Sunday, February 11, 2018

Lucy and Lucy in Six String Concert...

Friday night my husband, Andrew, and I attended a Six String Concert at the Columbus Performing Arts Center (a lovely little venue with brick walls and a little wooden stage). This was our third Six String Concert (music played on acoustic guitars plugged into an amp) and was where we first heard Lucy Wainwright Roche. We’ve previously seen Dar Williams and Suzanne Vega (though I don’t think Ms. Vega was technically a Six String Concert since she’s kind of a big name). This time, in addition to Lucy Wainwright Roche, we also heard Lucy Kaplansky, who is slightly older than Ms. Roche, but lives in close proximity to her (Manhattan/Brooklyn). Both performers come from a musical family with either one or both parents who are/were famous musicians as well.

Lucy Wainwright Roche  (above) came out first and played a few traditional songs, as well as one silly song she and her sister made up based on a sort of dark fairy tale all about fat babies who grow on trees and if you sneeze, they fall out of the trees. Ms. Roche’s songs are full of lots of wonderful imagery like this. During the break I asked her about her first song (the title of which I forget) and whether it was inspired by Coney Island. She said it was, and we discussed how much destruction it suffered from Hurricane Sandy. Lucy said they were going to rebuild part of it, but it wouldn’t be the same – that it would be lacking the vintage charm it originally had.

Lucy Kaplansky played for the majority of the concert and seemed quite well-known and liked by most of the audience who gave her a long list of requests (which is probably why her portion was nearly 2 hours to Lucy W Roche’s barely one hour). I liked her songs too, but not as much as the other Lucy’s. I suppose I have a bias having seen Ms. Roche perform a couple times previously. She reminded me a bit of Dar Williams as both have a teenage child and are somewhat older than me. Ms. Kaplansky is also like Natalie Cole in that her father was also a musician and they’ve had duets – recorded both live and in the studio (she was selling the CDs in the hallway afterwards).

Lucy Wainwright Roche (left) and Lucy Kaplansky (right)

All in all, an excellent concert that we more than got our money’s worth ($26@ + free parking) considering the concert lasted almost three hours with a 15 minute intermission.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

"The Post"

This weekend my husband and I went to see the movie, “The Post” which is all about how the Washington Post published excerpts from the Pentagon Papers which revealed that the war in Vietnam was not going as well as the public was lead to believe.

The movie starts slowly with The Washington Post in the shadow of The New York Times who got a copy of the Pentagon Papers first. Meanwhile, the owner of The Washington Post, Katharine Graham, debates whether to make the company a public entity in order to sustain financial stability.
It probably goes without saying that Ms. Graham was quite friendly with many of the politicians her reporters attempted to expose. If that’s not a conflict of interest, then I don’t know what is. I certainly don’t envy her when it came time to make the decision whether or not to give the go ahead for the print run making the stories public. It is to her credit that she did allow it, though very much at the last possible minute.

The ripple effect was that suddenly all the other major newspapers followed suit with their own articles, so it was obvious the freedom of the press wouldn’t be stifled. Of course The Washington Post was taken to (Supreme) court, but a majority of judges ruled in favor of the Post.

Now I need to see “All the President’s Men” again, which is a good sequel based on events in the last few minutes of the film.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

My Weekend with Churchill…

My husband, Andrew, and I started the weekend with Winston Churchill, and ended the weekend with Winston Churchill, which is not a bad way to bookend a weekend.

I’ll explain. Friday night we finally got around to seeing “The Darkest Hour,” which is all about when Churchill took office as Prime Minister when Great Britain was on the brink of war with Germany. I don’t envy him the enormous responsibility he inherited. It wasn’t even certain he would be the one chosen as Lord Halifax was the first choice, but he declined due to ‘lack of experience’ I think is what he said in the movie.

“The outcome, however, was clear. Halifax, who was Chamberlain’s preferred choice and the 'Establishment' candidate, turned down the offer to become prime minister. Halifax probably believed he could restrain Churchill more effectively by serving under him rather than as his leader. If it all went wrong, he could step in from a position of strength.”

At any rate, Churchill eventually took office after receiving a telegram from King George VI with an official appointment. It goes without saying that Churchill and the King met on a quite frequent basis – both at Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street, and another odd bedroom of Churchill’s that looked a bit like a storage room of some sort.

