Focusing on the Grand Kids


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Contrary to what some of you may think, Ellen and I are not spending all of our time traveling, going to movies, reading books, seeing friends, finding wonderful restaurants, following baseball, or stressing about the state of our nation.

We now have five grand children, and when Ellen is not making picture books from our travels (she’s up to 25 now!), she focuses on Eli, 10, Abigail, 8, Ryan almost 6, Samantha 3, and Brooke 18 months.

Today’s post are photos from the last three or four weeks, some from a weekend when all five were together and some from KC and others from DC/MD.

Cousins Deep in Conversation

Five Movies from March 2019


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This post adds another reviewer, our dear friend Fruzsina Harsanyi, with whom we usually attend the Miami Film Festival. As we were unable to participate this year, Fruzsina kindly agreed to write about three of the films she (and her husband Ray) viewed and recommend.

Following that Ellen Miller reviews two films we’ve seen recently.

Reviewed by Fruzsina:

Miami Basel: Arts Winter Playground ****

If you have attended the world’s biggest art fair for the past 15 years as we have, you would love this documentary.  If you have not been in Miami since the 1990’s when Miami’s claim to fame was the Dolphins, Don Johnson, and drugs, you would be amazed by the cultural and architectural transformation that has taken place.  This documentary vying for the audience award at the 2019 Miami International Film Festival argues that Art Basel was largely responsible for making it all happen. 

Through interviews with collectors and gallerists and flashbacks to the years when Miami was a “cultural wasteland,” the film shows us how people of vision and passion … and money, who love art could create an “ecosystem of philanthropy” to build museums, and support performing arts centers and arts education.  Moreover, as the President and CEO of the Knight Foundation noted the goal was and is to build community through art, “to make art general in Miami.”

We loved this movie because we love Miami Basel and what has happened to Miami.  As a documentary, however, we were generous in giving it a 4 out of 5.  We wish it had been less a commercial for Miami and more a deeper analysis of how the decision to bring the famous Swiss art fair to Miami came about.  We know Miami’s biggest car dealer, Norman Braman, was instrumental, but what about famous art families like the Rubells (who, the director says, didn’t answer his phone call) or Marty Margulies.   We wanted to know more about why people collect and how they decide.  But maybe these are topics for another documentary.

Rattlesnakes *****

This riveting neo-noir psycho-thriller kept us on the edge of our seats for 82 minutes. Based on the play by Graham Farrow, it tells the story of Robert McQueen, a happily married man whose focus as a professional therapist is beautiful, unhappy wives.  One day on the way to work, he is jumped by three masked men, the husbands of three of the women.  They believe Robert is having sex with their wives, and they are out to punish him.  The scenes become increasingly violent; the plot twists and turns.  We see flashbacks that may or may not have happened; we think we have it figured out, and then we haven’t.  And why did a rattlesnake appear at the beginning and end of the movie?

During the discussion after the film, some said they wished it had been longer.  Shot in just 12 days in Santa Barbara during the fires, director Julius Amedume said it was a marvel the film was made at all because he moved locations so many times to stay ahead of the flames.  I, too, wish the film had been longer, but that was so I could look at beautiful Haitian-French lead actor Jimmy Jean Louis.  I hope it comes to commercial theaters so I can see it again.  Knowing the plot, I can then just concentrate on looking at Jimmy.

The Mustang   *****

There have been so many movies about horses that it’s hard to think of an emotion that hasn’t been explored.  Robert Redford as the trainer in the 1998 film The Horse Whisperer was unforgettable.  Redford is back as executive producer of The Mustang directed by Laure de Clement-Tonnerre.  This time the horse is a wild mustang, the trainer is now 82-year old Bruce Dern, and the lead is a convict played by Matthias Schoenaert (who played opposite Marie Cotillard in Rust and Bone and as Putin with Jennifer Lawrence in Red Sparrow).  

This film is based on a true story about wild mustangs – 100,000 roam the American West – rounded up on federal lands and sent to prisons as part of a program to control their numbers by training them so they can be sold on auction or euthanized.  The program also serves as therapy for the convicts who are selected as the trainers.   One such convict, Coleman Roman, in solitary confinement for 12 years for a violent crime is assigned to work with a particularly ornery horse.

 It’s no surprise the he and the horse eventually bond and both are changed in the process: Coleman discovers his humanity and the horse his gentler nature.  But how this unfolds is powerful and beautiful.  Shot in a Nevada correctional institution, the movie is as much about the prisoners themselves, the brutality and boredom of everyday life in prison, and the fate of the horses as it is about the feel-good bonding of man and horse.   We marveled at how a young, female director could get her arms around such a big story in a physically and emotionally rough location in order to give us a story to remember.  The Mustang will be in movie theaters March 15.

