Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mitt Romney, Florida & The Death of Democracy?

You didn’t have to scale Mount Parnassus and consult the Delphic Oracle to foretell that Mitt Romney was going to clobber Newt Gingrich in the Florida GOP Primary on Tuesday night.

The final tally gave Romney an overwhelming victory with 46.4% of the vote to 31.9% for Newt “46 more states to go” Gingrich.

But if there are Tea Party types, Libertarians, Social Conservatives and Fans of Philandering Politicians who are bummed by Romney’s easy victory over the likes of Gingrich, Santorum and Paul – then perhaps those conservatives may want to reconsider their embrace of Corporate Personhood and the Supreme Court’s democracy-destroying decision in the Citizen’s United case.

Mitt Romey is a wealthy candidate to begun with – but there’s no way for relatively cash poor candidates (no matter how principled and ideologically pure they may be) to compete against the flood of Super Pac money that a Wall Street crony like Romney can attract. Justice Alito may be shaking his head “no” for a very different reason tomorrow morning. If Chief Justice Roberts and Company didn’t see this onslaught coming when they decided that money = speech, then they are even more blind than justice is supposed to be.

So, cry in your beer, you blue collar Social Conservatives. Weep for poor Rick Santorum, your anti-choice, gay-baiting standard bearer, because he can’t compete with the money Mitt’s friends poured into Florida!

Call out in anguish, you Libertarian Ron Paul Revolutionists – because the no-rules, laissez faire, anti-regulatory religion you and you candidate adhere to has no answer for the rampaging anonymous money machine that chased the good doctor out of Florida!

And rend your garments, you Newtonians. Wail and gash your teeth because your brilliant historian’s erudition, high-minded philosophizing and vaunted forensic skill were no match for tens of million of dollars worth of negative campaign ads paid for by…

Oh, that’s right.

We don’t know who paid for them.

Classic Greek democracy developed in Athens around 508 BC, and stumbled along for about 186 years, before the conquering Macedonians suppressed the Athenian Democracy in 322 BC.

American democracy has lasted 50 years longer – but who needs the Macedonian hordes when you’ve got Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Kennedy working against you.


Filed under Politics

The State of Obama.

Okay, folks. Let’s just level with each other.

I know there are lots of my fellow lefties – whether we call ourselves liberals or progressives — who have been disappointed by President Obama since he took office under the promising banners of “Hope” and “Change”.

He didn’t go far enough on universal health care.

He didn’t prosecute the Bush Administration for its war crimes.

He hasn’t put any of the Wall Street banksters in jail.

And on and on and on…

But can you imagine a Republican President giving a State of the Union Address anything at all like the speech that President Obama just gave?

I’m no Pollyanna. I’m no easy dupe. But I am a clear-eyed political realist.

I am encouraged – even thrilled — that an intelligent, thoughtful and empathetic Democratic President has emerged from a three-year death-grip battle with the dark powers of the anti-intellectual, greedy, pro-feudal GOP with a resilient spirit, imagination and resolve strong enough to fashion the speech that President Obama gave tonight.

Newt Gingrich?

Mitt Romney?


Bring ‘em on.


Filed under Politics

My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”

Let’s be honest. Book reports are one of the scourges of youth.

Even if you enjoyed reading the book that you were assigned in grade school, or that you read in some summer reading program, the book report was always hanging over you. You had to write them. Teachers had to grade them. Nobody was really happy about it.

Now that I’m out of school and read mostly for pleasure, I enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for books I’ve read. And since I’m in no longer in danger of being graded by Sister Philomena, it’s time to rehabilitate the book report.

When I read a good book this year, I’ll post a book report on this blog — and The Battle of Midway by Craig L. Symonds is a very good book.

I confess that most of my recreational reading time is spent devouring history, especially military history: tales of Lord Nelson’s navy, the American Civil War, World War One aviation, and the great battles of World War Two. So, “The Battle of Midway” is right up my alley.

