Thru Ellen’s Lens: In Your Own Backyard

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by Ellen Miller

Almost every evening I stand at kitchen sink and look into our back garden while I’m fixing dinner.

Lately, I’ve been admiring the wonderful late fall colors, particularly of the
Japanese Maple which dominates the space, and a new sculpture we purchased last spring in Santa Fe. The late afternoon light, the very red maple, and the bamboo all together made a glorious picture.

So, of course, over the last few days, with clear skies at near sunset, I picked up my camera to try to capture it.

Sometimes, we just have to look in our own backyard.

To see more photos, go to Fall in Washington, DC to see all 20 in a slide show.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow near the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show.

See all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either).


Calling for Your Favorite Reads in 2019 – Guidelines.

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“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read”- A. Lincoln

It’s hard to believe that this year begins the second decade when I request you share with other readers of MillersTime your most favorite books read over the past 12 months.

Here are a few revised guidelines (and one new category) that I ask you to follow in drawing your list and to make my compilation easier:

1. When I ask for your Most Favorite Reads of 2019, 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?

2. You are welcome to send just one title or as many as meet the criteria in #1 above.

3. Feel free to repeat any titles that you submitted earlier this year for the 2019 mid-year review, particularly if, on reflection, the book(s) still meets the standards above.

4. In order to make the list most useful and so I won’t have to spend time researching this information, please do the following:

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

* Feel free to write a sentence or two, or more about why a particular book was a favorite for you. Many MillersTime readers have said that this part of the list is what’s most important to them. Readers seem specifically interested in why a particular book is on your list.

5. 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.

6. Your books do not have to be ones that were written and/or published in 2019, just ones that you read over the past year.

7. If you have a child/children/grandchild, etc. who enjoys reading or being read to, feel free to include their current favorite book(s), along with the age of the child.

8. If you have listened to a book(s) in one of the various audio formats, Books on Tape, CDs, Audible, etc., and if they meet your definition of books “you’ve enjoyed the most in 2019,” please include those on your list also. Be sure to identify which ‘books’ on your list were ones you enjoyed audibly.

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

New this year, sparked by a suggestion of one contributor, is to identify up to three books that most stand out for you over the past ten years. A book that was so fine, so powerful, so memorable, so important that you want to highlight that for others.
(You can check out what you listed as your favorites over the past 10 years by using the links below.)

Send me your list in an email (Samesty84@gmail.com) by Dec. 16th so I will be able to post the entire list by Dec. 31. (If you send me your list sooner than Dec. 16, you may be able to avoid my constant email reminders to do so, and that will also allow me more time to put the entire list together.)

To see previous years’ lists, click on any of these links: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. 2016. 2017. 2018 Mid-Year, 2018, 2019 Mid-Year.

Announcing All the 2019 MillersTime Baseball Contest Winners

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Justin Barrasso, a previous MillersTime baseball contest winner, models the ‘highly prized’ T-shirt awarded to all winners. This ‘invaluable’ T-shirt has been slightly updated.

Well now that the 2019 baseball season has come to a (wonderful) conclusion, it’s time to announce the various winners of the MillersTime Baseball Contests for this year.

Contest #1:

Name the two teams who will play in the 2019 World Series, which team will it all, and if a tie-breaker is necessary, what is the total number of games it will take to win it all this year?

The clear winner is Joe Higdon who predicted the Washington Nationals would defeat the Houston Astros.

The runner-up was Jeff Friedman, a past winner, who predicted the Astros would beat the Nats.

They both said the series would go six games. Fortunately, for all, it took seven, but the tie-breaker was not necessary as far as determining the winner of this contest..

Joe wins one ticket to the 2020 World Series, which hopefully will be in Boston or Washington. Or in both places!

Jeff (and guest) can join me in DC for a Nats’ game.

Contest #2:

Pick your favorite MLB team, and prove you’re not a ‘homer’ by predicting your team’s 2019 regular season record, whether they’ll make it to the playoffs, and if so, how far will they go. Also, what will be the determining factor in their season?

This contest was a much more difficult one to choose the winner.

Basically, Yankee fans were good on their team’s record, but not so good on how far they would go in the playoffs. (Fortunately, in my humble opinion, they lost 4-2 in the ALCS.)

Red Sox fans did even worse, overrating their record. Plus, the Sox didn’t even make it into the playoffs. (So sad.)

Orioles’ fans did well predicting their losing record, etc., but that wasn’t too difficult a call. And one Mets’ fan predicted their won-loss record exactly but erroneously said they’d make it into the playoffs.

Two Nats’ fans, Ronnie Davis & Joe Higdon, were close on the won-loss portion of this contest, and both had them winning the World Series.

Ben Senturia, a long suffering Cards’ fan, had St. Louis with the exact won-loss record (91-71) and predicted they’d lose in the NLCS (which they did to you know whom).

By the power granted to me by me, I’m declaring this contest a three-way tie.

Ben Senturia and Bronwen get to join me at Nats’ park for a Cards vs Nats game at a convenient time in the future. Alternatively, Ellen and I could make our way to St. Louis and spring for four tickets there.

Joe and Ronnie each get two seats to a Nats’ game in 2020, and I’ll likely join each of them for those games.

Contest #3:

Choose which League will win the All Star game in 2019, and name one AL and one NL team who will be leading their Division on July 9. Tie-breakers: Name the first MLB player to hit 25 HRs and the first MLB pitcher to win 12 games.

This contest winner was announced on MillersTime previously, but I repeat those results here for full disclosure.

A dozen of you got the right answer to Part 1 (American League) along with an AL & NL team leading in their Division:

Ed Scholl, Andrew & Noah Cate, Todd Endo, Jeff Friedman, Matt Wax-Krell, Brandt & Samantha Tilis, Chris Eacho, Justin Barrasso, Maury Maniff, Jesse Maniff, Jon Frank, Tim Malieckal.

The Tie-Breaker separated the pack. Many of you seemed to choose individuals who were particularly good last year.

No one got both the first to hit 25 home runs (Christian Yellich) and the first to 12 wins (Lance Lynn).

But one of you did identify Yellich who just barely beat out Alonso and Bellinger:

So Tim Malieckal wins.

Tim and a friend can join me for a Nats’ game of his choice next year. If he can’t make it to DC, maybe I can make it to see a Mets’ game, and we’ll go together at my expense.

Contest #4.

True or False:

A. The New York Yankees WILL win the AL East in 2019. TRUE.

B. The Washington Nationals WILL win the NL East in 2019. False.

C. There will be at least one 20 game winning pitcher in each League in 2019. False. (None in NL).

D. No pitcher in MLB will have two complete shutout games (from Ben Senturia). False. (Three did – Giolito, Alcantara, & Bieber).

E. At least two teams in 2019 will loose 100 games or more. True. (Four had the dishonor of so doing – O’s, Royals, Tigers, Marlins).

F. A manager will be fired by the All Star game (from Brent Schultz). False.

G. In 2019 the two AL and the two NL Wild Card teams will each come from the same Division in their League. False. (All four were from different Divisions.)

H. Either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper will fail to live up to expectations in 2019. Specifically, one of the two will not perform well, will not have a particularly good year as defined by factors such as BA, HRs, RBIs, OPS, Fielding Average, etc. True. (While Harper didn’t live up to the expectations of the Phillies’ fans, he did perform about as well as he had the past couple of years with the Nats. But Machado more clearly makes this question True as in almost all categories he performed less well than he did in 2018.)

I. At least three teams will win 100 games or more in 2019. True. (Four did: Astros – 107, Dodgers – 106, Yankees – 103, Twins – 101).

J. One of Grand Papa’s (c’est moi) grandchildren will witness in person (at an MLB game at least one of the following: a grand slam, a triple play, a no hitter, Teddy winning the President’s race at the Nats’ stadium, will go home with a foul ball, will have his/her picture taken with an MLB team mascot or will be on the TV screen at an MLB stadium. Very True. (Between the three grandchildren living in the DC area, at least one saw a grand slam, one saw Teddy winning a President’s race, one went home with a foul ball, one had his picture taken with the Nats’ mascot, and one was on the big TV screen at Nats’ stadium.)

Three winners. Matt Galati, Jerome Greene, and Jess Maniff each got nine of the ten True/False questions correct.

Matt, Jerome and Jesse each have their choice of one of these books: The 10 Best Baseball Book Every Fan Should Read or a newer book, Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game by Rob Nyer. (Matt, Jerome and Jesse, please let me know your choice of books and a home address.)

Monica McHugh and Tim Malieckal had eight correct and are entitled to a MillersTime Winner Baseball Contest T-Shirt. (Monica, please send me shirt size and address. Tim has several T-shirts already. Do you want a Nats’ WS T instead?)

Contest #5:

For all five questions, choose the MLB team who in the 2019 season will:

  1. Have the most wins (Astros – 107)
  2. Have the worst BA (Blue Jays – .236)
  3. Have the most errors (Mariners – 132/ .978 FA)
  4. Have the highest pitching save percentage (Blue Jays – 76.7%)
  5. Have the lowest WHIP (Dodgers – 1.10)

These questions, all suggested by MillersTime contestants (and clearly baseball nerds/obsessives, positive virtues imho) proved to be the most difficult as judged by how many of the five questions were predicted correctly.

Nellie Romero is the winner with two of the five predicted correctly. She has her choice of one of these books: The 10 Best Baseball Book Every Fan Should Read or a newer book, Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game by Rob Nyer.

Thirteen of you got one correct (mostly #1). No prizes.

And that’s the ballgame…for 2019.

