Category Archives: movies

France

This is my bookcase of French related books that I’m working on. I posted a similar picture of the books on China last year. It was one of a number of posts to my “China” category. I have begun a similar category on France which this post is now a part of.

My (now) seven loyal readers will recall that it was my Grandfather’s exploits in France that was the primary driver for this trip. I have in fact polished off a couple books on that subject in the past seven or eight months. But that reading has led to a more intense interest in the nation which gave us our liberty and for which we have twice returned the favor.

I just finished reading Ina Caro’s book “The Road from the Past” to Claudia. (NOTE the preceding link is to a very unflattering WaPo review of the book which was, the book that is, just what I hoped it would be). Shortly afterward we decided to watch the movie Julie and Julia which was a charming little movie about a writer who set out to and succeeded in cooking all 524 recipies in Julia’s Childs first book on French Cooking in one year’s time.

I’ll be posting more about France as I go along. I’ve already made some discoveries I hadn’t expected. For instance I have always thought of English as a Germanic language. But Britain and France’s long entanglement left about one third of our vocabulary coming from the frogs. I must admit that has made it much easier for me to pick up their lingo as I chip away at it every day.

I’m currently on a 54 days in a row tear studying it. I started five months ago and have about four more months to go by which time I hope too have added a few brain cells upstairs. In fact, I think I’ll add a few more right now. Maybe I’ll edit this later or peut être pas.

Whatever happened…..My latest Not Eudora Column

Whatever Happened to the Magnificent Seven

Thanks to the Reader for the nice graphic.

It begins:

In 1966, at age 16, I discovered pop music which was then a witch’s brew of pop, country, and rock about to go their separate ways. One of my early favorites was a song by the Statler Brothers “Flowers on the Wall.” It was about a guy who was dumped by his girlfriend. In the lyrics the fellow claims not to mind “playing solitaire alone with a deck of 51.” Seven years later, after the horrors of 1968 and Vietnam, the Statlers – now confirmed red necks – sang a new song that pined for the days of rugged cowboy heroes. I couldn’t stand it. The lyrics and chorus began:

You can read it all here.

Molotov’s Wife

Note: I’m afraid I lied. I have not taken the time to proof read and edit this entry. I studied French instead.

I woke up from a dream in which two of my life’s goals were pitted against each other. Contemplating politics I had moved to southern Minnesota while I was in the process of applying for a job in another southern Minnesota town. Come to think of it that’s not all that different from my life’s beginning in Duluth. The wake up time was 4AM a scant five hours since I went to bed after my brain slowed down from a couple rounds of cellphone French lessons. Five hours is still an hour short of my faltering attempt to stave off Alzheimers’ with six or seven hours of brain cleansing sleep.

And I mean brain cleansing. Not of dreams but of cerebrospinal fluid. According to a very brief synopsis of brain research I read recently the brain, unlike the rest of the body, has no lymph glands coursing through it to remove the detritus of the day for later disposal. What has evolved in our brains is the nightly process of fluid from our spinal system surging through the brain to carry out this function. It does so between in the waves of REM sleep that occur each night. The suggestion is that if you wake up before the full course deep cleaning is finished you are left with dirt in your brains. According to another science article I’ve read this gunk ends up being coated with another ancient gift of our evolution a colesteral-like deposits that shields the brain from the dirt. The problem with this is that our brains fill up with a plaque that crowds out the development possibilities for new neurons. In effect, this prevents our brains from collecting new information and worse removes memories. …. then another recent science story told me that the general consensus that adult brains stop growing new brain cells may turn out not to be ……Stop Harry!

The greatest threat to my full night’s sleep is thinking too much. I try to go to bed keeping my head empty of thought. This is, according to my wife’s understanding, threatened by looking a the blue lights of a cell phone before bed. So, when I study French before collapsing I muck up my melotonin…..STOP IT AGAIN, Harry……..Rememer……Molotov’s wife.

Yes, in the hour of wakefullness after my five hours of sleep, I was juggling a dozen blogable ideas starting with Papa Joe.

Claudia and I went to see the movie, The Death of Stalin on Friday. It was very a funny movie about a mass murderer who drew up lists of people to be murdered every day just before he expired, comically, of a stroke from which his toadies were afraid he might revive. All this, by the way, is true (except for the comic part – the movie was/is comical and not at all interested in letting history muck up the grim reality.

