Stream verb (SEND): To send continuous sound or moving images using computers. Wi-fi networking allows you to stream music from a PC to the device. This one.

Stream verb (FLOW): To move continuously. Tears streamed down her cheeks; Record numbers of applications were streaming into our offices; Sunlight was streaming through the window. Not this one.

I am old-fashioned. All of my news comes from words printed on actual paper (well, except for the guilty workday pleasure of checking in at HuffPost to see if Mueller got the T. or there are new photos of the royal family). My phone is for texting and taking pictures (and the odd phone call), not for movies.  My computers are for emailing, googling, writing, blogging, Facebooking, and those sneaky moments with HuffPost (see above), not for movies. My car is just for driving (not for playing music or stories…)

I read books for stories. I go to the theater for movie-stories. Except when I don’t. Except when I turn to my television for both. That big slightly-rectangular black screen in my living room. That cable-less, dish-less big black blank…with a tiny device called Roku attached to it—and therein lies the magic. The stories—in movies, in series, in documentaries. The stories minus commercials. The stories I want when I want them.

Streaming. I love this magical new world—which I’m sure is about to be tarnished, sullied, altered, and further monetized by the loss of net neutrality. But for now, this winter, this holiday…it has been nothing short of splendid. Stories stories stories and no danger of the bloated T. face appearing.

Here’s what I’ve been watching with a one-two sentence description and recommendation. Most of them I’ve enjoyed in two or three day binges. I’ve gradually expanded my streaming channels—the danger is that if I’m not careful my story sources will soon cost more than my old cable bill. That’s okay—still no commercials and no bloated reddish face topped with an orangey hair-like substance.

Let me begin with the best of the best. For me that’s The Crown (Netflix). It’s near the top of what I’m calling my high-class, smarty-pants soap operas (well, not sure anything can ever top Downton Abbey). The second in a series that will eventually cover Queen Elizabeth’s whole life, it’s full of sudsy drama and some reasonably authentic history. I’m somewhat addicted to all things British so of course I consider The Crown a perfect gift for holiday escapes (shades closed, fleeces on, phone off, lefse at hand…the good life for sure)

Then along came the last season of A Place to Call Home (Amazon/Acorn), except for the final four episodes which have since been downloaded. I’m saving them for the most special of occasions, maybe tonight to start the year right, maybe for this weekend with a foodie treat of some specialness? I’ve talked about this series before—described it as Australia’s Downton Abbey with the downstairs folks moved to the farms and the time upped to the 50’s. I can’t bear to leave this family—what to do.

New seasons (and probably final seasons) of two of my favorite detective series have come available this fall, Broadchurch (Acorn) and Top of the Lake (Hulu). The first is one of those great British detective series with broody guys, strong women and it rains a lot. The second is Australian with super-strong, not so silent women and it’s sunnier. Elizabeth Moss is the main character in Top of the Lake and apparently with her Handmaid commitment is not coming back so it will likely end. Both shows have plenty of dastardly deeds and bad hombres to keep my attention without resorting to quite as much swaggering and gunplay as most American detective stories.

Robert and Marsha (bro and sister-in-law) pointed out a new one-season event from Sweden I’ve just finished watching. Rebecka Martinsson (Acorn) based on the detective novels of Asa Larsson, one of my favorite Nordic Noir writers. It’s excellent if you like smart women taking care of business with just enough personal story-line to make them your best friends. There’s also a whole lot of northern Sweden’s bleakly beautiful landscape, especially in the dramatic winter scenes—reminds me of much of northern Minnesota at its chilly best.

Haven’t been serious about my movie and documentary to-see lists yet but have watched the first half of the Joan Didion doc. Amazon had a glitch so couldn’t finish it but certainly will. It’s fine work by Didion’s nephew, intimate and poignant and admiring but not simply pretty either. Didion is one of my much-admired writers and it may be nominated for an Oscar so it will be pure pleasure to return to it.

Finally…The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu). I read the book while in Jaisalmer in the West Indian desert state of Rajasthan. In my golden room in a golden fort. It was a great late-night read with my wide open windows and the sounds of quarreling dogs wafting not-so-gently in. It’s hard to duplicate that experience on my couch in front of the TV, however brilliant the streaming experience is. That’s the long way of saying I’m having a hard time with it right now. I believe that’s because the first two episodes cover a few major experiences that take awhile to reach in the book, and because they are filmed exactly as I imagined them to happen. It’s rare to have a scene that’s existed only on paper and in your imagination come alive right before your eyes precisely as you pictured it. Of course I had the advantage of being an Elizabeth Moss fan and visualizing her right there in front of my eyes as I was reading. Anyway, it’s quite a story, and I just read that Margaret Atwood, the author, will be heavily involved in the second season which takes off from the book but moves beyond. Good idea. I’ll stay with it.