Meanwhile, the Hot Stove League is fully underway (what will happen with Strasberg, Rendon, Cole, Betts, etc., etc.?).

And it’s roughly (only?) 100 days ’til pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.



In Theaters Now – Films to See

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Here are three more films we’ve seen since we returned from the recent Philadelphia Film Festival (see reviews). All three of these new ones deserve your consideration.

Also, if you scroll to the end this post, I’ve listed when and if each of the 18 films we’ve highlighted (Philly and DC) was or will be released.

Reviews by Ellen Miller

Harriet  – Ellen *****   Richard *****

This is a blockbuster bio-epic of Harriet Tubman, the great heroine of the Underground Railroad. It is a ‘big film,’ and you-don’t-want-to-take-your-eyes-off-the-screen because of the superb acting, story-telling, direction, and cinematography.

Harriet is the story of the power of one woman’s desire to be free and to reunite all her family as free men and women. As an activist on the Underground Railway, she risked her own life each time she returned to the South to free her family and others. The film is a well-researched, fact-based inspiring portrait chiefly focusing on Tubman’s life just before the Civil War.

Harriet Tubman (played brilliantly by the British actress, Cynthia Erivo) was born a slave in Eastern Maryland until, improbably, she made her way to freedom in Philadelphia in 1849, when she was about 25 years old. There she connected with the Philadelphia Abolitionist network (Leslie Odom, Jr., plays the Abolitionist William Still). Then, between 1850 and 1860 she returned to free others, approximately 70 people, including almost all of her family, plus numerous other slaves in her 13 ‘return’ trips South.

Tubman remained active during the Civil War, working for the Union Army as an armed scout and spy. She was also the first woman to lead an armed expedition for the Union Forces at the Combahee River Raid, which liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.

On all accounts, what the film has set out do, how well it’s done, and the value of doing it, Harriet is excellent.

The Cave  – Ellen ***** Richard *****

It’s easy to rate this documentary with five-stars, but that doesn’t mean I would recommend it to everyone. It is a difficult, unrelenting story of the human cruelty in southern Syria inflicted by leader of the country — Bashar Hafez al-Assad and his Russians allies — and the people who tried to save lives in an underground hospital (“The Cave”).  It takes place in the city of Eastern Gouta.

The film follows Dr. Amani Ballour, an extraordinary and inspiring woman who along with other doctors and assistants (many of whom are women) are indispensable to saving lives of the ordinary people. The documentary is so authentic that the audience — you — become part of the terrifying, frustrating, and murderous moments of brutal air attacks that occurred during a five year period by the Russians on their city.  The film is drawn from hundreds of hours of footage shot between 2016 and 2018.

Taken from a wonderful review by Indie Wire, written by Eric Kohn is this summary:

“But as a pure cinematic immersion into Syria’s civil war, it’s an unprecedented look at the deterioration of a country with no ground left to stand on. The movie’s horrific final stretch is an eye-opening look at the aftermath of chemical attacks, and its graphic details prove essential: Introduced by an ominous yellow fog overtaking the city’s horizon, the sequence provides an jarring look at systemic genocide impossible to convey through reductive headlines from afar. As the stench of chlorine overtakes the room, Fayyad doesn’t hold back on disturbing glimpses of burnt flesh and cries of pain.”

Oscar nominee Feras Fayyad (Last Men in Aleppo) as director has made a critically important personal view of the Syrian war. It will stay with you long after you leave the theater, and it’s just right to awaken anyone to what is happening there (particularly if you haven’t paid much attention to this devastation). This film won the People’s Choice Documentary Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

See it. Just be prepared to avert your eyes.

Waves  – Ellen **** Richard  ****

Waves is another important movie, and, despite what I felt were some flaws in execution, I would urge everyone to see it. It’s fresh — a story of an upper class African-American family and their struggles. The story centers around a strong demanding father determined to push his son to be his best in all he does and particularly in his ability to be a wrestling star in his high school senior year in Miami. It’s also the story of the younger sister of the family and the husband and wife — a story of addiction, violent emotions, and heartbreak, blame and forgiveness. It offers a universal lesson.

This film works because not only is there a compelling family story but there is also extraordinary acting. The son is played by Kelvin Harrison who is mesmerizing. Sterling Brown (the father) and Rene Elise Goldsberry (the mother) are equally first rate. The acting is prize worthy.

If you go to see this film when it’s released (Nov. 15th), plan to spend a bit over two hours involved in a dramatic and a non-stop tension building narrative that you know from the beginning is not going to turn out well.

To give you some breathing room the director creates artificial breaks in the story as it unfolds using a blank screen followed by waves of light sequences. They punctuate each scene. I found the repetition of this annoying and an unwanted interruption of the story. These “breaks” also added, unnecessarily in my opinion, to the overall length of the film, but they didn’t ruin the film for me.

We had first flagged this film to see at the Philadelphia Film Festival but had a conflict, so we are happy that we had an opportunity to catch it at the DC Cinema Club. The writer/director Trey Edward Shults is one of the new bright lights of independent film. Like his first film Kirsha (it won both the Grand and Audience Prizes at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival), this one contains many autobiographical elements.

Combined Ratings (Ellen & Richard) and Availability of these 18 Films

Already Released

  1. By the Grace of God *****
  2. Downton Abbey *1/2
  3. Harriet *****
  4. Leftover Women ****1/2
  5. Les Miserables *****
  6. Pain & Glory ****1/2
  7. Parasite ****
  8. So Long My Sons *****
  9. The Australian Dream ****1/2
  10. The Cave *****
  11. Varda by Agnes *****

Future Releases

  1. Waves **** – November 15, 2019
  2. The Two Popes ***** – November 27, 2019
  3. Marriage Story **** – December 6, 2019
  4. A Hidden Life ****1/2 – December 13, 2019
  5. Just Mercy ***** – December 25, 2019
  6. The Whistlers *1/2 – February 28, 2020
  7. Sorry We Missed You ***** – March 6, 2020

(Note: You may notice that we have rated the majority of these films quite highly. Our only ‘excuse’ is that we choose carefully, in advance, what we are going to see.)

I Shoulda Known

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HOUSTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 30: The Washington Nationals pose for a team photo as they celebrate after defeating the Houston Astros in Game Seven to win the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 30, 2019 in Houston, Texas. The Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros with a score of 6 to 2. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

When I last posted on this topic of baseball – my beloved obsession forever (at least 70+ years), this life giving and taking, romantic, heart-breaking, exhilarating, logical and illogical, and occasionally magical game – I wrote about a dilemma, whether it was better for my grandson’s learning if the Nats won or lost the final game of the 2019 World Series.

I knew, as FH reminded me in an email, that I had no choice in the game’s outcome. But I was leaning towards the benefits to him of a loss.

Wisely, a number of you reminded me that he could learn from a victory as well as a defeat, although the lesson(s) would be different ones. (See these Comments from readers like Charlie, Tim, Janet, Brian, Hugh, etc.).

Even (even?) my son-in-law who hasn’t even reached his mid-30s yet had some wise counsel:

“While exciting, I hope tonight isn’t a pivotal moment in Eli’s life. Win or lose, the lesson he should take is that when a champion is crowned, it is final. If it’s the Astros, it isn’t unfair, it’s unfortunate (for him but not for the Houston version of Eli). If it’s the Nationals, he will probably be happy, and he will go to school tomorrow with a nice memory. Hopefully, he learns to appreciate the ecstasy the champion feels and recognizes the hard work that was put into the accomplishment.”

Plus, I had told Eli the moment the Nats had lost the third straight game in DC that ” it’s not over yet.”

But I knew the Nats were now facing two hurdles, as a loss in either of the final games in Houston would mean the end of this dream. And in my heart and soul I thought the Astros would win. (It’s hard to overcome the ‘schooling’ of being a Sox fan. Tho, I guess I may have forgotten the full lesson of that ‘schooling,’ – that when the win does comes, and it eventually will, it’s an overwhelming joy.)

Hell, I even forgot, ignored (?), to some degree, what my then 21-year old daughter had written to me fifteen years ago and I had posted about lessons I had taught her about “never say never” and the importance of believing in miracles (more on that word below).

So as everyone everywhere now knows, the Nats did win that final game, coming from behind in the 7th inning, to complete a simply amazing series of comebacks and five months of truly extraordinary achievements.

I shoulda known.

I shoulda believed.

And for those of you who have a few more minutes to devote to this important topic, even if you’ve read, listened to, and talked about what the Nats achieved, I’m posting below an article that sums up how truly extraordinary what the Nats have done. It’s written by Jason Stark in the The Athletic.

He writes that this was a truly magical event.

If you remove ‘divine intervention’ from the definition of magical and stick to simply supernatural, then I totally agree with Stark.

Actually, maybe there was some divine intervention. See what you think.

Do You believe in miracles? The highly unlikely tale of the 2019 World Series champions, by Jason Stark The Athletic, Oct. 31, 2019:

HOUSTON – Do you believe in miracles? You should. Here’s all the proof you need that miracles happen in sports: The Washington Nationals just won the World Series. Just don’t try to explain how. That’s the miraculous part.

They just completed a journey unlike any that has been completed before. They just spent their season and their October doing things that no team has ever done. And then, for their final act – in a wild Game 7, on a shocking Wednesday evening in Houston – they won one more game they couldn’t possibly win, which finished off one of the greatest upsets in the history of the World Series. That’s all.

Do you believe in miracles? Well, when it’s the seventh game of the World Series and you’re getting one-hit in the seventh inning by a future Hall of Famer – against a 107-win juggernaut that needs just nine more outs to start comparing itself to the ’27 Yankees – you don’t need to consult the Win Probability charts to understand what a preposterous formula that is for winning that game, let alone that World Series.

