Category Archives: Roger Ebert

the Experiment

Usually, I try to write something comprehensive (and ideally, comprehensible) to post the next morning. I have maybe a half dozen things in draft form, not quite ready to go. So as a one-off experience, I have gotten up at 5:03 a.m., slightly foggy, and will write for 20 minutes, and post whatever at 5:30.
Doing the March Madness thing. For those not familiar, it’s college basketball. I think the idea that, theoretically, ANY ONE of the 65 teams (well, 64 now), can win lends a sense of democracy to the proceedings. I have our local team, Siena, winning their first game, over Purdue, just as they won their first first game the last two years as an underdog. Still haven’t finished my picks, though, tentatively, I have Kansas over Syracuse, west Virginia over Baylor, and because I believe WV got jobbed out of being a #12 seed, WV over Kansas. Anyone who actually FOLLOWS basketball with insights, please comment. SOON.
Gave blood on Tuesday, BP was uncharacteristically high for me. It’s usually 100 to 120; that day, it was 138. What changed has been a habituation to caffeinated cola; I mean one a day, not multiples, but I’ve just stopped. Yesterday about 4:30 pm, I went to the bathroom and threw cold water on my face.
Anyone out there use that free wifi searcher from Makayama? I downloaded it, put it on my thumb drive, but couldn’t get it to work on my laptop at home.
I was checking Dead or Alive this morning.
Knew Peter Graves died. He started on the second season of the show Mission: Impossible, and those two or three seasons with him, Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, were among the best in television. He was also in my top three favorite comedy, Airplane!
Merlin Olson died. I never saw a single fill episode of Little House on the Prairie. I knew him as a football player for the LA Rams, back in the days that Los Angeles actually had a pro football team. I mean besides UCLA and USC.
Caroline McWilliams died last month, which I never noted here. I used to love her in Soap and Benson.
Corey Haim died, and I don’t know that I ever saw him in anything.
Ah, nuts. Time’s up
Roger Ebert on Glenn Beck and Beck’s “I beg you, look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can.”
Bummer: Alex Chilton died at the age of 59.


February Ramblin'

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Roger Ebert’s Last Words, con’t, commenting on the Esquire article (linked) and photo of him. “Resentment is allowing someone to live rent-free in a room in your head.”

How the Somaly Mam Foundation is trying to help end human trafficking

Wayne John tells about the time when a Burger King employee threw a double cheeseburger at him. Lousy aim, too.

Gordon reveals Dymowski and DeNiro – together.

Lady Gaga or Johnny Weir? “Can you tell the difference between the pop princess’ outrageous outfits and the Olympic skating star’s flamboyant costumes without seeing their poker faces?” You Olympics watchers who see figure skating only once every four years have no idea…

Springsteen covers.

And SamuraiFrog has three recent pieces worthy of mention, about Kermit the Frog and friend,Christina Hendricks – no, I’ve never seen Mad Men, either – and a particular Super Bowl ad which also annoyed me. (Should note that, on the latter two pieces, his language is coarser than mine.)

This next section is graphic.

Western New York Legacy web site,, is freely available online, and contains thousands of digital images, documents, letters, maps, books, slides, and other items reflecting the rich cultural heritage of Western New York

Print & Photographs (P&P) online catalog: Some photos copyright free (and some not).

Rose DesRochers – World Outside my Window: Free Cartoons for Your Blog, two examples of which appear in this very post.

Courtesy of Past Expiry Cartoon


R is for Roger

The picture above was taken by my friend the Hoffinator when she was visiting mutual friends in Asheville, NC.

I must admit to loving the name Roger. It’s not too common, not too rare. It’s been on the 1000 most popular male names of babies in the United States ever since the Social Security Administration was able to post records of this, tracking back to 1880. At #463 in 2008, it is actually up five slots from the previous year. Indeed, it was in the Top 100 between 1921 and 1975, hitting its peak of 22 in 1945; I can’t help but think that its popularity came from “Roger that” or “Roger, over and out” from the World War II years.

Here, in roughly chronological order of my awareness, are some of the people named Roger who have been important to me. (All pictures below courtesy of, “for personal non-commercial use only”.