** ** ** **

Reviewed by Ellen:

Never Look Away:   Ellen ***** Richard *****

This Oscar nominated Best Foreign Language Film is gripping, stunning, and mesmerizing – all at the same time.  It had so much going for it that its 3 hour 7 minute run time flew by.  While it is loosely based on the life story of Gerhard Richeter (a German visual artist born in 1931 and widely regarded as one of the most important contemporary German artists), the story stands on its own as a testament to the development of a young artist, in extreme political times. These times also provide the context for not only his art but the protagonist’s love and a father’s cruelty towards humanity and his own daughter. Take a deep breath and relive some of the horrors of the Nazis and the Russians in East Germany in the 1940a, ‘50s, and ‘60s. The film will grab you, and you will ‘never look away’.

The film covers a lot of different issues of those turbulent times. It opens with a galley tour of “degenerate art”  (put together by the Nazi government) by the protagonist as a young boy and his Aunt. The film follows both the boy and his Aunt: hers to a Nazi inspired end, and his as a sign painter, a painter of Socialist inspired murals, and an art student.  He meets his love, which is fraught with horrifying complications.

The film was stunningly acted and directed, the photography was subtle and magnificent, the acting was superb. This film was directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — best known for his masterful 2006 drama: The Lives of Others.

A.O Scott (NYT film critic) says it “hovers between psychological drama and period romance.” Ann Hornaday (WaPo film critic) says, it’s “nothing short of a moral reckoning.”  It’s all this, and more.

The White Crow:   Ellen *****    Richard ****

This film tells a remarkable, and true, story about the famous ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev and his defection to the West from Russia.

The White Crow largely focuses on his life as a 22 year-old, a principal dancer with the Kirov Ballet who on his first trip out of Russia falls in love with the idea freedom and the good life.  Through flashbacks to his childhood (cleverly photographed in black and white), and to his early life of professional training, you see the making of the man: an arrogant, thoughtless, self-confident braggart whose confidence in his art was only surpassed by his actual performance of it.  This film does not hide his flaws.

The dancing and music, photography and acting (some by nonprofessional actors) of this film is as superb as is the drama of the world of ballet and escaping a totalitarian country under the watchful eyes of the KGB. The director of this movie is Ralph Fiennes who also plays a key-supporting role.

We saw this film in our Sunday DC Cinema Club, and it is not yet out in the theaters. Hopefully, it will make it and be available to a wider audience.

** ** ** **

Finally, if you missed Ellen’s February mini-reviews of five films, be sure to check that out, particularly the highly recommended They Shall Not Grow Old.

Announcing the 2019 MillersTime Baseball Contests & Prizes


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  2019 MillersTime Baseball Contests

Contest #1:

  1. Name the two teams who will play in the World Series in 2019?
  2. Which team will win it all?
  3. Tie-Breaker: What will be the total number of games played in the 2019 World Series – 4, 5, 6, or 7?

Prize: One ticket to the 2020 World Series.

Contest #2:

Pick your favorite MLB team (or the team you know the best) and answer the following questions to prove whether you’re just a homer (“Someone who shows blind loyalty to a team or organization, typically ignoring any shortcomings or faults they have”) or whether you really know something about your team and can honestly evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. Please answer all three parts of the question.

1. What will your team’s regular season 162 game record be in 2019?

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

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

Prize: Two tickets to a regular season game with your favorite team (details to be negotiated with me.)

Contest #3: Questions to be decided by the 2019 All Star game, July 9.

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

Tie-Breakers: (May take longer than July 9 to decide these)Name the first MLB player to hit 25 HRs.

3. Name the first MLB player to hit 25 HRs.

4. Name the first MLB pitcher win 12 games.

Contest 4:   True or False:

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.

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

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

C. There will be at least one 20 game winning pitcher in each League in 2019. (There were two from the AL in 2018 – Snell – 21 & Kluber – 20; none in 2017, three in 2016 – Porcello – 22, Scherzer 20, Happ – 20). (from Chris Boutourline)

D. No pitcher in MLB will have two complete shutout games. (from Ben Sentura)

E. At least two teams in 2019 will lose 100 games or more. (Three did so in 2018 – Orioles lost 115, Royals lost 104 and White Sox lost 100. Five other teams lost between 95-99 games: Reds, Rangers, Padres, Marlins, & Tigers)

F. A manager will be fired by the All Star game in 2019? (from Brent Schultz)

G.  In 2019 the two AL & the two NL wild card teams will each come from the same division in their League.

H.  Either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper will fail to live up to expectations in 2019. In other words, 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.)

I.  At least three teams will win 100 games or more in 2019. (Three teams did so in 2018: Red Sox – 108, Astros – 103, Yankees – 100).

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.

Prize: Your choice of one of these books: The 10 Baseball Books Every Fan Should Read or a newer book, Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game by Rob Nyer.

Contest # 5:

These questions are inspired by MillersTime baseball contestants Matt Galati, Nick Nyhart, and Maury Maniff. They are mostly for unrepentent baseball nerds, ones who have been known get up in the middle of the night to see how their favorite team did, check all the baseball scores, look at video of a game, etc. To gather information before answering, you might want to go to this site – – to see what the correct answers would have been before 2018:

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

1. Have the most wins? (Boston in 2018)

2. Have the worst BA? (Miami in 2018)

3. Have the most errors? (St. Louis in 2018)

4. Have the highest (pitching) save percentage? (Texas in 2018)

5. Have the lowest WHIP? (Houston in 2018)

Prize: Your choice of one of these books: The 10 Baseball Books Every Fan Should Read or a newer book Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game by Rob Nyer.