But “preposterous” is actually an excellent way to describe the wild and crazy ride of the 2019 Nationals. So of course Anthony Rendon launched one more staggering home run into the Crawford Boxes in left, off Zack Greinke. And of course the apparently ageless Howie Kendrick then sliced a game-changing, Series-changing, life-changing home run off the foul pole in right. And of course the Nationals would perform their latest elimination-game magic trick and turn one more near-certain defeat into one more death-defying victory.

Because this is what they do. A little over four weeks ago, the Nationals were four outs from not even advancing past the wild card game. And now they’re the champions of baseball. Because if ever there was a baseball team you just couldn’t kill, this was it.

“OK, this is now the most 2019 Nats thing to ever happen,” said reliever Sean Doolittle, as the champagne dripped from his championship goggles after one final 6-2 stunner of a win over the mighty Houston Astros.

For two weeks now, Doolittle has been spinning off variations of that quote, all while we’ve been carrying on a running dialogue about whether this team qualifies as miraculous. He instructed us at one point to come up with some sort of metric to determine what constituted a true miracle. Weighted Miracles Created Plus maybe? That sort of thing. That part of this project didn’t go well. But Doolittle continued to weigh this heavy-duty topic.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this,” he said – but he still wasn’t sure, even as the champagne flowed. So we were forced to turn elsewhere. We then asked this team’s hitting coach, Kevin Long, if he thought what this team has just done could be called a miracle.

“Yeah, I do,” Long said instantly, then realized tears were welling in his eyes. “I’m going to get emotional. But the stuff and the things that these guys have overcome, it’s truly amazing.

“I really do think this was a dream team,” he said. “I really think this was one of the most amazing feats that any team has ever accomplished. If somebody had said that we’d beat the (2017) world champions in Houston tonight and they’d crown us world champions, I don’t think anybody would believe that.”

But there’s no choice but to believe it now, because they’ve done what they’ve done. So why do we think it’s safe to call these men the Miracle Nationals? It’s our mission today to make that case to all of you. It’s not as hard as you’d think.

The miracle of the elimination games

When we say that no team has had an October like the October of the 2019 Nationals, that’s not an opinion. That’s a fact. Let’s lay out those facts for you now:

  • Other teams in baseball history have won five potential elimination games in one postseason. But the Nationals put a slightly different twist on that feat – because they trailed in all five of them at some point. And how many teams in history have ever come from behind to win five elimination games in the same postseason? That would be none, says STATS LLC.
  • That feat is miraculous enough, but now let’s move along to the three winner-take-all games this team played. The Nationals trailed by two runs in the eighth inning of the wild card game against Milwaukee, with the fearsome Josh Hader on the mound. They trailed by two runs in the eighth inning of NLDS Game 5 in Los Angeles, with the great Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Then on Wednesday, they trailed by two in the seventh inning of this Game 7, with Greinke dialing up the most dominant postseason start of his life. So what happened? Yep. The Nationals roared back to win all three of those games.

So how many other teams have ever won three elimination games — let alone winner-take-all games — in one postseason after trailing by two runs or more in the seventh inning or later? How many do you think? There are no other teams that have done that, according to our friends from STATS. Ever. In fact, just one other team — the 1980 Phillies — has even won two potential elimination games like that.

We were down in the wild card game,” Long said. “I mean, are you kidding me? We were down five times (in elimination games). Really? I can’t say that enough. We were down in all these games late, and just continued to fight and come back and stay together. And the pitchers knew if they just stayed close, we’d find a way to win. And we certainly did.”

The miracle of the World Series

Now let’s think about the team the Nationals just beat in this World Series. The Astros won 107 games this year. That’s the most in baseball. But even that doesn’t adequately capture how good they were.

Teams like that don’t lose the World Series. Teams like that normally dominate the World Series. But that isn’t how this World Series turned out, is it?

Their powerhouse pitching staff had an Adjusted ERA-Plus of 127. Their deep, talented offense had an adjusted OPS-Plus of 119. That’s nuts. Want to know how nuts? Over the last 100 years, there has been only one other team that had both an OPS-Plus and ERA-Plus of 119 or higher. That team was Babe Ruth’s 1927 Yankees.

The Astros won 14 more games this season than the Nationals. And only two other teams in history ever had that large a win differential over the team they played in the World Series and didn’t win it. One was Vic Wertz’s 111-win 1954 Indians, who lost to Willie Mays’ 97-win New York Giants. The other was Three Finger Brown’s 116-win 1906 Cubs, who lost to Jiggs Donahue’s 93-win White Sox.

So just based on the history, this goes down as one of the biggest World Series upsets of all time.

There’s also the Vegas take on how large an upset it was:


Yet from the first inning of Game 1, the Nationals played like a team that never bought either of those narratives. And even after they lost Games 3-4-5 at home without ever leading for a single pitch, they still thought of themselves as 100 percent alive — because they never looked at the Astros as the unbeatable behemoth that Vegas thought they were.

“There was something going on,” Doolittle said. “We totally felt it. We totally fed off it. We kind of thought coming into the series that the pressure was on them. We could tell right away from the questions that they got on Media Day, versus the questions we got on Media Day. There was a totally different vibe to those questions.

“They were getting asked, ‘What are you gonna do after you win the World Series? What are you gonna buy?’ And people were asking us, like: ‘What does it mean to be in the first World Series ever in Nationals history?’ And we were like, ‘I don’t know. It’s cool. We’re happy to be here.’ So we were very aware that they were the team to beat and we were the biggest underdogs, according to Vegas, in the last — what? — 15 years? Something like that? But you know what Han Solo says: ‘Never tell me the odds.’”

The road-field advantage miracle

The 2019 Astros didn’t merely run up the best home record in baseball (60-21) this season. They were one of the most unbeatable teams at home in modern times.

In fact, in the nearly six decades since baseball went to a 162-game schedule, just four teams won more home games in any season than the Astros won this season:

TEAMWINS
1961 Yankees65
1975 Reds64
1998 Yankees62
1962 Giants61

(Source – baseball-reference.com)

So just winning a World Series in which the Astros had home-field advantage would have been a sensational feat. But as you might have heard, that isn’t all that happened, right? In a very weird World Series, in which the home team won zero games, the Nationals did something unheard of:

They became the first team in the history of any of the four major professional sports to win a championship by winning all four games of a best-of-seven series on the road. How many times did the Astros lose four in a row at home all season? Yessir. That would be never. In fact, they didn’t lose four games at home over the course of the entire season to any team except the A’s — who beat them four times, but needed 10 games in Houston to do it.

“Remember the other night, when I said after Game 5, ‘Hey, we’re just fine. The road team’s winning every game?’” Doolittle said. “I was just joking. But hey, look at us now.”

The “Fall of the Titans” miracle

Before the Nationals wiped out those 107-win Astros, they pulled another monumental upset — by beating the 106-win Dodgers in the NLDS. So who does that — wins a World Series by upending two teams that won at least 106 games in the same postseason? Nobody does that, naturally. Or at least nobody did it until now.

“We believed in ourselves from the beginning,” said catcher Kurt Suzuki. “You know, everyone always says that to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best — and we beat ’em.”

The miracle of 19-and-31

Back on May 23, the Nationals were 50 games into their season — and somehow found themselves 12 games under .500 (at 19-31), just like the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers went on to lose 114 games. The Nationals went on to win the World Series. You don’t see that much.

OK, to be honest, you don’t see that ever. No team in history had ever had that bad a record after 50 games and gone on to win a World Series. But the Nationals did. And only one team had ever been 12 games under (or more) at any point in any season and gone on to win a World Series. That, as you also might have heard, was Possum Whitted’s 1914 Boston Braves – who have been known throughout history as the “Miracle” Braves.

So if there’s only one other team that has followed this path and their nickname is “Miracle,” doesn’t that automatically qualify these Nationals as a miracle unto themselves? We’ll get back to that in a moment.

What’s more important than what we call it is how they did it. And they did it by reminding themselves, as they finally started to get healthy, that they were way too talented to be hanging out with the Marlins and Tigers in the standings.

The road back from 12 games under began with a team meeting, in a conference room off the clubhouse in late May. All the coaches and position players were there. The message from the veterans in the room was firm and clear.

Long’s everlasting memory of that session: “I remember these guys saying, ‘We can do this, and it will be the greatest accomplishment of our lives.’”

Maybe that resuscitation alone — from life after 19-31 to triumph in October — isn’t enough to make you believe we should hang that “miracle” sign on this team. But now add in all of it — the elimination games, the upset of the Astros, the upset of the Dodgers, the four World Series victories in one of baseball’s most intimidating environments — and think about this one more time.

Also remember that this is a franchise that had never won a single postseason series since moving to Washington. And remember that no team from Washington had won a World Series in 95 years.

So now add all that up. Has there ever been any World Series champion — any league, any town, any year — that did all of that on the road to the parade floats? You know that answer. That answer is: No way.

And even if you weren’t sure about these guys before Wednesday, how could you have watched the final chapter in this story and not believed in this miracle?

Their starting pitcher, Max Scherzer, went from having to fall out of bed on Sunday to gutting his way through five innings Wednesday. That’s not a miracle?

One minute on Wednesday, Greinke was making the Nationals’ lineup look so overmatched that Long said that when he saw Gerrit Cole begin to throw lightly in the bullpen midway through the game, his reaction was: “‘Please bring him in,’ because that’s how good Zack Grinke was.”But next thing you knew, Rendon was lofting a Greinke changeup into the left-field seats, for just the Nationals’ second hit of the day. And even that seemed like a miracle at the time.

