Friday, September 30, 2016

Washington warmly welcomed Chilean President Michelle Bachelet

 President of the Republic of Chili, Michelle Bachelet, speaking at the Wilson Center, September 22, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Last week at the Wilson Center, the president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, spoke passionately about the importance of women's participation in politics and in all aspects of life.

"Women can be true agents of social change," she said to a SRO crowd of about 500.

"Women feel they have to be perfect.  They don't have to be perfect."
President of the Republic of Chili, Michelle Bachelet, speaking at the Wilson Center, September 22, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Ms. Bachelet is the first woman elected to the presidency of Chili and the first person to be elected twice to the position since 1932 (2006-2010 and 2014-present). On July 6, 2016, Reuters reported the lowest approval ratings ever recorded for Ms. Bachelet: 22%, primarily due to reforms she is trying to implement, rising unemployment, and a financial scandal involving her son and daughter-in-law.

The ratings didn't seem to bother Ms. Bachelet in Washington, for she spoke confidently, at ease in surroundings of mostly supporters and the curious.

Wikipedia errs when it claims she speaks English with "varying levels of fluency." I was expecting a halting, stilted presentation, however, her delivery of remarks contradicted the online source. 
President of the Republic of Chili, Michelle Bachelet (center) with Cynthia Arnson (left) and Gwen Young at the Wilson Center, September 22, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie

She spoke the day after the 40th anniversary of the murder of former Chilean ambassador and exile Orlando Letelier (1932-1976) at Washington's Sheridan Circle, but not a word was said about him or the event.

She did mention rights.
After enduring decades of totalitarian rule under the leadership of Augusto Pinochet (1915-2006) whose henchmen killed Letelier, "Chile is a country where people are more aware of their rights.  For young people, it's all about rights. Children of democracies are much more demanding."

Ms. Bachelet is also the president of the Pacific Alliance, a trade pact of Chile, Columbia, Mexico, and Peru, a group she frequently cited, whose nations are committed to achieving gender economic equality. 

"Women do make a difference," the president said, and make "a more just society." For "women and men to enjoy the same rights," she said, "we have a long way to go."

She praised India where half its engineers are women. "They want their girls to study."

"Many women don't like politics because politics is hard; sometimes it's harsh and they prefer to do other kinds of stuff."

She credited the French twice for the aphorism: "When a woman goes into politics, the woman changes.  When women go into politics, politics change." The audience applauded.

"I am convinced women have a key role ," she said more than once.

"There is no progress when women are not active in decision making."

Without naming him and to light disapproval from the crowd, she mentioned the 2005 remark by then Harvard University president Larry Summers who opined that "innate differences" likely keep more women from excelling in science. 

Ms. Bachelet focused her remarks solely on the empowerment of women at the session which was co-sponsored by Smith College. 
Businesses which give money to politicians can create a conflict of interest, she said.

No stranger to Washington, she lived in Bethesda for two years while growing up when her father was a Chilean defense attache, and later, she attended the National Defense University.

She spoke from the podium about 15 minutes before she sat down and joined Wilson Center's Cynthia  Arnson, director, Latin American Program, and Gwen Young, director, Global Women's Leadership Initiative and the Women in Public Service Project, who asked her questions, and then later, Ms. Bachelet also answered questions from the audience, a member who asked her about the impeachment and removal from office this year of Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff.  

Ms. Bachelet called Ms. Roussef a "very good friend of mine" whom Ms. Bachelet frequently telephoned during the ordeal, she said.

"The Brazilian constitution permits that [impeachment].  I don't like what happened," and to applause:  "That's all I can say. It's easier to impeach a woman [than it is] a man."

Chili has good child care:  "The care of children is the responsibility of all society." 

"I think a country which cares about its people" cares about child care. "If Chile can do it, I think the U.S. can do it, of course," she said.
A woman said she was "mortified" by the treatment she believes Hillary Clinton receives from the press, and Ms. Bachelet agreed: "I am also 'mortified' by how the media has treated Hillary."

During her own run for the presidency, Ms. Bachelet said, "I was the 'fat one.'"

Women are perceived to be weak "because they don't shout or use," and she struggled for the English term, "swear words."

To applause from the mostly female audience, she said: "No one asks a man if he is capable."  

Yesterday was President Bachelet's 65th birthday.

