And the Oscar Goes/Went…

Rather than add little gifts at the end, I’ll put them here just in case. Although I worked hard on this blog, interest may be limited, and I think it’s important to give you something.

First, the website FilmSite is amazing. Tim Dirks, a critic and film historian, has compiled hundreds of reviews and organized thousands of films into an accessible, concise, searchable compendium. It’s much easier and more accurate than googling.

Second, there are apps for locating movies on streaming services. I didn’t know. The one that was recommended and that so far is awesome: Reelgood. It’s free.

Third, the clothes. The red carpet was truncated this year, but people still wore beautiful things. Here are a few and here are a lot. Oh, and the winners.

Statistically speaking, you probably didn’t watch the Academy Awards last night nor did you see the Best Picture awardee (Nomadland, no surprise). Even the Grammys were down over 60% from last year. According to Sunny Bunch, the Washington Post movie reviewer, even films on Netflix (now in 2 out of 3 homes) did not have name recognition. He assesses one reason: “And while it would be foolish to suggest that a movie’s artistic merit is intrinsically tied to its box-office take, this is somewhat beside the point. Increasing the number of best-picture nominees has only accelerated the trend of little-watched films becoming awards-season darlings, turning off mainstream audiences.”

Writing about things I haven’t read or seen is not new. I never read The Scarlet Letter, for example, and apparently it was read to high school students for years as a prime example of the literary essay. Perhaps you, too, used Cliff Notes for a test. No, I’m not going opine on the nominees this year. Instead, I’ll share what I do know about them from what I have read, put them in categories/genres, and talk about movies I have seen and recommend.

The Father (2020), directed by Florian Zeller and starring Anthony Hopkins, takes on the parent-child relationship when Alzheimer’s sets in. The review on offers insights into the techniques used—different actors in the same role, plot confusion, the shifts in reality—suggesting that the audience is experiencing what this parent does.

Aging as a topic wouldn’t seem particularly “fun,” but this site lists 20 that are, actually, entertaining and even endearing. Driving Miss Daisy (1989) doesn’t deal with dementia, but many issues both of the time setting and the natural effects of aging are explored. A Trip to Bountiful (1985) introduces another spirited older woman as she visits her home one last time. Both were originally plays, with the latter by the Texan Horton Foote. Then there’s The Notebook (2004), which the site calls “sappy” but if you didn’t cry, then we need to talk. One on the list that I haven’t seen, Marjorie Prime (2017) is a sci-fi treatment of a woman who can interact with a younger version of her deceased husband via AI. [Not about aging but using the technique of things-are-not-what/who-they seem are these two: A Beautiful Mind (2001) and The Midnight Sky (2020) with George Clooney.]

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) fall into the category of biopics, although they are also historical dramas. The first is the story of Fred Hampton, leader of the Black Panthers Party in Chicago, and the betrayal by William O’Neal. The first sounds more compelling than the second though both are set in the 1960s and Chicago. Mank (2020) is also in this category. The story of the screenplay and production of Citizen Kane (1941) doesn’t sound interesting, but if you haven’t seen what many call “the best movie ever made,” consider doing so. Opinions vary. Best or not, it is fascinatingly well done.

This site lists ten “must-see” biopics. Amadeus (1984) and The Elephant Man (1980) could not be more different stylistically but have interesting parallels. Mozart, the sparkling musical prodigy, toured Europe as a child; Salieri did not arrange his death. John Merrick, born with profound deformities, toured England with a freak show; his captor kidnapped him after he had been rescued. Although both have plays of the same name, the producers of the Broadway The Elephant Man sued for infringement on the name. Another oddity—Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein etc.) was a producer of the film, but his name was left off to avoid confusion. Another famous one on the list is Schindler’s List (1993), based on a historical novel rather than a biography; the story is largely accurate though the portrayal of Schindler is not.

Nomadland (2020) is both a road movie and semi-documentary-ish production using non-actors who are really living the life of “workampers.” If you’ve never read a screenplay, consider the one for this movie. It’s only 87 pages long, written by the director Chloé Zhao.

