China: Thru Ellen’s Lens

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Here are a dozen of Ellen’s photos from our recent trip to China.

If you want to see more, there’s a slide show too, which I highly recommend. Details below.

Ming Sha Shan (Singing Sand Dunes), Dunhuang, Gansu Province

 

Ancient Remains of the Great Wall, Gobi Desert

 

Landscape, countryside, Southern Gansu Province

 

Tibetan Village, Za Ga Na (“Stone Box”), Gansu Province

 

Above the monastery at Langmusi, Gansu Province

 

Waterfall at Guan E Gou (mini-Jiuzhaigou), Gansu Province

 

Apartment Buildings, Chongqing

 

Cable Car to Huangshan Mountain (Yellow Mountain), Anhui Province

 

Pines and Clouds at Lotus Peak, Huangshan Mountain

 

15th Century Village of Hongcun, Anhui Province

 

Baojia Garden, Anhui Province

 

Park Just Steps Away from Forbidden City, Beijing

If you want to see more photos, click on this China Travel slide show link. Then, for the best viewing, click on the tiny, tiny arrow in the very small rectangular box at the top right of the opening page of the link to start the slide show.

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

All the Results from 2017 Baseball Contest

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The votes from MilersTime readers are in for the remaining undecided contest.

Contest #2: Make a prediction about something that will happen during the 2017 MLB season.

Three predictions received all the votes:

4. Ryan Zimmerman will be the Comeback Player of the Year. Probably True. He just won the Players’ Choice Award for the NL Comeback Player of the Year. (Mike Moustakis won it in the AL category).

7. Altuve & Correa will combine for a batting average of of over.300. Very Close. Their combined BA was .299 (Altuve -.310 and Correa – .288).

9. The hidden ball trick will be used successfully this season. True. Blue Jays Ryan Goins fooled Yankees Todd Frazier on 2nd. And there may have been others this season.

But the competition was really between Todd Endo’s #4 and Jeff Friedman’s #9.

More of you voted for #9 over #4, so Jeff wins, and his prize is as follows:

He can join me for to see a Nats’ game of his choice in wonderful seats. If he can’t get to the swamp here, he can pass the prize on to someone who can get here, or he can choose one of The 20 Best Books Ever Written About Baseball. (He can also substitute this book I read recently and thought was terrific: The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci.)

SUMMARY OF ALL THE WINNERS IN 2017

#1. Pick your favorite team, predict their 2017 record, if they’ll make the plays or not, how far they will go if they do, and what’s the most important factor in determining their season.

Winner: Monica McHugh

Runner-Up: Annie Orgad

 

#2. See above.

Winner: Jeff Friedman

 

Runner up: Todd Endo

 

#3. 10 True False Questions:

Winner: Chris Boutourline

Inter-generational Winner: Brandt Tilis & Samantha Tilis

 

#4. A. Which MLB team will have the best improvement in games won over 2016. B. Which team will show the biggest decline (most losses compared to 2016).

Winners: Todd Endo, Jeff Friedman, Rob Higdon, Dawn Wilson, & Meg Gage

 

#5. Will the AL continue its dominance over the NL in the All Star game in 2017? Tie-Breaker: Name AL & NL players who will get the most votes to play in the All Star game.

Winner: Nicholas Dart

 

#6. Who will be the two teams in the World Series in 2017 and which team will win it all?

Winner: Clare Bolek

Runner Up: Nicholas Lamanna

 

Extra Credit: Make up your own question and then answer it.

No Winner in this category this year. A few good questions but the creator(s) of those questions couldn’t even answer them correctly!

 

For all the winners, please send me your T-shirt size so I can send you the MillersTime Contest Winner T-shirt (not the one pictured at the top of this post).

And if you haven’t already contacted me about your prize, please do so.

China Trip: “Wonderful,” – “Successful” – “Unique” – “Superb”

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           Map Courtesy of Cartographer Larry Makinson

As Ellen, our two Chinese friends, and I were concluding our recent trip in China, I asked that we all give a one word description that summed up the trip:

Xiaoli – “Wonderful”

Jiang – “Successful”

Ellen – “Unique”

Richard – “Superb”

So what made the trip wonderful, successful, unique, and superb?

First, a bit of background. About 35 years ago we hosted a Chinese student for five days who had just completed her Masters degree at Stanford. She returned to China and worked for the English language newspaper, China Daily. She met a writer from People’s Daily, the main Chinese newspaper, and after they were married, her husband, Jiang, came to Washington as a Visiting Scholar at Johns Hopkins School of International Studies. He lived with us for several months before returning to Beijing. We all kept in touch, and we visited Xiaoli, Jiang, their parents, and their young son several times on other trips to China. When our daughter Annie (who was four when Xiaoli first stayed with us) married, we were very touched that Xiaoli came from China for the wedding.

In 2016, Xiaoli and Jiang returned to the US when their son Kun graduated from a Masters’ program at MIT. They visited us in DC, along with Kun and his girlfriend Xi, and asked us when were returning to China. We said if they planned a trip that included a few places they have always wanted to visit in their country and some places to which they wanted to return, we’d come in 2017.

While Xioali and Jiang were planning this trip, Kun and Xi decided to get married in DC. As their parents could not make the trip for the wedding, Ellen and I stood in as ‘parents’ for Xiaoli and Jiang. What a delightful ‘responsibility’ that was.

That, then, is the background, and also the first answer to what made this trip so special: being able to spend 15 days with Xiaoli and Jiang – friends we had now known for almost 35 years – in their country, and under their ‘supervision.’ Although they are merely ten years younger than we, they treated us a bit like they treat their elderly parents. Ah, there is much to be said for filial piety. We never lacked for conversation nor tired of each other, and when we parted on our final evening back in Beijing, it was with both delight and sadness, along with the beginning of some plans for a future trip to China.

One or two words that describes the four of us together?

Xiaoli – “Harmonious. Comfortable.”

Jiang – “Old friends together again.”

Ellen – “Many shared interests.”

Richard – “Compatible.”

The second answer to what made the trip so successful has to do with the wonderful planning that preceded our arrival in China. The plans that Xiaoli made, with assistance from Jiang, couldn’t have been better. Since Ellen and I had been to most of the usual places visitors go in China, Xiaoli focused on areas of her country that most foreigners have not visited, which also happened to be places that she and Jiang wanted to visit or revisit.

