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Posts Tagged ‘Documentary Films’

It’s been a busy weekend. Not busy like Great Grandpa Hudson’s busy Veteran’s Day celebrations, but busy enough. On Saturday, Bob and I stopped by a new Vietnamese restaurant opening in our neighborhood; and that evening we saw the spectacular “Jane” documentary with the Bride’s family, about Jane Goodall and her beloved chimps of the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. As we were leaving the theatre, I remembered interviewing Dame Goodall in Rumson in the 90s.

She was slight like the Flapper, elegant in an easy way, no makeup with her grey hair pulled back in the proverbial ponytail. Wrapped in a long poncho. I remember the determination in her eyes, so focused and bright.

Last night we walked down our alley to meet our 90 year old neighbor, Burdell, and walk to a presentation on the history of Germantown. Our little outpost neighborhood in Nashville started out with an abundance of slaughterhouses in the 1840s and began developing into a mixed residential area until the 1950s. It was an old-school slide presentation and when a certain house on Monroe St appeared, Burdell whispered, “Turnip greens.” Seems a woman would sit on that front porch yelling, “Turnip greens!” all day long.

And I thought I had entered into a Southern novel and was wishing my sister-in-law Jorja  was here.

Burdell and the man wielding the laser light single(or double)handedly rescued Germantown from becoming an industrial zone in 1979. The city wanted to build an emissions testing garage across the street from those venerable old homes, so our buddies ran quite a protest with press coverage and champagne and donuts! Certain homes became historic landmarks and an architectural review board convened to save the tiny row houses and bungalows from extinction.

Now we are back to being a mixed residential zone, only the new condos and apartments being built are hardly affordable. In fact, a new town home next to an old funeral home and across from a pet store just sold for over 1M.

At least that’s what Bill told me. This is how I get my news these days, from neighbors walking past our porch to the coffee house; from Bob’s “damage report” every morning; from BBC and Nashville Public Radio; and for up to the minute “breaking news” from Twitter. I’m changing my habits. Gone are the days of yelling at Morning Joe over coffee. Instead, this morning I watched a video clip on my laptop from the Today Show of Joe Biden.

First I just watched his facial expressions, without sound. Then I punched in the sound as he answered Savannah Guthrie’s question about some juvenile Tweet Mr T sent regarding North Korea’s leader being “short and fat.” Biden was measured and serious, we are no longer laughing at Mr T’s buffoonery. He said he’s known many presidents, and that our children and grandchildren are watching, that our country used to lead by “The Power of our Example.”

We all know you can teach a child through lessons, words and workbooks, but it’s our example as teachers and parents that sifts through their consciousness. I wanted the Love Bug to see “Jane” because she also loves animals, and being outside collecting bugs. If you want your child to not develop an eating disorder, you don’t grab their arm or threaten at the dinner table. One models a healthy lifestyle by living it. Just thinking about two man-baby leaders trading sarcastic middle school Tweets with those same fingers that can access nuclear codes is more than horrifying.

They are putting humans on the endangered species list. When Jane’s chimps ventured south on the Gombe, they were systematically annihilated by a different group in that area. Territory is hard-wired in our brains I’m afraid. And Mr T goes to China and comes back with a branding agreement for his name to be used on hotels and escort services among others, but nada on North Korea. There is a move to impeach this president, have you signed the Need to Impeach Trump petition yet? https://www.needtoimpeach.com

We are walking on a tightrope.

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Let me feel your psyche talk. Reading a recap of the news this morning made me want to break into song, sorry Olivia Newton John. It seems that Mr T is on a Twitter tear, which obviously means he’s not happy, and he’s setting the stage for his United Nation’s address today. What he will say to the General Assembly is anybody’s guess, but one look at his Tweets tells us he’s getting aggressive with the “Rocket Man.” And Nikki Haley’s response?

“He gets emotional.”

Awww. Imagine what would have happened if Hillary Clinton set policy via Tweets creating one scandal after another, and then her Ambassador said she was just being emotional? Imagine President Obama saying just about anything Mr T has said?!! Imagine any US President mock/striking a woman with a GIF of his golf swing! This is our new normal, we have somehow normalized the behavior of a 12 year old boy.

Last night Bob and I drove out to a lake house for dinner with some new friends. We have the shared experience of our daughter’s residency at Vanderbilt. Their doctor-bride-to-be will be married in January, and she is a Pediatric Orthopedist. We met Susan and Tom by chance at the eclipse, and liked them before we found out our girls actually knew each other. We had a lovely time and returned home in time to watch the premiere of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s epic documentary “The Vietnam War.”

I got pretty emotional, because my brothers served in that war.

I had no idea that the eventual leader of the Viet Cong, Ho Chi Minh, had first written to FDR after WWII for help with establishing independence from the French for his country. That letter was never delivered. After the Chinese Revolution, Russia was only too happy to help this nationalist leader fight for a united Vietnam.

