Things I Didn’t Know – Two Articles to Consider

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Readers of this website probably know that I am as passionate about US politics and international affairs as I am about baseball, family, travel, and various other ‘escapes and pleasures.’

However, I have largely chosen not to make MillersTime a forum for my views on politics and international affairs. While I have not specifically tried to hide my views on these two subjects (I did write Walking. Knocking. Talking, about spending a week on a ‘get out the vote’ campaign for Obama in Ohio in 2012, for example), I only occasionally post in The Outer Loop and Articles of Interest sections of this website. And when I do post a comment, or a link to an article, it is because I think there is something of value that transcends the usual partisan politics.

Thus, a longish introduction to today’s post which links to two lengthy articles published this week. Each article, for me, told me things I did not know. Or rather, educated me beyond what I already knew about these two subjects.

The first article explains how and why the big banks in the US have escaped (and will likely continue to escape) legal consequences despite their illegal actions. Both Republicans and Democrats can be faulted here. I found the article disturbing, to say the least.

The second article explains the course of the Democratic Party over the past 50 or so years and goes beyond the ‘gasbag’ analyses that we are getting as a result of the major losses the Democrats have suffered in the 2014 mid-term elections.

I follow both authors, Matt Taibbi and Matt Stoller, Taibbi because he goes further than most journalists in his gathering of information, and Stoller because I think he is one of the brightest and most thoughtful progressive writers.

Check out:

Matt Taibbi: “The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JP Morgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare

Matt Stoller: “Why the Democratic Party Acts the Way It Does”

As always, your thoughtful and considered reactions to these articles are welcomed in the Comment section of this post or directly in an email to me.

Two Free Sunday Cinema Club Tickets Available

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banner1As we cannot attend, we have two free tickets to the Sunday, Nov. 16th showing of a film at the DC Cinema Club.

It begins at 10:30 AM at DC’s Avalon Theater and is usually a worthy film from one of the recent Film Festivals. You will not know what you’re going to see until you arrive. But we generally have enjoyed all of the ones we’ve seen. They are most often documentaries or foreign films, not yet publicly released, or ones that may only be released for a short period of time.

Recently we saw Happy Valley (click to see review), a yet to be released documentary on the effects of the Jerry Sandusky abuse charges on the Penn State community. It was terrific.

Let me know if you want the tickets. You can leave a note in the Comment section of this post or send me an email. Let me know your phone number so I can arrange to get the tickets to you.

Grandkids’ Extended Visit = Photo Opportunity

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The best baby-sitters, of course, are the baby’s grandparents. You feel comfortable entrusting your baby to them for long periods, which is why most grandparents flee to Florida. – Dave Barry

Telling us some story about having their ‘floors’ redone and having to move out of their house for ‘at the most’ two weeks, our daughter, son-in-law and their three kids (it felt like at least a dozen) moved into our quiet, “retirement home” in mid-October. They just left to return to their own house, and I sure hope they like their ‘redone floors.’

For those of you who largely use MillersTime as a way to keep up with the grandkinder, here are some pictures from the last two and half weeks, mostly taken with Ellen’s iPhone.

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Final: All Six 2014 MillersTime Baseball Winners

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With the closing of the ‘polls’ at 7:23 PM Tuesday night, a winner has been chosen for Contest #1: Make a prediction about the 2014 MLB season.

Greg Roper (“Five no-hitters”) and Ed Scholl (“A team will play in the World Series that has either never played in the WS or not played there in 25 years”) were pretty close for second place. But it was Chris Eacho’s “Red Sox in last place at the All Star break and trade four of their Opening Day starters at the Deadline” that got the most vote from MillersTime readers. So, that Sox hater and O’s lover Chris Eacho, who always makes wild predictions, is the winner and gets to choose One of These 20 Best Baseball Books Ever.

Contest # 2: Pick any MLB team and predict what their regular season record will be in 2014. Also, will they make the playoffs, and how far will they go if they do?

Sam Poland was the first to predict the Yankees’ exact record (84-78). He wins and gets two tickets to a 2015 regular MLB season game.

Contest #3: What will the Washington Nationals’ record be this year? Tie Breakers: Will they make the playoffs, and how far will they go?

Elizabeth M. Tilis (a former winner, tho under a different name) won over four others who also got the season record of 96-66 exactly right. She was the only one who said they’d lose in the 1st round. She gets two tickets to a 2015 Nats’ game of her choic

Contest #4: Will the Red Sox or Yankees have a better won-loss regular season record this year? Will either or both make the playoffs? Tie-Breaker: What will the split be in the 19 games they play against each other?

Peter Shimm, (another former winner or runner-up?) is the winner and gets two tickets to a Sox-Yankee in 2015. (He chose one of the 20 Beat Baseball Books instead as his prize.)

Contest # 5: Pick a player whose batting average (sans decimal) and RBIs combined will add up closest to 406. Tie-Breaker: How many Home Runs will the player of your choice hit?

