The Gold Doubloons

I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t want to stay in the hotel room. If I’m in a foreign country I want to be out and about, eating up the scenery, drinking up the difference, because it won’t be long before I’m back home.

So after Stuart took me on the Van Morrison tour, I had him drop me at the Ulster Museum.

Like I said, I could live in a museum. I love to learn. I love to be taken away. I love to marinate in what once was.

Even though it was quarter to four and the museum closed at five.

But it turned out there was no admission fee and I was there to see the exhibit on the Troubles and I could probably cover that so I dove in.

But I was overloaded. That’s the problem with travel, especially overseas, you’re tired and your heart says carry on but your brain says no go and all the words run together and you’re chalking up miles, but the experience is nearly worthless.

Furthermore, the Troubles exhibit wasn’t linear. I want to start at the beginning and move forward. The only problem being sometimes you don’t get to the end or you have to rush but you never really know what’s important, or most important.

And after finishing the Troubles I climbed the stairs to discover…

An exhibit on the industrial revolution that had been so much better done at the Titanic Museum. More in depth with better commentary. Not all museums are created equal, and not all have descriptions that are decipherable.

So I wandered out into the atrium and ended up in a room about 1916, World War 1.

Have you been to the Imperial War Museum in London? Put it on your list, but after the Churchill War Rooms. Neither of them rate number one in the guidebooks, but both are at the toppermost in my world. The War Rooms were underground just barely and you learn so much about Churchill, a complicated gent who saved democracy, the gravitas is palpable. You wonder what the inhabitants did after the war. When their lives were no longer on the line. That’s the conundrum, when you can die you never feel more alive. And it’s not only adrenaline junkies who thrive on this.

As for the Imperial War Museum… They’ve got a V-2 rocket in the main hall, when you enter. You know, the kind that the Germans dropped on London.

And there’s an incredible concentration camp exhibit, but in the bowels of the building there’s a facsimile of trench warfare. We forget how combat has progressed yet stayed the same. As in there’s so much new technology, airplanes became a factor in World War I, but the essence of warfare stays identical, senseless dying as generals try to obtain land.

And in the 1916 exhibit they had a machine gun. Which was used to mow down the enemy. I got scared just looking at it.

And when I exited the exhibit I entered the 1500s.

Now that seems a long time ago, five hundred years, half a millennium. But as I started to read I stopped, because it all seemed so modern.

You see we think everybody before us lived in the Dark Ages. But this is not true. They were positively up to date, the people after us are gonna laugh at our lifestyle. I remember marveling that my mother grew up without television (my father never watched the box), but I grew up without internet. And the concept of having a computer in one’s palm seems so revolutionary. A hundred years from now? Not so much.

So I’m breezing along, thinking the museum’s gonna close soon anyway, and I can get released after paying my dues, when I encounter a whole exhibit on the Spanish Armada.

Didn’t we study that in the fifth grade?

To say I don’t remember much…the truth is I don’t remember anything at all. And when I got to the end and read why the British succeeded and the Spanish failed I was suddenly intrigued and went back to the beginning.

Spain had a veritable navy, 130 ships. How’d they pay for that, who manned them?

As for England… Their fleet wasn’t as big and their ships were smaller and therefore more nimble, which turned out to be a huge advantage.

Now the reason they had this exhibit at the Ulster was because…

After being beaten, licking their wounds, what was left of the Armada decided to return to Spain with its tail between its legs via the North Atlantic, they sailed around Ireland and…

Disaster. The maps were bad…don’t take Google and Waze for granted. Scurvy was rampant, they didn’t know they needed vitamin C. And the boats were battered and the weather was horrible and…

Ships were blown ashore and 5,000 men died and…

History was coming alive.

But this was all maps and words, and after finishing them I went to the display cases.

Turns out they found a ship, in the last century. Kinda like the Titanic but with a lot less publicity. And what they excavated…

It wasn’t like today, where only the poor and lower classes go into the military. The rich went too. And they brought their jewelry with them. If you were wealthy, you wore a gold chain around your neck.

They had two of them. Worn by the sailors nearly half a millennium ago. How cool is that?

But then I saw these quasi-round gold and silver disks. And the description told me…

These were gold and silver doubloons. That the rich took their money with them.

Which had my head spinning. They’re on these barely maneuverable (manoeuvrable?) ships far from home dressed up like dandies and they’re carrying their cash, which anybody could steal, status was everything, even on this ship long ago. And there was social stratification, he with the cash lived better.

And I’m thinking it’s so long ago and so different.

