Monday, November 29, 2010

R.I.P. Bob Johnson

Any reader of this blog has seen posts on the Rubaiyat, a small club in Dallas with a long colorful history. I got a note today from someone who sang there letting me know the founder/owner/creator/manager Bob Johnson died November 1 of this year. I know I met him more than once but doubt he would remember me but he did comment on one of my blog posts once and that made me feel good.

Maybe there are hundreds of Rubaiyats out there but for me there will only be one. I can't count the times we (always went with somebody - guys, girls, groups) heard big names, smaller names and no-names but the quality was almost always the same - good music and good company.

That music and place helped form much of the music I remember and still enjoy.

So R.I.P. Bob and I hope you lived a long and fulfilling life!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

recent movies

Not a very good movie reviewer but having watched a few of late, thought I might pass along some short observations (does that make me a critic?)

The Road - waited a long time to see this. I read the novel a couple of years back. Won't try to argue whether the movie stayed true enough or not. A hard movie to watch if anywhere in the recesses of your mind you have an apocalyptic gene. Could be pretty scary. I did NOT have bad dreams after watching it. Maybe because the "love story" overwhelmed any other emotion the movie wrought forth. Should you watch it? Not sure but the relationship between the father (Viggo Mortensen) and his son is lovingly amazing. But warning - some pretty graphic parts and mostly in a sort of black-and-white.

Up in the Air - Clooney's latest. Read so (too) much about it so my expectations were high. But in the end, didn't think much of it. Was it bad? Not exactly - just not good enough.

Toy Story 3 - watched this one with the kids last weekend. Maybe I'm too old and set in my viewing ways but I didn't like it as much as the first one. Again nothing wrong with it - just didn't grab me like I expected it to. Many people wrote about how the storyline of leaving toys behind etc. tugged at your emotions. Maybe I'm just not sentimental enough. I think I was old before I was young.

Babette's Feast - an old movie but a couple of movie reviewers I read have raved about how this 1987 film shot in Denmark is so much better than most of the so-called "Christian films" made today. In this case I must be too shallow and if it doesn't move along with a Bourne series pace, well ... so much for that.

Monday, November 22, 2010

one more crazy thing

I know you can't believe everything on NPR but ...

Heard a story today about well-to-do (bet you haven't heard that phrase in awhile!) women in China who come to America to have their babies. Seems there is a loophole in our immigration policies that allows them to come on tourist or other visas, have babies in American hospitals and go back home. Oh did I mention that these "American born" children can get U.S. Passports and are U.S Citizens? Just like that.

I should point out that this doesn't cost us anything. And likely many of the Chinese-Americans may never come back and take advantage of our educational system or anything else we have to offer. But the mothers want to hedge their bets - since if you follow Chinese history at all - things have, can and might change.

Another important point - seems these U.S. born children do not count against their "one child" in China's one child policy.

I know there is no simple answer and /or right or wrong on immigration reform but this is another of those "just seems crazy policies."

The story following this one was about the lottery where millions of people (8 millions from Bangladesh alone) apply in a lottery for a chance to get the coveted "green card". Don't understand this one either but will save for another post.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is this crazy or what?

Listening once again to NPR on my way home and caught the middle and end of a strange story. So today I had time to read the transcript

Read it or listen to the story but here's a short version.

U.S. taxpayers subsidize a lot of agriculture. We pay farmers to grow some things, help make up their losses on some things and occasionally pay them NOT to grow certain things.

We help cotton growers. Guess the primary reason is so they can compete better in a highly competitive global market. Seems a cotton farmer in Brazil named Pedro didn't like that. Thought it wasn't fair. After some years he becomes (really) Brazil's secretary of trade in the Agriculture Department. So he files a case with the World Trade Organization against the U.S. and wins. Seems the WTO has some rules against certain subsidies. But nothing happens. The U.S. keeps paying our cotton farmers.

So Pedro decides to retaliate by threatening to impose taxes on certain U.S. imports into Brazil. Well that brought a lot of people besides cotton farmers out of the woodwork.

I'll short-cut to the crazy punch-line: The U.S decided to pay Brazilian cotton farmers $147 million (no typo here six zeroes!) per year - again no typo. Not a one-time payment but $147,000,000 every year to even the playing field and avoid any penalties on their/our imported products.

This is likely to continue until at least 2012 when Congress reviews the Farm Bill again. Now I'm not smart enough to understand the complexities of subsidies and that whole market. But for us to pay almost $150 million to another country just so they will leave us alone? I don't know what to call this but it sounds more like something on the Sopranos.

I know at the Federal level $147 million won't go very far (heard somewhere the daily price tag for Obama's current trip runs pretty high) but I've got to believe we can find a better place to spend that money.