In the spirit of starting 2018 off right, I’ve written something, taken my cold medicine, eaten broccoli. I have one more evening ahead of guilt-free streaming, and then it’s back to reading and writing and gym and more damn vegetables.  Happy New Year.



Curling up with a Good Book…and a good dog too.

Just a final wrap-up note note about the Minnesota visit. Grand Rapids, population just over 11,000, has a bookstore I’ve come to love over the years for its attention to Nordic Noir. Unfortunately the Village Bookstore is located in a small, and generally failing, mall, so its days may be numbered. But while it is here I am availing myself of the luxury of selecting a healthy stack of probably-want-to-reads, hunkering down in a comfy chair, and making the final selections—usually most of them. You simply cannot duplicate the pleasure of that touchy-feely perusal on line. And I am a stack of books richer for having experienced it. Can’t wait to go to bed tonight and continue tracking the murderer loose in Larvik, southwest of Oslo, with my detective friend William Wisting and his journalist daughter Line (The Hunting Dogs by Jorn Lier Horst). I do order more books than I should on line just because it is so easy—but what if we all do that so much we forever lose our access to real honest-to-god places that exude the love of books and need to be among them? Shop at your local bookstores…independent and B&N…or they’ll disappear and this will be a blander poorer world for the loss.

Title Quote: “She’d become an English major for the purest and dullest of reasons: because she loved to read.” Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot.



Holiday. Reading. Leaving just enough time for sleeping, eating, blogging, visiting, and buying shoes.

Remember my ever-so earnestly focused reading list on Wyoming, Utah, and points east in Asia. All thoughtfully planned and well-intentioned, and all of which I dedicatedly pursued until…reaching my destination in the north woods and official vacation time.

First night here I picked up Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. Perfect choice. I’m a fan of Noah’s and have some small knowledge of Johannesburg so the book was engaging on both levels. Noah probably isn’t a great writer but he’s better than just good, mostly because his comedic charm shows through often, and because he appears to have been pretty forthright in relating the good, bad, and ugly of his circumstances and his response to them. Life is tough in the townships and suburbs of Jo’burg for everyone and for a mixed-race kid who didn’t really fit within the Coloured community there were some additional snags. If you enjoy Noah’s show or standup routines, you’ll love this book.

I’ve moved on now to Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers (remember A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius?). The official hype says this is “the darkly comic story of a mother and her two young children on a journey through an Alaskan wilderness plagued by wildfires and a uniquely American madness.” I am pretty sure this is a seriously good book. Even this far along I know Josie and her kids, Paul and Ana, are people with whom I want to share a journey. Eggers has introduced them as utterly charming, more than a little peculiar, and reluctantly adventurous (with the exception of tiny Ana who’s an unadulterated adventurer). I finished Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent a couple of weeks ago, enjoying Bryson’s travelogue snide and often hilarious descriptions of American sights and ways immensely. Eggers is even better at describing our American strangeness in a way—is it because he’s more subtle or ironic or maybe it’s attention to the odd details that are everywhere? Don’t know…but I love it.

Is there anything in the world better than a book? No, there is not.




Travel AND books. Nothing better.


Five new books arrived on my doorstep yesterday, two on Utah, two from Wyoming, and one, a new novel about India. Even though my road trip begins in New Mexico and eventually travels through a corner of Nebraska, much of South Dakota and up to northwest Minnesota, the states I’m most excited about traversing are Utah and Wyoming. Utah because I’ve only been in and out of Salt Lake City and Wyoming because…well because…I simply love that state.

There’s just enough time before next Saturday to somehow get through four books…and it helps if you realize right away that one can be skipped—that would be The Executioner’s Song (Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize winner which all takes place in Utah). Gary Gilmore, the executed murderer of the title was a completely unlikeable person whom I choose not to spend a perfectly good week with at this point in time. I know…

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“YOU ARE JUST TOO WORDY,” I say, to myself.


Being too wordy usually means throwing way too many many unnecessary words into one written piece. Like that. I suppose it could also mean always wanting to write—all those words you’ve absorbed over the years trying to get out? In my case, it appears to be both. Apparently I have too many adjectives and adverbs clogging my system and they escape onto every screen or page whenever there’s an opening. And then there’s the problem of nothing seeming real to me until I’ve written it down. Talking doesn’t help. I am not very articulate. Only writing eases the word bloat.

