Monday, November 17, 2014


You ask what I've been watching lately. What? You didn't ask? Forgive me if I tell you anyway.

Last night, I watched the delightful film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and smiled all the way through, though the movie includes a good measure of seriousness in the mix with the madcap humor. Since I knew little about the film, except that several friends told me I should see it, I was surprised when well-known actors popped up unexpectedly in hilarious disguises and delighted that they played their roles so beautifully and unassumingly without striving to steal the limelight in their scenes.

Ralph Fiennes, as the concierge of the hotel, Mr Gustave H, was superb, and F Murray Abraham more than holds his own as the lobby boy, Moustafa Zero, to whom Mr Gustave becomes a mentor and a friend. There's lot to be said for knowing little to nothing about a film, and coming away charmed with one's spirit uplifted.

Last week, I watched Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.  Since I had already read critical reviews of the movie, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was completely caught up in the story. The main criticisms were that the very concept of a biographical movie about Mandela was wrong, because his character was too complex and his life too long and eventful even for a film that stretched into two and a half hours, and that a series would have been a more appropriate vehicle. That the movie telescoped the great sweep of history of the struggle for freedom for blacks in South Africa, as shown through the life of Nelson Mandela, who played so great a part in the story even during his long years in prison, was seen as a failure. Well, the film is what it is, and, though events moved along at a fast clip, and large chunks of Mandela's life were missing, it held my interest throughout.

Idris Elba was magnificent in the role of Mandela, Shakespearian, as one critic described him, and Naomie Harris was excellent as Winnie Mandela. The two dominate the film, with the other actors playing only minor supporting roles.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


The photos show the newest member of our family. She is a four month old kitten, who is very affectionate and who quickly bonded with both Tom and me. We're a beautiful match.  Scarlett is a lively ball of fire and has explored every nook and cranny downstairs and upstairs.  She peed once on the floor but has since used her litter box.  She was named at the shelter, and we decided to keep the name...wait for it...Scarlett! Get it?

Scarlett is reclining in her bed now. Yesterday afternoon, she went missing for a while. I searched upstairs, downstairs, and all around the house, but no Scarlett. I heard a faint "Meow" in the distance once or twice, but when I got closer - nothing. Then I remembered I had opened the door to the closet where I keep the clothes hamper and closed it after I put clothes in. When I opened the door, there she was lying on the clothes in the hamper, looking not too unhappy.

Our girl likes books, too.  Good thing, because our house is filled with them.  She also wants to share our meals. After searching the internet, I discovered the methods I've been using are not the best and may cause Scarlett to be afraid of me, rather than teach her to stay off the kitchen counter and table.  Yesterday, I used a spray bottle with water, and only after she punished me for my rudeness by staying away for several hours did she jump up on my lap to be cuddled.

Following the sad months of our Diana's decline after being our companion for 17 and a half years, the little kitten has brought joy and liveliness back into our lives.  After Diana died, when I returned home after going out, and Tom wasn't home, I missed having a live creature to greet me when I walked into the house.  Thus the decision to adopt a kitten companion from My Heart's Desire in Houma, Louisiana.


The nation's top military leader [Gen.Martin Dempsey] told Congress Thursday that the United States would consider dispatching a modest number of American forces to fight with Iraqi troops as they engage in more complex missions in the campaign against Islamic State militants.

Joining him at the witness table was Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said the coalition was making progress in the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, but the American people must prepare for a long and difficult struggle. 

Hagel maintained that the U.S. personnel will not be involved in ground combat.
Tell me another, Mr Secretary.

The US should be out of the Middle East altogether, except for strictly humanitarian purposes to aid the vast numbers of refugees who have lost their homes or been driven out into surrounding territory. I do not speak of humanitarian purposes as broadly as the Obama administration interprets the phrase to include members of the US military, arms, and other types of military aid. The US has made the situation worse rather than better each time we intervene, and it's way past time for us to allow the countries in the Middle East to work out their own destinies.

With regard to humanitarian aid, our efforts fall woefully short, considering our part in contributing to the chaos of death and destruction that now exists.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


On Being Asked To Write A Poem Against The War In Vietnam

Well I have and in fact
more than one and I'll
tell you this too

I wrote one against
Algeria that nightmare
and another against

Korea and another
against the one
I was in

and I don't remember
how many against
the three

when I was a boy
Abyssinia Spain and
Harlan County

and not one
breath was restored
to one

shattered throat
mans womans or childs
not one not

but death went on and on
never looking aside

except now and then
with a furtive half-smile
to make sure I was noticing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


A few evenings ago, I watched the movie Iris, which is the story of the English novelist Iris Murdoch's decline into Alzheimer's in the later years of her life, and her husband John's loving and valiant efforts to care for her in their home. The story, which is based on John Bayley's memoir, Elegy for Iris, is beautifully brought to the screen by director Richard Eyre.

