Before Memorial Day there was word that Dick Martin had passed on. He was a multi-talented and much loved panelist on Match Game (often with his wife Dolly Read), and other game shows; the director of many television shows such as In the Heat of the Night; a writer for Duffy’s Tavern and other classic radio shows… and of course, half of Rowan and Martin, the energy behind Laugh-In. His long life (he was 86) entertaining people is all the more amazing, when you consider that he had completely lost the use of one lung as a teenager. Only very late in life had it caused him trouble. Thanks for all the big laughs, Dick!
Then director and actor Sidney Pollack lost his battle with cancer over the weekend. Very surprising considering his memorable character part in the recent Michael Clayton (one of last year’s most interesting and intelligent films). Pollack is probably best known for his direction of Out of Africa, and Tootsie, in which he also played Dustin Hoffman’s irritated agent, meeting his client at the Russian Tea Room.
There was some happy news over this somber Memorial Day weekend – such as the successful landing of another robot on Mars (it takes 10 months to travel, but only 15 minutes to transmit telemetry – imagine that!). Makes you wonder how the planned John Carter of Mars movie by Iron Man director Jon Favreau will turn out, with this improved technology and views of the Red Planet. A couple of days ago, my family attempted to watch the 1980 de Laurentis Flash Gordon film – and couldn’t sit through more than 20 minutes of its bad science (and hammy dialogue… not even so-bad-it-was-good dialogue). (On the other hand, if the bombastically named Tear Gas Squad shows up again on Turner Classic Movies, be sure and nail that on your DVR or Tivo – it’s a cheesy keeper with lots of songs by Dennis Morgan… and Superman George Reeves in a spot role as a druggist.)
Another TV/DVR notice – look for the reruns of the Presidential biography series on PBS, as part of the American Experience – or watch the episodes online. UPDATED: Tonight was the conclusion of Truman (you can catch last week’s episodes about FDR online at the above website). It’s not the most intuitive way to watch the story, however – after each part of the story concludes, you must click the star below the chapter name on the top of the page.
Actually, we try to avoid politics here, but hope that people are reading up about this terrific new G.I. Bill, even as we memorialize our war dead, and veterans who have passed on. This bill is a way to say “Thank you”, and has got bipartisan support from our senators, led by Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) and Jim Webb (D-Va).
In 1944, the G.I. Bill did tremendous good for our returning veterans, and they in turn did great things for our country. Arguably, of all the postwar social policies, only the Marshall Plan was as successful in benefiting society at large. Here is an excellent report from the McNeil-Lehrer Hour from 2000, explaining the power of the G.I. Bill to improve individual lives, as well as America.
In these inflationary times, you may be shocked to realize that the current G.I. Bill only offers around $38,000 for a veteran to get a bachelor’s degree or other postgraduate education. That’s it – period. Reservists get even less than those on active duty – even if they were stop-lossed or served repeated time in combat zones, or on hazardous duty. (Just doesn’t seem fair, does it?) The current bill proposed would fix this, and is sponsored by a panoply of veterans organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), the Air Force Sergeants Association (AFSA), the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), Student Veterans of America, the Partnership for Veterans’ Education and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
When you consider what some colleges charge for just one year of a bachelor’s program… clearly the young veterans of today and tomorrow deserve better support in achieving their dreams. And of course, it would pay dividends for our shared future too — just as the original G.I. Bill was intended to do. Senator Webb’s website has a PDF explaining what this bill would do.