If, as it is often said, the devil is in the details, so too is success in the details, especially for a 15 day trip for four people covering more than 5,000 miles, four flights, parts of five days in a car, a half day on a boat, one six hour a half hour high-speed train ride, hotel reservations, and feeding four people who have high expectations for what they eat (and who have varying tastes). The planning was flawless. And when, just shortly before the trip was to begin, an earthquake closed one of the planned highlights of the trip, Jiuzhaigou Natural Reserve, Xiaoli simply substituted another scenic wonder we took to calling “the mini-Jiuzhaigou. It turned out to be one of our favorite experiences.

And that brings us to the third answer to the question, the itinerary, the heart of the trip, where we went and what we saw and did.

As you can see (especially if you enlarge the map at the top of this post), there were five major cities we visited and used as bases for explorations: Beijing, Dunhuang, Lanzhou, Chongqing, and Huangshan.

On our arrival in Beijing (population 21 million), we stayed overnight with Xiaoli’s parents, now 88, and spent a lovely afternoon and evening with them. We were also able to spend a few hours just leisurely wandering in the delightful Suzhou style garden (Xie Qu Yuan) at the Summer Palace. At the end of our trip, we returned to Beijing for 24 hours and some familiar sites. Plus, we ended our eating adventures with two Peking Duck meals.

We flew first to Dunhuang (population 187,578 in 2000), crossing over deserts and mountain ranges to this former Silk Road crossroads, 1400 miles to the west of Beijing and near the borders of Inner Mongolia and the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. Located in Ganzu province — one of China’s poorest — we went to Dunhuang to see the Mogao Grottoes, the Gobi Dessert, and the Ming Sha Shan (Singing Sand Dunes). What a superb start to the trip.

The 1500 year old Mogao Grottoes house thousands of Buddhist sculptures, wall paintings, drawings, art works, and manuscripts throughout the 750 caves and have been described as “the largest, most richly endowed, and longest used treasure house of Buddhist art in the world.” It was fantastic to see.

We spent part of a day driving to and walking on the Gobi Dessert where we saw ancient remains of the end of the Great Wall of China, a very different sight from what you see of the Great Wall near Beijing.

The highlight of this first stop on our explorations was the Ming Sha San (Singing Sand Dunes) and Crescent Lake. One afternoon we took a jeep ride to the top of one of the highest dunes (Jiang led the way on a motor bike) and spent almost two hours awaiting the sunset and trying to absorb what for all of us was unlike anything any of us had experienced elsewhere and certainly one of the most memorable scenic vistas of the trip. Early the next morning we returned to the Sand Dunes and walked leisurely to Crescent Lake, another not to be forgotten landscape.

We then flew an hour and a half southeast to Lanzhou (population 3.6 million) which served as our base for further explorations in rural Ganzu Province. We spent two nights in smaller towns (Die Bu, pop. 52,166 and Dang Chang, pop. 310,000), driving 12 hours over three days through Muslim and Tibetan towns and villages, visiting Buddhist monasteries, and stopping at several landmarks from the Red Army’s Long March (Lazikou).

The two highlights, however, were once again scenic sites. The first was Zha Ga Na (“Stone Box”), a Tibetan village surrounded by rock mountains, for the most part shrouded in fog and clouds. We climbed high above the village and felt as if we were in the midst of a Chinese scroll painting. Jiang met a local villager who offered to have us spend the night in his house. If only we could have done so…how wonderful it would have been to spend time in the village and with a family and then return to the mountains at sunrise…

But we decided to move on, as planned, to Guan E Gou which local people nicknamed the “mini Jiuzhaigou.”  A lovely three hour stroll up a paved mountain path took us by more than 20 waterfalls and spectacular views around every bend. Time spent here made up for not being able to stay at the “Stone Box” or visit Jiuzhaigou Park, as once again we were mesmerized by the stunning beauty of a place we had never even known existed.

Then we flew south to Chongqing, formerly Chungking (population of four million in the central city itself but if you include the four connecting municipalities with the same name, the numbers rise to over 30 million) for a 28 hour visit with family of Xiaoli and Jiang’s daughter-in-law Xi. We were again stunned by what we saw.

Chongqing is one of only four direct-controlled municipalities in China (the others are Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin), which means that this city and region has been able to reinvent itself as directed by the central government. Fortunately, we had a lifelong resident of Chongqing, “Auntie” (Xi’s aunt), to guide us through this multi-level city. (Tip/Warning: under no conditions should a visitor ever attempt to drive in Chongqing, ride a bike there, or even explore the city without a guide. Trust me on that.)

Auntie took us on a whirlwind tour that included historical sites, the largest/deepest escalator in Asia, redeveloped areas of the city, the 100,000 student university, a visit to her home, two unforgettable meals (more on food later in this post), and a lovely morning and early afternoon drive in the hills above the city. We were so entranced, and Auntie was so enthusiastic to show us her city, that we almost missed our next flight.

Next was Huangshan (population 1.5 million), a 1,000 miles almost due east of Chonqqing. This Anhui Province city and the surrounding area was ‘home’ for three days and nights and had everything that draws us to travel: beautiful natural scenery, ancient and modern culture, local cuisine, and the opportunity to experience all of these treasures with the assistance of two residents of Huangshan, long time friends of Jiang’s.

Our first day here was devoted to Yellow Mountain (Huangshan), another one of China’s premier scenic wonders (UNESCO World Heritage site) and the source of many Chinese landscape paintings and poets’ inspiration. We were joined by a friend of Jiang’s who took us on the cable car part way up the mountain and who had access to the highest point of the mountain, Lotus Peak, even though it was closed for regeneration. Most of the mountain was covered in fog and mist for our entire time there, but there were enough bursts of clearing that we were able to begin to understand why this is such a special place with it’s jagged rocks, unusual pines, and ever present mist, fog, and clouds. Our climb was difficult, but as we had the place to ourselves, we were able to walk (and some times crawl) slowly and to allow the mountain to reveal itself to us.

We spent part of another day exploring the rural Anhui countryside with its white peaked houses, its rich agriculture, and its delightful rows of white chrysanthemum tea plants. We spent part of this day strolling through the ancient (15th century) village of Hongcun, another World Heritage site, and had a well-known calligrapher create a Miller family scroll, which now hangs in our DC home.

