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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

ALVIRA BOOK | Launch, Nov. 8, 2018

Author Olga with Fred Comins, visiting from
NYC, about 1980. Fred is Alice Tepper
Marlin's uncle, mine by marriage.
November 13, 2018–My sister Olga Marlin's 84th birthday was yesterday. In response to birthday wishes, she sent the following report on the launch of her book on the Alvira couple, Tomás and Paquita, the previous Thursday in Nairobi, Kenya:
On November 8 we had the launch of the Alvira book [Our Lives in His Hands] in the Strathmore Business School. It was for cocktails with speeches and a book signing. The following morning we had a breakfast and Colloquium on the Family. Concha's brother, Professor Rafael Alvira, came for the occasion. 
The events were very well attended, with a packed auditorium and sale of more than 100 books.  Concha's brother gave a couple of speeches. A display of books on stage was hidden by a curtain with a red ribbon across it. The Guest of Honour cut the ribbon, the curtain was drawn – and coloured smoke went up with a bang! I was shocked and thought the electric lights had blown! But it was only a planned highlight of the launch. 
The Guest of Honour was an Indonesian from the World Bank, son of Muslim parents who converted to Catholicism and later joined Opus Dei. His wife was also there, a Filipino lady. It was all very warm and friendly. 
People like the book a lot. It's being translated into French, Spanish, and Polish. 
Olga sent me her remarks for the occasion, which I post here with her permission:
Olga's new book, on the Alviras.
During a Christmas visit I made to Archbishop Raphael Ndingi in 2010, with a colleague, Kitonyi Saiti, the idea for this book came about. We had told the Archbishop that Concha Alvira was going to Spain in February for the opening of the Cause of Beatification of her parents and he was very happy. 
He had always shown great interest in the work Opus Dei was doing in Kenya, especially in promoting Christian family life and now he told us that he had a prayer card of the couple, given to him by the Nuncio, which he kept it in his breviary and prayed every day. 
“A book should be written about them,” he said “so that especially the women can get to know Paquita who was just like them.” I said a book already existed in Spanish.
“Then translate it,” he said. 
In September the following year I had to go to Spain for health reasons and spent the next four years in and out of the Clinic of Navarre University in Pamplona. I began working on the book there. I corresponded with Antonio Vazquez, a great friend and colleague of Tomás Alvira and author of the two Spanish biographies, and with a daughter, Pilar Alvira, who lives in Madrid but came several times to work with me in Pamplona and provided lots of help and information. I also had the invaluable experience of 30 years working closely with Concha here in Nairobi. 
Olga's first book, on her life.
My main job was to convert the biographies into a chronologically based story, telling what happened as their lives unfolded and letting the facts speak for themselves. It was a beautiful task and I learned a lot, especially from the Alviras’ fidelity to the spirit of the Founder, one day after another as they built up a “bright and cheerful home.” 
When I returned to Nairobi in September 2015 with the finished book, I had to start looking for a publisher. I was told that it would need a professional editor, and I should look for a prominent person to write the Foreword. For editor I thought of Mary Gottschalk, who edited my first book To Africa with a Dream [published by Scepter in 2002 and issued in a new edition with photos by Boissevain Books in 2011]. She was so enthusiastic about that book that the publisher commented that if she had her way, Mary would sell it at every street corner! 
.
Mary is also editor of the three volumes of “The Founder of Opus Dei” by Andrés Vazquez de Prada, so she had lots of experience. She was willing to take on the editing of this book and fell in love with it as she worked, fully identifying with Tomás and Paquita. It took her nearly two years to complete the job. As Mary lives and works in Texas, she gave the text an American flavour; not out of place, as I am American-born… (Concha was amused to find her mother translated as saying: “You know what, honey?” to one of her sisters…). 
For the Foreword, I thought of Mary Ann Glendon, a Professor at Harvard Law School and former U.S Ambassador to the Holy See. I had seen a video interview with her in the University of Navarre which greatly impressed me and later I admired some faith-filled decisions she took. As it happened, Mary Ann was well-known to Professor Alvira, and she was delighted to write the Foreword for a book about his parents. Her contribution was marvellous, giving an expert overview of the challenges facing families, and celebrating “the complementarity of the Alviras and their nine children in a faith-filled, loving household where work and family were closely intertwined.” 
Scepter Publishers chose the title for the book and selected the cover photograph, which so much appealed to the journalist, Dorothy Kweyu, that she began her review in the Saturday Nation of August 11, saying: “The first thing that strikes one about ‘Our Lives in His Hands’ is the romantic image of Paquita and Tomás Alvira, whose laughter lights up the book’s front cover.” In the course of her article, Dorothy highlights the relevance of the lives of the Alvira couple for ordinary Kenyans and the couple’s personal involvement in this country which they loved so much. In 1980, when Concha wrote from where she was studying in Rome to tell her parents that she would be going to live and work in Kenya, they were at first taken aback, but quickly overcame it. 
They answered, saying: “We have already read many things about Kenya, We want to know all about that country, so as to love it more.” Two years later they came to Nairobi to visit Concha and see what she was doing. They were thrilled with all they saw, so much so that her father exclaimed: “How I would love to come and work here, if I were twenty years younger!” They stayed for about a week and we all had a chance to meet the couple. 
There was one unforgettable get-together in our Glenview home, when Don Tomás related to us the dramatic crossing of the Pyrenees with St. Josémaría in the company of several other young men. More than telling us about it, he relived it. We hung on his words, and at the same time I noticed how Paquita sat nearby, listening in the background, quietly supporting her husband. It was always like that. 
They visited Kianda School and the Faida Club, where the children made Tomás an Honorary Club Member and presented him with a Certificate… One moment when we were alone, Paquita told me how amused she had been when years ago she overheard an answer Concha gave to her older sister. Maria Isabel had called her from another room and Concha, aged three, replied: “I’m coming because I want to, not because you say so.” 
Freedom was an important aspect of the education the Alviras gave to their children and by the time Concha came along this was well-rooted in the family. It has been a privilege to write this book, and I hope that, as Archbishop Ndingi wanted, it will help many married people to discover the beauty of the marriage vocation.