“You know, momentum’s tough to change,” Long said. “And something like that really, really lifted everyone’s spirits in the dugout. You could see it on the field. It was almost like those (Astros) said, ‘Oh no. Here they come.’”

Yep. Here they came, all right. Juan Soto would walk to end Greinke’s day. Kendrick would welcome Will Harris to the festivities with a what-just-happened two-run homer. And in a span of only eight pitches, the Nationals had gone from nearly dead to somehow leading. You mean that wasn’t a miracle?

“I had a flashback — to the wild card game,” Suzuki said. “I said, ‘This seems kind of familiar.’”

They were eight pitches that changed a game and changed the World Series. But if they seemed miraculous to those on the outside, they seemed like business as usual for the Miracle Nationals.

“It was just fitting for our season,” Suzuki said. “We’ve been playing elimination games since the middle of May. At least it feels like it. We had to fight for everything. So what a fitting way to end this season.”

We understand that your definition of a miracle may be different from ours, or Sean Doolittle’s, or Kevin Long’s. So when we ask, one more time, if you believe in miracles, the answer doesn’t really matter. What matters is that this somehow happened. In real life.

And so, on this one last crazy evening at the ballpark, it was the Washington Nationals standing on a makeshift podium in Houston, kissing their trophy and wiping away tears. It was all so powerful an experience that even they don’t completely understand how everything it took to hoist that trophy was even possible.

“You know, I was just talking to a friend of mine,” said right fielder Adam Eaton. “He was talking about all the things (that happened to us). He just went through, like, six or seven or eight different things. And when you hear them, it’s like yeah, it’s remarkable. If I was not here, I’d be home watching it. That’s for darned sure.”

“And if you weren’t here, if you hadn’t seen it and you hadn’t lived it, would you believe it?” we asked.

“No,” said Adam Eaton. “And that’s why I’d be watching.”

Good idea — because how can you believe in miracles unless you watch them with your very own eyes?

Well, guess what? We just did.

“It’s terrible to want something you have no control over.”

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“It’s the time you spend for your rose that makes the rose so important.”

I awoke two days ago to the brief email below following the third World Series loss in a row by the Washington National’s to the Houston Astros in DC:

“I think I was happier when I didn’t care.  It’s terrible to want something you have no control over.  How about that, Dr. Miller!”  – FH

The author is a long time friend who use to look askance at my interest in baseball. After listening to her for years, I invited her to attend Nats’ game with Ellen and me (she had never been to a MLB game in her seven plus decades!). Under my ‘light tutoring,’ and despite her skepticism, she found herself intrigued and interested, and surprisingly, to her and to me, she began to follow the Nats. Sometimes, intensely, it seems.

And that, FH’s quote, contains two of the many life’s lessons that baseball teaches.

First, some comments about last night. When facing elimination from the World Series, the Nats found a way to win game six (it often seems game six is a big deal (Buckner, etc.).

So now we go to the one game World Series, in Houston, that will determine who takes over from the Boston Red Sox as the new World Champions. (Yes. as of this writing, the Sox are still the World Champions!)

But it doesn’t matter who wins tonight.

Well, I guess it matters to the players for the two teams and for their fans and their two cities, including my 10 year old grandson who went to the fifth (disastrous) game with Ellen and me and stayed up until midnight – on a school night! – only to see his favorite team lose. (I did tell him after the final out to remember, “It’s not over yet.” But in my mind and soul, I felt the Astros would probably win the WS. After all, I was ‘schooled’ by my seven decades of following the Sox.)

But if the Nats lose tonight, at least there’s some solace. They didn’t give up. Even when they were behind and when that horrific umpire call seemed to change the direction of the Nats’ comeback chances. As they’ve done for much of the season, they found a way to win.

In fact, for all those of you who were sure the Nats didn’t deserve to be in the World Series, perhaps some rethinking is in order. After all, they had the best record in ALL OF BASEBALL since their horrendous 19-31 start to this season in May and that includes being better than the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Astros, etc. Plus, they did win the Wild Card suicide game and went on to defeat the Dodgers and the Cards, coming from behind in almost all of the games they won.

So if they lose do lose tonight in what hopefully will be a memorable game with Scherzer against Greinke in this winner take all game, the solace for Nats’ fans will be enough to take them into 2020.

Now, back to FH’s wise words and my dilemma with my grandson.

First, baseball’s life lessons, starting with the importance of caring and the wanting of something so badly yet you have no control over the outcome, two realities that baseball has taught me, and also my younger daughter. (If you’ve never read what she wrote when the Sox won the World Series in 2004 for the first time in 86 years and in my lifetime, read The Email on the Kitchen Table, written for / to me by my then 21 year old, daughter which said, in part:

“Being a Sox fan prepared me for disappointment; it taught me that there are some things that no matter how badly you want something, sometimes you just can’t make it happen. I think my perspective on life has truly been shaped by the virtue of my fanaticism for baseball. It’s taught me that life isn’t fair, you don’t get what you want, and other people can just be downright heartless.”

And,

“More than anything, my father taught me to believe. And not just in the Red Sox, but in myself. Because if my team can come back from down 0-3 to the Yankees, and sweep the Cardinals in the World Series, really, there is no such thing as never. “

And concluding:

“I guess in the end, my obsession ultimately taught me that good things do come to those who wait. So I sit back and say to the rest of Major League Baseball, sit down; wait ‘till next year.”

And, finally, my dilemma.

Is it better for my grandson for the Nats to lose tonight so he learns these two lessons than to experience the joy he would have if they win it all? After all, he’s only 10.

I’m not sure I know the answer.

But I know I have no control over what will happen.

What do you think is best for The Little Prince?

Philadelphia: City of Brotherly Love & Good Movies

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Independence Hall, Philadelphia, where the US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were debated and adopted
(Photo by Ellen Miller)

Reviews by Ellen Miller:

We were back in Philadelphia this year for their terrific film festival, having missed last year because of other travel. This was our 5th or 6th year attending, and every year we enjoy our long weekend, crammed with outstanding films.  

How many films can you see in a day you might ask?. Our record one year was five; generally our pace is three, but if we try hard enough (and decide not to eat anything other than popcorn), we can make four. Not surprisingly we can’t recall all the film names from memory, but, astonishingly, we remember the story, the direction, or cinematography, or the overall impact of each one. Not every film we saw this time is ‘for us,’ but we’ve come to appreciate what film artists are doing as they hone their craft.

There was great diversity in our choices this year. The films we saw came from around the world: Australia, Korea, Austria, France, the Vatican, Romania, China, England, and the US. There were documentaries (Varda by Agnes, The Australian Dream, Leftover Women); commentaries about current social/economic inequities (Parasite, So Long My Son, Les Miserables, Sorry We Missed You); stories of modern day heroes (A Hidden Life, Just Mercy, The Two Popes,); insights into modern day life (Marriage Story).  Some of the films we saw fit more than one of these categories.

So, in the order we saw them:

Parasite    Ellen *****    Richard ***

An avant-garde South Korean film by well-known director Bong Joon-Ho, this film focuses on the economic and social disparity between the poor and wealthy in ways that are sometimes outrageous, laugh-out-loud funny, shocking, and horrifying. A working poor family — mother, father, son, and daughter (all talented in some way but out of work and living on the edge) — worm their way into an upper class, clueless household to take advantage of them. The confidence game the family plays comes unraveled in unpredictable ways, with horrifying consequences. The plot and dialogue were clever and constantly surprising. But there were times when I had to cover my eyes.

Parasite is not a film for everyone (Richard gave it only three stars) and was certainly ‘over the top’ for me, but standing back and judging a film not from the perspective of “did I like it,” I can say this is a fine movie, if you can take it.

Just Mercy    Ellen *****     Richard *****

This is a bio-epic of a personal hero of ours – Bryan Stevenson – the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, the organization that has become a tireless and successful crusader for wrongfully accused death-row inmates in the Alabama prison system (and elsewhere around the country). The film is based on Stevenson’s book of the same title, which I know has justifiably been popular among MillersTime.net readers. Two strong actors play the lead roles: Michael B. Jordan is cast as Stevenson; Jamie Foxx is cast as the inmate, Walter McMillan, whose wrongful conviction is the focus of this powerful story. The producer was Destin Daniel Cretton.

The film reveals how the state of Alabama made up murder charges against McMillan for the killing of a young white girl, and for which he is wrongfully convicted. It tells the story of how Stevenson and his team fought for his release. It is populated with other real clients of Stevenson’s, telling their own compelling stories. It also compellingly documents the steadfastness of Bryan Stevenson and his team at the beginning of their work some 30 years ago.

The greatness of this film is in the narrative, although the acting, particularly by Foxx, is very compelling. In sum, this film documents the ongoing unequal justice system that is driven by racism and hate.Adding to the evening was an after-film discussion that included Stevenson himself along with others involved in making the movie. Just Mercy is a must-see (and a must-read if you have not already done so).

Sorry We Missed You  –  Ellen *****  Richard *****

This film offers a devastating social critique featuring a hard-working British couple taken advantage of by an employment and economic system that doesn’t provide adequate pay or personal support in their jobs.  In the “gig” economy in which they operate, this family faces increasing financial debt along with emotional trauma of their children. As the husband and wife strive to cope, they are dragged further and further down. These are good people, beset by a system that simply doesn’t care.