Power to the prez!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Movie review: 'Snowden' takes early lead for Best Picture

Dear Carla,

Rafi will like this one, too!

I have admired this Whistleblower (capital "W") ever since his name became a household word in 2013. 

Thank you, Edward Snowden, Oliver Stone,
Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Kieran Fitzgerald, all the writers, cast and crew of Snowden.


Snowden is a nerve-wracking thriller and although the outcome is known, still, you get chills watching what happens and wondering why the heck he didn't get out of  Dodge sooner in Hong Kong (?).   

It compares to the stress and anxiety experienced in Argo.  Or a Tom Clancy novel (which I've never read but hear they are pretty good). 

And it's brought to the screen by the same company, Open Road, which distributed Spotlight, the 2016 Oscar winner for 'Best Picture.'

Snowden is Oliver Stone at his best and lo, I am not going to make this a review of Oliver Stone a la so many others, since most moviegoers don't go to a movie because of the director, but we go because of what our friends say, to see a good film based on entertainment, acting, script, music, and all the other components which go into a great film. Who said anything about a director, except the reviewers who write for other reviewers?  They make the film?

 All we want to know:

1. Is the movie worth our time and bucks?  Snowden, yes!  And yes, again!

Due to filming in Munich ("a beautiful experience") where Stone took his menagerie to escape the confines and U.S. peeping, and due to the movie's importance to him, Stone skipped his mother's funeral in the U.S. (where the NSA probably would have wired him at the airport), and to ensure staff technological security, independence, and protection, he hired a cyber expert for the filming. (All these important facts, courtesy, Wikipedia.)

The star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Snowden,"), (quoting again, Wikipedia) has pledged his salary from the movie "to 'help facilitate the conversation' about the relationship between technology and democracy." (Huh?  There's an organization for that?  Would that be the Clinton Foundation or a "Trump charity"? I say, give it all to The Nation.)

Craig Armstrong and Adam Peters's excellent music increases Snowden's drama and depth with the right amount of volume and composition.

The metallic, sterile industrial complexes of the CIA and NSA are exquisitely done, and the world of make-believe comes alive with Big Daddy Boss Man (Rhys Ifans).  He literally covers the Big Screen in magnificent, scary effect when he morphs into Tyrannosaurus Rhys ready to eat Snowden up. Roar and yeekers, yikers, he is one creepy dude nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Sex?  Sex?  You want sex?  It's here and more than you'd think, not totally gratuitous and with sprinkles of the "F" bomb dropping every now and then, natch.  

Thanks to Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) who have major roles and led the publication of the information Snowden possessed (possesses).

Ms. Poitras directed Citizenfour, the 2015 Oscar winner for Best Documentary, the predecessor to Snowden about the same subject, however, a little too wonky and technical for me, not nearly the "keep you on the edge of your seat" like Snowden. (The difference between a refrigerator manual and Lolita (I have read).)

Near Snowden's end are heard the shrill cries of Hillary in the background: Hang him!  Hang him high!  To the gallows!  Meanwhile, there is Donald J.Trump who would only execute the man. Sigh, our "leaders," one and the same. Some things never change. It's no wonder so many voters will stay home.

Speaking of, Snowden's hopes for President Obama were dashed early on when Snowden realized Obama was more of the "same ole, same ole," a difficult world to escape once he or she enters the lair.

Snowden said the government uses terrorism as an excuse to spy and pry on the people, and he shared the proof with us. Thank you, Edward Snowden, for the revelations, unlike national intelligence director James Clapper who, three months' prior to Snowden's release of data, lied to U.S. senators in a hearing when he denied that the U.S. collected information on citizens. Excuse me, isn't this what Nazi Germany did? 

Why hasn't Clapper been charged with perjury?  Oh, I forgot:  He's one of "the good old boys," a member of the Washington hierarchy which grants immunity from prosecution, depending upon position.

Please, don't come back, Edward Snowden. Move to St. Petersburg, if Moscow is too droll. Stay away. We don't want THEM to hang you high.