Roger Maris: We’re talking baseball here. In 1961, the New York Yankees’ right fielder Roger Maris and center fielder Mickey Mantle were both pursuing Babe Ruth’s seemingly unbreakable record of 60 home runs set in 1927. The fans seemed OK with Mantle breaking the record; he came up through the Yankees farm system (i.e., minor-league affiliation), but he got injured and ended up with “only” 54 homers that year. Maris, though, was traded to the Yankees from the Kansas City A’s before the 1960 season and wasn’t considered enough of a REAL Yankee, or for that matter, a legitimate star, to break the record. So even before he broke Ruth’s record, the baseball commissioner, Ford Frick, a Ruth worshiper, muddied the waters by suggesting that since the record had been broken in a 162-game season, whereas Ruth played in a 154-game season, it was somehow tainted.
I for one was rooting for Roger – I mean he was a Roger – and he broke the record on the last day of the season.
Picture: September 1961, during that noted season.
Fact: Roger Maris got traded to the St. Cardinals in 1967 and won his third World Series ring that very season.

Roger Miller: One of the very first LPs – LPs being long-playing musical albums, on vinyl – I ever bought was Golden Hits: Roger Miller. It was a fun, country-laden album with hits such as Chug-A-Lug, Dang Me (sample lyrics: “My pappy was a pistol; I’m a son of a gun.” and England Swings, plus the big hit King Of The Road. I bought a subsequent album that included Husbands and Wives, with the lyrics, It’s my belief,
Pride is the chief cause and the decline
in the number of husbands and wives.

Great line, even if it rhymes “pride” and “decline”.
Picture: playing guitar & singing as he sits on couch next to coffee table displaying 5 Grammy awards, at his Hollywood home in 1965.
Fact: Posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1995, three years after he died.

Roger Bannister: The British track star was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. He set the record on May 6, 1954, but I did not become familiar with him until about a decade later. Not only did he break through the time and psychological barrier with a time of 3 min 59.4 sec. then Australian John Landy beat Bannister’s record. Next time Bannister and Landy ran head-to-head, they BOTH broke four minutes, with Bammister winning the race.
Picture: taken May 1951, I don’t know the venue. Perhaps the Penn Relays?
Fact: Bannister became a distinguished neurologist, who retired in 2001.

Roger Chaffee: The Apollo missions, following the successful Mercury (one-man) and Gemini (two-man) flights into space for the United States, were three-man trips designed eventually to get man to the moon. Unfortunately, Roger Chaffee was killed, along with fellow astronauts Gus Grissom and Ed White during a training exercise for the Apollo 1 mission at the Kennedy Space Center, January 27, 1967. I was personally devastated by this and thought the accident would put the kibosh on plans to go to the moon; apparently not.
Picture: taken October 1963
Fact: There’s a Chaffee crater on the dark side of the moon.

Roger McGuinn (center): The leader of the band that, after Bob Dylan “went electric”, popularized folk-rock music with Dylan-penned songs such as Mr. Tambourine Man and All I Really Want To Do, and Pete Seeger’s Turn! Turn! Turn! The Byrds bounced back and forth among genres from psychedelic rock (Eight Miles High) to country (Sweethearts of the Rodeo album), with an ever-changing lineup.
Picture: the original Byrds -(l-r) Mike Clarke, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Gene Clark in 1991.
Fact: The Byrds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in
1991; I’m guessing the picture is from an event associated with the induction.

