Summer movie watching list

Avoiding the summer blockbuster movies, here are few movies worth the watch from the convenience of your own home. You may have seen a couple of these movies, but they may be worth the watch again. In no particular order:

“Sarah’s Key” starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Aiden Quinn, Melusine Mayance as the young Sarah, Charlotte Poutrel as the older Sarah and Niels Aretsrup is based on the novel by the same name. Scott Thomas plays a journalist whose husband’s family lived in a Paris apartment vacated when the Vichy (Nazi) government rounded up the Jews during August, 1942. Sarah is the youngest daughter of the Jewish family. The movie is outstanding as it flips back and forth to different periods to show what happened and Scott Thomas’ investigation of such.

“First do no harm” stars Meryl Streep, Fred Ward, Alison Janney and Seth Adkins as the young boy. It is based on a true story of a mother’s fight to get better care for her epileptic son. The movie is excellent and an ideal role for Streep as the mother. Ward does a good job as her husband who is a road weary truck driver whose insurance was temporarily canceled during a change in insurance carriers. But, this issue is less about insurance and more about the kind of treatment he needs.

“Spotlight” which I had seen is based on a true story of a special reports division of the Boston Globe that goes by that name. Spotlight investigated and broke open the story in 2002 of a covered-up decades old pedophile priest problem in Boston. It stars Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and a host of other good actors. With the recent reports on the sexual misconduct of Southern Baptist ministers, this story remains critical.

“Road to your heart” is a South African movie about a son who is asked by his father’s will to do a series of visits to people who touched him as he journeys to his funeral in Cape Town. He is accompanied by an eclectic young woman who gives him a ride when he must lose his car per the will. The movie stars Ivan Botha and Donnalee Roberts as the travelers. While in subtitles, the movie is actually quite good, especially with the obvious chemistry of the two stars, who later get married in real life. Marius Weyers plays the father.

“Ladies in black” is an Australian movie based in the late 1950s. It is about the social and work lives of four women who work together in a department store in Sydney, who are required to wear black dresses to work. The focus is most on the college bound, well-read young intern played by Angourie Rice (who was in “Mare of Eastown with Kate Winslet). But, the other three women’s stories of acceptance in society by a Hungarian refugee played by Julia Ormond, a former dancer who learned her opinion mattered played by Rachel Taylor and a woman whose husband is shy and not very affectionate played by Alison McGirr are covered. The movie is surprisingly good and gives glimpse of culture and mores in the late 1950s.

“War flowers” stars Christina Ricci as southern woman with a daughter played by Gabrielle Popa) whose husband is fighting in the Civil War. She mends a wounded Union soldier (played by Jason Gedrick) who crawled into her basement to get away from the action. Tom Berenger plays a small part as a Union general. The movie is good, but does get a little cheesy on occasion. Ricci, who usually plays bizarre characters, does an admirable job in the lonely wife.

“Sweet land” is a surprisingly good movie about an immigrant woman from Germany traveling to Minnesota to marry a US citizen, a transplanted Norwegian man. The movie is set before WWI and stars Elizabeth Reaser as the young Inge, with Lois Smith the older version. Tim Guinee plays the young Olaf who is painfully shy. Alan Cumming and Alex Kingston liven up the movie as friends of Olaf who welcome Inge. This is critical as the town is not very accepting of a German immigrant.

“Heartland” stars Conchata Ferrell, Rip Torn and Megan Folsom. It is set in Wyoming and involves a mother (Ferrell) and daughter (Folsom) moving west to work as a cook and gardener for a rancher played by Torn. Based on a true story, the woman applies for a homestead and is supported by Torn whose interests in Ferrell are mutually shared. It is a good movie and takes advantage of Ferrell’s feistiness for the role.

Others include “Jindabyne” starring Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne in an Australian movie about a discovered murdered girl, “Columbus” starring John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson and Parker Posey about an young woman coming of age and falling for the son of a famous architect visiting Columbus, Indiana and “Then she found me” starring Helen Hunt, Colin Firth and Bette Midler about a separated woman finding love with the father of one of her students and being found by her birth mother.

