Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Here in New England there is an old tradition in which five kernels of corn are placed at each setting on the Thanksgiving table in remembrance of those less fortunate and as a wish for prosperity in the coming year. This tradition has its source in the struggles of the Pilgrims to survive those first long winters in the New World; at times they were forced to subsist on a daily ration of five kernels of corn. By placing the kernels at a table overflowing with abundance, we remind ourselves of those things for which we are most grateful, and that we should share our good fortune with others.

Today is the start of the month-long orgy of consumerism and over-indulgence known as The Holidays. As we rush about, shopping and eating and drinking and decorating, we should try to take a few minutes to remember what's really important - the people in our lives who are our source of strength and happiness and yes, at times aggravation (or agita as my Mom used to say).

I love a parade
Back when I was trapped in retail hell, one of the department stores I worked for was R.H. Macy's, who's annual parade is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and cranberry sauce. Many of the balloon handlers, clowns and assorted costumed float characters are drawn from the ranks of Macy's employees. I'd like to say that I participated in at least one parade, but alas I didn't. Still, watching the parade has been a family tradition since I was a wee lad (and continues with my own family; as I write this Connor and Kim are watching it). Writing this it occurrs to me that I've never actually sat down and watched an entire parade from start to finish. Still it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without the background noise of this holiday event. Below is an ad from the November 27, 1924 New York Herald Tribune announcing the very first Macy's Thanksgiving Parade held exactly 84 years ago today.

Thank you, Squanto (and you too, Samoset)
History tells us that the first Thanksgiving, held during the autumn of 1621, was made possible in part through the beneficence of Tisqantum aka Squanto, the surviving member of the Pawtuxet Indians. For the Pilgrims he acted as wilderness guide, teacher and interpreter. He mediated a peace treaty with the Wampanoag Indians and his assistance helped the Pilgrims survive. Yet it was another Native American, an Abenaki Indian named Samoset, who was the first to encounter the Mayflower's passengers. Samoset spoke limited English, and it was he who introduced the Pilgrims to Squanto, who had spent several years in England and was much more fluent in their language.

Holiday for Drumsticks
Daffy Duck and Thomas Turkey starring in the 1949 Warner Brothers cartoon, Holiday for Drumsticks. Directed by Arthur Davis with voice characterizations by the great Mel Blanc (of course), here's a small Thanksgiving present from me to you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

Because nothing says "Happy Thanksgiving" like Elvis Presley and Las Vegas Showgirls...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Lois Lane

Noel Neill turns 88 today.

Between catching up on things at work and getting ready for the holidays at home, I've been ridiculously busy this week; however, I had to take a minute to wish a happy birthday to Noel Neill, the first actress to portray Lois Lane on film. She appeared as Superman's girlfriend opposite Kirk Allyn in the Columbia serials Superman (1948) and Atom Man Vs Superman (1950) and then reprised the role opposite George Reeves in the 1950's TV classic The Adventures of Superman (beginning with the second season). To a generation of Superman fans, she was Lois Lane.

Noel Neill Fun Fact: according to Larry Thomas Ward, author of Truth, Justice, & The American Way: The Life And Times Of Noel Neill, The Original Lois Lane, the number 2 pin-up girl among WWII GIs (after Betty Grable) was Noel Neill.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Conspiracy Theories

45 years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Kennedy, the youngest man ever elected President, was 46. Oswald fired three bullets from a sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository as the President's motorcade passed through Dealy Plaza in Dallas TX. One bullet missed. A second bullet struck JFK, passed through his throat and hit Texas Governor John Connally. The third bullet was a fatal head shot.

Over the past four and a half decades, an incredible list of theories has arisen claiming that Kennedy's death was the result of some sort of conspiracy involving (among others) the CIA, the FBI, the Mafia, Cuba, USSR, the Military-Industrial Complex, the Federal Reserve, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and J. Edgar Hoover. It's a veritable smorgasbord of conspiracies; choose just about any combination and you'll find someone who adamantly believes it.

