January rambling: broken spaghetti

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Has America gone crazy? “It’s hard to know why we are the way we are, and — believe me — even harder to explain it to others.” Plus ignorance as a virtue.

Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address: annotated. And the official website for House Republicans has posted on YouTube a doctored version of the SOTU address which cuts out comments where the President was critical of Republican rhetoric on climate change.

How Expensive It Is to Be Poor.

Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Dustbury writes: “Depressed? ‘Buck up,’ they say. ‘Smile a little.’ They are, of course, full of crap.”

Last year Roger Ver renounced his US citizenship to avoid paying US taxes. “Now he’s upset that the ‘tyrants’ in the US government won’t give him a visa to visit Miami.”

From Forbes, hardly a liberal bastion: Bibi Netanyahu — aka ‘The Republican Senator From Israel’ — May Have Made A Fatal Political Mistake.

Solving homelessness in Salt Lake City.

Hetero privilege: holding hands. Also, SCOTUS takes up marriage equality. I too would have cited Loving v. Virginia, because I do that.

Remembering Auschwitz: 70 Years After Liberation. Also, Auschwitz Survivor Gena Turgel Walked Out of Gas Chamber Alive and the BBC flew a drone over Auschwitz.

Research Finds That Guns Do Indeed Kill People.

The strike that changed Milwaukee by Michael Rosen.

Eddie’s cancer updates. Then, Ronald Keith and Michael Edward get married in Chicago, “an event 25 years in the making!”

Ursula Le Guin on the future of literature.

A Pharmacist’s tongue-in-cheek guide to patient etiquette.

Major progressive New Testament scholar Marcus Borg has died.

How Lakes Can Explode Like A Can Of Soda.

Why you can’t actually break spaghetti in two: “Invariably a third piece is formed, and sometimes a fourth.” And speaking of broken: a copy of one of the largest check I’ve seen.

Dustbury’s memory does not serve him well. Sounds like me.

Burger Math and Cereal Killers and the smallpox boat and 8-6-7-5-3-0-….

Yitang Zhang solves a pure-math mystery, involving prime numbers.

Steampunk in New Zealand.

Uthaclena goes off the tracks.

My favorite haiku of the month.

Operation Downfall.

Why Are Some People Better at Drawing than Others?

Cartoonist Jorge Gutierrez interviews Sergio Aragonés.

In honor of the first anniversary of Pete Seeger’s death, check out the January 2015 issue of the Monthly Review.

Paul McCartney describes his feelings re: the fact that the band’s music is now being used as a point of focus in college-level popular music courses.

Paul Simon and John Lennon co-presenting the GRAMMY for Record Of The Year at the 17th GRAMMY awards.

K-Chuck Radio: You can go, but we’ll still have hits….

Muppets: Yorick and Zizzy Zoomers. Also, the very significant I Love My Hair and The Color of Me, plus Nick McKaig’s rendition of the theme from The Muppet Show and how Jim Henson worked and a long interview with Frank Oz.

How Yogi Bear’s collar revolutionized television, plus Daws Butler on You Bet Your Life; the cartoon voice artist was quite short.

SamuraiFrog pointed me to The Way They Was: Six Totally Different Shows The Simpsons Has Been.

The Origin Of “The Trix Rabbit”.

What the Marvel Super-Heroes looked like on Saturday mornings.

Ken Levine on hosting this month’s Friday Night Spotlight series on Neil Simon for TCM. And Mark Evanier makes some corrections to those intros.

NO “BLAH BLAH BLAH”.

The NFL finds that Patriots used underinflated footballs. Perhaps coach Bill Belichick can’t help but channel his inner Richard Nixon. Go, Seahawks!

The TV show Parenthood just went off the air. I watched it religiously. From PARADE: What I Learned About My Family From Parenthood’s Braverman Family.

Why local social media goddess Kristi Gustafson Barlette took a break from social media.

From the Onion News Network: Judge Rules White Girl Will Be Tried As Black Adult. And from the Onion: I Don’t Vaccinate My Child Because It’s My Right To Decide What Eliminated Diseases Come Roaring Back.

