Saturday, December 26, 2009

Brother Report: Nice Article About Renovation Project

There's a nice article in today's News-Gazette about the work my brother, Dannie, has done on their house. The print edition has some additional pictures.

Annual Book and Movie Ratings

Although the end of the year is still a few days away, I'm going to go ahead and list my annual book and movie ratings. I don't expect to finish any more books by the end of the year and I may still see another movie or two, but I'll just include them in 2010. The ratings are based on five stars being the highest. The books are ones I have read or listened to this year, some of them for the second or third time. I read (or listened to) a record number of books this year, 67, up from last year's record of 61. Twenty-one were non-fiction; 46 were fiction.

Some of the books were short, but there were also some long ones, topped by Part II of The Man Without Qualities, by Robert Musil, which came in at 1,067 pages. (That's a book that is probably deep, but it is so deep that I don't know it's deep.) I think the reason for my increasing number of books is that I watched practically no television last year. I have to watch The Office, but that's about it, except for a few Illinois football and basketball games. My number will probably go down in 2010, as we just signed up for AT&T's UVerse package, which includes telephone, internet and 200 cable channels. With that many channels, there must be some television worth watching, although I'm not holding my breath.

My book of the year is Saturday, by Ian McEwan.


Five Stars

Political Fictions, Joan Didion
Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver
Rabbit Run, John Updike
Saturday, Ian McEwan
Indignation, Philip Roth
Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
Road Dogs, Elmore Leonard
I Married A Communist, Philip Roth
Fine Just Like It Is: Short Stories, Annie Proulx
Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
The Omnivore's Dilemna, Michael Pollan
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
The Age of Lincoln, Orville Vernon Burton
Fire In The Blood, Irene Nemirovsky
The Nine, Jeffrey Toobin
All The King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
Terrorist, John Updike
Homeland And Other Stories, Barbara Kingsolver
Zeitoun, Dave Eggers
The Stranger, Albert Camus
Short Stories of John Cheever, John Cheever

Four Stars

After Henry, Joan Didion
The Plague of Doves, Louise Erdrich
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Burbery
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Descartes' Bones, Russell Shorto
Naked, David Sedaris
The Financier, Theodore Dreiser
Where The Roots Reach For Water, Jeffrey Smith
The Source, James Michener
Soldiers' Pay, William Faulkner
In The Company of Cheerful Ladies, Alexander McCall Smith
The Sound and The Fury, William Faulkner
Babylon Revisited, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Summons, John Grisham
Oh, What A Slaughter, Larry McMurtry
Taft, Ann Patchett
The Power of Now, Eckhardt Tolle
The Space Between Us, Thrity Umrigar
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See
Too Politically Sensitive, Michale Callaghan
Tender At The Bone, Ruth Reichl
A Gate At The Stairs, Lorrie Moore
The Humbling, Philip Roth
Up In Honey's Room, Elmore Leonard

Three Stars

The Nanny Diaries, Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Rabbit Redux, John Updike
Where I Was From, Joan Didion
Mosquitos, William Faulkner
Flags In The Dust, William Faulkner
Mummy, Daniel Curley
The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs, Alexander McCall Smith
44 Stockholm Street, Alexander McCall Smith
His Excellency: George Washington, Joseph Ellis
Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
The Villa of Reduced Circumstances, Alexander McCall Smith
The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday, Alexander McCall Smith
Three Cups of Tea, Craig Mortensen
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon
The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil
Rhino Ranch, Larry McMurtry

Two Stars

The Noonday Demon, Andrew Solomon
Beethoven, Edmund Morris
Slowly Down The Ganges, Eric Newby
Sounding, Hank Searls
Leave Me Alone I'm Reading, Maureen Corrigan

One Star

Haven, Iodine Kimmel


I saw 42 movies year in theaters, down a few from the 44 I saw in 2008. I saw a few movies on DVD, but I don't count those because that's not the real movie experience.

Five Stars Plus

The Reader

Five Stars

Gran Torino
My Winnipeg
Begging Naked
Frozen River
An Education
A Serious Man

Four Stars

The Class
Sunshine Cleaning
The Last Command
The Fall
Sita Sings The Blue
Good Bye Solo
The Hangover
Away We Go
Julie and Julia
The Informant
The Bicycle Thief

Three Stars

Trouble The Water
Let The Right One In
The Soloist
Easy Virtue
Whatever Works
Public Enemies
The Ugly Truth
Food, Inc
Cold Souls

Two Stars

Nothing But The Truth
Year One
Pirate Radio

One Star

Night At The Museum II

Friday, December 25, 2009

JACK Report: LA Times Says Watch Them in 2010

Not that I needed any encouragement, but I will certainly follow the advice of the LA Times which says the JACK Quartet is one of the "faces to watch in 2010." The Quartet makes its LA debut in April, playing an absolutely astounding piece in total darkness. We heard them play it, the "String Quartet No. 3, In iij Noct," by Georg Fredrich Haas, in Chicago. Even the exit light bulbs had been removed, and the audience sat in the middle, with the chairs turned higgly-piggly, every which way, in the middle of the room, with the quartet players stationed at each corner. It was almost an hallucinogenic experience. Unlike some new music, this was very listenable.

Monday, December 21, 2009

How Far She Has Come

Way back in 1985 or so, little Allison Krause, then 14, beat my 8-year-old son, Jeremy, in a fiddling contest at the Champaign County Fair. With that as her springboard, has come all kinds of success -- more Grammys than any other artist of her genre; gigs playing with Yo-Yo Ma and other celebrity musicians. If Jeremy had just practiced a little more.

(A hat tip to my friend, Catch Her in the Wry, for the link.)