What to blame for this surfeit of words? Books of course; there are never too many to read or buy or touch or view or ponder or desire.

I have been writing a book. Or rather the first third of a book. Right now it’s being reviewed by my literary friends. Then it will go to a professional reviewer. After that, I’ll weep, edit excessively, and determinedly move on to write new chapters. Writing this seriously has been the most painful and pleasurable thing I’ve ever done. It took me well into my UCLA certificate program to gather the courage to approach this with earnest intent. I’ve finished the program…that old “I’m a writer” rubber is hitting the road. Wish me luck.

Meanwhile it is time to start blogging about my upcoming 2017 trips. From whence I derive the most joy. Blogging is brilliant, especially when fairly casual. Writing about travel, writing about books, sometimes about grandchildren and new recipes! In the future blogging about my history and my age. What could possibly be more fun than the latter? Blogging as I do it is ‘writing lite’, the best of all worlds if one is lazy and wordy.

This post is the first of a series about the reading I’m doing (or sadly, in some cases, just planning to do—but won’t) for my summer/fall 1) Road Trip and 2) Another Big Big Trip to the other side of the world…and farther.

At this point in time I’m in that stage when the outlines of the trips have been determined, and in the case of the international trip, the airline tickets purchased. That’s where my reading list is focused. It makes a great deal of difference to my engagement with and excitement about all of the places along the way if I have some knowledge of the history, geography, culture and customs. So I know the whats and whys and whereofs of all that’s about me. I’m not talking about scholarly research or needing in-depth knowledge—although I always mean to try for a little of that—I’m simply talking about a good history/adventure story/novel/murder mystery or two or three.

The countries to explore through words and in person: New Zealand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, India. Not so many really but of such world-impact that hundreds of books could not cover them. Particularly India, but also Southeast Asia’s Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. Nepal because I can. New Zealand because travel buddy, Teresa, who’ll go adventuring in Vietnam with me, lives there.

The Book Worm Chronicles start here:

I read The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen last year. It is quite possibly the best book I’ve read in a very long time. He has two new books of essays out which I will order the minute I post this. Teresa, who was not born until some years after the Vietnam War ended, is as in love with The Sympathizer as I am—and as it should be. Without some knowledge of what’s gone before how should we consider ourselves responsible citizens? A rhetorical question of course with history nearly banished from all education.

Finished Around India in 80 Trains by Monisha Rajesh last night. Delightful, especially since I plan to spend much of my 10 or so days in India on trains. It is great fun to read, although naming and riding on 80 trains for one short book got a little heavy on the naming angle, while I would have liked just a few more details about the various stops…still she accomplished a major task, the kind of thing I would like to do, and she’s a good writer and good person with whom to go train-about.

Enough for one post. I’ll return with many more books and my progress reports. If you have suggestions please let me know.




I’m taking a sabbatical from book club to make my second serious stab at writing a real book, one with its own ISBN number, one for which some amount of money will change hands. I tried this once before, but when my enthusiasm lagged and it became obvious that only about a third of what I was writing was any good, i.e. readable, I stopped—thinking that I had a lifetime to finish! So Marjorie, I say to myself, that deadline is soon upon me (well not soon-soon but you know what I mean) and if I’m ever to have my name associated with an ISBN number it had better be now. Sadly they don’t give graduate theses those magic numbers or I would already be so anointed.

It would be nice if I were taking a sabbatical from work instead of weekly reading seminars—or, as I fondly refer to it, the Literary Lawyers Book Club (the group actually has a most erudite name which I find hard to remember). Since my fellow readers are all lawyers I’m trying to fit in by taking a Coursera introductory law course from the University of Pennsylvania—memorizing key legal phrases; for example, if the subject of transsubstantivity comes up, I’ll be able to respond knowingly. Finally. I’ve wondered about that for years…

I do enjoy this club a lot…as described earlier it’s an eclectic mix of literary seminar, bookish salon without a hip dress-code, and weekly political gnashings of teeth. I’ve already been introduced to two most interesting writers, previously unread by me. Don DeLillo and Paul Beatty. These discoveries have been passed on, in the case of Underworld, to my engineer granddaughter who is interested in waste, with Beatty’s Sellout going to my techie grandson who loves to argue issues of race with his many-hued and very smart friends.

