The only woman in the room – a novel about the amazing true story of Hedy Lamarr

Hedwig Eva Marie Kiesler was born in Austria and would later become a famous and beautiful actress known as Hedy Lamarr. But, her story is far more compelling and complicated than that. Marie Benedict penned a novel based on Lamarr’s incredible true life story called “The only woman in the room.” Not only was she an iconic actress, she was a scientist and was in the room when her domineering husband, a munitions manufacturer in Austria, hosted Austrian, Nazi and Italian leaders.

I will stop short of giving the story away, but this fast-paced novel told in first person, provides a narrative of a woman frightened by her first husband and the plans she overheard. Staying only with the teaser written on the back cover, she would eventually flee to London where she met a movie mogul who was recruiting actors and actresses leaving Europe as Hitler expanded his evil reach.

Yet, she would lament what was transpiring in her homeland, as a Jew and as an transplanted Austrian. So, based on what she heard in these many meetings back in Austria, she would work with a talented avante garde pianist and composer to devise an electronic communication system for the war effort that laid a foundation that is used today. I will stop there at this strange point, so as not to say too much. I will leave you thinking the obvious – an actress and a pianist did this?

The book found its way to The New York Times best seller list. It is a quick and compelling read. I highly recommend this book as it is far more than an unknown history lesson.

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Misfit foods repurposed

So much of our food is thrown away leading to waste as well as methane producing landfills. On CBS Morning News on Saturday, October 12, two companies were highlighted that are repurposing imperfect or misfit foods. These are foods that get passed over by restaurants and grocers due to blemishes, unusual shapes, or less than expected color. Per CBS:

“USDA guidelines separate fruits and vegetables into grades based on things like size and color. Large volume retailers, including supermarkets, often follow those strict beauty standards. That’s led to 10 million tons of cosmetically imperfect or unharvested food being lost each year.

But one man’s trash has become another man’s treasure for Ben Chesler, who saw ‘imperfect produce’ as the perfect recipe and name for a new business model.

‘The goal was really to fix a part of the food system,’ Chesler said. ‘Starting with produce and then eventually moving into the wider food system, we could solve the environmental impact of all the food going to waste, we could make food more affordable for people and we could start to take a small bite out of this whole problem of food deserts where we could actually deliver healthy produce to people for more affordable than the grocery store.’

The ugly produce movement has grown into a competitive field with companies like Misfits Market and Hungry Harvest all fighting for a share.”

Not only are these repurposed foods saving waste, they are helping consumers save money. Plus, it is a sustainable model. Some distributors threw food away rather than donate it to food pantries because of the trucking and loading/ unloading costs.

From the Imperfect Foods website (see below):

“Imperfect Foods was founded in 2015 with a mission to reduce food waste and build a better food system for everyone. We offer imperfect (yet delicious) produce, affordable pantry items, and quality eggs and dairy. We deliver them conveniently to our customers’ doorsteps and pride ourselves on offering up to a 30% discount compared to grocery store prices. Our customers can get the healthy, seasonal produce they want alongside the grocery staples they rely on, without having to compromise their budget or values. We’re proving that doing the right thing for the planet doesn’t have to cost more, and that shopping for quality ingredients can support the people and resources that it takes to grow our favorite foods.”

From the Misfits Markets website (see below):

“A common misconception is that fruits and vegetables only look strange if something is wrong with them or they are genetically modified (GMO). Quite the opposite: All-natural produce is apt to look funkier than the picture-perfect kind that is engineered in a lab. Unfortunately, misfit fruits and vegetables are often rejected by grocery stores and supermarkets due to natural imperfections or variations in size. A watermelon that has its weight distributed oddly may develop harmless scarring. Carrots grow into each other and look twisted. Peppers get blemishes from the ground. Apples fall and get bruised. All are perfectly normal, nutritious and tasty, and they shouldn’t be discarded. The produce we source may also be a misfit for reasons beyond an ugly appearance. Sometimes a farm’s customers may have over-ordered an item that they requested be prepped a certain way—e.g., just the root without the green—or they can no longer afford to pay for an order of normal produce. We’ll pick up the slack so that farmers still make money from excess produce and nothing goes to waste.”