Academy Award nominations:

Best Picture, Snowden

Best Director, Oliver Stone

Best Actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Best Actress in a Supporting Role, (the girlfriend)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Rhys Ifans

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Mellon show ends today at the National Gallery of Art

Paul Klee, Swiss, 1879 – 1940, Dampfer und Segelböte (Steamboat and Sailboats), 1931, watercolor. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983

Only a few hours remain to see the special exhibition devoted to a small portion of the hundreds of works of art formerly owned by Paul Mellon (1907-1999) before he gave them to the National Gallery of Art.
Edouard Manet, French, 1832–1883, The Raven Perched Upon a Bust of Pallas, 1875, gillotage. In Edgar Allan Poe, Le Corbeau, translated by Stephane Mallarme (Paris: Richard Lesclide,1875). National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon,

Paul Mellon was the son of the founder of the National Gallery, Andrew Mellon (1855-1937), so it is fitting that the Gallery recognize the largesse of the family on its 75th birthday with a presentation of Paul and Bunny Mellon's collection found in their home, pieces which Paul Mellon hung himself. 
Jacques Villon, French, 1875–1963, A Woman in Blue at the Beach, 1902/1904, watercolor over graphite. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1995 

The National Gallery is filled with the Mellons' gifts, including the 88 pastels, drawings, watercolors, illustrated books, and prints which make up this show and are not displayed often or for long periods of time due to light's damaging effects. 
The donor gave no thought really to the juxtaposition of the pieces in his home, said his friend and curator Andrew Robison when the exhibition opened.  Mellon only bought and hung what he liked, which matches the arrangement here.
Winslow Homer, American, 1836 – 1910, On the Stile, 1878, watercolor and gouache over graphite. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1994
Represented artists in the show include
Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, Édouard Manet, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Edgar Degas, George Bellows, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

Rene Magritte, Belgian, 1898 –1967, The Murderous Sky, 1927, brush and ink with collage of sheet music cutouts, lithograph. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1995
Henri Matisse, French, 1869–1954, Self-Portrait, 1937, charcoal. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1985

On the walls are Mellon quotes which Robison pulled from books, news articles, and magazines. Robison described Paul Mellon as a man who had a "gentleness [and] shyness" about him, "reserved [with a] mischievous smile."

George Bellows, American, 1882 – 1925, Dempsey and Firpo, 1923/1924, lithograph. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 1983

"He only bought what he said he wanted to live with," said Robison. Collecting was rather like "occupational therapy" for him.

His favorite artists were "probably" Degas and Homer whose watercolors he liked better than Degas'.

At the Paul Mellon exhibition/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Some of his favorite subjects were boxing, horse racing, the water, New York and Parisian night life, and woman's curves, all depicted in pictures and now on the walls of what used to be called "the Mellon Gallery," said Earl A. Powell, III, the National Gallery's director.

At the press preview of the show, Director Powell told a funny story about the time he was invited to the Mellons' shortly after Powell was hired in 1992 as the National Galley director.

At the Mellons' home, "Murray the Butler" greeted Powell. In one hand Murray held a sheet of paper and in the other, a martini, which later came to be known as the "Mellon Martini," created by Mellon himself, a concoction of vodka and gin because Mellon didn't like the smell of vermouth or maybe it was the other way around. 

Whatever, there was some smell he didn't like.

Murray said to Powell: "Sir, Mr. Mellon has made a list of art works on the wall he thought you might like to have, and if you want others, please add them to the list." (!!!!!)

What: In Celebration of Paul Mellon

When: Today is the last day, Sunday, September 18, 2016, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

West Building, Galleries 72 and 73, the National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission charge: Never on Sunday or any day

Metro stations for the National Gallery of Art:
Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215

Monday, September 12, 2016

Bryce Harper blows a big one Saturday night v. Phillies

At Saturday's night game of the Nationals v. the Phillies, outfielder and baseball star Bryce Harper blew a big one to get things rolling in Washington, D.C.

Who makes that gum?  The manufacturer might think about selling it ("Bryce's Gum"?) since it may be the secret sauce behind the home run he hit in the eighth to bring in two more runs and win the game, 3-0.  Nice job, Bryce!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Bryce Harper in the outfield, Nationals v. Phillies, Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2016/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Whatsis?  Bryce got a yo-yo in his mouth?Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Another fun night at the game! Sure was glad I was on the lower level where you can buy $6.50 beer v. that high priced stuff on the upper levels ($9)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Hold on, looks like another one's comin'!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 And another!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
One more! Durn it all, I missed some big blows.  Whatever, we appreciate the fine finish you made on the game, Bryce!  Thank you very much/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Confederate cemetery in Castlewood, VA

A private Confederate cemetery in Castlewood, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A private Confederate cemetery in Castlewood, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie  

The six soldiers whose graves are pictured above fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War (1861-1865), and five were members of the Kentucky Calvary.  (It's possible that the sixth, Samuel W. Goode, fought with the Kentucky Calvary, but identification on his marker on the far left is difficult to make out in the photograph.)  