This sub-genre has perhaps the greatest variety of offerings per this site—everything from the generation-defining Easy Rider (1969) to The Muppet Movie (1979) to National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983). (Personally, I’ll never forget my mother-in-law watching Dumb and Dumber without much comment, just because her darling boy wanted to take her.) Mixing actors and real people (sorry) also happens in Richard Linklater’s Bernie (2011), with Matthew McConaughey, Shirley MacLaine, and Jack Black. This clip includes one citizen describing the five states of Texas. The movie is a murder-comedy-justice movie with real-life oddities including the director getting custody of the convicted murderer so that he can live in his Austin garage apartment.

(To combine the biopic, historical, and semi-documentary, check out this list of “mostly-accurate” docudramas.)

Minari (2020), the second Korean movie in a row to be nominated for best picture, tells the story of an immigrant family moving from California to Arkansas to farm vegetables. The word minari means “water celery.” Needing help with the children, they bring over a grandmother from South Korea. The genre could be as broad as immigrant movies or as narrow as irritating grandmothers; either is viable, but we’ll go with the first.

This list of ten and this one with dozens has many that are unfamiliar; this one lists and summarizes more dozens. Gran Torino (2008) with Clint Eastwood as a crotchety older man, a beloved car, and a Hmong family. His line “Get off my lawn,” pithy as it is, reflects deeper intent than one would expect. In District 9 (2009), it is space aliens who are the immigrants, refugees really, and the segregation and prejudice are striking. A series based on the 1988 movie, Alien Nation, has the same premise but carries the integration of these smarter, stronger beings in a different direction. Interstellar (2014) includes lots of other themes, some scientific, some romantic, but basically those of us who haven’t died have got to go. It takes the same premise as the series Battlestar Gallactica (1978, 2004) but reverses the direction. Ancient history versus future history. The animated An American Tail (1986) uses mice/Russian-Jewish immigrants coming to this country while also searching for their lost son, Feivel (or Fievel). We had the stuffed animal version and probably watched the film a hundred times. Trivia: Steven Spielberg, a collaborator, had a grandfather with that name. Bend It Like Beckham (2002) is set in the UK and follows a Sikh family whose daughter wants to play soccer. Humans as interplanetary immigrants/refugees are usually dystopian. A new movie, An American Pickle (2020), features Seth Rogan as both an immigrant grandfather and his grandson in an odd combination of Rip Van Winkle, the American Dream, and a revenge them. Quirky but eventually almost worth it.

Oddly described as a “comedy thriller,” Promising Young Woman (2020) deals with trauma and revenge. It would be interesting to understand the comic amid rape and murder. All I’ve seen is her spitting in his coffee before he drinks it; she was sort of smiling.

The history of revenge entertainment (?), of course, is long and robust. According to this SparkNotes explanation (not a reliable source, often), Hamlet is a “revenge tragedy” with two tropes: figure out who’s gonna get it, then figure out how you’re gonna do it. Sometimes both are in play. The Princess Bride (1987), for example, has a subplot with the recurring line: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” All Montoya knows is that the villain has six fingers. And yes, there is a lot of actual killing here. We are currently in the middle (two more in the works) of watching John Wick dispatch lots of people. The dead puppy reminds us of the rabbit boil in Fatal Attraction (1987). All the assassinating suggests the Kill Bill (2003, 2004) movies. Perhaps one of the best movies ever made, The Searchers (1956), finds a niche in Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’s Rape-Revenge Movies: A Critical Study, reinforcing my theory that everything has a scholar. Revenge has a long history, but the iconic phrase “Revenge is a dish best served cold” is neither a Klingon proverb nor a line from Shakespeare. Perhaps it all started with Cain slaying Abel, but it didn’t stop there. Were that we could sublimate via movies and not try to get the guy that just cut us off in traffic or whatever else. This list of 25 movies was drawn from over 300; here are ten unfamiliar ones.