The first war-related issue Churchill had to deal with was what to do about Dunkirk (rent that film if you haven’t seen it, but keep the sound down low as it’s quite a loud film; some say the movie was louder than the actual battle). Although Dunkirk was a virtual bloodbath, a lot fewer died than might have had it not been for Churchill’s strategic plan to send in civilians with boats and planes. That’s perhaps simplifying things a bit, but see the movie for yourselves and you’ll understand.

Winston Churchill was a man of many flaws and charms. It’s his many memorable quotes and speeches that make him beloved in the eyes of many. In fact, I even ordered a couple books about Churchill after I got home from seeing the movie. One of my favorite sayings has something to do with “tummy time” which was when Churchill was said to take his meals (rather than go by set meal times). This was something I learned when touring the Cabinet War Rooms in London many, many moons ago.

On the topic of Churchill and mealtimes, there’s a scene where he’s dining with King George at Buckingham Palace and we see Churchill slip a Corgie table scraps. I quite honestly can’t imagine him wanting to share his food in such a way, so that might be a bit of creative license on behalf of the movie makers.

There’s also an interesting scene where Churchill boards the Underground (partly to escape the traffic above ground and perhaps to prove a point that he’s capable of doing things that ordinary people do). I can’t imagine Churchill really doing this, and am curious whether it is fact or fiction. If that happened today people would be tweeting and instagramming it so fast there would be no doubt at all.

Sunday evening we tuned in to our weekly episode of “The Crown” on Netflix (I figured it might be appropriate after seeing the movie, and I couldn’t be more right). This episode almost entirely revolved around Churchill and his lack of action when it came to dealing with the Great Smog of (London) 1952.

In 1952 a weather anomaly occurred that caused the toxic particles released by coal to be trapped under a layer of fog that hung over London from Friday December 5 to Tuesday, December 9 1952. It was estimated that approximately 4,000 people died from the breathing in the toxins. Later that estimate was realized to be closer to 12,000 (though I think the episode said 30,000).

What’s somewhat tragic about all this is that some of the damage could have been prevented. Weather forecasters received ample warnings (and had a precedent since this had also happened in Donora, PA in 1948) and tried to warn Churchill to advise people to lessen or cease their use of coal until the fog lifted. They knew Churchill probably wouldn’t even read the written warning, so they weren’t surprised when he ignored it. Churchill thought everyone was over reacting to what was simply an “Act of God.” He said something to the effect, “Fog is weather, and like all weather, it will eventually pass.” Perhaps Churchill believed in being English and keeping a stiff upper lip; “Keep Calm and Carry On” and all that.

It was only when his personal secretary died rather tragically in a fog-related accident that he finally seemed to grasp the seriousness of the situation. Luckily for Churchill the fog lifted just in time to save his career as Queen Elizabeth was about ready to oust him from office (due to other reasons as well as his inaction on the fog situation).

Whether or not you all agree that Winston Churchill was a great and fascinating man, he certainly changed history (for the better I think) and is worthy of our respect.

By British Government - This is photograph NYP 45063 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Parth Cyhoeddus,

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Movie Double-Header Weekend

This was a movie double-header weekend as we saw two films (to make up for not going out at all last weekend with the winter storm we experienced).

Friday night was opening night for “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” (based on the book by Mary Stewart). As per usual we practically had the theatre to ourselves as there were only maybe a dozen or so people at our screening (and not many more in the rest of the cinema as far as we could see).

The movie was created by former members of Studio Ghibli, which is obvious from the style and the way the characters are drawn. As our version was dubbed, I didn’t have to struggle with reading subtitles (and trying to stay awake, which can sometimes be a struggle). I was a little surprised by the thick Scottish accent of the actress who did the voice for Mary, though that fits with the drawings of her aunt’s Kincaid-esque house and the English countryside. However, the song at the end of the film was sung in Japanese, and totally didn’t fit with the rest of our dubbed version, but as it’s a movie made by the Japanese, that’s understandable, and totally expected in most anime films.

The basic plotline revolves around the character of Mary, a bored, red-haired (or ginger as the Brits say) girl living with her elderly aunt while her parents are away on business. Thanks to a cat, an old broomstick, and a magical flower, she has adventures at Studio Ponoc’s answer to Hogwarts called “Endor College.”

Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded if things could have gotten wrapped up a bit sooner, but then it wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting without that last plot twist.

Good first effort by Studio Ponoc!

