Monday, January 29, 2018

The Post -- A Movie Review

          Real -- Then              Hollywood -- Now   

Real headline from June 18, 1971, "Documents Reveal U.S. Effort in '54 to Delay Viet Election"
First of a Series
By Chalmers M. Roberts

Real headline from the Denver Post which picked up the story from The Washington Post,
"Fitness devices expose troops"
By Liz Sly
January 28, 2018 at 6:04 pm

A striking similarity, don't you think?

There are differences. The first headline was on a hard copy of a newspaper. Perhaps the tactile nature of the bearer of bad news made it all the more shocking. Not to mention the fact that newspapers, printed using Linotype machines to produce lines of type then set into the printer, left ink smudges on your breakfast hands.

The second headline showed up on my laptop as I read my digital edition of The Denver Post this morning. (For the curious reader. No printer's ink smudges here.)

Steven Spielberg has done it again. Another excellent movie. The Post staring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks is about a newspaper that prints information the United States Government (You know, that government "of the people, by the people and for the people") would rather "the people" not know.

Actually, just as there was more to those days than the Vietnam war, there is much more to this movie. Women's rights, a mega-defensive President. (At least Nixon's expletives were deleted.)

What the movie got wrong. Not in the opening scenes where the soldiers pushed through threateningly quiet, dense jungle, unable to see their enemy. Or the soldiers amid the noise and chaos of injury and loss following a battle. And maybe the soldiers would have referred to the "long-hair," Daniel Ellsberg instead of "that old guy." What was wrong in the opening scenes was that the soldiers looked too old. The average age of American soldiers in Vietnam was 22 compared to WWII and Afghanistan when they were 26. Four years difference is not much, is it? They're all too young.

What The Post gets right is Robert McNamara's glasses and the part in his hair. And the times.

Meryl Streep's portrayal of Katherine Graham is stunning. She gives us a woman who grew up in luxury and privilege. She married. She raised children. She gave the best parties, attended by the best people, including Washington's great and powerful. A woman who lived like she was supposed to until her husband died. Worse yet. Her husband committed suicide and left her to run a newspaper.

As publisher, Graham was certainly not responsible for the business on a daily basis. She had a Board for that. All men. She had an Executive Editor responsible for the newspaper's content. Also a man.

Tom Hanks gives us the editor Ben Bradlee. His character is not nuanced. He's the gungho newspaper guy. His first concern is to beat the competition -- The New York Times. Which brings up the question of the Constitution's First Amendment right to a free press.

That, in turn, brings up the fact that Bradlee's Big Boss is a woman.

For my money, the absolute best scene in the movie is when Bradlee's wife describes for him precisely what Graham's situation is. She is not prepared by her background or her sex's recognized position in society to shoulder the responsibility of defending Freedom of the Press. Such a decision would require her to abandon her loyalties to friends high in the government. To that government itself. Not to mention the very real possibility that she could be imprisoned for publishing classified information from what would come to be called The Pentagon Papers.

Worst case scenario, Bradley might do some time in prison. He might lose his job. He would definitely become high-profile in the world of journalism and would be in high demand for another job.

Graham, on the other hand, could lose her family's business. Their income. The jobs of hundreds of people who worked for her. Her position in her community. Her friends. Her father and husband's legacies.

SPOILER ALERT!!! In case you weren't born when all this went down, were still doing your hippie-dippy drugs, or living your own life safe and secure oblivious to your country's crises of faith ....

She did decide to run the story. The audience where I watched the movie broke into applause. And that's not all. The movie ends with a night watchman calling in a possible break-in at the Watergate office building.

Here we are folks -- 2018 almost half a century later. Less than a week before I saw the movie I took part in the Women's March. More than fifty-thousand of us in Denver. We were of all ages and ethnicities and genders and preferences. And there were many thousands more across this nation as we endure another crisis of faith in our country.

