Soundtracks of My Life

Most movies, documentaries and TV shows skillfully incorporate musical soundtracks to highten various scenes or stages in a story. If I made a movie about my life, here are the songs I would include as the soundtrack.

Solitary Man Neil Diamond (Title Theme for my Life—fatherless boy goes it alone)

You Belong to the City Glenn Frey (growing up in Camden)

What’s New Pussycat? Tom Jones (My lullaby to get my sister Monica to sleep and not cry when she was a baby.

Break My Stride Matthew Wilder (High school days)

I Can’t Stop Dancing Archie Bell and the Drills (playing basketball)

Love Her Madly The Doors (college dorm life)

Ohio Neil Young (Vietnam politics)

Superstar The Carpenters (first love, lost love)

Honey Please Can’t Ya See Barry White (discos and trying to find a girlfriend)

Christine Ben Jelen (girlfriend and wife found)

You Take My Heart Away Bill Conti (wedding)

Theme from Rocky (running, tennis, basketball)

She Believes in Me Kenny Rogers (wife’s faith in me as I struggle)

I See Your Smile Gloria Estefan (Sandra’s death)

Running Down a Dream Tom Petty (career struggles)

The Lonely Bull Herb Alpert (going it alone)

As Good as I Once Was Toby Keith (getting older and accepting limits)

I Am a Rock Simon and Garfunkel (protecting myself from hurt and disappointment)

The Greatest Love of All George Benson (self reliance)

One Moment in Time Whitney Houston (achieving a dream)

16 Things to Do to Be as Smart as Me

  1. Listen to the Pivot podcast with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway for commentary on business, culture, tech and politics.
  2. Read Maureen Dowd (New York Times)
  3. Watch a Chris Wallace interview. (The only thing worth watching on Fox News)
  4. View a White House press briefing by Jen Psaki.
  5. Read tweets from John Pavlovitz.
  6. Watch “New Rules” by Bill Maher (Politically Incorrect HBO)
  7. View Doonesbury cartoon on Sunday morning.
  8. View tech interviews by Emily Chang.
  9. Read posts on business, marketing, tech and entrepreneurship from Seth Godin daily (seths.blog)
  10. Listen to commentary from Fareed Zakaria.(CNN on Sundays)
  11. Watch PTI for sports commentary. (ESPN)
  12. Listen to Paul Finebaum for best insights into college football.
  13. Listen to first 15 minutes of Colin Cowherd show for his sports commentary on professional sports. (FS1)
  14. Listen to economic and business insights of Andrew Ross Sorkin (CNBC)
  15. Watch past Christopher Hitchens debates, conversations and discussions about politics, religion, history and culture found on YouTube.
  16. View online Yale course “Financial Markets” by Professor Robert Shiller found on Yale Courses on YouTube.

Senescence: Round 4

A shower of passing thoughts and thunderous ruminations…

With apologies to Rodney, five jobs where you don’t get any respect: 

  1. Epidemiologist 
  2. Eagles football coach
  3. Governor of a largely populated state
  4. New host of Jeopardy
  5. 44th U.S. President

Summer is coming to a close. I won’t miss the heat, the humidity or the mosquitos. I will miss the early dawn sunrises and the late dusk sundowns.

On deeper reflection, I have lived through 70 summers, how many summers do I have left to enjoy?

The French showed more resistance in 1940 to the German invasion of their country than the anti-vaxxers have demonstrated to the invasion of covid in the United States.

Long running TV Talk Show in the 1960’s and 70’s that would not last 13 weeks today: Dick Cavett.(That’s no reflection on Cavett, it’s a reflection of our culture and the limited sophistication and education of today’s audiences).

RIP Markie Post. She was a beautiful distraction on one of my favorite comedies in the 1980s, Night Court.

Celebrity whose death affected me the most? John Lennon

Current Five Overrated Sports People and Events

  1. Pickleball ratings
  2. NBA Draft
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. The Process (not Embiid but the tanking by the 76ers)
  5. Sports Talk Shows (worst show is Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharp)

While I enjoyed the Gold medal victories of the U.S. Men and Women’s Basketball Teams in the Olympics, I became a fan of the 3 on 3 Women’s Basketball competition (also won by the U.S.)

Two late Summer 2021 Book Recommendations:

  1. The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis
  2. The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, A Temptation and The Longest Night of the Second World War by Malcolm Gladwell

Another 1970 high school classmate passed away recently. My class had 481 students. Based on what I know, approximately 10% of my class has passed away in the 50 years since graduation. Given our stage in life now, it’s possible that 50% of us will die within the next 10 years.

Health, opportunity and time. The older we are, the less certain and smaller window to take advantage of them.

With possible apologies to W.C. Fields, I’d rather be living in Philadelphia than anywhere in Florida.

Greatest U.S. Presidents Survey

C-Span conducted a Presidential Historians Survey 2021. They judged Presidents based on the following criteria: 1. Public Persuasion, 2. Crisis Leadership, 3. Economic Management, 4. Moral Authority, 5. International Relations, 6. Administrative Skills, 7. Relations with Congress, 8. Vision, 9. Pursued Equal Justice for All, and 10. Performance within Context of Times.

My list is a small re-shuffling of the list. I am a huge admirer of FDR who pulled the U.S. from a depression, a world war and initiated a variety of badly needed social programs. My recent readings of books regarding the Truman presidency has moved him up from my previous lists.

Donald Trump is listed in the bottom four of the survey only ahead of James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Franklin Pierce. On my list, he would be our worst President just based on his actions of 1/6/2021.

C-span Presidential HistoriansEric Amateur Historian
1. Abraham Lincoln1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt3. George Washington
4. Theodore Roosevelt4. Harry Truman
5. Dwight Eisenhower5. Thomas Jefferson
6. Harry Truman6. Theodore Roosevelt
7. Thomas Jefferson7. John F. Kennedy
8. John F. Kennedy8. Barack Obama
9. Ronald Reagan9. Dwight Eisenhower
10. Barack Obama10. Ronald Reagan

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