Actor Richard Gere turns 70

Give ’em the old razzle dazzle

Richard GereI’ve only seen a fraction of the films of actor Richard Gere. I’ve missed some iconic roles. These are what I HAVE seen, all in cinemas, and none of them since the initial viewing:

Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) – this starred Diane Keaton as a school teacher Theresa trying to overcome her repressed upbringing and her body issues by going out to clubs. Gere is Tony, a controlling jerk who turns her on to cocaine. Keaton received the Best Actress Oscar that year for Annie Hall, but I’ve long thought it was the range of the two roles that won her the award.

An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) – a directionless Zack (Gere) has to work hard to get through Naval Officer Candidate School, with a tough Gunnery Sergeant (Louis Gossett Jr.) pushing him and his new girlfriend Paula (Debra Winger) supporting him. I remember mostly the sergeant running Zack ragged, and that last scene where Zack in his Navy whites scoops up Paula from a factory floor. Schmaltzy, if I recall correctly, but I enjoyed it anyway.
LISTEN TO Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes

Pretty Woman (1990) – I saw this at the Madison Theater in Albany; there was a lengthy line. Apparently, the story of the businessman Edward meeting prostitute Vivian (Julia Roberts) was supposed to be darker. Vivian was supposed to be coming off a cocaine addiction. But director Garry Marshall went a different way. Improbable, but I enjoyed it at the time.
LISTEN to Oh, Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison

Runaway Bride (1999) – “A reporter is assigned to write a story about a woman who has left a string of fiances at the altar.” If Pretty Woman worked with the team of Ricard Gere, Julia Roberts, and Garry Marshall, this should too, right? Well, no. It was flat and generally unfunny.

Chicago (2002) – A movie that’s the exception to the rule that the musical film is dead. I liked it quite a bit, and in particular, Gere’s slimy lawyer Billy Flynn.
LISTEN to Gere in Razzle Dazzle and We Both Reached For the Gun

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) – a sequel definitely inferior to the 2012 original. Yet the latter film was passingly enjoyable, enhanced by the addition of Gere’s character, Guy Chambers


Gere Visits Migrants Stranded In The Mediterranean Sea

August rambling: extreme inequality

this is not a drill
Stolen from HERE and HERE
Extreme Inequality Is Driving Anxiety and Depression in the US

Is It Obvious Yet that Tariffs Injure Americans?

#TrumpRecession Trends as he is blamed for rising fears of another economic meltdown

E Pluribus Unum? The Fight Over Identity Politics

A Life of Incalculable Harm: David Koch (1940-2019)

The Amazon isn’t “Burning” – It’s Being Burned

Man cuffed by police, forced out of his own home in his underwear after ‘sleeping while black’

CNN interview with Randy Rainbow

The Simpsons: Fleeing the Squad in ‘West Side Story’ Parody

The Daily Show: Donsplaining

The US is about to withdraw from the United Nations’ Universal Postal Union (UPU) – why?

Art Spiegelman: golden age superheroes were shaped by the rise of fascism

Secrets and Lies in the School Cafeteria; A tale of missing money, heated lunchroom arguments, and flaxseed pizza crusts

I Shared My Phone Number. I Learned I Shouldn’t Have. “Our personal tech columnist asked security researchers what they could find out about him from just his cellphone number. Quite a lot, it turns out.”

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov

Going against the decluttering craze: THE BOOK HOARDERS WHO DEFY MARIE KONDO

There Is No Reason to Cross the U.S. by Train. But I Did It Anyway. I would absolutely do this.

Smoke Detector Placement: Your Guide to Installing Carbon Monoxide and Fire Alarms

Peter Fonda, the ‘Easy Rider’ star and counterculture icon, dies at 79

The acclaimed animator who created Roger Rabbit dies. Richard Williams, 86, who worked on hit films such as The Pink Panther, won three Oscars and three Baftas

Binghamton, NY Broadcasting legend Bill Parker has passed away at the age of 91. I was on his show… in 1958.

