Monday, July 23, 2007

My Company's Annual Summer Event

Our Over 40 versus Under 40 Softball Game. Watch the video to see who won.

Doesn't this look like a great place to work?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Marx Brothers - At the Speakeasy

I am a fanatical fan of the Marx Brothers. I just stumbled across the clip below of one of the great scenes from their movies. It's from Horsefeathers, circa 1931, during the Paramount period, which was their best. While at Paramount, they were effectively in charge of their movies and focused totally on humor. The movies produced during this era were, in order of release, The Coconuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horsefeathers and Duck Soup. Classics all, in their own way, but the best in my order of preference were Monkey Business, Horsefeathers and Duck Soup. Despite their ancient look and feel, the humor is thoroughly modern and stands up amazingly well. Duck Soup is particularly timely. Produced before World War II, it is a hilarious depiction of the insanity of war. Unfortunately, these movies were before their time and didn't attract large audiences. The Marx Brothers were essentially fired by Paramount and went to MGM, where later movies had to include the romantic subplots with th singing lovers and dance production numbers to attract a crowd. Still, there were some classics during that period, chief among them was A Night at the Opera.

This 6 minute scene includes non-sequitor, theater of the absurd, surrealism, slapstick, puns, irony, parody, nonsense, satire and some incredible wit. They were the best...ever. Gave me chills to watch again.

Check it out.

Monday, July 16, 2007

An Adirondack Camp Made of Plastic

Every August, I spend a week in the Adirondacks at Baekeland Camp. It is an idyllic place. The picture at the right is the dock outside our cabin.

It is a typical Adirondack Camp, with a large house and a number of small cabins scattered around the property. It can only be reached by boat and there's no phone, no TV and no cell phone service.

Our cabin is right on the lake, as you can see. I believe that it is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to and feel fortunate I can go there every year.

The camp was bought from the proceeds obtained through the invention of plastic. The patriarch of the family that purchased the camp early in the 20th century was Leo Baekeland, the inventor of plastic.

Last Friday, July 13, 2007 was the 100th anniversary of the patent application that Leo filed for his invention. There was a fascinating piece on NPR about Leo and the impact plastic has had on the world.

The camp is still owned by the descendants of Leo Baekeland and the family lore stretches back decades and decades. Our family lore goes back only one decade, but it is rich nonetheless. This camp has become integral to our family history. We are already thinking fondly of summers past as we look forward to our next visit in August.

So, happy anniversary, Leo....and thank you, wherever you are.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Let's Go to the Videotape!

So, what are the odds? Andrew Sullivan posts on the inteview with Carole Coleman that I posted about this past Sunday. She's the Irish journalists that created an international incident by her aggressive interview.

The interview was two years ago, but Andrew helpfully posts the actual interview. Check it out. The woman makes me proud to be Irish.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Excusing Bush

Henry Kissinger has a very long piece on the op ed page of today's Washington Post. Oddly, it is not posted in the online version of the paper. He probably has some kind of copyright control, or something. His general point is that things are so bad in Iraq that the international community cannot afford to ignore it. So, the U.S. should call - and lead - an international meeting to try to solve the problem. In other words, Bush has made such a mess of things that we should essentially blackmail the rest of the world to try to get us out of the mess. I'm sure the world community will respond well.

But here's the quote that galls me:

"A democratic public eventually holds its leaders responsible for bring about disasters, even if the decisions that caused the disaster reflected the public's preferences of the moment."

Unbelievable. Bush and Cheney tell the American public that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and was complicit in 9/11. In fact, we are warned that the "smoking gun could turn into a mushroom cloud. Then, having ginned up this war fever by suggesting we are directly threatened by Hussein, they demand a vote in Congress right before an election, suggesting that to vote no on this war would be to put the American public at risk of annihalation.

And, now, when the truth is known about their, at best, reckless disregard for the truth in the rush to war, we are supposed to have sympathy for Bush being the victim of a fickle American public. Poor Bush, he is being held responsible for a misguided public that forced him to go to war.