Additional Details:  

All winners get the ‘one-of-a-kind,’ specially designed and updated MillersTime Baseball Winner T-Shirt.

Enter as many or as few of the contests as you want.

Be sure to answer all parts of each contest you do enter.

If you get a friend (or a foe) to participate in these contests, and he/she wins and has mentioned your name in their submission, you will get a prize also.

First time entrants who are runners up in any contest will get THE T-shirt. Any two-generation submissions (mother/son, grandfather/granddaughter, etc.) who are runners up will also get THE T-Shirt

Get your predictions in soon. In case of ties in any contest, the individual who submitted his/her prediction first will be the winner.

Submissions should be sent to me at: or by snail mail – Richard Miller – 2501 Tracy PL NW, Washington, DC 20008.

Deadline for Submissions: Opening Day: Thursday, March 28, Noon, EST

Recent Articles of Interest


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Here are links to a few articles that I’ve seen recently that I found of interest and suspect various readers of MillersTime might enjoy also.

You’re Using Your iPhone Wrong, by Cal Newport, NYT, 1/27/19 – wherein columnist writes that Steve Jobs never wanted smartphones to be our constant companions.

‘In the Feb. 11, 2019 issue of The New Yorker, there is an Oliver Sacks’ piece that he must have written shortly before his death as I have not seen it anywhere else: The Machine Stops, wherein he writes, among other things, about smart phones and fearing the future. I can’t link to it, but see if you can find it. I liked it (but then I like everything he has written).

The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives: On a Presidential Paper Trail by Robert Caro, New Yorker, 1/28/19. Caro takes some time out while working on his final LBJ book to give some insights into how he works. Caro is a national treasure imho.

Two Book Reviews of In My Mind’s Eye: A Thought Diary by Jan Morris – wherein she writes about being 91 and looks back on her earlier years:

In My Mind’s Eye, reviewed by Kate Kelleway, The Guardian, 9/9/18

In My Mind’s Eye, reviewed by Alexander McCall Smith, NYTimes, 1/24/19

And a couple from last year that struck me:

My Father’s Body, At Rest and in Motion by Siddhartha Mukherjee, New Yorker, 1/8/18. An author, doctor and son writes about his dealings and thoughts about end of life issues relating to his father.

The White Darkness: A Solitary Journey Across Antarctica by David Grann, New Yorker, Feb. 12 & 19, 2018. Another favorite writer of mine, this engaging story is now out in book form, but you can read it here.

Plus, one TED talk about how changing her reading focus opened up the world to her, a suggestion by a MillersTime reader Tiffany Lopez.:

My Year Reading a Book from Every Country in the World ( by Ann Morgan.

Five New Films To Consider


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Reviews by Ellen Miller

They Shall Not Grow Old:  Ellen ***** Richard *****

This is an extraordinary documentary film. It is unique in its story telling and the technology behind the production. You’ve never seen anything like it.

Noted director Peter Jackson (the New Zealand film director, screenwriter, and film producer best known for The Lord Rings films) was co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Imperial War Museums in association with the BBC to make a movie to celebrate the centennial of the Armistice, using original documentation.  He was given over 100 hours of World War I archival clips and over 600 hours of audio interviews from Britain’s Imperial War Museum (he used audio from 120 of them in the film) and set to making a film that answered the question: What was it like to be in the trenches.  Through some technological wizardry to improve the quality of the archival film itself and overlaying of contemporaneous interviews with former soldiers – from the highest to lowest of rank – he has fashioned brisk, gripping historical record.  At the end of the film he is interviewed about how he made the film and why he made the choices that he did. (Stay for this interview if you attend the film.)

Go see it.  You won’t be disappointed.

(In theaters now)

Bohemian Rhapsody: Ellen Miller ***** / Richard *****

If you evaluate Richard and me by the movies we see, some of our readers might think we are rather dreary people. We do see many serious films, and we generally like them because they tell us something about the world that we do not know, or need to be reminded of. But sometimes we like to go to the movies just to be entertained. If you like to be entertained….go see this movie – Bohemian Rhapsody. This is a film that has been widely panned by the critics, but, in fact, it is a thoroughly engaging story of one man (Freddie Mercury) and the extremely popular band he helped to create – Queen – that rose to fame in the 1970’s and 80’s.

It is a classic bio epic, with a lot of fabulous music that those of a certain age will recall. The story is elaborately told, filmed, and acted — the passion, the family struggles, the relationships of band members, and the pressures of being under a microscope. (All of this is somewhat predictable). It’s a movie about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. You have heard, and maybe seen this story before, but what’s terrific about it is the Hollywood gloss over the grime.

Ann Hornaday from the Washington Post wrote: “Bohemian Rhapsody is just that cinematic unicorn: the bad movie that works, even when it shouldn’t.”

