The Trial of the Chicago Seven | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

This is the story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. You may enjoy it if, like me, you are a fan of courtroom dramas. I remember that turbulent time and honestly I had not viewed any of the defendants in positive light at all. In that sense I found the movie to be a bit educational. Here are a few quotes from it.

We want to underscore again, that we’re coming to Chicago peacefully, but whether we’re given permits or not, we’re coming. -Tom Hayden

We carried certain ideas across state lines. Not machine guns or drugs or little girls. Ideas. When we crossed from New York to New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Ohio to Illinois, we had certain ideas. And for that, we were gassed, beaten, arrested, and put on trial. -Abbie Hoffman

This is the Academy Awards of protests and as far as I'm concerned it's an honor just to be nominated. -John Froines

The Riots Were Started By The Chicago Police Department. -Ramsey Clark, former US Attorney General

I'm the head of the Black Panthers, Sondra. When the hell am I not gonna be in trouble? -Bobby Seale

There are civil trials, and there are criminal trials. There's no such thing as a political trial. -William Kunstler

It's almost hard to believe the seven of us weren't able to end a war. -Lee Weiner

Since This Trial Began, 4,752 Us Troops Have Been Killed In Vietnam. -Tom Hayden

Found the movie to be thought provoking. I liked it and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.

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The White Tiger | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

This is a dark movie with dark themes and dark characters. It showcases the hopelessness of growing up in the poorest areas of India where, as the main character says, there are two visible castes - “men with big bellies, and men with small bellies”. The film is a story about the haves and the have-nots.

The way that the poor live in India was absolutely heartbreaking but the resiliency of Balram Halwai, the lead character played wonderfully by Adarsh Gourav, was darkly beautiful. Balram was the rare white tiger of the story - a rare Indian who broke the rules, and the law, to succeed.

Though the story, from the novel of the same name, is fictional, I think that the theme is a relevant one. Images of coercion and manipulation by the powerful over the powerless is compelling. I think that it could be a movie that awakens hearts and minds to the suffering of the poor among us.

I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.

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prayer and spirituality

The word “prayer” has often been trivialized by making it into a way of getting what we want. But I use “prayer” as the umbrella word for any interior journeys or practices that allow you to experience faith, hope, and love within yourself. It is not a technique for getting things, a pious exercise that somehow makes God happy, or a requirement for entry into heaven. It is much more like practicing heaven now.

Such prayer, such seeing, takes away your anxiety for figuring it all out fully for yourself, or needing to be right about your formulations. At this point, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. There is Someone dancing with you, and you are not afraid of making mistakes. -Richard Rohr

Hillbilly Elegy | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

A friend disliked this one and I almost skipped it. Glad that I watched it. I found the story about a young boy's experiences growing up in a dysfunctional family both refreshing and depressing. 

I thought that the performances by a-lister actresses were dwarfed by the actual story. I found the plot from the memoir by JD Vance (nicely portrayed by Gabriel Basso) to be engaging and endearing. 

You might like Elegy if you enjoy watching movies with interesting characters and challenging themes. I liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.
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Crip Camp | ★★★★★★★★★★

I am really not a fan of documentaries so I was not sure if I was up for a dry telling of facts - Crip Camp is not such a film. Full disclosure, my wife has used a wheelchair since 2007. So I had more than a casual interest in the movie and the message. The story chronicles the journey of a group of disabled people from their beginnings at Camp Jened, a summer camp for people with disabilities in upstate New York, to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I think that these quotes from the movie speaks to the heart of its message.
“I wanted to be part of the world but I didn’t see anyone like me in it.” – Jimmy Lebrecht 
“I don’t think I felt, really, shame about my disability. What I felt more was exclusion.” – Judith Heumann 
“The world doesn’t want us around and wants us dead. We live with that reality, so there’s always gonna be, uh, ‘Am I gonna survive? Am I gonna push back? Am I gonna fight to be here?’ that’s always true.” – Corbett O’Toole 
“If I have to feel thankful about an accessible bathroom, when am I ever gonna be equal in the community?” – Judith Huemann 
“The ADA was a wonderful achievement. But it was only the tip of the iceberg. You can pass a law but until you can change society’s attitudes, that law won’t mean much.” – Denise Sherer Jacobson
Not sure what you will think of the movie. Might get you a bit out of your comfort zone. Then again, it might open up your eyes, as mine were opened, to the struggle and courage that so many disabled folks have showed. Their sit-in the the HEW headquarters in San Francisco was so inspirational. Watching their long journey from camp in the 1970s to adulthood was beyond inspirational.