Having read a lot of history books, I’m not easy to please. Too often, history is written in a dry and academic way. I dare you to hack your way through Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World by Paul Cartledge. The legendary last-stand heroism of King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans deserved more than a repetitive, impenetrable compendium of scholarly knowledge with no regard to dramatic storytelling.

Ever since I read the great Civil War histories of Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote, I’ve come to appreciate that the best, most readable history books address their subjects with a novelist’s gift for character and story. And that’s what Craig Symonds brings to his stirring account of the Battle of Midway: a game-changing confrontation that was essentially the Gettysburg of World War Two in the Pacific.

As the sun rose on June 4, 1942, six months after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese navy was supreme in the Pacific. Before the day was over, the U.S. Navy had turned the tide. Like the Confederacy after Gettysburg, the Japanese would continue to fight – and the bloodiest years of the war lay ahead – but the Japanese could no longer win the war.

I’ve enjoyed Craig Symonds’ work before. A retired professor and chairman of the history department at the U.S. Naval Academy, Symonds wrote A Battlefield Atlas of the Civil War (1983) and Gettysburg: A Battlefield Atlas (1992), both of which I’m proud to have on my groaning history bookshelf. Those two books, with their easy-to-read maps and clear, concise copy make the great Civil War battles easy to comprehend. With no less clarity, Symonds goes deeper into the personalities and drama in The Battle of Midway.

Symonds begins by painting a bleak picture of American naval power after the disastrous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. But, as dire as the situation was, with a seemingly unstoppable Japanese aircraft carrier force (the Kido Butai) imposing it’s will across the Pacific, the U.S. Navy’s own carriers had been absent from Pearl Harbor – and, within six months, would provide the platform for a counterstrike that would lay waste to the Kido Butai.

Symonds draws all the main characters with the skill of a novelist: Admirals Nimitz, “Bull” Halsey and Spruance as well as the poker-loving gambler, Admiral Yamamoto. But Symonds doesn’t dwell solely on the brass – he also gives us a chance to meet the pantheon of heroes who flew the torpedo bombers, dive-bombers, and fighter planes, as well as the seamen who manned the guns on the ships, fought the fires on their decks, and patched up the holes to keep them afloat.

By the time Symonds gets to the fateful, pivotal and incredible five-minute period in which American dive-bombers mortally wounded three of the four Japanese carriers in the Kido Butai – and thus changed the course of the war in 300 seconds — it’s clear how it happened, why it happened, and who was responsible.

“What I tried to do is put together the oral histories to recreate a moment” to make readers feel like they’re there, Symonds has said. “It allows us to put ourselves in their place.”

Particularly compelling in Symonds’ account is the story of the American carrier, USS Yorktown. The Yorktown had been badly damaged by a Japanese bomb on May 8, 1942 in The Battle of the Coral Sea. The crippled Yorktown limped into Pearl Harbor on May 27. It was expected that repairs would take three months. But Admiral Nimitz needed the Yorktown for his planned attack on the Kido Butai at Midway – so the repair crews at Pearl Harbor fixed her up and sent her back out to sea in just three days. Four days later, the Yorktown was fighting the Battle of Midway. Alas, the Yorktown did not survive Midway, but before she went down, her dive-bombers had sunk the Japanese carrier Soryu.

The Battle of Midway is part of Oxford’s Pivotal Moments in American History series — and in the introduction to his book, Symonds writes: “there are few moments in American history in which the course of events tipped so suddenly and dramatically as it did on June 4, 1942. At ten o’clock that morning, the Axis powers were winning the Second World War… An hour later, the balance had shifted the other way. By 11:00 a.m., three Japanese aircraft carriers were on fire and sinking. A fourth was launching a counterstrike, yet before the day was over, it too would be located and mortally wounded. The Japanese thrust was turned back. Though the war had three more years to run, the Imperial Japanese Navy would never again initiate a strategic offensive…”

The Battle of Midway is a great read. The resolute self-sacrifice of the doomed Navy torpedo bombers will bring you to tears. The courage, ingenuity and resourcefulness of the fire suppression and repair crews on the Yorktown will amaze you.