Movies shouldn’t all be examined by the same standard. This one will keep you engaged and entertained.

(In theaters now)

The Invisibles:      Ellen ***** / Richard *****

There’s no such thing as too many movies (or books) about the Holocaust. There are great, good, and bad movies about any subject), but this film tells a Holocaust story in a way that is unique and effective. Don’t miss this one when it comes out.

The film is described as a docu-drama, and its presentation feels unique. It involves nearly equal parts interviews, reenacted scenes, and documentary footage focusing on four Holocaust survivors who went underground in Berlin during World War II and survived by the grace of a network of sympathetic German families.

The first person stories are matched with dramatic reenactment of those people as they were in 1940’s, adding to the impact of the personal statements and the dangers, tensions, and fears the invisible Jews faced.
The third element of the film is newsreel footage of Berlin at the time, which added a further element of realism to the movie.

This is a stunning film. You will learn things you didn’t know (Goebbels declared Berlin “free of Jews” in 1943, yet there were some 7,000 of them hidden there at that time, and about 1,500 of them survived). You will meet Germans heroes who took enormous risks to shelter and feed the Jews, as well as other Germans who also supported these ‘Invisibles’ (by one account these number in the tens of thousands). Plus, you’ll learn about the risks that the hidden Jews took to inform, liberate, and help others.

This is a stunning movie.

Woman At War:  Ellen **** / Richard***

This is an Icelandic film through and through. By that I mean it has a kind of hard-life dreariness to it (and cold and foggy overlay) that so many Iceland films over the last few years seem to have. (Think Rams (2014). 

In this very good film a 50-year-old independent woman leads a double life as an environmental activist fighting the establishment of an aluminum smelter plant to be developed in the mountains. She becomes increasingly desperate in her attempts but is stopped in her tracks when her desire to adopt a child becomes a possibility. There ensues a twist in the film that keeps you in your seat until the end. 

One of the really interesting elements in this film is the music, which lends a surrealistic air to this unusual and a bit other worldly story. The acting is superb.

(Ed. Note.1: Tho I don’t particularly agree that this is a film to recommend, our Sunday DC Cinema Club had a ‘Recommend Rate’ of over 95%, and almost 92% gave it either an “Excellent or Good” rating. Harrumph.)

Can You Ever Forgive Me?                    Ellen **** / Richard ****

We missed this film when it first came out, though I had noted it as I am a big fan of Melissa McCarthy who plays the starring role. Here she portrays a best selling biographer – Lee Israel – who made her living as a biographer of celebrities in the 1970’s and 1980s. The film is based on and follows closely Lee Israel’s memoir by the same title. The story begins as Israel’s writing goes out of fashion, in a desperate move she starts (with a friend Richard E Grant) to forge (or sometimes steal) correspondence of dead writers and sell the letters to rare-book dealers. She makes a good profit as it takes a while before the deception is found out. This is a moving story of a lonely and anxious middle-aged, single woman struggling to make ends meet but who uses her wit, but not to a good end.

It’s an interesting story, for sure, but the reason to see this film is because of McCarthy’s acting. It’s simply perfect. That’s why she’s nominated for Best Actress in the Academy Awards this year.

(In theaters now)

(Ed. Note .2: I’ve noticed that in addition to the films above, a number of the films we’ve seen and mini-reviewed are currently in the theaters…at least in the greater DC area. Look for these which we highly recommend: Free Solo, Green Book, If Beale Street Could Talk, A Star Is Born, Cold War, Capernaum, On the Basis of Sex, Roma, and Stan & Ollie.)

(Ed. Note .3: For those of you who enjoy searching out new and possibly upcoming films, we came across this article from Thrillist – ht Louise M. : The Best Movies from Sundance 2019. We have not even heard of any of these 25!)

Australia: Photos & Footnotes


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Counting the round trip flight to and from Washington-Dallas-Sydney and our travel around Australia itself (by planes, trains, buses, minibuses, rental cars, Land Rover, limousines, taxis, Uber, boats, ferries, cable cars, etc.), we’ve just completed a 30,000 mile trip, making it one of the longest we’ve taken in many years. Also, it was our “last” continent (to explore), although that was not the reason for this trip.

It was total delight, generally making connections and transfers like clockwork, surviving the west to east jet lag handily, and happily exploring the many cultures, climates, and adventures Australia has to offer. We hiked and snorkeled, we ‘cruised’ along the Tasmanian coast, and some of us even climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  We took in the opera, visited museums to see Aboriginal and modern art; ate first class cuisine, (gorging on oysters, loving our first tastes of kangaroo, wallaby, and bug tails); hiked trails in Tasmania and visited an off shore island; learned a new language they called English; and came to have a much deeper understanding about the country’s history. We have random facts tucked away in our brains for future use, including but not limited to: why snake bites in Australia are rarely fatal, why you should never turn your back on a crocodile, the ratio of the wild kangaroo and camel populations to the (very small) human one, why so many Australian beaches are pristine, and why Vegemite must be an acquired taste (which we chose not to acquire).

