Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hey Ya, Peanuts Style

While waiting for MC Hammer to perform last week at the State Fair, Rachel and I got into a disagreement about one of the songs that was playing on the loudspeakers. She thought it was a Black Eyed Peas song; I thought it was Hey Ya, by Outkast.

I, of course, was right.

But it got me to remembering this video that had made the Internet rounds some time ago and so I found it and now I've posted it for your enjoyment:

It made me smile. I'm sure it did you, too.

Me on TV

Amy Welch, the Communications Director of the OSCPA had tweeted about a local television news story of a tax preparer who'd disappeared and left his clients caught short with the looming October 15th deadline. I'd had clients come my way when their preparer had fallen ill or died and working for the IRS I'd seen this happen, too, so I felt for these people and asked Amy how I could help. She said she'd send my contact information to the reporter and we could take it from there. The reporter contacted me, I helped her run down a lead or two, and then offered some advice - the clients shouldn't panic, the IRS could waive penalties in situations like this, and they should start trying to recreate their records the best they can. Would I say this on camera?


Well, I've turned Amy down enough times in the past that it was about time I said yes and so I did and the next thing you know, well, here it is. I'm at around the 1:05 mark:

Hey, at least I didn't stammer and stutter and sweat too much so I'll call this a success.

Thanks to Amy for setting this up. She was right. It wasn't so bad.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

True Grit Trailer

I want to hate the True Grit remake but this makes it hard. Real hard:

No one can replace John Wayne but Jeff Bridges seems to make the character memorable in his way, too. The movie's been touted as hewing more closely to the book than the original but I didn't find the original strayed that far, other than some plot points. It's a great book and was made into a great movie. It looks like it may have been made into a great movie again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

iPhone Picture Dump

Time for another iPhone picture dump. If I don't mark the days, who will? Let's see what I've managed to collect over the last few weeks:

Storm's a'brewin' from my office window. I liked the contrast of green trees and the purplish blue storm clouds roiling in the afternoon sun:

The storms came in. Some action shots from the Interstate coming home from Norman. Late summer fury. Blessedyl hail - and twister - free. Just hurricane strength winds:

A new obsession: golf! More about that in future posts but here's Clara and her father taking a break on a Saturday morning:

The season's change, the time of sunrise changes with it. Once again, the drive in makes for some beautiful mornings, washed with blue and gold:

This year's State Fair installment. I've tried tweaking this but to no avail. For Mike Hasenstab, the blazing sign says "Hot Wisconsin Cheese." Because I know he'd settle for nothing less:

Rachel at the Fair patiently waiting for MC Hammer to perform "You Can't Touch This." He did, eventually. Her take: he didn't wear his Hammer pants so it was disappointing :

Another Saturday, another golf course :

I was dropping off Emily and a buddy at a JV football game yesterday evening and we caught this. See that line in the sky above the treeline? The picture doesn't do it justice but it was sort of a rainbowy thing. The ice crystals blowing away from were clearly visible. A sun dog?

I tried again. This is no better, I'm afraid:

Bruce'll know so let's see what he has to say about it. It was unusual, though, someting I can't recall seeing recently, if ever.

That's all I've got on the iPhone camera; time to fill it up again.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Town - Movie Review

Ben Affleck's latest movie, The Town proves his inaugural directing effort, Gone Baby Gone, wasn't a fluke. His second directorial effort isn't perfect though it's a far cry better than most crime movies you're likely to come across.

Think of it as Heat-lite. All of the elements of that far-superior movie are there: a crack thievery crew, a character wanting out after falling in love, a one last-heist heist that goes wrong, a dogged law-enforcement officer on the trail, a strong sense of place. Affleck maneuvers everything deftly and makes an enjoyable movie except for the end. No spoilers here but compare this movie with Heat and you'll see what I mean when I say this is the lighter of the two.

It's about the best that's out there right now so you'd better grab it while you can. The Fall movie slump is under way and there doesn't seem to be much on the horizon until the holidays.

Would It Kill You to Read Some Poetry?

Via amba12 on Twitter, Barry Casselman discusses why Americans no longer read poetry:
Outside the older grades of high school and most college English literature courses, almost no one in America reads poetry. It is often pointed out that this is not so in many other countries, especially societies in Europe, South America and Asia. In the U.S. past there seemed to be more poetry readers, especially in the 19th century when American poetry first blossomed.

The question is whether this is due to the character of American civilization itself, the current state of the U.S. cultural mood, the nature of poetry in the American English tongue, or the contemporary quality of poets and their writing. In short, is the lack of interest in poetry inherent in our U.S. society, or is it the responsibility of those who write poetry?