Friday, December 04, 2009


I'm not usually a cusser. (Full disclosure: I have been known to use a common vulgarism for excrement when I hit or pinched a finger, dropped a glass or spilled my tea, but that doesn't really count as cussing.) Yesterday morning, I came in to work, looked at a fax that had come in overnight and cussed. WTF!!!! Only I didn't use the initials.

What caused me to cuss was a fax from Newt Gingrich's organization, "American Solutions for Winning the Future," addressed to "John." The first sentence was as follows: "Thanks to the help of business leaders across the country Newt has begun to get our message across that the Obama Administration is bad for America and bad for businesses like yours." What?? "OUR message?" As Tonto said to the Lone Ranger when the they were surrounded by Indians and the Lone Ranger said, "We have to do something," "What do you mean, 'WE, keemo sabe?'" The Obama Administration is bad for MY business? MY business is suing people. So what bad thing have they done for MY business?

The fax goes on to say, "I hope you don't mind but I went ahead and personally recommended you to Newt to become a member of his high level, 'Jobs and Prosperity Task Force.' This is Newt's group of top advisers from the Business community and I think you would be a terrific addition to the group!" So, you hope I don't mind that you personally recommended me to Newt. Yeah, right, dipshit. I mind and you better personally tell Newt, that Crockhead is pissed!

That wasn't even the worst part. The fax goes on to say,
"We would like to send out the attached Press Release to your local paper announcing your appointment and run a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal with your name in it endorsing our 'Jobs Here, Jobs Now, Jobs First Campaign,' which includes a complete abolishment of the 'Death Tax'."

What??? A press release announcing my appointment? Even our local Republican rag would use such a press release for toilet paper. (Well, actually they wouldn't because it would clog up the sewer, but you get the point.) Endorsing the complete abolishment of the "Death Tax?" For your information, ass wipe,the so-called "Death Tax" only applies to estates larger than 3.5 million dollars in 2009, and Congress is in the process of passing legislation to extend that exemption indefinitely. So, exactly how is it that letting people who inherit (not work for, but INHERIT) 3.5 million dollars not pay any taxes on it, help create jobs? The same way the Bush tax cuts for the rich created jobs?

My son, who is working two jobs to keep himself and his wife clothed, sheltered and fed and can't afford health insurance, has to pay taxes on what he EARNS. So, why should heirs who do nothing but exist,have their multi-million dollars be exempt from taxes? And, how exactly does that create jobs? The same way that the Bush Administration's tax cuts for the wealthy created jobs? How stupid do you think the American people are? (On second thought, don't answer that question.)

The last page in the fax was a mock-up of the full page Wall Street Journal advertisement with my name at the top of the list of "business leaders." I called the number in Washington (1-866-716-3386, if you want to personally tell Newt Gingrich what you think of him) and demanded to speak to the person who had sent me the letter. "He is busy," the telephone operator said. "Please, personally give Newt this message from his friend, John," I said (actually, I wish I had said, but everything else in this post is true:)
"Newt, you swine. You vulgar little maggot. You worthless bag of filth. As they say in Texas. I'll bet you couldn't pour piss out of a boot with instructions on the heel. You are a canker. A sore that won't go away.
You are a putrescent mass, a walking vomit. You are a spineless little worm deserving nothing but the profoundest contempt. You are a jerk, a cad, a weasel. Your life is a monument to stupidity. You are a stench, a revulsion, a big suck on a sour lemon.

"You are a bleating foal, a curdled staggering mutant dwarf smeared richly with the effluvia and offal accompanying your alleged birth into this world. An insensate, blinking calf, meaningful to nobody, abandoned by the puke-drooling, giggling beasts who sired you and then killed themselves in recognition of what they had done.

"I will never get over the embarrassment of belonging to the same species as you. You are a monster, an ogre, a malformity. I barf at the very thought of you. You have all the appeal of a paper cut. Lepers avoid you. You are vile, worthless, less than nothing. You are a weed, a fungus, the dregs of this earth. And did I mention you smell?

"You snail-skulled little rabbit. Would that a hawk pick you up, drive its beak into your brain, and upon finding it rancid set you loose to fly briefly before pattering the ocean rocks with the frothy pink shame of your ignoble blood. May you choke on the queasy, convulsing nausea of your own trite, foolish beliefs.

"You are weary, stale, flat and unprofitable. You are grimy, squalid, nasty and profane. You are foul and disgusting. You're a fool, an ignoramus. Monkeys look down on you. Even sheep won't have sex with you. You are unreservedly pathetic, starved for attention, and lost in a land that reality forgot.

"And what meaning do you expect your delusionally self-important statements of unknowing, inexperienced opinion to have with me? What fantasy do you hold that you would believe that your tiny-fisted tantrums would have more weight than that of a leprous desert rat, spinning rabidly in a circle, waiting for the bite of the snake? You are a waste of flesh. You have no rhythm. You are ridiculous and obnoxious. You are the moral equivalent of a leech. You are a living emptiness, a meaningless void. You are sour and senile. You are a disease, you puerile one-handed slack-jawed drooling meatslapper.

"On a good day you're a half-wit. You remind me of drool. You are deficient in all that lends character. You have the personality of wallpaper. You are dank and filthy. You are asinine and benighted. You are the source of all unpleasantness. You spread misery and sorrow wherever you go.

"You smarmy lagerlout git. You bloody woofter sod. Bugger off, pillock. You grotty wanking oik artless base-court apple-john. You clouted boggish foot-licking twit. You dankish clack-dish plonker. You gormless crook-pated tosser. You churlish oil-brained clotpole ponce. You cockered bum-bailey poofter. You craven dewberry pisshead cockup pratting naff. You gob-kissing gleeking flap-mouthed coxcomb. You dread-bolted fobbing beef-witted clapper-clawed flirt-gill.

