Monday, January 31, 2011

HBO Miniseries "The Pacific" (2010) *****

Author James Michener, who was in the South Pacific during World War II, in his book titled: "Tales of the South Pacific" wrote:
They will live a long time, these men of the South Pacific…. They, like their victories, will be remembered as long as our generation lives. After that, like the men of the Confederacy, they will become strangers. Longer and longer shadows will obscure them until their Guadalcanal sounds distant on the ear like Shiloh and Valley Forge.

Fortunately for us and future generations Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, have given us this 10 hour miniseries, so we will not forget ! These are the same men who gave us "Saving Private Ryan"(1998) and another HBO series "Band of Brothers"(2001). As with the earlier productions, "The Pacific", is a quality work of love to be treasured and is a fitting tribute to the United States Marines of World War II. I love the musical "South Pacific" but the men who fell and lived through the war deserve a realistic portrayal of what it was really like.

We don't subscribe to HBO so I missed the broadcast last year but purchased the Blu-rey DVD from with a Christmas gift certificate from my sister. Thank M!

This last weekend, first weekend since August with no real football game, was the perfect time to watch all 10 hours plus "extras" and so I went to my "Man Cave" and watched it all.

I started by watching the "extras" that has a documentary about the real people who are portrayed in the series. There are interviews with the actual Marines who are now old men along with their family's and friends. For those who have already died there are old interviews they gave years before. At least three of the Marines wrote books on their experiences in the war and that is the basis of the screenplay. I then went online and printed off short biography's of the main characters in the series so I could picture the actual people, then and now, with the actors portraying them. With that preparation I started the series.

This is not a series about generals, grand strategies or naval battles, this is about United States Marine platoons and squads taking one island at a time foot by foot from an enemy that will not surrender and will fight to the very end in an environment that resembles hell. The series is very loud with naval bombardment, airplanes, artillery, machine gun and rifle fire all at the same time and with modern special effects that gives you the feeling of being there. The musical score is very compelling as is the cinematography.

One of my complaints with war movies made before is that you didn't get the scope of the war because there were few World War II airplanes and ships still available and the need for a cast of thousands. However, with the new realistic digital special effects that problem has been solved and this series is a good example.

The series follows the Marines to Guadalcanal, Australia (one episode is devoted to the marines and their one year stay there after Guadalcanal), Cape Gloucester in New Brittan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and finally Okinawa. The final episode deals with the return home of some of the Marines that made it. It reminds me of the movie "The Best Years of their Lives" (1946).

One of the main characters is Sgt John Basilone who was awarded the Medal of Honor at Guadalcanal and was sent home to help with the US Bond drives and insists on going back to be with his men and is killed at Iwo Jima on the first day. He was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for his valor at Iwo Jima. Prior to going back he marries a lady Marine. It breaks your heart when in the last episode she gives his medal to his Italian American parents.

At Guadalcanal he is shown firing a large mounted machine gun as hundreds of Japanese making a Banzai charge on the Marine line guarding Henderson Field. At one point he picks up the hot barrel to move the machine gun to a different position when there is the threat of their line being overrun. (see statue below). The dead Japanese attackers are starting to pile up like cord wood blocking the Marines fields of fire. In a break in the attack he leaves the Marine line and unpiles the dead Japanese to clear the line of fire. Incredible !

(Statue of John Basilone in his New Jersey home town)

There is Robert Leckie who wrote "Helmet on my Pillow" after the war and became a author of many books and an AP reporter.In the early 1950's he went to see the musical play "South Pacific" on Broadway in NYC and walked out in the middle saying the war in the South Pacific was no musical. It must have pained him to see the war portrayed that way after having lost so many of his fellow Marines there.