Some sober reviewers have found fault with this but not me. I’ll take my history lessons however I can get them and since the three or four generations following me know diddly squat about Papa Joe I’m happy to have his tyrannical story told in any form that will catch an audience’s attention. Not many years ago I read Montefiore’s marvelous history of Stalin’s Russia larded with information about it released after the fall of the Soviet Union. (Check that. It was eleven years ago)

I recalled that one of the Stalin’s henchmen, Molotov, stayed true to Papa even after his wife was put on one of the lists and terminated. According to the movie, which played fast and loose with facts, Stalin’s top executioner Leverenti Beria, hid her in a jail to present to her husband after Stalin’s death as a way of coaxing him to support Beria’s plan to take Stalin’s place.

I rushed up to blog so fast that I have yet to check that out. One moment. Nope. Not true. That was a half truth for cinematic punch. She was convicted of treason, a capitol offense, but merely sent to the gulags. Beria never pretended to kill her. At least according to Wikipedia which pretty much accords with Montefiore’s book.

There, forty minutes on this [prior to a belated editing four days later] and I’m ready to feed my cats and scan the news before returning to my French lessons.

I had a lot of things jump into my head this morning begging for me to write about them. They include the latest human organ to be discovered. The Dark Web, The Deep State, the Illuminati, The Simpsons, Thomas Jefferson vs. Abe Lincoln, My take on the fantasists who have conjured up a paranoiac “Deep State.” It is part of a deep sepsis infecting the Republican Party courtesy of Rupert Murdoch’s “Fair and Balanced” Fox News. Its too profitable to tell old baby boomers the truth because fake news sells ads. Think of it as the news equivalent of scammers calling old people to sell them insurance they don’t need. Oh yeah, and “Pick Pocket Proof Pants.” I’ve got to blog about that last one. I jotted that down in the dark while in bed but the pen’s ink didn’t flow. I had to rub graphite across the paper to read it. That made the unreadable note a palimpsest. That’s what got me thinking about the Deep shit in the first place.

Now its been 50 minutes. Those cats are hungry. I’ll proof read this later today [or three days later] but you can read it now. I know! I know! Reading my blog entries pre-final edit is kinda like watching me sculpt snow.

Pardon Mon French – latest Not Eudora

I just got my computer out of the Geek Squad’s hands. It had been acting up. Just in time to link it to my latest Not Eudora Column in the Reader – Pardon Mon French which begins:

I am attempting to learn to speak my first foreign language three years short of my “three score and ten.” Why I am, is not as interesting to me as the how. French wouldn’t even have been my first pick. That would have been Spanish. As a kid I knew that more nations close to the U.S. spoke Spanish than any other language after the era of colonization. It also had a reputation of being an easier language to learn.

I spelled “Boche” wrong. I discovered that last night in the subtitles of the 1937 film The Grand Illusion.

As in Casablanca it had a stirring scene of the French singing the Marseilles to Germans who had power over them but it was an anti-war film not one pushing anyone to join a war. It was a sad cry from the French to avoid a war that would break out just two years later.

The Cowboys – a movie review for grandparents

I’m always thinking back on movies I think will appeal to my grandsons. Beau Geste was a hit and so was John Wayne’s 1972 The Cowboys.

I haven’t seen the movie since I turned voting age 45 years ago but my recollection was that it was a great ride about an old cowhand forced to hire school boys to drive his cattle to market. Being made in the hippy era I thought the worst sins of Hollywood would be modest and for the most part this turned out to be correct. Claudia was worried about Native American’s getting the short end of the stick but I couldn’t recall that they made any appearances at all. One of my Grandsons traces a slice of his ancestry back to the Five Civilized Tribes which calls for a little extra sensitivity.

There was just a hint of the subject. One boy shows up with an attitude and a 30-dollar gun. Asked by Wayne about himself when he tries to join the drive he tells Wayne that he’s “a mistake of nature.” Could he be part Indian? The fight he starts with a school boy moments later starts with his insult in Spanish about another boy’s mother. The other boy knows enough of the language to take exception to the remark. John Wayne takes the “mistake’s” gun and kicks him out despite his remarkable display of horsemanship. What follows is a nod to Horst Buckholz’s role in the Magnificent Seven with the mistake shadowing the Cattle Drive until he rides to the rescue winning redemption, gratitude and acceptance.