Friday, October 26, 2018

CHELSEA | Scary Stuff Coming Up

CHELSEA, NYC, October 26, 2018–Halloween decorations are already out in force, with less than a week until the end of the month.

Look at that house on West 22nd Street, with more huge spiders crawling around than you will find anywhere else in New York City other than Trump Tower. 

This year New Yorkers have a lot to be scared about, with midterm elections coming up in ten days.

If the Dems don't win at least the House majority, the man in the White House will continue to tweet and rally on, unchecked.

This year it pays to scare your fellow citizens into voting on November 6.

Meanwhile, the house at 314 West 22nd Street continues to set the pace in Halloween decoration.

My photo of it a few years ago in Chelsea Now appeared along with my award on behalf of the local block association as showing the Best Neighborhood Cooperation, because the display takes several families working together to give its effects.

Other winners that year, who will doubtless show their prowess again in 2018, were 439 and 457 West 22nd Street and 417 West 21st Street.

Send your nominations for a 2018 award and I will post them here. Send to me at teppermarlin[at]aol.com.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

PORTSMOUTH ABBEY '58 | NY Yacht Club Dinner in Newport; then Clambake Lunch

At the Harbour Court of the NY Yacht Club in Newport. Seated, L to R: Denis Ambrose '58, John Hayes '58, Fred Torphy '58, John Tepper Marlin '58, Ramón Ferreyros '58. Standing, L to R: Jeanne Geddes, Alice Tepper Marlin, Hugh Ballantyne '58, Malena Lazo De La Vega, Carlos Cleary.
Friday evening, September 28, after lunch at the Castle Hill Inn and a tour of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, the Portsmouth Class of 1958 had dinner at the Harbour Court of the NY Yacht Club, also in Newport. We ate in the mansion's original dining room.

Classmate John Hayes surprised us by bringing us a gift of five bottles of two outstanding vintages from Montrachet vineyards in France that he owns with a partner.


Montrachet is an Appellation d'origine contrôlée and Grand Cru vineyard for white wine made of Chardonnay grapes in the Côte de Beaune sub-region of Burgundy. It straddles the border between the two communes of Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet and produces what many consider the world's greatest dry white wine. Four other Grand Cru vineyards with Montrachet in their names are humbler neighbors. 
Le Montrachet (Chassagne side) and Montrachet (Puligny side).
The Montrachet vineyards are almost equally divided between Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. Both appellations append the name of their most famous vineyard (in this case a shared one) to the name of their main village.

The Côte de Beaune is the southern half of the Côte d'Or, the most important of the wine-producing subregions of Burgundy.



John Hayes explained that the first wine was light, a consumer favorite–2009 Puligny-Montrachet, La Truffière, 1er cru by Bruno Colin. Here's a collection of tasting reviews, all in the 90s out of 100.