Roger Mudd: even as a kid, I was a sucker for the news. And mostly it was the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. The weekend anchor and Cronkite’s primary fill-in was Roger Mudd, a solid newsman who reported on everything from the Civil Rights movement, including the historic March on Washington in 1963, to 1971’s the Selling of the Pentagon. He was on the scene when Robert Kennedy was shot in 1968, and his 1979 interview with Ted Kennedy pretty much derailed the Senator’s campaign for the Presidency. Passed over to succeed Cronkite, he moved over to NBC News, then PBS.
Picture: TV image of the CBS newscaster giving analysis of President Nixon’s resignation speech in August 1974.
Fact: Roger is distantly related to Samuel Mudd, the doctor who was imprisoned for aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Roger Daltry: early in my listening to rock and roll, I was familiar with the group The Who and songs such as My Generation, I Can See For Miles and Magic Bus. But it wasn’t until the “rock opera” Tommy, followed by the extraordinary album Who’s Next (Baba O’Riley with the line “teenage wasteland”; Behind Blue Eyes; and Won’t Get Fooled Again) that I started really differentiating the members of the group. The lead singer, with the golden locks, was Roger Daltry.
Picture: from 1991. I SWEAR I owned bolo tie just like this one.
Fact: The Who entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Roger Ebert (center): There was this movie review show on PBS (public television) featuring this skinny guy named Gene Siskel and the more round Roger Ebert who I just loved to watch. Later, they became syndicated and their popularity and influence grew until Gene’s untimely death in 1999. Roger Ebert continued on, eventually pairing with Richard Roeper until mid-2006, when “he suffered post-surgical complications related to thyroid cancer which left him unable to speak,” and lost considerable weight in the process. While he no longer appears on the air, I read his columns regular, now more for his non-movie observations about death and race and politics than for his reviews.
Picture: not described, but the guy on the right is the late Walter Cronkite.
Fact: In June 2005, Roger Ebert was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a first for a critic.

When I was born, my father had told his cousins that he was working on my name, Roger Owen Green, making sure the initials, ROG, could serve as my nickname. As far as I knew, I was not named for anyone. But after my father died in 2000, the family came across a bunch of postcards from a guy named Roger from around 1961, where he worked at a Presbyterian church in New Jersey. They weren’t mailed to our house but to a place called The Interracial Center, 45 Carroll Street, Binghamton, NY, where my father used to volunteer. Very mysterious.


Information QUESTION

I was reading the Wall Street Journal a couple weeks ago, and they reported that betting line and most of the “experts” predicted that Chicago would get the 2016 Olympics; you know how THAT worked out.

My question, then, is: What are your sources of information that you most trust? It might well be different sources for different info.

For instance, I find Advertising Age to be a remarkably good gauge of the fall television season, not so much what will be good as much as what the advertisers will be likely to buy into, which may have to quality. the shows they picked to click (Glee, Modern Family, The Good Wife) showed up on many lists as did their losers (Brothers, the already canceled The Beautiful Life). The point is that, year in and year out, they’ve been reliable.

Bill Flanagan of MTV has an occasional segment on CBS Sunday Morning where he recommends albums. There hasn’t been one I have purchased that I did not enjoy. This includes albums by Lizz Wright, Randy Newman, Mudcrutch, and Levon Helm, plus an album of Nashville blues.

I used to love to watch Roger Ebert with Richard Roeper or the late Gene Siskel, and he, interacting with his cohort, always gave me a good gauge as to whether I would like a movie. I didn’t always like what he liked – he had his blind spots – but I always knew WHY he liked it and it informed my viewing. Actually, now I am more affected by Ebert’s pronouncements on non-movie topics such as alcoholism, death and racism.

When Chicago was up for the Olympics, I had had my doubts about it. So I was happy that Gordon confirmed my feelings; all things Chicago, I tend to listen to Gordon. Likewise, the American expat Arthur’s insights, especially on New Zealand politics, are generally my gauge. And there are a bunch more: Johnny Bacardi on Elton John music, Jaquandor on movie music, etc., etc.

Who are your guides?
My reaction to Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize was epitomized in the title of something on saw at Common Dreams: now earn it!


Macca and Ebert

It’s James Paul McCartney’s 67th birthday.

I continue to like about 50% of Macca’s output. Never really warmed to the Fireman album as I did Chaos and Creation. But I LOVED this bootl unauthorized recording of Paul doing Beatles songs someone sent me. Some are straight covers, but others, notably Yesterday and Hey Jude are just plain goofy; in the former, rabbits are mentioned.