Finally, Sound of Metal (2019) offers insights into the deaf community. This long list is alphabetical and covers decades. Marlee Maitlin won a Best Actress award at 21 for Children of a Lesser God (1986), the youngest ever. Coming in November 2021, the first deaf superhero, Makkari, will appear in Marvel’s Eternals, directed by this year’s best director, Chloé Zhao. I’m there. Musicians are keenly aware of deafness because of its effect on Beethoven, who has his own set of movies—everything from A Clockwork Orange (1971) to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). Of particular interest is a documentary, Touch the Sound (2004), about a Scottish musician, Evelyn Glennie, who became profoundly deaf as a child. Here and here are some videos. I saw her in Dallas with the DSO some years ago. She plays barefoot. The documentary about her is not streaming but a DVD is available, per my new app Reelgood.

And there you have it. Thanks to those of you who recommend movies to me and will, I hope, continue. Sometimes I also read books, just not so much. It’s a failing. You may recommend them as well.





After my first blogging year, I summarized my favorites and provided links. Three years into what was planned as a one-year project, let me do it differently. Let me talk about what I was wrong about. Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say about anyone, come sit by me.” The link suggests it wasn’t Alice Roosevelt but her pillowcase. These days (which we say too often), saying bad things about people is the order of the day. And the news. And politics. And, sadly, comedy. It’s just not that fun anymore. Thank you, Facebook friends, who post the good and the sweet things, the inspiring quotations and stories. Lots of people are off FB because of the other sorts.

April 2020

When I read ”Sez who?” again, I thought it was not wrong exactly but not good either. For one thing, there’s a grammar error I didn’t catch in the last paragraph, now corrected. For another, I don’t have a thesis until that last paragraph. Having gotten there chronologically, it makes sense. I wouldn’t do the same again, though. For the third thing, it was a month into the pandemic. We were beginning to wear masks after being told we did need to wear masks. This article asks the oddest question: “Is it safe to send your mom flowers on Mother’s Day?” Short answer, yes, but have her wash her hands. But were florists even open? I don’t know. Lesson: Say what I’m going to say earlier. It’s called not burying the lede. Until this blog, I did not even know that word, thinking it was just “lead” because it goes first.

May 2020

Sometimes writing from feelings doesn’t work. It’s not that “the achieve of, the mastery of the thing” was bad; it just missed an important element of the experience. The Blue Angels flew over Dallas a few days before. Someone questioned the wisdom of that symbolic act. Why utilize those resources when the money could have spent on so many other things for the front-line workers? It’s a point, though the Savior responded to a similar question differently. And the question was from Judas Iscariot, so there’s that. Still, the question ought to have been addressed.

June 2020

The Candy Thermometer” also uses the phrase “these days” when describing a shortage of patience. What I’ve learned recently is that patience is a trait that can’t be modified. If I say I am “usually” patient, then I don’t understand what the word means at all: It’s an all or nothing. I’ve now decided I don’t know what most words mean anyway, so I look more of them up on my favorite dictionary site,

July 2020

Included in “Memories” is a poem I didn’t remember writing or to whom I dedicated it. Later in the year, there was a similar event with a short story. I don’t think my memory is much worse than any one else’s. People much younger stumble for names etc. What I am doing of concern is fervently believing I’ve done something I haven’t or haven’t said something that I did. Be kind, and patient. Eventually, I arrive at “Maybe I did…”

August 2020

Going to take a pass here because I’m still happy with all of them.

September 2020

Recently, I alluded to being called out for what I thought were clever comments. They weren’t received that way. In “What Am I Seeing?” I do briefly introduce the idea that if you post something I don’t understand, I may ask you what you mean. I’m trying not to do that in case it’s considered an intrusion.

October 2020

This one has nothing wrong with it: “Introducing Merrijane Rice.” I’m just wrong not to have done something I thought I would. She wrote a poem weekly about the New Testament—good, thought-provoking poems. Sounds doable, said I. But I haven’t

November 2020

Wow. I offered a lot of scenarios in “Overmorrow” but could not have anticipated the horrors of November 3-January 6. Then again, who could? I guess losing a few friends is a small price to pay for keeping one’s integrity.

December 2020

Hey, it was Christmas! Another pass.

