Wednesday at the movies

I hope your week is going well. I had an afternoon to myself, so I saw a movie my wife would pass on – “Vice.” The movie defines the Vics Presidency of Dick Cheney as one where he had more control of the country than his boss.

Christian Bale plays Cheney quite well to the extent it is hard to believe that is Bale underneath the weight gain and loss of hair. The movie is similar in style to “The Big Short,” so it has several asides to explain things. Amy Adams is highly commendable as his wife Lynne Cheney. I would give it a thumbs up, but I must confess it is a little unnerving.

Last year, we caught a few other movies that are also getting some Oscar buzz. Our favorite movie is “Green Book.” Viggp Mortenson plays a chauffeur hired as security to transport around the pre-Civil Rights era South an African-American concert pianist played by Mahershala Ali.

We also saw “Bohemian Rhapsody” about the life of Freddie Mercury and Queen. Rami Malek plays Mercury and Gwilym Lee plays the talented guitarist Brian May. It is quite entertaining and worth a look if only to learn more about Mercury and see the behind the scenes interplay of the band.

“A Star is Born,” is my favorite of the two versions of the same movie I have seen. Bradley Cooper brings a great deal to the role of the aging rock star with demons. Lady Gaga is sensational in her first acting role and her scenes on stage with Cooper are moving.

We also saw “First Man” where Ryan Gosling plays astronaut Neil Armstrong. The movie is good, but it does not get quite the buzz as the others. Armstrong was a duty-bound and sober man, so playing him straight-up does not offer a lot of drama outside of the challenge of the mission.

Finally, we saw the movie “Black Klansman” about the true story of Ron Stalworth, an African-American policeman who joined the KKK. Stalworth is admirably played by John David Washington. Adam Driver plays his Jewish white partner who attends the meetings as Stalworth’s avatar. It is a moving story with a brief history lesson that is unfortunately still alive today.

What movies have you seen that you rank highly? What do you think of any of the above?

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Green Book is a must go

My wife, daughter and I saw the movie “Green Book” yesterday. The movie is based on the true story of an African-American concert pianist named Dr. Don Shirley who is shepherded around the Midwest and South in 1962 by an Italian-American named Tony (Lip) Vallelonga.

The movie exceeded our expectations and we highly recommend it to others. The title is based on the green book written for African-American travelers to navigate the Jim Crow south. It stars Viggo Mortenson as Tony Lip and Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley. Lindi Cardelina plays an important role as Tony’s wife Dolores.

The movie was written by Tony and Dolores’ son Nick, so it is a third person retelling of the story. There are several poignant scenes that will endear you and frustrate you as the two travelers form a bond. In a separate car, two other members of the Don Shirley trio meet Shirley at the various events. They are white musicians, but provide context to why Shirley feels obligated to put himself at risk.

Rather than spoil the plot, let me end with the lead actors do justice to these two very different men. You become a part of their journey and worry about Shirley’s safety and hope Vallelonga does not add gasoline to a fire. Jim Crow was an ugly time in America and as one Southern law enforcement officer explained, Shirley was guilty of being Black in the South more so than any crime he may have committed.

Please go see it and take younger folks with you. Tony will utter a few bad words, but you will at least see him corrected by Shirley, which makes up for them. It is important to reveal the injustice that people who look like Shirley faced.

What surprises me

What does not surprise me is that people who have worked with the US President are going to jail. It does not surprise me that the US President has a hard time recruiting good people and keeping the ones he did.

It does not surprise me that the US President is mercurial and flies off the handle when he does not get his way. It does not surprise me the US President cannot take criticism well and bullies and berates others who dare to do so.

Nor does it surprise me the US President has a very hard time telling the truth. Even when he is on the kitchen counter with his hand in the cookie jar, this man-child says it is not his fault. What is defined above has been reported over the years by five biographers and financial reporters as a modus operandi of behavior. All of the above was amply reported before the election, so it is not news.