There’s always one story in Beatlefan magazine that I treasure. The March/April 2009 edition is no exception. Bruce Spizer did a tribute to Alan Livingston. Don’t know who he was? He was the one who signed the Beatles to Capitol Records. The bare facts of his life are reflected on the Wikipedia page, but not his personality. As Livingston’s widow recalled, he was the one who recognized the group’s full potential and put the resources of Capitol Records behind the group. Here’s a different, less in-depth Livingston interview. But his career ran from Bozo to Sinatra and from Beatles to Star Wars; he was president of entertainment at 20th Century Fox when the movie was being developed. Livingston died on March 13, 2009 at the age of 91 and without him, you might not have heard of Paul McCartney.

It’s also Roger Joseph Ebert’s 67th birthday. I used to watch Ebert & Roeper religiously, and before that, Siskel & Ebert. Lately, I’ve been more interested in his non-film essays than his reviews. His recent essay about death is a prime example. Always engaging.

Happy birthday, Paul and Roger.

MOVIE REVIEW: Slumdog Millionaire

In keeping with my Washington’s Birthday tradition, I went with my wife to see a movie. I chose Slumdog Millionaire to watch with her because I knew in advance that it would more…intense than she might have thought. As I was discussing on Twitter this week, it was rated R for a reason.

How on earth does a poor young man fare so well on India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”? He must be cheating! But how? The police use “extraordinary” means to find out, only to discover that there’s an explanation for it all, based on an extremely difficult childhood.

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly said: “Slumdog Millionaire is nothing if not an enjoyably far-fetched piece of rags-to-riches wish fulfillment. It’s like the Bollywood version of a Capra fable sprayed with colorful drops of dark-side-of-the-Third-World squalor.” Well, maybe. I know the producers didn’t bill it as such, but as a friend of mine put it, “it took a long time for this ‘feel good’ movie to feel good.”

I think part of the problem was that it took three actors each to play the three main characters and I didn’t always buy the transition from one to the next. One either buys into the sheer level of coincidence or one does not. I guess I never fully engaged enough to buy in. So the “happy ending” seemed less joyous than it should have been; I didn’t feel the payoff. Whether this is a function of the low-key acting styles, especially of Dev Patel, the last lead male, or what, I’m not sure.

This is not that I did not enjoy elements of it. The outhouse scene was memorable. Having had to go to the bathroom while taping a television quiz show, albeit in the United States, I was intrigued by another particular scene. Frankly, I was a bit of a sucker for that original run of Millionaire hosted by Regis Philbin, so I enjoyed the game section on that level. The smelling of a $100 bill will stay with me. The stuff at the Taj Mahal, though, I swear I’ve seen before in some movie or TV show.

My friend David savaged the movie, noting that it was not even the best film made in India last year. He may very well be right, but for the Hollywood community, it’s irrelevant. Hollywood is not savvy to Bollywood cinema.

Ultimately, when I see a movie, I’m ready and willing to suspend my belief that it’s just cimnema and surrender to it; just didn’t happen for me. I didn’t hate the film, and I’m not unhappy that I saw it, but I can’t imagine wanting to see it again.
Remembering Gene Siskel by Roger Ebert. Recommended highly.


EW's Top Films of the Past 25 Years

Tackling Entertainment Weekly’s “new classics. And I’ll agree with many: no Shawshank Redemption?
Won’t comment on films I noted on the AFI list (unless I feel like it).

*I saw it.