And, among other vastly interesting things, you’ll find out how Chicago’s O’Hare Airport got its name.

If you think you don’t like military history books, give this one a try.


Filed under History

Picture Paris…

Our good friends Brad Hall and Julia Louis-Dreyfus have made a wonderful short film that will make its debut this weekend at The Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

“Picture Paris” will be shown on Saturday, January 28th at 7:40 pm and Monday, January 30th at 10:10 pm. To watch the trailer, click here.

Click here for tickets.

In “Picture Paris”, Julia plays Ellen Larson, a Southern California suburban mom with an empty nest and a longing for the City of Lights. I won’t give away anything else, except that the film – written and directed by Brad – is shot beautifully, the ensemble acting is pitch perfect, and Julia is better than ever. The music is another great character in the film – and Steve (another good friend) Rashid wrote the original score.

It must also be noted that Mr. Hall took meticulous care to get all the details right – on both sides of the pond. Not only do the locations and street scenes in Paris capture the spirit and romance of that grand European capital – exacting attention was also paid to Ellen’s house in Southern California. In fact, after a vast and exhausting search to find the perfect suburban home, Brad and Julia used our house in Woodland Hills. They shot for a week at our domicile this past June while Victoria and I were in Chicago doing “The Vic & Paul Show” at the Prop Theatre with Steve (there’s that name again) Rashid.

See “Picture Paris” soon, if you can. If you can’t get to Santa Barbara next weekend – hopefully Brad & Julia’s charming, funny (and surprising) opus will soon be coming to a film festival near you. Meanwhile, check out the “Picture Paris” blog here.  Adieu, mon ami!


Filed under Art, Beauty, Comedy



Filed under Politics, Truth

Fantasy Politics & The Election of 2012

The Iowa Caucuses are over and the New Hampshire Primary is upon us. The Presidential election of 2012 is already well underway. Given that President Obama is unlikely to encounter any serious primary challenge on his open road to the Democratic Party’s nomination in Charlotte, North Carolina in the first week of September – the media focus has been squarely on the Republican contenders vying for the chance to deny Barak Obama re-election on the first Tuesday in November.

Of course, it’s a long, long time until November 6, 2012. We’ll know the winner of the Super Bowl, the NBA Championship, and the World Series before Election Day. And we’ll know the winner of American Idol, The Biggest Loser, Survivor, and who gets the guy on The Bachelor long before we know if any of the GOP field was able to take down Obama. A lot can happen between now and then. But looking at the Republican contenders arrayed against Obama (and each other) it’s hard not to feel the odds are in favor of the World’s Most Famous Former Community Organizer.

Much has been written (on the Right and Left) about the lackluster GOP hopefuls and the lack of party popularity enjoyed by the “inevitable” frontrunner Mitt Romney. You’d have to be living in a cave (which Osama bin Laden evidently wasn’t) not to have heard about how Mitt’s Mormonism, flip-flopping, and career as a multi-millionaire corporate raider make him a poor fit with this era’s angry, populist, anti Wall Street, Tea Party GOP electorate.

This schism between Main Street Republican voters and Wall Street has rank political opportunists like Newt Gingrich attacking Romney for his role as a profit-worshipping venture capitalist.

Strange days, indeed.

Each month (and sometimes each week) brings a new “anyone but Mitt” candidate surging into contention. As if to prove there’s no limit to the GOP’s anti-Romney anxiety, we’ve been treated to the entertaining rise and unsurprising fall of the scandalous blowhard Herman Cain, cute but crazy Michelle Bachmann, and rejected Republican re-treads like Newt Gingrich and Rick “Please don’t Google me” Santorum.