"You are a fiend and a coward, and you have bad breath. You are degenerate, noxious and depraved. I feel debased just for knowing you exist. I despise everything about you, and I wish you would go away. I cannot believe how incredibly stupid you are. I mean rock-hard stupid. Dehydrated-rock-hard stupid. Stupid so stupid that it goes way beyond the stupid we know into a whole different dimension of stupid. You are trans-stupid stupid. Meta-stupid. Stupid collapsed on itself so far that even the neutrons have collapsed. Stupid gotten so dense that no intellect can escape. Singularity stupid. Blazing hot mid-day sun on Mercury stupid. You emit more stupid in one second than our entire galaxy emits in a year. Quasar stupid. Your writing has to be a troll. Nothing in our universe can really be this stupid. Perhaps this is some primordial fragment from the original big bang of stupid. Some pure essence of a stupid so uncontaminated by anything else as to be beyond the laws of physics that we know. I'm sorry. I can't go on.This is an epiphany of stupid for me. After this, you my not hear from me again for a while. I don't have enough strength left to deride your half baked comments about unimportant trivia, or any of the rest of this drivel. Duh.

"The only thing worse than your logic is your manners. Maybe later in life, after you have learned to read, write, spell, and count, you will have more success. True, these are rudimentary skills that many of us "normal" people take for granted that everyone has an easy time of mastering. But we sometimes forget that there are "challenged" persons in this world who find these things more difficult. If I had known, that this was your case then I would have never read your fax. It just couldn't have been "right". Sort of like parking in a handicap space. I wish you the best of luck in the emotional, and social struggles that seem to be placing such a demand on you.

"You are hypocritical, greedy, violent, malevolent, vengeful, cowardly, deadly, mendacious, meretricious, loathsome, despicable, belligerent,opportunistic, barratrous, contemptible, criminal, fascistic, bigoted, racist, sexist, avaricious, tasteless, idiotic, brain-damaged, imbecilic,insane, arrogant, deceitful, demented, lame, self-righteous, byzantine,conspiratorial, satanic, fraudulent, libelous, bilious, splenetic, spastic, ignorant, clueless, illegitimate, harmful, destructive, dumb, evasive, double-talking, devious, revisionist, narrow, manipulative,
paternalistic, fundamentalist, dogmatic, idolatrous, unethical, cultic, diseased, suppressive, controlling, restrictive, malignant, deceptive, dim, crazy, weird, dystopic, stifling, uncaring, plantigrade, grim, unsympathetic, jargon-spouting, censorious, secretive, aggressive, mind-numbing, arassive, poisonous, flagrant, self-destructive, abusive, socially-retarded, puerile, clueless, and generally Not Good.

"In other words, go away."

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Jon Stewart: An Antidote For The Craziness

Jon Stewart is an absolute genius. Even if you're drinking the kool-aid being handed out these days by Republican wackos like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Baughman, Sarah Palin and the whole Fox News network, this has to make you laugh.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The 11/3 Project
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Block That Hyperbole!

I really am not in a foul mood this morning. But something about a letter to the editor in this morning's local newspaper struck me as ironic, if not just plain weird. The letter writer writes that she accidently left her purse in a cart at a Wal-Mart last week. A Good Samaritan found the purse and arranged for its return with nothing missing. She goes on to say, "My faith in humanity is restored thanks to this kind person."

Really?? That's all it took? She now has faith in all of humanity, including the Cheney family, Al-Queda, Barry Manilow and Paris Hilton? For a purse and its contents? Wow! Makes me wonder what would have happened if someone had found and returned something really valuable like a diamond ring.

Sorry I'm so cynical. I'll get off my duff and go to the Farmer's Market. Maybe some fresh vegetables will restore my faith in humanity

Will The Stupidity Never End?

I have long ago stopped being surprised at the latest developments in Bush/Cheney perfidy. So, why should I be outraged at the latest Cheney lie? I don't know, I just am.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Movie Report: The Informant

I was interested in seeing The Informant, Steven Soderbergh's new movie with Matt Damon for several reasons. The events it depicts, the whistle-blowing scandal of Mark Whitacre at the giant food processor, Archer Daniel Midland, located in Decatur, just 30 miles west from here, were familiar to me as an avid newspaper consumer. I have a soft spot for whistle blowers, having represented several of them in the course of my work as a lawyer, and I know how difficult life can be for them.

Whistle blowers, almost by definition, are misfits, odd ducks who do not fit in to standard corporate culture. The people who fit in do not blow whistles because they are too comfortable. Whitacre was the archtypical whistle blower, a brilliant scientist, a congenital liar whose motives for blowing the whistle on ADM were so mixed with self-interest that they were impossible to sort out.

It turns out Whitacre was stealing from ADM, how much even he couldn't keep straight. In the middle of his lies, he wound up turning in ADM for price fixing and courageously wearing a wire at work to get the evidence. But, ironically, Whitacre was sentenced to more time in prison for his larceny of millions than the top ADM executives ever served for their stealing of billions from American consumers through price fixing.

Steven Soderbergh, the director of The Informant, made the iconic whistle blower movie with Erin Brokovich in 2000. In many ways, The Informant is better than Brokovich in that it paints the various protagonists in more realistic shades of gray, than the black and white of a righteous woman up against a corrupt corporation. For the same reason, the movie is less satisfying. There is less emotional release when the movie does not delineate who the good guys and the bad guys are and it is less certain that good prevailed in the end.

As good as Damon is, however, I would always rather watch Julia Roberts with her perky good looks and push up bra, so between the two Soderbergh whistle-blowing movies, I would have to rate Brokovich higher. Not to mention that the whistle-blower's lawyer comes off much better in Brokovich than the doofus from Taylorville in Informant.

I gave the movie four stars out of a possible five, meaning it is above average, but not brilliant.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Keep Him Away From My Funeral

Okay, it's time to blog again. (Don't complain about the long absence, just be thankful for what you get.)