*1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03) -saw the first third
*3. Titanic (1997)
4. Blue Velvet (1986)
*5. Toy Story (1995)
6. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
*7. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) – on my top three list of Woody Allen films
8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – I was at my parents’ house. They had HBO. Started watching; bailed.
*9. Die Hard (1988) – good if you like that sort of thing.
*10. Moulin Rouge (2001) – I think I like the effort of the film more than the movie itself. I do have the soundtrack, though.
*11. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) – saw several times in the 1980s, but not at all in years. Seems I recorded off TV; definitely need to see again lest I set the dial to 11.
*12. The Matrix (1999) – saw on commercial TV in the last couple years, which probably didn’t do it justice.
13. GoodFellas (1990) – saw parts of it.
14. Crumb (1995) – had planned to see at the time, but never did.
*15. Edward Scissorhands (1990) – liked it well enough, but seems too high on this list.
*16. Boogie Nights (1997) – I really liked the first part of it, appreciated the middle section, but that part at the end felt so contrived.
*17. Jerry Maguire (1996)
*18. Do the Right Thing (1989) – great, and dare I say, important film.
19. Casino Royale (2006)
*20. The Lion King (1994)
*21. Schindler’s List (1993) – probably should be in the Top 10.
22. Rushmore (1998) – keep meaning to see.
23. Memento (2001) – ditto.
*24. A Room With a View (1986) – I’ve seen a lot of Merchant/Ivory films, and this is clearly the best.
*25. Shrek (2001)
*26. Hoop Dreams (1994) – Roger Ebert is right. Devastating, yet oddly hopeful.
27. Aliens (1986)
28. Wings of Desire (1988)
29. The Bourne Supremacy (2004) – never seen a Bourne film in its entirety.
*30. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
*31. Brokeback Mountain (2005) – I said it before – that stuff on the mountain was boring. Much more interesting after that point. I’m talking about the ranching stuff.
32. Fight Club (1999)
*33. The Breakfast Club (1985) – I saw a bunch of Hughes films in a short period, and they all blend together in my mind.
*34. Fargo (1996) – on the strength of McDormand and Macy’s performances, a winner.
*35. The Incredibles (2004) – this was on NBC in the past year, and it was unwatchable to me. The commercials ruined any rhythm I got from seeing it in the theater. Still, my father-in-law stayed with it and appreciated its charms; I was too impatient. Such great social satire!
*36. Spider-Man 2 (2004) – a great superhero movie.
*37. Pretty Woman (1990) – stood in a long line at the Madison Theater in Albany to see it. I liked it just fine. Not great “cinema”.
*38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – said before, but bears repeating. Watched this on video, but was too tired to finish. Got up in the morning, finished watching it. A terrible way to see a film. Yet I LOVED it. As someone said, “A very, very sweet movie masquerading as something else.”
*39. The Sixth Sense (1999) – Soylent Green is…no wait, wrong film. No, I didn’t know the big reveal, and I’d like to see again, now that I do now.
*40. Speed (1994) – the first movie Carol and I saw together. Trashy fun.
41. Dazed and Confused (1993)- must see.
*42. Clueless (1995) – pleasant enough.
43. Gladiator (2000)
*44. The Player (1992) – loved it at the time, but now, except for the ending, fading from memory.
*45. Rain Man (1988) – Tom Cruise is amazingly good in this movie in a thankless role against the Hoffman performance. Own the soundtrack; like the soundtrack a lot.
46. Children of Men (2006)
*47. Men in Black (1997) – saw it, didn’t hate it, but wouldn’t bother watching again.
48. Scarface (1983)
*49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) – this Ang Lee film was amazing.
*50. The Piano (1993) – was quite impressed at the time, yet this movie is also fading from memory.
51. There Will Be Blood (2007) – people are appalled that I actually watched the last 10 minutes of this; someone on my blogroll posted it from YouTube. It’ll be years before i see it, and it’ll have faded.
*52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988) – VERY funny.
*53. The Truman Show (1998) – I adore this film.
54. Fatal Attraction (1987)
*55. Risky Business (1983) – it’s fine, but it didn’t move me as much as it did my wife and many others.
56. The Lives of Others (2006) -wanted to see this.
57. There’s Something About Mary (1998)
*58. Ghostbusters (1984) – quite excellent. Based in a library, which is always a plus. And fun video for the title song, put together so quickly that Ray Parker, Jr. didn’t know it was out until a friend told him how great it was.
*59. L.A. Confidential (1997) – saw Washington’s Birthday weekend 1998 along with The Queen at Crossgates Mall, one of the last times I was there. It really worked for me.
60. Scream (1996)
*61. Beverly Hills Cop (1984) – fine, but probably not worthy of inclusion on the list.
*62. sex, lies and videotape (1989) – along with Do the Eight Thing, my favorite film of that year.
*63. Big (1988)
64. No Country For Old Men (2007)
*65. Dirty Dancing (1987) – it was OK, but not worthy of inclusion on this list.
66. Natural Born Killers (1994)
67. Donnie Brasco (1997)
*68. Witness (1985) – probably my favorite Harrison Ford performance.
*69. All About My Mother (1999) – liked it.
*70. Broadcast News (1987) – worth it just for Albert Brooks.
*71. Unforgiven (1992)
*72. Thelma & Louise (1991)
73. Office Space (1999) – I NEED to see this film; my co-workers reference it too often.
74. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
*75. Out of Africa (1985) – bored me silly.
76. The Departed (2006)
77. Sid and Nancy (1986)
*78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
*79. Waiting for Guffman (1996) – like this movie a lot, love the ensemble in just about everything they’ve done.
80. Michael Clayton (2007)
*81. Moonstruck (1987) – THAT’S amore.
*82. Lost in Translation (2003) – never warmed to this film.
83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
*84. Sideways (2004) – great performances.
*85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005) – my wife was really hesitant to see this, as she thought it’d be stupid. So it ended up being astonishingly good, and should be ranked much higher.
*86. Y Tu Mamá También (2002) – it was pretty good, but didn’t love it.
87. Swingers (1996)
88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
89. Breaking the Waves (1996)
90. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
*91. Back to the Future (1985)
92. Menace II Society (1993)
93. Ed Wood (1994)
94. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
95. In the Mood for Love (2001)
96. Far From Heaven (2002) – I had forgotten about this movie which was quite fine when I saw it in the theater.
*97. Glory (1989) – there’s a scene with Denzel that pains me just thinking about it. Have on video, have the soundtrack.
*98. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) – clever enough, but I don’t think it has legs.
99. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)
Roger Ebert writes The Balcony Is_Closed. Made me sad. Hope he comes back in a different format, if his health allows.


