Films, Films, Films

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Ten films for you to keep in mind. Six of these are in the theaters now.

Five of the ten get my highest ratings — four and a half or five stars.

A Brilliant Young Mind *****

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You’ll have to wait for the summer for this one — Samuel Goldwyn Films just purchased the US distribution rights — but mark it down. It’s a very good one.

A Brilliant Young Mind is Morgan Matthews’ drama about a 16 year old autistic math prodigy; it was inspired by Matthews’ own 2007 documentary, Beautiful Young Minds. That documentary followed the young British International Mathematical Olympiad team through their selection process, their training, and the actual contest itself in 2006.

This ‘follow up’ film is based on one of the British team participants, Daniel Lightwing, but it is not a documentary. Rather, with a story written by James Graham, Matthews has given us a look inside the life and mind of a young autistic boy that is the best film I’ve seen on this subject.

Basically, it is the story of Nathan (played superbly by Asa Butterfield) and his journey in and partially out of his isolated world. When his father is killed in an automobile accident, Nathan withdraws further into his autistic isolation, using his mathematical genius to try to cope with what has become a terrifying world.

I won’t add more particulars or spoilers, other than to say that a series of events occur that bring you into his world and his struggles as well as into the world of his mother and a number of other young prodigies (some who are also autistic).

Not only is Asa Butterfield’s acting wonderful, so too is Sally Hawkins’ (his mother), Rafe Spall’s (his teacher), Jo Yang’s (a young Chinese math contestant), and another half dozen contestants.

This film reminds me of the book and play The Curious Incident of the Dog at Midnight, which also brings the reader/audience into a world they probably do not know.

For those who want to know about life on the ‘autistic spectrum’, who want an understanding of what that life is, both for the individuals who struggle with it and the families who struggle along too, be sure to see this film when it’s released this summer.

About Elly ****1/2

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One of my favorite films a couple of years ago was A Separation, a film that eventually won an Oscar in 2012 for Best Foreign Language Film. Director Ashgard Farhadi’s follow up film, The Past, was one I also liked, tho not as much as A Separation.

Now a old/new film is out in the theaters in the US (tho I haven’t noticed its availability in DC yet). I say old/new as it was made in 2009 but never released here until this month because of a dispute over distribution rights. I liked this one too, tho not quite as much as A Separation.

About Elly is a psychological thriller about a group of middle class Iranian friends who embark on a holiday. What starts out as joyous adventure soon turns into tragedy as one member of the party disappears. What takes place in the remainder of the film is less about the individual who disappears and more about those who brought her to the party.

Again, I’ll refrain from spoilers, but know that it is more than just a thriller. Film critic David Bordwell captures some of what Farhadi directs with this: “Gripping as sheer storytelling, the plot smoothly raises some unusual moral questions. It touches on masculine honor, on the way a thoughtless laugh can wound someone’s feelings, on the extent to which we try to take charge of others’ fates. I can’t recall another film that so deeply examines the risks of telling lies to spare someone grief. But no more talk: The less you know in advance, the better.”

Clouds of Silas Maria *****

Clouds..MV5BMjMzNzc4OTg0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDQwODU3MjE@._V1__SX1383_SY656_We saw this film in the Philadelphia film festival last year and liked it very much. It is now in a number of theaters around the country.

Here’s what I wrote in October, 2014:

“Aging actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is convinced to return to the play that made her famous many years earlier, this time not as the young star (Choloe Grace Moritz) but as the older woman.

“Much of the film involves a story within a story as  Binoche rehearses for the play with the help of her personal, young assistant Valentin (Kristen Stewart), who has her own strong views about acting, aging, and life.

“Wonderful acting, a good script, and excellent photography make for a fine film.”

Clouds of Silas Maria is now being shown in theaters around the country.

Gemma Bovery ****

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Our film club gave this one a rating of 95% (Excellent or Good), and 99% of those rating it said they’d recommend it to others. I suspect it will not be in the theaters for at least a few months.

I wasn’t quite so enthused about it, but you might want to check it out for yourselves.