Today, I went to the funeral of an uncle by marriage. The uncle who preached the funeral sermon was another uncle, a brother-in-law of the uncle who died. He started out by saying that M. had a gift for spotting other people's faults and pointing them out to them -- in love. Sheesh. I thought a funeral was when you said good things about people.

Reminds me of a funeral of an old family friend I went to in that same church a few years ago. The minister, who was rather far from being a gifted speaker, said that you're supposed to say something good about the deceased, and he had thought and thought and thought and then came up with this idea. Old A. was known for driving very slowly down the highway on his way to the coffee shop in town, with his car half on the shoulder and half on the highway, while a big line up of traffic crawled along behind him. And that just made the minister realize that we should all take a lesson from that and slow down in life.

With love like that, who needs hate?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Wonderful Wedding Weekend

I don't think I've mentioned it on this blog before, but Son Number Two got married this past weekend on Long Island in New York. It was a wonderful wedding and we had a great time partying at a rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception. The ceremony and reception were held in the back yard of the Bride's uncle. Here are some pictures:

Friday, August 07, 2009

But Now Everything Is Fine

So, I'm in Portland, Oregon, now with my friends from 45 years ago. Everything is beautiful. Here are pictures of Marv and Carlene's house and gardens. Later today we're going to take a trip to the Pacific coast.

Another Humorless Rant

Anyone who thinks that the private sector is always better at running things than the government should try to take a plane trip.

Last week, Son Number Two and his fiance were going to join us in a family vacation for a few days in Pentwater, MI. I arranged for them to fly out of LaGuardia in NYC early in the morning on Thursday, get to Pentwater about noon, and then they would have two and one-half days with us before flying back to New York on Sunday morning. The plane was to leave at 6:00 a.m. and it takes them an hour to get to the airport, so they had to get up at 3:00 a.m. in order to get to the airport an hour ahead of departure, like you have to do these days. Delta had their telephone number to let them know of any last-minute changes. So, what happens, they get to the airport only to find out the flight has been canceled because of mechanical problems (the weather was fine.) Another flight was canceled too, and the passengers for both flights had to go to the same single window to get rebooked. They wound up waiting two hours to get their new flight information. Their plane finally did leave late that evening, about half an hour after the scheduled time, and they got into Grand Rapids at midnight, so the first half day of the two and one half days was gone.

Yesterday, I flew from Chicago to Portland, with a connecting flight at Salt Lake City. We were scheduled to leave at 5:20 p.m. The pilot made an announcement 10 minutes before departure time telling us that we were going to be leaving on time and that the plane was full, so people with two carry-on pieces of luggage should stow one under the seat and one in the overhead bin so there would be room for everyone's luggage. About 10 minutes after we were supposed to have left, the pilot came back on the intercom to tell us that the plane was overloaded because more people showed up than expected (remember just 20 minutes earlier he had told us the plane was full) so they needed 18 volunteers to get off in exchange for $600 in Delta money and accommodations for the night. Lights went on all over the plane as people jumped to volunteer. About 10 minutes later, they told us they had enough volunteers and as soon as the paperwork was processed, we would take off.

After another 15 minutes, we were told they were still processing the paper work, and as soon as it was done, we would be leaving. After another 15 minutes, the pilot was back to tell us they had decided that nobody needed to get off after all because they would take off in the opposite direction than usual on the runway. They hoped the extra wind speed would enable us to get off the ground. They HOPED? Let me off!!! I'll walk to Portland.

The long and short of it is that we did take off and got to Salt Lake City more than an hour late, which would have been too late for the connecting flight, had Delta not graciously decided to keep that plane on the ground until we got there. So, those people weren't too happy to see us, even though I was happy to see them.

This is no way to run a business -- any business.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Remember Me?

I promised a friend I would start blogging again, so here goes. Don't ask me why I stopped writing at the end of May, I just did. It didn't seem like I had anything new, creative or interesting to post. It still doesn't. But, I need to write, so I'll just post boring stuff until my creative juices get flowing again.

Right now, I'm waiting at Midway Airport in Chicago for my flight to Portland, Oregon, by way of Salt Lake City. They have rocking chairs in the concourse C waiting area. Fantastic!

Last week, we were in Pentwater, MI with The Wife's family. We had a good time. The sunsets and weather were spectacular as usual.

Next week, Sun Number Two gets married on Long Island, NY. That will be exciting. I will get back from Portland on Sunday night, work two days and then head off to NYC on Wednesday, back the following Monday. The Wife's school starts the day after we get back, so she's skipping the trip to Portland.

Okay, I kept my promise; I posted. I'll try to make it interesting next time.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jimmy Johns Thinks I'm Too Serious

Two posts below, on May 15, I went on a mini-rant about the Jimmy Johns commercial depicting hostages calling for Jimmy Johns sandwiches, while cowering under furniture in what turns out to be a bank, not a school, and vowed to eat no more Jimmy Johns. Now, some anonymous commenter from Los Angeles, who was involved in making the commercial, takes me to task for taking myself too seriously, saying the commercial is meant to be funny. Here's the comment:
"This was in fact a bank robbery situation, and I know first hand as I was involved in the making of this commercial. It is meant to be humorous, and I believe it achieved that. Now you can either laugh at this commercial and make your day much better, or you can choose to take yourself way too seriously and add years of stress on to your life for worrying about things like this.

