It's a Pirate Life for Me

As my earlier Zevon post and comments about my Father's Bilko-esque military persona might suggest, insouciance-as-lifestyle appeals to me. I guess that's why pirate themes have always appealed to me. Yes, pre-Depp.

There is something about the pirate image that appeals to almost everyone, it seems. Not the thievery. Not the killing. It's more the independence and devil-may-care attitude; the individuality of, say a Keith Richards (whom Depp structured his Jack Sparrow around), of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville life, Frank Sinatra doing it his way, Harley riders, Hemingway in Spain, and Florida Keys residents all, Agnelli, Christopher Walken. And more, hopefully including me, mostly happily marching, dancing, whirling and boogalooing to their own drummer.

One day, I will purchase these slippers and no doubt wear them somewhere out. I'm thinking with a black blazer, silky-soft light grey Super 120's wool trousers, a soft, unstarched white dobby shirt (if I'm really in the mood along with a deep burgundy silk short scarf tied loosely at the neck and tucked in) and a kickin' pair of Pantherella socks I own that are primarily white, with a black and grey design. Alas, this may be enough for M. Lane over at The Epic and ADG at Maxminimus to ever consider linking ALDL to their exceptional blogs. See sidebar for links.

Millionaires in Maryland

According to this piece in today's WSJ, tax migration is in full gale in Maryland. An interesting take on taxes, the wealthy and who will ultimately take up the yoke of higher taxes (hint: you and me).



I'm a sucker for a good baseball movie. Or, to paraphrase a brilliant insight about "baseball movies" I recently read on a thread about the movie Sugar, I'm a sucker for a movie that uses baseball to tell a more universal story. The observer went on to say that's the difference between a good and bad baseball movie. And a good movie, period, I'd add.

But I think I understand the thread writer's point. There are good and bad "action" movies, great and awful period pieces, fulfilling and simply scary horror movies. The genre is...well, the genre.

I have not yet decided if one of my favorite baseball movies (Bull Durham) fits that universal description, although it is no doubt a very good movie. A very good baseball movie, to say the least. The threader says it does tell a more universal story.

Another favorite (Field of Dreams) came to mind immediately as more universally themed. The threader went on to say that The Natural does not pass that test. I'll have to think about that one, too.

From what I can tell without having seen Sugar, about a young Dominican pitcher who comes to the States (Iowa, to be exact) to play in the minors of a fictional Major League team, this one may very well go down as both a very good baseball movie on both levels. I'm leaning on a review by Roger Ebert and the film's trailer for this. I look forward to seeing the movie as soon as it hits town.


Memorial Day

(I realize that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those who gave their life in the defense of The United States. Even though my Father did not die in service, I write about him here.)

My Father never wanted to talk about the war--World War II--and as he died when I was seventeen, I never had the opportunity to bring it up to him as an adult, man to man. At seventeen, memories of war were not on my radar. I was too busy trying to figure out how to stay out of Vietnam. I did not want any war memories of my own. But I would have gone if drafted.

I have pictures from Dad's Army days. He was a cook on or near the front lines during The Battle of the Bulge and was presented two Purple Hearts. I do not know any details.

Dad's favorite TV show when I was little was the TV comedy
"Sergeant Bilko." It was his favorite because during his youth when he was in the Army he was quite the rounder, like Sarge. Quick-witted, likable, good at poker, pool and no doubt dice, along with the drinking skills that usually went with such endeavors, he could procure things hard to find during the war. He had that knack. And he always was able to "procure" all I needed growing up, and more.

There are bits and pieces of information I have about his time in the service. Most are snippets that I don't really remember how I know. I just know them, maybe from when the relatives used to get together and late at night reminisce about their youth. I would be semi-asleep on the floor, while the stories would flow into my brain for later understanding.

There is the story about him going AWOL because he wanted to see his younger brother, James. Dad was in Europe somewhere and James was in a tank in Africa. He made it there and back after a brief visit. And there's the one about Dad sending $300 home to Durham's mayor with the request that he "procure" gifts for my Mother's birthday. He was anxious for her to have silk stockings and French perfume, a big cake, along with extra gas and sugar rations for her family. That made the local newspaper, of course. I still have the clipping with the photo of my Mother holding the stockings and perfume.

Just snippets. He kept getting busted down to buck private for his many small transgressions against authority. Via his gambling, he always had money to lend to his fellow soldiers, with usury, I'd guess. His Captain got him out of the brig one time because the Captain needed a loan. Later, his records were "lost" by that same Captain.

But as was the case with the fictional Bilko, and as so well put by the Museum of Broadcast Communications web site about the character, my Father, too, was a good man with a heart of gold. I can surely attest to that.
And there were the soft mutterings about the jeep wreck. I never knew my Father to drive, either by choice or because of verdict. I have never known which. I do know that my Father would have be en the type of man to inflict his own personal penalty on himself. Somebody got killed and Dad was driving the jeep--that much is clear. Whether it was his fault or not remains unknown. It cannot matter now; I am content not to know.