The second was the local vintners' favorite–2008 Chassagne Montrachet, Clos St. Jean, 1er cru by Alex Gambal. Look it up online–you can't buy it on the sites I found, because it is sold out.

Having read what I wrote above, John sent me a followup note with more specifics about the Montrachet wines:
Montrachet is the famous vineyard that lies in both the towns of Chassagne Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet. The towns were formally Chassagne and Puligny and they affixed “Montrachet” to each for prestige purposes. 
The classifications for Burgundy are basically top to entry level: Grand Cru, Premier Cru (1er), Village and Bourgogne. The Grand Cru white wines are six: Montrachet, Batard Montrachet, Criots Batard Montrachet, Chevellier Montrachet, Bienvenue Batard Montrachet, contiguous and then Corton Charlemagne. We drank Premier Cru (1er) from Puligny Montrachet and Chassagne Montrachet. There are many premier Cru white and red wines in each town, as in most of the other towns in the Burgundy region. 
Both areas are the finest for white Burgundy wine. Five of the six Grand Cru white burgundy wines are from these two towns. Puligny is no way a lightweight. Truffière is rare, as the vineyard has less than 1 hectare of vineyards [that's 100m x100m=10,000 square meters, or 2.5 acres]. It’s a very special wine. Bruno Colin is from a family of winemakers many generations in the area.

The wine merchants sometimes say Puligny is for consumers and Chassagne for wine locals but you could argue that all day as they are both the best, just of a different style. I wasn’t referring to those two wines but to the areas.
Alex Gambal and I are partners in the winery in Beaune since 2003. He has come a long way and the wines are now even in Paris restaurants where Jeannie and I are about to go out to dinner.
The next day, Saturday, we were invited to attend classes at Portsmouth. I sat in on a course on American history and was there for the exciting bit when two lanterns were lit in Boston's Old North Church.

That was the signal for Paul Revere and a second rider to set off for Lexington and Concord to alert their militias that the redcoats were coming. The story was well told by the teacher, most of the students were engaged, and I was glad that the history of our country continues to be passed on to a new generation. 

Alice visited two classes and found the teaching of a course on religious history (St. Augustine and the Manichaean heresy) to be exceptionally well explained to students who were moderately engaged, while students in a class on Moby Dick were highly engaged even though (or because?) the teacher was less intensely concerned that the students "get" everything. Two classes, two styles.

We then had a clambake lunch with fine lobsters and other New England specialties. Six of us were snapped after lunch in the photo below.
Six of us at the clambake. L to R: John Tepper Marlin '58, Carlos Cleary (son of
George Cleary '58 who was in Venezuela and unable to obtain a visa to come),
Denis Ambrose '58, Ramon Ferreyros '58, John Hayes '58, and Fred Torphy '58.
Looking back at the 50th Reunion, here are some photos I took of that event (sorry, I didn't put in Guerrero's first name because I wasn't sure whether to use a W or a V; see note following):







Vladimir Guerrero sent a note to me explaining why he was unable to attend the 60th reunion. He said: 
Attached is a picture taken last week of my wife Deirdre and I showing off our culinary skills at a reunion of French and Norwegian friends on the coast. Please give my regards to those present, especially Ramón Ferreyros (the formidable fullback of the undefeated soccer team) and John Hayes (one of the pirates who took the “Ondine” to Providence the night before graduation). I hope you all have a great weekend. – Vladimir (Wlachy)
Here is the photo, much the worse for having been emailed and Screen Shotted:
Deirdre and Wlachy Guerrero, 2018.

THE FIRST-EVER MOVIE | 1889 (October 6)

Thomas Edison examines his film.
EAST HAMPTON, October 6, 2018–It's worth pausing during the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF), taking place October 5-8 this year, to remember the first movie. 

It was 130 years ago today that Thomas Edison showed the first movie, on October 6, 1889.  It was called Monkeyshines No. 1.

It was the first moving picture, although a British photographer eleven years earlier had shown that pictures of a horse viewed in sequence gave the appearance of motion.

For a short film on the beginnings of modern movies, go here: https://bit.ly/2OcEZ7a

Edison's other inventions included the phonograph, the electric light bulb and the electric power industry.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

THE WOODIN CUPS | Where the Trophies Are Now

Alice Tepper Marlin holding the solid-gold
 Woodin Singles Cup with cloth gloves. Photos 
by JT Marlin. Thanks to the ITHF for bringing
out the cups, and permission to photo and post.

