Happy holidays and a fun, productive and adventurous new year for one and all. Check back in January for some big announcements.
Congratulations to my cousin, Barry Hawk, for his new book, “Law and Commerce in Pre-Industrial Societies.” The book is available for preorder on Amazon.
Description: Well before states, literacy, or legal systems, there were commerce and trade, which are found in all societies irrespective of politics, social norms or ideologies. Athenian landowners, Roman senators and Qing mandarins screened their participation in commerce and trade. Legal and informal institutions were developed to secure persons and property, resolve commercial disputes, raise capital and share risk, promote fair dealing, regulate agents and gather market information. Law and Commerce in Pre-Industrial Societies examines commerce, its participants and these institutions through the lens of nine pre-industrial societies: Hunter/gatherers, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Athens, Rome, the early Islamic world, medieval Europe, medieval Southern India and Qing China. The book provides historical perspective to contemporary debates about the relationship between commerce and law, public ordering versus privately created systems of law, the rule of law and the relative merits of courts versus merchant networks to resolve disputes.
Barry Hawk is the current Director of the Fordham Competition Law Institute; a former professor of law at Fordham Law School; and a former partner with Skadden Arps LLP. He holds a certificat from the Institut d'Etudes Politiques, University of Paris; an A .B. from Fordham College; and an LL.B. from the University of Virginia School of Law. He is the author and editor of numerous books and articles on international trade and competition law, including Anti-cartel Engorcement Worldwide (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2009) and United States, Common Market and International Antitrust (2d ed. 1996).
Is it just me or are banks growing unfriendlier by the year? More and more locked doors--having to buzz to gain access to brick & mortars--unfriendly tellers and tedious sign-in policies for online access are becoming the new norm. Of course, the banks have justifiable reasons--they naturally want the biggest possible dragons squatting on their hoarded riches to make it difficult for thieves and hackers. Still, I find it increasingly annoying. Maybe I’m just showing my age, having grown up in a different era. Hell, I remember savings accounts that paid 5% interest.
The lazy hazy days of summer? No way.
There’s been a bit of haze in the air on a number of occasions. However, “lazy” is not in the cards at the moment as I’ve been keeping busy with a number of writing projects. Unfortunately, nothing I can announce just yet. But check back for updates.
Although I’m a movie junkie, these days I don’t necessarily get to see flicks in a timely fashion. Not like my younger self, which caught the original “Star Wars” the day it opened at Mann’s Chinese theater in Hollywood, giving me bragging rights as one of the first humans on the planet to be amazed by George Lucas’ otherworldly creations.
Here’s a magnificent seven released in the past year or so that represents my ideals of first-rate moviemaking. In no particular order:
“Inherent Vice” -- Wild and weird, a cross between “The Big Lebowski” and “Harper” (Ross MacDonald’s detective character portrayed by Paul Newman). A convoluted puzzle of a story perceived through a haze of marijuana smoke by Joaquin Phoenix, this adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel is by way of the always interesting director, Paul Thomas Anderson.
“Ex Machina” -- Not the first film to explore the ramifications of artificial intelligence but the most effective one on multiple levels. A perfect combination of fascinating and seductive characters, intelligent dialogue and relentlessly escalating suspense.
“Boyhood” -- I went into this one with a preconceived notion that any connection would be fragile at best. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise, especially in the way in which the stages of a life from childhood to college are seamlessly woven.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” -- Who says you need a lot of talking to make a great film? Actions literally speak louder than words in this sensory barrage of a chase flick overflowing with spectacular stunts. Law-of-the-jungle morality dominates a desolate, post-apocalyptic landscape, yet it remains a world where humanity’s best emotions refuse to be crushed under big wheels.
“The Fault in Our Stars” -- Rising star Shailene Woodley gives a memorable performance as a teen trapped in the calamity of deadly cancer and desperately seeking love and meaning, the former with costar Ansel Elgort, the latter with a jaded cynic of a writer played by Willem Dafoe. Sad at times yet ultimately uplifting.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” -- Over-the-top action scenes--par for the genre--are nonetheless given uncharacteristic moral weight by a politically savvy plot. Easy to see how Robert Redford was persuaded to take a role in a comic book flick.
“Wild” -- Based on a true story, Reese Witherspoon’s character solo hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. Intercutting aspects of her earlier life, the film effectively blends past and present, detailing the rediscovery of a lost mojo during a thousand-mile trek.
Next up on my must-see list: “Jurassic World.” As a long-time fan of prehistoric gate crashers to the hubris of the human party, I eagerly await this next installment of dinosaurs gone wild.
Tis the season of primary elections (Pennsylvanians vote on May 19). So here are some rehashes of ideas suggested by others for making governments more transparent.
Let’s have Congressional and state legislators, during public appearances, don racing-style driver suits adorned with their corporate sponsors. Major donors would get the biggest logos, with smaller trademarks for the small fry. If Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil, Apple or “fill in the blank” anted up big bucks to get you elected, show us the money trail.