7:13 PM, May 29, 2009"

I'll leave it up to regular readers to decide whether I take myself too seriously or not. What I'm interested in is whether people think the intention to make something humorous and the author's subjective belief that it, indeed, is funny, is sufficient to label any critics sour pusses who add years of stress to their lives (another interesting question: which is better to add years of stress to your life or live a shorter life? I think the Anonymous commenter meant that I will shorten my life because of the stress, not add to it, but precision in communication is not Mr. Anonymous's strong point, as you will see if you watch the commercial.) I guess Mr. Anonymous's point is that everything is fair game, as long as the author intends it to be funny. So, what commercials is Mr. Anonymous working on next? Starving children in Africa finding a cell phone in the sand and using it to call for a Jimmy Johns delivery? Airplane hijackers diverting their crash into the World Trade Center at the last minute because they want to finish their Jimmy Johns sandwiches before going to Paradise?

I'm sorry, I don't believe my only choice is to laugh at the commercial and make my day better or lengthen (actually shorten) my life by taking myself too seriously. Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to continue not taking myself too seriously and laughing at myself. I'm also going to continue to be outraged at stupid commercials that are not funny, no matter what the inarticulate authors of it intended. And, I'm still not going to eat Jimmy Johns sandwiches. Ever. Again.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

JACK Report: Playing This Weekend in Chicago and New York

If you're in the Chicago area, you can catch the JACK Quartet Saturday night at The Music Institute of Chicago. The Wife and I are going up, hoping to catch a glimpse and a word or two, maybe even a meal with Son Number Two. Sunday night, the Quartet is back in New York City, playing at (Le) Poisson Rouge, opening for The Respect Sextet.

Friday, May 15, 2009

No More Jimmy Johns

I don't watch much television, so I am probably naive about what is considered acceptable these days. Last night, the commercial for Jimmy Johns sandwiches shown on our local NBC station during The Office shocked me as I haven't been shocked for a long time. It depicts a Columbine school massacre with masked terrorists shooting up a school as children and teachers scream and try to hide. While cowering under a desk, a teacher pulls out a cell phone and calls for a sandwich delivery from Jimmy Johns. The delivery boy shows up, and the terrorist rips off his ski mask and says, "Who ordered Jimmy Johns?"

Is nothing over the limit these days? What's next, an ad for shampoo that keeps hair looking gorgeous through a 9/11 disaster? A spot remover that can take the blood and brains off Jackie Kennedy's jacket?

Since the Supreme Court's ridiculous decision giving First Amendment free speech rights to corporations, such despicable advertising is legal and cannot be made illegal. But there is no law that says I have to eat Jimmy Johns sandwiches, ever again. And I won't. Here's the ad, if you have a strong stomach:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

JACK Report: The DVD is Out

Mode Records on Monday released JACK Quartet's first album. I haven't heard it yet because I have been promised a free copy by Son Number Two. You can buy directly from the record company for $14.99 for the CD; $19.99 for the DVD. You can get it from Amazon for as low as $16.74 plus $3.00 shipping. Or, you can order it from Netflix. I have to warn you though, that this is not easy listening music.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Ebertfest Report: A Strange Winnipeg

The movie I have most enjoyed at this year's Ebertfest, although it certainly is not to everyone's taste, is the quirky My Winnipeg. It was written and directed by Guy Madden, who has lived all his life in Winnipeg and has a normal day job as a professor in film studies at the University of Winnipeg. He specializes in making quirky movies, and he makes what he wants to make, how he wants to make them without regard to movie conventions. Everything in My Winnipeg was done in one take, and if a scene was slightly out of focus, so be it.

The movie was commissioned by by the city fathers and was supposed to be a documentary about Winnipeg, designed to attract tourists. It turned out to be a docu-fantasy, with real events being told in a warped mixture of fact and fiction (all of it true, however, since "fact" and "truth" are not the same.) Madden explained that when he was young, his aunt would take him to see travelogues. She would say, "We're going to Morocco tonight," and he would interpret it and report it at school as that they were actually going to Morocco. He would often fall asleep during the travelogue, and would experience those documentaries n a half-dreaming state. The dream-like movie he made is often just plain weird. For example, in the early 20th century, there was actually an incident in which a herd of horses, stampeding from a burning stable, fled into a river and froze to death, with the horse heads sticking above the ice until the spring thaw. Madden takes some archival footage of the dead horses and transforms it into a gruesome comedy, with the people from Winnipeg coming out to picnic on the horse heads. (For a hilarious account of the making of this part of the film, see his "documentary diariest" at this blog.)

Roger Ebert, as always, said it best. In his published remarks in the program booklet, he said,
"His (Madden's) imagination frees the lurid possibilities of the banal. He rewrites history; when that fails, he creates it.

Aside from Ebert himself, Madden is one of the funniest people ever to appear on the stage at Eberfest. His lack of pretense was refreshing. He quipped his way through the question and answer session, at one point telling people that if they felt like sleeping through his movie, he didn't blame them, he got 45 good minutes of shut-eye during the showing Thursday himself. When asked how the city fathers of Winnipeg reacted to his product, there was a long pregnant pause, during which the audience started laughing, topped off by Madden saying, "They're okay with it now."

I have to warn readers, however, that not everyone is going to like this movie. It is shot in black and white, and the dreaminess of the film, is going to be off-putting to some people. What is refreshing, however, is that Madden doesn't really give a damn whether you like it or not. I gave it five stars.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ebertfest Report: Days of Peace and Music

The 11th Annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival kicked off last night with a showing of an almost 40-year-old movie, Woodstock. Watching the movie at the historic Virginia Theater is much better than being at Woodstock. There is just as much peace and music, but with plenty of food, toilet facilities and no rain and mud.

Roger is back for this festival, after missing the last two years because of health problems. His face contorted because cancer has eaten away part of his jaw, unable to speak because he lost part of his tongue, he was nevertheless his usual ebullient self, still able to say on his blog earlier this week, "I was born at the center of the universe, and have had good fortune for all of my days." I don't think he was putting on a good front; he really means it.