An artist friend of Jiang’s introduced us to a ‘factory’ that made bars of ink for calligraphers, took us to his ink stone carving studio to proudly show us his work, and directed us to another friend who demonstrated how calligraphy brushes are made (and had us make some ourselves).

We ended this day first around a large table in a local restaurant with Jiang’s two friends, their families, and the four of us with many toasts and expressions of appreciation for each other. Then we went to the apartment of Jiang’s artist friend, had carefully made tea and the opportunity to see his own handiwork and his collection of ink stones, pottery, and art/sculptures.

On our third day we spent three hours on a boat on the Xin An River, because no trip is complete without seeing the country from one of its rivers. I could have stayed on the boat for the entire day to soak in the beauty of the Anhui countryside. But there was more to see and do and not enough time for everything. We strolled all too briefly in the ancient Huizhou City and visited the Tangue Memorial Archways, seven Ming and Qing Dynasty monuments commemorating individuals for their “loyalty, filial piety, moral courage and righteousness.” Then we ended that afternoon with an all too short time wandering through the Baojia Garden where bonsai art and stone edifices are integrated into a Suzhou type setting that I found simply stunning and unforgettable.

We returned to the old part of the town for a bit of shopping — an ink stone, pottery, some gifts for our children and our children’s children, and some dried bamboo (to be consumed at our annual Chinese Thanksgiving celebration back in Washington). The four of us had our final local meal on the second floor of a restaurant overlooking the crowds wandering in this warren of streets and shops of Huangshan, a lovely, lovely end to these three days and to our explorations of another part of this China that was new to us, despite our three previous trips to this country.

The next morning we boarded a high-speed train for our six and a half hour, 800+ mile return to Beijing. On the way, I asked and we all answered some questions about the trip:

What was the most memorable site for you?

Xiaoli – Sand Dunes and Dunhuang as a whole.

Jiang – The waterfalls of Guan E Gou.

Ellen – The “Stone Box” and its Tibetan village.

Richard – Sand Dunes.

What was the best day for you?

Xiaoli – The second day in Huangshan – wandering through the ancient village of Honcun, meeting Jiang’s artist friend, learning about the making of ink, ink stones, calligraphy brushes, and then dinner with everyone that evening..

Jiang – Hard to answer, but I’d choose the first afternoon in Dunhuang at the Mogao Grottoes.

Ellen – Climbing to Lotus Peak on Huangshan Mountain.

Richard – “Stone Box” day.

Three Most Favorite Trip Experiences:

Xiaoli – Guan E Gou waterfalls, Sand Dunes, Huangshan Mountain.

Jiang – Guan E Gou waterfalls, Bhudda Light on Huangshan Mountain, Sand Dunes.

Ellen – Huangshan Mountain, Sand Dunes, Guan E Gou waterfalls.

Richard – Sand Dunes, “Stone Box,” Baojia Garden.

What was the role each of us played (the job taken or ‘assigned’)?

Xiaoli – Chief Planner, Travel Agent.

Jiang – Time/Plan Keeper and Food Guide.

Ellen – Photographer, Trip Recorder/Historian

Richard – Information Gatherer (asked a lot of questions) and Step Counter (we walked anywhere from 12,000 to 20,000 steps a day, 5-8 miles, depending upon the what we were doing on a given day)

And what about the Food?

Certainly for a trip to be in the highly successful category, there has to be good food, especially for this group of four. I’ll spare you a day by day accounting, but largely we focused on local specialties throughout the 15 days.

Breakfasts were primarily in the hotels (excellent accommodations throughout) and consisted of lavish buffets with many tempting offerings from both the east and the west. After the first couple of days, I avoided these enticements, except for an occasional yogurt or bit of fruit and coffee. Ellen did a bit more, and Jiang and Xiaoli fully participated.

For lunches and dinners, Jiang led the way, searching out the best local cuisine in each region we visited.  We ate in places with as few as three or four tables and restaurants filled with festive groups of dinners who checked out what others had ordered and asked for similar dishes. We ate grilled lamb (not so good) in the night market of Dunhuang and in a particularly lively, family run restaurant in the same city (excellent). The beef noodle soups in the western provinces were both simple preparations and universally delicious, inexpensive, and were often our ‘go to meals’ for lunch.

There were two hot pot meals that were memorable. One was in the small town of Dang Chang where the four of us had a lovely evening as we learned about Jiang’s experiences in Inner Mongolia from the age of 16-22 while we kept adding to and subtracting from the mild but favorable hot pot in the middle of the table. The second was with the family in Chongqing at a lovely outdoor setting overlooking the city. There one had a choice of using the inner hot pot (not spicy) or the outer one (beyond spicy) with platter after platter of seafood, various animal parts, and an occasional vegetable. In another Chongqing restaurant, we were served huge platters that consisted largely of red peppers, one dish reportedly had bits of frog, another of chicken, and a third of eel. I loved this restaurant. Ellen loved the setting but seemed to have trouble finding the food hidden among the peppers.

Perhaps our most lavish meal was in a private dining room in a hotel on Yellow Mountain. I had no idea what most of the dishes were, but Jiang and Xiaoli assured us the meal was not just unusual but also delicious. And the group meal mentioned in the Huangshan section above was enjoyable, both for the food and the company.

There were vegetables everywhere we went, many that were new to us (dried bamboo, for example) and Jiang was particularly enthused to find a mushroom that grows on a stone, a local delicacy in Anhui Province. Amongst other adventuresome ‘delights,’ we had “smelly” tofu and “stinky” fish (and both lived up to their names), stone frog and fungus soup, mushrooms unlike any we had ever eaten (or seen) and body parts of animals that were likewise not common dishes for us.

Mostly, our lunches and dinners were simply and freshly prepared and were largely unrecognizable compared to Chinese restaurants in the US. We enjoyed all the food (though Ellen claimed that the first thing she wanted to eat when she returned home was “Nothing.”  I think Xiaoli and Jiang were pleasantly surprised at how well Ellen and I used chop sticks, my dexterity in eating fish with small bones, and my ability to enjoy spicy food. Additionally, they were pleased with how much good food was available (at quite reasonable prices) throughout our trip.

So there you have it. Lots of reasons for why we used the words “Wonderful,” “Successful,” “Unique,” and “Superb” to describe a trip that will long stay with each of us.

And the best is yet to come. China Thru Ellen’s Lens, photos that will be posted within the next few days.

 

 

Veterans Day

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from Ellen Miller

It’s Veterans Day, not a holiday I am accustomed to celebrating.

