So a bit over a week ago we had a bear give a nocturnal display of his or her strength using our bird feeder. (Weather Dewd heard the commotion but apparently was engrossed in something else at the time so didn’t get up to check.) Here’s the damage (since repaired by Weather Dewd and JordanCornblog.):
Since that nocturnal visit we’ve not put out any more seed, and the birdfeeder has remained happily unscathed.
However, the other day whilst walking in the woods, I noticed a very interesting sample of scat.
You may recall an earlier post here about coyote poop we’ve noticed in the woods along the snowy trails. Well, this here is an entirely different animal, as you’ll see below. Just click on each image to get up close and personal with the evidence.
Interestingly, this bear scat is located right in the middle of the trail we walk daily. And it’s right in the spot where I swear on two walks I started randomly thinking about bears. Cross my heart. I looked around warily and everything.
So, now what? I just keep my eyes peeled when I’m out walking. (And I hope that bears are the shy creatures that everyone tells me they are.
And just as a quick update, in the Twitter front, I blocked the people I’d been so annoyed with yesterday. As well I’ve blocked some of the folks I habitually visited when I was looking for trouble — Coulter, Trump, Trump, Jr., etc. And I’m adding an item to my bullet journal for tracking time on Twitter and Facebook. Calling it “10” — I’ll get to check it off when I spend no more than 10 minutes a day on Facebook and Twitter combined. Using a timer generally helps me with goals like that, and 10 minutes is more than enough time. PLUS, if I’m not getting into ‘dust-ups’ it’s unlikely I’ll be tempted to stay longer. It’s wanting to have the last word that generally keeps me up at night. (And why should social media be any different than any other area of my life?!?) 😉
Hope you get outside today. Oh yeah, and hope you get to watch Mayor Pete’s big announcement, too.
I watched an excellent Q&A with Pete Buttigieg at Northeastern (video below) and was feeling a glimmer of hopefulness about life in these United States.
Then I made the mistake of checking my Twitter feed and saw the despicable post by the current occupant of the White House. It was clear that he was inciting violence against a member of Congress, and by extension against anyone of the Muslim faith.
Next, I made the further mistake of tweeting a response expressing disgust, anger, horror…the list of words/feelings is a long one, but that’s the ballpark. I was surprised that my comment received replies. And there were a number of individuals who felt they needed to respond by calling me an ignorant libtard and other less complimentary names. There ensued a useless tangle of jibs and jabs.
One of the people was a QAnon believer and I felt like I was in the presence of a rare species of mammal. Maybe not-so-rare, though. The QAnon conspiracy theory certainly seems something that Trump is working to exploit. And there are more believers than you’d expect (a dire commentary on the state of our educational system).
Right on cue (get it?!) my new Twitter ‘friend’ posted popular QAnon memes about The Storm and The Great Awakening — both staples of these credulous kool-aid drinking pizza-eaters.
So what do we do?
Discussion is not possible. Arguing is not productive. Words have little meaning, ideas no traction, and facts hold no sway. It’s like we live in different universes. How do we ever come together?
Prolly time to remove Twitter from my ken again. I always come away from these encounters feeling diminished, discouraged and, too often, also afraid. Better to go for a walk or meditate or read or watch a video of a sane candidate or donate to a good cause…or something.
So I wrote this title a few days ago and now I can’t remember why. But what it’s leading me to think about today is power, people’s relative visibility, and the whole Joe Biden thing.
About Joe, I hate it that the stories coming out may well be political hit jobs orchestrated by opportunistic rivals. The news coverage isn’t so much about issues as it is about who’s up and who’s down. Just another sporting event.
So the discussion, in this case, is about whether Joe will be able to survive this. And maybe it’s about who’s behind the dirty politics. The focus veers away from the incidents themselves and returns to the power struggle. And more often than not (still) that struggle is between men. Currently, in the press and on social media, many folks are blaming Bernie’s supporters, if not Bernie himself, for this Biden business.
But I’m more interested in what this Biden business says about the questions that the #MeToo movement has been shining a light on. Who owns whom? Who gets to do what to whom? Who gets to draw the lines?
It’s not ‘just’ rape we’re talking about. No, it’s more nuanced and it boils down to power and visibility and boundaries. We each need to think about it. Who do I have power over? Who do I get to do things to without even thinking about it or noticing? Who do I feel okay saying no to? And who do I not?
So, what about Joe?
In this case, is Joe ‘just’ a nice, old-school guy who’s touchy and huggy? Or is he ‘creepy uncle Joe’? And, actually, couldn’t you say that ‘nice, old-school guys’ are, by today’s standards, kinda creepy sometimes? White males, and I think especially white males of Joe’s vintage and station, are so used to having power over folks that it’s often hard for them to see it. Might be power over women, or might be children. Might be power over people of color or LBGTQ folks. Might be brutal, the way it’s exercised, or it might be subtle. But it’s still in the “power over” category.
One of my experiences of this was with my grandfather. He was not my favorite person in the world, for reasons I’ve explored a lot over the years (and won’t bore you with here). One of the things he would occasionally do, especially when I was in Junior High School, was to smooth my long hair if I was within reach and he felt like it.
He’d get weirdly syrupy and talk about how he loved my hair as he ran his fingers through it. I absolutely hated it when he did that. I’d tense up and endure, feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and like I was somehow giving myself away. Raised to be polite, I never said anything and I never moved away in those moments. But you can bet I kept my distance when I could.