John Green: What to Love and How

Anderson Cooper interviewing Stephen Colbert became largely about dealing with grief

Where would Las Vegas be without the fruit machine, the invention of car mechanic Charles Fey?

Norwich Cathedral helter-skelter ‘is a mistake’

Monty Python tease re: the writing and filming of Life of Brian

Commercials that travel well

6 Similarities Between Star Wars And Zen Buddhism

The New Prospectors: Every year, members of the Gold Prospectors Association of America pack up their RVs in search of adventure, friendship, and a bucketful of pay dirt

Now I know: Why Capital Letters are Called “Upper Case” and 1968: A Space, and Financial Services, Odyssey and The Easter Egg Hunt That Caught a Bad Egg and What Are All Those Dots On My Car’s Windshield? and Why We Pour Milk on our Cereal and When Pants Were a Ticket to Jail

Never could figure out these damn things

Record Review- Roger Green

MUSIC

Starman – MonaLisa Twins

16 Revelations About Fiddler on the Roof

Love Letters – Alicia Beale

Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major by Alma Deutscher

Praying For Time / The Rain Song [George Michael & Led Zeppelin mashup] – Puddles Pity Party

Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein

K-Chuck Radio: Paul McCartney’s not quite dead yet and In honor of Kris’ birthday

Pink Panther theme – all about the bass

What About Us [Pink Cover] – One Voice Children’s Choir

Who’s Sorry Now? – Gloria DeHaven

Coverville: 1274: This Day in Covers: August 14, 1984 and 1275: Cover Stories for Thin Lizzy, Jamie Cullum and KISS

Gloria – Los Doltons

All My Happiness Is Gone – David Berman, RIP

Ibsen’s Ghosts, with Uma Thurman

secrets and lies

The Williamstown Theatre Festival in western Massachusetts has been producing great theater since 1955. It is a resident summer theater on the campus of Williams College. Actors who have performed there over the years have included Sigourney Weaver, Christopher Walken, Nathan Lane, Richard Chamberlain, Kate Burton, Olympia Dukakis, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Cooper, Calista Flockhart, Matthew Broderick, Blythe Danner, and her daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow.

Yet I had never been there. Time to change that. I discover that Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts would be performed the week the family was already in the Berkshires. This is a new translation by Paul Walsh, though I am totally unfamiliar with the play. Uma Thurman, who I think of as a film actor, plays the pivotal Mrs. Alving. Carey Perloff is the director.

The bad news is that there are very few seats left, except in the second balcony. The good news is that the tickets are somewhat cheaper, $60 each, rather than $75. My wife and I settled on a Wednesday matinee.

What IS this play? Ghosts was “written in 1881 and first staged in 1882 in Chicago, IL, in a production by a Danish company on tour. Like many of Ibsen’s plays, Ghosts is a scathing commentary on 19th-century morality. Because of its subject matter, which includes religion, venereal disease, incest, and euthanasia, it immediately generated strong controversy and negative criticism.

“Since then the play has fared better, and is considered a ‘great play’ that historically holds a position of ‘immense importance’. Theater critic Maurice Valency wrote in 1963, ‘…Regular tragedy dealt mainly with the unhappy consequences of breaking the moral code. Ghosts, on the contrary, deals with the consequences of not breaking it.'”

Like many plays, it’s the secrets and lies that drive the plot. Helen Alving had sent her son Oswald away to protect him from her now-late philandering husband. Now her adult son has returned. As is my wont, I particularly enjoyed the dueling theologies of the pastor and many of the others, such as the carpenter who kept a confidence that messed up the church registry.

The New York Times called the production “sumptuous”, and I would agree. The actors – Catherine Combs (Regina), Tom Pecinka (Oswald Alving), Thom Sesma (Jakob Engstrand, the carpenter), Uma Thurman, Bernard White (Pastor Manders) – were very accomplished. The one thing that was a distraction was that the large thatched roof sometimes obscured the characters when they were upstage.