But then I saw the outfit of someone from the same era, a peasant, the clothes were found in a bog that preserved them, and they were leather and looked like something out of “Robin Hood,” although riven with patched holes and I realized…

They were just like you and me.

And then the voice came over the intercom telling me it was time to go, but…

I still can’t get the image of the gold doubloons out of my head. Cash money, just sitting there.

The gold and silver doubloons

The Warren Buffett Documentary

Becoming Warren Buffett

They broke the mold.

You watch these documentaries so you can be like them, pick up little tips that will help you on the path to success. But watching this film you realize Buffett is the other, a sui generis businessman who in many ways is unique yet ultimately is no different from you and me.

As in we’re people on the planet in America.

Oh, it could be much worse. We could live in a third world country. A war-torn nation. But we were lucky enough to be born in the U.S.A. with a modicum of opportunity and…

This is not about getting ahead, this is about living.

Used to be almost no one was rich and famous. It was kind of like being an astronaut, everybody knew their name but there were very few of them. But the internet has flipped the game and reality TV gives us the impression if we just want it bad enough, we can be known too. And if we cut corners, screw a few people over, we can become rich too. But most of us never do. Most of us are honest and forthright and would never cross anybody. We’re offended that others do. We are like Warren Buffett.

So he grew up in Omaha. I’ve been there, a long time ago, on my way back from Philmont, in a bus, with 39 other Boy Scouts. And one thing was for sure, it was far away. You can get there by plane these days, something we could not afford, but really Omaha is now like everywhere else, except maybe New York and L.A. As in it’s a backwater. Not as much as it used to be, cable TV and the aforementioned internet go everywhere, but the truth is most of us are cornpone outsiders doing our best to get along. There’s a cadre of hipsters telling us they’re better than we are, and a bunch of hucksters promoting themselves, while we sit on the sidelines and wonder where we’re going.

Where are you going?

Warren imparts a number of lessons in this movie. And they’re good ones. But the truth is you’ve got to make your own map, decide where you want to go. And in an ever more difficult world where money is everything, that’s hard to do, especially since so many walks of life barely pay the bills. It’s one thing to be poor and uneducated, it’s quite another to be a college graduate and walk into the wilderness on a journey that no one is paying attention to that has no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Used to be that was a worthwhile excursion, but now it’s seen as a waste.

But Buffett doesn’t care about the rules. That’s another thing about America, everybody’s so worried about what others think of them. They’re afraid to be unique. Berkshire Hathaway has no general counsel, doesn’t speak to analysts and all we hear from public companies is what a pain in the ass it is to comply and report.

Maybe not, if you’re in it for the long haul.

And speaking of the long haul, Warren’s wife abandoned him. She just couldn’t take it anymore. He was too removed. So you think money will solve all your problems but…

So you’re watching this flick and finding it incredibly enjoyable. Because it’s not what it appears. You know that without being so rich no one would care, and that they’re gonna put Buffett on a pedestal and make you feel inadequate. But making money is just his work, and he’s a nice loner with as many issues as you and me, maybe more.

So we’ve got the titans of industry, who flaunt their wealth, telling us they’re better than we are. That’s one thing that’s irritating, all the rich people who act like they got tablets from God and know better when the truth is they don’t.

And Warren was lucky he had an inspiring father, not all of us possess one.

But his first wife changed not only his politics, but his outlook on life in so many ways.

But you couldn’t really change him. A guy who skipped a grade but then got C’s when the family moved to D.C. and the teachers were terrible.

We’re all looking for stimulation, we’re all looking for excitement, it’s just that Warren Buffett found his in money.

Find yours. And know that no one cares what you do and nobody will be remembered. We’re all just regular Janes and Joes, nobody is that special, there are 24 hours in a day, how are you gonna kill them?

Larry Wilmore On Bill Maher

MILO Confronts the Panel | Overtime with Bill Maher (HBO)

If Jimmy Carter is our best ex-President…

Larry Wilmore is our best ex-talk show host.

I’m a fan of Jon Stewart but I rarely watched the “Daily Show.” However I’m addicted to John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight,” wherein the British comedian speaks truth to power via research, a sharp contrast to the opinions bloviated on all the supposed hard news stations. I do believe these late night news/comedy programs have great influence. Sure, not everybody watches them, but we’re all looking for gurus, we’re all looking for explanations, and in a world where all the straight news outlets got it wrong and we’ve lost faith in the purveyors, why not believe in comedians who seem closer to you and me and are not busy cozying up to elected officials, thinking access is everything. Remember when musicians were outsiders? Now that role is being played by comedians. And never forget, it was a quip at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner that got Trump to run. Nothing hurts more than a joke that hits home. The harder you laugh, the truer it is.