I loved the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★★.

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the midnight sky | ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. 
A few IMDb review titles (that I saw too late) with my commentary:

  + 2020. The Movie. || definitely sums up the year of covid
  + Insult to General Intelligence || illogical in a bizarre sort of way
  + Nothing Happens. Ever. || seems to drone on forever
  + Appalling Waste of Time || even for a retired person
  + Clooney Cures Insomnia || nothing there to keep you awake
  + A Flaming Pile of Pointless Drivel || just rambled on and on
  + Robinson Clooney || Young Crusoe had more sense that Augustine 
  + I like him in ER. That is all. || have never seen ER but I agree
  + I love Clooney...But this...Why? || Why could be the plotline

I really disliked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it zero stars.
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The 2020 Binge Report

My binging of all things Netflix and Amazon Prime kicked into high gear earlier this year when my wife was quarantined in a nursing facility for 7 weeks. Here are a few thoughts, and some feedback, on the things that I binged.

In the Star Trek Universe, I watched a lot of Trek movies. Always enjoy the newer Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto versions of the movie franchise. Here are a few shows that I watched.

👍 Enterprise - a great 4 season prequel to the series

👎 Picard - a really disappointing and maudlin sequel for TNG fans 

👍👍 Discovery - a great series featuring a few of the original characters.

Here is my non-trek binge list.

👍 ALF - we have enjoyed working our way through this heartwarmingly funny 80s classic

👍 Alias - 5 seasons of action filled espionage - and Rambaldi!

👍 The Crown - the season four take on the Royals is troubling on so many levels

👎 Firefly - Nathan Fillion before Castle as a spaceship captain

👍 Halt and Catch Fire - great take on the beginnings of PCs, networks & the web

👍👍 Hanna - Ann and I enjoyed watching two seasons of teenage spydom together

👍 House MD - 8 seasons of orneriness got me through Ann's quarantine

👍 Kingdom -  a mostly good, but racy, mixed martial arts cage fighting series 

👍 Law and Order SVU - more like the original Law and Order than I thought

👍 The Mandalorian - guess I am a sucker for Baby Yoda, or whoever he is.

👍👍 The Mentalist - one of the best tv detective series ever made

👍👍 The Queens Gambit - I loved this take on a female Bobby Fischer

👎 Watchmen on HBO - a really confusing take on the comics

Apart from those things, this retired guy enjoys binging on HGTV and the Food Network. How about you?

carpe gaudium

- be content - seize the joy -

Harriet | ★★★★★★★★★★

I love how this movie deals with Southern Slavery. The complex images of life as a slave is on display. It gives us an insightful view of the faithless cruelty of plantation owners and the magnificent faithful courage of slaves.

Harriet Tubman, played beautifully by Cynthia Erivo, emerges as a woman of faith and courage. I was fascinated by the ways that the Lord guided and directed Harriet as she led slaves to freedom in pre-Civil War America. God would often give her prophetic visions and speak to her as she acted so boldly.

My admiration of Harriet, as an American and as a Christian, swelled as I watched her inspiring story. I think that her story, and that of the underground railroad, should be extolled as one of the greatest in American history.

I really loved this movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★★.

