Movie review: The Post

After the family got to see The Post at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in January 2018, the Daughter asked, “What’s Watergate?” That’s because the end of the movie teases about yet another journalistic crusade for the Washington Post, running into federal governmental interference.

Except, the leads of the film realize, perhaps, more complicated. Editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) notes wistfully at one point that his close relationship with John F. Kennedy might have had him pulling a few punches.

Publisher Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) is even more socially involved with the powerful. Her father, Eugene Meyer, had passed the paper down to her husband Philip Graham. When Philip committed suicide in August 1963, sordid matter only peripherally addressed in the film, Kay became titular head of the paper.

Quite telling is one scene in which the men start talking politics, and the women, including Kay, go off to chat about other things. She was good friends with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood), who supported her emotionally after Philip’s death.

The rival New York Times reported a blockbuster story about an extensive, confidential report written by Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) about the United States’ failed policy in the war in Vietnam. Moreover, officials such as McNamara KNEW it was likely an unwinnable conflict. The federal government got a judge to enjoin the Times from publishing more stories.

When the Washington paper, thanks to some sleuthing by Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk), gets access to the reports dubbed the Pentagon Papers, is the DC paper bound by the Times’ legal constraints? And how will this affect the financial negotiations that Kay Graham is involved with?

The Post is a good solid film, directed by Steven Spielberg. It is unfair, though inevitable, to compare it with the Watergate-era film All the President’s Men, but one does. Jason Robards is a better Ben Bradlee than Hanks, which I have read Tom acknowledged. And it wasn’t as taut as Spotlight, the movie about the Catholic priest scandal in Boston.

Ultimately, the biggest arc takes place with Kay Graham, and a lot of that is Streep. I also loved Odenkirk.

Still, I got a little misty-eyed with joy when Meg Greenfield (Carrie Coon) reads Supreme Justice Hugo Black’s opinion in the case. The movie has seemed very current, hitting on both the attack on the media and the role of women in the workplace. A must-see for a political junkie like me.


Musical review: She Loves Me

I’m really surprised that I was totally unaware of She Loves Me, the musical that my wife, my daughter and I saw at Capital Rep in Albany on Christmas Eve. I recognized only one song, the title tune.

It was first performed on Broadway in 1963, with the late, legendary Barbara Cook in the lead role of Amalia and a guy named Daniel Massey, son of Raymond Massey of Dr. Kildare fame, as Georg. The lecherous Steven was played by Jack Cassidy, father of David and Shaun. There have been three revivals, most recently in 2016.

Moreover, the music was by Jerry Bock and the lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, the composers of my second-favorite musical ever, Fiddler on the Roof. She Loves Me is based on a 1937 play called Parfumerie by Hungarian writer Miklos Laszlo.

Before She Loves Me, there was the 1940 movie The Shop Around the Corner with Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart. Then was the movie In the Good Old Summertime (1949) with Judy Garland and Van Johnson, music by George Stoll and Robert Van Eps. The 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, mines the same basic plot.

And that is: guy meets gal, who pretty much dislike each other from the get-go, as she is hired to work in the perfume shop where he’s been working for a decade and a half. Yet they’ve been corresponding fervently through a lonely-hearts club.

The Cap Rep production featured a nifty set, terrific costumes, and great, often stylish songs that generally advance the plot.

Amalia is played by actress Julia Barrows. Independently, my wife and I decided that she reminded us a little of Cate Blanchett physically. In the story from the local paper, Barrows said she first saw She Loves Me at a performing arts high school that her older sister attended.

“I have always wanted to do this show,” she said. “It’s the musical that made me fall in love with theaterand say, ‘This is what I want to do with my life.'” And it showed.

Death Cafe: Albany – Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Death Cafe: Albany (NY), taking place on Tuesday, January 23 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library, 517 Western Avenue, is based on the Death Cafe tradition started by Jon Underwood in England in 2011. It will be facilitated by Melissa White, a hospice volunteer and an experienced educator and researcher.