What surprises me is how his followers and sycophants have either swallowed his marketing schtick hook, line and sinker or are choosing to look the other way. I think the sycophants are the worst of the bunch as they know better. People like Senator Mitch McConnell know the US President is a cancer on America, yet are spineless and choose not to overly say this is wrong.

The cult-like base is another thing. Many people have left the Republican Party, but that is not telling enough. Conservative pundits have left the GOP and/ or are critical of how the US President is acting, but that is not telling enough. People who voted for him are not seeing the gains other parts of the country are and farmers are punished by the tariffs, but that is not telling enough.

What will it take? As a candidate, he said he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and his followers would still support him. To me, that is an obvious insult and reveals his disdain for the people he has taken advantage of all his life through thousands of lawsuits and refusing to pay hard-working contractors.

Maybe, just maybe, as the lies become more apparent and cannot be hidden by the blinders, the sycophants and cult will act. His fixer just pled guilty and is going to jail for three years. An entertainment news periodical that revels in trashy gossip, pled guilty to buying a negative story and burying it as well as paying hush money to protect the candidate, is now cooperating.

What is becoming increasingly apparent is those folks who said the US President has a problem with the truth, are dead on accurate. The US President is very likely guilty of all the things he said he did not do. Why? In the words of another legal counsel who resigned after it was apparent the President was not heeding his caution, he said the biggest concern he had is his boss was a “f**king liar.”

There’s a lot of “money” in songs

After hearing me sing (of course singing is kind) a few lyrics to “Money,” by Pink Floyd, my daughter suggested a post on songs with “money” in the title. The song begins with a cash register ringing up sales, then proceeds with a well-known base guitar lick. Here are the first few lines:

“Money, get away
Get a good job with good pay and you’re okay
Money, it’s a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash”

I think the most famous money song is by The O’Jays called “For the love of money.” It is based on the biblical verse from Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” The song starts with the words “Money, money, money, money…money,” Then they repeat it five more times before heading into the gist of the song. Here is a verse late in the song:

“I know money is the root of all evil
Do funny things to some people
Give me a nickel, brother can you spare a dime
Money can drive some people out of their minds”

Another favorite is courtesy of Donna Summer. “She works hard for the money,” is a pulsating disco song that she is known for, but this one has more meaningful lyrics like this one:

“It’s a sacrifice working day to day
For little money just tips for pay
But it’s worth it all
To hear them say that they care”

Shifting gears to rock-n-roll, an early Dire Straits song poked fun at MTV with “Money for nothing.” Mark Knopfler was joined on this song with a haunting harmony from Sting. In essence, it is hard-working people wishing they were MTV singing stars as they lament without realizing the hard work and dues they had to pay:

“Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb.”

Two other songs about money are worth mentioning. AC/DC sang of money in “Money talks” and Notorious B.I.G. rapped on about “Mo money, mo problems.” The former speaks of how popular one is with money noting all the things they can buy, while the latter speaks to how that popularity causes more problems with folks coming out of the woodwork asking for some.

Let me close with a song which comes from the play and movie “Cabaret.” It is quite the comical farce and force in the play with a title similar to that of Pink Floyd’s, “Money.” Here is a sample:

“Money makes the world go around
The world go around
The world go around
Money makes the world go around
It makes the world go ’round.”

Money is needed to provide a roof over our heads and feed and clothe our children. These songs look at its acquisition and power from a variety of views. From the documentary movie “I AM,” the key lesson is money cannot make you happy, but the absence of money can make you unhappy. That sums it up nicely.

Plausible sensationalism creates the illusion

In follow-up to a satire post inspired by The Onion, back and forth comments with Linda and Jill noted a sad truth. There is so much fake news created by, for and passed along by this President, it may be putting The Onion’s satire on the back burner. What used to play as satire is being covered by pseudo-news/ entertainers on various shows as news or plausible speculation. And, some pseudo-news outlets have a mission of putting forth conspiracy theories or false stories.

