Alignment

One thing that impresses me about good writers who have complex series of novels or shows is their ability to keep track of the various histories and relationships of all of their characters and story lines. My guess is the better ones take the time to document the biographies and relationships, so as not to betray the trust of the reader or watcher. I am certain mistakes happen, but it is good to see the effort.

The writers for a TV series called “Young Sheldon” have done their utmost to make sure the show is in alignment with its predecessor, “The Big Bang Theory.” For those who do not watch either show, “The Big Bang Theory” is about four highly intelligent university professors who befriend a beautiful and sarcastic neighbor who lives across the hall from two of them. Other stars are added as the men start getting more serious girlfriends and wives. But, the show is about relationships.

Sheldon, played by Jim Parsons, is the brightest yet most eccentric of an eccentric bunch. Parsons played him so well, he won several Emmy’s for the role. Due to his eccentricities, the show “Young Sheldon” was crafted to tell his story. With Parsons narrating the prequel which stars Iain Armitage as the younger version, we learn how Sheldon developed some of his habits, both endearing and frustrating. Since in the first show, we see guest appearances from the adult siblings and older mother, the prequel is good about remembering each character’s development and what the older Sheldon shared about them.

Sheldon has a twin sister, who is every bit as sarcastic as his future neighbor. He has an older brother who his jealous of the attention Sheldon gets yet is the typical teenage male. And, the scientific genius even as a boy has a mother who not only is a church goer, she works at the church. His father is a football coach, but we know already he will not be around much longer due to a storyline from “The Big Bang Theory” told of Sheldon losing his father as a young teen. The one character we did not hear much about in the first show is his grandma, who came in the second season of “Young Sheldon.”

The small things, though, are what make the alignment live. The older Sheldon loved trains, so we see the young Sheldon out in the garage with his trains. We learn why Sheldon uses terms like “bazinga” when playing a practical joke or why he uses the word “coitus” instead of sex, as it is less offensive. Don’t ask. The older Sheldon loves contractual agreements, so we see how that developed. And, of course, we see his mother singing “Soft Kitty, warm kitty” when Sheldon does not feel well and why he offers a hot beverage to anyone who is down in the dumps.

My wife and I enjoyed the first show immensely. I am a sucker for shows about relationships, especially the quirky ones. No one is more quirky than Sheldon, but what endears him is he has a good heart that is revealed from time to time. And, we adore the prequel as well, with the young Sheldon every bit as funny as the older one. Yet, what makes it live in alignment is the narration by the older Sheldon, with the occasional guest commentary by one of the other actors on the first show.

Do you like the shows? What are some others you care for?

Standing – what does that mean in a legal sense

I am not an attorney, but I got a good sense of what “standing” means in legal terms when the Supreme Court decided that same sex marriages were OK. They ruled that other people did not have “standing” on the issue. In other words, if two gay men get married, others are not impacted by their decision to marry.

The same holds true about issues around contraception, interracial marriages and abortions.

“What does standing mean legally?

There are three constitutional requirements to prove standing:

  • Injury: The plaintiff must have suffered or imminently will suffer injury. …
  • Causation: The injury must be reasonably connected to the defendant’s conduct.
  • Redressability: A favorable court decision must be likely to redress the injury.”

The same holds true about issues around contraception, interracial marriages and abortions, which seem to be in the news the past two days. I was sharing with our friend Jill, if certain groups want to try to make contraception illegal, they truly have no standing on the issue. But, good luck with that. Not only do the significant majority of women and men want contraception to be available there is a correlation between using contraception and fewer abortions. The last data point I saw said a very significant majority of US Catholic women want contraception in spite of the Pope’s position.

I saw one Senator back track off a stance on interracial marriages. He realized quickly his position was in quick sand. When Loving v Virginia was upheld by a vote of 9 to 0 by the Supreme Court, interracial marriage was legally permitted and could not be outlawed by a state. The last data point I saw was over ten years ago noting 13% of all marriages in the US are interracial. That statistic is likely higher today. And, just watch any TV commercial. The couples in the commercial are quite often interracial. That is a sure indication that train has left the station.

The issue of abortion is one that is in the forefront. Some would argue the deceased never was able to have standing, but Roe v Wade created a pattern a governance that provides guardrails on what women can and cannot do. While I personally would not suggest an abortion, I am a man and it is not my body. I certainly have no standing over another person’s body. So, I support a woman having governance over her own body. Plus, there is a correlation between greater poverty and increased family size.