We all, back then, bought into the trope that it was his right to do that. And the grown-ups all probably thought it was a nice thing. I felt a little mean-spirited and confused for hating it so much. But, bottom line, I felt invaded and invisible. Buried in there was a lesson learned, about boundaries and about who had the right to say no, and who had the right to do what to whom.
Those are lessons that this culture is still working to weed out and unlearn. Unlearn, that is, when we’re not being white-bread reactionary and trying to reinstate those good old Christian values that so many are nostalgic for.
Have you ever noticed how one side of that Christian values coin looks just like Mike Pence; and the flip side is the spittin’ image of Donald Trump? Yup, them’s some MAGAnificent Christian values writ large, right here in 2019.
Anyway, back to Joe Biden and his invasive touching. He is probably a more benevolent soul than my grandfather was. And he’s definitely a human of a higher order than the current POTUS. But still, are we really just going to be okay with Joe being Joe?
Here’s what I think (drumroll)…
If he has not backed off in all this time, Joe really hasn’t been listening. He hasn’t had to listen. That’s what power is about. When you are adorned with power, if you want to hear or see what isn’t of your world, you have to choose it. It’s not going to just come to you naturally. And you also have to be willing to see that the power that life has conferred on you is probably mostly an accident — not something you deserve or have earned.
So, if Joe really wanted to understand the power imbalances in our world today he’d have seen, by now, how his touch might not always be welcome (even if no one was swatting his hand away). And if he truly chose to explore and own the power afforded by his whiteness and maleness (not to mention his fame and political clout), I think he’d probably back off. I really do. Because he seems a genuinely nice guy who means well.
So what I’m left with, when it comes to Joe, is that in all these years, he really hasn’t done his homework. What I’m left with is that we are all pretty much invisible to him. I’m glad that, in his second try at apologizing, he said that he was open to listening. But I’m disappointed that he apparently hasn’t been listening, really listening, before now.
I’m not even talking about Donald Trump, who is certifiable. It’s important to keep an eye on him – the way you keep an eye on a toddler to make sure he doesn’t burn the house down. But it’s not a good idea to look to him for complete sentences or anything much beyond the most primitive impulses.
No, I’m talking about a political party that was once, indeed, the party of Abraham Lincoln. How has it morphed into the corrupt and mean-spirited assemblage of wealthy sociopaths; incurious and gullible Fox News ingesters; and, lest we forget, rabid white nationalists and gun-loving militia members that it is today?
Honestly, it’s the wealthy sociopaths that I find most unfathomably egregious. What are they really after? Steve Bannon wants to deconstruct the administrative state, but it’s hard for me to believe that Mitch McConnell is on board with that. And what is deconstructing the administrative state even about? Here’s an interesting article from the Harvard Law Review titled “Reconstructing the Administrative State in an Era of Economic and Democratic Crisis.” The author argues that regulatory bodies (like the EPA, for example) are crucial to realizing our “aspirations for economic, racial, and gender inclusion after the ups and downs of the twentieth century…”
But once a faction of organized interests shifts to reject the core purpose of regulation itself, then dismantling, rather than simply redirecting, administrative authority and administrative checks and balances becomes preferred as a policy agenda. Indeed, the high politics of anti-administrativism represent a real and legitimate critique of administrative authority — and one that can be debated in good faith. But on its own, these high politics of anti-administrativism are simply not politically powerful enough to explain the extremes of today’s political realities. The politics of organized economic elites and racial resentment, however, are. And these are political forces that are much more difficult to debate and overcome.
Book Review by K. Sabeel Rahman
It’s the organized economic elites, exploiting racial fear and resentment, that are taking us in the direction of corrupt kleptocracy. It’s a transformation that, Franklin Foer argues in his article Russian-Style Kleptocracy Is Infiltrating America, has been underway for many years. He paints a chilling picture of where we are. Greed is the driving force, and Russia offers a depressing blueprint. And oh-so-interestingly, it’s the real-estate market, via a loophole in The Patriot Act, that has been the conduit for vast sums of dirty money.
American collusion with kleptocracy comes at a terrible cost for the rest of the world. All of the stolen money, all of those evaded tax dollars sunk into Central Park penthouses and Nevada shell companies, might otherwise fund health care and infrastructure. (A report from the anti-poverty group One has argued that 3.6 million deaths each year can be attributed to this sort of resource siphoning.) Thievery tramples the possibilities of workable markets and credible democracy. It fuels suspicions that the whole idea of liberal capitalism is a hypocritical sham: While the world is plundered, self-righteous Americans get rich off their complicity with the crooks.
The Founders were concerned that venality would become standard procedure, and it has. Long before suspicion mounted about the loyalties of Donald Trump, large swaths of the American elite—lawyers, lobbyists, real-estate brokers, politicians in state capitals who enabled the creation of shell companies—had already proved themselves to be reliable servants of a rapacious global plutocracy. Richard Palmer was right: The looting elites of the former Soviet Union were far from rogue profiteers. They augured a kleptocratic habit that would soon become widespread. One bitter truth about the Russia scandal is that by the time Vladimir Putin attempted to influence the shape of our country, it was already bending in the direction of his.