I come down on the side of writer responsibility. It's not the reader who is uninterested; it's the writer who is uninteresting.

Casselman points to what he thinks is the problem with American poetry:
So much contemporary U.S.poetry, in my opinion, is so esoteric, obscurely self-referential and political that the task is immense. I think it will require a new and younger generation of poets.

I should add that some of the problems affecting poetry have also affected serious U.S. music, painting, sculpture, dance and theater. Poetry is not alone in this dilemma.

I think once the arts became democratized, that anyone can paint or write or make music or do anything in the arts and no one could tell you otherwise, the arts fell into decline. If anything goes, nothing does, and we've reached the point now where the consumer of art is guilty of failing to "get" the artist rather than the artist failing to communicate his intentions. That's why I get a sense of hostility from modern art when we visit the art museum. I feel I'm being assaulted because of my ignorance when, really, all I want to do is look at pretty pictures.

But back to poetry. My favorite contemporary poet, - my only favorite contemporary poet - Billy Collins, when he was Poet Laureate of the United States, introduced Poetry 180, a program to bring a poem a day into the daily routine of high-schoolers. I'm not sure if it helped but at least students had the opportunity to hear good poetry. I admit to not being entirely comfortable with free-verse poetry - isn't it really just prose chopped up into verses and stanzas - but Collins style is sort of free verse and I seem to have no problem with that. Sure, I think poetry should follow formal rules - like Robert Frost said about free-verse being like playing tennis without a net - except for when poetry doesn't follow the rules. I just want it to be well-written - you do, too, don't you? - and that's sometimes hard to pin down. Ray Bradbury says you may not understand poetry but your animal brain does. I enjoy Collins because of his wry humor and observations of every day objects and his descriptions of clouds. Give him a try and you might find you like poetry, too. It certainly won't kill you. And neither will eating broccoli so you need to do that, too.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hold On To Your Paycheck!

Or the IRS might, if they follow the lead of the tax collection agency for the UK:
The UK's tax collection agency is putting forth a proposal that all employers send employee paychecks to the government, after which the government would deduct what it deems as the appropriate tax and pay the employees by bank transfer.

The proposal by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) stresses the need for employers to provide real-time information to the government so that it can monitor all payments and make a better assessment of whether the correct tax is being paid.

Currently employers withhold tax and pay the government, providing information at the end of the year, a system know as Pay as You Earn (PAYE). There is no option for those employees to refuse withholding and individually file a tax return at the end of the year.

Impossible, you say? Withholding tax from your paycheck was probably considered impossible at one time, too, until it was implemented in WWII (Scroll down for the relevant section.) and now it's an innocuous part of working life. Taking your entire paycheck and doling out what the government considers yours may not be far behind. The United Kingdom could lead the way.

Black Widow - Book Review

In my seemingly endless quest to find a writer with a genre series in which I can jump and wallow, I've come across Randy Wayne White and his Black Widow. I'd tried him years before and declared him unworthy of my time and effort but our recent return to Sanibel re-kindled an interest in him and this book seemed as good as any to try a re-entry.

It starts off promising - I greatly enjoyed the Sanibel locale and the opening sequence is very thrilling - but much of the plot takes place on a fictional Caribbean island and introduces a not-very-believable British character whose all gung ho and all that rot. The plot really isn't important - certain folks are blackmailed by a certain character and revenge/videotape is sought - as much as the series character trotted through his paces. Doc Ford is a good enough replacement for Travis McGee if that's what you're looking for but dipping into the series this late in the game means there's a lot of character baggage that needs unpacking and I almost laughed out loud at how complicated Ford's personal life had become.

Still, this might be a series I could get interested in. Another book or two on my reading list remains before I can return but for now, this'll do.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Economy and China

Worried the economy's going to heck in a hand basket? That the Chinese own so much of our debt they'll call in our loans? Victor David Hanson says don't be:
The notion that we are doomed and the Chinese fated to prosper is not written in stone. It is simply a matter of free will, theirs and ours. They must deal with a new era of coming suburban blues, worker discontent, unions, environmental discretion and regulation, an aging and shrinking population and greater personal appetites, social protest, and nonconformity — in the manner that industrializing Western nations did as well in the early twentieth century.

We in turn can easily outdistance any country should we remain the most free, law-abiding, and economically open society as in our past. A race-gender-ethnic-blind meritocracy, equal application of the law, low taxes, small government, and a transparent political and legal system are at the heart of that renewal. America could within a decade become a creditor nation again, with a trade balance and budget surplus, drawing in the world’s talent and capital in a way not possible in the more inflexible or less meritocratic China, Japan, or Germany. Again that is our choice, not a superimposed destiny from someone else.

