Wednesday, January 25, 2012

From Obama to Posada to the Oscars

*Listened to the State of the Union address driving back from New York City last night. Lots of applause. If you didn't know better, you'd have thought it was coming from the entire House chamber. The partisan divide wasn't evident unless you watched the highlights.

*Sure it was a campaign speech as much as a State of the Union address. All the incumbent presidents to it in the year they're seeking re-election. Whatever you want to call it, it was well-crafted and skillfully delivered. If Newt Gingrich does get the GOP nomination, President Obama ought to take him up on those seven three-hour debates. Obama will more than hold his own.

*Finally bit the bullet the other night after years of muttering under my breath and turned from NBC's Brian Williams to CBS' Scott Pelley for the evening news. Pelley quickly introduces stories and correspondents and gets out of the way. Williams takes too much timing setting up the stories as if he's getting paid by the word. I've been watching NBC News for decades. I'll now watch on weekends when the solid Lester Holt is in the anchor chair. I'll catch Brian Williams when he's on Letterman, where his story telling and sense of humor are better suited.

*Jorge Posada: solid player, good numbers, winning athlete. Hall of Famer? Not quite. Same with Bernie Williams and Andy Pettitte. (Going back a bit more, ditto Don Mattingly.) Not a knock on them to say the closest they'll get to Cooperstown is when they attend the induction ceremonies for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. (By the way, Joe Torre will likely get in as a manager, but I'd have long ago elected him as a player.)

*New presidents often are judged by their success in the first 100 days. Following that measurement, it's worth pointing out that Kingston's new mayor, Shayne Gallo, is off to an impressive start in the first 25 days.

*As always, lots of deserving people didn't get Oscar nominations. Here are my Top 2:
Patton Oswalt of "Young Adult" (an oft-mentioned name) and Ann Morgan Guilbert in "Please Give". Who? She played the cranky, aging grandma in that film. But she's best known by people of a certain age as "Millie" in the old Dick Van Dyke Show. If you haven't seen "Please Give" (and I'm guessing that's most of you), seek it out. Other wonderful actors in the cast include Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet. (Apologies if I'm off a year on this movie. If so, Ann Morgan Guilbert was snubbed last year!)

*By the way, if you haven't caught up to "Shameless" on Showtime, you're missing one of the most entertaining series currently in production. William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum head a fantastic ensemble cast. Macy's character is particularly despicable. It's a testament to his acting chops (and the writers' skills) that he comes off as lovable in a sick sort of way.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday topics

*Didn't realize until last week on the "Today" program's 60th anniversary celebration that the great actress Estelle Parsons (an Ulster County resident, don't you know?) got her start on that show, both behind and in front of the cameras. They aired a fun clip of her interviewing Marilyn Monroe. (See accompanying NBC picture of Ms. Parsons on the set in 1952.)

*Political debates would be a lot more illuminating if audiences weren't allowed to hoot and holler at the questions and answers. What little I saw of last night's South Carolina affair was Newt Gingrich playing to a crowd that was decidedly hostile to panelist Juan Williams.

*I respect Bernard Goldberg's work much better on HBO's "Real Sports" than I do on Fox News' "O'Reilly Factor".

*Shortly after arriving home in Woodstock last night, I tweeted a quick warning about slick road conditions due to the just-started freezing rain. Within minutes, Woodstock-based @ColonyOfTheArts replied with word of an accident on Route 212, on which I'd just driven. The social media grapevine is quite something.

*I"ll admit I don't watch much football anymore. But from what little I caught of the Giants-Packers game, I could only conclude that they've changed the rules, thus allowing QB Eli Manning all the time he needed to throw the ball. Put another way, how did Green Bay win 15 games without a pass rush?

*I also tuned in just in time for the last two minutes of San Francisco-New Orleans. Pretty incredible, no? Nice of the coaches on both sides to let their defensive units go home early.

*How come nobody told me about Pad Thai until I had some at dinner last night? Excellent dish. (For the uninitiated, check it out here. I wouldn't ordinarily send you to Wikipedia, but I can vouch for this one.)

*Three of the top six "most viewed" videos among Journal Register Company newspaper websites large and small last week were from the Freeman. They included the top 2: the Kingston-Newburgh girls basketball scuffle and the local woman who objects to the new 9/11-themed movie. No. 6 was the Athlete of the Week from Ellenville, where they obviously must have been running it in a loop at the high school.

*Watching Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveil his Executive Budget for about an hour this afternoon, I couldn't help but remember the years when his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo (remember him?) would provide budget presentations from morning to night. If memory serves me, the first session was for the Albany press corps. The second was for legislators. Then, in the evening, he'd invite publishers and editors to the Executive Mansion. There'd be cocktails, the governor's budget with Q&A, in the relatively informal setting of a large parlor room, and then dinner. We didn't know it at the time, but in some respects, those were the good old days.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cuomo's speech

On the notepad while watching the livestream of the State of the State address:

- Gov. Cuomo's speech may have been the most ambitious State of the State I've heard as far as spending is concerned, and that's saying something. I believe he cited $25 billion worth of projects from one end of the state (Buffalo) to the other (a new convention center in New York City) and stops in between (a new Tappan Zee Bridge). And, as always, analysts from one end of the state to the other will offer the standard, but accurate, admonition, "the devil is in the details," meaning let's see how this all figures into the Executive Budget before we get too excited.

- I couldn't help but be struck by how Cuomo and a couple of the other state leaders who spoke before him made reference to New York government's "dysfunctional" past. For the sake of argument, let's agree the "dysfunction" is in the past. (Not sure I'm ready to go that far yet, but OK.) What's interesting to me is how they're willing to admit to "dysfunction" now. Our newspaper was among the first to use that label many years ago to describe the Legislature. As the cries of "dysfunctional Albany" expanded (and were essentially etched in stone by the landmark NYU Brennan Center report), the response from the Capitol was pretty much: "What 'dysfunction'? You guys don't know what you're talking about!" Today they're tripping over themselves to say they're no longer "dysfunctional." Apology accepted.

- Regarding casino gambling, the governor emphasized what many of us have have been pointing out for years: There's already casino gambling in New York (at Indian reservations and more recently at "racinos") and there's casino gambling in surrounding states. (Oh, and who doesn't think the state lottery games aren't "gambling"?) Billions of dollars in casino-spending have left New York. Why this state has had its head in the sand for so long is a mystery. You don't have to morally embrace casino gambling to recognize its fiscal importance. Maybe this Legislature will finally get the message.

- The Legislature likes its own. Biggest round of applause for the new county executives introduced by Lt. Gov. Duffy went to former Assemblyman Mark Molinaro of Red Hook, who's in his first week at Dutchess County executive.

- Several mayors were introduced, but not Kingston's new boss Shayne Gallo.

- The state's congressmen were not individually introduced. But camera-hog Rep. Eliot Engel of the Bronx did get some face time, just as he does when he positions himself on the handshake rail for the president's State of the Union.

- It hardly seemed like a State of the State without former Gov. Hugh Carey, who died in August at age 92.

- There's something efficient about Cuomo giving this address (and last year's, too) in the Empire State Plaza convention center, rather than in Assembly chambers, as had been tradition. The stage, lectern and PowerPoint presentation were business-like. Looked like a corporate event. A piece of me misses the ornate setting of the Capitol. But conducting the event in a more sterile environment than the Assembly hall is a good thing.