Let’s take this one step more. People who tend to argue against Roe v Wade the most tend to be folks who would also argue for the government to leave us alone and let us live. The hypocrisy of this contradiction resounds. So, if government can rule a woman’s body, then we should fine or jail people who put themselves and others in jeopardy. Gun ownership – no more. Drinking and driving – more severe punishment. Obesity and taking up our healthcare spend as a result – fines for the extra cost of care. Passing along STDs or HIV, jail time. And, so on.

The majority of Americans want Roe v Wade to continue. Those who want it overturned may be like the dog that has caught the bus. Now what are you going to do? My fervent request is for women and men to tell these folks what they think by voting.

More and more movies

Since the weekend is upon us, I thought I would share a few more movies for your consideration. We have seen a few excellent ones and a few that are worth a look. I won’t mention a couple I exited before the end.

“Solomon and Gaenor” is a British award-winning movie set in Wales in 1911. It stars Ioan Gruffudd and Nia Roberts in the title roles about a young Jewish man and young Christian woman who fall in love. Due to the times and tensions, they cannot be together, nor can they stay apart. This is Roberts’ first picture when released in 1999 and she is charming. Paul Morrison wrote and directed the movie and did a marvelous job of making the audience pull for these two lovers.

“C’mon, c’mon” is a more recent movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffman, and Woody Norman. Phoenix plays a free-lance reporter who is traveling the country to interview kids about the future. His sister, played by Hoffman asks him to look after her son, as she helps her separated husband with a bad bipolar meltdown. The movie is how the boy Jesse played by Norman teaches and learns from Phoenix and his colleagues. Jesse has anxiety and other issues but has learned coping skills. The other key is how Phoenix and Hoffman rebuild a sibling relationship that was tested when their mother died.

“Short Term 12” starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr, Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever, LaKeith Stanfied and Kevin Hernandez takes you through the up and downs and challenges of helping at-risk youth in a non-lock down facility. Larson and Gallagher are in a relationship, but both have obvious experience in talking down kids who are in need of help. Dever plays a pivotal role as she arrives with a host of problems and attitude, which reminds Larson of herself when she got help. It is a powerful movie, but tough to watch at times.

“Jack Goes Boating” is the only movie directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, where he stars as Jack. Jack is a limo driver and is smitten with a shy woman named Connie played by Amy Ryan. It also stars Daphne Ruben-Vega and John Ortiz. The two were set-up by their friends, whose own marriage has some challenges that reveal themselves later as Hoffman and Ryan hit it off. To be more interesting to Connie, Jack learns how to cook, swim and boat, as Connie has this fantasy date of being on the water in the summer. The movie is charming in its own right but knowing this is one of Hoffman’s final films makes it even more endearing. You pull for the two of them, especially Connie who Ryan plays so well.

A few other movies worth a look include “Mona Lisa Smile” with Julia Roberts, Dominic West, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and a host of other young stars, “Eavesdropping” which is filmed without break in a restaurant as we listen in on various conversations, “The Squid and the Whale” with Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Anna Paquin and Jesse Eisenberg which has a cool title that has symbolic meaning about who was really there for you and “A conversation with other women” with Helen Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart about two people who hook up at a wedding as we learn there is more to their past.

“Mona Lisa Smile” is likely the only one of the movies that people may have heard of. It was for me. But, the four I highlighted surprised me at how good they were. Phoenix has done some excellent movies, especially playing Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line,” but “C’mon, c’mon” may be one of his best. Let me know some of yours that struck a chord of late.

Both Sides Now – an encore post on a reflective song

Yesterday, our blogging friend Rose reminded me of this song with various pictures of clouds. I started humming the tune as I scrolled along. Here is an old post which highlights “Both Sides Now.”

From where I sit, one of America’s greatest songwriters is Joni Mitchell. Perhaps my favorite song of hers is “Both Sides Now.” Ironically, it was popularized by Suite Judy Blue Eyes herself, Judy Collins. I also enjoy Neil Diamond’s version with his deeper voice, but Judy’s version is the one most folks know. First, let’s take a peek at the lyrics:

Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

Oh but now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From WIN and LOSE and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

In addition to the melancholic and reflective nature of the song, “Both Sides Now” resonates with me as it makes you think of issues, events and people from different perspectives. How we view things is based on our history of experiences. A line from the Heart song “Straight on for You” would reinforce this “what the winner don’t know the gambler understands.”