He served till the end of the war and received an Honorable Discharge. That, too, I know. I discount the lost records.

I think of my Father most--now forty-some years after his death--on Memorial Day. I am not sure why. He did not die in service to his country. Perhaps I think of him today because I would like to have known him in his youth--and more about him generally, so I could appreciate him even more than I do.

Like so many soldiers, his youth was scarred by war. And for him and most WWII Veterans, by a Great Depression. All that he was the years I knew him was a product of that war he fought. I remember him as quiet, reserved and as someone who kept his cards close to his vest. I don't think his scars (even though I confess to not knowing what the scars entail) ever healed, nor have the physical and psychological scars of so many who have served our country.

From our nation's revolutionary formation through our country's current campaigns, our youth has constantly been steeled by war. By sacrifice. By accepting the call of duty. Even the rounders. I pray this country remains worthy of that sacrifice.

The gratitude the rest of us owe is virtually unspeakable.

'I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day. I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it. We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did. '
--Benjamin Harrison


Warren Zevon

If you have never listened to Warren Zevon or think of him as a one hit wonder with the song Werewolves of London, I urge you to investigate the creativity and sensitivity of this rock artist. His is quite a story. From classical piano to touring with the Everly Brothers to critical (if not popular) acclaim. Dave Letterman's favorite rock artist and mine, too. He appeared on Letterman often before his asbestos-related lung cancer death in 2003, including a one -guest show with Dave near the end of his life. When asked what he would say to viewers about life's frailty, he simply said "enjoy every sandwich" which after his death became the title of a great tribute CD.

His last two CDs had a rather morose vibe, at least in title; Life'll Kill Ya and My Ride's Here. At the time, his diagnosis was not made--at least it was not public. I will always think he knew.

In December of 2002 Warren appeared at The Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC, unknown to me. But not my wife. Yet since the concert was the same night as her college supper club's Christmas party (husbands invited) she kept it to herself. I'm not sure I've forgiven her yet.

I always appreciated the song Werewolves of London, but came to truly embrace Warren's work later in his and my life. It started with the purchase on a whim of the CD Mutineer after hearing snippets on Amazon and due to fascination with the picture of Warren on the cover, depicting a pirate-esk down on his luck, Florida is the end of the line kind of fellow hiding behind a pair of huge Raybans. I sort of felt that same way during that time. It is a dark and haunting compilation and still my favorite CD. Call me melancholy.

For newcomers to Zevon, go with The Best of Warren Zevon and the afor-mentioned Mutineer. If you get hooked, you'll want all the CDs--buy the anthology I'll Sleep When I'm Dead next. Leave his last works and tributes until you've memorized all the "best of" lyrics, which if hooked, you will do. Great writing.

Read ex-wife Crystal Zevon's book I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, once you become a full fledged Zevonista.

Check Wiki for more. And You Tube has 60 videos of songs and Letterman appearances.


The Sporting News Daily

For the past month or so I've been subscribed (free) to a daily helping of sports news from Sporting News Today. It is a joy to find it in my inbox each day. Reccomended highly.

When you begin to receive it, watch the brief video that, among other things, shows you how to enlarge the page so it's readable. Well, nothing's perfect. http://www.sportingnewstoday.com/


The Importance of Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp could have made a great president. It's a shame the Republican Party is and was so set in throwing its weight behind "who's turn it is" to be the nominee. Kemp/Dole could have won. He was a great and honorable bleeding-heart conservative.

American Spectator magazine published an interesting overview on Kemp's career in January of this year and is worth a read.


Fiat and the New Automotive Order

Until recently I haven't thought much about Fiat automobiles. The Italian firm's management takeover of Chrysler and maybe even some of GM's European operations has the company in the news here in the States. Remember, Fiat hasn't sold cars in the US since...oh, since a long time ago--about 25 years. Pulled out. Couldn't make it. Something about adverse dollar/lira exchange. And rust. And a weak dealer network. And...overall quality.

I know all about the dollar/lira and turn-on-a-dime marketing attitude of the Italian industrialists, having worked for Pirelli Tire for 10 years. I remember when the US tire operation would slide from the most important market to the least on what seemed like a weekly basis. But that's another story.

Really, I have thought a lot about Fiat Group automobiles--I just didn't stop to realize it. You see, I'm a softie for Lancia rally and race cars of the 80's which was my time at Pirelli and a great time for Lancia Motorsports. Part of Fiat. And who doesn't melt at the sight of a Ferrari? Part of Fiat. Like the rad styling of the Alfa Romeo? Yep, part of Fiat. Add in my often-remembered ownership of a 1974 Fiat 124 Sport Spider (my first new car) and I guess my brain is almost constantly oozing Fiat.