Trying to temper my disdain for these apparently preposterous Republican Presidential candidates, I remind myself that, back in 1980, we all thought Ronnie “Raygun” Reagan was an unelectable right wing nut job. Progressives cannot afford to gloat or get comfortable. However, if the GOP has any chance of winning the White House, the U.S. economy must go into free fall. But with the Dow Jones Average above 12,000 and unemployment falling steadily, the Republicans are forced into rooting for America to fail in order to win an election. Not a good bet.

So, in order to make the Presidential Election of 2012 interesting, I suggest participating in a game that keeps even lackluster NFL, NBA and MLB seasons interesting: a fantasy league.



In fantasy politics, you are the campaign manager of your own team of two Republican Presidential candidates. You need to know how the daily news cycle, the primaries and caucuses affect the two candidates on your roster and how to minimize their gaffes, maximize their endorsements, and collect delegates through the long primary season on the road to the GOP nomination. Here’s how the candidates on your roster are impacted by the rules of fantasy politics.


Fantasy points are generated from the action on the campaign trail. When a GOP candidate on your team avoids a dangerously quotable gaffe during a debate, earns a newspaper endorsement, or wins a state primary, your fantasy team earns points for the week. The sum of your two candidates’ points combine to compete against the total for your opponent’s team for the week.

Sample Scoring:

Newspaper Endorsement +1

John McCain Endorsement -1

Debate Victory +1

Debate Gaffe -1

Positive News Story +1

Embarrassing YouTube Moment -1

Primary Delegates (1 point per delegate)

Really Good Concession Speech Upon Withdrawal (10 bonus points)


Campaign managers can choose any two GOP candidates in the field as of Tuesday, January 10th, the day of the New Hampshire Primary. I’d say the Virginia Primary – but, of course, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry failed to qualify for the ballot in Virginia – and our fantasy game would simply not be as much fun without them.

Candidates who are still in the race on Super Tuesday, March 6, 2012, earn 100 bonus points, in addition to any delegates they pick up that night in the collection of primaries and caucuses in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. If neither of your candidates made it to Super Tuesday, you’re out of luck. And out of your misery.


On the day after Super Tuesday, campaign managers will have 24 hours to “drop and swap” candidates. This may not be fair – but it’s politically expedient: a chance for the rats to escape the sinking ships. However, if a candidate you dropped after Super Tuesday manages to make it to the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida in late August with even a handful of delegates – you will be deducted one point for every delegate who votes in the Convention to nominate the candidate you dropped.


Sorry, unlike in the football, basketball, and baseball fantasy leagues, all of your GOP candidates must play hurt. Politics is not a game for sissies. There is no disabled list. If there was, a mentally disabled candidate like Rick “Frothy” Santorum, or an emotionally disabled candidate like Mitt “I like being able to fire people” Romney would not be on the roster. Instead, they’re leading GOP contenders. Suit up, shut up, and get up for the game.


Occasionally the official elections returns from a particular state may be recounted and changed to accurately reflect what happened at the ballot box. In such circumstances, campaign managers may block a recount by making an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. (See “Bush v. Gore”)


The winning campaign manager is the political genius that managed to back the two GOP candidates who got the furthest down the road on the way to winning their party’s nomination – and earned the right to lose to President Obama by a landslide on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6, 2012.


Filed under Politics, Sports

Blog 2011: The Second Year’s Voyage In Review…

My 2011 concluded on a fabulously positive note as “The Vic & Paul Show” enjoyed a successful two-week run at Mayne Stage in Chicago. It was a holiday homecoming that warmed the winter chill with a gathering of the very best, most supportive, fun, generous, talented, and entertaining friends that a person could  possibly cherish. Victoria and I consider ourselves truly blessed in the camaraderie department –and this holiday season proved what an embarrassment of riches our community of friends has become. (Including our new friends at Mayne Stage, who handled it all with class, professionalism and a welcome sense of humor.)