There’s no need for any particular background, just having a interest in talking about death. No agenda or specific therapy, but most people find it helpful to be able to speak about a range of death-related things that many around us find upsetting or otherwise taboo.

Strangers meet in a safe place to eat baked goods, drink hot beverages, and talk freely about the taboo that we all experience. Read more about it here.

As my friend Amy, who’s been a hospice worker for 10 years, wrote: “Don’t let the title scare you. I see the value and importance of being able to talk about, plan, and discuss your thoughts about the final chapter of your life. Just like birth, it is a natural process, and while it comes with sadness, it can be a peaceful, beautiful and reverent time.”

Music throwback: Kenny Loggins

I missed the fact that Kenny Loggins turned 70 on January 6. I liked some of his songs, and others, not so much.

But I LOVE the House on Pooh Corners story, how the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band wanted to record it, but the Disney lawyers put the kibosh on it. Loggins told then-girlfriend Marnie Walker how bummed he was. She talked to her daddy, who happened to be president of Disney.

Thanks to Marnie and her dad Card Walker, Disney “allowed the Dirt Band to put the song on their Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy album… Then Loggins put it on Loggins & Messina’s debut album the following year. And now, more than 40 years later, he still manages to make a song about Winnie the Pooh sound cool.”

And the Loggins & Messina partnership is another interesting narrative. “Jim Messina, formerly of Poco and Buffalo Springfield, was working as an independent record producer… in 1970 when he was introduced to Kenny Loggins, then a little-known singer-songwriter… When Columbia signed Loggins (with the assistance of Messina) to a six-album contract, recording began in earnest for Loggins’ debut album, with Messina as producer. [Messina] also assembled The Kenny Loggins Band by summoning old friends…

“Messina originally intended to lend his name to the Loggins project only to help introduce the unknown Loggins to Messina’s well-established audiences. But by the time the album was completed, Messina had contributed so much to the album – in terms of songwriting, arrangement, instrumentation, and vocals – that an ‘accidental’ duo was born. Thus, the full name of their first album was Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin’ In. Although the album went unnoticed by radio upon release, it eventually found success by autumn 1972, particularly on college campuses where the pair toured heavily…

I remember singing the chorus of “This Is It” with my sister Leslie when we both visited my parents and sister Marcia in Charlotte, but what I did not know was that it was “for Loggins’ ailing father who had to choose between life and death. The song earned Loggins the Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. NBC used the song as theme music for its coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 1980 and 1981.” Yeah, I do remember the constant play during March Madness.

Listen to

Loggins & Messina
House at Pooh Corner
Your Mama Don’t Dance

Kenny Loggins
This Is It
Footloose (I own the soundtrack but never saw the movie)
Vox Humana
Danger Zone
Nobody’s Fool

It’s only been a year of the regime?

Here’s the thing some people just do not believe: I don’t get any goodies about bashing the regime. People STILL tell me I’m mad that Hillary didn’t win. Or it’s because he’s a Republican. Nah, that ain’t it.

It’s because when a book comes out about him, I don’t spend much time wondering if it’s true. He says wants to sue over it, but really can’t (and based on his track record, won’t).

You see, it merely shows what I’d already noticed, that he is venal human being –he thinks having sex with his friends’ wives makes ‘life worth living’ – and an incompetent one as well – look at his broken press operations.

Here are 11 explosive claims from new book. I mean “You Can’t Make This S— Up”.

Part of the reason has been clear: he didn’t want to Be President, didn’t expect to be. And rightly so, since he lacks the temperament. When he says his ‘nuclear button’ is ‘much bigger’ Than North Korea’s, taunting like a seven-year-old that needs to be sent to his room, he shows either lack of judgment or a lack of capacity. And based on several reports, he LIKES being sent to his room as long as he has enough televisions to watch, and Big Macs to eat.

I suppose it’s unreasonable to expect better. In interviews, he is incoherent, authoritarian, and uninformed as he airs his many grievances and declares his singular grandeur. He takes credit for things that he has no responsibility for. Mark Kelly suggests: If he gets credit for zero airline deaths, he should also get credit for gun deaths.