So I guess I have my answer. The articles cited — and most especially this last one from The Atlantichttps://www.theatlantic.com/ — are illuminating. Greed is at the heart of what is happening, indeed. There’s a part of me that finds it difficult to fathom greed on this scale. How much money does a body need? How much power? What drives the individual human beings who are fueling or participating in this debacle? How do they justify themselves to themselves? Do they know that they are going to die one day, just like the folks whose demises they are hastening with their greed?
So, there’s rampant greed that explains the behavior of folks like the Mercer’s and the Koch’s and the Trump’s. Then there are the people in the government who appear to simply serve those deplorable elites. People like Mitch and Lindsey and our new addition to the rogues’ gallery, Billy Barr. What drives them? And what do they actually think they are doing? What stories do they tell themselves to justify their actions? What bargains have they made? Just how deluded are they?
I return to my original question — why is the GOP so corrupt and mean-spirited?
If you can offer any answers, I’d love to hear ’em.
First was a tweet by James Comey that I noticed several days ago. It has helped me put recent events into, perhaps, a better frame.
The AG’s summary of the Mueller Report was disappointing and pretty much as expected. He starts off with a cagey discussion of the nuts and bolts of the report. I was struck by how precise he was as to the work of gathering information, and how imprecise he was as to its results:
In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation, all of which have been publicly disclosed.
“… a number of indictments and convictions” is remarkably vague, don’t you think? Oh, and then there’s this, too:
During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action.
Sorry, Mr. AG, but “a number of” and “several” just don’t begin to do justice to the seriousness of what this investigation has uncovered. Especially since your oh-so-precise language about the number of subpeonas, for example, will just give grist to the witch hunt chorus. Well done, sir, well done. You have fulfilled your promises to @POTUS and @GOP.
And then there’s the language around the whole question of obstruction of justice:
Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense.
It’s interesting that the fact that so much of what Trump did was in ‘public view’ seems to somehow negate, for AG Barr, the idea that he was obstructing justice. So, does this mean that Trump’s ignorance and lack of self-control effectively become his shield from any consequences? In what world, other than that of craven white privilege and GOP hypocrisy, does that even come close to working?
I think Mueller was smart to leave the conclusions to the AG and just lay out the evidence, which I am sure is much more damning than what is being depicted in this little letter (else the report would have been released pretty much immediately — or at leased leaked by Devin Nunes’ Cow). The AG is unmasking himself as what we all feared he would be. And ultimately, this mess is going to sit with Congress and then, in 2020, with us — each and every one of us.
And in the meantime, keeping the long view in mind, here’s the other thing I thought of.
I turned from geologic time to Alfred Lord Tennyson’s beloved poem, “Crossing the Bar.” For some reason, I find it comforting to realize that, whatever happens with this Trump debacle, we all, one way or another, are ultimately left with just ourselves and the content of our lives, in the end.
This will be true for me, for you, and for Donald, Jared, Ivanka, Don, Jr. – all the players and bit players who have brought us to this place. Whether you believe in a ‘Pilot’ or not, I do believe in something like karma. And I, for one, know that I’ve no hankering to be Lindsay Graham or Mitch McConnell or AG Barr or Ann Coulter or Tucker Carlson or any of the other enablers and sycophants and inciters, when all’s said and done. So, whenever that happens for Donnie et al, I find some peace in the strong suspicion that it’s likely to be a very rough crossing. (And if there’s a Pilot, they are all going to have some ‘splainin’ to do!)
Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star, And one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep, Too full for sound and foam, When that which drew from out the boundless deep Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell, And after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place The flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face When I have crost the bar.
Or, for a more direct, and probably more entertaining, route to the Pilot, there’s always Elton John…
Yes, I’m thoroughly tired of the constant noise and flashing lights of our 24/7 cable culture. Exhausted by the bright shiny objects we obediently turn our eyes toward. Discouraged by the way we follow along with the pundits as they try to suss out the ‘meaning’ of Trump’s latest tweet.
It has to mean something doesn’t it? Nope, actually, it doesn’t. I’ve concluded that he’s just an indolent and irritable orange orangutan flinging shit around in his pen. The more stress he gets, the more shit he flings. But seriously, Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell, there’s no there there, beyond the animal instinct to survive at any cost.
So anyway, I don’t just want to distract myself with March Madness and movies and music and martinis. (Hmmmm, wait, why don’t I want to do that?!)
No, seriously – I’ve been looking for some way to keep informed, but differently. Some venue where I don’t feel assaulted, not just by the content but also by the people delivering it.
I was listening to Julie Mason on POTUS this afternoon. POTUS (Politics of the United States) is one of the channels on Sirius/XM. Julie Mason hosts the show “The Press Pool” and I’ve come to look forward to listening on my commute home from work. Yesterday she interviewed Steve Scully from C-SPAN.
It’s a treasure trove of information — and no one is presenting or interpreting or framing it for me. In my explorations so far I haven’t come upon a single pundit. It is so refreshing I could cry!
And here’s a confession: One of the videos I watched last night was of Beto at Keene State. It made me regret a bit of my snarkiness the other day. When will I learn? I nearly always regret my snarkiness.
I highly recommend C-SPAN and also recommend setting a timer before you start exploring because it would be very easy to lose a week without realizing it. (I won’t tell you how much time I spent watching Beto having photos taken with fans at Keene State after he spoke, but it was not insignificant.)