Please check them out and see if they serve your area.

https://www.imperfectfoods.com/

https://www.misfitsmarket.com/

Another conservative lawyer group says ‘impeachment is legitimate’

A group of sixteen prominent conservative and libertarian lawyers who formed a group called “Check and Balances” are adding their voice for the rule of law.  In an article by William Cumming in USA Today called “Conservative lawyers: Impeachment is ‘legitimate,’ a group led by George Conway, released a statement which included the following:

“‘We believe the acts revealed publicly over the past several weeks are fundamentally incompatible with the president’s oath of office, his duties as commander in chief, and his constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.’ They added Trump’s acts formed ‘a legitimate basis for an expeditious impeachment investigation.'”

This announcement is on top of the one reported in the Huffington Post by “Republicans for the Rule of Law.” Per the Huffington Post, “‘Republicans in Congress must condemn this behavior without reservation,’ Chris Truax, a legal adviser for Republicans for the Rule of Law, said in a statement to HuffPost. He continued:
‘It is no longer about whether Republicans believe President Trump or whether they support his policies. It’s about whether they support his admitted abuse of power and his efforts to secure a foreign government’s help in an American election.’”

It is not just Democrats and an increasing number of Independents. A recent survey by The Washington Post and ABC News noted 28% of Republicans support the impeachment proceedings with 18% of Republicans supporting removal of Donald Trump as president.

As other ambassadors testify building on the courage of ousted Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony under oath, Republican legislators will have a tough decision. It should not be understated that Yovanovitch testified under oath knowing the president is a vindictive person. So, when Trump and his toadies continue to discredit this well-thought-of diplomat who served six presidents, remember it is a crime to lie under oath to Congress.

If that were not enough, two arrests of Rudy Guiliani’s associates were made last week. In addition to campaign finance violations, they also tried to help build a false narrative to oust Yovanovitch. Interesting.

 

Renee Zellweger is superb in “Judy”

My wife and I saw the marvelous movie about the a brief period in the career of Judy Garland simply called “Judy.” Renee Zellweger plays the part so well, you believe she is Judy. I encourage you to go see it, but do take some tissue.

The movie does a nice job of flipping back to past moments in Garland’s life to provide some context. It adds a great deal to the film and makes you pull for the adult Judy even more, in spite of her challenges.

The movie is directed by Rupert Goold and is based on the broadway play called “End of the Rainbow,” by Peter Quilter. Quilter and Tom Edge wrote the movie screenplay. Darci Shaw plays the young Judy, while key parts are played by Jessie Buckley who caretakes Judy while in London, Finn Wittrock who plays a young beau, Michael Gambon who plays the producer of the London show, Rufus Sewell who plays Sidney Luft (the father of two of her children), and Royce Pierreson who plays the pianist/ conductor. Her two girls are played by Gemma-Leah Devereaux (Liza Minelli) and Bella Ramsey (Lorna Luft). A key role is played by Andy Nyman as a Judy fan in London.

But, this is Zellweger’s movie to shine as Judy. We knew she could sing from “Chicago,” but she adds flavor to Judy’s older voice lessened some by smoking, drinking and other issues. The movie covers a five week period when she ventures to London for a series of performances at a large club venue. I will leave off the rationale and mission of the gig, as that is an important part of the movie.

Go see it and tell me what you think. For spoiler alerts, I will ask future readers to not read the comments.

Talking to Strangers – another good read by Malcolm Gladwell

I just finished reading “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell and highly recommend it. Gladwell is one of my favorite non-fiction authors and has penned multiple best sellers such as “Outliers,” “Blink,” and “The Tipping Point.” His style is to season examples with a touch of data and analysis, without infringing on the story.

“Talking to Strangers” shares numerous examples and data that we humans tend not to read strangers very well. The main reason is we “default to truth.” In other words, we give more benefit of the doubt to strangers than we should. A healthy dose of skepticism would help in this regard. Without giving too many of his examples away, here are few to think about.

  • Neville Chamberlain wanted to meet Adolph Hitler to see if he could be trusted at his word. It should be noted that Chamberlain was not the only person to meet Hitler and misread him. The ones who saw Hitler more clearly never met him.
  • Amanda Knox was convicted of a crime she did not commit on very flimsy evidence, primarily because she did not react to the news of her roommate’s murder as the Italian police expected her to. Her manner convinced them she had something to hide.
  • Bernie Madoff did not come across as someone who was running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. When investigators met him they could not believe he was so doing. Yet, a man who had not met Madoff named Nat Simons handed the case to the investigators years before they paid attention – he saw too may red flags and dug deeper.
  • Fidel Castro had seven double agents working in the CIA that went unnoticed for years until the US allies caught a key Cuban agent in Europe. The CIA dismissed what would have been red flags rationalizing that the lie detector was picking up a false positive, for example.
  • Brock Turner was convicted of raping a co-ed at Stanford, primarily on the evidence that two Swedish grad students came upon him having sex with a comatose women near a dumpster. Gladwell notes meeting a stranger at a college party is bad enough, but made far worse when both have been drinking.
  • The Penn State president and Athletic Directors could not believe coach Jerry Sandusky was a prolific pedophile. People gravitated to all the good he had done without heeding the first witness to have observed something. The witness was not forceful enough to follow-up and make sure something was done.
  • Sandra Bland was arrested on a very minor traffic offense in a conversation that went awry when it needed not. There were too many incidences where the conversation could have been diffused, yet was not. She was taking a job at Prairie State University in Texas and her Illinois license plates gave Officer Brian Encinia pause. She committed suicide in her jail cell.