I remain cautiously hopeful that the Mueller investigation continue to uncover activities that will shorten this nightmare. Or that he’ll get bored and quit.

Three more years of the regime? God help us, every one.

The law of diminishing returns: raking and social media

When I was raking leaves in the front lawn recently, I was reminded yet again of the law of diminishing returns, which I learned about in my first college freshman economics class.

I don’t recall the definition, but I’ve always remembered the example. If someone gives you an ice cream cone, that’s great! If someone gives you a second cone, that’s OK, but not nearly as satisfying. And someone gives you a third cone, why that might give you a headache from brain freeze or a stomach ache.

Raking leaves is like that. You rake the yard the first time and you get about 90% of the leaves. You have a strong feeling of accomplishment. You rake it a second time and maybe you get 80% of the remaining 10% or 8% of the yard; not nearly so satisfying. A third time, when you’re making even more effort for not very much of a result? I just can’t be bothered.

Incidentally, when I rake leaves by myself, I put them in a garbage can with tires, and wheel them to the compost pile in the backyard. But when I do this with my wife, we put the leaves in those bags with openings that are too small, and the bags don’t stand on their own. I think my way is better, but the law makes discussing this yet again fruitless.

It’s somewhat like debate on Facebook. Someone writes a piece on the platform that you know for sure is 100% wrong. You comment on the page perhaps with a link to collaborating evidence. He – it’s more often a he – says you’re stupid, and probably don’t even love your country.

You warily try one more time, but it is met with a buzz saw of further resistance. So you walk away. You WALK AWAY. Well, that’s what I do because it just isn’t worth the effort.

I’ve discovered that the law of diminishing returns applies to lots of situations. It sure beats having a Twitter war over insignificant stuff.

Movie review: Darkest Hour (2017)

The good news is that The Daughter wanted to go see Darkest Hour, the 2017 film not to be confused with several other films with the same or similar titles. The bad news is that she kept referring to it as “the film with “that guy.” The good news is that after we saw it this month at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, she now knows who “that guy” is.

In May 1940, when World War II had overtaken most of western Europe, Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup), the Prime Minister from the ruling Conservative party lost the confidence of the opposition Labour. While Tory loyalists wanted Lord Halifax (Stephen Dillane), the only Conservative who could sway the opposition into a governing pact was an opinionated blowhard of excess named Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman).

Churchill could be quite difficult, as his secretary Elizabeth Layton (Lily James) discovered early on. Even King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) admitted to being a little afraid of the pugnacious new Prime Minister. Only his equally strong-willed wife Clemmie (Kristin Scott Thomas) could tame him sometimes, and even she could become exasperated by his excesses.

This is a story of political intrigue. As the news from Europe worsened, how would Britain respond, especially since there were troops on the Continent? Should they negotiate with Hitler, as Chamberlain, disastrously by most accounting, had done so regarding Czechoslovakia? Should the king be whisked away to Canada? Or should the country fight, despite the incredible odds?

Gary Oldman delivers a tremendous performance, aided by impressive makeup. My favorite scenes involve him and Scott Thomas, who show that, despite it all, a great love between Winston and Clemmie. Also very good is Lily James.

Interestingly, I had received, after the fact, an invitation to see Darkest Hour at Hillsdale College in Michigan, suggesting that the conservative facility was giving its imprimatur to the film.

It DOES make me wish I had seen the 2017 movie Dunkirk, which addresses the battle from the side of the fighters, not just the politicians that put them at risk. This is no knock on Darkest Hour, which was telling the story from a different POV, some fictionalized, although some of the criticism of Darkest Hour did draw comparisons, some unfavorable, to Dunkirk.

B is for Bereavement in the midst of loss

Occasionally, someone I do not know will email me and ask if I would promote something, usually based on something I had written on this blog some years earlier. Recently, Jennifer from SpiritFinder wrote:

“Anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one knows how difficult that loss can be. For children, it can be even more difficult. Grasping the concept of mortality is tough enough for them.

“There are plenty of ways, however, to guide a child through the pain of losing someone or something special. Quite often it can be just as therapeutic for the adults as it is the children.