Yes, the Madness is getting closer and poor Temple has already been eliminated. Farewell to Fran Dunphy — a Big Five legend!
The Men start playing tomorrow at @ noontime and the Women start on Friday, and days one and two are always particularly crazy. Last year, you might recall that a number one seed (UVA) lost to a number sixteen seed (sadly, I can’t remember who actually won that game) on day one.
This year UVA is a number one seed again (and number 2 overall). Would you risk it? I’m not gonna trust ’em. I mean, OMG, they lost to a lower seed in their conference tournament just a few seconds ago!
It’s really easy to get into the weeds, though. If you read too much and think too much you’ll start second-guessing yourself.
Here’s my favorite pundit, with a couple of thoughts…
And of course, it goes without saying that in the Women’s tournament I haven’t a clue about who to go with, either — especially with UConn as a Number 2 Seed!!!!
And no, I’m not depressed. I am actually excited that there’s soon going to be a distraction from all the noise coming out of Washington.
Between the NCAA Tournament and Devin Nunes’ cow there’s a lot to be thankful for this morning!
If you haven’t checked out Twitter all the new accounts for the litigious Mr. Nunes there, you should – they are a hoot!
The back story on Devin’s cow (and Devin’s Mom and Devin’s Proctologist) is that Devin apparently came upon some tweets and Twitter accounts that were making fun of him and sued both the platform and the specific accounts for being so mean. According to the NY Times, he’s going for some very hefty damages, and complains that what he has suffered is something “that no human being should ever have to bear and suffer in their whole life.”
Needless to say, at this point Devin is suffering even more, while his cow has 304K followers and counting. And now there’s a T-shirt, too.
It’s not a good look for a relatively wealthy and relatively privileged white guy to say, “I want to be in it. Man, I’m just born to be in it.”
Not a good look, Beto, because it’s far too true. For starters, white guys are born to be in it. And the wealthier and more privileged they are, the more ‘in it’ they are born to be. So, I just wish you hadn’t said that. It makes me question your judgment and your self-awareness. And it makes me question your perspective on American history.
In contrast, here’s Mayor Pete on Fox. He was given the opportunity to say that he was born for this, and had the good sense to say that he was born to be useful. I like the lack of messianic pretension.
During this interview, he also makes the shocking announcement that the timetable on climate change isn’t being set by Congress but by reality. Congress, I am reminded, is also supposed to serve. Although I suppose one could argue that they do serve the various industries and interest groups that have bought and paid for them.
Mayor Pete hasn’t spent time wandering in the wilderness agonizing about his purpose and his future. Or maybe he has. He just didn’t have it all moodily photographed by Annie Leibovitz and documented in Vanity Fair.
And need I note that this is a magazine whose name includes the word vanity?
I thought not.
If I sound cynical, I guess I am. The Kennedy’s already happened. Moses and Jesus already happened. I am not looking for a savior. I am actually looking for someone who is authentic, has ideas, and is not seeming to put energy into being so studiously compelling.
I’ll listen and watch — and I will certainly vote for Beto if he is our candidate. But I won’t be joining in with the gushing, messianic hoopla. I might be doing that with Bryce Harper and the Phillies, but I won’t be doing it with you, Beto. Sorry.
Oh, and Lawrence O’Donnell, I expect more from you.
I don’t think I’m going to be coming up with any answers here. More just remarking on the problem, which is PTSD. In a nutshell, staying informed about what is happening in our world means living in a state of pretty much constant outrage and stress.
This morning I was fantasizing about some kind of class-action suit against Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the Republican party for mental anguish. It’s never-ending and debilitating. I wonder how much the draining and distracting drama in DC affects productivity in workplaces around the country. Someone should study it.
I know that there are certainly days when my energy and attention are divided and I’m less productive than usual. It’s costly on so many fronts. And it’s exhausting. Even as I write this a part of me is thinking, “Why am I wasting my time on this man who so degrades everything he touches?” Indeed, spending time focused on him is futile. Yet what else are we to do?
I want to argue with him, and spend more time than I like to admit doing that in my head. But words are actually slippery and meaningless things when it comes to Trump. He’ll say anything, so there’s no way to get any traction in a debate with him. And calling him a liar doesn’t seem to matter. It is maddening.
So, what are we to do? What am I doing?
Well, for starters, I don’t watch Maddow as much as I used to. It’s a retreat of sorts, but trying to go to bed after listening to any kind of logical explication of Trump’s and the GOP’s swampiness is not a recipe for restorative sleep.
I have also curtailed my Twitter time. Twitter offers a much less curated glimpse of the world than places like Facebook do – and that’s both its strength and its challenge for me. It’s easy to go down right-wing rabbit holes, only to come out discouraged and frustrated. Again, words and logic just don’t seem to matter.
I am aiming to focus hard, for the next few weeks, on March Madness. Have to say, though, that I feel like a great big hypocrite looking to the NCAA for a distraction from deplorableness. (Kinda like Fantasy Football — looking to the exploitative swamp that is the NFL for the same thing.)
Feeling a little trapped, here – like I am positioning myself to run out of easy ‘escapes.’ Maybe I need to take a breath, go deeper, and open to the possibility of letting go of things that I’ve used as coping mechanisms or distractions.
