considerable time introducing us to all the characters. There is the handsome captain, his loyal right hand man, the young ambitious schemer, a couple of strong, smart, attractive females and various others. Many of the supporting characters are evil, scarred, dirty and stupid. The main players are all amazingly attractive, clean, smart and have great teeth. Nothing unusual here.

It appears that the main theme is that the good Captain Flint knows there is a vast hidden treasure but is not exactly sure where it is. Others have some of the clues. Pirate crews were somewhat democracies with an elected captain and a distribution of the captured spoils. That means Captain Flint must be a politician and provide booty to be shared. The booty has been somewhat scarce lately. He foiled and killed an alternative captain already. There are also the folks on the various Caribbean islands, both government officials and those who fenced for the pirates. We're not sure yet who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Since pirates are mostly bad guys, this may be hard to figure out.

The show has very high production value. The sets, props and costumes are very well done. The ship looks real. What must be CGI is seamless.

There was some bloody violence, salty language and nudity in this first episode. Not too much of any of them. There was one funny scene when the new crew member was put through initiation. Once on shore, he was told Blackbeard was waiting to see him. He was brought into a room with several semi-naked women and one shrouded person sitting in a big chair in the middle, supposedly Blackbeard. That person slowly pulled back the hood to reveal a female face. The new crew member said "you're not Blackbeard". With that, the woman stood up, opened her robe and proved that she was indeed Blackbeard. The beard a little lower than her chin, but definitely black and bushy.

I think this series is worth a look. The acting is above average, the scenery is fantastic and the story has a chance to be OK. It's at least as good as anything on network TV. Starz, Showtime, Netflix and others are producing good stuff. HBO is no longer the only one churning out stellar TV.

I expect Black Sails will show us some swash and some buckling before it ends. I have my DVR set. Airing on Saturday nights on Starz.

Based on the first episode I'd give it at least a B rating.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Obama Is The New Carter

by Bill Holmes

Let me start out by saying of the John McCain, Mit Romney, Barack Obama choices we've had for president the last few years, I think Obama is the best choice. That's not to say he is a good choice, just the best of a very mediocre lot. Lack of a strong presidential leader is especially troubling now since we have a completely dysfunctional congress. Obama's recent speech on the national security changes, Robert Gates new book Duty, the Obamacare website fiasco and a rerun of the POTUS on a Leno show from August reminded me how empty the oval office is. We have seen this same scenario before.

I use the comparison of Obama to Jimmy Carter because I see so many similarities. A little history to set the stage. I am old enough to remember the Carter presidential campaign, election and term in office. I also remember Carter as the governor of Georgia. When I moved to Atlanta after college Lester Maddox was the governor of the state. Good old boy, segregationist, racist, bigot Lester was cut from the same cloth as Alabama's George Wallace only less articulate and dumber. He was a colorful guy who today would probably have his own reality show on E!, Bravo or A&E. Maddox was a restaurant owner in Atlanta with a GED education prior to entering politics. He failed in campaigns for Atlanta mayor twice and lieutenant governor prior to his election as governor in 1966. He rode the white's fear of integration to victory. He was also a joke and embarrassment. So when Jimmy Carter ran for governor in 1970 I was in favor. He was articulate and well educated and less a bigot than Maddox although not exactly fully in favor of integration during the campaign. Carter did a good job as governor. He did embrace more integration and could be characterized as a moderate. His biggest accomplishment as governor was the consolidation of about 300 state agencies into 30. I was a staunch supporter when Jimmy ran for president.

When Carter entered the 1976 presidential campaign he was a definite underdog. He was the little known Washington outsider governor from the South. After the Nixon/Agnew/Ford administrations, the country was ready for a change and a Beltway outsider was attractive. The economy was in the toilet. Jimmy was the candidate of hope and change. Sound familiar?

When Obama entered the 2008 presidential campaign he was a definite underdog. He was the little known first term Senator from Illinois, a virtual Washington outsider. After the Bush/Cheney years and the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the country was ready for a change and a young, black Beltway outsider was attractive. The economy was in the toilet. Barack was the candidate of hope and change. Sound like deja vu?

The problem was that Carter and Obama had to govern after their hope and change elections. Neither seemed well prepared for that task. One major flaw was the lack of understanding how to get legislation through congress. Carter brought most of his staff from the Georgia governor days with him to Washington. They had little or no experience with Beltway politics. Obama has also failed to put together an effective Capitol Hill lobbying team. Both appear to be micromanagers who have trouble making a decision, analysis paralysis. Both are more intellectual and less political. They both appear to be overwhelmed and frustrated by the office. Neither is a very inspiring leader.

