Unbeaten no more

You can blame me for placing a jinx on the Orange of Syracuse this week, who lost their first game of the season Wednesday. A few weeks ago I ascribed their winning season to weakened competition from their new conference, the formerly venerable ACC. Well, surprise, surprise, SU’s first loss would come at the hands of Boston College… a former Big East team! #bigeastforever

The Year 2084

Last night I had a dream. It was the year 2084. And I was still playing gigs at nursing homes.

As I proceeded through my usual set of Sinatra, etc. the residents kept shouting out for Katy Perry and Hannah Montana.

I heard a man shout “Hey Ya” and thought that was a little better.

Then I realized he was having a stroke.

Political movies: Highs and lows

In the past week I have seen three political/historical movies of varying levels of “enjoyability.” Most interesting was how they did not at all match my expectations.

I first viewed George Clooney’s new World War II vehicle, The Monuments Men. I had high hopes for this movie, having been interested in the subject (the return of artwork stolen by the Nazis to its rightful owners) for many years. I have seen many documentaries on this theme, perhaps too many, as the first half of the film I noticed historical inaccuracy after historical inaccuracy. I also didn’t realize going in that the movie is a comedy. It is. Sort of. Regardless, halfway through the film I put all this aside and just enjoyed the movie as a story, and I was in fact pleased by the end. At least a B plus (marks off for my being too excited walking in).

At the other end of the spectrum is Lee Daniels’ The Butler, a film I expected to hate and refused to see in the theatre, but thoroughly enjoyed at home on DVD. Unlike The Monuments Men, which is probably 50% fiction and 50% fact, The Butler is 99% fiction. No matter. It’s a great story, and is not as soppy and politically correct as I feared. Fondly likened to a black version of Forrest Gump, I recommend it strongly.

And finally there is Bill Murray’s Hyde Park on Hudson, a “movie” about Franklin Roosevelt’s relationship with his cousin Daisy and the king of England (the relationships are in no way similar). I’d say this one is about 90% fiction, but that implies that there is any kind of story here at all. There isn’t. And this was one of the worst movies I’d ever seen. It makes Broken Flowers look like Casablanca and Ghostbusters look like Citizen Kane. Though I suppose the less said the better. Just… don’t. That is all.

“Job lock” is latest misleading catchphrase

For the past 15 years I’ve been studying and teaching political science, history, and economics, and until last week I had never heard the term “job lock.” I have heard nothing else in the time since.

Not sure who dreamed this one up first, but it seems everyone pushing big government these days received the memo about “job lock” and its effects upon the unsuspecting masses. You see, whether you realized it or not, for years you the downtrodden American have been under the mystical spell of something called job lock. Someone puts a gun to your head and says, “Devote all your time and energy to this one full-time job and I will grant you health insurance.” (Funny how on the other days of the week the “career” job with benefits is the unreachable goal of every young person in this nation.) So grateful are you to be blessed with the magic of health insurance that you neglect all other rational thought until one day you keel over at the feet of your fat cat boss and he sells your uniform to the next sucker in line.

Or something like that. That’s job lock.

Enter Obamacare, which somehow cuts out the middleman (your fat cat boss) and distributes the magic of health insurance to the masses without any cost borne by anyone whatsoever. Follow? You have thus been freed from not only your fat cat boss, but the responsibilities of working all together. Now you’ve got time to write that symphony. Seriously. That’s how the argument goes. And this is exactly what the Communists said for 75 years.

There’s a broader picture so see here, more broad than work in exchange for health insurance. The real exchange is one’s production (in any capacity) for one’s compensation (in any form). Eliminate the link between the two and chaos quickly descends. Might we all not want to write symphonies and vacation 12 months a year? Who exactly is working at the vacation resorts in this scenario? The robots aren’t that good yet.

Our federal government has said to its citizens, “Don’t worry about producing; we will take care of you.” The work you used to do is just now getting done, magically, by someone. Psychological appeals to “spending more time with your kids” and the like are false choices that, unfortunately, do fell the uninformed. The reality is that there is a trade-off between work and leisure, one that’s existed for all time and will for all future time. And though our society is often maligned for its citizens’ “working too much,” exactly when in history was this not the case? How much leisure time existed among cavemen? A lot… if you like looking at dirt. And peasant farmers? They spend a lot of time with their kids… toiling in the fields. In fact, there has never been a time and a place with so much leisure time as here and now, and the individual choice of what and how much to buy.

I’ve preached for 15 years that the three keys to life are make a lot of money, spend a lot of money, and have fun.

But you knew that all along.

Let Harry Potter stand as is

Of all the disturbing things going on in the world this week I found one item more disturbing than the others. Author extraordinaire J.K. Rowling has piped up yet again, backtracking a bit on her otherwise classic Harry Potter series. She now says she wishes her two main protagonists (the title character and his would-be girlfriend, Hermione Granger) ended up together at the end of the series. (Spoiler alert: they don’t.) Not only do I think second-guessing your work is in bad form and just bad all around, I completely disagree with that ending on its face.

The world, we discover as adults, is much bigger than the world we see as middle school students. You don’t end up marrying the girl you loved in sixth grade. That’s just how the world works. You grow up, you encounter new and better things, and you meet someone else who also didn’t end up with the person he or she loved in sixth grade. Classic example: The Wonder Years, an ending so many viewers disparaged when Kevin and Winnie ended up merely friends in its present-day epilogue. I thought it the perfect ending because that’s how life really works. Ms. Rowling did her young (and old) readers a favor by ending the series that way, and I think she should keep her muggle mouth shut about it now.

Orange tearing up ACC

My beloved Syracuse Orange (in my day they were the Orangemen) this season have produced great victory after great victory, resulting in, thus far, an undefeated season and an inside track to a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Must be the inferior competition from that new conference! #bigeastforever!

Far from Super

What a bust.

Last night’s “game” from MetLife Stadium was an ugly affair, quite literally from the first snap of the ball. It was not altogether too different from the first Super Bowl I watched in 1990, when the Denver Broncos were trounced by Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers 55-10. I guess I’ve come full circle.

With not much to say about the game I’m relegated to commenting on the halftime show, of which I was pleasantly surprised. Bruno Mars brought it like a 21st century dark-skinned Elvis (complete with 1950s Elvis hairdo) with a twist of early ’80s Michael Jackson. I thought the Red Hot Chili Peppers were an unnecessary but delightful bonus, and as a child of the ’90s I approved, of course.

All that and a touch of Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander? Two thumbs up.

And by the way… congrats, Seattle.

White Collar Season Five finale in the books

Last night’s season finale of White Collar represented everything holy and unholy about serial television. Don’t get me wrong, this season has been great, and the final unfolding of the “Rebecca” story arc did not disappoint (Fort Totten!). When I looked at the clock, though, at that final resolve and realized there were more than 20 minutes left in the episode, I knew some trickery was on its way. After some silly floundering we find WC‘s producers relying on the oldest trick in the book: bringing us right back to where we started!

I won’t give away any more plot points for the sake for those who haven’t seen it. I still recommend the show, and because I’m already hooked I’ll be back for a sixth season. Even somewhat predictable is still good on this show, one of the best currently on TV.