But for the faithful Ebertfest attenders (I have been taking vacation to attend all of the films for all but the first couple of years,) we do not consider Roger's state of health fortunate. He is the heart and soul of the festival, adding much more than just his name and selection of films, but also his witty introductions and commentary to the movies, and his interviews of directors, actors, and producers. One of the highlights of my life is sitting at the Virginia Theater five years ago after the showing of Werner Herzog's movie, Invincible and listening to Ebert and Herzog talk about movies until two o'clock in the morning with the audience sitting there, no one leaving, absolutely entertained and enchanted.

For the last two years, and now this year, other people have introduced the films, and hosted the conversations, but no one has the knowledge and the wit to inform and entertain like Ebert.

Oh, Woodstock? It still holds up after 40 years. Seeing and listening to Joan Baez sing "Sweet Low, Sweet Chariot," with no accompaniment as 400,000 people listen, without a sound, sends chills up my spine. (I saw Baez later that summer in Chicago, a little more pregnant, standing up on stage barefooted and absolutely stealing the heart of this Amish farmboy.)

I gave the movie four stars. Have to run; another movie to see.

Update: To clarify, I was not at the original Woodstock, although I did see the movie when it first came out in 1970. I don't think I would have enjoyed actually being at Woodstock. I have never been a fan of rain, mud and anarchy. I would have bought my ticket in advance and been outraged that people were coming in over the fence without paying. I would have gone home after it started raining and the site turned into a field of mud. The director's cut, which we saw Wednesday night, was nearly four hours long, at least an hour too long, in my opinion. The story of what happened was told in the original movie. The best musical performances -- Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Crosby Stills and Nash, Arlo Guthrie, Joe Cocker, Santana, Sha Na Na and Jimi Hendrix were already in the movie. The director's cut added a lot of music, but had me fidgeting by 11 o'clock p.m. approached, with no end in sight.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Have You Ever Wondered How My Blog Looks In Arabic?

What do you mean it has never occurred to you to wonder what my blog looks like in Arabic? I think it probably actually reads better in Arabic than English. Take a look at this. (Somebody from Riyadi, Saudi Arabia, visted my blog to read my report on Silas Marner. They used google translate to translate it into Arabian.)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Stand By Me

I must be the last person in the world to have seen this video of musicians around the world joined through the miracle of electronics in singing "Stand By Me." If you haven't seen it, this is worth watching and hearing. By the end, I almost had a lump in my throat.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Movie Report: The Class

The Class, or as it was known in France, Entre les murs, (Between the Walls) is certainly no To Sir With Love, nor its host of imitators over the last 40 years who uniformly portray an idealistic young teacher winning over skeptical students with enthusiasm and dedication.

The movie is about a school in Paris, ethnically diverse, but like middle schools everywhere, or at least in the United States, one where learning often gets lost in the battle between teachers and teen hormones. The movie shows it like it is; students are more than a handful; looking for any weakness or diversion to keep from spending time learning. But unlike Sidney Poitier's perfect character in To Sir With Love, this teacher is well-intentioned, but flawed. His students push him beyond what any teacher should be pushed, but he gets in trouble when he reacts with inappropriate language.

This is a must-see movie if you're a middle-school teacher. It was written by a teacher, and is loosely based on a year at his school. It probably should be seen in the company of a teacher. For a non-teacher, it starts a little slowly. I went with The Wife, who teaches English as a Second Language in middle school and she loved it. For myself, about half way through the movie, I leaned over and whispered, "Is the plot going to start pretty soon?"

The movie was nominated (but didn't win) for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, and has won a host of other awards, including the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival. I left the theater disappointed at the slow pacing and was prepared to give it three stars. But a little lobbying at dinner by The Wife convinced me to give it an extra star for its authenticity. There were no heroes nor villains. That's worth at least a star in the cinema these days.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Well, At Least It's Something

February is over with, not a single blog entry by me. I have lots of excuses -- busyness; blues, blahs, bored. I'm still not feeling very creative, so I'm going to steal an idea from my friend, Catch Her In the Wry.

Here’s a meme that’s been going around. It’s called the bucket list. You have to review all 100 items and put in bold the ones you’ve already achieved in life. So, here is my bucket list (kind of the opposite from the movie, The Bucket List, which was a list of things you still wanted to achieve before you kicked the bucket. It was not a very good movie, but did have three pieces of wonderful advice for older men, which I won't repeat here):


1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii .
5.Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo

11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person

80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

100. Ridden an elephant

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Gratitude Concert

Son Number Two's first violin teacher, Ken Wollberg is in the news these days. He taught SNT for three years starting at age 8, before going to Korea for a few years with his wife, an English teacher there, (setting in motion the chain of events resulting in Son Number One going to Korea, and our getting a Korean daughter-in-law.) After coming back from Korea, and teaching violin in southern Illinois for a while, Ken went into truck driving and was in a serious accident that threatened to end his violin-playing permanently. AP has the story and the national media has picked it up. Here's the MSNBC version.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

JACK Report: Who's Ultramodern?

Kind of hard to imagine as an Amish boy, but Son Number Two is being labeled as "ultramodern" here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Obama Report: Please Don't Break My Heart

Regular readers know I am a long-time Obama supporter. However, for the record, with less than 48 hours to go before he takes office, I should warn myself and others that I am fully prepared to be disappointed.

Part of it is my nature. As I mention in my self-description above, I am an "aging skeptic." I haven't seen it all, but I have seen enough. The Wife says I look at a glass half empty instead of half full. I prefer to think I look at life realistically. We can ill afford illusions, least of all after eight years of disasters because our president thought it better to pretend that he knew what he was doing than admit mistakes.