So, if Oliver could break out from the “Daily Show,” couldn’t Wilmore?

Can’t say I watched him much, but he was too busy being funny.

He wasn’t funny on Bill Maher’s program.

Obama was too busy being Jackie Robinson, so fearful of being the angry black man that he didn’t stand up and get intense when he should have. In light of the ascendance of Bernie Sanders and the election of Donald Trump we must now acknowledge we live in a new era where people can handle both the truth and edge. Of course, Trump trades in subterfuge, but his acolytes believe it, and despite committing one faux pas after another, touching the third rail again and again, he won.

If you watched last Friday’s “Real Time” you saw that Wilmore was not champing at the bit. He waited for the holes and inserted well-reasoned truth in a show that’s often too nice, as if we’re all friends here and anybody living in Trump’s America knows we are not, we are utterly divided.

It was like Wilmore was chucking a spear into a Girl Scout camp.

Oops, that’s an Al Campanis moment. I can’t put “spear” and a black man in the same sentence. But Trump proved I can. But the point is we’re so busy trying not to offend that we rarely speak the truth.

Wilmore spoke the truth to Milo Yiannopolous.

Bill Maher is taking a victory lap, saying he was the catalyst for Milo’s demise. I believe he’s overstating the case. For Bill didn’t challenge him the way…

Larry Wilmore did.

It’s just that some people are stars and some people are not. And when someone fails publicly we believe they do not have it, that something extra that allows you to succeed on television. But the truth is Larry Wilmore was miscast, he was so busy trying to be late night funny on Comedy Central that he buried his essence, which is to be razor sharp, chucking that spear.

He uses the F-word and takes down Milo so efficiently all you can do is sit there and smile. End of story. Case closed.

One moment can turn you into a star.

It happened to Amy Schumer, roasting Charlie Sheen.

And it happened to Larry Wilmore Friday night.

I just finished reading “Norwegian By Night,” by Derek B. Miller. Written in English but originally published in Norwegian, there’s a lot of wisdom in this genre book, and none struck me more than the following:

“‘I remember when Harry James hit that C note above high C at Carnegie Hall in 1938. It was Benny Goodman’s orchestra. No one was sure if jazz deserved that level of respectability – if those musicians were serious enough to deserve Carnegie Hall. And then that one note. The city went wild.'”

There you have it. Your brilliance can shine and you can close somebody instantly.

I was closed by Larry Wilmore Friday night. He deserves another chance. He needs to be used properly. As the voice of wisdom and reason. We need someone serious who does not appear biased, who has no dog in the hunt, who can throw down lightning and stop us in our tracks with their veracity. Someone who can wow us and entertain us at the same time. Someone who can wait his turn, but can kill ’em when he gets the opportunity.

Furthermore, he looks just like my father, it’s uncanny.

P.S. Be sure to hang in with this clip to 4:16, where Larry tells Milo to go…

The Oscars

Who cares?

How did America’s go-to awards show, the creme de la creme, lose touch with its audience?

Let’s start with the movies themselves. Not only is the human touch that built Hollywood purveyed now on television, but the fantasy/superhero flicks that are made to play around the world are not honored by the Academy. It’d be like having a kid go to community college but attending graduation at Harvard, the disconnect is palpable.

But the media cannot stop trumpeting the story. You’d think the L.A. “Times” was on the studios’ payroll. But this has been the narrative for the past fifteen years, the media controlled by baby boomers trumpets old paradigms while the youngsters disconnect and then the media itself loses control. It happened in politics and it’s happening in culture. Yesterday the “Wall Street Journal” had a feature on the failure of NASCAR, TV ratings have nearly halved, they’re down 45% in a decade. Wasn’t rednecks driving around in a circle supposed to be the future of sports? But only half of 18 year olds now get a driver’s license and it won’t be long before no one drives themselves at all, but the wankers in Hollywood still think it’s about acquiring status iron, busy tooting around in their Teslas telling us how green they are.

That’s another disconnect. The stars used to be royalty we paid fealty to. Now they’re two-dimensional icons we make fun of. And our country is so divided that when Meryl Streep weighs in on the state of our nation, half the country laughs and refutes her message. How did we get here?

This resembles nothing so much as the youthquake of the sixties, wherein parents lost touch with their children who ultimately took over the culture. And that was a good thing, the late sixties and seventies were not only a heyday for music, they were the last golden era in film, before it became about the blockbuster.

But the dirty little secret is there’s not that much money in film anymore.

Quick, name the heads of the studios! Hell, can you even name the studios themselves?

I doubt it.

But you used to.