Boo hoo.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

King George

In a blast from the past, the post below brought to mind an amazing article I read a long while ago about an interview conducted by an Irish journalist named Carole Coleman on the occasion of a visit to Ireland by George Bush. It got a lot of attention at the time because she challenged Bush pretty aggressively. She then wrote the article for the London Sunday Times describing the process dealing with the White House staff surrounding the interview. Her experience illustrated the belief within the Bush White House that the president was some kind of diety to whom everyone should pay obeisance. It describes the ritual she was to go through when the president entered the room. And the guidance she was given, like the following:

“'We don’t address the president unless he speaks first,' a member of the film crew had told me earlier. "

Being a good journalist and a better Irishman, she ignored the protocols and pinned Bush's ears back. The White House flack, in what she thought was chastisement but was actually a great compliment, said after the interview:

“You were more vicious than any of the White House press corps or even some of them up on Capitol Hill . . .The president leads the interview,” she said.

Imagine. "The President leads the interview." The arrogance. It was enlightening to read this piece again. In fact, the White House lodged a complaint with the Irish Embassy about the interview. Imagine the temerity of a journalist asking the president tough questions. I'm sure the Irish diplomats were quaking.

In fact, Ms. Coleman turned the experience into a book length rumination on Bush's America, entitled, Alleluia America.

It's on my Summer reading list.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Loyal Bushies

Josh Marshall has a great post referring to an Andrew Sullivan critique of the Republican messaging that the Libby prosecution was all political. The charge is ludicrous on its face. Everyone involved in moving this case forward was appointed by George W. Bush, most particularly the prosecutor and the judge. Everyone, of course, except for the jury. But I'm sure if they could have found a way to rig the jury, they would have. IRS audit, anyone?

But the point Marshall makes is a good one. To the extent anyone, in this case New Republic publisher Marty Peretz, can claim the case was political, it was because the Republicans pushing it were not "loyal Bushies." This point made something clear to me; that George W. Bush has divided the Republican Party in to two camps, Bush loyalists and all others. The Bush loyalists believe in the Divine Right of Bush. The others, not so much. So you have a category in the spreadsheet evaluating the U.S. attorneys as to their "loyal Bushiness." Anything short of that is suspect. Think of some of the Republicans who fail this test; John Ashcroft, Paul O'Neill, the old John McCain, Colin Powell, etc., etc. If you are not willing to subject your personal will to that of George Bush (really Dick Cheney), your resistance becomes "political."

The problem is these "loyal Bushies" are both ignorant and passionate. They are what's left of the base of the Republican Party. They are now completely divorced from reality, but can't be ignored by Republican presidential candidates. So, you have the spectacle of people like Mitt Romney, who prides himself on never granting a pardon and commutation as governor, defended the Libby commutation. Tough luck for the Iraq War veterans whose conviction at age 14 for a bb gun incident prevents him from achieving his dream of becoming a police officer. For Romney, it's all black and white....except for the Libby case. He can't risk alienating "loyal Bushies."

At what point does it matter that the principle of being a "loyal Bushie" above all else disqualifies a candidate being president.

Soon, I hope.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

You Don't Know Dick!

I love Stewart's imitation of as Sen. Leahy as mafioso. Being half Italian, I'm sure the Senator was amused.

Stewart will be so sad when Cheney leaves office. He will have to start working again, since Cheney's endless supply of material will cease.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Folklife Festival 2007

As noted last year about this time, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is my favorite annual event in Washington. Today, I made my annual pilgrimmage and had that moment of grace I described in last year's post. This year, the cultures presented were the Mekong Delta, the Commonwealth of Virginia and Northern Ireland. As one might expect, the highlight was the music performed in the Northern Ireland performance tent.

The genius of this festival is the way the Smithsonian Folklife Center plucks local musicians out of their natural habitat, in this case presumably a circuit of Irish pubs, and brings them to Washington to delight and surprise us. This year, it was a band called Four Men and a Dog that brought down the house. I'm not sure which of the players is considered the dog, but they had the performance tent rocking.

What I love best about the festival is the spontaneous dancing that occurs. People strolling along the Mall hear music and are drawn to it. Next thing you know, they are on the dance floor, sometimes dancing with strangers. I truly consider those moments of grace and it happens every year.

Check it out in this longish (3 minutes) and somewhat poor quality video I took and edited. Hang in there for the shots of the dancers. As you can see, inhibitions are left at the door. There's the old guy who leaped from the crowd and did a poor imitation of Irish step dancing right in front of the bandstand, a younger guy with similar pretentions, a very smooth couple who clearly know how it's done and the children scampering in betweent the larger dancers.