Snyder, Bergman Pass; Ebert Returns

I read that Tom Snyder was a television pioneer, spending a hour with a single guest. I guess he was sort of the spiritual godfather to Charlie Rose, Ted Koppel, Tavis Smiley and a host of others who seem to value the power of the long form. All I know is that I watched him often in his first incarnation (1972-1982), “Tomorrow with Tom Snyder”, pretty much until Rona Barrett showed up as a co-host near the end. I’m sure I watched the John Lennon and Charles Manson pieces. People who only know him from Dan Ackroyd’s wicked parody on Saturday Night Live missed how well he could seem very laid back and yet was probing without necessarily feeling confrontational. He was replaced by some guy named David Letterman, who later got Snyder to follow HIS show on CBS. So I guess I’ll “fire up a colortini, sit back, relax and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air.”
Tom Snyder’s Greatest Hits:

Also, see ADD’s personal recollections and Fred Hembeck’s July 30 post.
I’ve only seen a handful of Ingmar Bergman films that I recall: Fanny and Alexander (1982); A Little Night Music (1978); The Magic Flute (1975); The Virgin Spring (1960); and Wild Strawberries (1957); the latter two I saw in a museum theater when I was in high school. I think Strawberries, in particular, was important to me personally at that time; the message was that I needed to fight against what one reviewer described as “how life can become atrophied and sterile”.

But my favorite Bergman film, not so caught up in life and death and sex, was The Magic Flute, which put me THERE inside the gorgeous performance. Here’s a blog that has compiled some of Bergman’s best scenes.
I was really excited to see on Ebert & Roeper that starting Thursday, August 2, there will be 20 years and over 4,000 video reviews from Siskel & Ebert and Ebert & Roeper, searchable by title, actor and director, including special segments, at the At The Movies site. Moreover, Roger Ebert will introduce the archive and hold a live online chat about the site and “whatever other questions you want to ask” that evening at 8 pm Eastern (7 pm Central, 5 pm Pacific). I expect that it’ll be a very busy, and I may not participate, but the database is very exciting. Roeper and guest host Michael Phillips thought the fashion statements alone would be worth checking out.


