Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Eisenhower Years

I’ve finished 3 books on President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mandate for Change and  Waging Peace are Ike’s memoirs of his first and second Presidential terms, respectively.  Going Home to Glory is the story of Ike’s final eight years of life, as told by his grandson David Eisenhower, along with his wife Julie Nixon Eisenhower. 

The two White House memoirs are very dry and told in a strictly factual, unemotional fashion. I still adored them, and finished with a great appreciation for a President overshadowed by the unwarranted adoration for his successor (JFK). Kennedy and his supporters campaigned on the idea that the Eisenhower era was stagnant and parochial, an erroneous assertion that survives to this day.  The truth is far different.

Here was a President who kept the peace in the face of near constant Soviet and Chinese provocation, while simultaneously expanding the ring of ‘containment’ that would eventually break the USSR;  a President who balanced the budget multiple times, at times refusing to cut taxes to do so, and led America to unparalleled prosperity ; a President who included women in his Cabinet and sent federal troops in to desegregate Little Rock schools; a President who warned that any dollar spent on defense above the level of military adequacy was a dollar misspent, and had the military reputation to enforce that doctrine; a President who refused to intervene in Vietnam barring a coalition effort; a President convinced that aiding Latin America and Africa was not only moral but a means of fighting the Cold War; a President who valued bipartisanship and the UN, advocated for a “United States of Europe”, and expanded the reach of social security; but also a President who believed in self-determination, the value of duty, limited Federal intervention, free markets and the moral greatness of America.

His Presidency deserves a second look.

Their contents deserve an A, but given the dull style I can only grade these two a B.

Going Home to Glory begins with the conclusion of his administration and ends with his death in 1969. book is the opposite of his Grandfather’s stylistically; it is warm and endearing and a joy to read. Grade: A.
Also read so far this year: Belles on their Toes by Frank B Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

 and The Rise of Ransom City by Felix Gilman.

I’d rate the former a B- and the latter a well served A. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

A few reviews

Total Recall is a remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie of the same name, and in my opinion its far inferior to the original. I won’t argue that Quaid’s angst was much more believable in Farrell’s hands up to the point where he visited ‘Rekall’, but from that point on it was your standard-issue shoot ‘em up.  The greatest gaffe, in my opinion (other than Jessica Biel’s stilted ‘acting’) was their complete abandonment of the “is it real, or is it recall?” idea that permeated the original right up to the finish. In this one, the ambiguity was all but ignored from the moment he sat in the chair. The way they played it, I’d say it was pretty darn obvious this was all just a little vacation in Quaid’s head (a few friends thought the opposite, so maybe I’m full of it.)

Grade: C-

DC Cupcakes was a reality show centered on the two sisters who run Georgetown Cupcakes in the nation’s capitol. It is mindless fluff, and worst of all the acting is so terrible you lose all pretense of this being a ‘reality show’.

Katherine is hot tho’.

Grade : C-

On the other hand, Mindy Kaling’s new sitcom The Mindy Project is smart, funny, and a pleasure to watch.  Tune in Tuesday’s on Fox.

Grade: A

Frankenweenie is a stop motion animation movie by Tim Burton.  When I saw this with the family I was worried the kids would rebel because it’s in black and white, but happily they loved it. It’s the story of a boy whose beloved dog dies and is brought back to life ala Frankenstein’s monster, but there’s nothing monstrous about this pooch.  Soon the secret is out, however, and the safety of the entire town is threatened.
I loved the movie. Sweet and funny, with plenty of nods to Mary Shelley’s novel and the film adaptations of it, this was a hoot.

Grade: A