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Sunday, September 16, 2007

 

Village Musings

I had a different experience going to Bar 55 on Christopher St. in the West Village last Thursday night to see Katie Bull but mainly because the keyboard player in her very competent backup quartet was Frank Kimbrough, about whom I have been hearing good things. Most of the "songs" were Katie's compositions, and neither the material, nor the electronic keyboard Frank brought to the gig showed him to best effect. Actually, the tunes seemed to be mainly excellent vehicles for the tenor sax player, who I think was Jeff Lederer, and who did extremely well. As for Katie, she may in fact be talented enough, but I was put off by her relentlessly pretentious songs and sometimes embarrassing scatting experiments. But at least she seemed to be having fun.

The Village is still the Village and if you pay it a visit, you should be prepared for its unique and strange sights. However, Bar 55 is totally unpretentious with no cover on Thursday, only a two drink minimum per set, which did not seem to be enforced very aggressively. I could be persuaded to return, but I'll want to do a better job checking out who I'm going to hear.
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I rarely go to the movies (Bourne was an exception) preferring to see them at home on cable or DVD. So I finally saw The Departed and I can certainly understand it winning all those awards, and finally a Best Director for Martin Scorsese. Scorsese seems to have an endless fascination with violence and organized crime, and I guess this has held him back with the Oscar voters. One would hope he will move onto other things for the balance of his career. Certainly all of the featured players gave excellent performances, but Scorsese should get credit for getting Martin Sheen to play it straight and true and for avoiding an overacting contest between the two young stars, Damon and DeCaprio, both of whom pulled off the difficult task of playing infiltrators, and making the natural contradictions involved believable. Maybe it actually helped them keep their perspective playing opposite Jack Nicholson whose over-the -top character allowed him to chew up the scenery in another of his truly memorable roles.

I still think Scorsese has never topped Taxi Driver, and I loved Casino, while Raging Bull has its advocates, but this one was in the same category.
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If anyone is quoted as often as Yogi Berra, and had as many genuinely funny lines, it was Winston Churchill. One of his more serious comments, though, followed the famous appeasement conference when Chamberlain and his French counterpart delivered Czechoslovakia to Hitler. The Prime Minister, Churchill famously observed, had been forced to choose between war and dishonor. He had chosen dishonor but would also have war. He was right of course, and this elegant evaluation of the failure of appeasement as a policy should be remembered by all those who lack the stomach for taking on the Islamo-fascists of our era.
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Count me as one of those shareholders who really doesn't feel my companies need "help" from these activist investors looking for companies to change tactics and strategies to "increase shareholder value." For example Barington Companies Equity partners has been harassing Lancaster Colony's (LANC) management about selling certain of its under performing businesses. I bought LANC because it is one of those conglomerates I like that feature slow, steady growth, and consistent if unspectacular financial performance. Barington owns about 5.33% of LANC, an important position, but certainly far from controlling. To Barington's partners, I make the following simple request: if you don't like management or the company's businesses, sell your position. Your distractions are not helping, and most of the shareholders like the way the Company is constituted now.

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On Wednesday, I bought 800 more shares for FSI International (FSII), continuing to average down in the face of all reason and logic. Now I have to pack for Richmond and three nights, all expenses paid so I can attend a Corporate seance.


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