Mitchell starts with clouds as we lie on our backs and reflect. I find this a clever metaphor. Yet, what you see in the clouds can and will change. Not to mention when you ask someone else what he or she sees, you are likely to get a different answer. So, we really don’t know clouds at all, as what can be seen varies, even with the same observer.

But, the same holds true for love and life, as well. In the US, about half the people who get married, eventually get divorced. Once the passion abates from its peak, people have a different set of experiences and perspectives. As an old fart who has been married for thirty-six (updated) years, it is important that you like your spouse, as well as love her or him. If you don’t, then your marriage will have some challenges. So, we all have viewed love from both sides now.

This goes hand-in-hand with life, as well. Think back on how many opinions of yours have changed over the years. Think back on who you thought were true friends, who you do not involve yourself with anymore. Think back on how it was to struggle with a budget and how it is far easier to make ends meet when you have some money. With the number of people who have been exposed to the precipice of poverty or who have fallen over the cliff, many never imagined that this could happen to them. Your perspective changes when you have to stand in a line to collect unemployment benefits or go on food stamps.

I was thinking about this song after I read the post by Emily January on “Zenzele: a letter for my daughter,” especially when she speaks of the two men you will meet – the one you will be madly in love with and the one who will be your rock to live with day-in and day-out. I also believe my love for this song is a reason why I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s books. He describes himself as an outsider based on how he looked and who his parents were, a multi-racial couple (one from Jamaica and one from England) growing up in Toronto. So, he has an uncanny ability to see things from both sides or at least two perspectives. He is constantly challenging normative thoughts and beliefs as he can see things from an outside in perspective.

Joni, as per usual, you got it right. Your song stands the test of time due to the underlying truth in the lyrics. Thanks for setting your wonderful scripted words to such a beautiful melody.

A Proven Three for One Return – an example of reducing poverty, abortions and unwanted pregnancies (a reprise from an earlier post)

The following post was written about seven years ago. Given my past volunteer work for working homeless families, this Colorado study was compelling.

If there was a proven solution that would accomplish three major goals and save money, it would be worth considering, right? If data revealed that a state could save $80 million and dramatically reduce abortions, unwanted pregnancies and help people in poverty, it would be as close to a no-brainer as we could get. Then, why is Colorado’s legislature unwinding funding to an effort to provide birth control and family planning to people in need?

Worldwide and in the US, there is a high correlation between larger family size and poverty. Further, a Harvard study from 1982 – 2011 indicates that one of five reasons for poor socio-economic mobility is fewer traditional families (some Conservatives like to say this is the only reason, but that oversimplifies).

Yet, the use of an obvious toolset with a proven track record does not stand up to the scrutiny of this legislature. Of course, the reason is the fervent belief against birth control even though the significant majority of women ignore their religion on this subject. About 90% of American Catholic women use or have used birth control.

In my work with homeless families, one of the reasons for some young women who find themselves homeless is having children before they are ready or out of wedlock. Also about 30% of our clients are victims of domestic violence. Lacking the additional income of a second parent, not to mention the support of a good one, puts a family in a hole which is hard to climb out of.

Here is where religion is less inclined toward the practical and can be harmful. We need to have holistic open discussions about this topic with teens. It is more than OK to preach abstinence, but these teens are tempted far more than we were at that age, and we were tempted. So, we need to teach a girl’s self-esteem is not tied into relenting to sex, nor is a boy’s for that matter. We need to teach boys that no means no. But, we need to also teach family planning and provide tools of birth control.

We have columnists who tout fatherless families as the reason for poverty in the Black community, which it is one of several. It is a reason no matter the race or ethnic group. Yet they stop short of defining one of the cures, which is noted above and proven to be successful. It should be noted in the states with the lowest abortion rate, they each have more robust family planning effort than states with higher rates.

Let’s be smart and practical about these issues. The data is pretty clear. And, it should be noted using a condom actually reduces STDs and HIV transmission which would be fourth benefit.