There are other similarities. They are both perceived as less than strong supporters of the military. That is particularly surprising about Carter who was an Annapolis graduate and a Naval officer. Under their administrations the world view and influence of the United States was diminished due to their policies and decisions.

One big difference is that Obama was re-elected for a second term despite a less than stellar first term. In my opinion that has as much to do with the incredibly weak opposition in the form of Mit Romney. Carter had the unfortunate luck of having to run against Ronald Reagan. It was no contest.

Carter and Obama came into office with much support by the populace. There was great anticipation that they could pull off the hope and change promised in the campaign rhetoric. Neither did.

Obama has three more years to change his legacy. Carter's fate is sealed. He, in my opinion, will go down in history as one of our worst, least effective presidents. He was not a bad or corrupt man, just incompetent and overwhelmed by the job. Obama may give Carter a race for incompetency if he doesn't get a few accomplishments under his belt. I don't think Barack will get the same good guy pass that Jimmy has since he left office. Although in my opinion Jimmy Carter has been one of the worst ex-presidents of our time. He has done some good things, but he has also stuck his big teeth and big mouth into places they don't belong.

I supported Carter and Obama. I have been disappointed by both. They failed to live up to their promises and potential. The country stagnated during these administrations. Maybe the fact that I supported both candidates and shared the hope for change makes me more critical. Twice burned.

I wish Obama and our country good luck in the final three years of his administration. Unfortunately unless there is a major turnover in congress in the midterm elections, I doubt that will happen. We'll be plagued by stalemates on almost every important issue. Lack of leadership is not the sole purview of the White House, there's also a vacuum at Capitol Hill. Hopefully someone will emerge for the 2016 election who has a plan and leadership skills. Any guesses?


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Scattershooting 01-19-14

by Bill Holmes

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to the great


Dizzy Dean

Sunday's Summary

My incomplete recap of the week

I had an AXS show recorded that was titled "Dave Matthews Band Weekend on the Rocks" from a September 2005 concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. It turned out to be Big Head Todd and the Monsters in a 2013 concert at that same venue. That's OK, Big Head is good too. Wonder where Dave is? I only got part of the Big Head Todd concert since it must have been 1:30 or 2:00 long and Dave's show was only 1:00. Big Head is on AXS on demand until 2/24.

I just found Dave Matthews and his band. He was on the back of what I thought was a 2:00 O.A.R. concert. Turns out O.A.R was only an hour & DMB from Round Rocks was the 2nd hour. Don't know if AT&T U-verse or AXS screwed up the onscreen TV guide. The O.A.R. concert was OK and DMB did their usual good job. The O.A.R. show is on AXS on demand until 2/24. Didn't find DMB rebroadcast or on demand. I'm now all square on my DVR'd concerts. I know you are all relieved.

James Spader, aka Red, got a little nasty tonight (1/13) on Blacklist. High body count. Another glimpse of Alan Alda too. The plot thickens.

As we've learned, no failed drug tests does not mean no drugs.

The new restaurant next to Big Lots is going to be Jibaritos', serving Puerto Rican food. Looks like it's scheduled to open next week. The sign is up but the windows are still covered. Don't know if the place is named after the sandwich or the owners. Maybe a review soon.

Found their website which includes a menu. Looks good.

What a depressing and oppressive place. North Korea needs to be liberated and Kim Jong-un tortured for about 20 years. Another enlightening episode of Frontline on PBS.

When's the last time you heard anything good about acetaminophen (Tylenol)? More bad news about OD's because it's combined with so many other drugs, prescription & OTC. Just take an aspirin or ibuprofen. Better for your liver.

I watched Obama's speech on national security and privacy. I know no more than I did before the speech. He said changes need to be made but offered little or no detail. Guess we'll have to wait and see. Until then the status quo remains in effect.

Looks like the big boys are getting ready to form their own league.
Awkward - wonder if she was unaware of the impregnation too?

Let's get working on this.

Korean - Mexican fusion. Interesting, not quite pulled off.

And finally, let's remember why we celebrate Martin Luther King Day. It's not an excuse to have a holiday or a big sale at a local store. MLK's dream is closer but not yet fulfilled.


Football 2013 - Week 20

by Bill Holmes

My recap of the only football games that matter

In this case it is a recap of the only games played as we moved to the AFC and NFC championship games.