Freedom of the Press is included in the First Amendment to the Constitution for good reason. Remember:  “If a nation expects to be ignorant & free, ... it expects what never was & never will be. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”  -- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

This I Believe

Footprint on the Moon (NASA Images)

It's now ten days into the new year. I know that this is a little late for the traditional stock-taking. The letting go of the past and starting fresh. At least theoretically.

Me, it seems I never let go of the past. The things I didn't understand get revisited and analyzed. Over and over again, until I understand them. Or think I do. Then I relish that bit of the past. It makes for good stories. Stories that help me more thoroughly understand, or, more often, understand differently.

Truth be told, I'm not much for letting go and starting fresh. I tend to let the day go and start again in the morning -- not "fresh" just start again where I left off.

For me, today's taking stock is an exploration of what I've come to believe.

This I believe:

I believe in and love People. Some of my best friends are people. We walk together and talk and laugh together. We worry together. But never in just the same way. We come from different countries. We've had very different growings-up. And very different adulthoods. Our politics are different. Some of us are faithfully religious. Some have our own faiths born of religion. And some have faith inspired by our experiences and educations. The one thing we have in common is that we all got to where we are by thoughtfully exploring our worlds and our lives. And we respect each other.

I believe in and love the Earth. It's my home. Its constancy reassures me. The Earth was here long before People and will be here long after us. Its atmosphere turns particles blown by solar winds into light shows. Its volcanoes burst full-flame into the night sky, building new lands. Tectonic plates shift and drift, forever changing Earth's face. Maybe not "alive" like mice and men, but Earth feels alive to me. And it sustains life.

I believe in and love Space. Space is the future of People and the Earth. From Space we can see Earth in its place in the Universe. How beautiful it is. How small. How much smaller are we. Earth, Sagan's Pale Blue Dot, is our birthplace in the Cosmos, where we have morphed from single-celled organism to sentient being. And now Earth is our staging ground.

Some of us have explored and colonized Earth's lands and waters until there is nowhere on Earth that we cannot go. Some of us will follow that explorer gene into Space. There will be new worlds, not to conquer, but to make new homes.

My middle name is not Pollyanna. I know there are difficulties among humans. There are Earth-borne catastrophes. There are dangers known and unknown in Space travel.

What I don't believe is that these negatives will be enough to stop us. We can and we will.

Into the Future!

Friday, January 5, 2018

What's in a Word -- A Study

Hands and Feet attributed to Fran├žois Le Moyne (French, 1688–1737)
currently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. 

(By-the-bye, if you buy tickets at the Metropolitan's ticket counter, the amount you pay is up to you. They do have suggested prices which seem to me to be most acceptable, but you truly can name your own price.)

An artist uses studies to perfect their drawing skills. Words are a writer's tools. They, too can be used in short pieces as studies.

Shakespeare wrote these words for Juliet to say. Don't you imagine he thought about it, maybe even said them out loud just to see how they sounded. "A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet" meaning that what Romeo was called, a name belonging to a rival family, mattered not at all. Alas, we all know how that worked out.

Then along comes Gertrude Stein who writes "...a rose is a rose is a rose" meaning that the word says that it is a particular flower and that is what she means it is -- a rose. A plain spoken woman, is our Ms. Stein.

But not all roses are roses and had Romeo's name been plain John Brown, it's safe to say that story would have gone another way.

Just as this flower,

Rose of Sharon
 despite its name, is not one of the more than one hundred species of roses. 
It is an hibiscus (hibiscus syriacus to be exact.)

The gentleman rose from his chair as she entered. She wore a long gown. Silk, he thought. The color? Ashes of Roses. He remembered reading that somewhere. In her dark hair, a flower of rubies. Its leaves, tiny emeralds.

"Hello, Rose," he said, extending his hand.

(Which brings to mind another word that can sound very different when read, depending on the situation -- Hello.)


From the bottom of the well, "Hello," she called. "Is anybody up there?"


He held the phone to his ear. "Hello?"

"Hello," she said. "I'm sorry."


She opened the basement door and peered into the gloom, "Hello? Is anybody down there?"

(At which we all yell at the screen, "HELLO! DON'T GO DOWN THERE.")