You Don’t Own Me – an encore of Lesley Gore’s anthem for women

The following post was written in 2013, so it preceded the US Supreme Court ruling that same sex marriages were allowable and during a major revelation of the largely unchecked and unprosecuted rapes in the US military. During Women’s History month it is good to repeat this post.

Being the father of a teenage daughter, my wife and I try to raise our young lady to be self-sufficient and to not let anyone take advantage of her. Fortunately, she has a great sense of humor and can use it to diffuse people who are overbearing towards her or who may want to take advantage of a situation. With that context, recently we were watching one of those retro-look shows which focused on female singers from the 1960s. Lesley Gore had a couple of huge hits “It’s My Party” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” which are more the standard fare for teenage girls. Yet, amid those songs, she sang “You Don’t Own Me” which is extremely powerful whose words resonate for all women.

Ironically, the song was written by two men – John Madara and David White – but when these terrific words are sung hauntingly by Gore, it becomes her song. Here are the lyrics which are very straightforward.

You don’t own me, I’m not just one of your many toys
You don’t own me, don’t say I can’t go with other boys

And don’t tell me what to do
And don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display, ’cause

You don’t own me, don’t try to change me in any way
You don’t own me, don’t tie me down ’cause I’d never stay

Oh, I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please

A-a-a-nd don’t tell me what to do
Oh-h-h-h don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display

I don’t tell you what to say
Oh-h-h-h don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want

Since her version needs to be heard, I have included a link to enable you to do that.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=you+don+t+own+me+lyrics&mid=1A608AD222A0926A03DB1A608AD222A0926A03DB&view=detail&FORM=VIRE3

The song did resonate with many and was included in the movies “The Big Chill” and “Dirty Dancing.” Yet, it may have been heard by fewer people (than it should have) as Gore actually turned her back on stardom to go to college limiting her career and notoriety. She was born in 1946 as Lesley Sue Goldstein and sang “It’s My Party” in 1963 at the age of 16, the same age as my daughter is now. She turned down major contracts and eventually went on to Sarah Lawrence College in New York. To me, she may have been living the words to this anthem – “you don’t own me” and if I want to go to college, then that is my choice.

Having written earlier about Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s “Half the Sky” about the maltreatment of women around the world, this song had additional meaning. A link to this post is https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/half-the-sky-turning-oppression-into-opportunity-for-women-worldwide/.  I am not naive, so I know that women who are treated like chattel in some parts of the world would be killed or severely beaten if they uttered these words.That is the purpose of “Half the Sky” to tell these stories, highlight the bravery of the local champions who have rebelled against maltreatment and collectively give women a voice to say “you don’t own me.” Or, at a very minimum, I will not tolerate you treating me this way.

Yet, even in more gender egalitarian countries, the same words could be said. In the US, there seems to be a new onslaught to limit women’s reproductive rights, forty years after this issue was supposedly resolved. Here in the US, we have had over 26,000 women (and men) who have been sexually assaulted in our military ranks just last year, but only 3,400 of these sexual assaults came to trial. And, the solution presented yesterday is only a good first step, but will not solve the problem (listen to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand folks) https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/the-invisible-war-kirsten-gillibrand-has-it-right/. Here in the US, women still need the deserved opportunity to lead, be it in business or government. Here in the US, we still have insufficient protection for domestic violence victims, which is more about control and ownership. Here in the US, it should be OK to marry your Lesbian partner anywhere in the country. I could go on.

If you know this song, please relive it with me and share with others. If you don’t know it, give it a listen and, if you like it, share it as well. If you have not read “Half the Sky,” you should, but know this; it will be one of the hardest books you will ever read. If you don’t want to go down that path, at least click on the link above to my earlier post.

You don’t own me. Powerful words. Thanks Ms.Gore and Messrs. Madara and White.

The Lavender Scare (a repeat post dedicated to the Florida legislature)

Seeing the legislation passed in my home state of Florida, I am embarrassed that legislators could not think of anything better to do than limit discussion about various topics including the rights and challenges of LGBTQ+ people. I wrote the following post about a true event in US history that gets painfully little historical discussion. My mother was a teacher in Florida, so I wonder how she would feel with people ready to report her if she said the wrong thing.

My wife and I watched an informative documentary on PBS last night called “The Lavender Scare.” This show documents a lengthy period of US government sanctioned discrimination against homosexuals that lasted from the early 1950s to mid 1990s.