The early game pitted the two old pro quarterbacks against each other. Tom Brady, the younger guy at 36, and the New England Patriots traveled to play Peyton Manning, the old guy at 37, and the Denver Broncos. Brady has spent 14 years in the NFL, 11 as a starter. Manning has been in the league 16 seasons, all as a starter, although he missed all of 2011 with an injury. These guys have been around and have faced each other multiple times in big games. Of course Tom and Peyton don't actually face each other. They are never on the field at the same time. In the past Brady's team has usually won. I didn't see the first half. A sunny January day with temperatures in the mid 60's begs for a bike ride not a recliner, TV and remote. When I got back home, Denver was leading 13-3. Only one TD scored by these high powered offenses. The Broncos extended their lead to 23-3 before the Pats finally scored with 9:26 left in the game. Denver added another field goal which put them up by 16 with 7:00 to go. New England scored another TD at the 3:07 mark but failed on the two point conversion. The Broncos then ran out the clock. There were no turnovers in the game but Brady was sacked twice and hurried numerous times. Manning had much more time in the pocket. Denver outgained the Pats by over 180 yards. Final score was 26-16 but it didn't feel that close. Denver now heads to the Super Bowl in two weeks.

The late game featured a totally different quarterback matchup. The San Francisco quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, is 26 years old in his third pro season. He has less than two years as a starter. Meanwhile, the Seahawks QB, Russell Wilson is only 25 and in his second NFL season both as the starter. These teams split their two head to head regular season games, each team winning at home. This game was in Seattle. On the first offensive play of the game Wilson fumbled at the 15 and SF recovered it but had to settle for a field goal. The score was SF 10 Seattle 3 at halftime. The Hawks tied it early in the third quarter which ended at a 17-13 49ers lead. The fourth quarter got a little sloppy for the teams and the officials. There were fumbles, interceptions and blown calls. Seattle finally took the lead early in the fourth then held on. Kaepernick helped them by throwing two interceptions in the quarter one in the end zone with 0:22 remaining. Seattle wins 23-17. It was an amazingly close game. Each team had 11 drives, the Seahawks ran 58 plays with 54 for the 49ers and total yards were identical at 308. The difference was three SF turnovers to one for Seattle.
The Super Bowl will be the Denver Broncos against the Seattle Seahawks. Both were seeded number one in their conferences. The old pro Manning vs the new kid Wilson. The game will be played outdoors in New Jersey at MetLife Stadium. What will the weather be like? Will NJ Governor Chris Christie be closing any bridges. The stadium is in East Rutherford, hope the mayor is on good terms with Christie. I don't really care who wins the game although it might be nice for the Manning family if Peyton got a second Super Bowl ring to pull even with his brother Eli.



Saturday, January 18, 2014

333's Gourmet Taco Shop

by Bill Holmes

I ate lunch at 333's Gourmet Taco Shop in Colleyville on Saturday 1/18. It has been open for six or seven months and I've been meaning to try it. The restaurant is in a small nondescript strip shopping center only a couple of miles from home. It's in a space that has been several different restaurants over the years.

The decor is nothing special. Metal and formica tables and several booths with wooden board tabletops. There are a few TVs hanging from the ceiling that were playing sports. It's bright and kind of industrial. There was generic music playing a little too loudly for my taste. It was not busy, only three other parties already seated and two additional parties while I was there, one of which ordered to-go. There were at least two cooks in the kitchen, one seated me and another brought the food to one of the tables.

The waiter showed up a several minutes after I was seated. I had already read the whole menu and was ready to order so his arrival was a little slow. I ordered iced tea and was informed that it was being brewed and would take a few minutes. No offer to bring a glass of water or another beverage. I would have rather had a cold beer but this is still a BYOB place and I didn't happen to have a beer in my pocket. This is a little bit of a problem to me since I seem to remember reading that they were applying for a liquor permit back when they opened. There is a bar area in the restaurant but it is curtained off. A few minutes later the waiter came back and told me that the tea brewer was broken. I guess they couldn't figure out any other way to brew tea. My home iced tea brewer consists of a pot of boiling water and a big tea bag. The restaurant must have been out of water or pots. I opted for water in place of the tea and was brought a rather small glass that was mostly ice.