Okay, that one’s a fantasy. Never going to happen. But it might be within the realm of possibility that some of our bolder and more public-spirited news organizations (New York Times, Washington Post, etc.) could place sidebars beside stories where politicians are quoted, listing the politician's major sponsors. This is occasionally done but not with any consistency. Same basic principle could be applied in TV or digital media, with crawls placed beneath sound bites.
Mega corporations are increasingly dominating our world, many of them subtly promoting the notion through their numerous PR outlets that there’s “too much government interference.” I don’t believe it’s coincidental that at the same time this is happening, we’re seeing greater income inequality in the U.S.--more money for those at the top--than any era since the Depression years of the 1930s.
It’s hard not to be cynical about government, I know. But I still believe that the majority of politicians, despite their corporate sponsorship, want to please all of their constituencies--if for no other reason than to get reelected. Bottom line, more transparency is needed. Open government remains our best shot for containing the excesses of corporate avarice.
SPARTAN X is again available as an ebook, and at a special introductory offer of $2.99 U.S.
Retailers include Kindle, Nook, Apple, Sony and Kobo.
The sale price is guaranteed through the end of April.
The contemporary science fiction thriller features a slacker with apocalyptic visions who joins forces with a feisty FBI agent to track a murderous shapeshifting alien.
I haven't kept up with social media this year the way I would have liked, especially updating this blog on a regular basis. My excuse, as always, is that my writing projects take precedence.
And on that front, it's been a fertile year. A number of new projects are either nearing completion or well underway, including two novels, a novella and a couple of original screenplays. Two previous screenplays, "Binary" and "Spartan X," remain under option and received major rewrites. I remain optimistic that both ultimately will be greenlit for production and illuminate the darkness at your neighborhood multiplex.
Audiobook versions of Liege-Killer and the Paratwa Saga are on the horizon. Amazon subsidiary Audible.com recently licensed the rights from my ebook publisher, Open Road Integrated Media, and hired a seasoned narrator to do the adaptations.
Look for more info on these and other projects in early 2015. Until then, Happy Holidays.
Today is election day in the U.S., so as they used to say in Chicago, "vote early and vote often." Seriously, whatever your political affiliation, please try to find the time to vote. Not only does it show your active support for the democratic process, it gives you a strong moral base from which to bitch about politicians between now and the next election.
The Philadelphia Eagles proved yesterday that they're the real deal. Offense, defense and special teams were finally firing in sync, and the mighty NY Giants looked hopelessly outmatched in the 27-0 romp.
Next week is the Eagles' bye week, which gives us all extra time to tune in to Berks Community Television's annual fundraising auction, Octoberfest (Oct. 20th through 24th). You can bid on hundreds of unique crafts, collectibles, sports memorabilia and more, including the following Eagles items:
--autographed LeSean McCoy jersey
--autographed Nick Foles helmet
--two suite tickets to the Eagles/Seahawks game, Dec. 7
--photo collage of Eagles all-time greats
--rookie cards for McCoy, Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin
--autographed Riley Cooper mini-helmet w/case
You can bid online, by phone or at BCTV's Reading, PA, studio on North 13th St. And if you'd like to donate an item to the auction, contact Bill Martin at 610-374-3065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More details at http://www.bctv.org/support_us/octoberfest/
As a lifelong fan of auto racing, I was thrilled with the opportunity to wave the green flag for a feature event last night at the Kutztown Fairgrounds, aka “Action Track USA,” in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. (top photo, getting ready as starter Mike Feltenberger gives the field the "one to go" signal)
The evening, which included pit passes, racing-themed t-shirts and being photographed with a feature winner in victory lane, was made possible by way of a premium item donated to nonprofit BCTV’s annual Octoberfest fundraising auction. Mike arranged for the donation and yours truly had the winning bid.
The dirt track, one-fifth of a mile according to National Speedway Directory although probably closer to a quarter mile for those drivers running out near the wall, was lightning-fast and the competition fierce in all four divisions. I waved the green in the first of the twin 600cc micro sprint features and watched part of the race from the starter’s stand, a unique viewpoint for the action.
Later, in the SpeedSTR feature, I was rooting for famous racer Kenny Brightbill, whom I used to watch dominate the long-defunct Reading Fairgrounds oval (135 feature wins and four track championships). A combination of great driving and racing luck earned Brightbill the checkered flag and me a chance to shake his hand in victory lane.
I’ve attended countless races at dozens of tracks. The evening at Kutztown was obviously a memorable experience. Yet I can say unequivocally that the ultra-competitive racing at this place is among the best I’ve ever seen. More info on the track here.
Special thanks to Mike Feltenberger and company for arranging an enjoyable evening, and to Dave Kurtz and Dave Balloch for their photographic efforts.