January 2021

This is complicated. In #mypresident#because, I wanted to back off from screaming at the crazies who breached the Capitol and try to support the new president without the rancor that surrounded the old one. So far, I haven’t devolved into a derangement syndrome. Some despair, though, is offset by a talk given by President Dallin H. Oaks on Easter. The title is significant: “Defending the Divinely Inspired Constitution.” Part of my belief system involves being “subject to kings, rulers, presidents, and magistrates.” Pres. Oaks speaks to issues surrounding that belief. Frankly, however, I don’t think the current administration knows what it’s doing. No details forthcoming.

And, while this is not a year’s worth, I think it’s enough. If you’ve gotten this far, thank you. If not, I love you anyway. Oh, and the laptop reminded me to save 300 words ago. That’s a first. I’m thankful for that and many, many other things.


Edited for Clarity

From relay races we get the term “handing off the baton.” There are numerous rules, of course, as in any sport: size and shape of the baton, length of the hand-off zone, placement of the runners’ feet within that zone. This video gives a good little overview. Dropping the baton, with the obvious problem of loss of time, is not disqualifying. The distance must not be shortened when it’s picked up, but otherwise there is no penalty. Here are the rules for the Olympic events.

Three brief videos show different scenarios. First, here is a mixed-gendered relay with some explanations about strategy; it’s a new event as of 2017. Second, here is the men’s 4×100 featuring Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter considered the best of all time, and this race at the 2012 Olympics is the fastest on record. Finally, here we have the American women’s team in the 2016 Olympics. The story includes a dropped baton, a protest because the drop was caused by another runner coming into the lane, a team qualifying by running alone for time, and a gold medal. Yes, it’s worth watching even knowing the outcome.

Now for a moment let’s have that baton be truth. How does one hand it off to another?

These days, we have a plethora of words that have to do with lies: false narratives, obfuscations, lived truth, my truth, possible deceptions; or liars: compulsive, habitual, pathological, sociopathic, narcissistic. This article discusses how to spot lies. This one describes the kinds of liars above, plus others that are merely lazy or careless. Poor Pinocchio, our cultural icon for lying. All he really wanted was to be real. The movie AI: Artificial Intelligence is a retelling, even with the inclusion of the Blue Fairy (in the original version she is the Fairy with Turquoise Hair, so 2021). These days, he is never redeemed but always counted. Four Pinocchio’s is the ultimate—though often ignored—disclaimer of falsehood.

And there is so much of it, lying, even when the true measure may be intent. When truth is the object, however, the passing from one person to another is fragile. The more ways we have to share information, the more insecure it comes. Things are repeated and altered, like in the game Telephone. (Interestingly, it began as Chinese Whispers in England, origins unknown.) Unintentionally, this is understandable. Regardless, there is no winner, just as in the children’s game. It is just observable.

Some recent examples of trampled truth: the Oprah interview with Meghan and Harry (no longer on CBS but discussed and excerpted here); the Ron DeSantis 1:02 on Sixty Minutes still available from CBS on YouTube; the President Biden assessment of the Georgia 2021 voting law.

If I were on an desert island and the only reading material were People magazine, I’d be thrilled to have such easy kindling. Celebrities bore me, but it’s hard to escape the gossip. Two elements of the recent kerfuffle were the statement Markle made about someone in the Palace asking her how dark her child’s skin would be and her belief that his mixed race heritage was the reason he was not designated a prince. Here, in the Hindustan Times of India (randomly), Piers Morgan asks that Meghan Markle disclose the identity of the person who asked Harry—not her—about skin color, ostensibly to cast the racist out. Nothing further has emerged. The truthfulness of her claim, then, remains unsubstantiated. The royal title is easier to understand. Markle implied that Archie as the “first person of color in the family” was not to have a title. As the BBC explains, the protocol was established over a century ago.

First: The truth can be verified from a reliable source.

Second: A misinterpretation of facts, intentional or not, is easily verified when there is an available source.

