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.

 

Categories
Books

John Tyler, the Accidental President – by Edward Crapol

  More detail than I wanted.

Basic story – undone by slavery, of which he was a avid supporter. Achievements: Border with Maine/Canada, trade agreement with China, annexation of Texas, Tyler Doctrine in Pacific (which eventually lead to annexation of Hawaii).

Believed expanding the borders would keep nation together, and eventually would lead to the end of slavery (weird idea). First Vice President to become President, played a large role in setting precedence that VP would become Pres. for rest of term. Constitution was unclear on that point. 

He was a Whig, but big on “states rights”, like his idols Jefferson and Madison. Caused him to become very unpopular within his own party. Was not even nominated for a run at a second term.

 

 

Categories
Poetry

We Are Three

by Rumi 

Categories
Films

Saw Iranian Film at AFI in Silver Spring

Saw “The Salesman”, written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, a well-know Iranian director working inside Iran. 

My impression was that the movie took way too long to get to the point. The last half-hour was engrossing as the movie worked it’s way to the  climax. I suppose the theme was revenge vs. forgiveness, the husband taking the side of revenge, the wife forgiveness.

Farhadi also made acclaimed The Separation, which I did’t like so much, and About Elly, which I did. 

 

Categories
Films

Watch Several Movies

Been trying to see some of  the “big” movies of the year.  List is roughly order of preference (best to worst).

  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Jackie
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Loving
  • Lion
  • Certain Women

Also saw Gimme Danger, Jarmusch’s documentary about Iggy Pop. 

Categories
Books

Scars of Sweet Paradise – The Life and Times of Janis Joplin by Alice Echols

Typical rock star on drugs story. I wish it had focused more on the music instead of her tragic life. Amazing the harm well-meaning parents can do do a child, especially if that child is susceptible to being affected by it.

 

Categories
Books

William Henry Harrison – by Gail Collins

The ninth president. Died after only one month in office. Ran as an Indian War hero, notably the battle of Tippecanoe. Actually did a poor job at that battle, but did better in subsequent ones. Ran as a man of the people, but actually grew up relatively rich (sound familiar?). First candidate to openly campaign for the office.

 

Categories
Books

Martin Van Buren – Ted Widmer

Excellent. 

Van Buren – first president for whom English was second language. poor man, yet lost re-election to a rich man who  campaigned as the  poor man (sounds familiar).  Founder of the Democratic party. Had misfortune of having a economic depression at the beginning of his  administration. Fair to say he was rather unprincipled in regard to slavery.