One Nation Under God

On vacation, I was reading an old Newsweek from early May. The cover story was about military chaplains, and how they balance serving God in a time of war. I thought the Editor’s Desk piece by Jon Meacham, who has a background covering religious issues, was particularly interesting:

Historically, the most fervent of believers have often been the most bloodthirsty of warriors. [The Newsweek writers] note that religion can be a dangerous element in the lives of nations. From Saint Augustine to Shakespeare to Lincoln, some of history’s most searching thinkers and politicians have wrestled with the question of God and war, of how we can know for certain that the blood we are spilling is being shed in a just cause.

Which brings me to our national anthem. One of the verses of the Star-Spangled Banner that has long brought me pause is the fourth and final verse. (I know by heart the first and the last; the second and third in part.) It goes:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation,
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our Trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Again from Newsweek’s Meacham:

How can we tell when religion is playing too great a role in our politics, or in the decisions made by our leaders? Lincoln offers a useful test… He prayed…that he might see “the right as God gives to see the right”…He resisted seeing any political course of action as divinely ordained…Are [current and future leaders] curious and probing, believing, as Lincoln did, that “probably it is to be my lot to go on in a twilight, feeling and reasoning my way through life, as questioning, doubting Thomas did?”

Perhaps it is that discomfort, that questioning, that Abraham Lincoln felt in the midst of war that we ought to embrace. It is that thoughtfulness, that wariness, I believe, that best serves God and country.
Roger Ebert remembers his friend, and fellow movie critic, the late Joel Siegel


Macca and Ebert

Paul McCartney, star of that new iTunes commercial for “Dance Tonight”, turns 65 today, so I’ve been thinking for a couple years, ever since I saw Johnny B. do it, that I should come up with a list of my favorite post-Beatles McCartney songs. This is a little trickier than to make a list of, say, my favorite Beatles songs, for there are huge gaps in my 1980s and 1990s collection. I’ve never owned, and don’t really know, Pipes of Peace, Press to Play, or Broad Street. That said:

1. MAYBE I’M AMAZED from McCartney. I heard Paul was going to be on Ed Sullivan. I was disappointed that it was just a video, but not in the song.
2. MY BRAVE FACE from Flowers in the Dirt. I recall that it was Elvis Costello who encouraged Macca to play the bass like Beatle Paul.
3. JET from Band on the Run. A rollicking good time. Love the bridge.
4. WHAT’S THAT YOU’RE DOIN’ from Tug of War. Admittedly, more for Stevie Wonder, whose output in the early 1980s was, let’s say, less interesting to me – “I Just Called to Say I Love You”, anyone? – but also pointed out Paul’s funky side that I loved in “Got To Get You Into My Life” and “Lady Madonna”. BTW, that OTHER McCartney/Wonder song is also on that album, but not on this list.
5. HI,HI,HI, a 1972 single. Goofy song that I loved in part because so many people got bent out of shape over it (“high, high, high”).
6. FLAMING PIE from Flaming Pie. Describing a piece of John Lennon’s early 1960s witticisms.
7. OO YOU from McCartney. Sparse but rocking tune. Love the vocal.
8. LOOKING FOR CHANGES from Off the Ground. This is his rant about saving the animals from testing. I like that:
“I Saw A Cat With A Machine In His Brain
The Man Who Fed Him Said He Didn’t Feel Any Pain
I’d Like To See That Man Take Out That Machine And Stick It In His Own Brain
You Know What I Mean”
9. BAND ON THE RUN from Band on the Run. Anthemic.
10. WE GOT MARRIED from Flowers in the Dirt. In a minor key, it’s a wonderful juxtaposition between the optimism of the lyric and the moodiness of the melody.

If I were to pick my next ten, there would be several from that first album, a few singles, and maybe JENNY WREN from Chaos and Creation.
I should also note that Roger Ebert also turns 65 today. He has long been my favorite movie critic, not because his name is Roger (though that doesn’t hurt), and not because I always agree with him, but because he’s so aware and honest with his personal biases that I usually know that I’ll like a movie he disliked and vice versa. He’s been having some medical issues over the past couple years, but appears to be on the mend.