A litany of phrases associated with Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories has entered into our lexicon: the Magic Bullet (sometimes called the Single Bullet), The Grassy knoll, the Three Tramps, the Second Gunman, the Lone Gunman, etc.

In his 2007 book Reclaiming History, Vincent Bugliosi, the famous prosecutor and author, looks at the entire assassination in minute detail. Almost half of the 1600 page tome is an examination and refutation of the various conspiracy theories including a look at some of the other 82 alleged assassins. It is an exhaustive and intricately researched work (including a separate CD containing end notes and source notes) and is mandatory reading for anyone with a serious interest in the subject.

Why do 75% of those surveyed believe there was some type of conspiracy behind the JFK Assassination? Aside from those suffering from Pathological Skepticism, I see three main reasons :
  1. Americans have grown suspicious of authority and jaded with government. Events over the past four decades prove that those in power will distort the truth and lie to suit their own ends. Starting with George W Bush's claim about WMDs in Iraq it is easy to draw a line of suspicion backwards to Richard Nixon and Watergate and from there further back to disbelief in the findings of the Warren Commission.

  2. If you lie with enough conviction and frequency, people will eventually believe you. Most of the conspiracy theories are based on distortions of truth, errors in analysis, sloppy research and outright lies.

  3. For many, John F. Kennedy was the symbol of a new era; call it Camelot or the New Frontier. He was young, smart, photogenic and he inspired a generation of Americans. He was a hero and we need our heroes to die in heroic ways; their deaths should have meaning. In short, we don't want them to be the random acts of lone gunmen; it doesn't fit into our perception of how things works.
We'll never know how different the World would have been had JFK lived to complete his first term and perhaps serve a second. Still, there is no doubt that the events of that sunny autumn day in Dallas affected our innocence. Some people just can't accept the utter randomness of it all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

M-I-C-K-E-Y Mouse

I couldn't let today pass without mentioning my favorite corporate spokesmouse. As the good people at Disney measure these things, Mickey Mouse turns 80 years-old today. That's because Steamboat Willie, the first publicly released cartoon featuring the Mouse opened on this date in 1928. It was actually the third Mickey Mouse animated short . What were the first two? I'm glad you asked...

Plane Crazy -The first cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse was this silent short created in early 1928. Mickey, inspired by All-American hero and aviator Charles Lindbergh decides to build his own airplane and take Minnie for a ride. Charles Lindbergh Fun Fact: During his famous 1927 solo Trans-Atlantic flight, Lucky Lindy took along a stuffed Felix the Cat doll for company. Felix the Cat Fun Fact: The Feisty Cat actually has a cameo appearance in Mickey's debut film: he's driving a car that is hit by Mickey's plane (just goes to show you shouldn't give a pilot's license to a Mouse).

The Gallopin' Gaucho - Poor Walt couldn't find a distributor for Plane Crazy but that didn't stop him and partner Ube Iwerks from creating this second Mickey short in the summer of 1928. Like it's predecessor, it was a silent film. As the title suggests, it features Mickey and company in a South of the Border adventure.

Steamboat Willie -The third time was the charm for Disney (or perhaps it was the introduction of synchronized sound that helped make this one a success). Mickey's early nemesis, the anthropomorphic cat Pete, makes his second appearance (following Gaucho). The film's title is a parody of Steamboat Bill Jr., a 1928 silent comedy starring Buster Keaton as a steamboat captain.

Following the success of Steamboat Willie, sound was added to the first two Mickey cartoons and they were released to much fanfare. Disney's genius for marketing and distribution combined with innovative animation techniques made Mickey Mouse and friends a 20th Century phenomenon and helped create a multi-media empire. I'll leave it to others to argue the pros and cons of the Walt Disney Company, today is a celebration of the mouse who started it all (to paraphrase Walt).