Dan Fischer wins this contest which went to the tie-breaker, predicting Trout would hit 36 home runs (he hit 37). He chose one of these 20 Best Baseball Books as his prize. Also, because he came up with this meshuganeh idea for a contest, Chris Bourtourline also gets to choose one of the 20 books. (Incentive. Incentive. Incentive. Come up with a question for next year’s contest.)

Contest #6: Who will be in the World Series? Who will win it all? Who will be the WS MVP?

No one had the Royals in the WS and only two contestants had the Giants in it (both predicting the Giants would lose).

So, there is no winner this year.

However, Elliott Trommald predicted, “No one in the Millerstime Contest would accurately predict the winner this year.” So, by the power invested in me by me, Elliott is awarded his choice of one of the 20 Best Baseball Books Ever.

And thus ends the contest for this year. Know that I’ll be looking for a few new baseball questions (prediction questions) for next year’s contest. You can send them to me whenever you think of a good one.

“An Incredible Run…An Awful Lot of Fun”

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Today mark’s the final day of public service (1968-2014) for Ellen Miller.

Ellen’s first work in Washington was with Ralph Nader at his Center for Responsive Law and at his Center for Auto Safety. She then worked with Sen. Abraham Ribicoff at his Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and also with the Pike House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Following her government service, Ellen worked for two journalistic enterprises, Tom Paine and The American Prospect and also directed the “Project for an Accountable Congress” at the Campaign for America’s Future.

Most of Ellen’s work, however, was invested in the three organizations she created and lead, The Center for Responsive Politics, Public Campaign, and The Sunlight Foundation. All three groups have been focused in different ways on the issues of money and politics, on how our elections are funded, and on accountability and transparency in government. All three organizations continue to exist.

Ellen told a gathering of friends and co-workers last week, “It’s been an incredible run…I’ve been extraordinarily lucky…and I’ve had a lot of fun.” She also said she is “not one bit wistful” as she happily looks towards her retirement and has no plans other than some extended travel, lots of photography, and spending time with her three grandchildren.

PS – For a bit more on Ellen’s retirement, see her Time to Pass the Baton.

The Fans Win

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It’s ‘every’ boy’s dream to be at bat in the bottom of the 9th with the chance to win the game and the World Series.

Alas, for Royals’ fans, the result last night disappointed.

But what a season it was for the Royals.

And it was a wonderful playoff season for all of MLB, from the wild card games, which resulted in both wild card winners making it to the World Series, thorough the Division Series and including the Championship Series.

As for the World Series, it’s always better when it goes seven games. This time either team could have won. The Giants, thanks primarily to Madison Bumgarner’s outstanding pitching, prevailed, 3-2 (for the third time in five years). But it could have easily been the Royals.

The biggest winner?

The fans.

Continue reading »

3 Days – 11 Movies

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I can’t wait to do this again.

With the encouragement from friends in Philadelphia who have been doing this for years, my wife and I spent three days last weekend at the 23rd Philadelphia Film Festival.

From Thursday evening through Sunday afternoon, we saw 11 films. The opening evening we saw two, the next day four, then three, and finally two before we had to head home.

We saw big films, small ones, foreign films, US films, well known actors, first time ones, small stories and big ones, and a few with similar themes. The two or three times a director, producer, or actor spoke and answered questions following a film, we enjoyed that and learned something about what we had just seen. The length of the films varied from 82-134 minutes, plus we saw one short (21 minutes); so I guess that actually makes 12 films in all.

We bought a weekend pass which gave us first entry into any film we wanted to see. Generally, there were five time slots a day, with three different films in each time slot. The printed program pretty accurately described each film, and as a result, and in concert with our friends, we chose the 11 listed below, which I have rated and mini-reviewed.

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MillersTime Book Lovers – An Early Reminder

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The New Yorker cover for it’s Oct. 20 Fall Library issue reminds me (gives me an excuse) to remind MillersTime readers that in December I look forward to your sending the titles of the books you’ve most enjoyed reading in 2014.

As in the past, here are a few guidelines that may help in drawing your list and in making my compilation easy:

* When I ask for your Favorite Reads of 2014, I’m seeking fiction and/or nonfiction books that stood out for you above all you’ve read in the past year. What have been the most enjoyable, the most important, the most thought provoking, the best written, the ones you may go back and read again, the ones you reread this year, and/or the ones you have suggested others read?

* You are welcome to send just one title or up to a half dozen or so.

* List the title, the author, and indicate whether it is fiction (F) or nonfiction (NF).

* If you are willing, please write a sentence or two about why each particular book made it to your list for this year. If you prefer not to add this, no problem, but I’ve found readers enjoy the comments and use them in choosing books to read for the coming year.

* Don’t be concerned about whether others will have the same book(s) on their lists. If we get a number of similar titles, that’s just an indication of the power of a particular book/author.

* Your books do not have to be ones that were written and/or published in 2014, just ones that you read over the past year.

* Send me your list in an email (Samesty84@gmail.com) by Dec. 20 so I will be able to post the entire list at the end of the year.