If you were short on time, the first three are outstanding movies.

Friday fish stories

I don’t know how Catholics became known for eating fish on Fridays, but I have heard this all my life. My wife’s family is Catholic, but even they don’t know. *

Maybe it is due to an abundance of fish in predominant Catholic towns along the coasts of Ireland, Spain, Italy or America. Or maybe it is an economical meal for a big family. (Note the rhythm method is not the best of birth control methods).

I do know my grandfather was the chief cooker of fish when we visited. This is primarily due to his being a highly prolific fisherman. Before he passed, my father, brother, uncle and I would go fishing with him.

He was a quiet and patient man which are ideal attributes for good fishing. While my brother and I would celebrate our catches, Granddaddy would quietly reel them in, re-bait the hooks and recast the lines. I have seen him regularly catch over 50 fish at a time.

We mainly used crickets as bait. That only presented a problem once as I knocked over the cricket basket in his house. My grandmother said she heard crickets for weeks. Truly, my bad.

I do know fishing was Granddaddy’s passion. He showed me not only how to fish, but how to clean them. I have a picture of me around ten holding a line of twenty-six fish before I cleaned them. Of course, I remember the tally. That was a great day.

Friday fish stories. And, they were actually true and memorable. 

* My wife read it is due to the avoidance of eating warm blooded animals on Friday to honor Jesus by fasting, which may or may not be true.

Mark Shields, longtime voice of reason has passed

For the longest time, my Friday ritual was to end the news week watching the commentary of conservative minded David Brooks and liberal minded Mark Shields. Their banter exemplified the civil discourse of their host PBS NewsHour, whether the discussion was led by Judy Woodruff or the now deceased Gwen Ifill or Jim Lehrer.

Sadly, I learned Mark Shields passed away last week. Shields was an affable historian and shared his opinion and added context to any discussion. He commented on PBS NewsHour for thirty-three years, the last twenty of which with Brooks. As Brooks noted in a piece in The New York Times:

“We’ve had thousands of disagreements over the years, but never a second of acrimony. Mark radiates a generosity of spirit that improves all who come within his light.” We all could learn from this.

Judy Woodruff, “PBS NewsHour” anchor and managing editor, tweeted that she was ”heartbroken” to share the news of Shields’ death, and noted his wife Anne was at his side at his death. For decades, she said, Shields “wowed us with his encyclopedic knowledge of American politics, his sense of humor and mainly his big heart.”

Shields retired from the show a couple of years ago. Brooks would continue on with the terrific Jonathan Capeheart, but it is not the same. It is like one of a long time couple has passed and the new spouse is nice, but you don’t have history with the person. Rest in peace, Mark Shields. You were one of our lights on the hill.

The First Lady – a terrific miniseries

My wife and I just completed watching the wonderful Showtime ten-part miniseries called “The First Lady” which highlights the lives of three first ladies. The first season focused on Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, and Michelle Obama as it flipped back to each First Lady and various points in her life. I hope there is a next season which will likely focus on three more women.

Gillian Anderson does a superb job as Roosevelt, while Michelle Pfeiffer and Viola Davis do the same with Ford and Obama. Roosevelt has the most screen time as she was First Lady for twelve years and went on to serve as the US lead delegate to the formation of the United Nations. Yet, we do see a lot of the other two who had their own sets of challenges.

Ford was beloved by Americans more so than her husband. She counseled him not to pardon Richard Nixon which turned out to be a key reason he was not reelected. But, she was also addicted first to alcohol and then pain-killers. It got so bad her family had to do a full on intervention. She at first hated her daughter for being the first one to try, but when Gerald Ford saw how bad it had gotten, he upped the ante. Ford would go on to establish the Betty Ford Center to help addicted people.

Obama had major challenges as did her husband being the first African-American woman First Lady. The racism she faced her entire life could not totally prepare her for the full on racism she would face as First Lady. We see the tensions between her and Rahm Emanuel as he tries to rein her in as her husband danced a finer line so as not to alienate white voters. And, we see a beleaguered Hillary Clinton ask for help on her campaign to stave off the attacks of the next president in the campaign.