Mickey has evolved since these early appearances and his modern, slick corporate shill persona is unrecognizable from his primitive beginnings. Still, one thing has remained consistent; his appeal to children. I've seen it in my own son; as a toddler, Connor's favorite toy was a stuffed Mickey Mouse. It was his constant companion in good times and bad and I know he will never part with it (he's now 10). As for this writer, the early spunky, iconoclastic version will always be my favorite.

Happy Birthday, you little bastard!

Monday, November 17, 2008

"I'm not a crook"

November 17, 1973

35 years ago today, deeply embroiled in the Watergate Scandal, President Richard Nixon appeared in a nationally televised press conference and uttered the sentence that has become his epithet.

It also provided a catch phrase for Nixon impressionists and impersonators the world over.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bond, Jimmy Bond?

With Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond, film opening this weekend, it seems like a good time to take a look at the character and the actors who did and didn't play him.

Hoagy Carmichael - In the very first Bond novel, Casino Royale, author Ian Fleming describes Bond as resembling this American composer, singer, pianist and actor. Bond's love interest Vesper Lynd remarks "Bond reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless." In his third Bond novel, Moonraker, Fleming again has a character note the resemblance describing Bond in this way: "Rather like Hoagy Carmichael in a way. That black hair falling down over the right eyebrow. Much the same bones. But there was something a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold" Hoagy Carmichael Fun Fact: His most famous songs, Stardust and Heart and Soul are two of the most recorded American songs in history (who keeps track of this stuff?).

Barry Nelson - He is the first actor (and so far the only American) to portray Fleming's secret agent. He appeared as American agent Jimmy Bond in a 1954 adaptation of Casino Royale for the Television anthology series Climax! I own this but can't bring myself to watch it.

Sean Connery - this Scottish actor was the first to portray Bond on the big screen, and to many (including this writer), the best. However, it has recently come to light that he was not Fleming's original choice. In fact, the author had a list of seven actors who he wanted to play his hero in Dr No and Connery wasn't included. Reportedly, Connery's performance impressed Fleming and in later Bond novels he gives 007 Scottish ancestry.

Ian Fleming's top seven choices to portray James Bond on film: Let's take a look at who they were:

Cary Grant - the suave, debonair star was Fleming's top choice. He doesn't really resemble the author's description of the character though. Anyway - Grant was too big a star and too expensive.

David Niven - the equally suave British actor turned down the role because he felt he was too old (he was 51 when Dr. No began filming). He ended up playing the character in the 1967 comedy adaptation of Casino Royale.

Patrick McGoohan - this American-born actor (who spent most of his life in the UK) was currently starring in the British TV series Danger Man (known as Secret Agent here in the US) and turned down the offer to play 007. A few years later he co-created and starred in the cult classic spy-drama The Prisoner.

Musical Interlude: Speaking of Secret Agent, when it was shown in the USA, a nifty new theme song by singer-songwriter Johnny Rivers was added. Here's Rivers lip-syncing the song on some mid-60's American Bandstand clone.

Richard Burton - the British actor had just won a Tony Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of King Arthur in the musical Camelot. In 1965 he was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the film version of John Le Carre's Cold War drama The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. I wonder if Liz Taylor would have replaced Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder?

Rex Harrison - I'm second to none in admiration for this talented British actor, but Dr Doolittle or Henry Higgins as 007? It seems an odd choice today, doesn't it?

Stewart Granger - the British actor was a popular leading man at the time and had even played H. Rider Haggard's famous hero Allan Quatermain in King Solomon's Mines. He might have made a decent Bond.

There you have it the actors who might have been Bond. Sean Connery was chosen and the rest is history.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Attend the Tale of Sweeney Todd...

Because there's something just so gosh-darn irresistible about murderous barbers and human flesh-filled meat pies...

The above clip is from the 1982 production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the 1979 Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and Hugh Wheeler (book).