It’s a story of an English couple (Gemma & Charles Bouvery) who move to a quiet French village, where the baker — a Madame Bovery fan — seems to think Gemma and Charles are ‘reenacting’ the life of his favorite characters from the Flaubert novel. (This reminded me of a wonderful short story by  Woody Allen’s The Kugelmass Episode, which, if you’ve never read it, consider yourself deprived. If you click on the above link, you can read Allen’s very short story.)

I won’t try to reconstruct the complicated and comical story depicted in Gemma Bovery as I’m not sure I could, but the acting and direction are good. And don’t we all think we might like to live in a small French village that has wonderful bread?

GETT: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem *****

GETT.MV5BMjI3MTMxNDc3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTA3MjA4MTE@._V1__SX1383_SY656_Another film we saw at the Philadelphia Film Festival that we liked very much. It was also in various other film festivals around the country and now has been showing in theaters more widely.

Again, from an earlier MillersTime post:

“Viviane (Ronit Ikabetz) has been unhappily married to Elisha (Simon Abkarian) for many years and now lives apart from him and her child, though she continues to pay her portion of the mortgage and to cook for her family each day.

“But Elisha will not give her a GETT, the (his) permission for a divorce. Vivane goes to the Rabbinical Court, the only legal authority that can settle her case.  For the next five years, we follow the ‘trial’ of Viviane Amsalem.

“All action in the film takes place in a small courtroom with a handful of wonderful actors. Their performances are riveting, and the photography adds immeasurably to the telling of this story.

“This film took the top prize at the Ophir Awards (Israeli Oscars) and will be Israeli’s submission for Best Foreign Film at the next Oscars.”

We liked it so much that when it appeared at our DC Cinema Club this year, we saw it again.

Seymour: An Introduction *****

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This wonderful film — a documentary — is out now, tho I fear it won’t be around too long.

Calling it a Gentle Gem (referring both to the film and to its subject), I wrote about it just a few weeks ago and highly recommended it for anyone who is a teacher, a parent, a lover of music or involved in the arts in any way.

The Farewell Party ****

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Another film we saw recently in our cinema club, which means it probably won’t be out for a few months at least.

At first this 2014 film seems to be just another story of friends aging, this time in a Jerusalem retirement home. Then, when one of the group is diagnosed with a life ending illness, things turn weird and dark. Should friends help friends end their life?

The Farewell Party takes on the issue of euthanasia in both a serious and a comic tone. Initially, the story, making use of a machine that would allow self-administered doses of lethal drugs, seemed unreal.

But somehow, as the film continues, the co-directors Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit find a way to pull the audience into this serious issue (because of their use of comedy?).

I don’t know if this film will make it to theaters around this country, but it is being shown at various film festivals, including some here in the US.

Our film club gave The Farewell Party a rating of 97.6% (Excellent or Good) and a 100% Recommend to friends rating.

I’m curious as to what others think of this film.

The Salt of the Earth ****

127519_oriThis one we saw at the Miami Film Festival in March, and it’s now in local theaters.

March 12, 2015 MillersTime min-review:

“Another Oscar nominee, this one for Best Documentary Feature.

“Having recently seen an exhibit in NYC of photographer Sebastião Salgado’s wonderful black and white photos, we were enthused about seeing a film about his life and his work.

“The film explores two journeys, Salgado’s many trips to photograph both the beauty and the ugliness of our world and an inner journey of how those trips and what he saw and photographed affected him.

“Not only do we see what he photographed, we hear him discuss the trips, the photos, and most of all what happened to him as a result of taking those photos.”

While We Were Young **1/2

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Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts are a forty something couple whose lives seem to be stuck, that is until they get involved with a young couple whose life style seems exciting.

And for me, that was about where this film went off track. As Josh (Stiller) and Cordelia (Watts) get involved with this younger couple, they seem to find some excitement and new energy.

But none of it seemed real to me. While there are some amusing scenes, and the issues raised are good ones, it all seemed pretty phony to me. While the acting is actually pretty good, when I don’t like any of the people being portrayed, it’s hard for me to like the film.