There is Eugene Sledge, who joins the Marines with visions of Kipling in his head and comes home a broken man who finds a measure of peace in nature and earns his PhD in Botany and becomes a college professor. He writes "With the Old Breed" about his wartime experiences. His friend Sidney Phillips likens him to the character Ashley Wilkes in the movie "Gone With the Wind. After the war when he enrolls at Auburn University, a young woman at the Registrar's office, asked him if the Marine Corps taught him anything useful. Sledge replied saying:

Lady, there was a killing war. The Marine Corps taught me how to kill Ja*s and try to survive. Now, if that don't fit into any academic course, I'm sorry. But some of us had to do the killing — and most of my buddies got killed or wounded."
( *edited only for today's sensibilities and no criticism of Sledge is intended)

There is Sledge's friend from Alabama, Sidney Phillips, who joins up first and ends up at Guadalcanal and after the war becomes a medical doctor and one of the "talking heads" in Ken Burns wonderful documentary on the war.

This miniseries shows that our freedom is not free and must be defended often at a terrible price. It makes you appreciate life and gives a lot of prospective on our present problems. The movie is as graphic as "Saving Private Ryan" in fact, more so for a much longer period. Watching it is emotionally draining.

Anyone who watches this miniseries will know the wisdom of President Harry Truman's decision to drop the A bomb on Japan. Not to punish Japan but because that was the only way to keep them from a defense of their island similar to their defense of much smaller islands across the Pacific that would have caused thousand and thousands of deaths. Without that decision Japan would have fought to the end at a terrible cost to both them and the allies. There are family's all across America today, including mine, who can give thanks to Harry Truman for the sons, daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren who were born because of the men who were able to live and come home and start family's. My father in law was one !

(Click on the title for a great link to and episode guide from a United States Marine point of view)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

MOVIE: The King's Speech (2010) ******

As a movie buff every year you are lucky if you can see at least one or two movies that are exceptional.This is one. This is a quality movie to treasure and see again and again.

I have been wanting to see "The King's Speech" since before Christmas but it only came to Medford's Tinseltown last week. So today my wife and I went the 1:30 PM showing. Luckily we got there early. By the time the movie started the theater was almost full. It looked like they emptied out the nursing homes in Medford. It was a very old audience for this showing. I even felt young sitting with these folks! I do wish more young people had been there because this movie imparts the values that honor, duty and county are important values rather than the "do your own thing" value that became popular in the 1960"s.

The movie stars Colin Firth who plays the younger brother of King Edward VIII of England,who in the 1930's in the years leading up to the start of World War II, gave up his crown for the divorced woman, Wallis Simpson. When his brother gave up his crown "for the woman I love" his younger brother become King George VI of England and lead that country through World War II. The present Queen Elizabeth II, of the United Kingdom, is his daughter and is a young child in this movie. Unfortunately, King George VI had a speech impediment of stuttering that made it very difficult to give a public speech which kings are required to do in the modern age of radio and now TV. His wife hires an unorthadoxed speech therapist who helps him to overcome his speech impediment so he could lead the country.

Now, who wants to watch two hours of "speech therapy" not me. However, the movie is more about the development of a friendship between the crown prince, then King, and the speech therapist who is an Australian played by Geoffry Rush.

There are thus two story lines to this movie . The speech therapists story and the story of two brothers who are faced with choices in life and take different paths. What I find interesting is the different take on King Edward VIII. ( Duke of Windsor after he abdicated) In the past he has been portrayed as a man how gave up a kingdom for a woman he loved, rather than a man who deserted his country in it's time of need and thrust upon his younger brother responsibilities for which is was not prepared.

I also love the story of how a privileged prince, and later king, who has been raised in a world far removed from the common man develops a deep friendship with a commoner and in the processes develops the skills to lead.

Did I say that Winston Churchill is portrayed in the movie? It's like frosting on the cake.

This movie will be on my blu-rey list as soon as it is released. This is a keeper and you don't need to be an anglophile to enjoy it.

Click on the title for a link to the IMDB page for the movie.