Those of us of a certain age always watched 60 Minutes perhaps because of Mike Wallace and his sub-genre of reporting called “gotcha journalism.” It wasn’t going to be a good day if he and his crew were in your waiting room when you arrived, the cliché went. The difficulty with the Ron DeSantis excerpt is what some call “deceptive editing.” Marc A. Thiessen, writing for The Washington Post, calls the CBS piece “a hit job.” His saying that obviously doesn’t make it true. His publishing it in WaPo doesn’t make it true. It remains, therefore, his opinion. What CBS did, however, is observable in that they left out a significant portion of the governor’s reply to the question surrounding the use of Publix to distribute vaccine. The reporter says that the company donated $100,000 to his campaign and that he then “rewarded” them with the contract. DeSantis, in their edit, responds angrily when the reporter asks, “How is this not pay-for-play?” The details do matter but don’t tell the entire story. Additional information came out after the piece aired because “even” Democrats said the story was inaccurate. The edited version and the entire segment as filmed are here. It is Tucker Carlson, so there is that layer of additional opinion, but the goal is to watch both versions. This article by Dan Kennedy articulates much the same information but in a less inflammatory manner. Still, he calls the episode “an unusually clear example of media bias.” CBS has of yet not apologized, amended, or explained the segment; CBS has boosted DeSantis’s standing by leaps and bounds, surely not intentionally.

Third: Be aware of your own biases because someone else will root them out if you don’t.

There was a time when states didn’t get into each other’s business. Those days are gone. This chart presents the top national House and Senate recipients of out-of-state contributions in 2020. Top recipients for out-of-state are Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY). This chart shows the 2018 cycle. Remarkable in both are the high proportions: All four parameters are over 90% out-of-state, with three of the four over 95%. That was not the case as recently as 2014. But it’s not just the money or the advocacy even. The newly-passed Georgia voting bill has taken this to the next level. It’s not that Georgia hasn’t attracted attention before (see 2020) or that similar interest was generated elsewhere. The 2016-17 boycotts in North Carolina centered on its HB2, commonly know as the bathroom bill. It was rescinded with the pressure. These days, individuals as well as corporations as well as actual states have and voice opinions based on their perceptions of truth.

[A side note: The word “boycott” has an interesting history. It is the last name of an Irish land agent for landlord who refused to lower rents for impoverished farmers who then refused to harvest the crops.]

Back to Biden and the law in Georgia. He earned the non-coveted Four Pinocchios from The Washington Post for saying the law reduced voting hours and ended them at 5 p.m. “when working people are just getting off work.” The paper is not even sure how that information could be assumed from a reading of the law other than a change from a vague “normal working hours” to a codified “9 am to 5 pm” as a minimum for early voting hours; election days hours did not change from the original 7 am to 7 pm. Further, the change reflected an expansion of early voting in rural counties. But Biden elaborated by calling the initiative “sick” and “un-American” and “outrageous.” Apparently, incorrectly.

The food-and-water provision is more complicated. This article from the BBC seems succinct and unbiased. Essentially, the law prohibits giving anything to people waiting in line within certain distances. Again, this is not a change but a clarification. This long article includes worries as well as explanations, although the former may not seem as important as the latter. The main concern, regardless, is that those harmed will be low-income or Black voters who tend to vote in person and on election day.

Another element of the law, voter ID, presents a topic that surprisingly remains conflicting. The history is long but is not just in the South. Several things in the article suggest that many things can be true at the same time: Voter fraud is not rampant, ineligible voters (as the dead and moved) do remain on the rolls, studies show that IDs do not suppress minority voting, and a majority of voters believe in IDs. Therefore, this isn’t up for discussion here. Possibly cowardly, possibly space considerations.

The Republican reply to the MLB boycott was to cite similar voting laws in Colorado, but, sadly, they hadn’t really compared the two very closely. Coloradoans vote mostly by mail, so few of the restrictions even apply. An easy but avoidable mistake. As with all, check the facts before repeating the message. Reading the entire bill, obviously, helps. It’s only 95 pages.

Fourth: Read original sources and reasons for changes, with care taken to compare, rather than taking someone’s word.

So, handing off that baton requires attention and practice, training and rules. Emotions and assumptions should not play a role. The parable that ends with a reflection on when to cast the first stone comes to mind. Personally, I’ve got a ways to go, otherwise known as leaping to conclusions or taking a bad handoff. The old saw “Consider the source” has become “Trust the source,” which is probably not the best idea. Look for yourself.