While We Were Young is available in theaters around the country.

Wild Tales ****

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Another one from the Miami Film Festival and one that is currently in the theaters. If you see it, I’d be interested in which of the sketches you liked best:

From my March 12, 2015 post:

“One of the nominees for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars this year and now out in theaters around the country, Wild Tales was the opening night film at Miami’s 32nd Film Festival.

“Almost like a series of short stories around a similar theme, you see six sketches about the extremes to which anger and revenge can take us.

Not for everyone, but there is a lot to like in at least three or four of the ‘vignettes’.

The audience in Miami loved it. They laughed frequently and clapped when it ended.

**          **          **          **          **          **          **          **          *

PS – As I was finishing this post, my wife Ellen asked if I had included “that one we saw recently in London.” “What was that,” I asked. “You know, the one about the German soldier billeted in a French estate.” I had to Google it to get the title, Suite Francaise. Then I recalled it but could not remember enough about it to rate it here. Ellen says we liked it very much. I do remember loving the book by the same title, tho. The film is available in England but not here as of yet.

Help Us Spread the Word

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For most of my ‘professional’ life I worked with children, adolescents, and families in various settings –- Peace Corps, John F. Kennedy High School, The Psychiatric Institute, and The Frost School –- and in a variety teaching, counseling, and administrative positions.

Along with a group of five other colleagues, we established The Family Foundation, Inc. in 1975 that served as our umbrella organization for The Frost School and later The Frost Counseling Center. The Family Foundation still exists, with the purpose “to provide educational, counseling, and charitable support to individuals, families, and organizations in need.”

The Frost School was where I spent most of my working life. It was a day treatment program that combined academics, daily therapy, and family treatment for emotionally troubled children, adolescents, and their families. It continues to exist and now is part of The Sheppard Pratt Health Systems.

Although we, the founders of The Family Foundation and The Frost School, are now retired (or all will be when Carrie Trauth ‘finally’ retires in June), we still have one major remaining project underway.

And that’s where readers of MillersTime could be of help.

No. We are not going to ask you for money, but we would like you to help expand the reach of those who know about us.  The Family Foundation is increasing our grant making activities, and we are anxious to spread the word about the availability of these new resources.

Here’s what you can do:

You can check out our recently established website — www.thefamilyfoundationinc.com — to see specifically what we offer (more than just grants) to others.

Let us know of individuals, projects, or programs that you know of, perhaps have been or are currently associated with, that you believe could use our assistance.

Let others know about the goals of The Family Foundation and what we have to offer.

Often, the best leads we get for helping others come through individuals we know or who know of the work we’ve done.

So please, spread the word, encourage others to look at the website, and, of course, drop us a line, now or in the future, alerting us to worthwhile programs and individuals that we might consider supporting.

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For further info, go to: http://www.thefamilyfoundationinc.com/

10 of These Predictions Will Come True

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I’m not sure if the contestants in this year’s 2015 MillersTime Baseball Contests are geniuses, fools, frustrated writers, or wannabe comedians (see #s 28, 32, and 43, for example).

You decide.

Judging by previous years in this contest, at least 10 of the predictions below — Question #2 in this year’s contest — will come true.

Which 10, of course, is the question.

If you predict how many actually come true, you will also receive a prize — a t-shirt proclaiming you a MillersTime Baseball Contest Winner. Send your guess (the number of predictions that will come true) to me at samesty84@gmail.com or put the number in the Comments section of this post. Multiply winners are possible, but you only get one guess/prediction.

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A Gentle Gem

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Seymour: An Introduction *****

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I suspect most of us have never heard of Seymour Bernstein.

Although I enjoy classical music, I did not know his name nor his work, until last night.

Thanks to the actor Ethan Hawke, however, Bernstein may gain some recognition outside of a small circle of people in the music world. In his first work as a movie director — this a documentary – Hawke has given us a gem.

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Never Leave Until It’s Over

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Dear Eli,

It was fun going with you to the baseball game Thursday. And I’m glad we stayed until the very end of the game, even if your favorite team, the Nats, lost.