Lawrence Solomon: China’s coming fall

Interesting article from Canada's National Post:

China is a powder keg that could explode at any moment. And if it does explode, chaos could ensue — as the Chinese are only too well aware, the country has a brutal history of carnage at the hands of unruly mobs. For this reason, corrupt officials inside China, likely by the tens of thousands, have made contingency plans, obtaining foreign passports, buying second homes abroad, establishing their families and businesses abroad, or otherwise planning their escapes. Also for this reason, much of the middle class supports the government’s increasingly repressive efforts.

To read the rest click on the title for a link.... very interesting article on China today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Liberals Say the Darnedest Things

Tennessee Democratic Congressman Steven Cohen has the "honor" of his first appearance on "Liberals say the darnedest things" with his speech on the U.S. House floor yesterday comparing Republicans with Nazis.

ABC News Jonathan Karl in "The Note" reports:

The newfound civility didn’t last long. Political rhetoric in Congress doesn’t get much nastier than the words of one House Democrat during the debate on repealing the health care law.

This is what Congressmen Cohen said about Republicans:

“They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels,"

"You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That's the same kind of thing.
The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it--believed it and you have the Holocaust."

Yes, we Republicans are just a bunch of Nazis. (sarcasm)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

As Time Goes By



Always Oregon Duck Fans ! Let's Go Ducks !

ChiCom Leader Visits U.S.

Chinese Communist leader Hu Jintao is visiting the United States and the sycophant Obama administration is rolling out the red carpet (pun intended)with a fancy White House dinner. George Bush only had a working lunch with the totalitarian leader. Well, not all Americans have forgotten Tibet or the slaughter of Tienanmen Square in 1989. An intelligence report received by the Soviet politburo estimated that 3,000 freedom fighters were killed there, according to a document found in the Soviet archive.

Folk singer and activist Joan Baez and I don't agree on much but I find her song on Tienanmen Square to be haunting:

In the month of June, in the darkness of the moon
Went the descendants of a hundred flowers
And time may never tell how many of them fell
Like the petals of a rose in some satanic shower
Everyone was weeping in all of China
And Tienanmen Square....
And Wang Wei Lin, you remember him
All alone he stood before the tanks
A shadow of forgotten ancestors in Tienanmen Square....

China Shall Be Free
China Shall Be Free
China Shall Be Free

To read all the lyrics of this beautiful song click on the title for a link.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Holidays Are Over !

For most people the holidays were over two weeks ago. However, we were able to make them last an entire month !

Our son arrived home on December 14th and I took him back to the airport here in Medford on Saturday January 14th. Between those dates we celebrated the arrival of our daughter from DC, Christmas, New Years, made a trip to the BCS Championship in Arizona and made a trip to Eugene to see a basketball game in the new Matthew Knight Arena. When we arrive home on Sunday from the basketball game we came home to an empty house. Both of our children are safely back in their homes "back east" as they used to say in the Westerns. Today, it's cold, rainy and foggy here in Medford and the house is quiet and empty.

But, just think, the NFC/AFC Championship games are next Sunday, the Super Bowl is two weeks after that and the college football "letter of intent" day is February 2nd and we have a Duck recruiting dinner that same day here in Medford. And I haven't even talked about movies, music, history and politics.

"Tomorrow is a new day."

Trip to Matthew Knight Arena

(View from our seat)

On Saturday I got up very early to take our son to the airport to fly back to grad school at the University of Kentucky. Then, my wife and I drove to Eugene for the UCLA basketball game with Oregon in the new Matthew Knight Arena. The picture above does not do it justice. The place is beautiful. The lower concourse is fantastic. On one side is all glass with a view outside. The inside wall is made of of huge pictures of Oregon Duck basketball history and lined with a light wood finish. There are "snack bars" with cute names like "Uncle Phil's" for Phil Knight and "The Admirals" for one of the "Tall Firs" who still attends games. The inside arena is steep just like Mac Court and has captured the feel and intimacy of the old arena. Our seats were in the top section and we had a great view. The four video screen scoreboard that hangs over the court is unbelievable. Best in college basketball. There are two walk in "Duck Shops" where you can buy Duck gear. Unlike the old Matt Court there are a lot of restrooms and snack bars. It's only a few steps down to our aisle seats and those snack bars and restrooms are close by. I love the place!