But maybe not right now, okay?
I wanted to write about PTSD and how awful Trump is. I wasn’t expecting to corner myself this way — and am definitely not ready to give up these vices of mine today. But I suppose the fact that I am calling them vices is telling.
Here in the US as the gulf between rich and poor gets wider, an interesting thing seems to be happening. The rich, for all their privilege, look to be more insecure than the rest of us. More unhinged. A bit like a class of people who are rotting from the inside out.
All you need to do is look at the president (lower case p on purpose — a small-but-satisfying act of disrespect). I was listening to a story on the radio yesterday that noted how he has changed the business of lobbying in DC. Apparently, many on K Street have learned that if they buy time from programs like Fox and Friends and run brief commercials about their area of interest, including images of Trump in those commercials, there’s a chance that he will notice and then view those subjects favorably. Staffers have used similar ploys to hold his attention, doing things like repeatedly adding his name in printed briefings to try to keep him engaged.
It’s not just the under-handed methods being used to garner favor. Egregious as they are (and let’s not forget the huge amounts of money forked over for visits to his hotels and golf clubs) the even more disturbing part for me is what it reflects about the man. This is an exceedingly privileged white, adult male we are talking about. Only the best and biggest for him. And yet, his very being is, apparently, so fragile that without constant infusions of attention and adulation, he wanders off, deflated and lost. There’s absolutely no way that this could possibly end well.
And now we turn to yesterday’s college admission scandal. You’ve probably read all about it. Let’s just say that a bit more of the veneer of America’s so-called meritocracy has been chipped away.
The rich have always had a leg up when it comes to accessing slots at elite colleges and universities. Legacy kids get looked at differently, and if mommy and daddy contribute, say, a building, to their favorite school, probably little Susie or Jimmy is going to be looked at more favorably.
But this latest scandal takes it all into a slightly different ballpark. Apparently, some wealthy folks are so worried about their kids getting into elite colleges that they have been buying into an expensive scam that essentially guarantees admission by paying off coaches in exchange for slots on teams — or in some cases actually offers to ‘game’ the SAT’s for students.
Indeed, the very nature of the crimes alleged by the government illustrates the ways in which college admissions are not based only on academic merit. For example, John Vandemoer, the coach of the sailing team at Stanford University, is charged with certifying a landlubber as a sailing team recruit in exchange for a payment to the sailing team of $110,000.
While it’s all incredibly corrupt and disturbing, there’s a sense in which it isn’t very new – just quite a bit more desperate.
And this is where you can really see, as with Trump, the terrible fragility and emptiness of white privilege in extremis. I mean, here are people with the means to buy their way into college the usual way. But instead they choose a method that essentially reinforces two things for their children:
It tells little Jimmy or Susie that they deserve to have whatever they want, by whatever means necessary; and
It further tells little Jimmy or Susie that they are essentially unworthy and incapable and thus, require Mommy and Daddy’s heavy lifting to get them what they want.
It’s an ugly American lesson. As it plays itself out, it spawns emptier and emptier elites. Pouting people like Trump and his pouting family, who have money and power and privilege, but no sustainable, central core of morality or real personhood.
If Beale Street Could Talk: Quiet, beautiful, heartfelt, devastating. America wears many masks. This movie strips a few of them away. It shines a light on quite a lot of ugliness. As well, it illuminates dignity and resilience in the face of a system built on the abuse of privilege and power. A perfect movie to see on the eve of what is hopefully Donald Trump's second and final SOTU.
Shoplifters: A beautifully honest, quiet movie that is at once uplifting and devastating. Universal questions are raised and left open for pondering. What is a family? How do people survive in our world today? And how do we judge their choices?
Green Book: Very enjoyable movie and yet deeply flawed. The white guy comes across as the hero in ways that are typical for the American movie industry, and comfortably misleading in terms of the realities of our culture. Especially in the current socio/political atmosphere, can't we do better than this?
On the Basis of Sex: We applauded, we cried, we felt so glad that RBG was as prescient as she was. And I felt personally glad that her love of opera clearly predates her connection with Scalia. What an inspiring woman -- and a good movie about her early years as a student, professor, and attorney.
The Favourite: Did I say that being a queen was no fun? This definitely seems to have carried forward to Queen Anne's reign. Strong performances again, and more belly laughs than you'd think. And right along with it, grief, emptiness, ambition, and gouty excess.
Mary Queen of Scots: Being a queen was no fun in the 16th century. Excellent, complex performances in this one. I found Elizabeth especially compelling. Very unclear who actually wins out in this one.
Another Year: Loved this one! It's about a couple, and their friends, and their lives – painful in spots, and wonderfully everyday and enriching, to my mind. Great performances – and who knew there was so much wine being drunk in England!?
Tiny Furniture: A young woman (aka Lena Dunham) comes home after graduating from college and tries to find herself – or not. A character study that I found humorous and touching – and sometimes a little disturbing and/or self-indulgent. It's definitely a privilege to have the leisure to "find oneself." After this..."Girls."
Rabbit Hole: Painful/powerful movie about loss and grieving. Hard to watch but well worth the effort, with a strong cast and an especially on the mark performance by Nicole Kidman. I continue to be glad to see that she is clearly outstripping Tom Cruise as an artist. You go girl!