Used to be the studio chiefs were lords of Tinseltown. Today that honor goes to Evan Spiegel of Snapchat, whose IPO may be overvalued, but is gonna mint more millionaires than the movie business has in eons.

As for the agencies that fed off the studio system…

They too have detached. CAA and WME are deep into sports. There’s just not that much  money in filmed entertainment these days. Not that we’re so sure about the monetization of YouTube, but we do know there’s something fresh on the Google service that’s missing from filmdom.

Remember when going to the movies was de rigueur?

Remember when you had to go in order to function in the culture, when films were the main topic of conversation amongst your peers?

Now people talk about television. But mostly they talk about themselves, on social media.

As for going to the theatre…

In an on demand culture who wants to show up at an appointed time and overpay to endure twenty minutes of commercials, talking and texting people and crying babies? Certainly not me.

Nobody has seen these flicks. This is like watching the World Series unaware of the teams. Where’s the drama in that, when you’ve got no investment?

No wonder ratings keep sinking.

But people will tune in. To see the dresses, for the spectacle.

Because the truth is in today’s Tower of Babel society we’re looking for unification, we’re looking to connect, be a member of the group. So, if we watch the show we can bitch about it with our friends, be part of the discussion, but this has nothing to do with the movies themselves.

And the show itself is so disconnected from reality that you’ve got to laugh. It’s a mash note to an industry that’s mired in the last century. Sure, there’s nothing like going to see a great movie in a dark theatre, but how many of those are there?

Not many.

The vaunted “La La Land”… Some of the worst buzz on the planet. Rarely does it get a ringing endorsement from the hoi polloi, they shrug their shoulders and say it’s o.k. as Hollywood continues to lose credibility. Because when your must-see is not, it’s hard to get people out for the next flick.

And then there’s the broken business model. Movies think they’re different, that they’re immune. But in an attention economy all the hype is front-loaded for the theatrical release, which few attend, and then months later the VOD and paid streaming releases occur. To tell you the truth, if I could pay and see it right away I’d be much more interested the movies, I’d check more out. Not only is the hype fresh and the desire stoked, it allows me to be part of the conversation, as stated above, it allows me to belong.

But no, that can’t happen. You’ve got to save the business model. Theatres must be protected. EVERYTHING should be day and date, for the health of the industry itself. Steve Jobs moved music into the twenty first century and then Daniel Ek cemented the modern paradigm whereas movies have no solutions whatsoever. It’s not only about the business model, but maintaining pricing, when the truth is most of these flicks are worthless anyway.

We’re hungry for story, we’re hungry for humanity, which Hollywood once specialized in. But the studios jumped the track, because there’s not enough money in not only drama, but comedy. Nobody wants bunts, everybody wants home runs, but the end result is more strikeouts. Come on, look at the grosses on Monday, one flick wins and the rest lose, this is a business?

So I’m flabbergasted when I see endless stories about the host and the parties and the handicapping.

Yes, I cared…

IN THE SEVENTIES!

Used to be I went to a party and filled out my ballot, even in the eighties.

The last two years I’ve been on the road and missed all but ten minutes of each program and the truth is I didn’t miss a thing. I felt no loss. There’s no FOMO with the Oscars.

So, they’ll continue to fade away. Because the Academy, the whole industry, does not understand the concept of disruption. Nor Clayton Christensen’s theory that you’ve got to start with a clean sheet of paper, making little money, but then the new enterprise becomes good enough and all the cash ends up there.

Which is what YouTube and social media are all about.

Kids don’t want to be actors on the big screen, they want to be stars on the handset. And they’re very savvy. They know how much PewDiePie makes, and they see him in control of his own destiny as opposed to being bossed around by the man.

There’s your generation gap right there.

Kids don’t care about the Oscars. And this bodes poorly for the show. Kinda like Cadillac, which was eclipsed by not only Mercedes-Benz and BMW, but Lexus, never mind Lincoln, which can’t convince anybody under fifty to buy one.

Sure, this is about the Oscars, but even more this is about our society!

We want it now at a cheap price. We want to participate. We want to share.

And the movie business delivers on none of those desires.

So when you’re sitting at home watching HBO instead, when you turn on the TV the next day and see all the fawning on the morning shows, don’t think you’ve been left out. It’s they who are out of the picture, they who are out of the loop. They’re the last bastions of a dying economy, hawking faded products.

The first decade of this century was about hardware, that’s where the technological breakthroughs were evidenced.

Now it’s about software.

What’s happening on your mobile device is much more exciting, much more riveting than anything that’s happening in the theatre.

You can see it.

But Hollywood and the media are blind.