Today at book club: we agreed The Sellout is brilliant in its own narrow way; Bob offered up Easter chocolates; and my kind friends offered to read the partial manuscript of The Book I must produce by August before I submit it for review. That made me both grateful and nervous…inspired and frightened…challenged and exposed…what if they hate it? So, talking to myself again, I say there (old chap) write it so they cannot possibly hate it. Done.


I’m Watching You

The Americans and Pussy Riot and those scary Russians—who are our mortal enemies or best friends or…?

The Americans is practically the best show streaming in my humble opinion. Spy story extraordinaire—which some have also called a family drama—dad, mom and the two kids in a pleasant Washington DC suburb. You know the usual family dinners and arguments and getting the homework done. Oh yeah, and then just for a change of pace, there’s the sizzling sex, whizzing bullets, slashed throats; busy genitalia, graphic death all quick and dirty. What’s not to love? Everything your warm and cozy self has ever desired on screen. Besides all the pizza and movie nights, and the scenic sex and vivid violence, the politics of the cold war, the devious dealings on both sides, the mislaid morality whatever the flag, is mesmerizing—and, may I say, worthy of our renewed attention. The first four seasons of The Americans are streaming on Amazon and—good news—two more will be available in the couple of years ahead. Watch this, you’ll feel the little shivery shock you first noticed when House of Cards was brand new.

Moving on with Bad Russians, I mean the Good Russians, Pussy Riot at the KiMo.

Let’s see, Susanna and I drank more wine than we usually do so maybe it just seemed so of-the-present and powerful, and such an important acknowledgement of what happens just before it gets as bad as it can get. One of the young women who were jailed was here and told her story in Russian as her fellow Pussy Rioters performed a sort of punk rock dance and music show. A documentary of the whole incident was screened in the background. The two primary thoughts/facts/fears I came away with: how strong one can be when the need arises, and how we had damn well better pay attention because Putin’s Russia is what our buddies in the White House desire for America. A society of oligarchs playing with the world’s resources, and tamping down on enough liberties so that the people who object can be silenced.

Art in all of its forms is so incredibly absolutely important – which of course is why the Republicans have always been desperate to rid the US of that troublesome occupation/reality/product. Art tells imaginary and TRUE stories, the most dangerous thing that can happen in a dictatorship. So work for ridding the world of Republicans and their ilk wherever they are—and if you decide being a spy is the way to go, be sure your weapons and your body beautiful are up to the challenge.


The (Short-Fingered) Man from the Tall Building

Soon we’ll be two months into the Turmp (it’s how my typing fingers want to spell its name) Administration. What we should fear more than anything…is happening—it’s normalizing. No good will ever come from this president, cabinet or congress being accepted as normal. So what to do for myself to make sure I do not succumb to finding those faces and voices normal?

First step. Thank Odin (my personal god) for Coursera. I’m taking a course, The Holocaust – An Introduction: Nazi Germany: Ideology,The Jews and the World from Tel Aviv University and Yad Vashem (Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust). It does not matter which political side one is on these days when considering the Israeli/Palestinian situation (I’m personally on the side of the Palestinians anytime settlements come into the picture); very little in the history of world horrors has equaled the Holocaust.

We study the Holocaust in school; at least I’m hoping it’s still studied, but details become blurry over time. This is a good time to revisit the reality of the Holocaust when our new “leader” and his minions seem to reflect a time and ideology we thought we had, at least partially, put behind us.

The class is simply excellent with a professor of great and fluently-shared knowledge who manages to present dispassionately, a story horrific beyond belief. And…hey folks…it came about gradually throughout the 1930s and early 40s. Hitler did not stand up one day in 1933 and say “I intend to take over a big part of the world, kill all of the people whom I personally consider inferior, and leave Germany and much of Europe a bombed out, starving disaster zone.” No, indeed. He just told the German masses it was all about the Germans and that he alone could fix whatever they believed to be broken in their lives, and make Germany pure and great again. And the rest is history, isn’t it?

 I so very highly recommend this class; it’s midway through right now but you could still catch up; it will also be offered again.

I named this piece after The Man in the High Castle which I’ve just started watching (what if the Nazis had won WWII is the premise); I planned to watch more but the reviews aren’t great so I’m not sure, and as a result I don’t know if “The Man…” is a good or bad guy. In any case it’s a good title I think.

More later on about bingeing on The Americans (Russian spies!) and starting to reread a very good Jackson biography to see if Turmp is just following in Andrew the Populist’s  footsteps, as Melissa McCarthy’s fake stooge Bannon has appeared to claim.