Ken Loach who has tackled unfairness of political and economic systems in the past directs this British film. (This one is similar in tone and approach to another one we “enjoyed” several years ago in Philly, I Daniel Blake.) The acting is superb with Kris Kitchen and Debbie Honeywood in the leading roles. The movie is difficult to watch as the family spirals out of control.  There are no solutions at the end.

Another must-see.

(Richard: Probably my favorite of the 12 we saw.

Leftover Women    Ellen ****  Richard ****

Are Chinese women who reach their late 20s and early 30s “past their prime” for marriage? It appears that a lot of people in China think that way, and the pressure that is put on the unmarried women (many of them with professional careers) is old fashioned in this modern world. This is a story of a Chinese cultural transition (or lack thereof) regarding marriage.

In this thoughtful Chinese documentary (directed by Hilla Medalia and Shosh Shlam (oddly, both Israeli)) we learn about the marriage markets and government organized meet-ups as men and women search for mates (China has 30 million more men of marriageable age than women), and the pressures that women not yet married face from their families is enormous.

The film presents three personal stories: the first is of a woman lawyer who wants to marry but is already considered too old and too “aggressive.” (She ultimately finds a mate and makes compromises to live as good a life as she can); the second woman, under severe pressure from her family to find a mate, ultimately leaves China for a new and single life in Europe, losing her family in the process; and the third can’t seem to satisfy her mother who criticizes every possibility as inadequate.

The film is most moving in the very private and personal conversations with their families, all of which are filmed in real time.  

This is a very thought-provoking movie. See it if you can. E

The Whistlers  Ellen *   Richard **

A modern day international crime caper with a dozen or so major actors from one of Romania’s “new wave” directors — Corneliu Porumboiu. It was hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys (were there any good guys?). You need a diagram to keep the “game” straight, and without it, you’ll likely be as lost as we were.

The essential story is that a bad cop from Romania goes to the Canary Islands to learn a secret whistling language that is key to pulling off a heist, which involves collecting millions of “dollars” hidden in mattresses. This cop is joined by a femme fatale with a subplot of attempting to keep her boyfriend out of jail. All of the antics of this bunch take place in the dark, further obscuring who is doing what to whom or why.

The audience at Cannes apparently loved it. We did not.

So Long My Son  –  Ellen *****   Richard *****

I rolled my eyes as I sat down for this three-hour Chinese drama focusing on the impact of the one-child policy on two different families over a 40+ year period. But I got up three hours (and five minutes) later impressed by this well-paced, complicated, and tragic story. The director was Wang Xiaoshuai.

The film unfolds as a mixed chronology of these families’ lives, and while it was somewhat confusing at times, the whole was more than equal to the sum of its parts.  It presents a different narrative of the initiation of China’s one child policy and the psychological/social impact on their lives. This is a story of unspoken secrets, sorrow, and resentments. No spoilers here.

If you’re interested in China’s cultural and political history, this is a must see.

A Hidden Lif –  Ellen *****   Richard ****

This French period drama (set in 1943) is based on the true story of a devout Catholic man (Franz Jagerstatter, played by August Diehl)) who refused to pledge his support to the Nazi party. The family lives in an idyllic Austrian community, which becomes increasingly hostile toward him and his family until (and even after) his eventual arrest. Jagerstatter’s wife (played by Valerie Pachner) stands by his side as she continues to farm their land and raise her children. Her husband’s steadfastness in his principled opposition to the Nazis drives the beauty of the film.

The film’s director is Terrence Malick, and the film has dramatic pace (fueled by music) and stunning cinematography.  There is little dialogue and the thoughts and feelings are portrayed (slowly!)essentially though lighting, soundtrack and impressionistic images.This film came highly recommended, and we can see why. I suspect this will be nominated as a Best Foreign Film, and it could well win. 

I personally found it a bit over dramatic.

The Australian Dream  –  Ellen ****   Richard *****

We were attracted to this documentary because of our recent travels to Australia and our continued interest in the lives of the Aboriginal people. The film tells the story of one of the greatest players of the Australian Football League — Adam Goodes — and traces the rise of both Goodes’ career as a sports icon and fighter for indigenous peoples’ rights. Goodes was attacked and vilified for his outspokenness, particularly after he was named “Australian Of the Year” in 2014. The film presents a sobering reminder of the continuing racism and hatred that plagues every country in the world.

 The Australian Dream is composed of actual game footage, spliced with interviews with various observers of the political phenomena created by Goodes. Together these interviews present a multifaceted examination of Goodes’ sports activism and its impact.

This film was executive produced by former Australian basketballer (and current Philadelphia 76er) Ben Simmons by Good Thing Productions and Passion Pictures. Simmons was present at the film to discuss it afterwards.

Varda by Agnes  –  Ellen *****   Richard *****

Wow. Just Wow. 

We are latecomers to the superb talents of film director Agnes Varda and her phenomenal career. (We saw our first film by and about her several years ago at this same festival). This French documentary, which she directs and in which she is the only actor, was produced just before her death at age 90 in March of this year. It provides a time capsule of her 60-year career work in a charming, self-effacing way.

The structure of the movie is quite simple. We see and listen to a series of lectures that Varda is delivering to audiences in which she is discussing her inspirations, her creative process, and the goals of her work. These lectures are illustrated with examples of specific excerpts from her films. It is very much a “show” and not “tell” documentary. She discusses her work as a feminist, a woman sympathetic to the poor and downtrodden, and her love for her husband. It’s a phenomenal story – a memoir — of the artist by the artist. It is also an inspiration for others: artists, directors, and photographers.

It’s a must see. I was mesmerized by it, perhaps because of my continued interest in my ‘second career,’ photography.’ I wish I had taken notes. (Richard: So see it again if it becomes available.

Les Miserables   Ellen *****   Richard *****

Another Wow.

This film takes its title from the Victor Hugo book of the same name, but updates the situation to modern times. Do not go expecting a movie version of the play. What makes this French film so compelling is that the situation it depicts hasn’t changed since Victor Hugo published his book in 1862. It’s stunning and shocking.

The story: a new cop on the beat (played by Damien Bonnard) is paired with a racist cop (Alexis Manenti) and his driver (Djebril Zonga) who have highly suspect ways for keeping the peace. As they patrol their territory – largely a poor outlying Muslim neighborhood in Paris – problems develop and tensions between power factions in the neighborhood escalate quickly into an all out community riot. The police suddenly face a situation they can no longer control.

This is an all too familiar story of the suppressed and harassed lower classes and police brutality and while it takes place in Paris, it could be Baltimore or St. Louis. The ending is brutal, a warning, a primal scream.

A first time feature director Ladj Ly directs the film. I suspect we’ll hear more about him when it’s Academy Award time.

The Two Popes – Ellen ***** Richard *****

This film has US, UK, Italian, and Argentine roots. And, perhaps appropriately, we must thank God for the subtitles, since Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, German, Latin and English are all spoken in the film. The director is Fernando Meirelles. The acting of Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce will take your breath away. The dialogue is witty and brilliant, and amusing.

The film based on a 2012 meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the future Pope Francis (then known as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio). Pope Benedict summons the Cardinal (an outspoken critic) to meet with him as faces a series of scandals and considers retirement (something that hadn’t been done in over six centuries). The intellectual jousting and sharing of ideas (they are ideological opposites) between these two men is mesmerizing and brilliant. I didn’t want it to end.

This will hit the big screens. It too is a must-see.

Marriage Story – Ellen **** Richard ****

The more I think about this film the less I l liked it. There is some very fine acting in parts (Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are the film’s stars), and it conveys the pitfalls of modern day marriage and divorce in a very subtle and compelling way. But something is missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. The director Is Noah Baumbach who is well known for various films about family relationships. Perhaps the characters are a bit too formulaic (self-interested, career driven New Yorkers) for my tastes.

Here we have a lovely young couple in New York: he is an up and coming stage director in New York; she’s an up and coming actress, very involved in his work. They have a young child. The wife is drawn to Los Angeles for a new role and uses that as an opportunity to take a break from coupledom, ultimately deciding she wants a divorce, an amicable divorce. But soon that amicable divorce becomes complicated, and mean and nasty, and out of the couples’ control. (Very stereotypical lawyers fight to get whatever they can get for their clients.) There are heart-rendering moments of love, heart-break, and fury which will tug at you.

I suspect this will be a popular film, despite my hesitations about it.

POST SCRIPT

Before the Philly Film Festival we saw three films that are now generally available in movie theaters. A few highlights from them:

By The Grace of God    Ellen *****   Richard *****

This is the story of three men who take on the Catholic Church after experiencing abuse from the same priest during their youth. What
separates this film from others that deal with similar topics are the intimate portraits of each of these now middle-age men. The attempts of the church to excuse, coverup and take no action against one specific priest speak is ab outrage. The courage of the men to bring the issue forward was beyond brave. It was well filmed and acted.

The film is based on a true story in Lyon, France. There was a recent conviction (March 2019) of the Cardinal of Lyon for concealing the conduct of the priest.

We highly recommend it.

** *** **

Pain and Glory    Ellen *****   Richard ****

This was an absolutely stunning film by the great writer and
director Pedro Almodovar. It tells the story of a retired film director (played by Antonio Banderas) and his accomplishments and failures. It is exquisitely filmed and a story hauntingly told. Penelope Cruz is cast as the director’s mother and she is as mesmerizing as always.

** *** **

Downton Abbey    Ellen *  Richard **

I was a fan of the TV series. But the money it cost to make this two+ hour manufactured, multiple plot, extravaganza should have been spent on another TV season. In the film the characters were caricatures of themselves, the plot trite. and disjointed and the end was sappy.

