My Top 22 Political Themed Movies

Combining my interest in both politics and movies, I list the top 22 Political Themed Movies of my lifetime.  The first seven on this list I would  categorize as “classics.” Some movies are serious, some are satire, a few comedic.

  1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton) 1941
  2. The Candidate (Robert Redford), Peter Boyle ) 1972
  3. Nicholas and Alexandra ( Michael Jayson, Lawrence Olivier) 1971
  4. The Best Man (Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson) 1964
  5. All The Kings Men (Broderick Crawford) 1949
  6. Advise and Consent (Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton) 1962
  7. The Last Hurrah (Spenser Tracy) 1958
  8. The Ides of March (George Clooney, Ryan Gosling) 2011
  9. Downfall (Hitler’s last days) (Alexandra Lara, Bruno Ganz) 2004
  10. Nixon (Anthony Hopkins) 1995
  11. Game Change (Julianne Moore, Woody Harrelson) 2012
  12. The Contender (Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges) 2000
  13. Seven Days in May (Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas) 1964
  14. Failsafe (Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau) 1964
  15. City Hall (Al Pacino, John Cusack) 1996
  16. Primary Colors (John Travolta, Emma Thompson) 1998
  17. The American President (Michael Douglas, Annette Bening) 1995
  18. Duck Soup (Marx Brothers) 1933
  19. V for Vendetta (Natalie Portman ) 2005
  20. Frost/Nixon (Frank Langella, Michael Sheen) 2008
  21. Vice (Christian Bale) 2018
  22. The Seduction of Joe Tynan (Alan Alda, Meryl Streep) 1979

My Basketball Books Hall of Fame

It’s March Madness time so I thought I would share a list of the top books that I have enjoyed about basketball. The first ten books represent my “top seeds” but let me offer at the outset that any basketball (or any other sport) books written by John Feinstein are Hall of Fame worthy.

  1. A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein
  2. The Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski
  3. The Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory and Honor in Division I College Basketball by John Feinstein 
  4. Basketball: A Love Story by Jackie MacMullan, Rafe Bartholomew, Dan Klores
  5. Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby
  6. The Hoops Whisperer by Idan Ravin
  7. Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman
  8. To the Hoop: Seasons of a Basketball Life by Ira Berkow
  9. A Sense Of Where You Are by John McPhee
  10. Dream Team by Jack McCallum
  11. A March to Madness: A View from the Floor in the Atlantic Coast Conference by John Feinstein 
  12. Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich by Mark Kriegel
  13. The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam
  14. The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith
  15. Showtime by Jeff Pearlman
  16. Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson
  17. The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy by Bill Simmons 
  18. Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four by John Feinstein 
  19. Unfinished Business: On and Off the Court With the 1990-91 Boston Celtics by Jack McCallum 
  20. The Back Roads to March: The Unsung, Unheralded, and Unknown Heroes of a College Basketball Season by John Feinstein

Best Books of 2020

This year I focused on books that I enjoyed and that I think my friends and other readers will. 

I have read 57 books so far in 2020. I am recommending eight books that I enjoyed. Four are novels, two are history related, one is a business tale and the other is a sports book about basketball. I also offer two honorable mention books that may be of interest.

Novels:

The End of October by Lawrence Wright

This novel is about a global pandemic and other disasters and was written and published before the Covid 19 pandemic and what’s most surprising is how the author has eerily forecasted many of the events and issues that we are experiencing now. Surprising ending!

The Splendid and The Vile by Erik Larson

Instructive story on how the English people handled “the Blitz”, the bombing of their cities, homes and businesses by the Germans. Story focuses on the leadership skills of Winston Churchill in maintaining morale and discipline. This story makes an interesting comparison between the conduct of the British people and Churchill in 1940 in combatting the Germans to the conduct of the American people and our leadership today combatting Covid 19.

Fleishman in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

I saw this book listed on so many “Best of 2019” book lists that I wanted to read it. I am very glad that I did. It was a very entertaining story from the first page till the end. The story centered around a man recently separated with two kids trying to figure out the rest of his life. The story starts with his ex-wife literally disappearing and leaving him with the care of his two kids. He also has to balance his career as a doctor around the care of his children and his now burgeoning social life. 

Talk To Me by John Kenney

Ted Grayson is a 59 year old network news anchor (think Tom Brokaw) who endures a string of catastrophic personal events: his wife has found a new love and is divorcing him, his daughter, Franny is estranged from him and he is losing his highly visible and well paid network job after suffering a verbal meltdown caught online at a woman employee. The meltdown exposes him to national public ridicule and drives him to deep depression. Great insights on managing aging, the media and trying to find public and personal redemption.