As a young adult of the 1960’s I was (mis)lead to believe that soldiers (and veterans) were part of the problem of a warmongering government. My opinions have changed over the years. Some of that is due to maturing political views and a better understanding of the politics of war. But also – after an early infatuation with the literature that came out after the Vietnam War (books like A Bright and Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan, Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes, and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried) – I’ve learned from my ongoing reading of memoirs, fiction and nonfiction about conflicts around the world and the soldiers who fight in them.

I was recently very much taken with Legend: The Incredible Story of Green Beret Sergeant Roy Benavidez’s Heroic Mission to Rescue a Special Forces Team Caught Behind Enemy Lines by Eric Blehm.

Medal of Honor presentation ceremony for Roy Benavidez in 1981

This is a movingly written nonfiction account of Special Forces staff sergeant Roy Benavidez and his legendary heroism in the Vietnam “theater” (actually in Cambodia) in May of 1968. Benavidez was a man from a tough Texas background who fought for his comrades even when he was close to death. His perseverance in the most devastating conditions was simply unbelievable, and the sacrifices he made for country and his family should be shouted from the rooftops.

A subplot of this story was the initial lack of recognition for his heroism – part of the story that is heartbreaking.

 

A second book I read this year that offered terrific insight is Spoils by Brian Van Reet. This is the author’s first book — a decorated soldier who served as a tank crewman in Iraq. He knows of what he writes.

Spoils Author Brian Van Reet. Photo by Peter Tsai

The setting for this novel is April 2003 in Iraq, and the job is now to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. There are three narrators (each one memorable): A 19-year old woman, Cassandra Wigheard, who like Van Reet, enlisted in the Army looking for something more real real than her uneventful American life; Abu Al-Hool, an emir in the Muslim Brotherhood who disapproves of the emerging tactics of younger Jihadis; and Specialist Private Sleed, a tank gunner who a reluctant player. This well-written read presents a nuanced picture of the dilemmas, and mistakes, our troops have faced.

This engrossing debut novel of a hostage drama was long listed for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence.

I don’t know if either of these books will make the top of my 10 favorite books of the year, but I offer them to you to honor our Veterans on this day.

A Report from the Philadelphia Film Festival

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For the past few years Ellen and I have been attending the opening weekend of the annual Philadelphia Film Festival with friends from that City of Brotherly Love. Generally, from Thursday’s opening film through Sunday evening we see about a dozen films. We’ve grown fond of that October event, and sadly, we missed it this year as we were on a long planned trip to China (more on that to come soon in other posts).

But thanks to an email from Philly, I post below one person’s reactions to this year’s festival and the films she saw between Oct. 19-29. Although said movie lover was not writing for an audience, she kindly gave us permission to pass on her quick thoughts about the films she saw, many of which will reach your local theaters in the coming year.

Her email:

We thought the Festival was terrific this year. The films I particularly recommend are listed below.  You can look up the descriptions in this Program Guide. 

I, Tonya (p.29) – Great performances. Funny, weird, crazy. Was the Opening Night film.

Faces Places (p.40) – Charming and very well done.

In the Fade (p.41) – German Oscar submission. Superb, Heavy. Amazing performance by Diane Kruger.

Jane (p.42) – Just released. Documentary. Features previously lost footage of Jane Goodall from the 60s.

Borg/McEnroe (p. 47) – Don’t need to be a tennis fan to appreciate this.

A Ciambra (p.50) – Italian Oscar submission.

The Square (p.56) – Just released. Some of the reviews have not been great, but we thought it was well done and very interesting.

Custody (p.63) – Very heavy. Great acting. Remarkably accomplished for a first feature.

In Syria (p.5) – Very well done. Entire film takes place in an apartment. Intense and disturbing.

On Body and Soul (p.55) – Amazing film. Love story takes place in a slaughterhouse.

AlphaGo (p.81) – Documentary. Got a great audience response.

Bobbi Jene (p.74) – Documentary about an American dancer in an Israeli dance group moving back to U.S. Very intimate love story, startling honest. Very impressive.

Django (p. 85) – Docudrama.

Nothing we saw wasn’t worth seeing, but for one reason or another, I did not include the following films, which I also saw: Sweet Country, Thoroughbreds, Bad Lucky Goat, Brimstone and Glory, Most Beautiful Island, Spoor, Montparnasse Bienvenue, Marlin the Murderer in Four Acts, and The Wound.

(Ed. Note: Jane, The Square, and Faces Places are all in the DC area now, and I, Tonya will be here soon.)

You can bet we’ll return to Philly next October. It is easy to get into almost every film you want to see (Opening Night is usually the only totally sold out film – though I noticed this year the wonderful Philadelphia Film Society added additional screenings of that film). The various theaters are generally within walking distance of each other, and the price, especially the package price for a weekend, is beyond reasonable.

If you have seen or see any of the above, please feel free to leave a Comment on this post for others to see.

Predictions That Came True, or Almost Did, in the 2017 MLB Season

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How come fortune cookies never say anything about baseball?

Contest #2: Make a prediction about something that will happen during the 2017 MLB season.

Here are the ten best, in my humble opinion, from MillersTime contestants that either came true or came very close to being true.

1. Greinke comes back, wins 20 games, and leads NL in ERA. Mostly true. He won 17 games and was sixth with a 3.2 ERA.

2. Two of the top four MLB home run leaders will come from the NL (last year the top six were from the AL). True. Giancarlo Stanton was first with 59, and JD Martinez was third with 45.

3. Cubs will struggle to make the playoffs. Mostly true. They lead the Brewers in the NL Central by six games, but they won 11 less games than in 2016 (92 vs.103).

4. Ryan Zimmerman will be the Comeback Player of the Year. Probably True. He just won the Players’ Choice Award for the NL Comeback Player of the Year. (Mike Moustakis won it in the AL category).

5. There will be no perfect games thrown in 2017. True. In fact, there was only one no hitter in all of 2017, thrown by Edison Volquez of the Marlins.

6. Andrew Benintendi will win the Rookie of the Year Award in the AL. Close. He’s one of the three finalists in the BWAA list. Altuve won it according the the Player’s Chocie Awards.

7. Altuve & Correa will combine for a batting average of of over.300. Very Close. Their combined BA was .299 (Altuve -.310 and Correa – .288).