The character of Sweeney Todd first appeared in The String of Pearls: A Romance, a nineteenth century penny dreadful. Originally, Todd was a barber who murdered his customers for their money (his preferred method was by slitting their throats with a straight razor). In 1973 playwright Christopher Bond gave Todd a tragic back story and turned him into a somewhat sympathetic character motivated by revenge rather than greed. The Sondheim musical is based upon Bond's play.

Todd's accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, the pie shop proprietress who uses her pies to dispose of his victims (said pies being very popular with her unsuspecting customers) was there from the beginning. Later versions have her develop a crush on the barber, but she remains pretty much the same.

Since his first appearance over 160 years ago, the Demon Barber has become a multi-media phenomenon appearing on stage (drama and musical), film (at least 5 versions including 2 silents), television (3 separate productions), radio (in a 1947 CBC dramatization and as a character in an episode of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), and dance (in a 1959 performance by The Royal Ballet Company). He even appeared in the pages of a comic book (by Neil Gaiman).

The most recent version is Tim Burton's 2007 film adaptation of the Sondheim musical starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. I finally saw this over the weekend and enjoyed it more than I expected; I'd seen the original Broadway production back when the world was young and was a bit hesitant. I had no idea that Depp could sing - and he has a surprisingly powerful voice (is there anything he can't do?). At times it over-shadowed Carter's softer voice, but both were excellent in their roles. My main complaint was that Burton removed my favorite number, The Ballad of Sweeney Todd.

Some speculate that Sweeney Todd was based on a real person, but researchers are doubtful. Even so, given the opportunity to be shaved by a barber, I've politely refused. Likewise, I find myself disinclined towards meat pies.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bugtussle: Fact or Fiction?

This afternoon Cindy, my co-worker and loyal blog reader, asked me to settle a bet she had with her significant other Paul, about where the Clampetts of Beverly Hillbillies fame originated. The answer, of course, is Bugtussle (for the record, Paul was right). To be honest, I didn't know for sure that they were from Bugtussle. I only remembered that the Clampetts often referred to a town by that name back home. Other towns mentioned include Oxford AK (remember the episode where Jethro proudly proclaimed he went to school at Oxford?), Sibley, Silver Dollar City, Eureka Springs, Hooterville and Pixley (the last two played an important role in producer Paul Henning's other rural comedies Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.

I decided to do some research and it turns out that Bugtussle (or a variation thereof) is the name of at least three real towns:

Bugtussle, Oklahoma

Bugtussle Kentucky

Bug Tussle, Alabama

Oxford, AK, Eureka Springs, AK and Sibley, MO are real too. Silver Dollar City is a theme park in Branson, MO (Paul Henning was a native of Independence, MO and apparently referenced real places in Missouri and Arkansas.). I also found a Pixley in California and Illinois. I'm pretty sure that Hooterville is not real.

This ends today's geography lesson. Cindy, you need to watch more classic television.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November 10th Birthdays


I hadn't intended on actually doing a blog about today's birthdays; confession time - birthdays are my fall back when I can't think of anything else to write about (unless of course it's the birthday of a Pop Culture Icon). Nevertheless, the shear number of famous people born today makes it impossible for me not to make note of it:

Winston Churchill - my favorite British Prime Minister

Claude Rains - Diminutive, one-eyed English actor.

Mabel Normand - Silent movie comedy star who's affair with silent movie director Mack Sennett is the stuff of legend (at least it is among silent movie buffs).

Billy May - composer, arranger and musician responsible for some of Sinatra's best recordings

Russell Johnson - Professor Roy Hinkley of Gilligan's Island fame, of course. Here's something I didn't know - Johnson is a real life war hero. As a WWII Bombardier he flew 44 combat missions, was shot down, earned a Purple Heart and an assortment of other Medals.

Richard Burton - Welsh stage and file actor. Random Richard Burton facts: He married Elizabeth Taylor twice; he was nominated 7 times for an Academy Award and never won (making him second behind Peter O'Toole in that dubious category). In 1974 he was permanently banned from BBC productions for questioning the sanity of Winston Churchill and other British leaders during WWII. He was an insomniac and alcoholic.