NEWPORT, R.I., September 29, 2018 —Yesterday, after lunch at Castle Hill in Newport, Alice and I visited the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) with classmates.

The ITHF led us on a one-hour tour arranged for Portsmouth Abbey School alumni attending our 60th reunion.

The tour was ably led by ITHF docent Liz Morancy, who was a fount of information about tennis history. 

The ITHF wisely encourages photos (how else can people learn what a great place it is to visit?), but does not allow videos, or taking photos with flash.

The Sold-Gold Woodin Cups

By special advance arrangement, after the tour, Alice and I were taken upstairs to the Information Research Center that houses the museum’s library, archives, and staff offices, where Curator of Collections, Nicole Markham showed us the Woodin Gold Cups. These trophies were awarded in 1926-1949 by the Maidstone Club, East Hampton, N.Y., in an annual invitational tournament for women.

The smaller Woodin Doubles Cup is
one of two, each valued in 1926 at
$2,000 ($30,000 today). The larger
Singles Cup may be worth $100,000.
I've been eager to visit the Hall of Fame since 2016, when I first wrote about the Woodin Cups (https://bit.ly/2NPj1qA).
These cups were of enormous significance in making a move toward equalizing the women's tennis tournaments to the men's tournaments in the 1920s and 1930s. They were the only solid-gold cups offered as prizes in any tennis tournament, men's or women's. 

The pineapple-topped Wimbledon gold cups for men, for example, are not solid gold—they are sterling-silver cups with gilding. Women champions are awarded sterling-silver plates that have some gilding.

In the photo that leads off this post, Alice Tepper Marlin shows the gorgeous gold cup with a portrait of William McChesney Martin (ITHF Hall of Fame Class of 1982) in the background.

It is highly appropriate because when cup donor Will Woodin became Secretary of the Treasury in 1933 under FDR, he was also ex officio Chairman of the Federal Reserve System. This was Martin's position (by appointment, not ex officio; the law was changed) when I was an economist at the Fed in Washington in 1964-66.

Martin became Honorary Chairman of the ITHF. He was married to Cynthia, daughter of Dwight Davis, founder of the Davis Cup, which was the first major international tennis cup. Martin was, by the way, the longest-serving Fed Chairman ever (Alan Greenspan is in second place).

Under the challenge-cup terms of the Woodin Cup, it was loaned to the victors for a year. There would be three winners each year, one singles winner and two doubles winners (duh!).


When Childe Hassam was visiting East Hampton,
he made sketches of Helen Wills preparing for
the Woodin Cup play at Maidstone. Source: ITHF.
When it was won three times (by the same two doubles players, in the case of the doubles cup), the cup became the property of the winner. 


The Maidstone Club, through the Woodin Cup, became a major facilitator of gender equality in tennis. The support of the club and its members, who provided lodging and other in-kind assistance to the female tennis players, helped women's tennis attract an audience and therefore enabled the organizational apparatus that made women's tennis a permanent fixture.


Woodin Cup winners who went on to become Grand Slam champions include Alice Marble, Helen Hull Jacobs, Molla Mallory and Helen Wills [later Moody]. All of them are also members of the ITHF. Marble was inducted in 1964; Jacobs in 1962; Mallory in 1958; and Wills in 1959. Jacobs and Wills were fierce opponents, whose games were called "the battle of the Helens".

Helen Wills Sketch, 1924.
Source: ITHF.
Famed artist Childe Hassam made many sketches of Helen Wills Moody. Three of them are in the ITHF. Two of them are shown here.


Spectators were drawn to the sport as the skills of women tennis players grew. The original long-skirted women's tennis outfits, which hampered play and made women’s tennis a slower game, were reduced in length, allowing women greater freedom to run and return the ball. Many of the early outfits used in women's tennis are on display at the International Tennis Hall of Fame; one of them features a tennis costume that looks like a ballet tutu. Helen Wills often wore a knee-length sailor suit. Charlie Chaplin was once asked what the most beautiful thing was that he ever saw. He answered: “The movement of Helen Wills playing tennis.”

End of the Gold Cups

In 1949 Louise Brough won both the Singles and the Doubles cups for the third time (with the same doubles partner, although the partner's name changed with her marriage between the first and second tournaments). 

By the terms of Brough's will, these two Woodin Cups were donated to the Hall of Fame after her death. If the Hall of Fame ever falls on hard times, they might sell one of the cups back to the Maidstone Club (the Woodin Cups are brought out only occasionally for special exhibits).
Helen Wills Sketch, 1926.
Source: ITHF.