Don’t bother.

Baseball Contest #1 Finalists

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Contest #1: Name the two teams who will make it to the 2019 World Series. Who wins it all and in how many games?

MillersTime contestants overwhelmingly predicted it would be the Yankees and the Dodgers.

Well that didn’t happen.

A number of you had either the Astros or the Nats but not both:

*Pernell Choren had the Brewers over the Astros in six.

*Rob Higdon had the Astros over the Cubs in six.

*Ron Davis had the Nats over the Yankees in seven.

*Brandt & Samantha Tilis had the Sox over the Nats in six.

*Hopeless Chris Eacho had the O’s over the Nats in four.

*Shawn Scarlett had the Astros over the Cubs in five.

*Ben Senturia had the Nats over the Yankees in six.

*Robert Smythe had the Dodgers over the Astros in six.

*Nellie Romero had the Astros over the Dodgers in six.

But there are two contestants who had both the Astros and the Nats in the World Series and thus are in the running for a ticket to the 2020 World Series:

*Jeff Friedman has the Astros over the Nats in six games. Jeff is a former MillersTime winner, perhaps more than once.

*Joe Higdon, father of Rob above, has the Nats over the Astros in six.

Hoping it will be a good WS.

And of course I hope that Joe is the winner and Jeff is the runner-up.

On the Way to Greenland…Iceland

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from Ellen Miller

Our take off point for our recent adventures in Greenland was the charming city of Reykjavik, Iceland. And after a wonderful trip there in February 2016  — viewing the Northern Lights, ice and snow covered landscapes, lakes, glaciers, and frozen waterfalls — we decided to further explore Iceland since it was the launching place for our 2019 Greenland trip. (Yes, Greenland alone would have been enough, but we generally leave few opportunities for adventuring on the table.)

This time in Iceland we headed north, about a five to six hour drive out of Reykjavik to the area known as the Diamond Circle.  We stayed on the shores of Lake Myvatn for our three nights in the area.

It was late August: there was no snow or ice or freezing temperatures, and nothing but green fields, ponies, sheep, and exquisite landscapes and waterfalls. There was also rain and fog. But the weather didn’t deter us. It was lightly raining most days, and the spray from the waterfalls was heavy (especially on the camera lens). It actually made for some lovely pictures.

First, a few photos from this, our second Iceland trip. then see below for a link to a short slide show if you want to see more.


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In my photo album on Flickr, you will see 24 pix of some of the major sites we visited including Krafla Caldera (a place of geothermal activity generated by one of the country’s most explosive volcanoes); Dettifoss Waterfall (Europe’s most powerful waterfall) along with Selfoss and Hafragilsfoss Waterfalls; Jokulsargljufur Canyon (one of the deepest and most break-taking canyons in Iceland); and Asbyrgi Canyon (a place full of Icelandic folklore). We hiked in Dimmuborgir (a “lava forest” formed by an eruption that occurred some 2,300 years ago) and then warmed ourselves in hot thermal baths in Husavik.  On the way back to Reykjavik, we visited the beautiful Godafoss Waterfall.

Reykjavik is a delight, and I’m not sure you can get a bad meal there.  From coffee shops to “famous” hotdogs and a gourmet dinner, we stuffed ourselves as best we could in the short time we had there.

I wouldn’t mind going back for another visit.

To see the entire slide show (just 25 photos), use this link:  Ellen’s Recent Iceland photos.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show. If the slide show appears to start in the middle, scroll to the top of the page where you’ll see the little arrow in a box. Click on it.

See all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). You may have to click on the two angled arrows facing each other on the very top right to get the full page. They are much sharper, and the larger format does more justice to them than the few above.

PS – If you missed our post on Greenland, check out: Greenland in Words & Photos

Why This Night Was Different

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Washington Post Photo

I’ve been a season ticket holder for each of the 15 years the Washington Nationals have been in DC.

That’s not as long as I’ve been a Red Sox fan – since I was seven years old, 69 years ago – nor have I been as obsessive about the Nats as I have been and am about the Sox. But I’ve attended approximately 20 Nats’ games each year since 2005 and enjoyed most of them.

After all, it’s baseball, which I love, and when watching the Nats, I don’t have to be afraid of high places or sharp instruments (my usual concern when watching the Sox). And in every game I’ve attended, I’m always looking for something I’ve never seen before.

Last night that ‘never seen before’ was not so much what happened on the field, though that was thrilling, but what happened in the stadium.

Bear with me for a bit of background and several diversions.

The Nats have won the NL East Division four times (2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017), but they’ve never won a post-season series and were eliminated from post-season play in each of those four years (often in game five).

That changed last night. (I’ll leave it to the water cooler pundits – do they still have water coolers? – to argue as to whether a one-game Wild Card playoff can be considered a post-season series.)

The game opened with the Nats’ franchise face, All Star pitcher, 35 year-old Max Sherzer, giving up a walk to the lead off batter and then immediately thereafter a home run to the Milwaukee Brewers’ second batter, Yasmani Grandal.

Bang. Down 0-2 after less than five minutes.

It got a bit worse in the second inning when Scherzer gave up his second home run, this time to Eric Thames. Now it was 0-3. Was this going to be a one and off and just another post-season heartbreak for the Nats and their fans?

Until the 8th inning nothing changed. Scherzer settled down, as he often does after giving up his usual two home runs a game, but he wasn’t sharp. Stephen Strasburg, 31, took over in the 6th inning and did what he’s been doing all season (18-6 for the year with 251 strikeouts), shut down the opposition though it was the first time he’s pitched as a reliever. Over his three innings, he only gave up two hits, struck out four, and kept the Nats in the game.

But they couldn’t score more than the one run they got in the third inning (a home run by Trea Turner). The Brewers pitchers shut down the Nats with just three hits through the first seven innings.

On came Brewers’ truly sensational All Star closer Josh Hader (138 strike outs in 75 2/3 innings this year…virtually unheard of in the history of baseball). He just needed to get the final six outs so his team could win the Wild Card game.

Another digression please.

The Nats started the 2019 season with great expectations and predictions of winning the NL East Division by nearly everyone who follows baseball. Then they lost 19 of their first 31 games. The Phillies, Braves, and Mets were looking good, and the Nats seemed headed for a dismal year.

Then they went 69-36 beginning in June to end with a 94-69 season record and a Wild Card playoff spot. The Brewers went 20-7 in September, even without their wonderful right fielder, All Star and 44-home run hitter Christian Yellich. Though the Brewers faltered in their final season series, the stage was set for one of baseball’s cruelest tests, a one play-off game to continue towards with World Series.

In the 8th inning of last nights’ 163rd game of the season, Hader faulted. Despite his 100+ fastball, he couldn’t keep the Nats off the bases (thanks to a disputed hit batsman to pinch hitter Michael A Taylor, a broken bat, bloop single to center by the aging and oft injured 35 year-old Ryan Zimmerman, and a walk to the dangerous but slumping MVP candidate Anthony Rendon).

Then the baseball Gods smiled on the Nats and rained on the Brewers’ fortunes when the 20 year old Juan Soto hit a sharp line drive to right, scoring two for the tie, and when 22-year old rookie Trent Graham  misplayed (bad hop?) that line drive, Rendon scored from first, giving the Nats a 4-3 lead. (Soto was tagged out between second and third but celebrated, along with the 42,933 fans in the stadium, despite his mistake in allowing himself to be the third out of the inning.)

Then in the 9th, on came the shaky Nats’ bullpen in the person of Daniel Hudson, who shut down the shocked Brewers and nailed the 4-3 victory, saving not only the game but also the reputation and confidence of the shaky bullpen and the play-off season for the Nats.

So why was this night different from all others as I indicated at the outset above?

For me. it was not that the Nats won, although I loved that.

It was not simply the manner in which they won, though that was thrilling too.

It was what occurred in the stands.

In the 15 years I’ve attend Nats’ games (approximately 300 games), I’ve never seen the Nationals’ fans as they were last night. From the time we entered the stadium until we left three and a half hours later, there was not a moment of silence. There was not just a buzz when we arrived; the fans were already making themselves heard. The cheering, flag waving, and chanting prior to, during, and at the conclusion of the game was something I’ve never seen or heard here before. The fans were not just loud (led by a speaker system and scoreboard that encouraged their emotions), they were relentless. Even when Scherzer put them in a hole right off, the fans were not silenced.

Another small diversion. When I went to the fourth game of the Red Sox World Series game in St. Louis in 2004 with the Sox up three games to zero and not having won a WS in the preceding 86 years, the truly wonderful Cards’ fans around me said the Sox would not win in four, not that night, not in St. Louis. Then Johnny Damon hit a lead off home run for the Sox into the Cards’ bullpen, and the air went out of the stadium.

Not so at Nationals Park last night.

The fans were on their feet as much as they were in their seats, a phenomena I’ve never seen in Washington, where the fans are not particularly vocal nor overly demonstrative.  (I’ve spent some time in Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs, and understand what it’s like to be with truly vocal and demonstrative fans.)

Last night, the fans were truly a part of why the Nats’ won. They never gave up, despite the dreaded feeling that the Nats were about to be eliminated once again.

Final diversion. I don’t know what people saw who were watching the game on TV, though I saw on Twitter from a long-time Fenway friend that at one point the camera showed eight straight TV shots of Nats’ fans holding their head(s) in their hands prior to that 8th inning rebound. But that’s not what I experienced in the stadium. I don’t mean to take anything away from what the Nats’ players, manager, and entire team accomplished. They truly never gave up (forgive that tired phrase) and never seemed to feel they were entirely out of it, a spirit they have shown for much of the season.