Beginning on the left with Mr. Goode's grave are the graves of William H. Garnett (died May 20, 1863), Leroy White (died June 9, 1863), C. J. Edrington (died June 16, 1863),  Henry B. Green (died June 22, 1863), and James W. Johnson (died March 1, 1864).  Garnett, White, Edrington, and Green were members of the Fourth Kentucky Cavalry Regiment, and Johnson was a member of the Tenth.

At the time, Castlewood was spelled "Cassel Woods" where Mr. Edrington died. Mr. Garnett and Mr. White died in Virginia, and that's as far as I have gotten.

Castlewood is a small town in southwestern Virginia, about 45 miles from the Kentucky border.  During the war, Kentucky was a border state, a slave state, which did not secede to join the Confederate States of America.

Although Kentucky Cavaliers in Dixie: Reminiscences of a Confederate Cavalryman (1895) by George Dallas Mosgrove, a member of the Fourth Kentucky Calvary Regiment, is available for purchase online, you can also read it in its entirety online for free, thanks to the Emory University Digital Library Publications Program.  It has a handy search tool.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Come 'Hell or High Water' will win an Oscar (or two...)

Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, and Chris Pine in Film 44's   Hell or High Water

Dear Carla, Rafi will like this one!

It's rough and tumbly stuff, made for men and women who enjoy good drama, rat-a-tat-tat dialogue, action, choice acting, and musical effects to build suspense and add to  cinematographic effects (by Giles Nuttgens.  In quieter moments with the sky as backdrop, you may think you're in a Santa Fe gallery, but not for long). 
Ben Foster (left) and Chris Pine in Film 44's Hell or High Water

Hands down, no question, Hell or High Water will win Oscar nominations, maybe (my call) seven or eight to include "Best Picture" and is it possible for one film to zap 60 percent of the "Best Actor" nominees?  Good, for in this case "Best Actor" nominations go to:

1. Jeff Bridges, the curmudgeonly Texas Ranger;

2.  Chris Pine, the fall-down-dead-breathless lady killer and bank robber, assisted by his son-of-a-gun criminal brother, 

3. Ben Foster.

And not to overlook "Best Supporting Actor" in his biggest role yet, Gil Birmingham who plays Chief Ranger's sidekick.
(If there were an Oscar for casting, I'd nominate the film's Jo Edna Boldin and Richard Hicks.)

Nominations are also in order for David Mackenzie, Best Director, and for Taylor Sheridan, Best Original Screenplay.

Until friends who saw the film on opening weekend told me it had earned 98% and 90% at Rotten Tomatoes (the first score is the critics', and the second and more important rating is by the audience which is generally not swayed by producers, friends, directors, reputations, etc.), it's likely I would have skipped Hell or High Water altogether. 

You like guns?  Take a gander at the display.

Hell has a bit of Bonnie and Clyde (for the two percent who remember it) and a hint of Oh, Brother Where Art Thou? (mostly without the humor. Hell tries a trifle too much to make funny with the Native American jokes, which, after a while, become old and repetitious.  This is not Andrew Jackson taking out the Indians on the "Trail of Tears," folks.)

The language is harsh, natch, and the sex is minimal, but the two women who come along (Katy Mixon and Marin Ireland) are excellent, despite criticism I have read about the script's stereotypical female roles. Feminists (I am): Don't let it keep you from seeing this movie!

Mr. Sheridan skilfully weaves the painful, underlying issue of lifelong poverty throughout the tale, and you gotta hate the banks even more. 

Especially "reverse mortgages" which the banks still promote as the best thing for the elderly since oatmeal.  A reverse mortgage made hell for the brothers' mother at the end of her life, but her sons took their guns to town and got revenge.  

Why do we root for the bad guys to get away?  How much of ourselves are in the characters we see?