After 1949, the gold Woodin Cups were replaced by three silver ones by Will and Nan Woodin's daughter, Anne Woodin Miner. The silver invitational Woodin Cups were presented annually until 1955, with Anne Miner's son Charles (usually called Charlie, like his father) and her daughter-in-law Maisie taking over for her along with their fellow Maidstone member and cousin Anne Gerli. 

Maisie was born Mae Hoffman in Charlotte, North Carolina and grew up in the south until she married Charlie, while he was training at a U.S. Army Air Force base in the south during World War II.

By 1949, an early challenger of the color bar had appeared, Althea Gibson. She was born in Silver, South Carolina, and her family moved to New York City to improve their incomes. Young Gibson became a star table-tennis player and adapted easily from that to win games at the Harlem River Tennis Courts. She started winning the American Tennis Association (for African-Americans excluded from mainstream tennis) tournaments, won a sports scholarship to Florida A&M, and won the ATA women's singles championship every year from 1947 to 1956.

Long before Arthur Ashe came on the scene in men's tennis, Gibson became a leading player. She was the first African-American of either gender to win the women's singles trophy at both the U.S. National Championship, in 1950, and Wimbledon, in 1951. The only comparable U.S. predecessor in breaking through color bar in spectator sports was Jackie Robinson in baseball. 

Given the fact that an uprooted southern lady was by this time closely involved in decisions about the Woodin Cup, it is unsurprising that Gibson was not invited to play at Maidstone all these years. 

The record should show, however, that many members favored inviting her to play and some offered to provide her with a place to stay in their homes. 

The intra-club controversy that came to a head in the mid-1950s over inviting her might have gone in favor of Gibson, were it not for the growing cost to the Maidstone Club of remaining in the fast-growing professional tennis circuit. These costs, along with the unwanted controversy, ended the Maidstone invitational tournament for women. 
International Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee (1973) Althea Gibson. This was a
major hurdling of the spectator-sports color bar, 1951-57. Source: ITHF.













Althea Gibson went on to win the major U.S. and British women's tennis tournaments, but quit tennis for golf in 1957 because she was not earning enough money from her tennis victories to pay her bills. 

Unlike her female opponents, Gibson did not have parents or an independent income to support her. She needed resources that earlier players did not expect to obtain.


Women's Tennis Costumes on Display at the ITHF.
The one in front looks like a ballet dancer's tutu.
That was because women's professional tennis took years to shed the stigma of not being something you expected to pay  to watch and then more years to generate a livelihood for the players.

Spectators were drawn to the sport as the original long-skirted women's tennis outfits were reduced in length (less is more). Many of the bizarre early outfits used in women's tennis are on display at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Gibson's earnings rose when she switched to golf. She won many matches and earned thousands of dollars, but still not enough to live decently year-round. She struggled to make ends meet to the end of her life and her friends periodically took up collections for her.
Our docent  Liz, in front of a case
of ancient cans of tennis balls.

Meanwhile, following the death of Woodin's granddaughter Anne Gerli in 2016, the Maidstone Club reinstituted cups for women's tennis, after a hiatus of six decades! Three new silver cups were donated by Gerli's three daughters for intramural women's tennis at Maidstone (https://bit.ly/2NPj1qA).

Thanks to the ITHF for arranging an exciting visit, especially to our docent Liz.

(The content of this post will be part of a forthcoming biography of William H. Woodin and his family as well as other possible publications. The text and personal photos for the book are copyright © 2013-2018 by John Tepper Marlin. Please respect the rights of the author to the output of the thinking, time, and expense he has devoted to collecting all the material about the Woodin Cup for publication. Please only forward the link to this post and do not cut-and-paste blocks of material, which eliminates the source of the document. Please contact him if you have any wish for more information or would like to distribute this further.)

Friday, September 28, 2018

PORTSMOUTH ABBEY '58 | Day 1, Lunch at Castle Hill Inn

Entrance to the Castle Hill Inn, showing sculpture
and distant boat. Looking out to the Atlantic
Ocean, left. Photo by JT Marlin.
NEWPORT, R.I., September 29, 2018–The Portsmouth Abbey School Class of 1958 (or Portsmouth Priory, as we were known then) has started celebrating its 60th Reunion.

Our classmates this year include one who came from as far away as Peru, just for the event. (Three sets of Peruvian parents got together and decided to send their sons to Portsmouth 65 years ago.)