The scare evolved directly from the efforts of Senator Joseph McCarthy who led the “red scare” as he carried out communist witch hunts. He turned his eye toward homosexuals saying (without data) those who worked in the government were susceptible to communist blackmailers. Yet, unlike his communist witch hunt publicly dying due to his “lack of decency,” as an attorney to the Secretary of the Army called McCarthy under oath, the Lavender Scare gained footing.

To my chagrin, I learned former General Dwight Eisenhower campaigned for President on this issue and signed an executive order in 1953 to identify and expel homosexuals from government positions. This saddens me because of the obvious discrimination, but also because the former General said earlier the UK team led by Alan Turing that broke the Nazi Enigma code saved 750,000 lives and shortened WWII by two years. Turing had to hide that he was gay, so Ike’s executive order in 1953 would have kicked Turing out of employment had he been his boss in WWII – what would have happened if Turing would not have been around to impact the war?

The fact this government sanctioned discrimination lasted until it was ceased by President Bill Clinton is a shame, as well. Multiple tens of thousands of excellent public servants were kicked out of jobs they loved and did well. And, many could not get good employment in the private sector due to their FBI file. One of those was an astronomer named Dr. Frank Kameny.

Yet, Kameny did not sit still. He became an advocate for gay rights pushing a ball uphill. He wrote letters to Congress members, some of which were caustically responded to giving variations of the same harsh response. He organized protests and would help those who lost jobs. And, he was able to save some jobs, one who spoke five languages and was later decorated for service to the NSA. Kameny was awarded the “Medal of Freedom” by President Barack Obama for being the grandfather of the gay advocacy movement.

Sadly, there is a movement today led by some exclusionary religious leaders to condemn gays and foment their discrimination. My thinking is this is a backlash to the US Supreme Court approving same-sex marriage a few years ago. But, it goes deeper than that with a president who has laid the groundwork for divisiveness to occur with impunity. He did not invent divisiveness, but is not preventing it either.

Let me be frank. We are the land of freedoms and civil rights. Unless someone is harming you, you have “no standing” to deny the rights of others. I personally am offended by bigotry in the pulpit as I see this as a grievous dereliction of duty. Yet, that person has a right to say what he wants – provided he is not inciting violence or hate crimes. If the latter is true, then that is not a protected right.

Please watch this informative documentary. And, let’s do our best to avoid going back to this dark period. There was one gay postal worker who was to be expelled in the 1950s, but his boss stood up for him saying I know this, it does not bother me and he does a good job. The gay employee kept his job. We need more of that in our country and less of the hate speech

Sidebar: Disney Corporation, a major employer in Florida, has announced the removal of political funding in Florida as a result of this legislation.

 A true aphrodisiac

My apologies for the provocative title, but I wanted to share an old lesson about the rules of attraction. A person becomes more interesting when he or she is interested in you. This does not make them attractive by itself, but having someone interested in you increases his or her appeal. It is a true aphrodisiac.

I was reminded of this paradigm watching a movie about a woman who had taken care of her father after a stroke for several decades. She had not loved or been loved during this time. The movie is about a traveler who takes an interest in her and slowly breaks through her protective resistance. Their first kiss surprised her as she pushed him away, but it peaked her interest and she reached out the next day to apologize for overreacting.

I have long believed the premise the woman picks the man. Her interest in him is intoxicating. But, maybe that is too one sided. We pick each other by being interested in the other person. In the documentary movie “I Am” on what makes us happy, it is noted the heart gives out an electrical current that can be felt several meters away, so if someone makes your heart beat faster, it can be felt by another in the same boat. I like to think that faster pulsation is the sound effect to the mutual eyeing of each other.

An old consulting friend used to say he was looking for a woman that was Attractive, Witty, Interesting and Interested. He loved acronyms, so he called these four terms AWII. While forgiving his consultative nature, I find his use of the word “interested” meaningful. If the target of your affection is not interested and she or he cannot be persuaded to be such, then you need to take no as an answer and move on. Ironically, he and his second wife began dating after he thought she sent him an anonymous card after meeting, so when he called to ask if it was hers, she said it was not, but she wish she had sent it. They were married for three decades until she passed away much too early.

Attractive, Witty, Interesting and Interested. What are your thoughts on the subject? Am I all wet? What attracted you to your partner?