Our itinerary was roughly this:  With good traveling buddies Fruzsina and Ray (and under their experienced guidance and with the assistance of a wonderful travel agent based in Melbourne), we began in Sydney and then headed to Melbourne.  From there, we were off to Tasmania where we drove to and spent several nights in the Freycinet Peninsula and returned to Hobart, a city that quickly became a favorite. We separated from our friends as they went off to New Zealand, and we flew to the Northern Territory —  Darwin —  where we spent a couple of days, exploring the Kakadu National Park. From there we boarded the famous train – The Ghan – to Alice Springs and then took a five hour bus ride to Yularu (Uluru/Ayers Rock).  Finally, we took a long flight to Cairns and stayed four nights in Port Douglas to explore The Great Barrier Reef and the rainforests before heading back to Sydney and home.

Each stop had so much to offer – natural beauty to fascinating history, unique museums, and gourmet food, wonderful walks and hikes, and, of course, the best of company – our wonderful friends and each other.

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The Books Most Enjoyed by MillersTime Readers in 2018


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

This list of favorite reads is comprised of the books most enjoyed in 2018 by 71 adults and five children. Forty-one of them (suggested by thirty-one people) are now on my ‘to read’ list for 2019. (The only way I can read that many, along with other books that will no doubt come to my attention throughout the year, is to fulfill a long considered ‘plan’ of spending a winter in Alaska in front of a fire place. Please don’t mention this to Ellen.)

For the first time since compiling this list (10 years ago!) nonfiction leads the fiction 53% to 47%. Last year those percentages were reversed, and I’m not sure what accounts for the change (aging contributors?). Our youngest participant is almost 18 month’s old; the oldest is approaching the century mark. The rest of you are mostly between the ages of 35- 75. Fifty-five percent of you are women; forty-five percent are men.

While I don’t expect all 76 of you will read all the way through this list (though anyone who does can claim it as a favorite book for next year, assuming you are delighted by the list), know that there is a tremendous amount of information here. Thus, I’ve organized it in several ways, hopefully to make it user friendly:

Section I. The most frequently cited titles (three or more times) are listed first.

Section 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 made about those books.

Section III. Finally, there are also two spread sheet lists (see links below) included as easy, searchable references for you to see the titles, authors, and MillersTime contributors in summary form:

List#1 Organized Alphabetically by Book Titles – fiction precedes nonfiction

List #2 – Organized Alphabetically by Contributors’ Names – fiction precedes nonfiction

I. Titles That Appear on the Favorites’ List Three Times or More:

Fiction (F):

  • Beartown by Fredrik Backman
  • Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
  • Love and Ruin by Paula McClain
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers
  • Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson
  • Us Against You by Fredrik Backman


  • American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Beneath a Ruthless Sun by Gilbert King
  • Educated by Tara Westover
  • Heartland by Sarah Smarsh
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
  • Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  • Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild
  • The Bad-Ass Librarian of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer
  • The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  • Winners Take All by Anand Giridharadas

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Why We (Still) Love Movies and the Movies We Loved in 2018


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Updated: 12/29/18:

(From Ellen’s and my post last year, with a few updates, and which mostly still holds true for us):

People often say the reason they love the movies is because they offer an escape. But that’s not why we enjoy them. We love movies because they tell stories, show us worlds and places we will never know first hand, teach us lessons about life, breathe life into historical or political moments, and/or make us question what we think we already understand. (Ed. additional note.1: And, of course, we’ve been known to see a movie simply for the escapist, thriller aspect of the film.)

Come to think of it, we love movies for the very same reasons we love books and love to travel.

For us, a “great movie” has to have a good story; strong, believable, and well acted characters; great directing; with cinematography, music, and production that adds to the whole. We’re not particularly fans of comedy, satire, or overly intellectual films, where nothing much happens for two hours. And while we can appreciate a “critic’s film” (i.e., a film that critics love but audiences not so much), only sometimes do they rise to the top of both our lists.

We’ve averaged about a movie a week in 2018 (actually a bit more since we rarely post reviews of the movies we don’t really like, ones that are already super popular, or the “big theater” shows). That’s not a bad number, considering the time we travel, how much we read, how much time one of us spends watching baseball in the summer and early Fall – GoSox, and the time we spend with our five grands under the age of 10.

Also, we love going out to the movies. Seeing a film in a theater somehow seems more special than watching one at home, which we rarely do. (We did once watch one at home, our first Netflix movie – Mudbound – thanks to the technical assistance of daughter Annie, as some aspects of the modern TV are still a mystery to us.)

Below is a listing — recap list — of the films this year, 2018, which have received a top rating from at least one of us. We are not going to pull out our top ten for you, even if we could decide on a ten best. Just browse the list and link to our earlier reviews to see if certain ones might appeal. You can also save this list by printing out this post.