I took these photos around 2005 on a visit to Poland’s Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945). I’ve visited the Genocide Museum in Kigali, Rwanda too, and there’s just no way to feel enough at these sites. It seems like we would come away and devote our lives to the ending of racism, xenophobia, hate, genocide but we manage to go back to our normal lives…

And Films to Go Before I Sleep…

OscarLand is not for the faint of heart. I started this year determined to see every Oscar nominee available, host one last Oscar party and then end this not-very-old tradition because it is simply too exhausting. That’s still my goal but in terms of every available…maybe not. However as soon as I wrote that all of my obsessive-compulsive traits came into play and I am once again determined to persist…as we pushy broads are known to do… and see every single available nomination.

Two or three more movie posts and then this fine but unnecessary blog will be put to bed for the foreseeable future. Once again I have new blogging plans. Remember Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” which I used to love quoting but now with with-what’s-his-name in the white house it doesn’t seem as desirable to be inconsistent. On the other hand the Shyster isn’t at all inconsistent about having seriously stupid and or flawed positions on almost everything. Me though, I’m consistently conflicted about all of these inconsistencies of mine.

Rattling on without having had a wine or two it isn’t so much fun and I hardly ever drink wine anymore…must be all these movies making me crazy.

So where was I? Since the last post I’ve seen hundreds of films including Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Captain Fantastic, Florence Foster Jenkins, Life, Animated, and The Salesman. My favorite of the lot was Lion and/or The Salesman; least favorite La La Land.

Let me talk about Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Captain Fantastic together because they all represent classic western, feel good or Swiss Family Robinson standards. They are also all either excellent or very close.

Hell or High Water—traditional western, whose predecessors I watched for hundreds of hours at the Royal Theater in Northome, Minnesota. I loved them primarily for the horses galloping over the range land, in pursuit of or chased by the bad guys—now it’s all ratty cars or ragged trucks, not quite the same. Jeff Bridges almost makes up for all of those missing horses though.

Hidden Figures—feel-good movie and true story with important history. About smart smart women who happened to be black subjected to the fragile egos of the white guys surrounding them at NASA. They persisted and resisted in their slyly respectful ways, always with dignity and all the humor they could muster. Octavia Spencer should be a shoo-in for Actress in a supporting role.

Florence Foster Jenkins—another more traditional feel-good flick, and another true story. Opera singer who can’t sing, heart of gold, and so forth and so on. I liked it and of course Meryl (this nomination is for best actress) is always wonderful although Natalie Portman needs the Oscar for this one. Haven’t seen Loving yet so my mind could change.

Captain Fantastic—feel-good, Swiss Family Robinson version. Not even a little bit true story, but far-fetched as it is, it’s most entertaining. The nomination here is for  Viggo Mortensen, interesting looking guy and, I’m told, a great actor, but I think I’m going to vote for Andrew or Denzel for best actor after I’ve seen Hacksaw Ridge and Fences.

Life, Animated is a solid documentary, and a good primer for a beginning understanding of autism. It’s not great…13th is great, but it’s definitely worth seeing. On Netflix or Amazon, I forget.

About Lion and The Salesman. I love them both. A lot. Lion is another true story and we get to meet those really involved in the end, a trend I’m coming to enjoy. Lion also has Dev Patel so how could it not be fine, but nominated for a supporting role which is quite odd since he is certainly the main character in this epic search movie. Long story short, small boy gets lost, is transported thousands of kilometers from his home, survives on the street, is adopted by a loving Australian couple, grows up, searches for and finds his mother. It’s dubbed a survival tale which fits as well as my putting it in some sort of travel category. And Dev Patel should probably get Actor in a supporting role…or should Ali, or Bridges, or Hedges. Everyone in this category is brilliant…although haven’t seen (or heard of until now) Nocturnal Animals.

The Salesman is Iran’s contribution in the foreign film category. A tale of suspense. Wait that’s not quite right. I scanned several reviews trying to figure out where The Salesman was filmed. Here’s what one says: Some descriptions of “The Salesman” call it a thriller, suggesting a Hollywood-style suspense film. It’s not. It’s a psychological and moral drama about how one man’s anger and damaged self-image drive him to the brink of destroying the very thing he ostensibly most wants to protect: his marriage. I couldn’t find out where it was filmed but I’m hoping it was Tehran because part of the reason I like foreign films is because they’re a glimpse of another time and place. There are many excellent reviews of this and the director Asghar Farhadi’s other work. It’s in the top four or five of my favorites for this year I think.

