Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Classic Reads: A Web of Strange Happiness From George Eliot

George Eliot, whose real name was Mary Ann Evans, loved rural society more than the urban areas of the time that she saw as pushed aside by the Industrial Revolution.

She wrote with a pen name because of fear of rejection. And she wrote the book Silas Marner in a flood of feelings from an unhappy childhood. It is still considered a radical vision of the world, and it teaches the values of honesty, kindness, and courage in an entertaining way.

Silas was a linen weaver who, 15 years earlier, had come to a rural area after being falsely convicted for stealing money back in the city where he was a respected elder in a small fundamentalist sect. His life grew more and more empty and he hated that no one cared for him or loved him.

Meanwhile, Squire Cass was known as the greatest man in town, although he went to parties every night and pubs every day. One of his sons, Dunstan, who was also a drunk, heard that Silas Marner collected gold and one night broke into the weaver's house and stole it.

Time passed, until on New Year's Eve, a little girl came to Silas's cottage. When Silas retraced her footsteps out into the night, she found the little girl's mother dead. Silas announced that he would keep the child as a replacement for his lost gold.

Godfrey, the Squire's other son, had known all along that the dead woman and her daughter were his child and wife. But he had been interested in potentially marrying another woman. Nevertheless, Godfrey grew more and more sullen because of this secret. He often left money at Silas's cottage to help support the growing girl. Godfrey and his wife could not have children and his wife would not hear of adoption, so he continued to spiral into disappointment and feeling he was being punished.

One day, Dunstan's skeleton is unearthed along with Silas's stolen coins from the bottom of a quarry. This inspires Godfrey to reveal the truth to his wife that the girl was his. She surprisingly expresses the desire to adopt her. Silas was thrilled that his lost gold was returned to him. Godfrey and his wife showed up at Silas's door proposing to take his daughter from Silas. But his daughter, named Eppie, would have none of it.

Despite the complications of the characters' webs, the story ends with Godfrey and his wife and Silas all living their lives out in acceptance and love. Godfrey supplied the funds to enlarge Silas's tiny cabin and also host Eppie's marriage feast. She ends the story by saying that nobody could've been happier than she and Silas.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Revisiting D.C.'s Newseum After Several Years Away

Being a passionate journalist and communications professional, it's flat-out crazy that I don't visit the Newseum in Washington DC, where I live, as frequently as at least once a year.

It has probably been five years since I set foot in there, when I helped run a press conference for the World Resources Institute. Even though it's one of the only museums in D.C. that you have to pay for, and it's a fairly steep $25 entrance fee, it's well worth it.

Unless you read all the front-page spreads of many of the newspapers from around the world, it's actually a relatively quick museum to make your way through. There are so many interesting and diverse things to see, always told with an element of how journalism or journalists fit into the larger story.

The first thing on display right now when walking in is a piece of the Berlin Wall, and also a tower from near one of the Checkpoint Charlie sites.

Next up our displays of the funny pages, the counterculture of the 1960s, and Vietnam coverage from that same era. Those each could actually be much larger exhibits, or exhibits of their own filling the entire museum.

Also of note is a display from the civil rights era featuring a jail cell door that held Martin Luther King Jr. and a lunch counter from Nashville, Tennessee where protesters sat before fights and riots broke out. There's a long theater-seating area that displaying many screens of live TV news. When I walked through, Hillary Clinton was stumping in Iowa.

There is amazing display of the RCA tower that fell from one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Accompanying that is a spellbinding video of the one and only working journalist (amazingly) who died in the catastrophe, as he rushed towards the towers to take photos.

Joined by my dad and brother Tim, we didn't expect to sit in a room for nearly an hour watching a documentary, but that's exactly what we did, as the movie on the history of sports journalism was two fascinating to stop watching.

Finally, We stopped in to view the Washington Nationals baseball exhibit, which was quite a bit more interesting than actually watching the team on the field these days.
Final verdict: don't miss the Newseum when you visit Washington DC. It's a little bit of an under-looked gem.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Academy Award Losers That You Should Still See


It takes a while to finally see any good in Bruce Dern's character in Nebraska, but there sure are a lot of laughs before we get to that point.

Even though this little independent film had gotten rave reviews and Academy Award nominations, I wasn't really expecting that much from it. But it really is a lovable movie. And Will Forte really keeps his streak going alongside one of my favorite TV shows of the moment, The Last Man on Earth. His mother in Nebraska is an absolute hoot. She really tells it like it is, and Bob Odenkirk is also perfect for the role of the less-than-there brother.

It lost the Academy Award to 12 Years a Slave in 2014, but was indeed probably the second-best flick behind the winner for that year.

****1/2 out of ***** stars

Working Girl

The wild 1980s hair of the many women in the office pool wasn't the only influential part of Working Girl. It's main service to society was how it helped influence the breaking of the glass ceiling on Wall Street and throughout the U.S.

Melanie Griffith's character Tess McGill uses her ingenuity to plan a wise deal for a major conglomerate to acquire a radio network, if only the smoothly evil Sigourney Weaver doesn't sabotage her first. Good-guy Harrison Ford helps her out, while Alec Baldwin doesn't help much.

The views of New York City from the perspective of the Staten Island Ferry add to the power of the 1988 film, which was nominated for best picture, while Griffith was nominated for best actress, and Weaver and Joan Cusack for best supporting actress.

**** out of ***** stars

Horrible Bosses 2

Four years ago, I gave Horrible Bosses 3 out of 5 stars. If you liked that one enough, you'll like this one enough to at least watch it. Nothing great, but great comedic actors and a few laughs make it worthy enough.

Jason Bateman and the gang decide to get out from under the world of bosses and build an empire of their own with the Shower Buddy.

Umm, I don't think it was nominated for an Oscar.

**1/2 out of ***** stars