Gladwell highlights a study that concluded through tests that we tend to think people who are innocent, but nervous or anxious, as guilty and tend to give a free pass to the good bluffer who is guilty. The folks inbetween, we tend to judge a little better. Given the above CIA and other intelligence, judicial and police examples, those who say they are better at judging are not as good as they think.

One of the examples noted a computer algorithm looking at criminal history was far better than a judge who met the person at setting bail or releasing the offender. The judges released too many that should have had higher bail. Another noted the use of torture was not a good elictor of truth, as when people are tortured, they go into trauma and cannot recall the truth very well.

Like all Gladwell books, “Talking to Strangers” is a quick read. Yet, I hope you will walk away with a few nuggets of knowledge as I did.

 

You can’t comb over climate change

“You can’t comb over climate change,” the sign read at the Climate Change strike yesterday. This metaphor speaks volumes about a huge problem that a certain person in leadership continues to hide like thinning hair.

The kids get it. Their passion and acknowledgement of the existential threat to our present and future is even applauded in halls of government. Yet, it shames these legislators who still do not act because their funders tell them not to.

I am both a tree-hugger and a capitalist. I have actually said this to legislators in open forum, which usually draws a chuckle. Yet, i am more than gesting. I left the Republican Party a dozen years ago in large part due to their ostrich-head-in-the-sand stance on climate change. My thesis is I could not be a member of a party that is ignoring the greatest threat facing our planet. There is no Planet B.

The cost of failing to act now will dwarf the cost of action. But, the economics go deeper. The cost of renewable energy is more on par with fossil fuel costs from a production standpoint. When all costs are factored in – acquisition, environmental degradation, transportation, burning, maintenance, health, litigation – the cost of renewables is actually much cheaper than coal and cheaper than natural gas. The dropping costs of renewables continues to drive the increase in their use. Iowa actually gets over 35% of its electricity from wind energy, eg. Even Texas gets over 16% of its electricity from wind.

Being a capitalist, the place for investment is in growth industries, not retrenching ones. Coal has been in demise for the entire decade. Solar jobs are 5X more than coal jobs. And, per the recently passed oil tycoon, T. Boone Pickens, natural gas was needed to buy time before wind and solar decreased in cost. He said this in the first half of this decade.

So, the future financials favor renewables. Yet, then we must add in that climate change thing. We must address the heating planet being worsened by humans. If we don’t, it is more than just our kids we need to worry about. We need to worry about us.

The kids get it. Adults, are you paying attention?

Country music documentary series

Ken Burns has done it again. While not a huge country music fan, I am four episides into the eight part series on “Country Music.” It has been a wonderful history lesson that goes beyond the storytelling of country music.

To avoid spoiling the series for those who have not seen it, let me offer a few key themes:

– the show utilizes historical insights from numerous perspectives – country performers, songwriters, radio DJs, historians and even performers from other genres;

– country music was influenced by and influenced other genres of music – mountain hymns, blues, rhythm and blues, gospel, rock-a-billy, pop music, etc.;

– country music was born in Bristol, VA (and TN – the city splits the state line) due to an ad seeking talent to record, but broadened in a number of places based economic migration resulting from the dust bowl and depression, which created these intersections of styles and influences;

– finally, it is the stories within and behind the music – to offer one tidbit, the jazz great Charlie Parker was asked why he paid attention to country music? He said it was the great stories.

There are too many names to mention, many of whom I have never heard. But, exposure to folks like Maybelle Carter who popularized a guitar playing style or Earl Scruggs who popularized a three-finger banjo technique or Jimmy Rodgers who perfected the use of yodeling to accent a song are three examples of its influence.

Rather than give too much away, please watch. It is worth the effort. I look forward to the remainder of the series.