As I have posted before, a group of 5 of us here in Medford purchased two season tickets to the games and had a "lottery" to see how the games were divided. It is hard to go to every game when it's a three hour trip each way from Medford to Eugene over 4 mountain passes in the dead of winter.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Oregon basketball: Emotions high as Phil Knight opens Matthew Knight Arena

I was able to watch last night on Fox Sports Northwest the half hour opening ceremonies for the new Matthew Knight Basketball Arena at the University of Oregon.Click on the title for a link to the Oregonian's report. Oh, btw the Ducks beat U$C in the first game in the arena. The arena even has a snack bar named "Uncle Phil's." Thanks again Phil Knight for all you do for the Ducks!!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So Close and Yet So Far(link fixed)

We are home and yes the story below about "On the Road to the BCS" was about my proposed trip to the BCS National Championship college football game in Arizona. Yes, our daughter got a ticket from a Stub Hub booth, the day of the game, and the "Three Musketeers" got into the game. "One for all and all for one." I will never forget the trip to the National Championship with our adult children to cheer on our Oregon Ducks. One more thing off my "bucket list!" Except for the final score, and a lot of lines for bathrooms and porta potties, it was a great trip. The Auburn fans were for the most part nice folks. If you don't like crowds the BCS Championship is not for you. For two days we were together with thousands of people at the pep rallies and the game. As a result there were lines for everything, restaurant seating, restrooms, getting in and out, airports, shuttle buses etc. However there was also sensory overload everywhere. If you love college football it was wonderful !

Best parts of the trip in no particular order:

1. Spending time with my kids..... (best)
2. Southwestern Airlines.... much better than United.
3. Arizona weather in winter. 60 degrees plus when it was freezing back home.No fog or rain just beautiful sunshine.
4. Oregon Duck Pep Rally with 30,000 of your closest Duck friends and running into a number of folks from Medford.
5. The game and in particular Oregon tying it in the final minutes as Duck fans cheered and cheered.
6. Having a picnic at a nice rest stop in California on the way to Sacramento for our flight and having sun and shirtsleeve weather while we ate.
7. The excitement we all felt on game day when our daughter was able to get a ticket.
8. The meal we had at a large restaurant/ beer pub near Phoenix University Stadium on game day full of Duck and Tiger fans who would every few minutes let out competing cheers.
9. Old Scottsdale and it's western theme.
10. The La Quinta Motel Mesa West ... good value at a good price
11. Pizza delivered to our room in Sacramento as my son and I watched the Cotton Bowl on TV.....It reminded me of our trips together to Eugene to watch the Ducks when he was a little kid and we would stop in Eugene or Roseburg at a motel and have pizza together after the game.
12. Having my son do most of the driving on the trip.
13. In & Out Burgers after the game.
14. In spite of his voice problems, hearing "Shout" performed live by Otis Day and the Knights from the movie Animal House.
15. Fireworks after the pep rally.
16. Having two dinners with my friend and his wife.
17. Going by the Alumni Hotel to go to the "Duck Store" and seeing people we know.
18. Seeing thousands of Oregon fans on the same mission as you. The best way to describe Oregon fans as a whole is "zany"
19. Counting the number of Oregon fans we saw with their cars "Ducked out" on I-5 between Medford and Sacramento
20. Parking three rows from the stadium on game day.
21. On the Southwestern flight back to Sacramento we had a stopover in Burbank and I saw Oregon Basketball great and leading player of the Kamikaze Kids of the 1970's Ronnie Lee take his bag out of the overhead above our seat. The Afro is gone but the smile is the same. He noticed me smiling at him and said "Hi how you doing." I loved the Kamikaze Kids and Ronnie was the best and so fun to watch on the basketball court and an all around nice guy. I got through the drudgery of law school watching Lee and the rest of those Kamikaze Kids.

