Saturday, July 26, 2014

"NEBRASKA" - THE MOVIE

"Nebraska" is a beautiful, funny, poignant film in splendid black and white, a road movie about a father and son who take off in pursuit of the father's fantasy.  Bruce Dern's portrayal of the father, Woody Grant, is one of the finest in his long acting  career.  Will Forte plays David, Woody's son, with just the right mix of fondness, impatience, indulgence, and uncertainty that, in the end, show him to be a son who loves his father very much.

June Squibb as Kate Grant, Woody's wife and David's mother, is a piece of work, but she seems at the end of her rope, as Woody leaves the house time and again to wander the road on foot in pursuit of his fantasy.  Woody is an alcoholic, who is now slipping into dementia.   What a mouth Kate has!  Since she is elderly and now seems so stressed, I cut her slack, but I'd guess she was a feisty woman from a young age and not one to hold her tongue or mince words.

Writer Bob Nelson's excellent script contains many quotable lines, both funny and sad, and I laughed out loud and was near tears a number of times.  Two examples:
David Grant: Where's your family?
Kate Grant: Oh, they're over in the Catholic cemetery. Catholics wouldn't be caught dead around all these damn Lutherans.
....

David Grant: How did you and mom end up getting married?
Woody Grant: She wanted to.
David Grant: And you didn't?
Woody Grant: I figured, what the hell.
David Grant: Were you ever sorry you married her?
Woody Grant: All the time.
Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael's black and white scenes of the West during the road trip are lovely, indeed.  Kudos to director Alexander Payne for pulling it all together to produce a very fine film.  I can't recommend the movie highly enough.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

NO BOTTOM TO THE SINKHOLE

In a sign of rising tensions over Common Core, state Superintendent of Education John White told Louisiana’s top school board Wednesday that he is being unfairly targeted personally for possible wrongdoing by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration and its allies.

“I am no stranger to politics, and I know that political rhetoric can be heated,” White said in a four-page letter to members of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
....

White sent his letter on the same week that Smith said controversy over Common Core test contracts could spark charges of ethics violations by White and others in the state Department of Education.

Smith cast her concerns in general terms — a posting on Facebook and a telephone interview — and did not offer any documentation.

However, she said unnamed parties are investigating whether employees of the state Department of Education acted improperly.
How low will Governor Jindal sink in his vindictiveness toward his own appointee, Superintendent of Education John White, because of their disagreement over Common Core?

Are there any limits at all to what Kristy Nichols (Commissioner of Administration) will do and say to support her boss and his unbridled ambition? I guess not, or she'd quickly be out of a job, for Jindal brooks no dissent.

Jane Smith, a staunch supporter of the governor, lost her bid for election to a seat in the Louisiana Senate, so Jindal gave her the consolation prize of a seat on BESE (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education) to continue the march to destroy public education in Louisiana. Now, Jane Smith resorts to smearing John White by innuendo on Facebook.

Thanks Governor. You and your honchos are a real class act. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

IRAQI CITY OF MOSUL CLEANSED OF CHRISTIANS

Christian families streamed out of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday after Islamist fighters said they would be killed if they did not pay a protection tax or convert to Islam.

“For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians,” Patriarch Louis Sako lamented as hundreds of families fled ahead of a noon deadline set by Islamic State for them to submit or leave.

The warning was read out in Mosul’s mosques on Friday afternoon, and broadcast throughout the city on loudspeakers.
....

Mosul’s Christian community, one of the oldest in the world, has shrunk rapidly in the years since US-led forces pushed Saddam Hussein from power. Before 2003 the city’s Christians numbered some 60,000 people, but that dropped to some 35,000 by June this year, Mr Sako told AFP.
The United States is complicit in the destruction of the earliest Christian communities in the history of Christianity in Iraq as a result of sanctions and the invasion of the country.  As well, the US is complicit in the rise to power of IS (Islamic State) radical fundamentalists in northern Iraq.
The 1987 census gave 1.4 million Iraqi Christians out of a then population, probably, of 19 million. By 2003 the Christians were estimated at 800,000, with over half a million having emigrated during the years of harsh US/ UN sanctions, or having not been able to afford to have children. The US military occupation of Iraq gave Christianity a bad name and Iraqi Christians were most unfairly targeted as somehow American clients. Over half of the remaining Christians were said to have left by 2008, leaving about 300,000 or so. Now it appears that the remaining 300,000 are being ethnically cleansed in the north of Iraq, where most Christians had lived.
Wars always produce unintended consequences, but the mindless rush to invade Iraq on the basis of lies and deception resulted in the destruction of Iraqi society, along with most of its institutions. We see the results in the violence in Iraq today.  How ironic that the cruel dictator, Saddam Hussein, protected Christians in Iraq, even as the violent intervention by the US enabled the rise of cruel and violent Islamic fundamentalists who completed the destruction of the Christian communities.