Within the United States, the classmates have come from Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania.

Yesterday, several of us had lunch together at the Lawn at Castle Hill, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of Narragansett Bay.

This peninsula of Castle Hill went through several metamorphoses:
Castle Hill faces Jamestown's two main
islands.
  • It began as a watch house in 1740 when England declared war on Spain.
  • In 1810 a Spanish brig was wrecked near Castle Hill after a storm.
  • The present house was built in 1874 for the scientist Alexander Agassiz. 
  • Three years later he outfitted the house with an advanced laboratory. This lab was in due course replaced by the lab at Wood's Hole.
  • Agassiz made his fortune turning around a nonperforming copper mine in Michigan, and used $1.5 million of it to fund a Museum at Harvard.
  • Looking across from Castle Hill
    to Jamestown. Photo by JT Marlin.
  • In the hurricane of 1938, Castle Hill became an island. The daughter-in-law of Agassiz panicked about the experience and sold the property.
Thornton Wilder was a frequent guest, who said of the bedroom where he stayed:
"From that magical room I could see at night the beacons of six lighthouses and hear the booming and chiming of as many sea buoys." (Theophilus North, Harper & Row).
Getting a head start on the Portsmouth Reunion, four members of the Class of 1958 and two spouses assembled for lunch at the Castle Hill Inn.

The youngest-looking of the group, Carlos Cleary, is the son of a classmate who could not attend, George Cleary. He is in Venezuela and was unable to leave.

Lunch at the Castle Hill Inn. L to R: Alice Tepper Marlin, John Tepper Marlin,
John Hayes III, Denis Ambrose, Jeanne Geddes, Carlos Cleary.

Later in the afternoon, the group went to for a tour of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

FILM | Hamptons International Film Festival, 5-8 October, 2018

East Hampton, September 23, 2018–Alice and I have signed up to see the following movies at the  Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF), 5-8 October. 

We are posting comments after we see the movies. So far, after seeing seven movies, we like Watergate, The Public, and And Breathe Normally, with 4/5 for each.  We think Ghost Fleet and Wild Nights with Emily are  worthy (3/5), but the biggest winners we think are Capernaum, followed by Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow (both 5/5).

