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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

 

Richmond Musings

Coming to you live from Richmond, Virginia, it's Wednesday night!  One nice thing about the Richmond Weston is free use of their computers, and since I travel with only a blackberry, and neither a laptop or an i-pad, it is convenient to do blogposts otherwise. Also, the computer room is right near the bar!  It just doesn't get any better!

So our so-called President has been taking a beating in the WSJ because of the Ukraine and Crimea, and I have to say that's a bit unfair.  Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Russian history knows of their age old paranoia concerning their bordering countries, so Putin's move is no different from what the Czars would have done.  The fact is, what military response could the President have really brought to bear anyway?  I think the measured response by the West in threatening sanctions was just right, and by the way, it had the desired effect of tempering the Russian response anyway.  So the WSJ criticism in this case was over the top, and you know if I'm taking my favorite paper to task, I must be right.  This in no way absolves the Administration of its feckless failures on Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, but I'm going to maintain my objectivity (ok, stop guffawing). 
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Movies are in the news this week since the Oscars were awarded, and as usual, I have not seen any of the movies considered yet.  Catching up on last year, I have to say Silver Linings Playbook was terrific, and DeNiro was positively hilarious.  Though Bradley Cooper played the heavy in Wedding crashers, his talent was clearly visible even then so it can't be to anyone's surprise that his talent is now recogized in Linings and this year's America Hustle.  Can't wait to see that since it also stars Jennifer Lawrence who was out of this world in Linings.  Also I loved Argo, particularly John Goodman and Alan Arkin.  But really, Ben Affleck is consistently underrated as an actor, and shows incredible promise as a Director.    When he is in a movie, it always seems like the best moments are his.  Think back to Good Will Hunting and recall two great scenes where he is fantastic.  First, where he 'represents" Will in a job interview, demanding a retainer, ending up by telling the hiring interviewers that they're "suspect," since they can't quite put together the $200 he asks for.  Then, the great scene with Will (Matt Damon) where he tells him that if "he's still here, he'll kill him.  You're sittin on a lotto ticket.  The best part of my day is when I pick you up and hope for a moment you'll be gone, no goodbye, no nothin'.  I don't know much but I know that."

Or those three unbelievable scenes with the new recruits in Boiler Room.  He's only on screen for those and a couple of other scenes, but it's enough to dominate the movie.  His understated characterization of Tony Mendez in Argo is just another example of how he does so much, by seeming to do so little.

As for this year's movies, I have a passing interest in seeing Gravity and Slave, but a real interest in American Hustle and Blue Jasmine.  And maybe the Dallas Buyers Club given how good McConaughey's speech was and how great his work on True Detective has been so far.  So we'll leave it there for now.
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Austin City Limits has been a great hour for over 35 seasons.  I have to say that if you grab a look at the recently played show by Arcade Fire, it's fun, even for us old-timers.  This is a band of 8 remarkable musicians, playing a wide range of instruments with intelligence and skill.  I enjoyed this band way more than I expected.

Another thing I loved recently, that I expected to not like, was 42, the movie about Jackie Roosevelt Robinson, who broke baseball's color line and in so doing, laid a significant marker in the civil rights struggle.  Besides doing that, Jackie was a great baseball player, a true Hall of Famer, who came to the major leagues at 27, leaving some of his prime years in the Negro Leagues. He was Rookie of the Year in 1947, and played only 9 more years, quitting in the 1957 post season when the Dodgers announced their move to LA and attempted to trade Jackie to the hated Giants. 

Robinson was an inspiration to so many people, including my Dad, who shifted his allegiance from the Yankees to the Dodgers when # 42 arrived.  On our three trips to Ebbets Field, in "55, "56 and "57, he still became so excited when Jackie reached base.  There was nothing like seeing Jackie dance to his lead, a total distraction for any pitcher.  Even toward the end of his career, in 1956, he won a World Series game  against the Yanks by stealing home.

Where most movies would overdramatize the racial aspect of Jackie's story, 42 if anything underplays it.  The vitriol that actually occurred was even worse than the movie depicts.  The scene in Cincinatti, where Louisville native Pee Wee Reese puts his arm around Robinson, quieting the crowd, is done beautifully in the movie, underplayed perfectly.

Also great in the movie is Harrison Ford's exquisite depiction of the Mahatma, Branch Rickey.  The Brown Dodgers was his idea, and his early move to recruit Robinson, Campanella, and Newcombe from the Negro leagues led to pennnants in 1947, 49, 52, 53, 55 and 56.  The Bums just missed in 1950 (by 1 game) and in 51 (the playoff loss to the Giants).  So he created a dynasty on a par with the Yankees of that era.  But that only goes so far in the telling of Rickey's story.  There are so many great anecdotes.  When he was GM of the Pirates, Ralph Kiner, perennial NL home run leader objected to the salary cut Rickey "offered."  When he threatened to hold out, Rickey responded, "we finished last with you, we can finish last without you."

On another occasion, Rickey quizzed a young prospect about his habits.  "Do you smoke?" he asked.  Yes.  "Do you drink?"  Yes again.  "Do you go out with strange women?"  Again yes.  "Judas Priest," Rickey bellowed, "you must have horns!"

Rickey liked for his players to be married.  He was convincing one player to change his status from single and offered him a bonus of $3,000 if he got married, real money in those days.  The player called him.  "Well," he said, "I talked to the one and only."  "What did she say," asked Rickey.  "She told me I should hold out for $5,000."

Rickey always said that "luck was the residue of design."  It's one of my favorite truisms.
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The world will miss Sid Caesar, one of the funniest men in history.  If you don't believe me, watch any of his shows from the 1950's.  Or Silent Movie.  Or Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
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The WSJ monthly magazine is usually a ponderous waste of time, regardless of how great the models look, but the December issue has a great story on Ernest Hemingway's time in Cuba.  You can probably find it on the website.  It's enough to make me want to go back and reread For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Sun Also Rises.
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Here are the stock transactions:

Purchases:
Symbol       Date    Size           Price         Comments
PQ             2/13     600 shares    3.77             0 buy
TIP            2/18     20                111.95
PBCT        2/19     200                14.18          Value Buy
AGCO       2/10       50                51.83          0 Buy
WFC.PR.P 2/21      100               22.34  
L                 2/24      100              43.45          Value
EXPD         2/25      50                41.91           0 Buy
SBRAP      2/16      100               23.90         
AGCO        2/28      100              52.57           Value
NWBI        3/3        200              14.23           0 Buy
TIP             3/4        20                112.82   

Sales

CNN.PR.B 2/13      400               45.95           Off the buy/hold list 

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