Politicians have repeatedly broken my heart. I was elated when Jimmy Carter was elected, thinking at long last we had someone in office who would not lie to us. After four years, I was ready to vote for a senile actor who could not lie because he could not tell the difference between the truth and untruth. I was elated when Bill Clinton was elected, thinking at long last we had someone in office who could feel our pain; who cared about the little guy and knew how to get things done. I still think Clinton was the best president, by far, since Franklin D. Roosevelt, but he could have been so much better if he could have kept his pants zipped. The heartbreak of the Clinton Administration is what could have been if he had only been more disciplined.

Once again, I feel elation with the coming inauguration of Barack Obama. He is even smarter, politically, than Clinton, and that is saying a lot. His heart is in the right place. He doesn't need to tell us he feels our pain, we can see it in his life story. He didn't have a father pulling strings to get him into the best universities, set him up with sweetheart business deals and putting him in touch with the best political consultants. Everything Obama got, he earned. Imagine,just eight years ago, he had trouble making it to the Democratic national convention in Los Angeles because the car rental agency wouldn't accept his credit card. To then raise more money, far more money than anyone has ever raised in a political campaign; to put together a campaign organization smarter and more disciplined, far smarter and more disciplined than even the Clintons could put together is absolutely astounding.

It is tempting to ascribe super-human abilities to Obama because what he has already accomplished seems almost super-human. The problems our country faces after eight years of Bush malfeasance are so deep that it will take almost super-human efforts to save ourselves from further disaster. On top of the record deficits that Bush accumulated during good times, we now have to pump even more borrowed money into the economy to keep it from total collapse. That is a misstatement; we already have total collapse. Everywhere we look, businesses are closing and employees are getting laid off. I am convinced the economists, at least the Bush economists, have no idea whether the measures they are taking will work or not; they just feel like they have to do something; anything.

The world is a much more dangerous place than it was eight years ago. Bush neglected our real dangers in order to spend time and money in places where our security was not threatened. Can anyone fix the mismanagement that has put terrorists like Hamas in charge of the elected government of Palestine; that has made Iran the new best friend of its ancient enemy, Iraq; that has a nuclear-armed North Korea thumbing its nose at the rest of the world; that has a nuclear-armed Pakistan teetering on the verge of being controlled by fundamentalist Jihadists?

We want Obama to have super-powers because he is going to need them to get us through the next four years without further disaster.

I am not pleased with some of Obama's personnel choices. I still think the selection of windy Joe Biden as vice president was a mistake that will bite him in the rear before the next term is over. I do not think the selection of Hilary Clinton as secretary of state is going to turn out to have been a good one. She has not demonstrated the vision to bring creative thinking to solving world problems and she has not demonstrated the management skills to run the vast bureaucracy that is the State Department. Yes, she is a policy wonk, but wonks do best three or four layers down from the decision making levels.

And yet, and yet, I believe in the possibility of Obama to make everything come out all right. He has done so many things right, when the pundits were discounting him. Who am I to doubt him now? His efforts to change the tone in Washington are working. Having a dinner to honor John McCain, who is a very vain man, is nothing short of genius. Having dinner with the conservative pundits like George Will, William Kristol and David Brooks was a smart move. Having Rick Warren, whom I detest, give the invocation at the inauguration is very smart.

If Obama pulls this off, he will have been one of the greatest presidents of all time; on a par with Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt; worthy of a place on Mount Rushmore. I think he can. I am getting to be too old to have my heart broken once again.

Friday, January 16, 2009

No Doubt About It: A Great Movie

Doubt is not your standard Hollywood movie. No chase scenes; no sex; no satisfying resolution at the end. In fact, were it not for its two big stars, Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, it's hard to imagine this movie even getting distributed.

But not because of a lack of quality. The movie is like life -- complex; without easy answers. It is set in 1964. A Roman Catholic parochial school in New York has its first black student. The principal of the school (Streep) thinks the priest (Hoffman)is paying special attention to the black kid. There is no question that he is; the question is his motivation. The principal is convinced he is a sexual predator; the priest denies it. Both have mortal sins in their past. In the middle are the student and an idealistic young nun, played by Amy Adams. Although the priest is nominally the principal's superior, she is determined to run him out of the parish, and she uses some underhanded tactics to accomplish her goal. But is her motivation only her concern for the student, or is it that the priest doesn't measure up to her strict conservative standards of religiosity? And is she helping or hurting the student? The student's mother is willing to overlook the allegations because of the alternatives for the student.

The movie was written and directed by John Patrick Shanley (who wrote and directed Moonstruck and Joe Versus the Volcano 20 years ago. Shanley also wrote the play version, which in 2005 won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for its Broadway production. He dedicates the movie to his own first grade teacher on whom the Amy Adams character is modeled.

I hope I am not getting too generous in my old age, but I have to give this movie five stars, the second movie in two weeks to get my highest rating. Shanley, Streep and Hoffman all deserve Oscars for it, but I doubt that they will get them because this just isn't the type of movie that Hollywood likes. Gran Torino is more likely to win Academy Awards, in my opinion, because it has a Hollywood ending. Doubt has more nuance; maybe too much nuance for some tastes. Maybe the Academy will surprise me. I have been surprised before.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bush Report: The Cheney Lie Count

As usual, the comedians do a better job of reporting the news than the main stream media. Here's David Letterman:

Friday, January 09, 2009

Movie Report: A Grand Finale

Rumor is that Clint Eastwood has said that Gran Torino is his last movie. I hope that's true because it's hard to see how he could top this one; a movie that is a metaphor for Eastwood's own career.

It is always dangerous to conflate an actor's own personality with the character he plays. But in the popular imagination, Eastwood's own character was defined by the westerns he started out in and the Dirty Harry movies of the 1970s and 1980s. He played characters who finally were fed up with evil doers; and accomplished their missions by killing all the bad guys. Nuance was for sissies who would have lost their freedoms if not for the steely-eyed courage of Eastwood with a gun.