GOOGLE ALERTS (me)

I am described as a Kirby Delauter Super Fan, which made me LOL, literally. I have witnesses.

The page turner.

Arthur on Mario Cuomo.

I asked Arthur about Facebook quizzes. Here’s one he did: What Is Your 2014 Anthem. He got Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. I got John Legend’s All of Me: “Wowzers, what a year right? 2014 may have held some special things in it, but this isn’t your first nor your last rodeo. People like you who give their full efforts here on this planet are rare, so anytime you need a reminder of how important you are let this legend from John ride and just reminisce. Thank you for putting so much love, positivity, and good vibes into the atmosphere… it may not seem like too much out of the ordinary for you, but Picasso didn’t know he would grow to be Picasso while he was painting either. We appreciate it, so just stay committed to giving all of yourself (into the right situations of course) in all your endeavors!” Positivity?

GOOGLE ALERTS (not me)

Cole Memorial Hospital’s maternity unit announces that Potter County (PA)’s New Year’s baby on Jan. 1 at 2:20 p.m. Roger Bradley Green.

Oscars for 2014 films

I’m hoping to see all the Best Animated Short and/or Best Live Action Short nominees at The Spectrum in Albany before Oscar night.

2015-oscar-nominees.nph“Everyone knows” that the only reasons that the Oscars matter is so 1) audiences can go to some obscure movie and complain, “THAT was Oscar-nominated?” or “THAT was an Oscar winner?” and 2) writers can put it in someone’s obituaries: “Oscar winner John Wayne…” The Academy Awards, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, will take place on February 22.

As I’m still in movie season mode, which runs, approximately, from November to March when it’s colder, and the better movies tend to come out, I may still see a few more films before Oscar night, or shortly afterward.

I’m pleased that I managed to see the two Best Picture nominees that were released early in the year, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel. (I’m going to link to my reviews of the films I saw, on the first mention.)

Are there Oscar snubs? Should Jennifer Aniston have been nominated for Best Actress in Cake? Should The Lego Movie, which I liked, have been on the list of animated features? Perhaps. I do appreciate this breakdown of “The Whitest Oscar Nominees Since 1995” because he names names; THIS should have been chosen instead of THAT. I don’t necessarily AGREE with the analysis.

Wow, there are a number of Oscar-nominated films this season based on real events: American Sniper, Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, Mr. Turner, Selma, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken, Wild.

Best Costume Design

#Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
#Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

I’m rooting for Budapest, because these costumes defined the characters so well, though Into the Woods was worthy.

Best Documentary — Feature

Citizenfour
Finding Vivien Maier
Last Days of Vietnam
The Salt of the Earth
Virunga

Citizenfour, which is about Edward Snowden, played at Proctors in Schenectady for three days, but I didn’t catch it. Finding Vivian Meier is about this woman who took thousands of photos, discovered only after her death. I’ve seen a woman involved in The Last Days of Vietnam, a harrowing period, on The Daily Show. Wish I had seen these.

Best Visual Effects

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist
Guardians of the Galaxy, Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould
#Interstellar, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher
X-Men: Days of Future Past, Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

Interstellar was impressive, though the film itself was sometimes tedious. Sometimes they give this to the big box office champ, which would be Guardians of the Galaxy. AND it reviewed well overall.

Best Sound Editing

American Sniper, Alan Robert Murray, and Bub Asman
#Birdman, Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Brent Burge and Jason Canovas
#Interstellar, Richard King
Unbroken, Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

Best Sound Mixing

American Sniper, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Walt Martin
#Birdman, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga
#Interstellar, Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten
Unbroken, Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee
#Whiplash, Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

Four movies in common in these categories. For mixing, I’m rooting for the fifth, Whiplash, which had a sound in the music competitions that had a visceral impact. But Birdman was good too, and based on just the previews of American Sniper, I figure the competition will go to one of those two.