Roy Scheider - American actor (Jaws, The French Connection, All That Jazz).

Kyu Sakamoto - Japanese singer who's 1963 hit Sukiyaki was Number 1 on the Billboard Pop Charts for three weeks (the first and only song sung entirely in Japanese to do so).

Saxby Chambliss - current senior U.S. Senator from Georgia. Last week, he was up for re-election and since all of the candidates received less than 50% of the vote, a special run-off election is going to be held in December.

Tim Rice - Award-winning English lyricist (his work includes Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Chess, Aladdin and The Lion King).

Donna Fargo - American Country music singer best known for such sappy hits as The Happiest Girl in the Whole USA and Funny Face.

Vincent Schiavelli - American actor whose work includes the role of Mr. Vargas the science teacher from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the Subway Spirit in Ghost.

Ann Reinking - American actress, dancer and choreographer (and one-time muse to Bob Fosse).

Sinbad - American actor and comedian, born David Adkins. He was named Worst Comedian in History by Maxim Magazine, but also was ranked 78th on Comedy Central's list of 100 Greatest Stand-Up Comedians. He also made California's list of Top 250 Delinquent Tax Payers (coming in at a whopping $2,100,000!)

Mackenzie Phillips - American actress (One Day at a Time) and daughter of Mamas and Papas founder John Phillips. Mckenzie Phillips fun fact: Scott Mackenzie who's 1967 hit San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) became a hippie anthem in the Summer of Love, was born Philip Blondheim; he borrowed his stage name in part from Mackenzie Phillips.

Neil Gaiman - English author of comics, graphic novels, screenplays and novels (Sandman, Neverwhere, American Gods, Good Omens, Stardust...)

Tracy Morgan - American actor and comedian (SNL, The Tracy Morgan Show, 30 Rock).

Ellen Pompeo -American actress, star of the medical drama Grey's Anatomy.

Warren G - American rapper.

Brittany Murphy - American actress (Sin City; Clueless; Girl, Interrupted; Happy Feet).

Check out the list of people who died on November 10:

Norman Mailer - American novelist, essayist etc etc. I've never read any of Mailer's works from start to finish. The last time I tried was with his 1983 novel Ancient Evenings (I think it was the scene where a young girl performs fellatio on her grandfather that turned me off)

Jack Palance - Rugged, American movie actor known for his tough guy roles (and for the one-handed push ups he performed at the age of 73 as part of his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor during the 1992 Oscars).

Diana Coupland - British actress best known to fans of British comedy as Jean Abbott on Bless This House.

Ken Kesey - American author (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), Counter Culture figure, and Merry Prankster.

Carmen McRae - Multiple Grammy-winning Jazz singer, composer, pianist and actress.

Chuck Connors - American actor and athlete best remembered for his starring role in the TV Westerns The Rifleman and Branded. My personal favorite Chuck Connors role was the appearance he made on The Adventures of Superman; he played a character named Sylvester J. Superman.

Leonid Brezhned - Leader of the USSR who helped usher in the era of detente.

Jimmy Dodd - MC of the 1950's TV Classic The Mickey Mouse Club.

J is for Julie

Julie Adams - American "B" movie and TV actress, best remembered for being the love interest of an especially horny Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Julie Andrews - What's not to love about Mary Poppins, Eliza Doolittle and Guinevere? (We'll just forget all about "The Sound of Music".)

Julie Hagerty - American stage, screen and TV actress. I especially loved her as stewardess Elaine Dickenson in Airplane! "There's no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you'll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?"

Julie Harris - Multiple (five Tonys and three Emmys) award winning stage, screen and TV actress. My favorite Julie Harris movie is The Haunting, Robert Wise's 1963 film version of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.

Julie Kavner - American actress best known as the voice of Marge Simpson (and her sisters, mother and aunt), and as Brenda Morgenstern in the 70's spin-off comedy Rhoda.