So quit worrying and get back to work.

The Book of Eli - Movie Review

Lileks made a nice point about how the world must've ended in The Book of Eli - someone detonated a sepia bomb. While that's not quite accurate - the look of the movie is more washed out and faded which is, of course, appropriate for a post-apocalyptic movie - it as good as any explanation of just what the event was that ended, and changed, things in this movie. Doesn't matter, I suppose. What reason do you need for the world to end? It's only important that the world has, in fact, ended and walking through the blasted wilderness carrying a Very Important Book is Eli who has almost supernatural powers of self-defense which are a great help in the cool fights he gets into.

Which is the problem. I like movies about cool guys and their mad self-defense skills but once you realize there's never any real danger of the bad guys overcoming the good guy, it's sort of boring. Yeah, yeah, he's outnumbered and outgunned but once you've seen him fight and shoot his way out of one tight spot, you know he'll do the same with another.

But, wisecracks aside, I did like the look of the movie and I always like anything Denzel Washington is in. And I liked how the very important book Washington's character was carrying was the Bible though I think the producers sort of played it safe at the end, placing the newly published book next to a shelf of other holy books. You mean each of those books were brought to that book-safekeeping place by other mysterious heroes? Oh, and there's a twist! But I'm not really sure if the twist helps shed any new light on what occurred before we get the twist. It's more like a whoa! moment than anything but not really relevant to what went on before. (I know, I know, this is based on yet another graphic novel. If I've got a beef with the movie, gritch about the graphic novel.)

Anyway, the shortcomings notwithstanding, I did enjoy the movie. Well worth the buck we spent on it at Redbox.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Oklahoma City's own Big Truck Tacos wins a spot on Food Network's "Great Food Truck Race:
Big Truck Tacos is going national.

The gourmet taqueria owned by Kathryn Mathis, Cally Johnson and Chris Lower won a nationwide online contest, earning them $10,000 and a chance to compete on Food Network's "Great Food Truck Race” next season.

The announcement was made Sunday during the finale of the inaugural season of the show, hosted by Tyler Florence.

The Great Food Truck Race America's Favorite Giveaway was conducted on the cable channel's website. Fans from across the country were allowed to vote up to 10 times a day through Sept. 10.

Have I ever been to Big Truck Tacos? My goodness, no! Big Truck Tacos is hip and trendy. I'm a middle-aged father of two; I don't do hip and trendy. Not my pay grade.

Good for them, though, and all their fans. Good for Oklahoma City, too. Further evidence that we, in fact, rock.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Where Have You Gone, Roger Ebert?

I've said what I had to say about movie critic and hateful columnist Roger Ebert and now Lawrence Meyers weighs in on Ebert's continued sad decline:
It breaks my heart to write this article. Roger Ebert has been a part of my love for cinema since I was eleven years old. When I was in the hospital for two months at age 19, I devoured his entire book of movie reviews. I even met him at the 2002 Conference on World Affairs when he dissected David Lynch’s masterpiece Mulholland Drive (though I thought he needlessly threw in the towel regarding the film’s meaning). I don’t need to expound on his contributions to film education and his championing of truly great movies.

Nevertheless, I don’t know the man. I only know his words. Yet I have to wonder if the physical and mental trauma Roger has endured has taken a toll on his mind. He always seemed apolitical to me. He just wrote great movie reviews. However, he started a political journal on his website in the past year. It’s full of the same clap-trap expected from those on the Left: false premises, poorly constructed arguments, and replies to comments which dodge legitimate challenges.

Meyers has updated his post to report about Ebert's typical small-minded and angry reply. Following Meyer's link to Ebert's site, you'll find Ebert's expanded comments where Ebert once again puts out his false assertion and demands a yes or no answer, which is impossible give. (Sort of like, Have you stopped beating your wife, yes or no?") It's a juvenile move on Ebert's part and underscores Meyer's point.

Health Care's Hidden Burden

Whatever you think of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), it's likely you're unaware of the provision expanding the 1099 reporting requirements:
The new information reporting requirement is an expansion of a law already in place. Businesses currently have to report to the IRS all payments of $600 or more to individuals for the performance of services on 1099 forms. This makes it harder for individuals to avoid paying taxes on income they earned from businesses that did not employ them full-time. The PPACA expanded this requirement to include all transactions with other businesses of more than $600, including those involving tangible goods.

This provision takes effect in 2012, and Congress estimates it will raise $17 billion over 10 years. It was one of 18 separate tax hikes that are part of the law that, combined, will increase taxes more than $500 billion over 10 years.