The Kids Are Alright: Very enjoyable movie with great performances and an excellent cast. Two kids whose moms are lesbians decide they want to find out something about their "father" – and everything moves on from that point.
The King's Speech: Warm, funny, inspiring – and apparently a bit of a rewrite of history, to boot! Colin Firth puts out an amazing performance – and was well rewarded for it. Everyone else is great too, and if you're one of the few people left who hasn't seen it, it's definitely worth a look!
Black Swan: This is a disturbing movie that I really loved – and in case you haven't noticed, I do have a tendency to like disturbing movies. What's real and what isn't? You be the judge. Also, be on the lookout for Winona Ryder – you'll never recognized her!
Blue Valentine: A couple in trouble – how they started and how they got to where they are. A good movie with excellent performances that left me wondering, especially in Michelle Williams' case, whether she was thinking about what's his name (her partner who died suddenly – the guy who starred in Broke Back Mountain – for some reason I can't remember his name – oh yeah, Heath Ledger).
Shutter Island: A dark period piece that has the creepy feel of the 1950s (creepy to me at any rate) and has stayed with me more than I would've thought. A movie with surprises – definitely worth a look.
Cyrus: I don't remember this one so well, but have a vague recollection of walking out of the theater feeling not so enthralled. I believe it's supposed to be funny – but as you can tell it didn't really make an impression.
I Am Love: Really beautiful, sumptuous movie that made me hungry, just watching it. A keeper!
The Girl Who Played with Fire: The second in the three part series involving the girl with the dragon tattoo, this movie was much harder to watch than the first, as Salander's triumph isn't quite so clear at the end. Painful, painful, painful.
Scott Pilgrim Versus the World: I loved this comic book take on young love. Went to the movie on a whim and came away very happy to have seen it! Quite a few laugh out loud moments – and touching, as well.
Going the Distance: A very lightweight romcom that kinda left me feeling like I had just spent an hour and a half reading People magazine. In other words, pretty much a waste of time.
Never Let Me Go: Wow! This was an amazing, stark, and moving movie about kids who are basically raised to become organ donors. Very much worth seeing.
The Town: Ben Affleck's movie about bank robbers. It's okay. Not great, but okay. It does make me curious about Charlestown – will have to go there one day.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: A Woody Allen movie that I honestly don't remember very well. It's pretty much about adults behaving badly – something that Woody knows a little something about.
The Social Network: The movie about Facebook. I found it very interesting and well done, and was especially fascinated/disturbed by the window on the incredible privilege and elitism still thriving at undergrad Harvard.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest: Number three in the Dragon trilogy. I found this, in many ways, the weakest of the three movies – although that's not to say that it was weak. Perhaps my enjoyment was affected by the fact that I hadn't read the book. Anyway, it's a great trilogy and I was sorry to see it come to an end.
Fair Game: The movie about the Valerie Plame affair. One of the things that I found most interesting was how it uncovered my own biases, as she was clearly a very serious and talented agent, but because of her blonde haired beauty, I pretty much assumed that she was a lightweight in real life. I appreciated, also, the depiction of her husband as a bit of a media hound, which was how he seemed to me at the time. And of course, there are the despicable characters of the Bush administration. Glad they were on display in all their glory!
City Island: This was a fine, if predictable, movie about a family in which everyone has a secret and is telling lies. I mostly loved it because it gave me a glimpse of where my friend CB lives!
Winter's Bone: Wow! Unrelenting, stark, and ultimately uplifting – at least to my mind. This is a painful movie about life when you're the daughter of someone who runs a meth lab. Winter's Bone is a perfect title.
Please Give: Quirky, sweet, slice-of-life movie. I loved the low-key character development and good humor of it all. Enjoyable, with a great cast and few false notes.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Tho' parts of the book were missing, this was an excellent rendition of an excellent book. Not for the faint of heart, tho'! Lisbeth Salander is an Emma Peel for the 21st Century (watch for more from Noomi Rapace - I will be)!
Me and Orson Welles: Or was it Orson Welles and me? (If Orson had anything to do with the title, I'm guessing the latter.) I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, even as it reminded me of why the world of the theatre holds absolutely no appeal for yours truly! Nice to see Claire Danes back ... still have to finish watching Temple Grandin, too!
Crazy Heart: I left this movie thinking ... "Eh?" but it has stayed with me. Jeff Bridges does give a wonderful performance. The amount of smoking and drinking was nauseating - as I guess it was supposed to be - all in an understated, Jeff Bridges sort of a way.
A Single Man: One of the best movies of the year in my book. Haunting, beautifully acted and filmed ... marred only by an unnecessarily heavy-handed ending, IMHO. That was the only flaw in an otherwise brilliant bit of artistry. Colin Firth was perfect, and this was an amazing writing/directing debut for Tom Ford! See it!!!
Young Victoria: I am eternally grateful to have not been born the heir to a throne. Life was confusing enough! This was an enjoyable, tear-jerker of a movie that left me wanting to know more about the details. Perhaps a bio for Bookeaters?
Precious: Wow, wow, wow. Two weeks in a row - another amazing movie at Red River. This is a challenging and important movie ... about life in America ... every single day ... everywhere.