Democracy requires an informed electorate. On NPR, I heard a news reporter who has been victimized in a cruel way by fake news, state that in Europe, they are used to Russian propaganda. One of the top rated shows on Sunday night in one of the Baltic States is to highlight fake news that has been planted by Russian agents that week. Whereas we watch some faux-reality show here in the US, they are debunking myths presented as news. In the US, it has been proven we will believe just about anything.

The key is for the fake story to have “plausible sensationalism.” To create a saleable illusion it has to be sensational. Yet, it cannot be off the boards crazy, as it will not be believed. It has to have some grounding or plausibility. The plausibility could be a person who is painted as untrustworthy or it could be related to a fact. The news reporter speaking on NPR noted the Russians under Putin have done this for years and often will surround a fake story with three or four true ones. So, the reader or watcher will be fooled in believing each story is true.

InfoWars does this quite often, which is a reason they offend and are often sued. The lead storyteller, Alex Jones, will say the mass shooting at Sandy Hook was staged, for example. Or, he may claim that Hillary Clinton is raising money by running a child pornography ring from a pizza parlor in Washington. The first story relies on the NRA and their avid members to make the story plausible. The second one relies on the built-over-time mistrust of Clinton coupled with a pizza parlor for plausibility.

Recently, we had Geraldo Rivera and others on Fox claim the story of the bombs being sent to fourteen Democrats was a “false flag” operation. Per these pseudo-news/ entertainers, the bombs were not real and being sent by a Democrat plant. The purpose of the operation is to influence the election. The false story got so much airplay and social media use, it had to be debunked by the US Justice Department.

The same goes with the President who is the biggest purveyor of fake news in America. He watches these shows or hears of the stories and passes them along. Then they get reported on Fox or mainstream news, and then he repeats them saying “people are saying.” All they have done is repeated the lie the President said. It is akin to validating your own rumor when it circles back to you. The President will often say things without proof or make up parts of conversations as he did with the Finnish President when he said they rake the forests to prevent forest fires in Finland.

Whether he is saying there our middle eastern terrorists among a slow-moving caravan of many women and children which justify the cost of sending troops to our border or claiming rampant voter or election fraud, there is enough plausible sensationalism to make people believe his BS. On the first one, why would terrorists spend months in a caravan to infiltrate the US, when they have such a good track record of recruiting people online? On the latter one, his party has been claiming greater voter fraud than exists to pass voter suppression laws.

So, what do we do about this? Please check your sources. If you are getting your news from InfoWars, Breitbart, Donald Trump, the MSNBC or Fox pseudo-news shows after their real news efforts go off the air, please stop or take it with a huge grain of salt. If you quote Alex Jones or Sean Hannity to someone, then be prepared for pushback that you should get. If you cite the President, be similarly prepared as he is more untruthful than he is not, as measured by Politifacts and judged by people who know him well.

A final rule of thumb. Sensational stories are not necessarily false, but be skeptical and ask questions. There are two well-known sensational ones underway right under our noses. Did Mohammed bin Salmon order the execution of the Khashoggi? The Keystone Kops storytelling by the Saudis imply something is amiss and our own CIA said he did. The other is the inadvertent or planned collusion with Russia to influence our 2016 election. The fact the Russians did is pretty much accepted, even begrudgingly by the President. But, we must get to the bottom of the bigger question.

Should we be skeptical? Of course, but consider the sources and nature of those involved. And, consider the degree and magnitude of changing stories that has gone with each. One thing for certain in my book – neither one is a witch hunt.