On to the food. This place is a fusion of Korean cuisine with Mexican tacos. Interesting but a little confusing. I ordered the Hokey Poke (Po-kay) -

Thursday, January 16, 2014

American Experience: 1964

by Bill Holmes

American Experience: 1964 is a PBS documentary. Like most of these type shows it mixes film clips of that period with current statements by those who were on the front lines, a couple of period "experts" and a narrator. I was not overly impressed with the production of the documentary although I was very interested in the subject matter.

I was a high school junior and senior in 1964. That's a time of personal change and growth combined with a time of national change. I remembered most of what was covered in the program which is surprising since I was a self important, self centered high school student. Of course after all these years it is hard to tell what I actually remember from 1964 and what I remember from what has been written, filmed, televised and discussed about that year and period.

The gist of the documentary is that 1964 was a pivotal year in our nations history. It was at least the beginning of the post World War II generation flexing their adult muscles. They had been raised radically different than their parents. Much of the status quo was being questioned. The generations were splitting apart.

Before I get into the more serious stuff, let me touch on a few of the events of 1964. It is the year the Beatles invaded the United States. Cassius Clay, soon to be Mohammed Ali, defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship. It was the year of the New York World's Fair. The Ford Mustang was introduced. Smoking was officially linked to cancer in congressional hearings. The Warren Commission said Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the Kennedy assassination. The language of the day referred to Blacks (African-Americans) as Negroes officially, much worse unofficially.

There were several 1964 events that still influence us today. Some even slightly more serious than the Beatles invasion.

The documentary contends that 1964 actually began on November 22,1963. That's the day Kennedy was assassinated. That's when the country, especially the youth, began questioning things. Blacks and women were beginning to rebel against the old white guy rules. The civil rights movement was in full bloom and often in full battle.

There was a major political shift. The civil rights votes in congress, particularly the senate, changed the complexion of the Democratic and Republican parties. Prior to this, the south was 99.9% Democratic. Why, because Lincoln was a Republican and he freed the slaves. Then Lyndon Johnson, a southern Democrat, pushed the civil rights bill. He needed Republicans in the senate to support the bill because the southern Democrats were against it. Later that year Barry Goldwater, a staunch conservative, became the Republican candidate for president. He was soundly defeated by Johnson but he carried some southern states, the first time since Reconstruction for the Republicans. That was the beginning of where the parties are now. Republicans are conservatives and rule the south. Democrats are more liberal and are strongest in the north, west coast and big cities. The other change is that a Democratic president can no longer get Republican support in congress. All the old Dixiecrats are now Republicans or Teabags. This was also in a time when congress actually passed legislation on a regular basis.
1964 - Red = Goldwater - Blue = Johnson

The civil rights movement got into full swing. There were some gains and there were some tragic casualties. At least the civil rights legislation made most of the old Jim Crow laws null and void.

The other big item is that we became fully involved in Vietnam. Prior to '64 we had only officially supplied advisers and equipment to South Vietnam. Now Johnson was committing combat troops, planes and ships. How did that work out?

It was a time when the government, authority and old ways were in question. The youth were beginning to break out from the standards of the 50's. Some of it was messy but the country is better off now because of what happened in 1964.

This is not a great documentary but if you were around back then it's a fun watch. The old clips are interesting. We've come a long way baby.

The program is available online so give it a watch.

American Experience: 1964.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Late Night TV Changes

by Bill Holmes

February 6, 2014 will be Jay Leno's last night as host of the Tonight Show. The Winter Olympics late night coverage will be on in that time slot for three weeks. Then on February 24th, Jimmy Fallon takes over as the host. Besides a new host the Tonight Show will be moving back to New York City. This will be the first time the show will be based in NYC since Johnny Carson moved it to California in 1972. Replacing Fallon on Late Night will be Seth Meyers. He's the new player in the mix.

This is just one more change in the long history of the Tonight Show, It started in 1954 with Steve Allen, went in a different direction with Jack Paar in 1957 and reached cult status when Johnny Carson hosted from 1962 to 1992. Those were the golden years. Jay Leno took over in 1992, was relieved of command in 2009 by Conan O'Brian and then Jay recaptured the show in 2010. Now NBC is pushing Jay out once again. What did Leno do wrong? He foolishly had the top rated late night show on TV most of the years he was host as he still does now.

I have always been a night owl. I have been watching The Tonight Show since the Steve Allen days. Obviously I didn't watch Steve and his gang every night when I eight years old but I do remember seeing it on occasion. I watched Jack Parr a little more often. Probably during the summer when there was no school or on Friday nights. I was in high school when Johnny took over and watched him most nights. I've also read several books about the Tonight Show, late night TV and the various hosts.