Republicans and right-wingers can rave on from now till kingdom come blaming President Obama for the chaos in Iraq, but the facts of history show that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of  Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush and their enablers in Congress, including, I'm sad to say, Democrats in both houses.

Friday, July 18, 2014

BROOKLYN FLEA MARKET



The flea market was attractive and well worth a visit and included food and drink booths for those who were hungry and thirsty. We walked from the subway station down Lafayette Ave, a pretty part of the borough with elegant old houses, which I'm sure cost the earth.

My granddaughter likes vintage clothing. She bought a dress at the market and souvenirs for her family and friends. The dress looked homemade, but very nicely done. If it was vintage, it was recent, because the style was of today. The photo shows Ashlynn trying to decide.

My daughter bought souvenirs, too, and one or two pieces of inexpensive jewelry for herself.

Since I no longer do souvenirs, I purchased only an inexpensive foldable sun hat to go with my collection of foldable sun hats, all of which I forget at home when I travel, thus leading me to buy yet another foldable sun hat.

 
My favorite item that I didn't buy was the pink elephant, a nostalgic reminder (for other people) of boozy wild and reckless nights.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ROSES!


During our visit to New York City, we visited the New York Botanical Gardens.  The roses in the rose garden were past their prime, but I photographed one cluster that was still beautiful. My daughter walked around the garden with pen and paper noting the names of the varieties she liked, I suppose with a view to future planting.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

LATE AGAIN, ALAS


Our new rector at St John's Episcopal Church, Fr Doug, will be serving two congregations, ours in Thibodaux, Louisiana, and Trinity Episcopal Church in Morgan City, Louisiana.  Since the two churches are around 30 miles apart, Fr Doug will not be presiding at Sunday services at both churches but will rather be present in each church every other Sunday.  On the Sundays when Fr Doug is not with us, we will have Morning Prayer with a lay member of the congregation leading the service.

In order to touch base with both church communities each weekend, Fr Doug will try out a 5:00 PM Eucharistic service on the Saturdays preceding the Sunday he will be serving at our sister church, an arrangement which I hope will work out for my own selfish reason, since I'm not a morning person, and I'm rather habitually late for the 10:30 morning service. 

Yesterday, I attended the first Saturday service, and you'd think I'd be able to arrive on time, right?  Ah, but you'd be wrong.  Since I returned from New York City last Wednesday evening, I was so happy to be home, that I had not left the house until I was ready to go to church yesterday.  Before I left for my trip, I removed my set of keys from my purse, because it is rather heavy, and I forgot to put the keys back in place.  After I reached my car, I realized I had no key to get in the car, nor did I have a key to get back in the house.

Where is Grandpère when I need him?  Gone fishing, so I had to find the extra set of keys to the house in the secret hiding place, which involved getting on my knees in damp mulch and fishing around till I found them, with the result that I was late to the first Saturday Eucharist and retained my reputation for tardiness, alas.  Better next time?  I hope so.

Friday, July 11, 2014

CITIZEN M HOTEL IN NEW YORK CITY


The lobby with bookshelves for the use of guests at CitizenM Hotel on W 50th St in NYC. We loved staying at the hotel. The location is convenient, right in the heart of Midtown activity, with two nearby subway stations. The staff is welcoming, friendly, and helpful. Though the rooms are small, the efficient arrangement of comfortable furnishings is such that we did not feel crowded. The shower is wonderfully spacious, with a rain shower head and another removable shower head. The excellent and reasonably priced food buffets are a big plus, as well as the warm and welcoming atmosphere the hotel lobby, which made us feel that we were in a real home away from home.


 Below is a photo from the top of the Empire State Building during the rains from Hurricane Arthur, the worst of which missed New York City.
 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

HOUSE OF CARDS (SPOILER ALERT CONT.)