Kiefer Sutherland plays FDR, with Aaron Eckhart playing Ford and O-T Fagbenie playing Obama. Dakota Fanning gets a lot of airtime as Susan Ford, the daughter who tried to help her mother first. Regina Taylor and Lexi Underwood play Michelle’s mother and Malia her daughter. And, Lily Rabe plays a key role in Lorena Hickock addressing full on the rumors of Eleanor’s Lesbian relationship after having six kids and her husband’s infidelity.

While each President leaned on his wife for help, Roosevelt was very much an advisor to her husband. FDR knew she would shoot straight with him. Even though each had other lovers, they were friends and confidantes. She also helped shape some of his speeches and because of her weekly radio broadcast, FDR had her be the first person to address Americans after Pearl Harbor. Finally, since he could not get out and about with his wheelchair, FDR had Eleanor be his arms and legs as well to visit some places like Australia during WWII to see the wounded and fighting troops.

The series is well done. I have seen some criticism, but to me it was entertaining and informative, even though it takes some liberties with the truth as it claims from the outset. We look forward to the next season.

Letter to the editor – concerns over attacks on others

I sent the following brief letter to my newspaper this weekend. It will likely go unprinted, but I want to share it with you in case you would like to modify and use. Maybe it will get printed somewhere.

Reading about the increase in verbal and physical attacks on LGBTQ+ citizens or the denigration of the rights of women or people of color concern me. This is especially troubling when it comes from people who espouse the teachings of Jesus. When he said treat others like you want to be treated, he offered no caveats. Full stop. If we would only follow that one rule, which is so important it is called “golden” and also appears in in other religious texts, we would be in a much better place with our civility. We have two ears and one mouth, we should use them in that proportion. We all deserve such treatment.

People died for our country to preserve the freedoms for all its citizens. That guy Jesus chose to spend most of his time speaking to and hanging out with the disenfranchised people in his time. We should remind ourselves why would they choose to do that. Our country has had fits and starts of trying to live up to our ideals. Yet, we should never stop trying to be the best version of ourselves.

Friday free form – recognizing those mistakes

Happy Friday all. I thought I would throw a few random musings down in free form on this Friday. In no particular order:

  • I watched a great movie whose title was uttered by a prescient boy with a debilitating immune disorder. He said you are “more beautiful having been broken.” He was sharing this with a new female friend who he sensed was sad. Its poignancy and pertinence to the plot was profound. Think about this line as it applies to all the screw-ups, errors or misstatements in your own lives. We learn more from failure than success.
  • This self-awareness is important for self-improvement. If we don’t acknowledge our mistakes, then we never learn from them. One of the best teachings by the former president is what we should not do – not recognize that we messed up and blame others for our transgressions. This is what a toddler would do. “I didn’t do it” is uttered with his hand in the cookie jar. It is not what a more mature person should do.
  • I don’t think I have enough toes and fingers to count all of my mess-ups. Thank goodness for erasers, backspace and delete keys. In fact, it would be great to have a life oriented “undo” button. Handling a break up poorly – undo. Saying something hurtful to a loved one – undo. Passing along a rumor that may be untrue – undo.
  • I wonder if ol’ Putin wishes he could press the undo button. For such a control freak, who used disinformation to build the impression that Russia is stronger than its adversaries, to make the horrible mistake of invading and failing to execute in Ukraine is telling. Russia’s economy is not large enough to support the military spending of its aspirations and the Ukraine president called the bully’s bluff and said “I am not going anywhere.” Russia has made some inroads but has also been fended off and is now viewed as a pariah.
  • Speaking of undo buttons, ol’ Boris got a vote of confidence, but the celebration is muted because of the closeness of the vote. He was fortunate to recognize he would benefit by calling Putin on the carpet for his invasion. Everyone needs a foil. Had he not been able to do so, Johnson may have been on his way out. He may still get there, but he should learn some lessons from this about lying, cover-ups and poor decisions. The question is will he?

That is all for now. Key lessons. Our mistakes make us better, not worse, unless we choose to ignore them. In that case, they can be an anchor.