And, even more movies (March edition)

I hope you are not getting tired of these movie posts. It is amazing the number of movies that are available to be seen. I prefer short movies with good actors. I will be inclined to select one which is less than two hours and will give known actors a chance. But, as noted below, known actors are not always required for a good movie.

Here are a few more, in no particular order.

“Nothing but the truth” starring Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Angela Bassett, Vera Farmiga and Alan Alda is about a reporter (played Beckinsale) who condemns the president for ignoring a CIA report and goes to jail rather than reveal her source. Dillon plays the special counsel who has her jailed.

“Playing for keeps” starring Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Noah Lomax, Judy Greer, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid, and Catherine Zeta-Jones is about a retired professional soccer player (played by Butler) who is coming to grips with being a better father after his divorce. He ends up coaching his son’s team and has a series of ups and downs as he is own worst enemy, especially with the mothers of the other soccer players on his son’s team.

“Before I fall” starring Zoey Deutch is about a popular teen girl who relives her final day of her fatal accident over and over again. She learns what matters most as she reaches out to others, including a girl who was ostracized, and she could not save as they both died. It also stars Halston Sage (who was in the series “Prodigal Son”), Logan Miller, Elena Kampouris and Jennifer Beals. The “Groundhog Day” concept is interesting to see it play out with teen angst as the backdrop.

“Heat and Dust” starring Greta Scacchi, Shashi Kapoor, Julie Christie, Zakir Hussain and Christopher Casenove was a very pleasant surprise as it focused on two time frames. Christie’s character is researching what happened to her mother’s sister in India played by Greta Scacchi (who starrred in “Presumed Innocent”) in the 1920s. The title conveys the two worst challenges of living in India without any A/C, but the heat may also imply passion, with dust being we should live our lives as we will all be dust at some point.

“Edge of Love” starring Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, Matthew Rhys, and Cillian Murphy is a fictional story about poet Dylan Thomas (played by Rhys) who is in love with two women – his wife Caitlin (Miller) and an old girlfriend Vera (Knightly). The love for both continues even when the women become best friends and Vera marries Murphy before he goes off to the war. While Murphy is away in WWII, the other three move to a town in Wales to escape the bombing.

“At Middleton” will not sound too complex, but two lonely married parents meet when taking their two children to visit a fictitious school called Middleton. Vera Farmiga plays the mother of a determined and organized young girl (played by her sister Taissa) who truly wants to attend there. Andy Garcia plays the father of a young boy (played by Spencer Lofranco) who is not sure what he wants to do and where he wants to go. Peter Reigert and Tom Skerritt play important cameos for the two young prospective students. Farmiga and Garcia are intriguing as they joust and have fun together, but the two teens are also a part of the story.

“Only You” starring Josh O’Connor and Laia Costa is about their become a couple (Jake and Elena) overcoming an age gap with Elena at 35 and Jake at 26, which bothers Elena more. Nonetheless, they are obviously smitten with each other as they move in together and try to start a family. But, their passion does not translate into pregnancy and they fight through the challenges, especially with her friends getting pregnant. There is a good ensemble cast of friends, but the role that stands out is Jake’s father, played by Peter Wight, who offers the needed counsel. We had just seen Costa, who is a Spanish actress, in movie called “Maine,” so we may be seeing more of her in English speaking movies.

“My Blueberry Nights” starring singer Norah Jones in her acting debut follows her from New York to Tennessee to Las Vegas as she meets interesting characters along the way. The story starts and ends with her flirtatious new relationship with Jude Law’s character as a bakery shop owner who also serves alcohol and meals at night and shares his uneaten blueberry pie with her as he closes. In the interim we meet three people who have their own sets of challenges. David Strathairn plays an alcoholic cop whose young wife (Rachiel Weisz) has left him. We also learn Weisz’ story as well. Natalie Portman plays a card player who is not too truthful, but befriends Jones’ character. The song track is excellent .

A couple of other movies worth watch are “Tears of Rain” with Sharon Stone and Christopher Casenove, a movie about learning of one’s past. “Safe Haven” with Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel and Cobie Smulders, and although a little cheesy is good. I mention “Maine” above which is alright, but my daughter gave up on it when she was visiting. Since it is about hiking the Appalachian Trail, I thought she might like it more.