Films Either One or Both of Us Rated Four or Five Stars

(Click on a film to see our review)

A Fantastic Woman

A Star Is Born

And Breathe Normally

Ben Is Back


Blind Spotting


Borg vs McEnroe


Cold War – not reviewed but definitely recommended

Dark Money

Everybody Knows

Free Solo

Foreign Land

Gladesman: The Last of the Sawgrass Cowboys

Green Book

Heading Home

If Beale Street Could Talk  – not reviewed but highly recommend

In Love & In Hate

Israel: The Story of Modern Day

Lean on Pete

Mary Poppins Returns – not reviewed but worthy


Memoir of War

Monrovia, Indiana – not reviewed, worthy

My Love or My Passion

On the Basis of Sex – not reviewed but we loved it.

Phantom Thread

Playing God


Sergio & Sergei


Stan & Ollie – not reviewed but both of us enjoyed it

The Favorite – not reviewed and big disagreements between us

The Guilty

The Hero

The Journey

The Last Suit

The Mule – not reviewed but enjoyed

The Rider

The Shape of Water

The Wife


Widows – not reviewed but enjoyed for its escapist plot


Put These Films on Your “To See” List


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by Ellen Miller

If you’re looking for some films to see over the next month or two, here are a few we can highly recommend. All those reviewed here, except for the first one, are in theaters now. And below these reviews are others that we have previously reviewed and are well worth an evening (late afternoon noon!) at the movies.

CAPERNAUM (Chaos)Ellen *****  Richard *****

Director, Nadine Labak

The first thing I knew about this film, which we recently previewed at our DC Cinema Club, was that it was the winner of the Grand Jury Award at the Cannes Film Festival. I suspected I was bound to be disappointed.

But this film is one of the most stirring, mournful, gritty, and gripping films I have ever seen. It is also heartbreaking, even though it has an uplifting ending. The entire audience was glued to their seats, wondering at the marvel of what they watching, described by long time film critic Bob Mondello in a dialogue with the audience at the end, as a film that could have come from a Charles Dickens’ script.

It is an epic story of a street-smart 12-year-old Lebanese boy who, after being worked hard, beaten, and denigrated by struggling parents and the society around him, leaves home, survives by his street smarts, and then tries to sue his parents for neglect. Along the way the boy becomes the caretaker of a toddler, the son of an illegal immigrant (an Ethiopian woman is arrested for lack of papers). For me, this was the most searing part of the film.

But it’s not just the story of the film that is moving; it was also how it was made. There were no professional actors in any of the leading roles, and each person ‘played’ a personality somewhat like themselves, someone who had a similar life story. There was at times no fixed script -– characters were simply given the outlines of a scene and asked to speak and act as they would if they were in a similar situation. And with one exception, it was shot chronologically and over a period of six months. The poise and presence of each of the ‘actors’ (from the 15 month old to the parents of the boy) was incredible. Five hundred hours of film was shot and then edited into this exquisite work.

We haven’t seen anything this powerful or this amazing in a long time.

Capernaum will be a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. It has not yet opened in theaters in DC. Watch for it.

(Ed. Note: Capernaum will be in theaters starting Dec. 14. Put it on your calendar. Now.)

THE WIFE:  Ellen ****  Richard ****

Directed by Björn Runge

We were actually late in seeing this film, but we were anxious to do so after seeing Glenn Close in New York, starring in The Mother of the Maid, now playing at The Public Theater. (That production was staged in a theater in the round venue, and we sat no more than 10 feet from Close at any time during two spellbinding hours. The play itself wasn’t remarkable, but she was. We felt it a privilege to witness her work.)

And she’s remarkable in this film too. We found the story a bit hard to believe. A writer is soon to be awarded the Nobel Prize. He (Jonathan Pryce) is the husband of the character played by Glenn Close and is being recognized for the entire body of his literature. His wife has long hidden her role in his writing and has tolerated his arrogance and infidelities of her husband out of overpowering love. When she decides she cannot suffer the indignities any longer, the film takes a sharp turn. The build up to claiming her own place in the long fraught relationship with her husband is what is most intriguing about this film. It’s a timely film and a timely message. While my overall rating is a 4 stars, Glenn Close would get 10 stars if I could give that many.

A STAR IS BORN:  Ellen *****  Richard *****

Director, Bradley Cooper

We were also late in seeing this film, and if friends hadn’t given it such sterling ratings, we might have skipped it, as film with big stars like Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, are not usually our thing. But we both were captured by the story and Lady Gaga’s performance.

It’s a big film: big stars, big production, big story (singer on her way up; singer on his way down with compromises all around) set in the contemporary music world. The relationship between the two of them feels real. Each is drawn to the other for their own needs, but they stick together as their careers careen in different directions. The music is wonderful, and it was a pleasure to watch La Gaga perform up close and personal.

All in all, this was a particularly pleasurable “big film.”

FREE SOLO: Ellen *****  Richard *****

Directors, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

With a couple of hours to spare in New York a few weeks ago, we dashed to a movie theater to see this remarkable documentary. We highly recommend it. Richard’s review from an earlier post:

“This National Geographic documentary is an account of Alex Honnold’s (age 33) attempts to free solo climb (i.e., no ropes) the 3,000 foot high El Capitan Wall in Yosemite Park, arguably the most difficult solo climb in the world.