The Messenger: Wow, wow, wow. This is one of the best movies I have seen in quite some time. Its focus is on two men who notifiy NOK (next of kin) when a soldier dies. It is a raw, wrenching, unflinching and uplifting journey - not to be missed. Seriously
Damned United: This was a study in soccer, ambition, and friendship. For soccer buffs who actually know the players (I'm a late-comer to the game) the movie would be that much better. I loved it, though - and recommend it highly.
A Serious Man: The Book of Job envisioned by the Coen brothers evoked the early sixties and suburbia with humor, pathos ... and a slightly nauseating quality that tells me they pretty much hit the nail on the head. As one of the goyim, I am sure there were hundreds of nuances that were lost on me ... but I loved it (nausea aside) nonetheless!
Cold Souls: The premise of this movie is deeply strange, yet it is presented in an entirely believable way. It's by turns very moving and then hilarious (in ways that, in retrospect, are hard to capture/explain). The ending leaves a puzzled feeling - but that's not really bothersome. In many ways, puzzled is the appropriate way to walk out of the theater after "Cold Souls." Check it out!
Adam: Nicely done! Not a movie that will stay with you for a long time, but I liked it. The father (Peter Gallagher) seemed a tad overdone -and unnecessarily so. Unmemorable soundtrack - but since I mention it, does that make it memorable? Now I'm starting to feel like Steven Wright - not necessarily a bad thing!
Taking Woodstock: Even going in with low expectations, this offering from Ang Lee just wasn't good. Vilma was a high point in an otherwise shoddy effort. Harsh, eh? And watch out, world - it's only 6:30 AM!
Julie and Julia: I was not as bothered by Julie as some reviewers were - maybe because I liked seeing a blogger hit the big time. Meryl Streep was amazing as Julia .. and this is definitely not a movie to see on an empty stomach! Never have I enjoyed watching people eat as much as I did watching this flick!
500 Days of Summer: I think I wasn't supposed to, but I loved it. Engaging characters and script, great soundtrack. Not as quirky and lovable as "Away We Go" - but not far behind, either.
Whatever Works: People either like or hate this latest offering from Woody Allen. I must admit that it's a little weird to see this May-December relationship on-screen, feeling so creeped out by Woody's real-life choices. But I'd say he pulls it off. There are some really great lines throughout the movie, and while not entirely believable, I didn't mind being along for the ride. A pleasant diversion for sure.
Goodbye, Solo: Interesting movie that basically contrasts life energy and death energy, IMHO. Solo is the epitome of resilience - love him! Meanwhile William seems bent on being miserable, for reasons that the movie leaves mysterious. I didn't find him very a likable or compelling character - but Solo makes up for it.
Moon: I hesitate to write this one up, as I was tired when I saw it - and missed portions. But form my bleary vantage point, this seemed an intriguing movie set on the moon and exploring themes of identity, isolation, etc. It was not my usual fare - and I wasn't up to snuff - but at least had the wherewithall to be able tell that it was quality work!
Cheri: I liked this a lot better than Easy Virtue - maybe because I went into it having already seen EV and had my expectations lowered. Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates are fun to watch as always - and I liked Rupert Friend in the title role. It all got a little too serious at the end - a tone-shift that didn't quite fit with the bulk of the movie. Still - a pleasant diversion on a rainy July evening!
Away We Go: This was an excellent movie in every regard. Great dialogue and plot line, endearing cast/characters, heartwarming/funny story that avoids tipping over into overly-sweet territory ... and great soundtrack, to boot! See it, if you haven't already.
Easy Virtue: Not my cup of tea - but I suspect it would have helped, going in, to know that this was a movie based on a Noel Coward play. The characters felt stilted and unbelievable to me, as it was - and I couldn't muster much concern for what became of them. All things considered, I'd rather have been in Philadelphia!
Sugar: Sugar is a baseball flick that is sweetly and realistically done - and definitely like no Hollywood film on the subject. The characters are real and the life is hard - and the film depicts it all in a matter-of-fact way that brings the realities home more surely than something more "dramatic" ever could. Two thumbs up on this one!
Sunshine Cleaning: Director Christine Jeffs has a winner in this tale about the hard times and resiliency of the Lorkowski family. Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin shine in this movie about a bio-hazard clean-up company. Yes, that's correct. And the movie had the potential to cross the line into sappiness several times but demurred. For that I am eternally thankful. (Okay, eternally may be a little over the top.) Darn good flick, though - check it out.
Milk: Sean Penn deserves an Oscar for his amazing portrayal of Harvey Milk. It actually didn't even feel like a portrayal - more a channeling. Such a loss - that yet another creative and energetic and good leader, was senselessly murdered all those years ago. Fear, hatred and guns - why don't we remove at least the last ingredient in the tragic mix?
Doubt: Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman are amazing, and Viola Davis is a heartbreaking revelation in this battle royale. I was left with less doubt at the end than some of my compatriots ... but that took nothing away from the experience. Meryl Streep deserves an Oscar, IMHO ... and I definitely want her on my side, always!
Slumdog Millionaire: Just a great movie, start to finish. Magical,epic, and a nail-biter (even though you know what's going to happen ... pretty much. The dancing at the end did my heart good - and having M.I.A. in the soundtrack didn't hurt, either!