8. Freddie Freeman will hit .300 this year. True. His season BA was .307.

9. The hidden ball trick will be used successfully this season. True. Blue Jays Ryan Goins fooled Yankees Todd Frazier on 2nd. And there may have been others this season.

10. The average time of MLB games will be longer than in 2016. True. It rose by 4 1/2 from 3 hours and 42 seconds in 2016 to 3 hours, five minutres, and 11 seconds in 2017.

The Winner of Contest #2 will be chosen by MillersTime readers who vote for which is the best prediction.

Please vote either in the Comment section of this post or by sending your vote to me in an email (Samesty84@gmail.com).

Deadline: One week – Thursday, Nov. 16 at noon.

How Well Do You Know Your Team? Plus, Winner in Contest #1

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Fenway Green Monster fans react to a Rafael Devers’ homer, but “a homer” has another meaning too.                     (Photo by Matt Stone)

Contest # 1: Pick your favorite MLB team (or the team you know the most) and answer the following questions to prove whether your just a homer – “someone who shows blind loyalty to a team or organization, typically ignoring any shortcomings or faults they have” – or whether you rally know something about your team and can honestly evaluate its strengths and weaknesses:

a. What will your team’s regular season 162 game record be in 2017?

b. Will they make the playoffs, and if so, how far will they go?

c. What will be the most important factor (hitting, starting pitching, bullpen, an individual’s performance, injuries, etc.) in determining their season?

Conclusion:

There were four teams chosen that had five or more of you predicting their season:

Orioles fans over predicted what their team would accomplish this season. (Once again Chris Eacho, who probably should never be taken seriously, thought the O’s would win over 100 games, would win the WS, and Buck Showalter would win Manager of the Year.)

Red Sox fans also largely over estimated how well they would do, but there were also a number of these wonderfully intelligent and obsessive fans who were very close to exact in their predictions.

Yankee fans largely underestimated how well they would do this year. (David P., however, thought they’d win the WS, which wasn’t as wild a prediction as it seemed at the beginning of the season.)

Nats’ fans were the most accurate in their assessment of their team.

Although the numbers were not significant, fans of the Cubs, Cards, Reds, Giants Braves, Royals, and Mets generally overestimated how their teams would do. Fans of the Pirates, Brewers, and Astros underestimated their teams for 2017. Dodger fans were split between over and under estimating how the Bums would do.

Winner of Contest #1:

There were a number of you who came close, generally faltering on Part B of this question. Included in this category were David Price, Daniel Fishberg, Jesse Maniff, Steve Veltri, Matt Wax-Krell, Ellen Miller, Jeff Friedman, Jon Frank, Nick Nyhart, and Meg Gage.

The two who vied for winning were Monica McHugh and Annie Orgad.

Monica predicted the Nats’ record would be 96-66 (they were 97-65), they would lose in the NLDS (true), and Bryce Harper would be instrumental in their season.

Annie predicted the Red Sox would be 94-68 (they were 93-69), they would lose in the first round of the playoffs (true), and hitting would be a big factor in their season outcome.

Monica McHugh wins this closely ‘fought’ Contest, based on the fact that her submission preceded Annie Orgads’. Monica’s prize is two tickets to a regular season game with her favorite team (details to be negotiated with me).

 

 

More Contest Winner(s) – True/False Questions

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Not a good showing for MillersTime Baseball contestants in the 10 True/False questions.

Seventy-five per cent of you had six or less correct, and no one got all ten right.

Contest #3: True or False:

A. The Chicago Cubs will follow Joe Maddon’s advice again to “Be a good Cubbie and try not to suck” and will at least go to the World Series in 2017, as they did in 2016. False, largely because they lost to the Dodgers in the NLCS 4 games to 1.

B. The Washington Nationals will NOT lead the NL East Division as they did in 2016. False. They won their division by 20 games (97-65) over the Marlins. In 2016 they won their division by 8 games (95-67) over the Mets.

C. One pitcher will throw two no hitters in 2017. False. There was only one (1) no hitter thrown in all of 2017 (Edinson Volquez for Miami against Arizona, 6/30/17).

D. Bryce Harper will rebound from his 2016 season – BA -.243, HRs – 24, RBIs – 86 and finish in the top five of the MVP voting. Mostly True. In 2017 his line was BA – .319, HRs – 29, RBIs – 87. The Baseball Writers Association of America came out last night with the finalists for various awards, including MVP, but they only listed the top three. Harper didn’t make it into that group but at least one list of the top ten I saw had him number five.

E. A contract at over $400 million will be offered before the end of the 2017 season. False. But maybe in 2018.

F. There will be five or or more Triple Plays in the MLB this year (yearly average has been 4.1). True. The Orioles did it twice.

G. There will be more than three 20 game winners in 2017. False. There were none. (Last year there were three).

H. No pitcher will have an ERA under 2.0 in 2017. True. Kluber best with 2.25. In 2016 Hendricks at 2.13.)

I. At least one MLB batter will strike out 219 times or more in 2017 regular season play. False. The only batter with more than 200 was Aaron Judge (208). Last year Chris Davis struck out 219 times.)

J. One of Grandpapa’s grandchildren will witness in person either a grand slam, a triple play, a no hitter, or Teddy win the President’s race at the Nats’ stadium. False. (Last year I believe Eli saw a no hitter and a grand slam.)

Five of you got eight out of ten: Rob Higdon, Monica McHugh, Brent Schultz, Meg Gage, and Sam Poland, but one person did even better.

The winner is Chris Boutourline who got nine out of ten and wins his choice of one of these books: The 20 Best Books Ever Written About Baseball. Chris also wins a MillersTime Winner T-shirt, tho I think he may have won a contest in the past.

In the inter-generational category (parent-child, grandparent-child, grandparent-grandchild, etc. Brandt Tilis and daughter Samantha (age one at the time of her/their contest submission) are also winners, correctly identifying 8 out of 10 questions. If anyone knows of a good book on baseball for toddlers, please let me know. Of course they will each get the very valuable t-shirts (please send sizes).

And the Winner Is…

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What a World Series that was!

I think in the end the ‘right’ team won, as the Astros were able to separate themselves, just barely, from a very good Dodgers’ team.

While it is a cliche to say that “it’s too bad only one team could win,” it’s only right that at the end there is a winner and a second place team (note I didn’t describe them as losers, tho indeed they lost).