Few observers recognized the trouble the 1099 reporting requirement would cause businesses at the time Congress passed the PPACA. Other taxes hikes in the PPACA—such as the new excise tax on high cost “Cadillac” health insurance plans, higher payroll taxes, and a new tax on investment—garnered more attention in the debate leading up to congressional passage because they will raise considerably more revenue.[1] But the bureaucratic burden the 1099 reporting requirement will put on businesses will be immense.

This part of the legislation was up for repeal earlier this week - heck, now that President Obama is aware of it, he's against it, too - but it the move to do so was voted down in the Senate because neither the Democrats nor the Republicans liked the other side's proposal.

So it's still in place. A ticking time bomb of government over-reach. Think it won't affect you? Think again when your employer weighs the cost of complying with this provision, as well as upgrading your health care, against giving you a raise or even keeping you on as a loyal, productive employee.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Get Low - Movie Review

If Michael Caine taught us anything with his latest movie, Robert Duvall confirms it in Get Low: old guys rule!

Based on a real-life legend, Duvall plays an aging character who decides it's high time to hold his funeral and learn what people have to say about him while he's still alive to hear about it. There's a deep dark secret he has to come to terms with, too, but be patient and all will be revealed. It's not an earth-shattering movie but it's feel is authentic and Bill Murray does a nice turn as the hapless funeral director trying to comply with Duvall's old hermit's wishes and maybe make a buck or two from it. Sissy Spacek's here, too, as well as Gerald McRaney so it all feels down home and comfortable. A nice, character driven piece, one well worth renting.

(And look, it was filmed in Newnan, Georgia! Home of my dear, sweet sister and her dear sweet family. Lookin' good, Newnan!)

Lennon Still Helping Me, Yoko Ono Says

Nearly 30 years after his death, I imagine he is:
Yoko Ono says John Lennon is still helping her in her endeavours as an artist and peace activist as she pays tribute to her late husband before what would have been his 70th birthday.

Ono visited Lennon's childhood home and school in northern England's Liverpool on Friday. She was welcomed by hundreds of students at Dovedale School, before she went to the semi-detached family home that Lennon shared with his aunt from 1945 to 1963.
The musician was shot outside his New York home in 1980, when he was 40 years old. He would have been 70 on Oct. 9.

Ono will travel from her home in New York to Iceland on Lennon's birthday to light the Imagine Peace Tower, an illuminated memorial.

Because without Lennon, who knows where Ono would be now? Oh, I'm sure she has her fans, those who think she would have had significance on her own even if she had never met Lennon.

But they're probably few.

Oh, who am I kidding, Ono-only fans don't exist.

Still, the woman is nearly 80 years old and stylin':

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Harry Brown - Movie Review

The conservative movie website, Big Hollywood, recommended Harry Brown so we picked it up from Redbox when it became available. It doesn't disappoint.

Michael Caine plays British pensioner living in a housing project who finally has enough of the thuggery around him and decides to do something about it. Hewing closely to the plot of the similar Death Wish, its depiction of urban savagery is as disturbing as that earlier movie; today's criminals use today's tech to record their bad deeds and the opening scene makes effective use of a handheld mini-cam. The project where Brown lives is a testament to the ability of the State to provide for the welfare of its citizens and the set design and camerawork gives it a dank, dismal, other-worldly feel. Caine gives a gritty performance of a man pushed too far and the movie makes some good points about how well the State can handle crime gone rampant. A movie full of outrage and a good one, too.

Deadlines? We're Not Afraid of No Deadlines!

September 15th was the last chance deadline filing for business tax returns and we were churning away right up until noon. Everyone who had their information to us was taken care of - and some who didn't have their information to us were taken care of, too, we're just that good. So the last few weeks were pretty hectic but my great staff managed to make me look good in the eyes of our clients. Miracles? Why, we perform them everyday.

Time to regroup. pick up some pieces, sharpen some tools, gird ourselves for the next filing deadline of October 15th.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Teen Golfer Disqualifies Self, Gives Up Medal

Kids these days . . .

Golf is a game of rules both obvious and arcane, and if you're going to play the game, you have to play by its rules. No matter what the cost.

Today, a classic "what would you do?" moment. Zach Nash is a 14-year-old Wisconsin kid who happens to be a fine golfer. So good, in fact, that he won a junior Wisconsin PGA tournament.

Problem was, he won it by violating -- albeit unintentionally -- one of golf's most straightforward rules. He had too many clubs in his bag. And the worst part? It was a total accident, discovered long after the fact.

Good for Nash. He'll go far.

Oklahoma is Internationally Cool

Say, what's that t-shirt that super-cool Coldplay front man Chris Martin is wearing?

Why, it's Oklahoma's own super-cool The Flaming Lips!