Walk away Renee and other female titled songs

As I travel by car, the radio is my companion. When a song comes on with a female name like the above, I have speculated if there is a similar song for each letter of the alphabet. So, in this spirit and after a little bit of research into odd letters, here is my rendering:

A – Alison by Elvis Costello; Amanda by Boston

B – Bernadette by the Four Tops; Barbara Ann by the Beach Boys

C – Carrie Ann by The Hollies; Cecilia by Simon and Garfunkel

D – Diana by Paul Anka; Oh Donna by Ritchie Valens

E – Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles; Evangeline by Emmy Lou Harris

F – Fannie (be tender with my love) by The Bee Gees

G – Gloria by Van Morrison; Gloria by Laura Branigan (different Gloria)

H – Holly Ann by Boston; Henrietta by The Fratellis

i – Good night Irene by The Weavers

J – Jolene by Dolly Parton

K – Kara Jane by The Vines; Kristi by Soundgarden

L – Layla by Eric Clapton

M – Maybellene by Chuck Berry; Melissa by The Allman Brothers

N – Natalie by Bruno Mars

O – Ophelia by The Band

P – Hey Paula by Paul and Paula

Q – Quinn the Eskimo by Manfred Mann and written by Bob Dylan (who said Quinn had to be a man?)

R – Roxanne by The Police; Walk away Renee by Left Banke

S – Sarah Smile by Hall and Oates

T – Tracy by The Cufflinks; Tammy by Debbie Reynolds

U – Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boys; Uptown Girl by Billy Joel (think Christie Brinkly his second wife)

V – Valerie by Steve Winwood; Veronica by Elvis Costello

W – Wendy by The Association

X – Theme song for Xena arranged by Joseph LoDuca from a Bulgarian song Kaval Sviri

Y – Yolanda by Bobby Blue Bland

Z – Zoe Jane by Staind

As you review the list, I am certain I left off one of your favorites. As with any list, opinions will vary. Please offer additions and comments on the list below.

Friday funnies

Earlier this week, attending a funeral of a good friend’s mother allowed us to catch up with many high school and college friends. Stories abounded, so here are a few to get a smile, a laugh or a surprise. No one was harmed during these stories or their retelling.

When a couple of friends visited me in Atlanta, one forgot his walking shoes. I lent him my brand new pair which molded to his feet, not mine. It took several wearings a to remold them to my feet.

While taking baseball batting practice, the pitcher wondered why I was laughing at the plate. Behind him in the outfield were two friends who knew I liked hard rock music. They were hopping toward each other doing air guitars as some guitarists would do on stage.

Three friends roomed together as young adults. One observed the birdlike first names of the girlfriends of the other two. He noted, one is dating Robin, the other is dating Lark. It looks like I will need to find a girl named CON-dor, emphasizing the first syllable.

I mentioned we often hung out at the house of my friend’s mother (who just passed away). Late one evening, she told her son to remember to take out the garbage. But, he soon was out like a light. Since my ride home was now asleep and I lived just a 1/2 mile away cutting through yards, I locked up, took the trash out to the curb and walked home. He called me the next day to ask how the trash got out.

This same friend worked briefly at a bank branch. While on the phone with a customer, the branch was held up at gunpoint. The robber told everyone to hit the floor. My friend slowly starting to get down without hanging up. The robber shouted at him “Mo..erfu..er, I said hit the floor!” He said he was grabbing some carpet. Ironically, the person on the phone heard this and called the police, who arrested them outside.

One of the two classmates who rides herd over our high school reunion was ragging a friend who has only been to one early on. She teased him that he vaguely resembles our classmate. The real reason he does not attend is his wife teased him unmercifully about his ex-girlfriends fawning over him.

One set of friends got married and adopted a Korean boy as they had troubling conceiving. When he was a toddler, he was pitching a fit in a grocery checkout line with his red-haired mother. My blond haired friend had left the line to get a forgotten item. As he hustled back, other patrons expected to see an Asian-American husband. As they looked puzzled, the father said to all, “he is adopted.”

Finally, the funeral mass was in the church where we attended Midnight Mass. The contemporary folk choir inspired us high schoolers so much, we would go out and sing carols at 1 am waking up friends. Some did not appreciate our holiday spirit.

There are so many more stories, but I hoped you enjoyed these few. Have a great weekend.