Anyway, the end of the WS makes it possible for me to declare a winner in the MillersTime Baseball Contest #6: Who will be the two teams in the World Series in 2017 and which team will win it all? Tie-Breaker: Name the five teams in each league who will make the playoffs.

Three contestants were in the final consideration:

Nicholas Lamanna (referred by Matt Galati) predicted the Dodgers and the Astros would be in the World Series and the Dodgers would win. He did not predict the Tie-Breaker.

Elizabeth Tilis (formerly Elizabeth Miller, daughter of yours truly) predicted the Mets and the Astros would be in the WS with the Astros winning it. She did not predict the Tie-Breaker.

Clare Bolek predicted the Cubs and the Astros would make it to the WS with the Astros winning it all. She did make a prediction for the Tie-Breaker, getting four of the ten teams who made it to the playoffs.

Each of these three got one half of the primary question right and missed one half it. So the Tie-Breaker settles the winner.

Clare Bolek, the only one of the three to answer the Tie-Breaker question, is the winner of Contest #6 and the prize of one ticket to the 2018 World Series.

Nicholas Lamanna, while he didn’t win the big prize, does get to choose any regular season Washington Nationals’ game he would like to see in 2018 and can bring along Matt Galati who clued him into the contest. Assuming I’m in town for the game Nick chooses, I’ll join him and Matt for the game.

Elizabeth Tilis already got to see a WS game in 2007 when I flew her to Denver to join me for the fourth and final game of the Sox sweep over the Rockies.

And finally, I’d like to thank the 19 of you who wrote in to respond to my request for help in making the above decision (see Comments). Your thoughts were very helpful, even the one by David Stang, who wrote,

No winner if Dodgers don’t take the Series. You some kind of a wimp and want to give losers a prize like participation trophies to Little Leaguers who make errors and strike out? In competitions there are winners and losers. If the highest grade is D+ that doesn’t make the slacker a winner.
Or do you, soft-hearted one, think differently?

Now on to figuring out the winners in Contests #1, 2, 3.

Help Me Determine Contest # 6 Winner

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(The two managers, Dave Roberts & A.J. Hinch, meet prior to the opening of the 2017 WS games.  Photo by Al Tielemans, SI)

It certainly looks as if we have a World Series that is worthy of its name, at least if the first two games are any indication. I know those of you who are Dodger fans would have preferred to have won the second game, but for those of us who aren’t so connected to either team, it’s wonderful to see both teams operating at their best and the outcome in doubt.

In the meantime, I need a bit of help in determining how to think about the winner of MillersTime Contest #6: Who will be the two teams in the World Series in 2017 and which team will win it all? (Tie-Breaker: Name the five teams in each league who will make the playoffs.)

Four of you are in the running to win this contest, the one with the biggest prize of the six contests: One ticket to the 2018 World Series:

N.L. (vis Matt Galati): Picked the Dodgers and the Astros to be in the WS with the Dodgers winning it all.

E.T. Picked the Astros and the Mets with the Astros winning it all.

N.N. picked the Cubs and Astros, with the Cubs winning it alll.

C.B. picked the Astro and the Cubs with the Astros the victors.

Obviously, if the Dodgers win, then N.L. is the winner.

But if the Astros win, I’m not sure which of the above should be declared the winner.

Any advice, left in the Comment section of this post or sent directly to my email (Samesty84@gmail.com) would be definitely welcomed.

Thanx.

PS. I’ve already announced winners in two of the contests. If you missed those posts, see:

Contest #4 Winners

Contest #5 Winner

PPS: Contests 1, 2 & 3 have yet to be decided and will take some time.

Four Films, Reviewed by Ellen Miller

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Mini-Reviews by Ellen Miller:

I graduated from college in the late 1960’s and majored in sociology. Though my working career focused on political accountability, I’ve learned since my retirement that I never really gave up that early interest of addressing social problems and thinking about how society and institutions work (or don’t work). In fact, these interests drove much of my interest in “politics.” (But I digress)

I also find that the books and films I most enjoy most these days focus on these topics. To wit, the last two films presented by the DC Cinema Club  — Lucky and The Florida Project. Both of these are stunning – five star, must-sees, one-of-a kind, leave-you-stunned-in-your-seat-kind-of-movies. (And, unusually, Richard agrees with my 5 star ratings on both these films.)

The Florida Project***** is set in a budget motel (“The Magic Castle”) outside of Disney World in Florida. This narrative driven film focuses on the chaotic life of a six-year old girl and her rebellious 23-year old mother (played by Bria Vinaite). Although it is a fictionalized recounting of the lives of people living on the edge, it feels at times like a documentary. The acting is genius, particularly that of Willem Dafoe – the caretaker of the hotel –and the young girl Moonee (played by actor Brooklynn Kimberly Price). It is a life that would be hard to imagine any of the children escaping from unscathed, and so it’s also a very sad film. The story is gripping until the very end.

The Florida Project is an accomplished film from director Sean Baker who has produced two other films (Starlet 2012) and Tangerine (2015) which also focus on people most of us don’t know (or often don’t care about). After you see the well-reviewed The Florida Project, you won’t forget the children, the parents, nor the “community” that surrounds them.

Lucky *****is a different sort of film, this one character driven. It is the story of an old man, one who essentially plays himself at age 93, and the quirky characters who live in his desert town.  The performance of Harry Dean Stanton (a long time accomplished actor who died just a few months after the film was complete) is a masterpiece – a tour de force. I’m not sure that Richard and I have ever seen anything quite like it before. One reviewer called it … “at once a love letter to the life and career of Harry Dean Stanton as well as a meditation on morality, loneliness, spirituality, and human connection.”  This is a poignant film that doesn’t overdue its theme.  It is also one that will stay with you.

Columbus***** is another 5-star, award-winning film we have seen in the last month  that is must see. The story sounds kind of wonky: the son of a Korean-American well-known architect (played by John Cho) comes to Columbus, Indiana (a small Midwestern town known for its modern architecture). While waiting for his ailing (and estranged) father to recover from a sudden illness, the son develops a friendship with a young woman (played by Haley Lou Richardson) who is biding her post high-school career working at the local library and still living with her mother who increasingly depends on daughter for emotional support. The story is underpinned by exquisite cinematography and perfect pace. There is much talk of life, independence, architecture, and families. It is a film about the power of intellect and friendship. This is the directorial film debut for Kogonada, and it’s stunning.