You always have to stay until the end of the game. No matter how bad or how good it might seem for your team.

Yesterday was a good example of why it’s so important to understand the game is never over until the final out.

Last night in Yankee Stadium, it was the bottom of the 9th inning, and my heroes the Sox were ahead 3-2. There were two outs. One more and they’d beat the Evil Empire (the Yankees).

Disaster struck.

Instead of the final out, the Yankees hit a home run to tie the game.

Extra innings.

Nothing much happened for the next seven innings, although Friday had turned into Saturday.  Then, in the 16th inning, Big Papi, the great David Ortiz, hit a home run and put the Sox ahead 4-3.

Then, the Yankees got a home run in the bottom of the 16th when one of their players, Mark Teixeira, who was 34 years old when the game started and had turned 35 by the 16th inning, hit a home run.

Bummer. The game tied again, 4-4.

In the top 18th inning, again the Sox went ahead, 5-4.

And wouldn’t you know it, again the Yunkees tied it. Score now 5-5.

Then, in the 19th inning, after more than seven hours, the Sox went ahead 6-5.

This time, the bad guys didn’t tie it in the bottom of the inning, and the Sox won.

And that’s why you never, ever leave a game until the final out is made.

Never give up.

What the ‘Experts’ Say – 2015 MLB

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Well, the votes are all in, and, according to the MillersTime baseball prognosticators, here are the results of two of the six contests:

Contest #1. Favorite Team Record and how far they’ll go:

a. Sox – 89.5-72.5 – lose in ALCS

b. Nationals – 99-63 – win WS

c. Os – 92.5-69.5 – lose in ALCS

d. Dodgers – 92.5-69.5 – lose in WS

e. Yankees – 86-76 – no playoffs

f. Royals – 83-79 – no playoffs

Contest # 6: Who will play and who will win the WS:

Overwhelmingly Nats win WS over the Angels.

In my humble opinion, the Nats fans have bought the hype and don’t understand that while pitching is most important, you need some hitting and good defense. Nats may make the playoffs but will be a disappointment (and disappointed) again.

The other predictions above are pretty good, I think, tho the Sox fans may be disappointed too, as my heroes, if they do make it into the playoffs, are unlikely to get very far.

Hopefully, one of you readers will remind all of us of these predictions at the end of the season.

PS – Lots more predictions to come, including some ‘remarkable views’ of what might happen in MLB this year.

Join Me for a Nats’ Game

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Once again I have some tickets available for Nats’ games, some to join with me and some I cannot use.

For the seats with me, there’s no cost to you, other than possibly buying me a bag of peanuts and listening to my natterings about baseball.

For the ones I cannot attend, I’m flexible. If you are going to take a kid, then I’ll give you the tickets. If not, then I’d like to recover the cost of the seats ($50 a seat, less than the printed price), but I can be persuaded otherwise.

I’m offering tickets for games through June and will announce later games later in the season.

And I’m doing it a bit differently this year.

Rather than focusing on who saw this post first, if you’re interested in seeing a game with me, send me, by Opening Day, Sunday night, April 5, two games you could attend. Then I can juggle a bit if more than one person wants a certain game.

If you’re interested in two seats without me, those will be on a first to contact me basis.

The available games:

1.   Thursday, April 9, 1:05 vs Mets (with me)

2.   Thursday, April 16, 7:05 vs Phillies (with me)

3.   Sunday, April 19, 1:35 vs Phillies (with me)

4.   Tuesday, April 21, 7:05 vs Cards (with me)

4.   Monday, May 4, 7:05 vs Marlins (with me).

5.   Tuesday, May 5, 7:05 vs Marlins (two tickets, without me)

6.   Wednesday, May 6, 1:05 Marlins (two tickets, without me)

7.   Friday, May 8, 7:05 vs Braves (two tickets, without me)

8.   Sunday, May 24, 1:35 vs Phillies (with me)

9.   Sunday, June 7, 4:05 vs Cubs (with me)

10.  Friday, June 19, 7:05 vs Pirates (with me and two without me)

You don’t have to be knowledgeable about baseball to join me. It’s enough simply to enjoy an afternoon or evening at the park.