“In addition, many adults find that with aging and infirm loved ones, they are faced with decisions and instances they’ve never encountered before, on top of handling the likely death of a parent or close relative. All of this can be quite a bit for the entire family to bear.

“In order to alleviate some of the stress children and families might endure, I’ve put together a list of resources that can benefit everyone. I hope you will find these useful and worth sharing with your audience.”

What brought her to my blog was this post entitled Grief, which I wrote about two months after my mother died in 2011. The issue of bereavement has fascinated me even as a child: open casket/closed casket; sitting Shiva, as Jewish people do, or a loud celebration as they do in New Orleans.

Saying Goodbye: Talking to Kids About Death

Preparing for the Death of a Terminally-Ill Loved One: What to Expect, and How to Help the Entire Family Move Forward

Letting Children Share in Grief

The Bereaved Employee: Returning to Work

Final Logistics: A Step-by-Step Guide to Handling a Loved One’s Belongings After Their Death

Keeping the Peace While Settling a Family Estate

5 Things You Must Know as the Executor of an Estate

Jennifer notes: “While not all of these resources pertain to children, it’s important to remember that children will feel the effects of death that echo through the family, and I think several of these resources can be a great help to parents and extended family.”

Also, Nautilus. When illustrator JP Trostle’s mother died, he and his family faced a challenge familiar to many: cleaning house.

For ABC Wednesday

MLK, Jr.: The Role of the Behavioral Scientist

Here’s my annual repudiation of the notion “If Martin Luther King Were alive, he’d be a Republican,” from his own words. This is an excerpt (900 out of 4000 words) of The Role of the Behavioral Scientist, an address to the American Psychology Association’s annual convention on 1 September 1967. You can find the whole speech here or here.

If the Negro needs social sciences for direction and for self-understanding, the white society is in even more urgent need. White America needs to understand that it is poisoned to its soul by racism and the understanding needs to be carefully documented and consequently more difficult to reject…

A profound judgment of today’s riots was expressed by Victor Hugo a century ago. He said, ‘If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.’

The policymakers of the white society have caused the darkness; they create discrimination; they structured slums; and they perpetuate unemployment, ignorance and poverty. It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society…

I believe we will have to find the militant middle between riots on the one hand and weak and timid supplication for justice on the other hand. That middle ground, I believe, is civil disobedience. It can be aggressive but nonviolent; it can dislocate but not destroy…

Negroes today are experiencing an inner transformation that is liberating them from ideological dependence on the white majority. What has penetrated substantially all strata of Negro life is the revolutionary idea that the philosophy and morals of the dominant white society are not holy or sacred but in all too many respects are degenerate and profane…

The worst aspect of their oppression was their inability to question and defy the fundamental precepts of the larger society. Negroes have been loath in the past to hurl any fundamental challenges because they were coerced and conditioned into thinking within the context of the dominant white ideology. This is changing and new radical trends are appearing in Negro thought. I use radical in its broad sense to refer to reaching into roots…

The slashing blows of backlash and frontlash have hurt the Negro, but they have also awakened him and revealed the nature of the oppressor. To lose illusions is to gain truth. Negroes have grown wiser and more mature and they are hearing more clearly those who are raising fundamental questions about our society whether the critics be Negro or white. When this process of awareness and independence crystallizes, every rebuke, every evasion, become hammer blows on the wedge that splits the Negro from the larger society.

Social science is needed to explain where this development is going to take us. Are we moving away, not from integration, but from the society which made it a problem in the first place? How deep and at what rate of speed is this process occurring? These are some vital questions to be answered if we are to have a clear sense of our direction…
And may I say together, we must solve the problems right here in America. As I have said time and time again, Negroes still have faith in America. Black people still have faith in a dream that we will all live together as brothers in this country of plenty one day…

And I assert at this time that once again we must reaffirm our belief in building a democratic society, in which blacks and whites can live together as brothers, where we will all come to see that integration is not a problem, but an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.