All three of the above films are now showing (or will be shortly) in the DC area. Put ’em on your list, and let others know what you think if you get to see them.

A fourth film we’ve seen in recent weeks is Dina*** (Richard ****) which has gotten better reviews than I give it. This is the story of the life of a woman on the autism spectrum, focusing mostly on her relationship with the man she marries. The cinematography is pale and wan which lends the film a sober feeling. As one might expect, Dina’s life is a difficult life – always a bit out of sync with the world, her friends, her community. She is a sympathetic character – at times both funny and sad – without the ability to read nonverbal clues of those in her life. The movie is well-acted, but leaves you feeling a bit dreary. I wouldn’t rush to see this one: Two of my three three stars are for effort. Richard rates it a bit higher, probably because he has worked with a similar population at some points in his career and says, “the depiction of the character is quite true to life.”

Baseball Contest # 4 Winners

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While we await the outcome of the 2017 MLB playoffs to determine the MillersTime contest winners in four of the six contests, I can announce the winner(s) in Contest # 4.

(I previously announced the winner in Contest #5 about the 2017 All Star game.)

Contest # 4:

A. Which MLB team will have the best improvement in their games won over 2016?)

B. Which MLB team will have the biggest decline (most losses compared to 2016)?

What actually happened:

Best Improvement:

1. Minnesota Twins: + 26

2. Arizona Diamondbacks: +24

3. Houston Astros: +17

Biggest Decline:

1. San Francisco Giants: -23

2. Detroit Tigers: -22

3. Texas Rangers & New York Mets: -17

Winners:

No one got both A & B correct.

Ten of you had the Twins with the best improvement – Dawn Wilson, Todd Endo, Rob Higdon, Matt Eisner, Jesse Maniff, Ellen Miller, Tiffiany Lopez, Jeff Friedman, Matt Wax-Krell, Justin Stoyer

Nick Fels was the only one to predict the Giants loss of 23 games.

Since Contest #4 involved getting both right, by the power invested in me by me, I declare the following the Winners:

Todd Endo, Jeff Friedman, Rob Higdon, & Dawn Wilson. They all got A correct and all had the Rangers for B.

and

Meg Gage who had the second place team in A & B – Diamondbacks & Tigers.

So, Todd, Jeff, Rob, Dawn, and Meg, please send me your T-Shirt size, your home address, and your commitment to wear the T-shirt at least once during the 2018 baseball season.

 

Recent Best Reads

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

Not wanting to wait until the end of the year to compile a list of what books MillersTime readers were enjoying this year, in July I posted a list of 205 books that were favorites of 50 different MillersTime readers. If you missed that post, check it out.

Now I just want to remind you that I will again seek your favorite reads at the end of the year and will ask for those at the beginning of December. It takes me quite some time to turn your emails into a readable format, and so I am hopeful that most of you will not wait until my final plea to send in your titles.

Meanwhile, some books I have thoroughly enjoyed recently:

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (F). This historical novel has it all: an intense story, characters you will long remember, descriptions in language that is simply marvelous, American history with which you may be familiar but which will certainly expand your knowledge, and a good deal of wisdom. It’s the story of an Irish immigrant, aged 17, who fled the great famine, came to America, joined the army (1850) and along with a brother-in-arms first fought in the Indian wars and then in the Civil War. I listened to the novel, read by Aidan Kelly, and found his accent along with Sebastian Barry’s language simply mesmerizing. Though it was long listed for the Man Brooker Prize this year, it didn’t make the short list. It should have in my humble opinion. It will certainly will be in contention for one of my favorites of the year.

Lions by Bonnie Nadzam (F) is another audible book that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s the story of a dying Colorado town and a young man’s and a young woman’s youth there. Though deeply in love, his need to remain and her need to leave create a dilemma that seems unresolvable. Again, wonderful descriptions of the two individuals, the other towns people, the collapsing town itself, and a bit of a mystery too.

The Worst Hard Times by Timothy Egan (NF). Probably my most favorite book of the year (so far). This is the untold story (at least for me) of those who stayed put and didn’t flee the Dust Bowl (like the Joads in Grapes of Wrath). Just as The Warmth of Other Suns was captivating and educating, so too is this story of individuals and families who chose to remain in the High Plains during the late 1920s & 1930s despite the devastation brought by drought and dust. Timothy Egan’s understanding of what happened, why it happened, and to whom it happened is an important part of our history. And he tells it well. Winner of the National Book Award 2006.

Killings by Calvin Trillin (NF). Trillin is a national treasure, and I never tire of reading what he writes. This just released book is a compilation of New Yorker articles he wrote (in the 60s/70s/80s) that all focused on killings in various parts of the U.S, mostly in small towns. Very few ever made the news, but in telling these events, Trillin tells us much about America, and his descriptions of the people involved and the settings is marvelous.

The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse  by Tom Verducci (NF). Usually I leave reading about baseball to the winter months when I am deprived of the joy and pain of following my heroes. But at the suggestion of a son-in-law I read this in July. It tells the behind the scenes story of how Theo Epstein and Joe Madden systematically went about building a team that was able to break the longest drought in sports history, 108 years without a championship. While it is one of the best baseball books I’ve read in many years — and I’ve read many — it’s about vision, building, leading, inspiring and is applicable to other sports and team building as well.

Memories Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia by Garda Saunders (NF). At least one in nine of us will at some point be diagnosed with some form of dementia. In this memoir, Garda Saunders chronicles what it’s like to live with the knowledge that one’s brain is betraying her. In the process of losing her mind, she examines the science and literature of dementia as well as her own personal story. Not quite as outstanding as When Breath Become Air, but well worth the read if the topic of dementia is on, or one day will be on, your mind.

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson (NF). Another book I put in the crowd with The Warmth of Other Suns and The Worst Hard Times. It’s the story of the 1955 lynching of a 14 year old African American boy in Mississippi in 1955. I have some memory of this event, but Timothy Tyson’s narrative is both eye opening, including new evidence from this time in our history, and riveting. I couldn’t stop thinking about parallels to today.

Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon by Kelley French and Thomas French (NF). Juniper French was born at 23 weeks’ gestation, weighing one pound and four ounces. Here the father and mother in alternating chapters write openly and honestly about their struggles and the events that led to a successful outcome.