And, I can easily be persuaded to take a kid along with me to one of these games.

Remember, give me two possible games that work for you by Sunday nite, April 5.

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Not connected to these tickets – a reminder that your 2015 MillersTime Baseball Contest predictions are due by Sunday, April 5, 8:05 PM.

 

Where Do You Stand on Pete Rose?

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Baseball’s Rule 21(d):  “Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

Pete Rose: Player 1963-86 and Manager 1984-89 broke this rule, betting on baseball games, including games he managed. After lying about his betting on baseball for 15 years, he signed a deal in 1989 with MLB Commissioner of Baseball Bart Giamatti that banished him from the sport forever.

Hall of Fame: A permanently ineligible player cannot be considered for the Hall of Fame. Had Rose not bet on baseball and not been banned, he would have easily been elected to the HOF. See His Accomplishments if you doubt that.

Rose has sought ‘parole’ in the past (5 times?), but neither Commissioners Fay Vincent nor Bud Selig ever considered rescinding the banishment. Now, 25 years later, there is a new Commissioner of Baseball, Rob Manifred, and it is likely he will have to decide if Rose should be reinstated. (Reinstatement would not mean automatic entrance into the HOF as Rose would still have to be voted into the HOF in the usual manner by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America.)

The Debate:

1. Rose has served his time and should be reinstated.

2. Rose broke a cardinal rule and should not be allowed back in baseball.

3. Rose should remain out of baseball but be voted in or out of HOF by the BBWAA just as any other rule breaker (PEDs, etc.).

Two articles that address these issues that are worth your time:

Tyler Kepner, NYT: Pete Rose’s Statistics: 4,256 Hits and a Big Error, where in Mike Schmidt says Rose has served his time and should return to baseball. Paul Molitor disagrees.

Thomas Boswell, WaPo: Consider Pete Rose for HOF, but don’t let him back in baseball, where in Boswell says ‘No Way’ Rose should be let back in, but he could/should be considered for the HOF.

My thinking on this ‘debate’ has changed, particularly after reading the Boswell article. I agree with his reasoning and conclusion that Rose should not be reinstated. Not so sure about the HOF issue, however.

Where do you stand? Please so state in the Comment section of this post.

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Reminder:  If you haven’t submitted you picks for the 2015 MillersTime Baseball Contests, tempus fugit.

 

Return to My Lai, Seymour Hersh cont.

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 Pham Thanh Cong, the director of the My Lai Museum, was eleven at the time of the massacre. His mother and four siblings died. “We forgive, but we do not forget,” he said.Credit Photograph by Katie Orlinsky  - The New Yorker

Pham Thanh Cong, the director of the My Lai Museum, was eleven at the time of the massacre. His mother and four siblings died. “We forgive, but we do not forget,” he said. Credit Photograph by Katie Orlinsky – The New Yorker

Having recently returned from a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia and being continually disturbed, and sometimes mystified, about the US role and legacy in that part of the world, I was attracted to the current issue of the New Yorker and Seymour M. Hersh’s article Return to My Lai: The Scene of the Crime – A reporter’s journey to My Lai and the secrets of the past.

Hersh, as you may remember, particularly if you ‘came of age’ during the Vietnam War, broke the story about the My Lai massacre, which, in part, led to a reexamination of our role in that war and in that part of the world.

Now, 47 years later, Hersh returns to Vietnam and specifically to My Lai and discovers things he did not know when he uncovered and wrote about the My Lai massacre.

Check out: Return to My Lai

Also, in a companion ‘article’, there are photographs by New Yorker photojournalist Katie Orlinsky, who accompanied Hersh on this trip. Check out: The Memory of My Lai.

MillersTime Wins an Award

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For real.

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Normally I wouldn’t brag, but my wife Ellen insists I post the following:

While looking at my email in the middle of the night recently (I know, bad form), I saw this: Congrats! You’ve won a Thommie Award for outstanding work on your blog “MillersTime”.  I thought it was spam and almost deleted it.