While there were a number of Nats’  ‘heroes ‘ in this win, it was the energy, voices, and the once in 15 years truly exuberant enthusiasm of the fans that I believe made the difference in DC last night.

Indeed, what a delight to walk out of the stadium and hear the sustained chanting and celebration of the 42,993 participants in this win.

PS – The Nats record since June, that 69-36 run. is a game and a half better than the 104-58 Dodgers did since June. Da Bums, who play in a much weaker Division than the Nats, better not take this team, nor its fans, for granted for the best of five starting Thursday.

Greenland: In Words & Photos

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Ellen and I have been fortunate to travel widely and see a world beyond where we live. Our recent trip to Greenland certainly ranks high on our list of favorites. It was remote. It was wild. It’s ancient culture is being challenged by modern society. It is quiet, and it is beautiful.

Our nine-day trip under the auspices of Natural Habitat Adventures & World Wild Life Fund included much of what makes exploring the world so enticing to us. It included:

*Truly awe-inspiring landscapes, seascapes, marine life, and the ‘magic’ of the Northern Lights.,

*The cultural issues, always of interest to us, were fascinating as the Inuit population moves from the Stone Age to the iPhone Age.

*Each day our activities placed us in a world where we were constantly confronted with new sights and insights.

*Each day and many nights were a photographer’s paradise.

*Our two expedition leaders were superb, with their planning of activities, their knowledge of all aspects Greenland, their ability to inform, to teach, and to help us understand and capture what we were experiencing. Plus their photographic advice and assistance helped all of us, no matter what kind of camera or experience each of us had.

*The Nat/Hab Base Camp was located in an isolated area that gave us a sense of Greenland which we could never have experienced if we were on our own.

*Excellent weather. Cold but no rain until our final day.

Briefly, after spending four days in northeast Iceland among waterfalls and scenic vistas, we met our group of 10 other travelers (three couples, three single women, and one single man) and one of our guides in Reykjavik. We flew from Reykjavik to Kulusuk in southeastern Greenland and went by helicopter onto Tasiilaq, a town of 2,000 (the total population of Greenland is only 57,000, despite the huge size of the island).

There we spent two days, hiking, boating (our first views of Arctic icebergs and whales), and learning about Greenland (three times the size of Texas, 80% covered by ice and snow, and if you circumnavigated the entire island going in and out of the inlets, you’d cover about the same distance as if you went around the world, 25,000 miles). We learned about its people and about its history, and we met several unforgettable individuals (both in Tasiiliq and throughout our trip.) We also had one incredibly clear night in Tasiiliq of Northern Light activity (see Ellen’s photos below and in her slide show, links below).

A four-hour boat ride took us to the NatHab Base Camp, a truly isolated, wilderness setting on the edge of the Sermilik Fjord. Base Camp consisted of eight individual tented cabins (heated and lanterned and containing ‘dry’ toilets) plus a number of other tented spaces for meetings, showering, eating, and storing of equipment. We had electricity during the daylight hours in the common spaces. The meals were terrific, and the entire camp was surrounded with a ‘modest’ electrified fence as a precaution against polar bear encounters. There was no wi-fi or cell connectivity.

From here we kayaked among the icebergs, spent hours on rubber rafted Zodiac boats exploring the fjords, glaciers, icebergs and sea life, and hiking. Each day seemed to focus on two major activities. One morning, for example, we spent three hours in the tiny town of Tinit, population 82 where we began to get a sense of life today in Greenland versus that of just a few decades earlier when the Inuit population lived in small sod and stone structures and existed solely on their ability to hunt and fish. That afternoon we kayaked amongst the glaciers in one of the fjords.

Words fail to adequately describe what we saw and what we will long remember, but Ellen’s photos will give you some sense of what we experienced over these five days at the camp and over our full nine days in Greenland. Think of them as a collage, not representing every aspect of what saw and did. I think they give you an overall picture of the beauty of the wilderness and the remoteness of the country.

We ended our time in the Base Camp by helicoptering back to the airport island of Kulusuk, population about 300, where we had one last opportunity, as we waited for our flight back to Iceland, to learn about another small town and the role the US military played there.

Then it was back to Reykjavik for one day and night (wonderful food) before flying the six hours back to DC.

As we often do, Ellen and I made a list of some of the best parts of the trip and a few Do’s and Don’ts for those of you who might consider such an adventure:

Words that Best Describe Greenland:

Ellen – Remote

Richard – Land in transition

Most Unforgettable Moment:

Ellen – Photographing the Northern Lights

Richard – First Zodiac trip in the Sermilik Fjord with its icebergs

­Best Day:

Ellen – Day 5 – Zodiacing all day, Haan Glacier, Diamond Beach, whale watching, photographing, and iceberg gawking.

Richard – Also Day 5, followed closely by the afternoon kayaking. (“This is what I came for.”)

What Exceeded Expectations:

Ellen – Weather and capturing the Northern Lights

Richard – The total NatHab experience – guides, plans, facilities, activities, and accessing people and places we never could have done on our own.

What Would You Return for:

Ellen & Richard – To see what changes take place over the next decade for the Inuits and the environment.

Do’s and Don’t’s:

Don’t put on your rain gear or “Mustang suit” with boots on.

And don’t put either of them on before visiting one of the ‘dry’ toilets. (Yes, you have to remove the gear to use ‘bush toilets,’ which are different than ‘dry toilets’.)

Don’t expect to have your passport stamped in Greenland

And don’t expect much internet connectivity.

Don’t try to bring back a Greenland sled dog puppy, no matter how cute they seem.

Don’t fall out of a Zodiac or kayak under any circumstances.

Don’t worry about everyday standards of cleanliness. They don’t apply and no one cares how long its been since you’ve showered.

Do read about the early explorations of Greenland before you go, and then continue that reading while you’re there and perhaps after you return. (We can make specific suggestions.)

Do pay close attention to what NatHab suggests you pack.

Do take a camera, any kind, and keep it with you at all times.

Since you will likely get to Greenland via Iceland, Do eat at least one of the best hot dogs you’ll ever (Yes! I said, “hot dogs”) from that cart in Reykjavik. (You probably should order two, and don’t miss the crispy onions.)

And here are a dozen of Ellen’s favorite photos from Greenland. Do use a big screen to get a high resolution, especially for those of the Northern Lights. You wouldn’t want to miss the stars and constellations she also captured.

If you want more, see the link below to her slide show of 65 photos.


To see Ellen’s entire slide show (65 photos), use this link: Thru Ellen’s Lens: Photos from Greenland.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show. If the slide show appears to start in the middle, scroll to the top of the page where you’ll see the little arrow in a box. Click on it.

See all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). You may have to click on the two angled arrows facing each other on the very top right to get the full pageThey are much sharper, and the larger format blows away the 12 that you have seen above.

We Have a Winner

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Can’t we just be friends? Gleyber Torres (Yankees) and Mookie Betts (Red Sox), ASG, July 9.
Photo Credit: Ron Schwane

No doubt you’ve been anxiously awaiting the announcement of the first winner of the 2019 MillersTime Baseball Contests.

Contest # 3:

1. Name which League will win the All Star Game. 2. Name one AL team and one NL team who will be leading their Division July 9.

2. Tie-Breaker: Name the first MLB player to hit 25 HRS and the first MLB player to win 12 games.

A dozen of you got the right answer to Part 1 (American League) along with an AL & NL team leading in their Division:

Ed Scholl, Andrew & Noah Cate, Todd Endo, Jeff Friedman, Matt Wax-Krell, Brandt & Samantha Tilis, Chris Eacho, Justin Barasso, Maury Maniff, Jesse Maniff, Jon Frank, Tim Malieckal.

The Tie-Breaker separated the pack. Many of you seemed to choose individuals who were particularly good last year.

No one got both the first to hit 25 home runs (Christian Yellich) and the first to 12 wins (Lance Lynn).

But one of you did identify Yellich who just barely beat out Alonso and Bellinger:

So Tim Malieckal wins.

Prize: Bring a friend and join me for a Nats’ game in the second half of the 2019 season or a Nats’ game of your choice next year (except for Opening Day). If you can’t make it to DC, maybe I can make it to where you live, and we’ll see a game together there.

Notes: There were a few choices and comments that ‘deserve’ notice:

Jeff Friedman wrote, “Anyone who picks the AL this year is nuts.”

David Price (not the player but an unapologetic Yunkee fan) said the Sox and the Nats would be leading their Divisions at the All Star break. Neither were close.

Elizabeth Tilis:Yes. My own progeny, for whom I had high hopes at one point, picked the NL to win the ASG.

Ed Scholl is the Runner Up for Contest #3 as he submitted his correct winning League and Division leaders first, Feb. 21, almost a month before anyone else. He gets one of the ‘highly prized’ MillersTime T-shirts when he sends me his size.

Results from the other three contests must await the end of the season, but for those of you keeping track, one of grand Papa’s grandchildren (Ryan) has already seen a grand slam and Teddy winning the President’s race


Santa Fe/Monument Valley: Thru Ellen’s Eye

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Hopefully you’ve seen Ellen’s superb photos from our recent trip to the Slot Canyons of Arizona. (If not, stop now and go to that post and those photos. They capture an unusual and not well known site in the US Southwest. Plus, they are some of the best photos she’s ever done of any of our trips)

On that same trip, we spent some time in Monument Valley (on the Arizona/Utah border) and a week in Santa Fe. While this post is also from that same trip, Ellen has a different focus here (so to speak).