Best Animated Short

The Bigger Picture
The Dam Keeper
Feast
Me and My Moulton
A Single Life

Best Live Action Short
Aya
Boogaloo and Graham
Butter Lamp
Parvaneh
The Phone Call

Best Documentary—Short

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Joanna
Our Curse
The Reaper
White Earth

I’m hoping to see all the Best Animated Short and/or Best Live Action Short nominees at The Spectrum in Albany before Oscar night, but I almost never see the documentaries anywhere, except, occasionally, online.
oscars-2015-supporting-actors-actresses
The best supporting players, in alpha order.

Best Production Design

#The Grand Budapest Hotel, Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
*The Imitation Game, Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald
#Interstellar, Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
#Into the Woods, Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Mr. Turner, Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

I really thought Budapest was quite remarkable visually.

Best Film Editing

Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach, American Sniper
#Sandra Adair, Boyhood
#Barney Pilling, The Grand Budapest Hotel
*William Goldenberg, The Imitation Game
#Tom Cross, Whiplash

Putting together a coherent story that was filmed over twelve years will almost surely mean a win for Sandra Adair for Boyhood.

Best Animated Feature

#Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

I liked Big Hero 6, but have no real info on the others.

Best Original Song

#“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie; Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson
*“Glory” from Selma; Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn
“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights; Music and Lyric by Diane Warren
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me; Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond
#“Lost Stars” from Begin Again; Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

“Everything Is Awesome” is such a cheeky song. I thought the music from Begin Again was fine, and functional for the movie. Will the Academy voters throw a crumb to the fine song from Selma here? Or does it go to the dying Glen Campbell?

Best Original Score

#The Grand Budapest Hotel
*The Imitation Game
#Interstellar
Mr. Turner
#The Theory of Everything

Though I’m a music kind of guy, I don’t feel particularly savvy at comparing scores while watching a movie, because it becomes part of the texture of the whole. Maybe this is where Interstellar will win.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard, Foxcatcher
#Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White, Guardians of the Galaxy

From the preview, they managed to make Steve Carrell look REALLY creepy in Foxcatcher. Budapest is great, but, from the ads, so is Guardians, which I’m guessing will win.

Best Original Screenplay

#Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo
#Boyhood, Richard Linklater
Foxcatcher, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
#The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness
Nightcrawler, Dan Gilroy

It could well be Boyhood, or Birdman, which I did not love, but which won the Golden Globes. But I’m rooting for Budapest, which was wacky fun.

Best Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper, Jason Hall
*The Imitation Game, Graham Moore
Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson
#The Theory of Everything, Anthony McCarten
#Whiplash, Damien Chazelle

I suspect American Sniper will win, but I’m rooting for Whiplash.

Best Foreign Language Film

Ida, Poland
Leviathan, Russia
Tangerines, Estonia
Timbuktu, Mauritania
Wild Tales, Argentina

There were years I’d get to see one or two of these, but not this time out. Does anyone out there have any opinion on these?

Best Cinematography

#Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman
#Robert Yeoman, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski, Ida
Dick Pope, Mr. Turner
Roger Deakins, Unbroken

I’m guessing Birdman, though Roger Deakins on unbroken is a name I actually recognize, so maybe that. Of course, I’m rooting for Budapest.

Best Supporting Actress

#Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
*Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
#Emma Stone, Birdman
#Meryl Streep, Into the Woods

Without Patricia Arquette’s steady presence, Boyhood doesn’t work. She won the Golden Globe over three of these four women, and she deserves the Oscar. My only knock is that it’s hardly a “supporting” performance.

Best Supporting Actor

Robert Duvall, The Judge
#Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
#Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
#J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

I’ll tell you a selfish truth: I was enjoying Whiplash being this little movie that no one heard of, but that I liked a lot. Then Simmons had to spoil it all by winning the Golden Globe against all four of these guys. He deserves to win the Oscar.
oscars-2015-actors-actresses
Best Actress

Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
#Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Gone Girl played for a week at the nearby Madison Theatre, but I missed it. Jones was fine but didn’t feel like “best actress” material. I never heard of Two Days One Night. Still Alice, for which Julianne Moore won the Golden Globe, hasn’t even come to town yet. Hard to judge.