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Knives Out | ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Ann and I are fans of the detective-sleuth genre. This movie plays in that arena. We should have liked it more than we did. I thought that the story-line was a tad predictable and sluggish at the beginning but picked up steam midway into this two hour flick. It had some pretty good twists and turns in the second half. Thought that Daniel Craig, the lead actor in this ensemble cast, may not have been best suited to play a part that involved speaking would a southernish drawl - can you imagine him saying Bond, James Bond with a twang?

Even so. I did like the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★☆☆☆.

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Just Mercy | ★★★★★★★★★★

Pictured to the right is Bryan Stevenson and actor Michael C Jordan - the subject and the star of the movie "Just Mercy". Bryan is an amazing person. His book of the same name (reviewed here) is a heartbreaking account of injustice in Alabama. The movie takes the books main narrative and creates a compelling look at systemic racism in the South.

The movie was hard to watch but communicated such a strong message of how one person with passion can impact society and change lives. I thought Jamie Foxx did a great job playing Walter McMillian, a man falsely imprisoned for 6 years. I consider the movie a must watch.

On a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★★★.

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Do Video Games Keep Kids Inside?

This cartoon cracked me up! Reminds me how I loved to play outside when I was a kid. When it was cold outside I would play board games inside with my sisters but when the summer came I was outside all of the time playing with my neighborhood pals.

Can you relate to that? Do you think that video games keep kids today from playing outside? Not sure that I do because my son usually just played with his Nintendo when the weather was bad or it was dark. He loved to be outside. Yet I do think that, generally speaking, video games keep kids indoors.


Ever had really high expectations and have somewhat of a let down? Fifteen years ago my wife and I celebrated our 10th anniversary in Niagara Falls. Our hotel room overlooked the horseshoe falls on the Canadian side. Here is the view from our room.

Quite majestic. And awesome. If only I didn’t have expectations. Hype and preconceived ideas are not the best way to approach something as monumental and unique as Niagara Fall.

It is also not the best west to approach God and prayer.

I think that we often imagine God to be someone, or something, that he is not.

Before traveling east I imagined Niagara to be much different - I was sucked into my own imagination. I envisioned something much taller, much louder and frankly more majestic. At first glance, from my hotel room, I was disappointed because of my expectations of the Falls.

We can, in the same way, be disappointed with God when he does not meet our expectations. We often imagine that he will do something in one manner - then he acts, or doesn't act, in a way contrary to our thinking. And we are disappointed. We often come to God in prayer expecting Him to answer according to our imaginations. And we are disappointed when he doesn't.

After the initial letdown my wife and I journeyed closer to the Falls. A few more pictures.

Taken from the Maid of the Mist as we headed towards the Falls

The overwhelmingly breathtaking view from the Maid of the Mist.

You know, when the view changes … when the perspective or context is different … a different dynamic is at play. When I saw the falls from the boat I was able to take in the power of the falls. Up close the waters seemed more powerful. The sounds much louder. Everything seemed different.

Rainbow arching over the Falls.

Later that day we returned to our hotel room. I looked out the window and saw this image.  When I saw the bow I was reminded of God’s blessings. Sometimes we can only see the blessings from afar.

I think that a different perspective often brings us to a new place of appreciation for God’s working in our lives - if we can only get past our expectations and imaginations.

Rocketman | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Elton John is one of the most iconic performers of my lifetime. His music is legendary. His sound is unique. Even so, this movie surprised me. I was not ready to watch a movie that was so transparent and so revealing.

The flick takes us on a journey. Beginning with childhood Reginald Kenneth Dwight, Elton's name before he changed it, showed somewhat of a musical genius. He played his grandmother's piano at age 7 and won a junior scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music when he was 11.

His life trek continues as he meets his life long song writing partner Bernie Taupin and finds success and eventual fame in Rock and Roll. Yet Elton's life is fraught with pain. And the pain morphs into addiction. John reveals a lot about himself as he uncovers his painful past.

I thought that Taron Egerton did a great job playing Elton. I loved that he sang the songs himself and didn't try to copy John's voice while keeping true to his sound. The film was a good mix of music and drama. I really liked the movie and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.

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