Worst part of the trip in no particular order:

1. THE FINAL SCORE (worst)
2. Long line to get into the stadium that took forever because they were frisking everyone. Ridiculous and ineffective.
3. Small scoreboard at a supposedly modern NFL football stadium (also small dark and dingy concourse with not enough restrooms.)
4. NFL stadium that did not do not have the atmosphere of a college stadium.
5. Small video screen in stadium with not enough replays
6. Not enough porta potties in the parking lot with unbelievable long lines.
7. Crowed restrooms wherever we went .
8. At the Oregon Pep rally Oregon politicians seeking to grab the limelight and musical acts that performed one song too many and not putting a microphone in front of the Oregon Band.
9. Long lines at restaurants close to the "action" all weekend.
10. Driving home from Sacramento through mountain passes in the dark and in a rain storm.

In the end Oregon lost a very close game in the final 2 seconds in the most competitive of the BCS games. Hell of a Game. The Ducks were picked for the BCS Championship on December 5,2010 and we basked in it's glory for 36 days!

Yes, 36 Days of Glory !

The Three Musketeers..... One for all and all for one !

( To read a detailed account of our trip click on the title above for a link to our sons blog)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

BCS National Championship: Ducks' foundation laid over decades

Ken Goe of the Oregon has a good article today on how far the ducks have come:

EUGENE -- Rich Brooks was 35 in 1977 when he arrived in Eugene to take charge of a football team that hadn't been to the Rose Bowl since 1957, hadn't played in the postseason since Len Casanova took the Ducks to the 1963 Sun Bowl, and hadn't had a winning season since 1970.

To read the rest click on the title for a link to the entire Ken Goe report

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Oregon Ducks Power Ballad (1/5/11) - Video -

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Oregon Ducks Power Ballad (1/5/11) - Video -

If you haven't seen this click on the title for a link. Go Ducks....... Win the Day!

On the Road to the BCS

A friend of mine is heading out tomorrow to the BSC game in Glendale Arizona for the Championship of College Football to support his Oregon Ducks who have reached the precipice of greatness. Tomorrow he and his adult son will drive to Sacramento, California and on Saturday will take a Southwest Airlines flight to Phoenix, Arizona. They will meet up with my friends adult daughter who is flying in from Washington DC. They will stay at a Mesa motel with some other Duck friends of his and will all go to the Duck Pep Rally in Scottsdale on Sunday. Otis Day and the Knights from the movie "Animal House" filmed at the University of Oregon will perform (See post below) along with the Oregon Band etc. On Monday they will go to the game in Glendale. My friend and his son have tickets to the game and the daughter will try and get tickets at the game or will watch the game on TV at a nearby sports bar. After the game they will all celebrate all night before they have to catch their flights to go home. I sure hope they have a good time !!! BTW my friends wife will be watching the game on TV. My friend is lucky to have her as his spouse. He has promised to give me all the details of his trip when he gets back so I can post them here. He is sure a lucky guy.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

On the road to the BCS Championship

Click on the title above for a link to a fun blog of a Portland TV stations "Road Trip" in an RV from Portland to the BCS National Championship in Glendale Arizona. Go Ducks

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Ducks arrive at the doorstep of a new era with their move to gleaming Matthew Knight Arena

Ron Bellamy of the Eugene Register Guard newspaper has an interesting story on the University of Oregon's new "Matt Court" Basketball Arena. Here is an opening quote from his column:

Many challenges, over many years, faced the University of Oregon in its quest to build a new basketball arena.

Cost. Financing. Site location. Criticism on all those fronts from within the university and from the surrounding neighborhood.

Click on the title for a link.

Despite all the criticism describe by Ron Bellamy, and I might add that of a certain reporter for the Oregonian newspaper, the project would have never become reality without the dreams and actions of three men who should be acknowledged because with out them Oregon would still be playing it's basketball games in Mac Court.