Sunday afternoon we drove to the OSU campus to see the movie “Jane” at the Gateway Film Center. Not surprisingly we got the smallest room (which seats about two dozen best as I can tell), but it was barely half full, so probably a good call by whomever books these things.

The movie is a biopic of the infamous primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace, Jane Goodall. Having read the lengthy piece about Ms. Goodall in the October 2017 issue of National Geographic, and having followed her career since I was a child, I was eager to see the film footage which had only been discovered in 2002 (at the death of her ex-husband, Hugo van Lawick), and never before seen by the public.

About half the film is video footage of Jane at Gombe Park in Tanzania studying the chimpanzees, and then later joined by her future husband, Mr. van Lawick, and then other college students much later on again. We also get to see precious footage of home movies so-to-speak, that Mr. van Lawick had taken of their son, Grub throughout much of his early childhood in Africa (he stayed with them until turning 6, then he split his time between school in England and summers in Africa).

Sadly, Ms. Goodall and Mr. van Lawick’s relationship broke down once National Geographic reassigned him to the Serengeti. Ms. Goodall was reluctant to leave Gombe. The chimpanzees also experienced a fair amount of turmoil due to violence between opposing tribes, and then later a polio epidemic (which was suspected of being brought in by the humans, but later dismissed when evidence proved otherwise).

I am grateful someone had the foresight to compile this never before seen footage and release it to the public as it was fascinating, inspiring, if not a touch sad at times (seeing some of the chimps die), but overall a wonderful experience.

Jane Goodall, age 83, still carries on her work today as an ambassador for the chimps and animal welfare issues.

Friday, January 12, 2018

What We're Streaming Now...

After having it recommended to me by multiple people, I finally gave in and started watching “The Crown” on Netflix. It was interesting seeing John Lithgow, an American actor (and a very talented one at that) playing Winston Churchill. On an interview with Graham Norton, he explained how difficult it was to speak and sound like Churchill, but he seems to have nailed it (and won an Emmy for his portrayal).
I wonder if Mr. Lithgow has visited the Cabinet War Rooms and seen where the real live Prime Minister was quartered during the Blitz. I also love seeing Matt Smith (Doctor #11 on “Doctor Who”) portray Prince Philip (in one scene sleeping completely in the buff lying face down). I feel for the actor hired to play King George VI having to cough and cough and cough some more before later meeting his demise (sorry about the spoiler alert : ) We have a lot of catching up to do, but hopefully we’ll be up to speed by the summer.

We’re currently streaming Season 2 of “Orange is the New Black.” This is based on the true story of Piper Kerwin who was arrested after helping her girlfriend smuggle drugs. Some time had passed between the deed and when the FBI finally caught up to her (I think it was 5 years), and she was originally sentenced to 18 months in a prison in upstate New York. I find the characters absolutely fascinating, even if many (most actually) of the prisoners have a checkered past, a glimpse of which we occasionally get to see via flashback. This certainly humanizes the prisoners and helps us sympathize with them. How many of us would have done the same thing in their predicaments? For instance, in the opening episode of Season 2 we learn that Piper was definitely a rule-follower as a child, refusing to jump out of the back of the bus when all her peers did (even when the bus driver told her it was okay to follow them). That describes my childhood to a ‘T.’ I doubt I could have been talked into helping smuggle drugs, but I can see how vulnerable and easily influenced some people are, especially depending on who your role models were (if you had any). I look forward to getting to know many more of these characters week to week.

Just after Thanksgiving last fall, started airing “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” We didn’t have time to watch it until recently. If the pilot is anything to go by, I hope the rest of the episodes are equally captivating. It’s 1950s New York (which is just amazing to gawk at) and Midge Maisel is the ever supportive housewife going to great lengths (hand delivering a homemade brisket to the club owner) to ensure her husband has the prime 10pm spot at a local comedy club where he does stand-up several evenings a week. She even takes notes and makes suggestions for his nightly routine. Without giving too much away, things happen in the first episode where suddenly Midge finds herself in the spotlight, and rather likes it, and discovers she has a talent for it. Anyone who is a fan of period dramas, NYC or stand-up comedy should enjoy this. I look forward to spending more time in the past (that I definitely glamorize) cheering on another strong woman. By the way, this series is written and directed by Amy Sherman-Palladino of “Gilmore Girls” fame (which I am also streaming; season 3 presently).