Julie London - Sultry American singer and actress. Her version of Cry Me A River has been known to make grown men weep and turn to Jello. Don't believe me? Check out Julie's cameo in the 1956 musical-comedy The Girl Can't Help It. Poor Tom Ewell never had a chance...

Julie Madison - Bruce Wayne's (aka Batman - as if you didn't know) first comic book girlfriend made her initial appearance all the way back in 1939.

Julie Newmar - Hands down, my all time favorite Catwoman and the runner-up in the 1966 Hottest TV Actress Contest. First place goes to Diana Rigg (aka Emma Peel), of course.

Julie Schwartz - my all-time favorite comic book editor and one of the chief architects of the super-hero revival of the mid 1950s.

Jule Styne - American songwriter/composer responsible for such hits as Gypsy, Bells are Ringing, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Peter Pan, Funny Girl, and most importantly, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Albert Camus

Today's Birthday Boy...

"Those who write clearly have readers, those who write obscurely have commentators."

I wonder what he would have thought about bloggers?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jonathan Harris

Today we celebrate the birthday of actor Jonathan Harris, better known to fans of cheesy 1960's sci-fi as Dr Zachary Smith of Lost in Space. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the Irwin Allen television classic and use the term "cheesy" in the best possible way. I mean, how can you not love a show that once featured a giant, sentient carrot bent on the destruction of mankind? When you think about it, the 1960's were a high point in TV sci-fi. In addition to LIS, Irwin Allen produced Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants. Then we have the classics such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. The UK gave us The Avengers and Dr. Who, and finally, there were even sci-fi sitcoms such as My Favorite Martian and It's About Time.

Speaking of Giant Carrots, here's a brief clip of Dr. Smith's encounter with Tybo the Carrot Man:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Laika, we hardly knew ye...

On this day in 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2, the first spacecraft to carry a living animal, a dog named Laika. The three-year old mixed breed was a stray found wandering the streets of Mosow by Soviet scientists. Sputnik 2 was not designed to return to Earth. Laika became the first living creature to orbit the earth and subsequently became the first casuality of the Space Race when she died from overheating and stress a few hours into the flight.

Her true cause of death was kept a secret until after the fall of the Soviet Union. In 1998, Oleg Gazenko, one of the scientists involved with the Sputnik program, said "Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. We shouldn't have done it. We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog."

A memorial to Laika was unveiled in 2008. It stands near the site of the military facility where she was trained.

Confessions of a former Young Republican...

Now the truth can be told...

A few years ago, while cleaning out some boxes from my parents' attic, I came across a Republican National Committee membership card from 1988. I looked at it with a mixture of confusion and bemusement. I had actually forgotten that at one time I was a card-carrying member of the Republican Party (or perhaps it was a matter of self-induced amnesia). Despite my political philosophy today, it made perfect sense for 1980s Michael to have made a donation to the RNC (which was how I obtained that membership card).

Twenty years ago I was dating Pookie, the youngest daughter of a Washington attorney who had held several low level positions in the Reagan Administration (something like deputy assistant to the deputy assistant Secretary of ........ - basically a political appointment; a reward for raising tons of cash for the Republican Cause) Mr. J. was a pompous ass filled with an inflated sense of self-importance but I was incredibly fond of his daughter and though I loathe to admit it, I sucked up to him in the worse way. I think it worked because he seemed to like me - at least he did when he drank (which was often). Either that or he was resigned to the fact that his little girl wasn't going to give me up and he was trying to make the best of it. Whatever the case, Mr. J. bent over and I puckered up and we got along fabulously.

At the same time, I was enthralled by the whole Washington DC social/political scene (as peripherally involved with it as I was). Pookie and I would drive down from NY on weekends to attend black tie affairs and I even purchased my own tux (I still have it, unfortunately my political views aren't the only things which have broadened over the past two decades - so there it sits in the back of my closet awaiting the day when I will once again be able to wear it). I was definitely a fish out of water; there was no way I fit in either financially or career-wise (I was in retail management at the time, and even though I had a good job working for an upscale Manhattan department store, I was out of my league among the lawyers and trust fund babies). It was around this time that I took the LSATs and planned on attending law school (pathetic, wasn't I?).