They are,former AD and donor Pat Kilkenny, donor and Nike founder Phil Knight, and Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director and ramrod for the project, Jim Bartko. Every fan of Oregon Basketball should give a big "THANKS" to these men of vision. Long after the critics are forgotten the new arena will stand as a monument to their achievement.It's a building for which the entire state of Oregon can be proud. They have my thanks ! GO Ducks!

(Pat Kilkenny)

( Phil Knight)

(Jim Bartko)

These are men of action!

Phil Knight:
I hope it lasts for 80 years,” he said. “And that there are hundreds of thousands or millions of people coming out of that arena with smiles on their face.

The arena is named for Phil Knights son who died in his 30's in a scuba diving accident.

Monday, January 03, 2011


One week from tonight and I am already excited! The Oregon team arrived in Phoenix yesterday for a week of practices."This is a business trip".... no Disneyland type side trips this time. We aren't going for the honor of being in the BCS Championship we are going to WIN the game! Go Ducks..... Win the Day !

Sunday, January 02, 2011

MOVIE: True Grit (2010)****

**I love John Wayne in 1969's "True Grit" for which he won an Academy Award for "Best Actor". When I first heard they were remaking "True Grit" I couldn't believe they would remake a Classic. Was "Casablanca" next?

While John Wayne will never be equaled, Jeff Bridges does a nice job and this is a very good movie and it is nice to again see a well made Western that is not cynical or revisionist. I liked Kim Darby better in the original. Matt Damon does better than Glenn Campbell but not by as much as you would think. The music is also very good. If you liked the music in Ken Burns PBS documentary "The Civil War" you will like this score. The new "True Grit has great cinematography and more graphic violence. I was very skeptical about the movie when I heard it was going to be made by the Coen Brothers (Fargo) but they play this one straight and it works. This is more realistic but then our tastes has changed in 41 years. I hate it when we judge old movies by today's standards and tastes.

One added feature I liked about the new movie, as a Civil War buff, was the argument between Jeff Bridges as Roster who "rode" with Quantrill's Raiders and the Texas Ranger (Matt Damon) who served in the "Army of Northern Virgina".Quantreill was a ruthless southern gorilla fighter who burned Lawrence, Kansas and generally is credited with war atrocities.

In any case both movies have True Grit.

Film Critic Roger Ebert:
isn't Rooster Cogburn where Jeff Bridges started out 40 years ago? The first time I was aware of him was in “The Last Picture Show” (1971), where he and his friends went the local movie theater to see “Red River,” starring John Wayne.

(John Wayne in "Red River" 1948)

( Jeff Bridges in "The Last Picture Show" 1971)

Goodbye Old Friend

Bob Welch of the Eugene Register Guard has nice column today about the last men's basketball game in old Mac Court at the University of Oregon. Click on the title for a link.

I also have my memories of the place. I remember the basketball games where I screamed my head off for the Kamikaze Kids in the early 1970's after I came back to Oregon for law school after two years in the US Army. Going to the games was not a passive experience.I remember Bill Walton of UCLA coming out of the key and bending down trying to take the ball away from our short guards who were running out the clock in a victory over the hated Bruins. Some of my first dates with my wife were at those basketball games. As an undergraduate I also remember the games but even more the concerts and political events. I remember seeing and talking with Richard Nixon as he made his political comeback in 1968. I remember Bob Hope and Simon and Garfunkel . Every time I hear a certain Simon and Garfunkel song it takes me back to Mac Court and that concert. I also remember Peter Paul & Mary, John Denver, The Association, The 5th Dimension and The Carpenters.

I remember taking our middle school children to Mac Court for the first time for a basketball game and the many trips there since.

I remember watching South Medford beat Lake Oswego to win the 6 A State High School Basketball Championship.

As Bob Hope would say "Thanks for the Memories !"