Now looking back I don't know why my parents let me watch Johnny. We lived on the east coast then and the Tonight Show didn't come on until 11:30. In the very beginning it came on at 11:15 until the local news expanded to 30 minutes. In the early days it was on for 90 minutes. That's 1:00 AM when it ended. Not an ideal bedtime for a high school student. Somehow I got up in the morning and was able to function. Maybe I napped during Latin class. That was my worst subject and often is what kept me off the honor roll.

Here was the family routine. Mom would go to bed when the local news finished at 11:30, if not earlier. Dad would stay up for Carson's monologue. My dad and I would laugh together at the jokes. The monologue was one of the few things we enjoyed together. Sometimes he would stay up a little longer if the first guest was somebody he was interested in. Dad would would say goodnight and always tell me to wrap it up soon and go to bed. I hardly ever did. Then it was just me and Johnny. I'd turn down the volume and move to the chair right next to the TV. Some nights I'd laugh until I had tears in my eyes. Sometimes I'd throw in the towel before 1:00 AM if the last guests weren't of interest to me, but not very often. Sometimes a crappy guest brought out the best in Johnny. Those were the best years of The Tonight Show.

My viewing diminished drastically when I was in college. We had other late night activities and also didn't always have a TV available. After college I mainly worked night shifts for eight or ten years. I still watched The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson whenever I could. He was great until the very end of his run although by then he was only working three nights a week and had what seemed like six months of vacation time.

After Johnny left, I mostly watched The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS. Letterman had the Late Night show that was on after Johnny before moving to CBS when Leno got the Tonight Show. I never much liked Leno.

I've watched Jimmy Fallon on Late Night several times. At first he was unwatchable. While he has gotten better, he is certainly no Carson and probably no Leno.

If you want some real late night entertainment, watch the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, my favorite. The other night when my son was visiting, he and I were laughing out loud at Craig. It reminded me of the times my dad and I would laugh at Johnny. He told me Ferguson is his favorite late night show. My youngest son is a night owl just like his dad and apparently enjoys the same humor. Sometimes the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Besides the change in hosts at The Tonight Show, the move from LA to NYC may be significant. The current pecking order for guests is if in New York you go on Letterman first then on Fallon the next night. If the celebrity is in LA they usually go on Leno first then maybe on Jimmy Kimmel's show. Craig Ferguson doesn't normally participate in the movie du jour promotional hype.

So now that The Tonight Show and Late Show are both in New York who gets first crack at the biggest stars and best guests? I suspect there will be fierce competition. NBC will be trying to get Jimmy Fallon off to a big start. CBS will see an opportunity to take over the ratings lead now that Leno is gone. Then there is Jimmy Kimmel mostly by himself on the west coast. One other unknown is what will Jay do? He didn't retire on his own terms, he was fired by NBC for the second time. Will he show up again somewhere in a few months? Seth Meyers is taking over the spot Fallon now holds down at Late Night. He will also be based in New York. Seth is another Saturday Night Live alum as are Jimmy Fallon and Conan O'Brian. I'm not sure this lineup will work. I see Jimmy and Seth as kind of the same guy with the same background. On CBS you get Letterman and then Ferguson. Totally different shows and approaches to humor. Do you want two hours of SNL humor or a little variety with Dave and Craig? There is always the Jimmy Kimmel choice too.

It will take a few months for the new late night landscape to shake out. I'll watch Jimmy F. and Seth and give them a chance. I suspect that I'll continue to watch Dave and Craig most nights. I also realize that I'm not anywhere close to the demographic the TV networks are trying to draw. They really don't care what I watch.

There are two things I do know. There will never be a better late night TV host than Johnny Carson. No one will ever hold down the number one rating spot for 30 years against all comers. Some of Johnny's competitors were Merv Griffin, Joey Bishop, Dick Cavett, Joan Rivers, Jerry Lewis and a few others. They all faded away as Johnny remained the ratings king.

Now that we have 300 cable channels, the network late night shows are not as important as they used to be. Carson's monologue was once the subject of almost all the water cooler discussions the next morning.

I don't know how many more years I'll be able to stay awake past 9:00 but hopefully I'll be able to watch late night TV for a few more years. If I can't stay up, maybe I'll record the shows and watch during the day. Of course I'll have to remember to set the DVR and then remember to watch what I recorded.

I'm pretty sure there will be more posts by me on this subject after the changes. Stay tuned.

Let the late night battles begin.