Best Actor

Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
*Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
#Michael Keaton, Birdman
#Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

I suspect it’ll be Keaton, who won a Golden Globe for Comedy or Musical over Redmayne, who won it for Drama.

Best Director

#Alexandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
#Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
#Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
*Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

I’m guessing this will be Boyhood’s director Linklater since he won the Golden Globes over the Birdman and Budapest. He’ll get a point for the vision thing.

Best Picture

American Sniper
#Birdman
#Boyhood
#The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
#The Theory of Everything
#Whiplash

If it were not very good, the fact that Boyhood took a dozen years to make wouldn’t have mattered. Had it been more conventionally made, with different actors as the boy, and makeup for the adults, it wouldn’t likely have had the same impact. But ever since I saw Boyhood, I was convinced it would win Best Picture. The way they vote, only in this category, is such that, if the voter thought Birdman or Selma or The Grand Budapest Hotel were the best films, but Boyhood was surely second or third on their ballots, it would win.
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SamuraiFrog reviews Grand Budapest Hotel HERE. He reviews all the other Best Picture nominees, including his brilliant dissection of American Sniper, HERE.

At Central Casting, Hollywood’s Bit Players Need to Stand Out Before They Can Blend In.

The Human Seat Warmers

Blogger fix: making Arthur happy

No more reliving my typos and grammatical sins immortalised in filenames!”

bloggericonArthur posted an item one day last month on his AmeriNZ blog, which is on Blogspot/Blogger. Unfortunately, there was a typo in the title, a mistake he (and I) know intellectually (too/to), but sometimes the fingers aren’t so smart.

Someone pointed out the error, and while he, like I, appreciated the correction, I think it was very irritating to him. He replied: “Grrrrr. Fixed now, but it will forever remain in the file name and that fact will always annoy me. Of course.”

I don’t know exactly how he stores his files, but I did learn something a while back by trial and error. “Actually, I do believe you can change the file name by reverting the post to draft, then reposting,” I wrote.

This seemed to make him happy. “It worked!! OMG, OMG, OMG—no more reliving my typos and grammatical sins immortalised in file names. Where’s the “extra like” button on FB? Thanks! Now, could you fix our weather, too, please?”

Heck, if I could fix his Kiwi weather, I’d fix ours first.

Incidentally, since now that my main blog is in WordPress and my Times Union blog always has been, you might think this would not be an issue for me, but since my blogs for NY SBDC (work), the NYS data center (we are affiliates) and the Friends of the Albany Public Library (I’m president of the board) are all on Blogspot, I still operate with that service as well.

Since I’m in a techno-blogging mood, I want to suggest that when people get a URL they want to link to, either in a blog or especially an e-mail, they should look for ways to shorten it. I get Daily Kos in my Bloglovin feed, and a cartoon I looked at had a URL of http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/12/16/1352285/-Cartoon-Bush-reflux?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dailykos %2Findex+%28Daily+Kos%29.

The ways to shorten the URL are usually after a question mark (?) or hashtag (#) or ampersand (&). So if I delete everything in the above URL from the ? to the end, I get http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/12/16/1352285/-Cartoon-Bush-reflux, which links equally well.

I am reminded of something Eleanor Roosevelt said about wanting to feel useful. Now and then, I do.

MOVIE REVIEW: Selma

Selma’s Bloody Sunday took place on my 12th birthday.

selmamovieIt seemed like the obvious thing to do. The Wife and I went to see the movie Selma on the Martin Luther King holiday, which also celebrates Confederate general Robert E. Lee in Arkansas Mississippi, and, notably, Alabama.

While The Wife dropped off the Daughter at the sitter’s, I waited for her, and for the massive crowd to see this film. And there was a stream of people coming in the Spectrum Theatre, to see… American Sniper, which, to be fair, had just opened, while Selma had opened the week before. Still, our theater was about 85% full.

You must understand that I recall these events extremely well. Bloody Sunday took place on my 12th birthday. I remember Andrew Young, Bayard Rustin, Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams, and others. I surely remember Sheriff Clark. When a guy named James Reeb comes on the screen, I say to myself, “He was a Unitarian minister from Boston.”