Eventually Pookie and I parted company. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I voted for Bill Clinton.

Currently I hold no party affiliation; I went directly from Republican to Independent. Looking back over the past seven presidential elections, my voting record is as evenly split as seven can be:

1980 and 1984 Ronald Reagan -Yes, I was part of the Reagan Revolution. As the title of today's blog suggests, I was a Young Republican. There exists photographic evidence of this writer attending YR functions and fund raisers for local politicians in the early 80's. Not only was I a member - I was an officer. All I can say is "Mea Culpa". Still, to this day there's something deeply ingrained in my psyche which prohibits me from criticizing Ronnie too harshly (if at all). Maybe it's because he was my first - and you always have a special place in your heart for your first...

1988 George H.W. Bush - During the 1980 primaries I was actually rooting for Bush over Reagan so there was no way I'd vote for Mike Dukakis. To be honest, I never really gave Mike a chance then and I haven't really gone back and looked at his positions on the issues so I can't say if I'd have done things differently.

1992 and 1996 Bill Clinton - I thought GB did an OK job but was unhappy with the way he squandered his popularity following the success of the Persian Gulf War. I was also starting to change my outlook on the role of government . I'll also admit to watching the Democratic Convention and being impressed by the whole Man from Hope documentary they showed. OK, I'll admit that I even got teary eyed. Dammit - are you happy now?

2000 Al Gore - After a winning streak that lasted five presidential elections, I finally voted for a losing candidate. Technically I was on the winning side in this one too - but try telling that to the Electoral College or the Supreme Court. At the time I wasn't overly impressed with Al Gore as a candidate but I was totally unimpressed with George W. Bush. Over the past 8 years I've come to loathe W for his ignorance and criminal negligence. At the same time I've come to admire and respect Al Gore. Funny how life turns out sometimes, isn't it?

2004 John Kerry - Here is an admirable, intelligent man and genuine war hero who was very bad at fighting back against the Rovian attacks and lies that were launched against him. I remember how he won all three debates against W, but the Democrats didn't have the organization or ground game the Republicans did. It was a close election, but ...

And there you have it; Twenty-eight years of Presidential Campaigns. I wonder how I'll vote tomorrow...?

Sunday, November 2, 2008


The United States of America is a Representative Democracy; as citizens it is our responsibility to elect the officials who will propose and enact our laws. I am never ceased to be amazed at my fellow citizens who willingly relinquish the right to vote. Not only that, they seem to wallow in some demented sense of self-righteousness loudly proclaiming that all politicians are the same or one vote doesn't matter. If you seriously think there is no difference between John McCain and Barack Obama, then you haven't been paying attention. Or you're too lazy or too indifferent or too ignorant to take the time and look into the facts about each candidates and their positions.

As for "my vote doesn't matter". The 2000 election which Gore lost by 527 votes should be enough to disprove that excuse. Of course Gore actually won the popular vote and might have gone on to win the electoral vote as well if the Supreme Court hadn't handed the election to W, but that's another story.

There are people who honestly don't care about the election one way or another; diffidence is worse than ignorance in a democracy. This nation was forged from the blood and sacrifice of men and women who gave their lives in pursuit of self-determination; they died for the right to chose their destiny. If they could have foreseen the lack of interest their descendants have in the political process, they would have chucked it all in and sailed back to England. There is evidence to suggest that this election is different; record numbers of new voters are waiting in line to cast ballots, and there is a real sense that this is a defining moment in the American history.

If you don't vote, you lose the right to complain when elected officials make decisions you don't agree with.

"The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.” - Lyndon Baines Johnson, thirty-sixth President of the United States.