Another one of those days

I spend most of my life listening to talk radio. I go back and forth between sports and politics. Today’s going to be one of those days I listen to the same story on both stations.

What intrigues me most about the Ray Rice saga is the great number of people with their heads in the sand about so many things. One, that no one could have imagined Part One of the security video before we all saw it Monday. Two, that no one from the NFL had. Please. Three, assuming someone from the NFL front office had seen the video, that it could somehow be kept under wraps.

The most honest testimony I’ve heard in the past 48 hours has been that of Mrs. Rice. More than anyone, I’m sure, she’d prefer the whole thing would just go away. Remember, she married the guy after the incident, apparently without incident. To those with their heads in the sand: wives of NFL stars are prone to give their husbands leeway in such matters. Honestly, this kind of thing probably happens every weekend. Sorry to blow the lid off that one for you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some talk radio to listen to.

FrackNation is worth your time

This weekend I finally got around to watching FrackNation, Irish filmmaker Phelim McAleer’s 2013 documentary about hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and its enemies the world over.

Going in I knew the film to be on “my side”: that is, pro-fracking and pro-free enterprise. The film itself is more than anything an indictment of 2010’s award-winning GasLand, the documentary that caused mass hysteria over fracking in the first place. Well, if not mass hysteria then hysteria among enough of the right people to encourage moratoriums on fracking in many parts of the U.S. FrackNation argues that such bans are unnecessary, and, like so much public policy, harmful to those it intends to protect.

Featured prominently in the film are parts of Northeast Pennsylvania, quite close to my old stomping grounds of upstate New York. If any area of the country needs some new development it’s there, and while some areas have benefited from fracking thus far, it has hardly been universal, mostly due to the meddling of politicians and so-called activists of the GasLand variety. My hometown of Binghamton, New York, is one of those places where the GasLand folks have triumphed, and its status as burned-out industrial wasteland has remained intact. Our politicians, like most politicians, love to “stand up” to “big oil,” even when the oil in this case is natural gas. And never mind any potential economic benefits, the political benefits are too great.

Politics aside, I think the most interesting aspect of the film is the way it was funded. It really was a “grassroots” (to use an overused phrase) effort. More than 3,000 “executive producers” are listed at the film’s end, all of whom pledged money through a Kickstarter campaign McAleery and his associates began in 2012.

FrackNation is worth your time. The actual run time of the film is just over an hour: my kind of documentary. It’s entertaining and informative, and thought provoking if not thought changing. Or one can hope.

McDonnell found guilty

Talk about the commonwealth last night and today has concerned the fate of former governor Bob McDonnell. That is, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, as the media are fond of noting.

I’ve never met a politician who didn’t engage in some type of influence peddling. That’s what politicians do. It’s the equivalent of charging a musician with playing music, or a businessman of conducting business. The business of politics is trading favors for money or other favors. I don’t think Bob McDonnell should go without penalty for that reason, but seriously, of all the people to make an example of…

The tension between McDonnell and Mrs. McDonnell is what made this case. We love a good soap opera. That and name-brand clothing and accessories. But Jeebus, if every politician who accepted gifts in exchange for political considerations we’d be all out… wait a minute, this could work.

The problem is not the selling or trading of favors. It’s the value of goods available to today’s politician. When Thomas Jefferson was governor of Virginia he wasn’t taking Rolex watches. What was he going to give in exchange? A cow? Today’s politicians control literally trillions of dollars in assets. This is not rocket science. It’s political science. Decrease the rewards available and the incentive to skirt the rules drops in kind.

My verdict in this case? Let McDonnell go to prison. And let’s start a nice long line behind him.

End of summer

Ah, Labor Day. Traditional end of summer. And if you’re a kid you know what it also means… back to school. In New York we always gave ourselves an extra day and started Wednesday, but around these parts it’s on tomorrow. Yikes.
One wonders, though, how much of a shift, really, we see today from summer vacation to the start of school in the lives of America’s youth. What with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ubiquitous sports and science camps, and non-stop parental event planning, do we really see much of a difference between the two? When I was a kid most of my classmates disappeared for a few months every summer. Now the biggest change kids probably see is a shift from the mere avatars of summer back to the real-life people of school. Who turn quickly back into avatars when back home at their computers.
Without rendering a judgment as to which approach is better I will certainly say times have changed since people were people and twitter was something done by summertime birds. And when did I get so old?

Final Treme doesn’t do series justice

I finally got around to seeing the final season of Treme this past week. Treme aired on HBO from 2010 until December 2013 but the show covered the time period from 2005-2009. (So we’re all a bit behind the times here.)

I don’t think Treme ever caught on or was even meant to catch on as The Wire or The Sopranos did from the same station (indeed, much of the cast and crew was taken from previous HBO efforts). I think Treme played to a niche market from day one. Luckily, I was in that niche. I’ve never seen a show before that illustrated the real life of a real musician. Jazz, in fact, or really, New Orleans. Most of the characters on the show were musicians of some ability or another (it varied greatly), and indeed, many of the guests on the show were real-life and/or famous musicians. More than the life of a musician it showed the life of a hustler, as The Wire did with pushers and The Sopranos with mobsters. This was real-life New Orleans, just after Katrina when the place wasn’t necessarily too pretty.

Thirty-five episodes in I was ready for some big news from the finale. Well, I’m still waiting. The end didn’t do it justice. By the end of the series I guess there was just too much going on, too many characters, from musicians to real estate developers to cops to restaurateurs… too much to sew together nicely. The end was more or less a continuation of what everyone was doing previously. At least it didn’t cut to black in the middle of a Journey song.

I recommend highly Treme if you’re looking for some quality TV this fall and you haven’t seen it. Or if you have, watch it again. At least you won’t be disappointed by the final episode.

Four years

As of yesterday I have been happily married for the past four years. They truly have been great years and I look forward to many more.

This past year has been especially good, as my wife and I finally decided to bring another man into our lives. A much younger man, in fact, 30 years younger than I. He does cry and poop a lot, but he brings such joy to our house, giving us a beautiful place to call home.

Thanks, Mrs. O’Connell. Cheers!

Fame and notoriety

By now you have seen the major press coverage bestowed upon my old hometown, the one and only Binghamton, New York, who received a bit of ink in this month’s issue of Esquire. In a lengthy piece on the American sandwich, the Triple Cities (of which Binghamton is one) in general and Sharkey’s (a Binghamton landmark) in particular are noted for the Binghamton area’s gift to the world: the spiedie.

On the cover of the mag, of course, is Hollywood’s new idol, Chris Pratt. Formerly an overweight funnyman, now a hunky lead (so they tell me), this guy’s in every movie coming out this summer (recent credits: MoneyballZero Dark ThirtyHerThe Lego MovieGuardians of the Galaxy), and a big one forthcoming: Jurassic World, fourth installment in the Jurassic Park series. Married to Anna Faris and star of a hit TV series (Parks and Recreation), this guy is money, even when playing a buffoon (see Parks and Rec). Not bad for a guy who a few years ago lived in a pit.

Well, on TV that is.