More movies to take a peek at

Here are a few more movies that I have enjoyed watching to varying degrees. Most of these were found on the free-service Tubi, but a few came from HBO and Showtime.

“Once upon a river” starring Kenadi DelaCerna, John Ashton, Tataka Means, Ajuawak Kapashasit, Coburn Gross, Lindsey Pulsipher and Kenn Head is about a half Native American teen whose father is killed. She travels up river to find her mother who left several years before. She befriends an elderly man who gives her shelter on her journey. The movie is compelling in the uphill struggle for this disenfranchised young woman as she seeks help.

“Nothing special” starring Julia Garcia Combs, Karen Black, Barbara Bain and David Hardie is about a woman (Garcia Combs) who is having difficulty taking care of her bipolar mother (Black) while trying to serve a demanding, but supportive boss (Bains) and find time for some kind of love life. The three lead women are each excellent in their roles. You feel for this young woman as she comes close to her wits end.

“Small town crimes” underlines what an imperfect hero looks like. John Hawkes is excellent as a suspended, alcohol and drug addicted cop trying to solve a murder case as an unregistered private investigator. Anthony Anderson and Octavia Spencer are his only support, with Spencer playing his foster sister. Michael Voltan, Clifton Collins, and Robert Frasler play key roles.

“Peaks and valleys” starring Kitty Mahoney, Kevin T. Bennett and Ted Carney is also excellent as it shows Bennett taking care of a woman in a mountain cabin after he witnesses her body being cast out of a small plane into a lake. This cantankerous man nurses her back to health and teaches her how to hunt and fish. She will return the favor as his own issues become apparent. Given the verbal volleying back and forth, the movie remains interesting.

“Road to Perth” starring Tommy O’Brien, Hannah Lehman, Ellen Grimshaw and Kat Kaevich is an Australian movie about an American who travels alone after his girlfriend declines his marriage proposal. He is intent on taking pictures and interviewing Australians along his journey. He befriends and gives a ride from Adelaide to Perth to a woman who is the sister of an internet friend as she scatters her Dad’s ashes in places he held dear. Along the way, he speaks by phone with his own sister who offers milepost check-ins as the travelers become mutually infatuated.

“The Honeymooners” (not that one) starring Jonathan Byrne, Alex Reid, Justine Mitchell and Conner Mullen is an Irish film about a man who gets stood up at his wedding (at least she tells him) and after drinking too much of his wedding champagne pays a waitress who just got fired (and whose married boyfriend can’t be with her) to drive him to a cottage on the coast. They butt heads often and the say hurtful things,but do have enough fun and good conversation as their hard feelings soften. Like the “Road to Perth,” the movies are more about the journey and travails, where two people in angst can lift each other up.

“Wanderland” starring Tate Ellington, Tara Summers, Victoria Clark, Harris Yulin and a host of others is about a relatively rational man who accepts an invitation to house sit over a weekend in a Long Island coastal village. He befriends a charming woman on the beach and she invites him to a party later, which he surprisingly declines, but we learn later he too often says no. So, he goes from party to party meeting a wide assortment of characters as he tries to track down this woman . The name of the movie connotes wandering, but the similarities to a male Alice in Wonderland are not unfounded. His journey and the bohemian characters make you want to watch.

“Jackie and Ryan” starring Katherine Heigl, Ben Barnes and Emily Alyn Lind is about a hobo traveling musician trying to put a band back together. He winds up in a beautiful mountain town and befriends a woman who has had success as a musician, but has moved back home with her daughter to live with her mother as she is finalizing her divorce. The movie is a little trite, but the music is good and we learn Heigl can sing, especially with a lovely duet with her daughter played by Lind. Barnes also sings a poignant song that he is encouraged to finish by Heigl.

“Bonneville” starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, Christine Baranski and Tom Skerrit offers an interesting road trip plot as Lange takes her husband’s ashes to a funeral arranged by her step-daughter. “Surviving love” stars actual life married couple Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen as they get stranded in the Maine mountains and is worth the watch. “Christmas Eve” with Loretta Young, Arthur Hill and Trevor Howard offers a cheesy, but feel good movie about a dying woman wanting to see her grandchildren who escaped from her controlling son’s grip. Finally, we just watched “Being Rose” with Cybil Shepherd and James Brolin who play late in life lovers as Shepherd is dying.