Also, thanks to a MillersTime reader’s insistence, I have now read two books by Frances Itani, Requiem (F) and Deafening (F). Once again I wonder, marvel, at how I could not have known about a writer and her work. These are very different stories, but both are worthy of your consideration. Requiem is the story of the experiences of a Japanese family that is put into a Canadian internment camp in the 1940s, and the story alternates between the experiences of young boy and his visit back to what remains of the camp many years later. Deafening is the story of a young girl made deaf by scarlet fever at the age of five, her coping, her living away from home, and then her living in the hearing world. It is also the story of Jim (a hearing person) whom she marries shortly before he has to leave Canada to be a stretcher bearer in Europe in WWII. It is a lovely and often wrenching story and tender accounting of two individuals that will remain with me. I look forward to reading more of Frances Itani’s writing and story telling.

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

On a different note, I want to let you know of a curated listing of best magazine reads every week. The site is Longreads, which you can join at no cost, tho a donation is appreciated. Each week you will get an email on Friday with links to five outstanding articles from a wide variety of publications. Generally the articles take anywhere from 15-30 minutes to read. There is almost one every week of interest to me that I haven’t seen in my own scanning of the Internet as well as one that I have already found on my own. Check it out at Longreads.com. (Scroll to where it says Get Longreads Weekly Email. The sign up is simple.)

Baseball Notes

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New for the 2018 Season:

The 2017 season isn’t over yet, at least for about 10-12 teams, yet there’s news about the 2018 season. It will start earlier, all teams will open their season on March 29, a Thursday, and the season will end Sept. 30 (for all but 10 playoff teams). There will be more off days scheduled, as a result of a collective bargaining agreement between league and the player’s union. More 2018 details.

And, of particular importance to this fan, the Boston Red Sox will come to Washington for a three game series, July 2-4. (For those of you who care about such things, the Yunkees come to DC for two games, May 15th & 16th). Also, as previously announced, the 2018 All Star game is in DC next year!

Cheating Red Sox:

Speaking of my heroes, the Sox have been caught red handed (wristed) using an Apple iWatch to steal and relay catchers’ signals about what pitch is coming, probably using TV to send this illegally gained info from the clubhouse to the dugout to the runner on second and then to the batter. Dustin Pedroia, one of my long time favorite Sox players, was instrumental in this violation of MLB rules (it’s OK to steal signals, say for a runner on second to relay what pitch is coming to a batter, but it’s not OK to use binoculars or electronics to do so).

Pedroia says stealing signals has always been part of the game and is no big deal.

The Sox admitted it when MLB confronted them, following evidence of the Sox perfidy being transmitted from the Yankees to MLB. (The Sox also said the Yankees are doing it, using their YES TV network in the process).

MLB is “reviewing all the evidence” and will announce any action in the near future.

So what do I say to my grandchildren about this when they learn of it and asks me?

Winning and Losing Streaks:

The Cleveland Indians, those bad guys who knocked the Sox out of the playoffs in the ALDS last year, have of this writing won 20 straight games with their complete game win last night by Corey Kluber. Twenty straight is quite a feat. It ties Cleveland for the American League record with the 2002 A’s. Now, if they win tonight, they will tie the 1935 Cubs for the MLB record at 21. (The 1916 New York Giants had a 26 game winning streak, but that was ‘marred by a tie game in a 27 game stretch.)

The Los Angeles Dodgers just barely held on over the Giants last night by striking out the final two batters in the bottom of the 9th with bases loaded. For those of you who don’t follow the West Coast Bums, the Dodgers seemed headed for 115+ wins until the ‘regression to the mean’ struck. They were 91-36 (.716) and had gone 25-5 without losing consecutive games. Then they lost the next 16 out of 17 games. With last night’s ‘win,’ they are currently 93-52 (.642).

And for the really important update, the Sox won last night, the Yankees lost, giving my cheating boys a four game lead over the Bronx cheaters going into the final 18 games.

Isn’t baseball wonderful?

Final Free Nats’ Tickets for the Asking:

Since I will be in Seattle for a wedding of a good friend of more than 50 years, you can benefit from my absence from DC. Let me know if you’re interested in two good seats (free if you take a kid, broadly defined) to the Nationals Sept. 29th game against the Pirates (7:05).

Email me at Samesty84@gmail.com if you’re interested. First shot to anyone who hasn’t used my tickets this year, then to anyone who will take a kid to the game.

Is Identity Politics the Problem?

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It’s hard not to focus simply on the latest tweet, appearance, or action by President Trump, especially if you are opposed to what he is doing. He is a master at grabbing attention and getting into one’s head.

At least that is true for me, a liberal, who I have to admit, is often annoyed by and occasionally disagree with some of the liberal and progressive responses to what President Trump and many Republicans are saying and doing.

So I try to stay in touch with some more conservative types, listening to what they say or write.

Occasionally on this website I post or link to something I’ve read that I think goes beyond just knee-jerk reactions or the ‘party line.’

Recently, David Remnick, editor-in-chief of The New Yorker since 1998, posted an interview he had with Mark Lilla on the issue of identity politics. Lilla is a self-described liberal and a professor, currently in residence at Columbia University.

This interview and Lilla’s views (what he believes liberals need to hear and understand) sent me to his very short book, The Once and Future Liberal.

I found the interview and the 160-page book intriguing and reflective of those with whom I talk who are not surprised by Trump’s victory nor by the loss of Democratic majorities in Congress, in state governor-ships, and in statehouses. Over and over I hear that the Democrats are too focused on identity issues, i.e., woman’s issues, minority issues, gender issues, etc. and fail to understand what has happened economically and personally to many others in this country (many who are not members of these identity groups).

While I am not entirely convinced of everything Lilla believes, some of what he says resonates with me. For example, Lilla urges that rather than call names or accuse others of being racists. etc., we need to “frame (issues) in terms of basic values and principles that we share in order to establish sympathy and empathy and identification with someone else.” And I also agree that we (Democrats) have been too focused on simply winning the White House and have given an open field to Republicans on the state level.

If you can divert for a bit from whatever the current noise is on the political scene, check out the interview: A Conversation with Mark Lilla on His Critique of Identify Politics, by David Remnick, The New Yorker, Aug. 25, 2017.

If you have a couple of hours and want to get Lilla directly, check out his book, The Once and Future Liberal.

If you read either, I would very much like to hear from you and what you think about what Lilla is saying. I urge you to consider responding in the Comment section of this post so that there can be a conversation about the issues Lilla raises.