Whoa again!  The American version of House of Cards is a mind-bender.  Having finished watching Season 1, Episode 17, I find myself cheering the evil villain, Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey), and viewing the reporter, Lucas Goodwin (Sebastian Arcelus), who only wants to know the truth and reveal the ugliness, as an annoyance.  Spacey's direct addresses to the audience, confiding in us and revealing what's in his mind, draw us into sympathy with his character and make us complicit in his misdeeds.

Night before last, I watched two episodes right before going to bed.  The stories were so intense, and I was so keyed up that I tossed and turned and didn't fall asleep until 3:00 AM.  Hereafter, I will watch the series during the day and try to take them with more than one grain of salt.  The script, direction, and acting are so excellently done that I completely suspend disbelief, enter fully into the reality of the drama, and wind down rather slowly afterward.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

BOBBY JINDAL - DICTATOR OF LOUISIANA

Igniting new controversy, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday he is ordering Louisiana out of the Common Core tests as part of a series of moves to drop the new academic standards after the Legislature refused to do so.

“We need to start this process over,” Jindal told reporters.

But state Superintendent of Education John White, who Jindal pushed for the job, took the unusual step of publicly charging that the governor is wrong on the law and that Common Core plans will continue for the 2014-15 school year.
Though I'm not a great fan of Common Core, what Jindal is about is disallowing intrusion by the feds in schools in Louisiana and allowing instructions in creationism, a 10,000 year young earth, and humans walking with dinosaurs in science classes because of pressure Christian fundamentalists including the likes of Tony Perkins and his Focus on the Family tribe. Also, students in some of the junk charter schools that the state supports with tuition vouchers will never pass the tests, but Jindal does not want anyone to know.

I hope his latest maneuver to throw out the tests without the approval of the State Superintendent of Education, John White, whom he appointed to great fanfare, and Chas Roemer, president of BESE (Board of Elementary and Secondary Education), is illegal. I hope he does something illegal that has consequences, because Jindal is a virtual dictator, since even the usually supine state legislature would not vote to throw out Common Core, and he's determined to act on his own.

He's living a fantasy if he thinks he will be the candidate of the Republican Party, but, in the meantime, he is destroying the state. Since John White is defying Jindal at the moment, I would not be surprised if Jindal fired him.

Jindal is under great pressure from fundamentalist Christians like Tony Perkins and his gang. He graduated with a degree in biology from Brown University and was a Rhodes Scholar. Presumably, he knows the science, but he operates from pure personal lust to be president or, at the very least, vice-president of the US.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

HOUSE OF CARDS (SPOILER ALERT!)


Whoa! I've watched all the episodes of Season 1 of the American version of House of Cards, the fictional series based on operations of the US government in Washington DC produced by Netflix. Kevin Spacey, as Francis Underwood (D-SC), majority whip in the US House of Representatives, is da bomb. Makes ya feel raght proud of yoah democracy, don't it? I'm late to the party, but I'm, hooked, though after watching some of the episodes, I felt I needed a shower. Does our government really function so slimily and crookedly up there in DC? I hope the series presents an exaggerated view of evil in the operations in our nation's capital, but I'm not certain.

The series is well-written with many quotable lines, most not suitable for polite conversation.  I'm way behind the curve in watching, but it's great to discover a show that's so good and to know I have more episodes to watch.  I can't recommend the series highly enough, if you've the stomach for it. I had no idea what I was missing, as the American version of the series is brilliant.  

Kevin Spacey is amazing as Frank Underwood, and he's well-matched with Robin Wright, who holds her own in her role as his wife, Claire. One critic compared her to Lady Macbeth.  At first, I thought I'd find Spacey's asides to the audience annoying, but I love them.  Shakespeare!  Frank and Claire are the ultimate power couple, and I wondered early on if they would stop at murder if they could get away with it.  Soon enough I had my answer.  Francis is the do-it-yourself Godfather.  No mess or blood.  A clean kill.  I confess, I'm somewhat embarrassed to be mesmerized by a show that portrays the ruthlessness and cynicism of insiders in our government.

The first season ends with Underwood in deep water facing the difficult task of making his way to the surface and rising above.  If you've watched, you know, and, if you haven't watched and intend to, I hope you're not reading this.  You can't say I didn't warn you.  And please, no spoilers for Season 2.