Categories
Poetry

Lament

by EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

Categories
Books

A. Lincoln: A Biography – Ronald C. White

A very long biography of Lincoln. More detail than I needed.

A few things stood out. Lincoln’s early study of the the speeches of ministers and politicians paid off down the road. Without his writing and  oratory ability he never would have been president. He was a very shrewd politician, knowing exactly when  the time was right to move. Finally, he always spent time working out all the angles on an issue before he made a decision. 

Categories
Poetry

City Trees

by EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

Categories
Films

The Big Sick

Nice little movie, based on a true story.  Plot: comedian from traditional Indian family meets white (very) girl. They fall in love, she becomes seriously ill, he realizes he’s an idiot, they get married. Lot of funny culture-wars type humor. Light weight, but very charming. Maybe fifteen minutes too long. 

Categories
Poetry

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why

by  EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

Categories
Quotes

A test of what is real is that it is hard and rough. Joys are found in it, not pleasure. What is pleasant belongs to dreams. –┬áSimone Weil

Categories
Books

The History of France – W. Scott Haines

Short interesting history of France.  Read for our trip… 

Categories
Books

James Buchanan: The American Presidents Series – Jean Baker

Buchanan was from Pennsylvania, at the time the second most populous state in the country.  He came from a relatively well-off family, and was able to attend college, Dickinson. As most future politicians at the time did, he study law after college. He served in Congress, and held many posts for various administrations, most notably as Polk’s Secretary of State.

His presidency was a disaster. Most historians think he was too generous in his treatment of the South, where most of his support came from. He completely botched the slavery issue in Kansas by siding way too heavily with the South. He also was weirdly inactive when the South succeeded, basically doing nothing, claiming the Constitution didn’t allow him to act. Buchanan is often ranked as the worst president in US history (and that’s saying something).

Categories
Poetry

The Unknown Citizen

 by W.H. Auden

Categories
Books

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

An autobiography of a guy from a poor, sometimes violent, very dysfunctional Appalachian family. Spent his childhood in the backwoods of Kentucky, and his teen years the Ohio Rust Belt. Joined the Marines after high school, which along with his grandparent’s guidance, helped set him on the right track. Went on to graduate from Ohio State and then Yale Law School.

The book was a New York Times bestseller. Vance is now a regular on the talking-head circuit and probably has made a shit-load of money. Good for him.

It was an interesting, easy read. I can’t say I was particular stunned by what he had to say. His description of his rough upbringing was interesting, even for a hillbilly such as myself who is is somewhat familiar with how it goes. His thoughts on what how families stuck in this type of environment could be helped are not terribly insightful. Basically, the government can’t do much, they need to be like him and pull themselves up by their bootstraps (not realistic if you ask me).

I’m glad I read it. I preferred Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams by Alfred Lubrano,  which dealt similar subject manner in a more thoughtful manner. 

 

Categories
Books

Franklin Pierce – 14th President

Pierce was the fourteen president of the United States. He was a Democratic from New Hampshire.

Ironically, although one if his highest priorities was keeping the Democratic party together, he ended up splitting it apart. By supporting the negation of the Compromise of 1820, which marked a line across the country above which slavery was outlawed, he reignited the issue of slavery across the country. “Bleeding Kansas” was one of the unfortunately consequences.

During the next election only seven of the 44 Democratic congressman were re-elected. Republican James Buchanan, an even worse leader, was elected next. 

Categories
Films

La Vie en Rose

Started out promising, but eventually just repeated scene after scene of Edith in a drunken rage, screaming and yelling. Surely she was more interesting than that. Perhaps they should have focused more on the music.  

Didn’t enjoy this one. Didn’t even make it to the end.  

Categories
Books

Millard Fillmore by Robert Rayback

A very sympathetic  treatment of Fillmore. Book was too long, but I certainly learned a lot. Millard was (according to this book) a very principled man who put country over personal glory.  Things didn’t work out exactly the way he wanted, but that’s not extraordinary. 

Fillmore was a Whig. The Whigs were sort of  the Democrats of the day, believers in a government that invests, helps, and stabilizes the country. Mostly anti-slavery, but they also attracted some members from the South, which allowed them to build a strong enough coalition to prevail, at least on occasion.

Besides the Compromise of 1850, which Fillmore was instrumental in making viable, he mostly was involved in foreign policy. Lots of “stuff” happened in Hawaii, Japan, China, Nicaragua, with Britain,  etc.