Friday 5 October

11:30 am Watergate, Guild Hall (both of us attended). Program (East Hampton Star), p. 28. One-time special presentation, 4 hours and 20 minutes including a 15-min. intermission. 2018. Director/Screenwriter Charles Ferguson. Interviewees: Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward, John McCain, Dan Rather, Elizabeth Holtzman, et al.
✭✭✭✭ (4/5, two votes) This was a four-hour (plus intermission), worthwhile movie. It is great to have the full record of this harrowing period of American history. I stayed awake through it all, but then I lived through it and knew the characters. As the movie graduates from a film festival's dedicated movie-goers to the broader movie-going public, it may be a challenge for those who know the names of only a a few of the charcaters. It might be cut in half, either by making it into a television mini-series or just chopping half of it and adding some more devices for keeping track of the plot and the characters. There are a hundred characters and we see some of them twice, from contemporaneous clips and then later, commenting on what happened more than 40 years ago. This is like a genealogy that takes us through several generations of intrigues and spans four presidential terms, two of them interrupted – JFK, JFK-LBJ, Nixon I and Nixon II-Ford. It explains well the connections between the Vietnam War moratorium, Watergate break-in, the Pentagon Papers, and other revelations that at first did not appear to relate to one another. It also explains well how Nixon got reelected, even after the Watergate break-in was public knowledge. In comparison with today's presidential crisis, in Nixon's day there was more consensus in Washington about how a President should behave. This movie would have a bigger audience if it was dramatized not just in pieces but the whole way through. Analogies are inescapable to contemporary investigations of White House actions. Charles Ferguson, the Director/Screenwriter, deserves credit for sticking to the actual words from the infamous tapes in his dramatizations. However, it might be hard to use this formula to turn the movie into a fully dramatized production.
5:15 pm The Public, United Artists Cinema, East Hampton, Theater 1 (John). Program, p. 22. East Coast Premiere. 2018. A library prepares to close on a wintry evening and homeless patrons refuse to leave. The police arrive in riot gear along with newspaper reporters. A standoff between haves and have-nots. A microcosm of Now. Director and Screenwriter is Emilio Estevez. Produced by him and three others. Cast includes him, Alec Baldwin, and four other actors. 119 minutes.
✭✭✭✭(4/5 one vote) The Public attempts the impossible, to portray in one Ohio library examples of what is wrong with America, the homelessness, hopelessness, and heedlessness, while offering a neat solution to wrap up the show. The confrontation between police and homeless is broken, not to spoil the ending, by the equivalent of a flower in the gun of the National Guard at Kent State. Good theater, some fine characters. Alec Baldwin makes a contribution to the evolution of the plot largely by being an influential, involved observer who is slow to act. There are a few threads that don't go anywhere but the overall effect is powerful.
6:00 pm Ghost Fleet, UA4 (Alice). Program, p. 44. 2018 documentary on slavery in the Thai fishing industry, featuring sailors who are children indentured for several years at sea. Some escape and are hunted. Human rights activists have sought to rescue them. Directed by Shannon Service and Jeffrey Waldron. 90 minutes.
✭✭✭ (3/5 one vote) Ghost Fleet shows how slavery and indentured servitude persist. Young people who are kidnapped or sold into slavery work on small Asian fishing boats that bring their catch to mother boats that provide them food in return. Some desperate indentured sailors jump off and live in the jungles, but mostly they have no choice. The challenges facing NGOs seeking to rescue them are acute. The people enslaved under horrendous work conditions and beaten mercilessly, often killed, were mostly in their 20s when ensnared. The focus is on heroic rescuers, who win a Nobel Peace Prize. Heartbreaking. Moves slowly, painfully. A fine portrayal of dreadful abuses of human rights; but in its documentary format the movie has trouble keeping the viewer's interest for 90 minutes. Another case where interest in the stories of the individuals in the movie is hard to sustain without more character development.
Saturday 6 October
1:30 pm The Hate U Give, Guild Hall (both of us got tickets and both of us decided not to use them). Program, p. 21. 2018 movie. 16-year-old black teenage girl is torn between middle-class school life and her working-class neighborhood. An encounter with the police forces her to make choices. Directed by George Tillman, Jr. Screenplay by Audrey Wells, based on novel by Angie Thomas. Four producers, six actors. 129 minutes.
(0 votes, Skipped by both of us.) We read some early reviews, which were neither damning nor excited. There are several movies attempting to do what this movie does, and the reviews clearly report that other ones do it better. We decided to save some of our waking hours...
4:30 pm Capernaum, UA2 (Alice). Program, p. 20. US Premiere, Arabic movie, 2018. In Beirut, 12-year-old Zain is abandoned and becomes sole caretaker of an abandoned toddler. In the movie he sues his parents for neglect. Sure to be talked about. Directed by Nadine Labaki, written by her and four other screenwriters. Five non-professional actors. 120 mins.
✭✭✭✭✭(5+/5, one vote). This is the best movie by far of the first four we have seen. It is the story of a young man in a desperately poor Arabic family. His pre-teen sister is being traded by his parents for some chickens so that they can survive on the eggs that the chickens will produce. The son works for money to migrate to Sweden. He is given charge of an infant. The story is billed as entirely true, with real people instead of actors. It reveals the desperations of all sides. Early on, we form critical views of many of the people in the movie. As we learn more, we realize how few choices they have. Evil is just another word for what you have to do to get by. Alice was blown away by this story. It gets every star, and then some. This movie deserves to be a runaway critical and box-office hit. (It is not giving away much of the story to say that the young man at the center of the story has succeeded in emigrating to Sweden.)