Okay then. La La Land. I’m a fan of Los Angeles and this is a nice sightseeing trip around a city that never gets credit for being as interesting as it is. Also Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are really really good looking. One son loves this movie and one granddaughter hates it. Call them if you want to know more.


Calm Down; Go to a Movie

From Chicago Art Institute. Artist Lawrence Weiner.
From Chicago Art Institute. Artist Lawrence Weiner.

1917 (I MEANT 2017 OF COURSE but 1917 witnessed two Russian Revolutions, U.S. entered WWI and J.Edgar Hoover went to work in the Justice Department so maybe it’s a model) is already a completely crazy year and only a month has passed. Much of this of course is due to the-shyster-at-the-top, maybe all of it, even the things that don’t seem directly attributable. Yesterday the post office lost my package (the all-important blog-book of my 2015 travels), then found it. I lost my phone, made trips back to the office and finally, in desperation, bought a clock and took a pill to sleep. Back at work this morning, I found the rascal tucked into a big fat file in another office. I blame the shyster for already destabilizing the post office and for adding a massive layer of stress to my life that makes bad things happen—never mind the actual death and destruction he’s determined to bring forth. There that’s all out of my system for a few hours.

About films and books. There are already a million reviews out there of everything…why am I writing about them on an obscure blog read by 12. Silly (just realized I can’t use these one word sentences anymore because guess who’s the master of one word sentences and I do not want to resemble that slimy-creature-from-the-black-lagoon in any way).

I think adding a few more posts about my 2017 movie marathon is okay but then it’s time to…once again…put this blog on a long, possibly forever, hiatus. A few words about The Eagle Huntress, Jackie, and Manchester by the Sea. The Eagle Huntress was one of the docs mentioned for Oscar consideration and, according to me, should have made the final cut. A Mongolian girl wants to be an eagle hunter, a vocation usually reserved for males. Her family supports her completely, especially her father who teaches her everything he knows. She makes it. This is a documentary put together with more than the usual amount of love given the struggle it must have taken to film; it is an authentically heart-warming tale in a grand and glorious landscape. I loved it for all the filmic and scenic reasons, and I loved it because I was in Mongolia in 2015 for a few days—out on the steppes in a yurt. That made the story a little bit mine didn’t it?

Couldn’t every one of us around 70 years old, or a little less or a little more, write a book about that day in 1963 when Camelot came to its bloody end? On November 22nd, 1963, I was at my friend Betty Jo’s apartment in North Branch, Minnesota with three-year-old son Scott. I was staying with mom and dad up north while waiting for orders to join my husband in the Philippines. Baby Steven was home with mom so I was on a holiday of sorts. Betty Jo and I had probably put our boys down for naps so we could watch As the World Turns… and turn it did. Some time into everybody’s favorite soap, Walter Cronkite appeared with news that the President had been injured and then “President Kennedy died at 1pm Central Standard Time.” Camelot was over. But in Camelot, Camelot/Those are the legal laws./The snow may never slush upon the hillside./By nine p.m. the moonlight must appear./In short, there’s simply not/A more congenial spot/For happily-ever-aftering than here/In Camelot. Not true it seems.

 Jackie is a remarkable piece of filmmaking. Somehow Pablo Larrain, director, and Natalie Portman “Jackie” have made a film that has brought back every emotion I’ve ever felt about that day in the form of a dark drama both revealing and so seemingly true in its mix of sorrow and anger, weakness and strength. I was transported, partly because of course I was there—an adult, alive, watching, disbelieving, horror-stricken that it could be happening in America, and so very sad because I loved JFK. I also believe this film could make that day real for the first time to generations since who have grown up with shooting as the all-American sport and aren’t even shocked that this could happen. So far Jackie’s my favorite but then I haven’t seen so many of the Hollywood nominees yet. I’m sure it also has something to do with how intimately that day still plays out for me.

Manchester by the Sea is atmospheric…the best visual depiction of small snowy towns in the north of the country I’ve seen. It looked like January Minnesota and I felt every cold nose, cold toes, and painful ear lobes. Let me also say that Casey Affleck is the best brooder I’m ever seen on screen (although Natalie Portman does that well too). I almost loved this movie—it’s powerful in story, acting and cinematography. Maybe the reason I say “almost” is because I’m not so very partial to brooding, sensitive, fucked-up loser stories. These (usually) guys are so grungy and rude and reliant on “fuck” to get their point across—I understand this is a type appealing to many but honestly, I find sensitive troubled guys with clean jeans, a PhD, and extensive vocabulary more appealing.