On the other hand, I loved the live score by David Coulter, which included water glasses, percussion and all sorts of moody instrumentation. I’ll have to return to the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the next year or two.

World War II: 80th anniversary

“We must suffer them all again”

World War IIIt will be eighty years come September 1 since World War II began. I have a strong sense that a lot of folks in the US, in particular, have no idea. It’s in part because lots of Americans are oblivious to history. And if they know anything about WWII, it’s Pearl Harbor, which didn’t take place until 27 months later.

When I was younger, I glibly understood that a reason for WWII was that the victors of World War I treated the Germans poorly. The Britannica seems to concur. “The war was in many respects a continuation, after an uneasy 20-year hiatus, of the disputes, left unsettled by World War I.”

In fact, most of the 1930s felt like a precursor of the Second World War: Japan invading China, Italy taking over Ethiopia, Germany annexing Czechoslovakia, etc.

Or maybe earlier: on November 8, 1923, there was the Beer Hall Putsch, when Adolf Hitler unsuccessfully led the Nazis in an attempt to overthrow the German government. Though it was crushed by police the next day, less than a decade later, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.

Six and a half years after that, the war in Europe began, as Germany invaded Poland. Britain and France responded by declaring war on Germany. Thus began the deadliest military conflict in history, with at least 50 million killed directly by the war and at least 20 million perishing as a result of war-related disease and famine

I am, as is John Green (no relation), uncertain and afraid about the war then and how it may parallel what’s going on now.

So John thinks about the W. H. Auden poem September 1, 1939. Though Auden later repudiated his own work as overly sentimental, it became quite popular.

After 9/11, this couplet was analyzed on National Public radio:
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief,
We must suffer them all again

Auden particularly rejected the sentimentality of the last line of the penultimate verse. Yet it is that line that gives me both hope and despair: We must love one another or die.

H is for the Kingdom of Hawaii

Love, Peace, and Compassion

Hawaii.NASA earth observatory
NASA earth observatory
In a Travel Trvia post called 5 Countries That No Longer Exist, I read about the Kingdom of Hawaii. It was “founded by King Kamehameha I in 1810, about 40 years after first contact with Europeans…

“Remarkably, the political structure of the kingdom was close to a feudal European system, though its religion and customs followed the ancient Polynesian ways. The kingdom was an internationally recognized independent state, securing most of their assurances (including one from the United States) in the early 1840s.” But then it gets interesting.

“The U.S. annexed the islands as a result of the Spanish–American War in 1898 to better fight the Spanish in the Philippines, which is a whole other can of international-sovereignty-violating-worms… There’s a serious case to be made that the U.S. violated a whole bunch of international laws during the annexation, meaning we may never have had the authority to do literally any of the things we did on the island.

Hawaiian independence is a very real possibility and there are a lot of people fighting hard for it.” While I don’t expect the state will actually secede, I find this bit of history quite fascinating.

Incidentally, “most people think that “Aloha” is a word that means both hello and goodbye” That is not true. “In Hawaiian we say ‘Aloha’ both when greeting someone and also saying goodbye. But that is not to be taken literally. The real meaning of Aloha in Hawaiian is that of Love, Peace, and Compassion.”

HI Hawaii. I DO , though, like the fact that the two-letter postal code says, “Hi!” Capital and largest city: Honolulu.

The Hawaiian Islands are “an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from the island of Hawaiʻi in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll. Formerly the group was known to Europeans and Americans as the Sandwich Islands, a name chosen by James Cook in honor of the then First Lord of the Admiralty John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.”

One last thing: is it Hawaii or Hawai’i? The state website has a bar that reads “Search all Hawai’i government.” Other sources suggests that the large island is Hawai’i but that the state is Hawaii. It’s still engendering great debate on the islands.