To see last year’s list, click on this link: The Books Most Enjoyed by MillersTime Readers in 2013.

“The Good Lie”

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The Good Lie *** (out of *****)

I’ve long followed the harrowing journey of “The Lost Boys of Sudan” and their lives subsequent to their 1,000 mile walk to safety. Maybe one of the most powerful books I’ve read, and certainly one of my favorite reads a few years ago, was What Is the What, by Dave Eggers. It’s a novel that reads like a true story. Actually, it’s based on the real life story of a Sudanese refugee, a young boy separated from his family during the Sudanese Civil War. (If you’ve never read it, add it to your ‘to read’ list.)

When I heard about the film The Good Lie, I knew I would see it. Then I learned that it was not a documentary but a Hollywood film starring Reese Witherspoon. Still, early reviews said it was true to what occurred in Sudan and what happens when some of these refugees are brought to the US.

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Another Baseball Contest Winner

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2014 MillersTime Baseball Contest #3: What will the Washington Nationals’ record be this year? Tie Breakers: Will they make the playoffs, and how far will they go?

Six contestants were close — Ed Scholl, Peter Shimm, Tiffany Lopez, Nick Nyhart, Steve Begleiter, and Nelson Romerez – missing the Nats’ regular season record by one game.  Not bad.

However, four contestants got the season record, 96-66, exactly: Dan Fischer, Elizabeth Tilis, Nick Fels, and Bill Trost.

Dan said they’d lose in the NLCS. Elizabeth said they’d lose in the 1st round. Nick said they’d lose in the World Series. Bill said the Nats would lose to the Dodgers.

So, Elizabeth Tilis (that’s a ‘familiar’ name, someone, no doubt, who benefited from good parenting) wins and gets two tickets to a 2015 Nats’ game of her choice.

For the other two contests, we will have to await the conclusion of the World Series.

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Meanwhile, two more terrific articles to draw to your attention, particularly for those of you whose teams are no longer in the WS chase. MillersTime readers tipped me off to these articles:

The Dead Ball Century: Why Is Baseball Always Dying? – by Brian Curtis, Grantland/The Triangle, Oct. 7, 2014 (Thanx MWK)

Managers Are Playing Less Small Ball Than Ever – by Ross Benes, Deadspin/Regressing, Oct. 6, 2015 (Thanx BT)

 

Why the Nats’ Season Is Over

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Why did they lose three out of four games to the Giants after having the most wins in the National League in 2014?

It wasn’t their pitching. (Nat’s ERA – 1.23, Giants – 1.60)

It wasn’t their fielding. (Each team made one costly miscue -Nats’ Fielding Pct. – .993, Giants – .994)

It wasn’t the managing (Despite what you read or think about Game 2 & 4).

Here’s why:

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Back to the Movies

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Baseball has been consuming much of my time recently, but I haven’t totally ignored my interest in the movies. We’ve seen two films this fall in our Cinema Club, one worth putting on your list, the other one, not so much.

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A story about a family on a ski vacation in the French Alps. When a ‘controlled” avalanche occurs, there is a serious disruption in the family, which plays out over the balance of this two-hour film.

I’m not sure I can put my finger on what it was about Force Majerue that I found lacking, but this story about a marriage and a family never quite seemed real to me, tho parts of it were both funny and insightful.

Our movie club audience gave it a 70% rating (good or excellent) and 78% would recommend it for others to see. I’m not in that 78%.

Too many better films are either in the theaters or soon will be.

Rudderless.MV5BMjQwNTI2MTA0NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODc1NzkzMjE@._V1_SX214_AL_Rudderless ****

Here is one that is worthy of your attention.

It’s the story of a father whose life has been suddenly shattered by the death of his son.

Unable to come to terms with what has happened, Sam (wonderfully played by Billy Crudup) checks out of his life as an advertising executive and lives a largely isolated existence until he discovers songs that had been written by his son.

Good acting and good music combine to make Rudderless an engaging film about a subject that most of us, fortunately, don’t have to face.

Rudderless opens nationwide next week.

DC Short Film Festival

I made it to two 90 minute showings of short films, ranging from six minutes to about 20 minutes each. At least a third of the 18 ones I saw were good or excellent (to use the categories from our Cinema Club).

However, I have lost the program booklet where I made a few notes, and as I even have trouble remembering longer films, I cannot remember those titles.

But I will mark my calendar for this DC Film Festival for next year and plan to attend the two final showings of the best of the shorts. I will try not to lose my notes.

Philadelphia Film Festival

With encouragement from a childhood friend who lives in Philadelphia and loves films, Ellen and I will attend the first weekend of the 23rd Philadelphia Film Festival (Oct. 16-26).

Although I did attend the Miami Film Festival last year, I only saw four films there in 26 hours (A Fantasy Partially Fulfilled). Now, my intention is to see three or four a day for three days. Judging from the catalog, there are many good choices.

Any suggestions from those of you who have attended film festivals about the best way to approach a film festival?