And speaking of talented and entertaining friends — New Year’s weekend rocked with two performances by Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation — one that closed “The Vic & Paul Show” at Mayne Stage, and another that rang in the New Year at The Prop Theatre. It was a raucous, celebratory sign-off on an eventful year: full of drama, politics, resurgent activism — and the ongoing clown car routine that is the Republican Party nomination process.

2011 was also the second year for this blog.

As of this writing, Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted over 67,000 views — with 44,750 in 2011 alone. That’s double the number of views (22,250) in 2010. I’ve made 165 posts since this blog began and all of you have contributed 935 comments. The blog saw it’s busiest day this year when, on March 17, 2011, 491 viewers checked out the site to read, among other things, “A Reply To My Conservative Friend.” Politics and history remain among the most popular topics on Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little...

I’m especially gratified by the 80 subscribers who have signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. Are you a subscriber? If not — just look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey, then look below the photo and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!”

My posts on this blog still largely stick to the main topics I established at the outset: history, adventure, politics, sailing and rock & roll. And to what type of posts were readers of this blog most attracted this year? What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Read Posts of 2011, listed in order of the most views.

Note: Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. For some reason, it’s become the most-read post in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

2. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the last year.

3. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was also the #3 post in 2010. 21 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. Last year, on our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

4. History & Honeymoon: Part Four

2011 was the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the American Civil War – and that might be the reason that two of my “History & Honeymoon” posts are among the most-read this past year, including this one, posted on July 26, 2010. This post covers everything from my wife Victoria and I battle tramping Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg –to our visit to Philadelphia and the eccentric, visionary artwork of Isaiah Zagar.

5. The Saints Come Marching In…

This was the #1 post in 2010 — and, like the Saints, has shown staying power. The New Orleans Saints got 2010 off to a great start by winning the Super Bowl. So, why does a man who was born in Cleveland, went to college and met his wife in Chicago, and moved to Los Angeles two decades ago care if the New Orleans Saints finally won a Super Bowl after years of epic gridiron failure? Simple: my daddy was New Orleans born and raised. Who dat say what about dem Saints? (Originally posted February 8, 2010)

6. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and I the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the great chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night Live, Behind the Music and Bazooka Joe. Can I retire now?

7. 10 Rays of Sunshine…

The general worldview looked bleak on November 9, 2010, when I decided to list some positive stuff to focus on amid the gathering gloom, including a stunning victory by the lowly Cleveland Browns over the vaunted New England Patriots, an upswing on Wall Street, and the return of the delicious though gastronomically questionable McRib to McDonald’s restaurants. Obviously, many blog readers shared my desperate desire for a few shafts of light amid the darkness.

8. The Wrecking Crew

Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Carol Kay, Tommy Tedesco, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer: the cream of Los Angeles studio musicians in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s became known as “The Wrecking Crew”. I’m thrilled that my March 21, 2011 blog article celebrating Tommy Tedesco’s son’s marvelous documentary film about these rock & roll legends has proven to be such a popular post. If you haven’t done it already, start a Google search on “The Wrecking Crew” now. Until then, your rock & roll education is not complete.

9. Baseball Season Opens: Of Mud Hens & More…

This is the third post on this list that appeared on last year’s most-read list. It was #4. It seems readers still love those Mud Hens. What was written as a tribute to The Practical Theatre Company’s contribution to the Chicago Theatre 16-inch Softball League became a post that hundreds of Toledo Mud Hens fans found online, attracted to the info and photos of Toledo Mud Hens history — especially that picture of Jamie Farr. Go figure. Cluck! Cluck! Cluck! (Originally posted April 6, 2010)

10. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post especially salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish my three daughters had grown up with anything half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

So, that’s the best of 2011. Stay tuned. Subscribe. Post those replies!

Here’s to another adventurous voyage in 2012!


Filed under Random Commentary