The problem is deep. It is gigantic in extent, and chaotic in detail. And I do not believe that it will be solved until there is a kind of cosmic discontent enlarging in the bosoms of people of good will all over this nation…

But on the other hand, I am sure that we will recognize that there are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted… We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry. We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

Thus, it may well be that our world is in dire need of a new organization, The International Association for the Advancement of Creative Maladjustment. Men and women should be as maladjusted as the prophet Amos, who in the midst of the injustices of his day, could cry out in words that echo across the centuries, ‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream’; or as maladjusted as Abraham Lincoln, who in the midst of his vacillations finally came to see that this nation could not survive half slave and half free… And through such creative maladjustment, we may be able to emerge from the bleak and desolate midnight of man’s inhumanity to man, into the bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.

I have not lost hope. I must confess that these have been very difficult days for me personally. And these have been difficult days for every civil rights leader, for every lover of justice and peace.

January rambling #1: A Patriotic American Liberal

LEAVE IT IN 2017 and Some looks at the year just gone

A Radical New Scheme to Prevent Catastrophic Sea-Level Rise

Americans Don’t Really Understand Gun Violence

How America is Transforming Islam

The scammers gaming India’s overcrowded job market

Proud To Be A Patriotic American Liberal

Senate Judiciary Committee Interview of GLENN SIMPSON, AUGUST 22, 2017, released by Diane Feinstein

Latrine politics

Conspiracy sites claim he was ‘FEARED DEAD’, targeted by ‘DEEP STATE’ in minor Tower fire

A tax on a free press

New mom Serena Williams had to talk her hospital staff through saving her life

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among UK men but this is a faulty conclusion

Google Thinks I’m Dead (I know otherwise)

What’s wrong with the Internet, whether it’s new, and the power (and value) of our attention

Empörungsgesellschaft – Crazy bloggers, twitterers, facebooklings, and so forth, are able to impinge upon the public consciousness in new and historically unprecedented ways?

Cory Doctorow’s recent novel Walkaway imagines a world where scarcity is unnecessary and generosity is a feasible way of life

Takeout creates a lot of trash; it doesn’t have to

This expanding house is ready in 10 minutes

Growable shoes

Chuck Miller: A few words on my son’s wedding day

A Writer’s Guide to Permissions and Fair Use

We Have A New Prime Number, And It’s 23 Million Digits Long

Darlanne in the 1971 Panorama yearbook, Binghamton, (NY) Central High School

Darlanne Fluegel, Actress in ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’ and ‘Running Scared,’ Dies at 64 – I knew her a little when we were briefly in Binghamton Central High School together

Jerry Van Dyke, RIP

Ray Thomas, Moody Blues Flautist and Founding Member, Dead at 76

Keith Jackson, the folksy voice of college football has died at 89

Actress Greta Thyssen, Blonde Bombshell of the 1950s and ’60s, Dies at 90in action; see 185 Pies And Guys, especially from 13:00 in

Musicals Into Movies

Which Film Critics Are The Most Contrarian?

Must there be a Marvel Comics?

Op-Docs Contenders for the 2018 Academy Awards

Babies weren’t cute until…

First new word of 2018 for me: mooted: raised (a question or topic) for discussion; suggested (an idea or possibility) – I’ve known moot, as in “the question is moot,” but not this

Now I Know: The Panhandler Who Returned a Treasure and When Breaking a Record Really Blows

What’s a Wendy’s doing there? The story of Washington’s weirdest traffic circle

How to pronounce Gyllenhaal


The 2017 Coverville Countdown Part 1 and Part 2

Coverville 1200: This Day in Covers: January 3, 1978

Shelter from the Storm · Rodney Crowell / Emmylou Harris (HT to Jaquandor)

Echo Beach (2010) – Martha and the Muffins

Something’s Coming – Voctave

Your Song – Elle Goulding

Bagpipes/Dubstep/Star Wars

Someone to Lay Down Beside Me – Karla Bonoff

Ken – Barbie sings!

50 Best Folk Music Artists of All Time

The Beach Boys Are Better Than the Beatles