Business:

Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac

Well researched book. One of the best business management books available. Excellent storytelling by Mike Isaac. Plenty of business and personal lessons for would be and actual entrepreneurs. Fascinating look at how a business idea starts, gets funded, rolls out and tries to survive in a very competitive and regulated environment. Interesting background stories about the perks and peccadilloes of the executives and investors of the company.

History:

The Fall of Japan by William Craig

Explores the defeat of Japan in World War II. I had liked to think I was an armchair expert on World War II but I learned a number of things that I had not read in previous history books. (e.g. Even after two atom bombs dropped on their homeland, there was intense resistance to surrendering by the Japanese military.)

Evil Geniuses : The Unmaking of America by Kurt Andersen

This book is not a page turner. You are stopped nearly every page to digest what information the author has presented or to consider his analysis and thinking. It’s an analysis about how the rich got richer in America. It started in earnest during the Reagan years and grew into an unstoppable force supported by willing politicians, CEOs, journalists, conservative think tanks, investors and right wing economists. Some of the evil geniuses include Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, Koch Brothers, Grover Norquist, Donald Trump, John H. Sununu, Stephen Moore, Lewis Powell and more. Who suffers? The middle and lower classes…

Sports:

Basketball: A Love Story by Jackie MacMullan

I loved the book! If you are a basketball fan (and I am), you will find the opinions, nostalgia and recountings by just about every major figure in pro and college basketball to be fascinating. This book covers both men’s and women’s college and pro basketball. This book serves as the literary companion to the ESPN documentary.

Bonus Book Recommendations:

Bringing The Heat by Mark Bowden

This is one of the best books about the NFL I have read! What made it special was that it covered the 1992 season for the Philadelphia Eagles. A nostalgic journey as it covered a season that was 28 years ago. But I remember so many of the characters covered in this book including Buddy Ryan, Norman Braman, Seth Joyner, Jerome Brown, Randall Cunningham, Wes Hopkins, Reggie White etc. Lots of great anecdotes and candid insights into a very good Eagles team.

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer by Peter Elkind

Tragic story of a very promising politician and potential Presidential candidate. Smart guy with advanced family, education and financial pedigrees who became Governor of New York and loses it all after his involvement with a female prostitute. Tale reads like a political novel. Interesting to read the extent on how Spitzer tries to cover up his illicit activities.

2020: Winners and Losers

2020 has and continues to be a tumultous year politically, economically, financially and culturally. Here is a list of some winners and losers so far…

WinnersLosers

Karma

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

Wall Street

Netflix

Zoom

Fake News

NBA, NHL

Peloton

Mitch McConnell

Health Care and Essential Workers Covid Response

Dr. Jill Biden

Conspiracy theories

Philadelphia Union

Rudy Giuliani, Jerry Fallwell Jr.

Amazon warehouse workers

Main Street

AMC, Regal movie theaters

Commercial Real Estate

Science

NFL, MLB, NCAA

Planet Fitness, gyms

Donald Trump

U.S. Congress and Executive Branch Covid Response

Melania Trump

Reality

Philadelphia Eagles
2020 Winners and Losers

The Art of Reading

Reading is my addiction. It has been since I picked up a Hardy Boys book from the Pennsauken Library over 57 years ago. I estimate that I have read about 5500 books and that number continues to grow but at a slower pace from my youth. I try to limit my number of reading heavy books (over 350 pages) as I get older.

Reading is an intellectual diet. There are books that nourish one’s soul and brain. But there are also books that serve as junk food for the mind. They may not nourish one’s mind or soul but they do provide temporary substance or enjoyment.

Shown below is a brief profile of my reading tastes

  1. I prefer reading non fiction books over fiction.
  2. I generally do not read fiction books from women authors.
  3. I have no interest in poetry, science fiction and religious books.
  4. My favorite book topics are history, politics, philosophy, biographies, psychology, sports, business, economics, spy and detective novels.
  5. I used to read self help books and books on how to improve business results in your career but I have outlived their usefulness.
  6. I tend to avoid books authored by politicians and celebrities.
  7. I read one book at at time.
  8. I rarely re-read an entire book.
  9. My favorite place to read is the sun porch on my house.
  10. I don’t multi-task as I read. No TV or music.
  11. Generally if a book does not hold my attention or interest in the first 20-30 pages, I will put it down.
  12. My best sources of finding new reading material that I may have an interest include: The New York Times Sunday Book Review section, Kirkus reviews, Book TV and interviews with authors on news shows and television.
  13. Generally when I target a book that I have interest, I look to borrow the book from my town library. If I can’t find it in my town library, I will probably buy it from Amazon Kindle. If I have a discount coupon from Barnes and Noble, I may purchase  a hardcover or paperback, if it is cost efficient.
  14. If I own a book, I may underline sentences and paragraphs that I may wish to reference or remember later.
  15. I look up the defintion of words in a book that I do not know the meaning.
  16. I use Goodreads to catalog and archive the books I read, when I read them and offer a brief review and rating.