So here’s my review: it was great. Director Ava DuVernay was visionary in recreating the feel and look of the period. David Oyelowo didn’t so much look or sound like Martin Luther King Jr., as embodied his essence. The same can be said for Carmen Ejogo as
Coretta Scott King.

But I was having trouble writing this review, not because I didn’t know how I felt about the movie, but rather because I didn’t know what to make of the “controversy” around it. Specifically, it had to do with the role of President Lyndon B. Johnson, played extremely well by Tom Wilkinson. Even before we saw the film, an in-law had mentioned that “Selma, the film, is not exactly true.” After seeing the movie, all I can say is: claptrap.

It’s not that Selma should be impervious to being critiqued. It’s only that the criticism, which the ‘Selma’ director responded to, seems disproportionate to the total picture. Folks who well know the Alan Turing story found The Imitation Game enjoyable, even while recognizing that it’s far different than the actual events. Walt Disney didn’t actually go to London to pursue the “Mary Poppins” author, as it was portrayed in Saving Mr. Banks.

In the case of the film Selma, I believe not everything was factual – the reference to the Birmingham church bombing was in 1963, not as chronologically close to the 1965 Selma story as it might have appeared. But it showed a greater truth about a people being terrorized by racism.

Bill Moyers, who I admire greatly, thought the film was wrong in suggesting that LBJ was behind J. Edgar Hoover’s sending the “sex tape” to Coretta King. I had a chance to talk with a film critic, and we both thought the movie was far more ambiguous than that.

These two articles pretty much reflect my sentiment: It’s Critics of ‘Selma’ Who Are Distorting Civil Rights History and What’s really behind the “Selma” backlash.

I didn’t agree with this section of the article from Slate: “The film’s running time is a swift two hours; I wouldn’t have minded an extra 30 minutes to learn more about the rest of the civil rights pioneers (all real historical figures) who march arm-in-arm on the front lines with King.” The film, as it says at the end, is not a documentary. There are plenty of them already about this era.

This was an extraordinary piece of filmmaking, especially considering the movie doesn’t use the actual words from MLK’s speeches, for copyright reasons.

C is for Canajoharie’s Arkell Museum, featuring Beech-Nut

The over-a-century long relationship between Canajoharie and Beech Nut is captured at the Arkell Museum.

beechnut ad.RockwellThe food manufacturer Beech-Nut has roots going back to 1891, “to the Mohawk Valley town of Canajoharie, New York,” about an hour northwest of Albany. A number of men, including Bartlett Arkell, “founded The Imperial Packing Co. with the production of Beech-Nut ham.”

The company was incorporated as the Beech-Nut Packing Company in 1899. In 1900, the company’s sales were $200,000. Engineers from Beech-Nut patented the first vacuum jar with a design that included a gasket and top that could remain intact in transit and became a standard of the industry.

During the first 25 years of the 20th century, the company expanded its product line into peanut butter, jam, pork and beans, ketchup, chili sauce, mustard, spaghetti, macaroni, marmalade, caramel, fruit drops, mints, chewing gum, and coffee.

While the former Canajoharie plant was sold by Beech Nut in late 2013, the over-a-century long relationship is captured at the Arkell Museum, which my family visited in August 2014. Because we got a pass from the Albany Public Library, the museum stop was free. It is located in the building of the Canajoharie Library.

Check out just a piece of the Beech-Nut collection. Like many businesses in the first half of the 20th century, there was a circus motif with some of the advertising. In the 1930s Beech-Nut Gum and Candies toured the country with six miniature circuses housed in custom-built buses. “Illustrator Frederic Stanley created artwork which featured Rosie Rieffenach, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey bareback rider.”

Other name artists, including Norman Rockwell (graphic above), also contributed to the advertisements. He has captured a real phenomenon of the period, the Beech-Nut gum girls, who would give away sticks in order to entice folks to buy packs of gum.

The museum is well regarded as a hidden jewel. Read this 2008 Metroland article and this review from the Caldwell Gallery and this piece from the AIArchitect.

ABC Wednesday – Round 16