Fillmore tried to run again as the head of the  “Know Nothing” party, but was defeated.

In the mid-1850 the U.S. experience a time very similar to today: strong anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic sentiments, and a party (the  Know Nothings”) that took full advantage of it.

 

Categories
Films

You Can Count On Me

By the same  director/writer as my favorite movie of last year, Manchester by the Sea. 

Love his writing. Really packs an emotional whallop. I love movies that are both tragic and funny.  

 

Categories
Films

Heart of a Dog – Laurie Anderson film

I liked this movie quite a bit. Like all her work, I have trouble fitting it all together. What exactly she’s trying to say? What is the theme that ties it  all together? These questions I have trouble answering.

On the other hand, her work is incredibly inventive, and I love the combination of music, words, and images. Five stars. 

Categories
Films

Saw Moonlight – 2016 Best Picture

This movie really didn’t do much for me. It was ok, but certainly not my choice for Best Picture. Standard “it’s tough to be poor, black, gay, and from a dysfunctional home” film. Done reasonably well I guess. Second half was slow. Nothing really made it standout to me. I wouldn’t watch it again.  

Categories
Books

Zachary Taylor – John Eisenhower

Born in Virginia,  raised in Kentucky. Sporadic education due to take of school on frontier. Made a name for  himself in military.  Nicknamed “Old Rough and Ready”. Lead a series of  mostly successful battles during the Mexican War.  Not much of a planner, but good at improvising.

Ran for president – reluctantly – as a Whig.  He would be the last Whig to be elected  president. Died just a few months into  his term, perhaps due to food poisoning.

Categories
Books

Beginning JavaScript

Best tech book I’ve ever read. Starts from the beginning, doesn’t skip steps. Admittedly, it does make it a chore to wade thru all the detail,some of which is already known. However, I’d rather be a little bored than totally baffled.

Categories
Films

Hidden Figures

Saw Hidden Figures yesterday. 

The history was interesting. A group of black women working at NASA in the “computing” department. One in particular, Katherine Jackson, played a significant role in solving the mathematical problems associated with the project.

The movie itself though is not so great. Boring script, very predictable plot, cliche-ridden, and teeth-grinding bad acting. 

 

Categories
Films

Watch Spotlight

Good movie about the Catholic Church child abuse scandal. Centers around the  investigation of the Boston Globe which to exposed the church. Watched it, ironically, on the day our esteemed president declared that “the press is the enemy of the American people”.  

 

Categories
Poetry

Happiness

by Carl Sandburg

Categories
Books

A Year Without Pants – by Scott Berkun

Berkun’s discusses his year working at Automattic, leading teams designing enhancements to WordPress.com. He describes the unique culture of Automattic, the company behind the most popular by far content management system in the world.

In (very) short, he believes the very non-hierarchical, remote-centric, small team, informal culture at Automattic is the general model of the future work office environment.    

Categories
Films

Watched A Man Named Ove – by Hannes Holm

Directed and written by Hannes Holm. Swedish.

I liked it. Sort of the non-violent swedish version of Clint Eastwood’s Grand Torino. The movie is full of cliches, and the heart-warming ending can  be seen coming  from the very beginning.  Still, the movie is highly enjoyable. The characters are believable, and their relationships feel right.  It also has more than it’s share of laughs. 

 

Categories
Books

A Country of Vast Designs: James Polk – by Robert Merry

A lot of shit happened during Polk’s four years in office.

A Democrat, Polk was a disciple of Andrew Jackson. He promised to serve only one-term in order to placate rivals that he knew coveted the presidency. Not a strong leader and lacking charisma, he nevertheless succeeded in bringing about all four of the main items on his agenda:

  • Lowering tariffs
  • stabling the currency 
  • acquiring the Oregon territory
  • expanding country to the Pacific

He may not have done it exactly to plan – instead starting a war with Mexico – but he did  it.

Poor guy died four months after leaving office.

 

Categories
Films

Saw Paterson

Saw new film by Jim Jarmuch. Enjoyed it much. So beautiful, so poetic. Adam Driver was a good choice for a Jarmuch movie, he fits right in with John Laurie, Tom Waits etc.

The poetry written for the film didn’t really make it with me. I missed the humor of some of the older movies. 

Overall I really like it.