The Secret Life of Bees: Or was it The Secret Lives of Bees? Anyway, whatever - I want Queen Latifah to be my mother!!! (What was Bill Clinton thinking, throwing her under the bus all those years ago?) The movie was entertaining but not a home run by any means. Too predictable ... but Alicia Keys was wonderfully cranky-verging-on-scary and the Queen was queenly and the honey looked delicious and it was nice hearing India Arie in the soundtrack!
Happy Go Lucky: I think I was supposed to like this more than I did. Perhaps it suffered by being seen pretty much on the heels of Rachel. I found Poppy to be a sometimes intriguing and sometimes annoying character. The relentless joking and "upbeatness" felt distancing and unnecessary. I didn't hate this movie by any means - but something was missing for me.
Rachel Getting Married: Jonathan Demme and an amazing script and cast just blew me away with this effort. The characters are fascinating and complicated and most every interaction in the film left me engaged and wanting to know more! Debra Winger was stupendous - although it's been so long since I've seen her that I kept trying to find the bull-riding Urban Cowboy persona within the steely, distant mother of this wedding movie. (She's not there.) Margot at the Wedding was very good - but Rachel puts her in her place. I highly recommend this to everyone!
Religulous: Bill Maher skewers the rampant "illogic" of religion in this free-wheeling film. His wit is right on target and as barbed as you'd expect. I found myself squirming every once in awhile. I don't mind you picking on the Pope, Bill ... but same as with Michael Moore ... sometimes when you set up "common folks" to look like fools, I cringe. Still, Religulous is worth a look for sure. The best point Bill makes? That conservatives of a religulous bent are about finding answers - while liberals are about asking questions. I can go with that!
Roman de gare: This was an intriguing, surprising, suspenseful, funny, quirky movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. The characters and plot lines are deftly developed. You should definitely check it out if you get the chance!
Young at Heart: YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE! It's a documentary about a choral group of octogenarians in Northampton, MA. Very inspiring ... definitely something to check out!
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Enjoyable, light fare with a stellar performance by my favorite police chief, Frances McDormand!
The Visitor: Now this was an excellent movie ... from start to finish. It was similar to Smart People in that it had an academic as the main character. However, all similarities ended pretty much right there. In this warm, funny, and wrenching movie, the characters are well and subtly developed, the plot is (unfortunately) believable ... and there are no false notes. I would urge you to see it - you won't be sorry!
Smart People: Looks like we're getting back on track with our Tuesday night movie schedule ... for the time being. Smart People was enjoyable but left me unenthralled. (It probably didn't help that we ran into a totally enthralled movie-goer on the way in who was seeing it for the second time. High expectations may have killed this one for me.) Overall, I found the characters exaggerated and mildly unlikeable ... the dialogue stilted and self-conscious, perhaps just the way smart people talk. But then the lessons about loosening up and being less self-absorbed weren't exactly ground-breaking. Overall, it wasn't a wasted evening ... but not a movie I'll be putting at the top of my list, either.
4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days): Winner of the Palm D'Or at Cannes, this film by Romania's Cristian Mungiu certainly deserves the accolades it receives. It's a realistic and emotionally unflinching story of a woman who helps her friend obtain an illegal abortion in 1987 Romania. The story is harrowing, the acting wonderful, and the cinematography amazing. This film makes Juno look like Disney pablum!
Taxi to the Dark Side: This was a harrowing and eye-opening look at what our country has become under the leadership of Bush/Cheney after 9/11. The "road taken" has definitely been a trip to the dark side. Disgusting and important to see ... as we make our way back toward the light!
Michael Clayton: What an excellent movie! Engaging, engrossing, well-acted. Tilda Swinton certainly deserved an award for her protrayal of what I have to think must be the secret, inner life of Condi Rice.
Persepolis: This animated memoir is an engaging, heartbreaking, uplifting, realistic look at life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Go see it! It humanizes what our current regime so consistently tries to dehumanize. An important movie, Persepolis is based on the book by Marjane Satrapi.
Margot at the Wedding: Dark, funny, tough to watch and very well acted.
I'm Not There: Bob Dylan's not my favorite, but this was a fascinating movie to watch (albeit long) and since he wasn't there, I couldn't very well feel annoyed by him. Cate Blanchette was just amazing - and I loved the surreal, Fellini-esque feel of the Richard Gere parts.
Atonement: Lush, compelling, painful - I especially loved Vanessa Redgrave's starkly powerful 5 minutes - and the Fellini-esque (can you tell I love Fellini?) flavor of the scenes of the evacuating troops on the beach - complete with ferris wheels - somehow depicting the disorienting horror of war in ways that blood and gore never could. Great movie!
Juno: Well, I went to see it. I totally agree with my friends who found the clinic scene extremely misleading, off-base, and gratuitously negative in its depiction of the women's health movement and its workers. In an otherwise nice movie, this was a thoughtless lapse ... and I was sad to see so many women in Juno's age group in the theater (one of them actually pregnant) ... who'll be coming away with a false impression that could so seriously affect their lives!
The Savages: Wow, what a good movie! Philip Seymour Hoffman has had an amazing run this year between this, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," and that other movie with Tom Hanks ... the name of which is escaping me at the moment ... Charlie Somebody's War. Anyway - he and Laura Linney are just wonderful as siblings dealing with their aging/ailing father. Painful and real ... and set in gritty, wintry Buffalo ... in perfect contrast to Sun City. (The latter looks like a setting that would do David Lynch proud.) Check it out if you haven't seen it!