I didn’t know a young congressman named John Kennedy saw the futility of this proxy war for the French. And that in 1959, the first two American soldiers were killed as they watched a movie. The incremental lead up to war was chilling, and resonates today with our troubles in North and South Korea. And so much is about the context of our time, and how that shapes our point of view.

In the 1960s, we thought we were fighting for freedom, because we were afraid of Communism. Fear pushed four presidents of both parties to intercede in a bloody civil war for French Indochina – we didn’t see the obvious end of colonialism. Hindsight may hopefully teach us something this time around.

If we can manage to not let our emotions take over; if our President can control his temperamental Twitter tirades; if we don’t turn our backs on history.

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Tomorrow I will be voting for our First Woman President! I am so proud to cast this vote, to pull the lever or press the button in honor of my Grandmother, Anna Robinson, who wasn’t allowed to vote when women suffrage was passed because she had married an “alien” Irishman. Immigration is the grand story of this great country, not it’s problem. But first let me fill you in on the last few days.

Returning home to my newly retired husband was a bit strange. People are asking me how is he doing, like we got a diagnosis of some dreaded disease. Yes, he still shaves in the car and puts his pants on one leg at a time. Don’t forget, Bob was never a 9 – 5, Monday through Friday kinda guy; he worked plenty of weekends and like a commercial pilot, had lots of free time around the house. I’ve already set some limits – no reorganizing the linen closet for instance. But do feel free to search and destroy random stinkbugs while cleaning out any expired cans from the pantry! Thanks Babe!

The Virginia Film Festival coincided with my return from Nashville, so we ventured out to the Historic Downtown Mall for dinner and a show. Only the film was midday, so dinner at the Nook came later, guess we are slipping into early bird specials already. We saw a documentary about the Holocaust…I know, I know. In the midst of this bizarre and stressful election denouement, why submit ourselves to such heartache. But it was a film about children, and I thought it might be uplifting.

The film, “Not the Last Butterfly,” was inspired by a poem written by Pavel Friedmann, “The Butterfly,” about never seeing another butterfly in the transit ghetto that was Theresienstadt outside of Prague in the former Czechoslovakia. Commonly called Terezin, it is sometimes mis-identified as a concentration camp, but it was a Walled Ghetto of Limbo for Jews awaiting their fate at the hands of the Nazis. It was a stop along the way for 15,000 children between 1941 and 1945. Pavel the poet was shipped to his death in Auschwitz in 1944. Only 100 children survived Terezin.

He was the last. Truly the last.
Such yellowness was bitter and blinding
Like the sun’s tear shattered on stone.
That was his true colour.
And how easily he climbed, and how high,
Certainly, climbing, he wanted
To kiss the last of my world.

I have been here seven weeks,
‘Ghettoized’.
Who loved me have found me,
Daisies call to me,
And the branches also of the white chestnut in the yard.
But I haven’t seen a butterfly here.
That last one was the last one.
There are no butterflies, here, in the ghetto.

In an effort to make this horrific history approachable for schoolchildren today, a teacher in California came up with the idea to create 1.5 Million butterflies: yes, One and a Half Million to memorialize the total number of Jewish children who were murdered during the Holocaust.

Under the leadership of a mosaic artist, Cheryl Rattner Price, they set about designing a curriculum that would include each child making by hand a ceramic butterfly and painting it, while simultaneously learning about one particular child who perished during the war. It was a profound undertaking, and quickly spread around the globe and to many different faiths. A rock festival in Poland created butterflies. A Catholic school in Oregon took on the Butterfly Project. The installation has taken flight at the San Diego Jewish Academy, but the butterflies are arriving from all over the world.

Remember I had just returned from Nashville. I had given the Love Bug butterfly kisses on her cheek. So when they showed the archival footage of children during the Holocaust, I thought of my grandchildren. When they showed Jewish stores and synagogues burning during Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, I thought of the the Black church that was burned down in MS last week, with “Vote Trump” painted across a wall. Slowly, tears streamed down my face, because I understood how hatred starts out. Slowly, hatred of the “Other” becomes socially acceptable, so that the electrician who came to fix our phones said, “Why should they get a free ride, when I had to pay for my wife to come here?”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/02/vote-trump-painted-on-wall-of-burned-out-black-church-in-mississippi/

So tomorrow I am voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton, for my grandchildren. I am voting for Love, because I don’t want to go back to a time where Women and Blacks were humiliated and disenfranchised in this country. I don’t want to go back to that great America where LGBT people were ridiculed and denied their rights. The Germans didn’t believe Hitler meant what he said, but we need to believe Trump means what he says; and he likes nuclear weapons and calls our military a bunch of “losers.” We cannot elect such a man filled with hate.

For more information about the film, or to see if you can arrange a showing at your school, please visit: http://thebutterflyprojectnow.org    img_5559

 

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I remember once going out to dinner with the family, and arranged before us on the table were your typical paper placemats. Except that on these cute little mats were a number of what looked like high school portrait pictures. The mats were titled something like “Before They Were Famous.” There in the corner was the key, and you had to match the picture with the star. So long before smart phones and portable gaming devices, long before reality TV produced celebrities, a family had the chance to actually interact by guessing which adolescent girl was now Cher.