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Last 30 books that I have read

Best of South Jersey/Philadelphia

Image by AxxLcc

Philadelphia Magazine usually publishes a “Best of list” of restaurants, bakeries, places to visit, celebrities etc. that focuses on Center City and the outlying Pennsylvania suburbs. My list is very provincial, mostly places in Camden and Burlington counties. It only reflects my tastes and I have very pedestrian tastes so buyer/reader beware! For amusement purposes only…

Best Breakfast Restaurants: 1. Amy’s Omelette House, Cherry Hill; 2. First Watch Cherry Hill; 3. Perkins, Moorestown NJ

Best Lunch Restaurants: 1. Tre Famiglia, Haddonfield 2. Dooneys, Voorhees; 3. Zoe’s Cherry Hill and Moorestown

Best Bar Food: Blue Monkey, Merchantville

Best Chain Restaurants: 1. Maggiano’s; 2. Brio’s; 3. Olive Garden

Best Diner: 1. Ponzio’s, Cherry Hill; 2. Silver Diner Cherry Hill

Best Buffalo Wings: Pronto, Merchantville

Best Milkshakes: 1. My wife’s; 2. Maple Shade Custard Stand

Best Pizza: 1. Tacconelli’s Maple Shade; 2. Manco and Manco, Ocean City; 3. Bertucci’s, Moorestown

Best Cheeseburger: 1. Habit Burger, Cherry Hill; 2. Five Guys, Cinnaminson

Best French Fries: 1. Five Guys, Cinnaminson; 2. McDonalds, Cinnaminson

Best Hoagies: 1. Jersey Mike’s, Cinnaminson 2. DiPascale’s at Meadowbrook, Pennsauken

Best Return on Investment: Purchase of Sunday New York Times on Kindle for $.99

Best Current Big 5 Coach: Jay Wright, Villanova

Best Big Five Coach Ever: Jay Wright, Villanova

Best Current Big Five Player Not Playing for Villanova: Ryan Daly, St Joseph’s

Best Current Philadelphia Sports Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Best Current Philadelphia 76er Player: Ben Simmons

Best Ever Philadelphia 76er Player: 1. Wilt Chamberlain; 2. Julius Erving

Best Philly Broadcaster All Time: 1. Harry Kalas; 2. Gene Hart; 3. Bill Campbell

Best Sports Event No Longer in Philadelphia: U.S. Pro Indoor Tennis Tournament

Current Sports Event that’s not like it use to be: Big 5 Palestra basketball games

Best Athletes from Willingboro NJ: 1. Carl Lewis; 2. Gino Marella (Gorilla Monsoon-WWE); 3. Ken Caldwell

Best Place to Play Pickleball: Anyplace where my friends are currently playing

12 Things That No Longer Interest Me

As one gets older, one tends to downsize interests, activities and that one pursued or took part in throughout their life. Here is an initial list of things that were important earlier in my life but not so much now…

  1. Advertising: As my need to buy and own things lessen so is my interest in advertising or sales pitches. I hate commercials on TV and ads when I’m watching something on Youtube.
  2. Gossip: I’ve pretty much lost the ability to be shocked even surprised by the behavior of people especially celebrities, athletes and politicians.
  3. Long books and articles: I don’t have the same mental stamina that I had years ago. I tend to avoid books over 300 pages.
  4. Snow since I don’t go to school and I don’t have to drive to go to work, snow has become largely irrelevant except when I have to shovel it
  5. Winning At Contests Or Competition: When I play pickleball, I can’t tell you what my wins and losses were that day. My ultimate criteria is whether I had fun.
  6. Making New Year’s Resolutions While there are things I need to improve, I don’t need to formalize or plan how to do it.
  7. Diets: Too old, too late for me to discipline my taste buds and eating habits.
  8. Local Sports Talk Radio: The dumbest things ever said are mentioned on political social media sites and sports talk radio shows.
  9. Expensive Meals: A great tasting pizza can blow me away more than the priciest lobster. Dining out is the opportunity to socialize and connect with friends. Food is often incidental.
  10. Attending professional sporting events: With the exception of high school sports, I have lost interest in attending pro and college football, baseball and basketball games at the various venues. No interest in paying for parking and squeezing my big butt into an expensive seat when I could be comfortable at home watching the game.
  11. Ego: I no longer feel the need to impress. I don’t need to worry about what people think of me. I feel more authentic, more comfortable with who I am.
  12. Wealth: Health and time are more important than money. One always needs money but if your health is bad and you are not enjoying time due to pain, loneliness, boredom or infirmity, your life is poor.  You can’t buy contentment.