Sunday 7 October
10 am Above and Beyond: NASA's Journey to Tomorrow, UA2 (both). Program, p. 35. On the eve of its 60th Anniversary, Academy Award®-nominated director Rory Kennedy charts the history of The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with a look at its myriad contributions to space exploration and its continued work investigating the effects of climate change throughout the world. Touching on both the many epoch-defining moments created throughout NASA’s history and the intensely personal commitment required by the men and women who made them possible, Kennedy has crafted a consistently inspiring tribute to an organization that reminds us of the infinite reach of the human spirit.
✭✭✭✭✭(5/5, two votes). Another winner. The photography is stunning and the fact that some of the footage is moving makes it superior to the various Hubble picture books that are out there. It is not just beautiful but it contains several important messages without being unduly propagandistic:
  • NASA studies the air, land, and water. Its explorations in space have enabled it to improve its measurements to an extraordinary degree of precision and readability.
  • Its observations of planets that have died allows NASA to understand the life cycle of planets using measures such as carbon dioxide.
  • Through its understanding of the stars and planets, it is able to predict the future of the planet earth based on some key indicators such as the death of coral.
  • NASA has used the importance of water for life of any kind to look for hospitable planets, and finds planet earth is special in the Universe as a hospitable place for living creatures.
  • NASA's scientists are deeply concerned about the pace of climate change since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and the rapid increase in carbon dioxide during this period in parts per million (from 275 to 400).
The overall message is that NASA has a lot to say about climate change. While threatened cuts in the budget for NASA have not occurred, expenditures within the agency may be being politicized and the movie is a red flag about what NASA's contribution to the climate-change can be and should be. Rory Kennedy took questions from the audience after the movie. An important cinematic event, which will be broadcast on the Discovery Channel this Saturday, October 13.
4:45 pm Wild Nights with Emily, UA1 (both). Program, p. 49. Literary icon Emily Dickinson (Molly Shannon) breaks free from her public persona as a famously prudish spinster and claims her status as a vibrant lesbian hero. Balancing raucous humor with tender romance, Shannon establishes Dickinson as a spirited artist who drew inspiration from her passionate, lifelong affair with her secret lover, Susan Dickinson (Susan Ziegler). In the delightfully irreverent Wild Nights with Emily, writer/director Madeleine Olnek refreshingly upends the false narratives that have historically dominated the poet’s life and work, and examines the way we as a society choose to write and remember our powerful women. Starring: Molly Shannon, Amy Seimetz, Susan Ziegler, Brett Gelman, Jackie Monahan. Director and Writer: Madeleine Olnek. Length: 84 minutes.
✭✭✭ (3/5 average, two votes, 2/5 from Alice and 4/5 from John). The writer-director, Madeleine Olnek, spoke appealingly at the beginning and end of the movie about the break in the image of Emily Dickinson that her movie represents. But we must assess the movie on its own merits, not what the director said about it. Alice found its opening scene jarring, where Emily and her sister-in-law Susan Dickinson fall into each others' arms behind a sofa; she found a continuing disconnect between Emily Dickinson's sensitive poetry and the movie's slapstick comedy. John doesn't mind the slapstick but thought the evil character of Mabel Loomis Todd was annoyingly overplayed. (The most wholesome character in the movie was the young Emily.) Todd was genuinely committed to promotion of Emily Dickinson's poetry, even if she methodically sought to reduce the importance to the poet of her brother's wife Susan Dickinson by erasing Susan's name from the pencilled poems. The movie gives only back-handed credit to Todd for establishing Emily Dickinson posthumously as a poet of the first rank. The Dickinson Museum presents a more balanced view of Todd. Personally, I think that Mabel Loomis Todd and her Atlantic Monthly friend did make Emily Dickinson more acceptable for the audience of their time. And Madeleine Olnek did the best that she could to spice up Dickinson's life. She would have so much easier a time with Elizabeth Bishop and Edna St Vincent Millay, whose poetry was at least as popular and whose well-known sexual appetites were more consistent with slapstick humor. 
6:30 pm And Breathe Normally, UA3 (both). Program, p. 29. The disparate paths of a struggling Icelandic single mother and an asylum-seeking Guinea-Bissauan woman interweave in Ísold Uggadóttir’s award-winning first feature. Though they are initially divided by political and cultural discord, the two women gradually form an unlikely bond outside of the pre-ordained paths expected from their socio-political realities. Akin to the social-realist work of Ken Loach and the Dardennes Brothers, And Breathe Normally is a sharply observed and unsentimental exploration of the migration crisis, and confirms Uggadóttir’s status as a rising star of Icelandic cinema.
✭✭✭✭ (4/5, two votes) Another uplifting story, about someone regretting that her job as a newbie border officer on probation led her to mess up the life of a women passing through Iceland (not clear to either of us why she was in Iceland; possibly because of a cheap airline ticket). Both of the two mothers in the movie are desperate to get by. Their handling of the young boy and his cat is a study in itself. The border patrol officer pulls off a favor that offsets the misdeed that derails the African woman's life, without any apparent cost to her job. Appealing characters, believable interactions. Well acted. The problem for both of us viewers is that the plot depends on too many coincidences, and as they piled up, our credibility was not just suspended but was attached to a bungee cord. This movie should nonetheless get a following in art theaters and we are likely to see more work from the director.
Monday 8 October
1:30 pm Of Fathers and Sons, UA3 (John). Program, p. 29.
✭✭✭✭ (4/5, one vote) Another worthy movie.