If you have seen any good ones of late, please let me know.

Build Bridges not Chasms – a redux

I wrote the following about ten years ago and repeated it a couple of years ago. I edited it some, but the message is still needed today. Please offer your thoughts and reactions.

The title is a quote I heard recently from a new hero of mine, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She was being interviewed on PBS Newshour about her book “My Beloved World.” She said we should “build bridges not chasms” which is a tremendous life lesson. This one resonates with me and echoes my admiration for the “dot connectors” in the world. It is also the serum for the toxic fever of chasm building our legislative and some religious leaders seem to be infected with.

Well, how do we go about living this lesson? How do we build bridges and not chasms?

– First, we should look for ways we are similar. While we remain diverse, as humans there our similarities that cross all faiths, ethnic groups and countries. We want a safe and secure future for ourselves, but especially for our children. When I look at various religions, I am not surprised by the common thread of the Golden Rule which permeates them.

– Second, find these common threads. When I walk into someone’s office or home, I search for common experiences. I look at pictures of children, diplomas displaying education, trophies or pictures of sports or activities, etc. What can I talk about that will connect us better? Also, I take delight in finding out a similar passion or story. The other day I learned of a similar passion to help the homeless people among us from an unexpected source. We are now sharing information, books, etc.

– Third, an old boss said, “you have two ears and one mouth” use them in that proportion. We cannot listen if we don’t hear. We need to know what people’s concerns are before we can begin to help them. We have far too many people who like to hear themselves talk. My wife is the best listener ever. As a result, people flock to her as she will listen to their issues, interests, aspirations and problems.

– Fourth, look for the opportunity to compliment someone or reinforce an action. I am not advocating false praise, but I am advocating a supportive word or gesture. When you step up to the counter to be served by the exhausted clerk who is doing the best he or she can when the boss understaffed a shift, you can make a world of difference by some acknowledgement of their tribulations.

– Fifth, along this same line, you can never thank people enough. We tell our kids “people don’t have to do anything for you.” So, when they do, you should thank them for it. And, mean it. Even in this Twitter, text, Facebook and email world, a call or handwritten note speaks volumes. Yet, use whatever media you prefer to say thanks.

– Sixth, an old colleague used to say “you can never have enough cups of coffee with people.” Remember that and reach out. It is a low-key investment of time as it is not as intrusive as a meal. And, conversation will occur.

– Seventh, never hesitate to include others in meals or outings. Especially meals. If a friend of your child is over, ask them to stay. My wife and I made a conscious decision to have a house the kids like to come over to. Our kids love this. Their friends do as well as we make them feel welcome. Trust me on this. There is no greater sound on earth than hearing your children laughing.

– Eighth, laugh at yourself. Let me say this loud and clear, “you are not perfect.” Neither am I. So, be prepared to laugh at your mistakes and don’t be afraid to tell the stories. It will truly endear you. I found that my kids like me telling about the times I screwed up. We sometimes are in stitches. Why? Because they see it is OK to screw up. The world will not end. And, the old line is true, “laugh and the world laughs with you.”

– Ninth, LTFU. This is a pre-Twitter acronym. It stands for “Lighten the F**k Up.” We take ourselves too seriously. We make mountains out of very small mole hills. Many of the things we fret over are not that important. Trust me. Those folks that are reading texts and emails at stop lights (and God forbid in traffic), I can tell you right now, that text is not that important, even without reading it. I told a colleague one day, “I am going to take your I-Phone and throw it in the ocean.” He was constantly reacting to the messenger and not the message. So, issues got blown out of proportion.

– Tenth, help people in need. You both benefit from the transaction. Those in need benefit if you are helping them climb a ladder. You benefit from the psychic income of helping someone. It is a powerful elixir.

– Eleventh and last, getting back to the Golden Rule, treat others like you want to be treated. That is by far the best lesson in the bible and the ones some religious leaders tend to forget. If we do only this, the world will be a better place. This is especially true in dealing with folks who are serving your needs and are more overwhelmed these days. You may not like their efforts, but please remember you are no day at the beach either. Kindness is not a weakness.

These are a few thoughts on how to build bridges. I am sure I have left off several good ones, so please feel free to share. We are a planet of fixer uppers. We should give each other a break as we need a break from them. Justice Sotomayor has it right – let’s build bridges.