As recently as 2005 Fiat was in dire straits, much like GM and Chrysler today. Three billion Euro bailout from government. During this period GM actually had a limited partnership of sorts with Fiat, sharing some parts manufacturing in Europe and teaming on engineering projects. Fiat was so unstable then that GM paid Fiat two billion dollars and returned the 10% ownership stake to get out of the deal, afraid Fiat would topple right into their hands. How the tables have turned.

I have my doubts about all this. The Italians, God love 'em, hold themselves in high esteem. But at this point they have not invested a dime of their own money in these "takeovers". A gift from the Obama Administration. It is expected Fiat will obtain a 20% stake in Chrysler over some period of time. I hope they are going to pay for that. If the going gets too rough for Fiat down the road or if the infamous Italian political system comes to dislike the possiblity or reality of Fiat cutting jobs at home because of the new deal, there will be trouble.
In reality, for Fiat making all this work is a gamble they must take. Grow or die. Hopefully that's a reality that will spur a great outcome for all.

Here's a new name to remember as someone who now has a significant role in our industrial and overall economy: Sergio Marchionne, the head of Fiat Group. He's the fellow who turned Fiat profitable since taking the helm. So maybe...
Oh, and while we are remembering things...why is it that the Obama Administration and others believe Fiat is up to the task of restoring Chrysler when Daimler Mercedes couldn't?


John Mauldin Newsletters

John Mauldin is a best-selling author and financial expert (as well as a Registered Representative) who writes a couple of email newsletters I look forward to receiving each week.
Thoughts From the Frontline and Outside the Box were brought to my attention by a friend and colleague who, like me, starts with a macro top-down approach to investing. The newsletters are dense, in the good sense, and I always feel more knowledgeable after reading. There are over 1 million subscribers.
I've always believed that politics (or at least governance), of course economics and investing are intertwined more than many believe and I find the newsletters offer that theme. You must understand the environment in which you invest, yes? Good reading for the Renaissance Dog in all of us.


Cinco de Michelada

What's a Michelada, you ask? Click the post title for an interesting article from WSJ.

Here's what we'll be eating Tuesday night in honor of Cinco de Mayo. My version of Huevos Rancheros:

Using those neat little round corn chips, place on a baking sheet, overlapping, making a circle large enough to host 2 fried eggs. Cover with light dusting of shredded cheddar or Jack cheese--or combine. Put these made circles in a warm oven to melt cheese and keep warm while you prepare eggs.

Fry 2 eggs per serving the regular way.
Place the chip and cheese circles on a plate (careful...) and top with a homemade or store-bought salsa. I use store-bought and add fresh cilantro.
Plop the eggs on top of the salsa and squeeze a little fresh lime juice over the eggs.
Surround the plate with a helping of prepared and warmed black beans, and sprinkle cooked and chopped chorizo around the plate also. Or, "French fry" some thinly cut potato circles and when done, add the chorizo and black beans to make a side dish.

If you prefer a classic Margarita rather than a Michelada, you know how to do it; but check the Epicurious link below for an intersting history of tequila...

Now, in July I hope to post how some Mexican friends south of the border celebrate our 4th. of July. Bourbon or scotch, do you suppose, before a dinner of meat loaf, green beans and mashed potatoes? Or better perhaps, would be hot dogs, french fries and a cold Bud. Now yer talkin'.

Viva Mexico y Estados Unidos de America.



May Day (thank goodness Cinco de Mayo is not far behind)

Along with Labor Day, May Day is the working man's day. May Day is more hijacked by socialists and the "co-operative movement". Marxist. How would Obama look with a beard?

The Marxist site linked is interesting... http://www.marxists.org/subject/mayday/index.htm

Even Oracles Have A Right Hand Man

The Oracle of Omaha convenes Capitalist Woodstock this weekend and the WSJ (click on this post title for link) has a brief but interesting feature on one Mr. Charlie Munger, RHM Extraordinaire, who, some say, is the brains at least equal behind the success of Berkshire Hathaway.
You can get a good view into ol' Charlie's vibe by checking out the book Poor Charlie's Almanack. Sit down with a nice Dairy Queen treat and enjoy.
And while on the subject, mosey on over to the Berkshire Hathaway web site http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/ where you can peruse all things Berkshire, including Mr. Buffet's famous letters to shareholders. Fascinating.
Oh, but to be in charge when 11.5 BILLION DOLLARS are clipped off an investment's values, maintain my Oracle status (not to mention my job) and remain so rich that the deep seeded, psychological, never acknowledged guilt/shame of uber-wealth turns you into a Lefty. A Capitalist Lefty, but a Lefty.