My review may be something of a spoiler for those of you who have not seen the film, but then again, maybe not.  Fair warning.

The movie includes flashbacks to Murdoch's vibrant younger years at Oxford University, where she and her husband meet.  Dame Judi as the older Iris is, as usual, superb, and Jim Broadbent as John Bayley, her husband, is excellent.  The younger versions of Iris and John are very well-played by Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville.  The two young actors resemble the older actors closely enough so that the flashbacks are not in the least jarring.

As we watch Murdoch decline and Bayley become frustrated and then overwhelmed as he attempts to care for her, the scenes are heartbreaking. Their house descends further and further into chaos - an apt metaphor for their lives and for Murdoch's ruined mind.

Despite the overall sadness, the film had its humorous moments.  When Iris and John met, she had already had a series of lovers, at least one of whom was a woman, while John was a virgin the first time the two made love. There's a wonderfully funny scene in the movie when Iris names all her past lovers.  Before Iris begins, John says, with his usual stutter, "Ought I - I to take notes?"  After her accounting of her past loves, he says. "Is that all?  I - I mean roughly?"

Monday, November 3, 2014


A wonderful performance by Aoife O'Donovan of a song I know and love from Paul Brady's recording.  The geography in the lyrics is not quite right, for it would be a slow train, indeed, that took from morning till evening to cross Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, but that's a mere quibble.

Below is a performance by Paul Brady from 1977.

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Icons by Tobias Haller
O Almighty God, who have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those indescribable joys which you have prepared for those who truly love you: through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.

(Book of Common Prayer)


State officials sent a letter to members of the society [American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene] “disinviting” those who have been to the West African countries impacted by the deadly virus in the last three weeks or who have treated any patients on American soil.

“In Louisiana, we love to welcome visitors, but we must balance that hospitality with the protection of Louisiana residents and other visitors,” the administration officials wrote. “We do hope that you will consider a future visit to New Orleans, when we can welcome you appropriately.”
Jindal and crew know better than the experts.  Bill Gates is not afraid.  New Orleans depends on income from conferences and tourism for its very life.  Since the city tends to vote blue, the governor doesn't like New Orleans, and he doesn't care about the damage to tourism that will result from his ignorant decrees.

Jindal's hubris has no bounds. That was yesterday's reported stupidity, but there's more.
A major U.S. public health organization has become the second group impacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Ebola response policy as it prepares to bring 14,000 people to New Orleans.

State health officials advised the American Public Health Association that registrants recently returned from Ebola-stricken countries and those who have treated patients stateside should stay home.
Ai-yai-yai!  A convention of 14,000 public health experts will be welcomed only conditionally, because Bobby Jindal, once again, knows best how to safeguard the health of the citizens of Louisiana.  How unfortunate that the governor does not concern himself with the 257,000 people who would be eligible for health insurance if he implemented Medicaid expansion.  He won't, because he's running for president and advocates repeal the Affordable Care Act.  In the meantime, because of Bobby's ambition, people in Louisiana suffer.  Who knows but that among the hundreds of thousands of people with no health insurance, there are those who walk among us with communicable diseases?  If Jindal cared about public health safety in Louisiana, he'd allow people to buy health insurance that they can afford.

I'm not finished.  Not even ashes.
The incinerated remains and belongings of from Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, who died in Dallas will not be allowed into a landfill in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Fear, fear, fear - governance by pumping up fear in the citizenry.  Yes, I know other states are doing it, too, but the authorities act out of ignorance.   It's the American way. 

Friday, October 31, 2014


I’m a congenital pessimist, so don’t give me too much credit for drawing attention to this pending debacle-cum-comic-relief. Instead, all praise should go to National Review’s Eliana Johnson, who reported Monday evening that a source “close to” Jindal was willing to confirm that the “slight” governor “has gained 13 pounds over the past few months” because he’s “looking to beef up” now that the 2016 campaign is “on the horizon.”

To understand why the Jindal camp’s decision to share this little scooplet is so phenomenally bizarre and foreboding, rather than simply silly and weird, you need to keep in mind just how much of a disaster his tenure as Louisiana governor has been.
Finally a national publication focuses on the maladministration of Jindal, who governed, untrammeled by the Louisiana Legislature, according to Tea Party philosophy.  The legislature is complicit in every way, because they allowed Jindal to have his way in all his policies except the sales tax proposal.  Jindal's legacy in Louisiana will be the destruction of worthy institutions and programs due to budget cuts and privatizing and a budget nightmare that will be left to the next governor to untangle.

It is beyond laughable that Jindal thinks he will revive his campaign for president by gaining weight.  I have not once heard a Louisiana citizen criticize Jindal because he's not "beefed up" enough.  Keep in mind that though the people of Louisiana don't like him now, he was reelected to a second term by a landslide.