Tonight, if you’re lucky enough to live in the New York metropolitan area, or have access to WNET channel 13, http://www.wnet.org, you can tune into a documentary at 10:30 that shines a light on some of our generation’s most acclaimed modern artists.  But it’s like a dream within a dream, because we get a glimpse of the early life of these men, before Studio 54 threw stardust around them, through the lens of a friend and photographer, William John Kennedy.

Full Circle: Before They Were Famous
FULL CIRCLE: BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS is the story behind a series of photographs of Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana taken by William John Kennedy in 1963/64 just as the 2 artists were on the cusp of fame. It includes terrific footage of a rare interview with Robert Indiana at his home in Vinalhaven, as well as moments with Ultra Violet and Taylor Mead.
The Director of the Warhol Museum, Eric Shiner, is interviewed and we gain his insight while we watch the evolution of an artistic icon. But if you listen carefully, you’ll hear the musical score of this film, and those of you who know him may recognize a certain something.  Because the music was created by my son, the Rocker, and like any good mom I’d recognize that sound anywhere. From the moment he picked up a violin in first grade, and our Corgi accompanied him, throughout high school with his band in our garage, I’ve become his biggest fan.
I was thinking about him yesterday, on the anniversary of 9/11. Because I knew where my daughter was; I had called her in DC to tell her what was happening and I knew she had left the federal building she was working in and started walking back to her apartment in Adams Morgan. And I knew where Bob was; he was waiting with rescue personnel at the dock in Highlands, NJ for burn patients who never came. But I didn’t know where my son was. He was supposed to start his first after-high-school job on that beautiful Fall day, and they had called to tell him not to come in, but I couldn’t find him.
He was out at Sandy Hook with his friends on the beach, watching the plume of the Twin Tower’s smoke drift out to sea. And the collective trauma of that day was familiar, that sense of suffering brought me back to 1963 when I learned that our President had been shot while I was in gym class at my NJ high school. What does that say about a generation marked by such a tragedy?
Because even before his band, The Parlor Mob, became famous, before the world tours and the Paris Vogue cover shoots and the iTunes Best Rock Band of the Year award, I was always proud of my son for following his own heart, for playing outside of the lines. As the Bard likes to say, and I may have quoted this in his senior yearbook, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
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A quick post about a documentary “Never Stand Still” that will be on PBS next Friday the 26th at 9 on PBS.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/dancing-at-jacob’s-pillow-never-stand-still/about-the-show/1756/

When we lived in the Berkshires, summertime meant we’d drive over to Jacob’s Pillow every week for an evening of astonishingly beautiful dance.

You may remember, I used to dance. First at the Martha Graham studio, and later I minored in dance at SUNY Purchase when Bill Bales was the Dean. When the Bride was little, I would dance in the Nutcracker when she was a little reindeer.

So it’s more than thrilling to let you know that a dear friend, Nan Honsa from Rumson, Imagehas produced this dance documentary with her husband. http://mpny.tv

I hope you tune in, and imagine the wall at the back stage opening up and the wind and the sounds of birds and insects coming through with the twilight. Imagine the music as the dancers float onto the stage.

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“Lost on Long Island” is the documentary film that was the topic of discussion this morning. It will debut on HBO this Sunday night. It is the story of mostly baby boomers who have lost their jobs and are consequently losing their employer-based health insurance and sometimes their homes. It takes all the words and statistics that politicians like to throw around about our “economic recovery” and “income inequality” and puts a human face on it.

After my last post I got some interesting comments on Facebook. I think it’s important to distinguish between people who are homeless as a direct result of this economy, who have worked all their lives only to find themselves a decade short of medicare and still looking for work, not a hand out…and those who have taken to the streets to make a livelihood of sorts out of begging. Let’s not forget those people who grew up in poverty, and who might just be scraping by, living in a medicaid motel with children, maybe making a minimum wage. In our family’s Year of Living Dangerously only the Salvation Army appeared on the Flapper’s doorstep Christmas Eve. My brothers didn’t want their charity, but I’m sure my Mother appreciated it.

In the worst year of the Great Depression, in 1933, the US jobless rate reached 25%. We hit a recession peak in 2010 when our unemployment rate hit 10%. Today it is averaging at 8.2%; most economists think that under 5% is acceptable. But what does that mean when only 1 out 10 long-term unemployed will most likely find work? There are so many factors at play: http://www.economywatch.com/unemployment/causes.html?page=full It has been argued that either government spending or raising taxes will grow the economy, so I wonder why we are cutting government spending and so reluctant to raise taxes. Particularly on that 1% of “job creators.”

For those of you looking for a job with a sustainable future, you might like this list. http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/06/22/9-most-secure-jobs-in-america/
And for my lovely troubadours, play on! (ps the President they reference is our previous Republican)

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