In more recent years, particularly in movies he has directed, Eastwood has been showing nuance. Movies like Letters from Iwo Jima, are not exactly pacifistic, but display a wisdom about the efficacy of violence that was not in his younger body of works. Gran Torino is the culmination of the evolution of the Eastwood hero from cold-eyed killer for righteousness sake to wise and courageous human.

Gran Torino is about an aging Korean War veteran who finds absolution for the horrors in which he has participated by a surprising self sacrifice for some Asians he has despised for most of his life. It would be wrong to say that Walt Kowolski, Eastwood's character, is prejudiced, he hates everybody, no matter what their nationality. Even his friends (well, actually, he was not the kind of person to have friends, he had one friend, his barber) are the subjects of his jibes and insults. After the death of his wife, he wants nothing to do with anyone; not his children, his priest and especially not his neighbors who are Hmong from Southeast Asia. All he wants to do is sit on his porch and drink beer, mow his lawn, wipe down his prize 1972 Gran Torino and keep everyone off his yard.

Although there is a lot of tension and drama in the movie, there are also a lot of funny parts. The theater where The Wife and I saw the movie Friday afternoon was nearly filled with people of that certain age who go to movies at 4:00 p.m. (younger people have to work and don't mind going at night when people of that certain age are in bed or thinking of it) and they kept chuckling or laughing throughout.

This is a very good movie; so good that although I have not seen many of the other Oscar contenders, I am going to go out on a limb and predict that it will win at least one Academy Award, that of Best Actor for Eastwood. I would also vote for it for Best Picture and Best Director; it is that good. Absolutely five stars.

JACK Report: ASCAP Gives Award

I honestly don't know how big a deal this is (apparently not a big enough deal that Son Number Two would call me about it, but thanks to Mr. Google I found out,) but the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is giving an award next week at their convention in New York City to JACK Quartet for "adventurous programming." I see they're playing in Seattle the night before, so they might not even be back in time to receive the award. It must be nice -- another day, another plaudit.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Movie Report: Slumdog Millionaire

I saw Slumdog Millionaire. It rated three stars. (So sue me, Roger-Ebert-wannabes.)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Annual Book and Movie Ratings

Here are my annual book and movie ratings. The ratings are based on five stars being the highest, with the occasional exceptional book and movie that makes me say, "Wow!" at the end getting five plus stars. The books are ones I have read or listened to this year, some of them for the second or third time. I read (or listened to) a record number of books this year, 61, which is really remarkable for me, considering how slowly I read. I can't account for it; several of the books were quite lengthy. Twenty-nine of the books were ones I listened to in the car, so maybe I traveled more this year. As you can see, all but six of the books were rated average (three stars) or above, so I did a good job of picking books to read this year. There was only one, Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life, that I considered a complete waste of time. Thirty-seven of the books were fictional. Four were theological or religious.

I saw 44 movies. The movies are ones I have seen in theaters this year. They include several classics that were shown at our local classic film series.


Five Plus

A Bird in the House, Margaret Lawrence

Five Stars

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and other short stories, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
When the Emperor Was Divine, Julie Otsuka
Missing Mom, Joyce Carol Oates
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
The Innocent Man, John Grisham
Light in August, William Faulkner
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
Animal Farm, George Orwell
Home, Marilynne Robinson
The Anatomy Lesson, Philip Roth
The White Album, Joan Didion
On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwen
Main Street, Sinclair Lewis

Four Stars

Grant and Lee: A Dual Biography, Gene Smith
Cider With Rosie, Laurie Lee
The Goldbug Variations, Richard Powers
A Writer's Life, Gay Talese
The Audacity of Hope, Barack Obama
The Death of Ivan Ilyitch, Leo Tolstoy
Morality for Beautiful Girls, Alexander McCall
Against All Enemies, Richard A. Clarke
The Price of Loyalty, Ron Susskind
Tempting Faith, David Kuo
Truth and Beauty, Ann Patchett
What Happened, Scott McClelland
The Coldest Winter, David Halberstam
Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones
That Old Ace In A Hole, Annie Proulx
I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron
The Man Without Qualities (Part I), Robert Musil
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver
Miami, Joan Didion
Blue Diary, Alice Hoffman

Three Stars

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
New Land, New Lives, Janet Rasmussen
Casting the First Stone, Kimberla Lawson Roby
Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin
Jane and the Man of the Cloth, Stepahnie Barron
Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
Is It Okay to Call God Mother, Paul Smith
The Amish of Illinois' Heartland, Rebecca Mabry
Wiser in Battle, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez
State of Denial, Bob Woodward
Taming of the Shrew, William Shakespeare
Look Me In the Eye, John Robinson
Death Comes to the Archbishop, Willa Cather
Jungfrau and Other Short Stories, Caine Prize for African Writers
The River Between, Ngugi wa Thiong'i
Salvador, Joan Didion
Moby Dick, Herman Melville

Two Stars

The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder
Operation Wandering Soul, Richard Powers
Sideways, Rex Pickett
Personal Memoirs, Ulysses S. Grant
The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing

One Star

The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren


Five Stars

No Country for Old Men
The Savages
Shotgun Stories
Romance and Cigarettes
The Visitor
Burn After Reading
The Big Lebowski

Four Stars

There Will Be Blood
The Treasure of Sierra Madre
Young At Heart
The Band's Visit
Vicki Christina Barcelona
Man On Wire
Hamlet 2
Righteous Kill
Train Man
Josee, The Tiger and the Fish
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Three Stars

What Would Jesus Buy?
The Great Debaters
The Bucket List
Citizen Kane
The Bunk Job
The Real Dirt on Farmer John
The Taste of Tea
The Secret Life of Bees
Slumdog Millionaire

Two Stars

Charlie Wilson's War
The Fall
Get Smart
Mama Mia
Tropic Thunder
Happy Go Lucky