Category Archives: Blog

The Buñuel Riots

376_Un-Chien-Andalou131222This article originally appeared in Brush off the Dust on November 22.

I’m a fan of history and film, and with recent riots hitting news (especially stupid riots) I was reminded of the most famous civil unrest at a movie theater, the Buñuel Riots. Rarely does a movie lead people to attack the screen (unless it’s with popcorn), but Lois Buñuel’s did that, twice. Yet, early film history is like all history, full of half truths and half lies. Since we’re all starting off unclear on what exactly happened, I’ll start with what I know so far. Continue reading

Skaneateles, a history of false etymology

I grew up on Skaneateles Lake, one of the cleanest public lakes in the world, Syracuse’s drinking water, and one of two locations where hydrofracking is banned in New York State. Other than the beautiful lake, the beautiful village, and the exemption, Skaneateles-ians have something extra special: a love for the word Skaneateles. It’s a weird love.

It certainly was not love at first pronunciation. It can produce anxiety in those new to the word, and most telemarketers give up without even trying. Those who try are bound to fail. Twice over the last two weeks I’ve heard it pronounced “ska-needles” and “skittles.” I applauded their effort and laughed in their faces. It’s “skan/ee/at/eh/liss” or “skinny-atlas.”

Another reason for our pride and love of “Skaneateles” is its meaning. Everyone agrees Skaneateles is an Iroquois word, and for good reason, it’s the truth. Most people agree that it means “long lake,” and for good reason, it’s the almost the truth (“long water” is more accurate). But my interest does not lie in the truth, but in the lies. The fictional origins of “Skaneateles” are more fun than the truth. Continue reading

Van Buren, the first worst president

van-burenTruman gets a bad rap. He dropped the atomic bombs, he failed to reign in Stalin, and led America into the Korean War. Nevertheless, he led America out of World War II and depression, saved Western Europe from Stalin, and promoted a wise domestic policy. There was little Truman did that FDR would have disapproved of. When Truman left office he had few supporters. Historians and octogenarians agree FDR is one of the greatest presidents. The Truman fan club is much smaller.

The same situation goes for Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. Van Buren kept many of Jackson’s cabinet and continued most of his policies. Yet, Andrew Jackson is on the ten dollar bill, and the best you can say for Van Buren is he was mentioned on Seinfeld. Has Van Buren’s legacy been as unjustly maligned as Truman?

No. Continue reading

Script Doctor: USA vs. Brazil

On July 10, 2011, USA played Brazil in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals. After an exciting first 90 minutes (including a few controversial calls), the score was tied 1-1. After scoring within two minutes of overtime by Marta (don’t forget to yell her name loud, reach to the sky and roll the “R”), Brazil holds on until the man-down USA team scores the tying goal with seconds remaining. USA wins in penalty kicks, and celebrations continue today. I must admit, their win still makes me smile.  Continue reading

Spielberg’s Dueling Movies

Steven Spielberg will be releasing two directorial efforts this December. One, “War Horse,” looks like a standard Spielberg drama. The trailer is filled with filled some jaw-dropping images, including a shot of a woman opening a door reflected on a horse’s eye (reminds me of a similar scene from “Citizen Kane” involving a snow globe). The trailer doesn’t say much, in fact, it plays more like a silent film, with only one character giving any dialogue over John Williams’ always-cinematic score.

Five days earlier, Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn” will come to theaters. Spielberg’s first animated film, it looks to be a twenty-year labor of love, though we’ll see how he and Janusz Kamiński deal in a new medium.

Two movies in one year (actually one week) might seem like a rare accomplishment, but it is not without precedent for Spielberg. Let’s look at the director’s previous bi-annual-release track-record, and maybe get an idea of how 2011 will fair. Continue reading

Cohan vs. Cohan

In 1904, George M. Cohan wrote the patriotic ” Yankee Doodle Boy.” In 1906 he followed up with ” You’re a Grand Old Flag.” For July 4th, I decided to review the eight-line choruses of each, comparing and contrasting. Continue reading

A to Zeppelin: Encouraging you to buy albums I’ve never heard

I do not own a single Led Zeppelin album, nor have I ever listened to one. All my “get the lead out” knowledge comes from radio. So I decided today to review all nine Led Zeppelin albums. How? Because I taped every song off the radio.

Led Zeppelin defined my 40 minute bus rides during my junior year in high school. This was thanks to a local station’s decision to play their entire catalog, A to Z, one Labor Day. Instead of spending the day at a barbecue or taking a last swim in the lake, I sat in my room with a stereo and five 90-minute cassette tapes. From “Achilles Last Stand” at noon to “Your Time is Gonna Come” at 7pm, I hit record, pause, and sometimes, a quick rewind. By the end of the day I owned hours of hard-rock Tolkien-inspired music. Continue reading

LBJ: First and Last, Anything but Average

Every six years Siena College releases a poll of the Best Presidents of all-time. Usually the race is between Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, but in 2010 Franklin Delano Roosevelt came in first. This might irritate some (like some historian friends of mine), but I want to look beyond the top and focus on the fascinating. Continue reading

Yay Barca, Nay Yanks

I broke my most important sports commandment. The five commandments are as follows:

  1. Always root for Syracuse.
  2. If Syracuse is not involved, root for an Upstate New York Team.
  3. If not Upstate team, root for Team America.
  4. If not any of these, and the teams are evenly matched, root for a good game.
  5. In all other games (99% of them), Always Root for the Underdog.

Then along came Barca. Continue reading

America: A Young Democracy

When did freedom ring? When did America live up to its ideals? Some would say it still hasn’t, given such things as anti-gay laws, anti-muslim laws, illegal immigration laws, and lack of prisoner rights (including, in some cases, the loss of the right to vote, indefinite detention, and, in a few notable cases, torture).

Yet for most citizens, there is a high level of freedom, and for our country a high level of democracy. But obviously this was not always the case, and certainly not solved by our independence in 1776.

Question: When did American become a full-fledged Democracy? Continue reading