Each of these movies is worth the watch and I don’t think any have things that are too risque for younger eyes, even the two jilted lover stories, although the adult themes and language on some may need to be factored in. The ones in the final paragraph are neat as they give a glimpse of actors who are later in their careers. Let me know if you have seen any of these.

Sunday mornin’ coming down

One of the best songs written by Kris Kristofferson is the title of this post – “Sunday mornin’ coming down.” The song is largely about the loneliness of Sunday morning after a night of drinking, smoking and partying. Here is the chorus:

“On the Sunday morning sidewalks
Wishing lord that I was stoned
‘Cause there is something in a sunday
That makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city side walks
Sunday mornin’ comin’ down”

I wanted to use this song to portray while we are alone, we crave being social with a group of people. The Greek language has a word for this called ‘thumos” which means a desire to belong and be recognized. When we don’t have those things, we can get awful lonely.

One of the saddest ballads happens to be one of my favorite Beatles’ songs, “Eleanor Rigby.” It tells a story of a lonely woman of that name dying and being buried by a lonely priest named Father McKenzie. Here are the final stanza and chorus to the song which tells you all you need to know:

“Eleanor Rigby
Died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie
Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people)
Where do they all belong?”

I use these two examples, as we humans will join groups that may be not the kind of groups we should belong to. We do that to just avoid being lonely. We do that because someone or group is paying attention to me. These groups of extremists actually prey on lonely people telling them “The Others” are the reason for their lot in life. They turn loneliness and disenfranchisement into fear. This groupthink is alluring as well as palliative.

It is hard to break through the shell that is created to protect its members. Bill Maher calls it the “bubble.” He said it is hard to get factual information inside the bubble, as the members of the group don’t want to hear contrary information. Once these folks have drunk the Kool-Aid, it is often too late.*

Now, I am not saying everyone who is lonely is among the more strident members of society. I am saying people who are lonely, disenfranchised, downtrodden, etc. are more susceptible to being wooed into a way of thinking which is inconsistent with their values.

With so many avenues for misinformation and disinformation, it takes an effort to stay truly informed. It takes an effort to know when smoke is being blown up a lower extremity. It takes an effort to say, I don’t believe you to someone who is paying attention to you in a day where not many do.

I was watching a movie where a lonely woman, defined as mousy in the plot summary, falls in love with a narcissistic jerk she works with. He pays attention to her and treats her nicely some of the time, but he makes you cringe with how he treats her most of the time. In the end, after she has had enough, long after a less lonely person would have, her one friend summed it up saying you fell in love with an a**hole.

We need to avoid the a**holes whenever we can. Sometimes it is hard to do, when the a**holes are giving you attention you don’t often get. Especially when it is a group of them.

*Note: I use this reference often but the term drinking the Kool-Aid references how Jim Jones, a famous cult leader, got his believers to kill themselves en masse – he poisoned their Kool-Aid. Many believed in his message so much, they knowingly drank the poison.

Chile water crisis should serve as a warning

In an article called “‘Consequences will be dire’: Chile’s water crisis is reaching breaking point” by John Bartlett as reported in The Guardian, a long-lasting drought and water misuse have led to an alarming problem. The sad truth is the water crisis in Chile is not an isolated event. The following select paragraphs tell an important story. The full article can be linked to below.

Unprecedented drought makes water a national security issue as more than half of Chile’s 19 million population lived in area with ‘severe water scarcity’ by end of 2021.

From the Atacama Desert to Patagonia, a 13-year megadrought is straining Chile’s freshwater resources to breaking point.

By the end of 2021, the fourth driest year on record, more than half of Chile’s 19 million population lived in an area suffering from ‘severe water scarcity’, and in April an unprecedented water rationing plan was announced for the capital, Santiago.