But I took a chance and opened the email. Don’t we all like winning awards?

I saw that a group named Thomas Wolfe Was Wrong was looking for writers who have commented on whether or not you can go home again (the adage taken from Wolfe’s 1940 novel You Can’t Go Home Again).

In choosing MillersTime as “our first recipient of the prestigious Thommie Award” — for excellence in literary interpretationthey cited me for “rescinding (my) initial comment regarding Thomas Wolfe’s faultiness.” They cited my post A Sad Apology and quoted from what I had written:

In October of last year, I wrote, “Thomas Wolfe was wrong. You can go home again – almost.”… . Sam Wo’s is closing. You can read about the details as written in the SF Chronicle, but basically, the place is so far from being acceptable to the Health Department, that it would take a mammoth rebuilding to keep it open… … And so my apologies to the also deceased Thomas Wolfe. After going ‘home’ to Sam Wo’s for the last 50 years, that is now no longer possible.

Basically, after returning to my favorite San Francisco Chinese Restaurant, Sam Wo’s, I wrote a review (You Can Go Home Again…Almost), saying it was still a good restaurant, and, therefore, Thomas Wolfe was wrong in his famous adage.

Not long after that post, I was ‘forced’ to write another one acknowledging the closing of Sam Wo’s. I think it was that post (A Sad Apology) that accounted for my winning of the Thommie Award.

I sincerely want to thank the Thomas Wolfe Was Wrong folks for this ‘prestigious’ Thommie Award.

Miami Film Festival – 2015

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We spent an all-too-brief time this past weekend at the Miami Film Festival. As we found and enjoyed in last year’s Philadelphia Film Festival, we loved the idea and actuality of seeing three films a day, often very different films.

The main drawback, of course, is the lack of time to savor each film. Still, I suspect we will make a habit of going back to both Philly and Miami, where it is possible to get into almost every film, assuming just a bit of advanced planning. And the costs are reasonable.

Six of the seven films we saw over two plus days are ones that are worth considering if you love movies.

Here are very brief notes on them:

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It’s Gonna Work – Betcha

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I was in Jupiter, FL Monday and Tuesday to take in a couple of Spring Training games, and I noticed something that I suspect we’ll see continue in the regular season this year.

Now I know, Spring Training is not indicative of the regular season. And you can find at least a dozen reasons to question what I’m about to say. But if I were a betting man — and I have been known to make an occasional wager on both baseball (and blackjack) — I would bet on the following statement:

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How Selma Changed Todd Endo’s Life 50 Years Ago

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      (Todd Endo, 73, portrait by Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Todd Endo, a long time friend, was featured in an article in the Washington Post last week. In A Japanese American in Selma, he describes how a trip to Selma 50 years ago changed his life.

Todd is returning to Selma this week to compare 1965 to now and “to make a connection again.”

I look forward to hearing about his return trip to a place that had such an impact on him and suspect he’ll find a very different Selma.

Or maybe not.

Check out the WaPo article.

“He Wanted the Moon”

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He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him. By Mimi Baird, with Eve Claxton. Crown. 272 pages.

The book is autobiography, biography, science, history and literature all in one, as instructive as any textbook and utterly impossible to put down.

from NYTimes review by Abigail Zuger, M.D.

If you’ve read William Styron’s small masterpiece Darkness Visible, you’ve ‘heard’ from a wonderful writer what “madness” is and what it feels like.

If you’ve read Kay Redfield Jamison’s An Unquiet Mind, you know, from both a personal and a scientific perspective, what it is to experience bipolar disease today (manic depression).

Now comes a just released book, He Wanted the Moon, to add to those two wonderful insights into what it is like to experience mental illness. Or in the case of this book, what it was like to experience bipolar disease before we understood it or had any treatment for it.

This one has many of the strengths of the two previous books, and more. I indeed agree with the review quoted above that it is “autobiography, biography, science, history and literature all in one, as instructive as any textbook and utterly impossible to put down.” And, I would add, it is told in such a manner that you haven’t read anything quite like it before.

At least I haven’t.

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