“Free Solo is directed and filmed by the award winning duo of Jimmy Chinn, photographer and mountaineer, and Elizabeth Chai Vasashelyi, documentarian. Their previous film, Meru, told the story of three climbers attempting to scale Mt. Meru in the Himalayas. It won the Sundance Audience Award in 2015.

“You don’t have to care about or have particular interest in rock climbing to be mesmerized by this film. It is both an intimate portrait of the climber and of the film making of this adventure. And it’s a thriller told cinemagraphically. For all these reasons the film will stay with you long after you leave the theater.”

Free Solo is in the theaters in the DC metro area now and in other theaters around the country. See it while it’s available on the big screen. I suspect, unfortunately, it will not be around very long.

**          **          **          **          **

And if you can find any of the following films, you’re in for a treat. Click on the film to see my earlier review from our weekend at the recent Philadelphia Film Festival:

Green Book, in theaters now.

A Private War, in theaters now.

Roma, in theaters now.

Ben Is Back, due in theaters Dec. 7.

Everybody Knows, due in theaters Feb. 8

The Guilty, released Oct. 19 but doesn’t seem to be in the theaters yet.


Monrovia, Indiana, not reviewed previously on MillersTime but worth your consideration. See Ann Hornaday’s review in the Washington Post. This film about a small, rural mid-western town is now in theaters though not easy to find.


Calling for Books You’ve Most Enjoyed in 2018


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

Year 10

Once again it’s that time of year — when I request you share with other readers of MillersTime your most favorite books read over the past 12 months.

Here are a few guidelines that may help in drawing your list and in making my compilation easier:

1. When I ask for your Most Favorite Reads of 2018, 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 2018 mid-year review, particularly if, on reflection, the book(s) still meets the standards above.

4. In order to make the list most useful, please do the following:

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

* Consider writing a sentence or two, or more (but not an essay), about why a particular book was a favorite for you. Many MillersTime readers seem to be interested in that information.

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 2018, 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 2018,” please include those on your list also. Be sure to identify which ‘books’ on your list were ones you enjoyed audibly.

* Send me your list in an email ( by Dec. 16th  so I will be able to post the entire list by Dec. 30 as we will be on a trip (surprise) starting the 31st. (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.

“Extreme” Challenges: One Film, One Book


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Let me be perfectly clear at the outset of this post: I have no personal interest whatsoever in “extreme” challenges, that is, testing myself against the elements, physical, psychological, or whatever one might come up with. Heck, I can’t even get up the courage to watch or listen to 13 out of 14 Red Sox postseason playoff games (see previous post, An Admission). But the two accounts I discuss below (one a film, one a book) of meeting physical and psychological challenges are mesmerizing, well told, and thought provoking. However, even though I have no personal interest in under going such challenges, I am fascinated by what these true stories reveal about human behavior — and attempting to understand human behavior has long been one of my own passions.

There are no spoilers in the two short reviews below as one part of Ellen’s and my enjoyment of these two adventures came about without us knowing the results of either of these “extreme” challenges.)

Free Solo *****

This National Geographic documentary is an account of Alex Honnold’s (age 33) attempts to free solo climb (i.e., no ropes) the 3,000 foot high El Capitan Wall in Yosemite Park, arguably the most difficult solo climb in the world.

Free Solo is directed and filmed by the award winning duo of Jimmy Chinn, photographer and mountaineer, and Elizabeth Chai Vasashelyi, documentarian. Their previous film, Meru, told the story of three climbers attempting to scale Mt. Meru in the Himalayas. It won the Sundance Audience Award in 2015.

You don’t have to care about or have particular interest in rock climbing to be mesmerized by this film. It is both an intimate portrait of the climber and of the film making of this adventure. It’s  a thriller told cinemagraphically in a way that will stay with you long after you leave the theater.

Free Solo is in the theaters in the DC metro area now and in other theaters around the country. See it while it’s available on the big screen. I suspect, unfortunately, it will not be there very long.

The White Darkness *****

This true story of adventure and obsession was originally a two part story in The New Yorker (Feb. 12 & 19, 2018) by writer and author David Grann (Killers of the Flower Moon, The Lost City of Z, The Old Man & the Gun, and The Devil & Sherlock Holmes).

It tells the story of Henry Worsley, a British special forces officer who idolized Ernest Shackleton and sought to repeat two of Shackleton’s famous polar explorations (attempts to reach the South Pole, 1902-4, and to cross the Antarctic on foot, 1914). Worsley’s journeys took place in 2008 and 2015, roughly 100 years after Shackleton’s.

The printed book is short, 146 pages, including wonderful photos of both Shackleton’s and Worsley’s adventures. It is also a detailed narrative of adventure and a spell- binding story about an individual who pushes himself to extreme limits.

I listened to the Audible edition of The White Darkness, read, ‘dramatized,’ by Will Patton, in (an all too short) two hour and 28 minutes. Consider doing the same yourself. It’s simply superb.

For me these two somewhat short accounts of “extreme” challenges are also stories of obsession, courage, and compulsion. They both go beyond the physical and psychological challenges of each journey. They both discuss the individual, where he came from, what seems to make up who and what he is, and equally of interest, the affect these accounts had on those around the two individuals, in one case a girl friend and a mother, in the other a wife and children.