The film also deftly handles race when the drive’s cook shows up. He’s not who Wayne’s character hired. He’s black, courtly, confident and a raconteur. The N word is bruited about two or three times in impeccable usage that showed the sting but redounded against its users. After the movie it led to a followup conversation with my youngest grandson. What is the “N word” he asked and without saying the word I explained. Then he wanted to know what the “C word” was.

Unlike boys of my generation my grandsons rarely see cowboy themed entertainment. It took a while for my younger son to get into the story-line of a gold rush emptying out cattle country of cowhands. I particularly enjoyed the short appearance of Slim Pickens as a barkeep. Early on there was some brotherly get-under-the-skin foot-kicking back and forth on our sofa but the movie grabbed their attention by the time the “cowboys” aged 10 to 15 had to prove their mettle by riding a nasty little bronco for a count of ten to be signed up for the drive.

Wayne chews up the scenery as expected in his familiar role as a cowboy icon. At the end of his career he also played Rooster Cogburn in True Grit and a dying ex gunman in his final picture, “The Shootist.” His Wil Anderson in The Cowboys is a satisfying role and the only false note for me was a scene where “Wil” cures a stutterer with a conservative tongue-lashing about growing up. It works, of course, as it never would in reality. However, Wayne’s terse, no-nonsense, screenwriter polished, conservativism is vastly more eloquent and appealing than the vitriol being tweeted today from our seven-year-old Commander and Chief. Sad.

The chief reward for a kid watching this movie is the idea that young kids can step up and take on the tough jobs adults do – even using guns in the heat of battle. Sometimes it comes at a cost, as it does in the movie. My alphabet word curious youngest wiped tears away once, but this movie doesn’t coddle its audience. Instead, it routes Bruce Dern’s nasty cattle rustlers and gets the cattle to Belle Fourche as you knew it would.

Beau Geste

“Wacky Wednesday” continues. Even though vacation bible school has taken the place of school Claudia and I are still hosting our grandsons on Wednesday night. For the past four months that Claudia has checked the homeless into to the CHUM center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I gave up my Wednesday Choir practice to pick the boys up from school and get them to bed. Until this summer that meant gluing ourselves to PBS’s Nature program to watch cameras being inserted into fake animals for closeups, hummingbirds in slow-mo and crocs attacking wildebeests. Last night I was curious to see if the first movie to capture my imagination might entertain them – 1939’s black and white Beau Geste. That movie made Gary Cooper my role model for years to follow. It was an adulation which was only heightened a few years later when I saw the only movie I ever watched with my movie-phobic Grandfather.

Both movies were made in the magical year 1939 but, would the boys, aged 7 and 10, turn up their nose to Geste after Pixar classics too numerous to mention? Not at all. Good story telling wins out every time and Geste had them, like it had me, from the first look at the grim specters lining Fort Zinderneuf’s crenelations.

Even 30 minutes of frustration trying to remember my Amazon Prime password and trying to push the right buttons on the blasted remote followed by the boys pushing each other’s buttons and being sent to their rooms until they apologized didn’t dampen the movie. When they complied with their grumpy Papaw’s demand I gratefully reciprocated with my own apology. Then I told them that the movie would show them brothers who were loyal to each other. (I have to take advantage of every opportunity to give a sermon.)

Beau Geste lasted one hour and 52 minutes and was near its end when Claudia got home a little after 8. She put on her bath robe and joined us to watch as the movie finally answered its lingering mysteries and as the three brothers became one. Sorry, that’s a spoiler.

As Digby Geste sounded his trumpet for the last time Claudia gasped, “that’s the Music Man! You saw that movie with us.” We surely did and they liked that 1962 classic too with a much older Robert Preston playing Professor Harold Hill.

Claudia suggested suggested that I read to them from my Calvin and Hobbs collection because their summer bedtime gave them an extra hour. I also read C and H to their Mother and Uncle Robb with gusto when they were the same age. The boys were enchanted too although the Tan Man wrinkled his eyes and asked how a six year old Calvin could have such an adult vocabulary. I told him that Calvin was P-R-E-C-O-C-I-U-S just like he and his brother were, and besides, if he was going to get picky why didn’t he object to Calvin’s having a talking tiger.