“Begin with the end in mind” is one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Millions of copies sold! Best selling audio, the first to hit over a million copies! I actually met him once, told him how deeply he’d affected a friend at her request, asked him his favorite hymn, and led the singing of it is his honor: “Love at Home”, a song for which my dislike was strong. A friend in the audience was beaming during the song, but that’s what you get when you tell people your thoughts on any particular topic.

Back to the end. After taking a hearing test this week, I realized that we need to know that we don’t know what we don’t know. In the test, there were these odd periods of silence. Sometimes I could hear just the tiniest bit of sound at the end. Otherwise, nothing. Extrapolating that to life (sorry), I could suppose that I did well on the test, except for the fact my responses were on a chart and documented electronically. Clearly, I missed some sounds. While that doesn’t sound profound (sorry), it did clarify my point: We really don’t know what we’re missing.

Over the past weeks, I’ve been researching sound. My first discovery was 111 Hz. This brief video of a Himalayan singing bowl includes a discussion of that tone’s history. The mystic possibilities are associated with sacred sites such as burial grounds, ancient temples, and Stonehenge. Paul Devereaux, a British scientist, has written about the phenomenon he calls archaeoacoustics. His best book title—not associated with our topic—is Fairy Paths & Spirit Roads. The science of 111 may be in question.

Sound frequency is measured in hertz (plural and singular are the same); Heinrich Hertz proved the existence of electromagnetic waves. It’s actually much more complicated as a measurement because of the use of waves that explain sound but also other things as well, even photon energy and the clock rate of computer processing units. Obviously over my head.

Another word for Hz is pitch. Humans have a range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz. I can feel-more-than-hear the lowest but can’t hear anything over 9,000Hz. YouTube has everything, of course, and you can hear any tone for an hour or ten. This chart gives pitches and analogous frequencies, excluding the lowest two. I can’t hear the highest here at all.

Of relevance again is 111Hz, which is a low A, basically, although it should be noted that the letter names are assignments that obviously don’t exist in nature. Orchestras tune to an A that is (now at least) 440 Hz; that’s the A above middle C on a piano and on a musical staff. The controversy, if that’s what it should be called, is between A 432 and A 440. This guitar video explains the difference in tuning (that’s 8 cents) and demonstrates. I can tell the difference. Perhaps you can, too.

The other metric of sound is loudness, measured in decibels (dB). The origin of the word is—guess what!?—Alexander Graham Bell. The bel was considered too large, so the deci- was added. The human thresholds range from 0 (which means there is sound but we can’t hear it) to 140 dB (meaning that anything more can be heard but causes damage). Breathing is 10dB. This is a good description and chart.  Here the CDC warns us about danger. The real meaning has to do with logarithmic ratios between two signal powers, but, as with much in this post, that’s over my head. I’ll stick with loudness.

Whale vocalizations deserve a mention. This article includes a discussion of the different species within the baleens that sing. They don’t have teeth, you see, but plates for sifting the krill, which allows the whole phenomenon. Humpback males (and it’s only males–one scientist described a parallel to the peacock feather display) can sing at that 20Hz we just barely hear. Scientists now believe that there are patterns that transfer from one population to another, hence “cultural transmission,” according to this video snippet. (Whale hunting only ended in 1986, I also learned. Not in the 19th century as previously thought, a la Moby Dick.)

A lagniappe: In that February poem-a-day effort, I decided to use sound to create a work that might be called a poem. I love windchimes, and that was the inspiration. I gathered the pitches, found them on YouTube, added a windchime link (about 40 minutes so completely repetitive), and wrote a haiku. It’s a bit clunky to implement, but I never said it was a good poem. I have an idea my neighbors hate mine, especially on a blustery night, but they’ve never said. If you are one of those rare people with the talent/gift known as perfect pitch, you’ll notice that the pitches I found on my windchime are not the ones on the windchime video. It is an oversight, as I now observe. Most of us wouldn’t notice.


Needs wind, God’s or a child’s hand:

Windchimes, day and night