In hundreds of rural communities in the centre and north of the country, Chileans are forced to rely on emergency tankers to deliver drinking water.

Ecuadorian natives clash with the police 30km from Quito in 2010 in protest of a proposed water privatisation measure.

‘Water has become a national security issue – it’s that serious,’ said Pablo García-Chevesich, a Chilean hydrologist working at the University of Arizona. ‘It’s the biggest problem facing the country economically, socially and environmentally. If we don’t solve this, then water will be the cause of the next uprising.’……

‘I used to supply all of the markets and communities in the area,’ said Alfonso Ortíz, 73, a farmer who once employed several workers to grow watermelons, pumpkins, corn and oranges using water from the lagoon.

‘Agriculture here is dead. There’s nothing left,’ he said.

Chile’s economy, South America’s largest by per-capita GDP, is built on water-intensive, extractivist industries principally mining, forestry and agriculture.

But its growth has come at a price.

Supported by the private rights system, about 59% of the country’s water resources are dedicated to forestry, despite it making up just 3% of Chile’s GDP.

Another 37% is destined for the agricultural sector, meaning only 2% of Chile’s water is set aside for human consumption.”

Re-read that last sentence. “2% of Chile’s water is set for human consumption.” While this is an extreme example it is not isolated. Going on for several years now, the number one long term crisis facing us as surveyed by the World Economic Forum is the global water crisis. Climate change impact was second as it actually makes the first problem worse.

For those that think it cannot happen here, farmers in the plains of the US are worried about water. There is a great book called “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn that shares these concerns. There is one town in Texas that is now dry because of fracking and drought. Other water supplies are getting more dear and fights over river and reservoir access have been going on. The Biscayne aquifer that provides water to Miami is being encroached on by rising sea levels coming through the porous limestone. And, that is before the issue of lead pipes comes into the equation.

What troubles me greatly is the lack of public debate over this concern. Cape Town, South Africa was so bad off it had a countdown to no water. It survived, but just barely. Yet, not a peep was discussed here. We are to busy talking about contrived and exaggerated issues to deal with real crises. One would think not having water to drink or irrigate crops would be a concern. One would think that climate change causing water reservoirs to dry up faster and cause longer droughts and forest fires would be a concern.

Let me leave you with this thought. I heard a spokesperson from one of the largest US utilities speak on climate change impact. This utility had a long-range report that said two very disturbing things. First, they have increased their model for expected evaporation of reservoir water due to climate change by 11%. If the water level is too low, it cannot be converted into steam to turn the turbines to create power. So, they cut the water flow to people to make up for it, as they manage the river.

Second, these long-range projections noted the river will not be able to support the water needs of the metropolitan population in about fifty years unless something is done. This troubling projection has gotten very little coverage in our newspapers or TV news. This is more concerning to me than BS like critical race theory or replacement theory which are the contrived and exaggerated issues of the day.

Steven Solomon, author of “Water” created a term that has been used by at least one utility executive. “Water is the new oil.” If that does not scare you, note oil rich Saudi Arabia said it was OK to pray with sand rather than water. Why? They said Allah gave them a lot of oil, but little water.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/01/chiles-water-crisis-megadrought-reaching-breaking-point

Note to Senators and Congressman – please act on our gun death problem

After watching the President Biden’s very good speech last night asking for our support in addressing our gun death problem, I posted the following short statement on the websites for my two Republican Senators (Burr and Tillis) and Senate Minority leader McConnell. I also posted it on my Republican Congressman’s website.

I watched the President’s impassioned speech on doing something at long last to deal with our gun death problem in the US. We have more gun deaths than the next twenty-two wealthiest nations COMBINED. That is not an enviable standing. I am pleading with you to think like a parent and grandparent and do something. There are measures which are supported by the majority of gun owners that we can build from. If you and Congress fail to finally do something, it will be a disservice to Americans. Please act.

I have posted similar messages over the years, but to no avail. Maybe, just maybe, Americans have had enough with their elected officials, and can squeeze out some leadership from these folks beholden to the NRA. Sadly, these folks have not seemed to care that the majority of gun owners are OK with several changes. We need to make them care.