Ellen in Monument Valley

In Ellen’s words:

“Though we were “over the moon” about what we experienced at the Slot Canyons on our Spring trip to Arizona, we headed a bit east afterwards to “recover” in the very different, but also spectacularly beautiful Monument Valley area.

“We had been briefly in Monument Valley years ago when we traveled with our children to various national parks in the area, but we both felt that we wanted our feet on the ground, at different times of the day to better capture its majesty.  We rented a small cabin at The View, hired local guide who could take us off the beaten paths at sunrise, and picked up that tripod again, and headed out.

“On our arrival in the late afternoon, we knew we had a treat before us. View after view, as we drove the public road through the national park, was stunning; the sunset was spectacular. Our sunrise/morning guide was very knowledgeable both about the geology and the cultural (movie making) history.  With him, we traveled off-road and captured photos in many places most visitors don’t get to see.  We felt very lucky.  And yes, it was easy to recall those movies that we grew up on featuring the “good guys” and “bad guys” (not saying here which is which) in hot pursuit of one another.  The photos you see here are my forte: landscapes.

“After a couple of days we moved on to Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of our most frequently visited US spots.  (We’ve been in and out of the area since the 1960’s, with visits as often as every four or five years.)  I have taken many a photograph throughout New Mexico – largely landscapes – and on this trip I wanted to do something different. While landscapes capture the broad overview, I wanted to focus on the details of Santa Fe, some of the things I believe make Santa Fe unique and make that destination what it is. So the pictures you will see below and in the slide show (with an exception or two) are just that.  Something different.  I hope you enjoy this more detailed look at our travels.

“As usual, Richard has included below a few photos from both Monument Valley and Santa Fe.  You can click on the link at the end of these nine to see the full slide show.”

To see Ellen’s entire slide show ( photos), use this link: Thru Ellen’s Lens: Santa Fe / Monument Valley.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show. If the slide show appears to start in the middle, scroll to the top of the page where you’ll see the little arrow in a box. Click on it.

See all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). They are much sharper and the larger format blows away the 12 that you have seen above.

The Books Most Enjoyed by MillersTime Readers Midyear 2019

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“A Best Friend Is Someone Who Gives Me a Book I’ve Never Read.” – A. Lincoln

As always, this post would not be possible without the participation of friends (and friends of friends) who have taken the time to share with me and others titles and comments about what you are reading and enjoying. Think of it as a ‘community’ of readers even if some of you do not know each other. I thank you all for responding to my ‘gentle reminders.’

This 2019 mid-year list is comprised of the favorite reads of 53 adults and 5 small children (10, 8, 6, 3, and almost 2 years of age.) Surprisingly, at least to me, this year nonfiction choices lead fiction 54% to 46%, a reversal of every previous compilation over the past 10+ years. Fifty-seven per cent of the contributors are female, 43% male, a typical breakdown.

I’ve organized the post in three ways:

I. The Books that have been cited by multiple readers are listed first.

II. Next, the Contributors are listed alphabetically by first name — to make it easy if you are looking for the favorites of someone you know — with the titles and authors next and then any comments they made about those books.

III. Two Spread Sheets for quick reference and in case you want to print out either list for future use:

Spread Sheet #1 – Listed by the Contributor’s Name, then Title, Author, & Fiction/Nonfiction

Spread Sheet # 2 – Listed by Book Title, then Author, Contributor, & Fiction/Nonfiction

Also, at the end of this post, I’ve linked to the Midyear and Final lists from 2018, just in case you need more suggestions than those in this Midyear post.

Enjoy.

I. Titles that appear on more than one reader’s Favorites’ List.

Fiction (F):

  • Beartown, Fredrick Backman
  • Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate
  • Beneath the Scarlet Sky, Mark Sullivan
  • Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
  • The Lost Man, Jane Harper 
  • Machines Like Me, Ian McEwan
  • The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne
  • Washington Black, Esi Edugyan
  • The Weight of Ink, Rachel Kadish
  • Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens

Nonfiction (NF):

  • An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago, Alex Kotlowitz
  • Bad Blood: Secrets & Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, John Carreyrou
  • Becoming, Michelle Obama
  • Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
  • Educated, Tara Westover
  • K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, Tyler Kepner
  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder & Memory in Northern Ireland. Patrick Radden Keefe,
  • The Library Book, Susan Orlean
  • Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, Robert A. Caro

II. The 2019 Midyear Favorite Reads

(Alphabetically by Contributor)

Continue reading »

Thru Ellen’s Lens: The Slot Canyons of Arizona

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Almost 45 years ago a good friend (Judy White) sent us a photo taken in the Slot Canyons of Arizona during a trip she and her husband Mike had taken to the Southwest. That image has stayed in my mind for all these years. Despite a number of trips to the Southwest to explore the many wonderful parks, a week long houseboat trip on Lake Powell, travels through Arizona and Utah, and numerous trips to Santa Fe and other parts of New Mexico, somehow Ellen and I had never made it to The Slot Canyons. (We did purchase, however, two wonderful photos of these marvels from a small photography gallery in Albuquerque, and they’ve been hanging in our kitchen for at least 20 years.) Recently, we were on one of our many trips to other parts of the world and found ourselves in a canyon, literally half way around the world. We were mesmerized by that canyon and both wondered why we had never made the effort to see The Slot Canyons in our own country.

So about a month ago, we spent four days in Page, Arizona where we explored five different Slot Canyons at different times of the day and night — Ellen with her new lenses and her newly purchased tripod and me with my trusty iPhone.

What we saw, experienced, and will long remember is to us one of the natural wonders of the world. We fortunately have been able to travel world wide and have explored many wonderful cities, witnessed many fascinating cultures, and seen numerous outstanding natural phenomenon.

The Slot Canyons are near the very top of what we would call the best of the natural wonders of the world we have seen in our six to seven decades of travel. We’ve never experienced anything like it. Anywhere.

Below you will see just a dozen of Ellen’s photos from her slide show of about 55 photographs, including a bit of night photography, a first for Ellen. If you find these 12 of interest, we urge you to click on the link below these 12 to get to the slide show. Use the largest format you have (desktop computer, large laptop, etc.) to see the photos in all their splendor. These are not ‘simply’ Ellen’s travel photos (which are pretty good). They are the best photos she has ever taken anywhere, ever.

Also, at the end of the photos in this post, you’ll see some information about how we spent our four days and how you might consider planning a trip of your own.

Enjoy.

To see Ellen’s entire slide show (55 photos), use this link: Thru Ellen’s Lens: The Slot Canyons of Arizona.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show. If the slide show appears to start in the middle, scroll to the top of the page where you’ll see the little arrow in a box. Click on it.

See all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). They are much sharper and the larger format blows away the 12 that you have seen above.

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

Some details for those of you who may have interest in pursuing a trip of your own to this part of the country.

From what we have gathered, before and afterwards, the most intriguing and beautiful Slot Canyons are in the Navajo lands of northern Arizona, specifically just outside of Page, Arizona. That’s where we headquartered for four nights. (No fancy accommodations there, but lots of good local food.)

You cannot go into any of the Canyons on your own, and various companies (all Navajo owned) handle different Canyons. In the two most popular ones, Upper Antelope and Lower Antelope, there are crowds. In Upper Antelope Canyon (the most popular) it is kind of a nightmare. Rattlesnake, Owl, and Cathedral Canyons are definitely more isolated, and you are not likely to encounter many other visitors. For Upper Antelope Canyon and several others we used Adventurous Antelope Tours.  Specifically, we took Photography Tours, for which EACH participant must have their own camera AND A TRIPOD. On these tours (about 12-15 people) there is some photo instruction, but more importantly, the tour leaders clear out of the way the crowds of other visitors so you can get your best shots, ones with no one in the way. In addition to their Photo Tour of Upper Antelope, we also took their Three Canyon Photo Tour (included a return to Upper Antelope which made us happy. We also were able to wander virtually alone in Snake and Owl Canyons both of which were stunning.)

We did a third Photo Tour with them at night, which was amazing. It began at 9 PM and lasted until past midnight. Our guide was great and was patient and skilled in helping teach Ellen about night photography. It was worth it. A highlight experience even if the photos were not as pleasing as the day time shots.

Transportation from the meeting point (office of company) to the Canyons themselves is done in a jeep like vehicle. No major walking here. If you do not take the photo tours in Upper Antelope, and take their regular tour instead, you are in a group of 15 or so, but among hundreds of other people on this or other tours. The experience is sort of like walking down Fifth Avenue in New York. (Not great, but probably the best you can do if you don’t have the camera equipment or want to spend the money for the Photo Tours.)

For Lower Antelope Canyon (which is the second most popular one in the region), we used a company called Ken’s Tours. We took the Deluxe tour option, and it was just the two of us, but we assume it could go up a bit in number. We just lucked out. Lower Antelope is not nearly as crowded, and it is spectacular.Our last tour was to the less well known Cathedral Canyon (not a photo tour), and we did that through a company called Antelope Canyon Slot Tours.  Not impressive but more walking and that actually made it fun.

We also kayaked into one end of Antelope Canyon and so saw that open end from a different perspective. The group that provided the boats and guide was called Hidden Canyon Kayak.

All the canyons are different. All are amazing in their own ways.  Don’t go to see just one, and be sure you schedule a few days to explore. (There are also several others which we did not see. Most people seem just to see Upper Antelope and then leave. Others have so very much to offer.) Our favorites were Lower Antelope and Rattlesnake, followed by Upper Antelope and Owl, but we mesmerized and entranced by them all.