Monday, June 18, 2018

Hometown mentioned in today's New York Times...

As follows, "Mr. Stewart's embrace of the Confederacy reached an apogee in his 2017 campaign.  He showed up to an Old South ball in Danville, Va., and, surrounded by men in reinactment regalia and women in hoop skirts, declared the Confederate flag a symbol of "our heritage", not of hate.  And he appeared with the white nationalist Jason Kessler, who went on to organize the torch-led protests in Charlottesville..."

Friday, June 15, 2018

Three Billboards...

Each year this is the time to catch up on films that were highlighted at the Oscars and other awards shows.  They arrive on Netflix, and head here. This week there has been "All The Money In The World"(not a great film but an informative reminder of an event and a time period), "Lady Bird"(a well done small film with great lead in Saorise Ronan), and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"(remarkable).  "I Tonya" and "Darkest Hour" are on the way.

Three Billboards is fascinating, with twists and turns that keep the film flowing and performances that were special.  The writer and director Martin McDonagh is highly acclaimed as a playwright in Ireland and known best here as the writer and director of the now classic film "In Bruges".

It was a film that had hooks aplenty, one here that was a bit of a revelation, a personal one. With both Lady Bird and All The Money, a break was taken halfway through as home viewing allows.  Three Billboards flew by, no break needed or wanted.  It will likely be watched again in a month or so, a second viewing is required.  There was so much to see and hear.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

"Calypso", essays from David Sedaris

This just published collection of essays by Sedaris were all previously published in recent years, primarily in The New Yorker,  but also a few in The Guardian, The Paris Review, Conde Nast Traveler(UK), and Esquire.  As his many followers know, Sedaris has a unique style of viewing the world from a perspective of well written, insightful, at times sardonic, humor.  He has a touch that works and he will say absolutely anything.  There must be a segment of his fans who are closet readers, not necessarily wanting to be associated with his free form publicly but still there.  He appears to be truthful to a fault as on the second page he writes, "Yes, my hair is gray and thinning.  Yes, the washer on my penis has worn out, leaving me to dribble urine long after I've zipped my trousers back up.  But I have two guest rooms."

The effect of his humor in short bursts is what magazines are for.  As a 260 page book it can be a bit overwhelming.  A picture of the last five years of his life is taken in, as well as perspectives on the death of his mother, the suicide of his sister Tiffany, the aging of a father in his 90's, as well as a health problem or two of his own.  Serious events are dealt with in a straightforward way but from his perspective it eventually works as humor.  Central to all of this is his eccentric family, which almost has its own language that shelters them all as they go on.

The book was a nice two day break from the stupid one, but he is still there.  Sedaris writes, "I later learned that what I suffered was called blunt force trauma.  It's remarkably similar to how I felt after the election, as if I'd been slammed against a wall or hit by a car.  Both pains persist --- show no signs, in fact, of ever going away.  The damage is permanent.  I will never be the same as I was before the accident/election."  While his home area of Raleigh, NC, as well as an island village off of the coast in that state, are basic to his existence, Sedaris has for many years had his permanent residence in rural England.  He's lucky again.

Monday, June 11, 2018

"Patrick Melrose" on Showtime

This five part series was exceptional.  When the series was first being promoted it was intriguing, so the first two of the five novels by Edward St.Aubyn were read about a month ago.  Those books ranged within each from being an impeccably English comedy of manners to depths almost beyond what Bret Easton Ellis has written.  The writing is such that individual sentences or paragraphs seem worth writing down, and certainly worth a dog ear or a pen mark as I often treat books poorly.

The film interpretation took the luxury of not dragging a reader through the despair in the novels too incessantly.  The characters were presented with their annoying, at times aggravating flaws, as well as what could be called their desperate humanity.  Can it be said that humor was abundant through all of this?  It was.

"Patrick Melrose" is done.  What an attractive longer series it could have been is the thought occurs to me now, as there is little out there that is this compelling.  Benedict Cumberbatch was unequivocally the star.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

"The Economist" 2018 Pocket World in Figures...

This annual small fact packed book arrived today.  As usual it has two page fact sheets on 100 countries plus a variety of other broader statistics.  For example:

---New York is the 10th largest city in the world.  The three largest are Tokyo, Delhi, and Shanghai.  With less but a bit surprising, Lima has 10 million people and Baghdad 6.8 million.
---The U.S. is 48th in life expectancy, just behind Guam and Cuba.  The top five are Monaco, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Italy, at five hanging in there, giving hope that enjoying life leads to longevity.
---The cost of living is highest in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan.  The United States in seventh.
---The U.S. has the highest prison population in the world at 2.1mm, China, a far more populous country is second at 1.6mm, third is Russia at 600,000.  As a percent of the population the U.S. is #1 as well, followed by Turkmenistan and El Salvador.
---As a percent of the population, the number one country publishing books is the U.K., followed by Iceland, Denmark, Slovenia, Taiwan, and France.  The U.S. is 15th.
---Internet users as a percent of the population ranks the U.S. as 43rd,  just behind Azerbeijan, Malta, and Barbados.

Had enough.  Probably.  If not, this vest pocket book could be entertaining on the subway or in the waiting room at the dentist's office.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Short takes... TRUMP TIME

---Donald Trump Jr. stayed busy last week retweeting Roseanne Barr's vile tweets.  When she deleted hers, he did not delete his forwards.  This entitled nitwit should be named Chip.

---It seems obvious that something is wrong with Melania Trump.  A President's wife has generally been hands-off territory for the press related to personal issues.  Did she have some sort of breakdown?  Did she overdose on her Xanax or whatever allows her to play her role?  This "kidney procedure" issue began almost three weeks ago just after her "Be Best" campaign for children was initiated in a speech on the White House lawn.  That was ridiculous and just a gift to late night comics.  It could look like she was almost set up for public humiliation.

---President Trump's speech in Nashville was campaign classic, at times more vindictive as he craves the recognition of his most ardent supporters, speaks in exaggerations that veer into overt lies, and can't help but admire dubious partners in foreign affairs.  The low light was his talk of MS-13, once again consciously equating this awful fringe group with undocumented immigrants generally.

---Trump's incoherent approach to global markets and trade is explained by primarily one thing --- the exercise of power.  His arbitrary leveling of tariffs, taking them off, and then extending them is harmful not only to business interests but also to U.S. consumers.  His explanations demonstrate no knowledge and no nuance.  Long term damage is already being put in place as businesses and countries are not able to do reliable long term planning about hiring and investment.  This will be felt next year and beyond, not in the immediate time frame that concerns Trump, is that one day, up to three months... that's about it.