(Editor’s Note.1: If there is interest, Ellen and I will host one of our ‘pop up’ Sunday night suppers where we not only enjoy Ellen’s good cooking but also exchange thoughts and reflections about these two narratives.

A Double Winner in the 2018 MillersTime Baseball Contest Winners


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We’ve got a double winner!


Pick your favorite MLB team (or the one you know most about) and answer the following questions to prove whether you’re just a homer (“Someone who shows blind loyalty to a team or organization typically ignoring any shortcomings or faults they have”) or whether you really know something about your team and can honestly evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. Answers to the following three questions will determine who wins this contest:

A. What will your team’s regular season 162 game record be in 2018?

B. Will they make the playoffs (or postseason as someone pointed out to me MLB calls the playoffs), and if so, how far will they go?

C. What will be the most important SINGLE factor in determining their season?

I asked for help in determining the winner to this contest (see Comment Section with the many of the answers I received. I had a few more sent to me in emails). Your responses were thoughtful, readers make strong arguments for A, B, C, & D (see Comments at the end of this post, and led to the following very close decision(s) between A, B, C, and D.


Mary Lincer. Contestant D: Picked the Nationals whose season record was 82-80. They did not make the postseason, tho many had predicted they would, and probably the two reasons they did not do so had to do with not bringing in runners who were on base (i.e., hitting) and/or being ranked 7th out of 15 National League teams in pitching). Mary predicted their record would be 83-79, they would not make the playoffs, and said the single most important factor in their season would be lack of hitting.

(Editor’s Note: Not only did Mary get the most votes from MillersTime readers, it was comments such as the following that carried the day for me: “(D) wins with not only the closest record prediction, but the most unexpected. Picking the Sox to win between 90-99 wins was not a stretch, but picking an expected winner to struggle and nailing it (only better prediction would have been because of injuries) is the point of this contest.” She’s definitely not a homer. PS – She didn’t even vote for herself.)

Mary gets two tickets to the game of her choice for the NATS’ 2019 season and, of course, the prized T-Shirt.


Ben Senturia. Contestant A:  Picked the Cards whose season record was 88-74. They did not make the playoffs. They were ranked 9th out of the 15 teams in the NL in terms of BA vs their pitchers and were 13th out of 15th in WHIP. This contestant predicted the Cards record would be 86-76, they wouldn’t make the playoffs, and said the single most important factor in their season would be pitching. (T-Shirt winner.)

Chris Bourtourline. Contestant B: Picked the Red Sox who season record was 108-54. They won the World Series, hitting and pitching and some other factors all played important roles in the season and the postseason. This contestant said the Red Sox record would be 93-69, they’d win the WS over the Dodgers, and said the single most important factor in their season would be hitting. (T-Shirt winner)

Jere Smith. Contestant C: Also picked the Red Sox who season record was 108-54. They won the World Series, hitting and pitching and some other factors all played important roles in the season and the postseason. This contestant said the Red Sox record would be 99-63, they’d win the WS, and JD Martinez would hit 44 HRs (he hit 43) which would be the single most important factor in their season. (T-Shirt winner)

Meg Gage & Steve King: Contestants E: Also picked the Red Sox who season record was 108-54. They won the World Series, hitting and pitching and some other factors all played important roles in the season and the postseason. This contestant said their record would be 95-67, they’d lose to the Dodgers in the WS, and the single most important factor in their season with be hitting. (T-Shirt winners.)

CONTEST #2: (See All Details – Previously announced)

Which League will win the All Star Game?

Tie-Breakers: Name the first MLB player to hit 30 HRs and the first MLB pitcher to win 12 games.


Tim Malieckal wins as a result of his being the first (3/21) to chose the American League and Judge & Scherzer. Tim will join me in 2019 for a Nats vs Mets game in DC. And, of course, he will receive the ever popular and desired MillersTime Baseball Winner T-Shirt.


Justin Stoyer (3/24) and Brandt/Samantha Tilis (3/26) are the runners up, predicting the American League and Judge & Scherzer. They will receive the fabulous T-Shirts. (Note for 2019: Just a bit slower to get in their predictions.)

CONTEST #3: True/False:

A. The new MLB rules (shorter commercial breaks and limit of six non pitching visits to the mound by manager, coach or other players) will NOT result in reducing the average game time to under three hours. (Average time in 2017 was 3:04.) TRUE. Average time in 2018 was 3:08.

B. The New York Yankees WILL win the AL East in 2018. FALSE. Duh.

C. The Washington Nationals WILL NOT win the NL East in 2018. TRUE. Sadly.

D. There will be no 20 game winning pitchers in either league in 2018. (There were none in 2017 and three in 2016.)  FALSE. Snell won 21 and Kluber won 20.

E. At least one pitcher in the regular 2018 MLB season will have an ERA under 2.0. (There were none in 2017 or 2016. One did it in 2015 and two in 2014.) TRUE: De Grom – 1.70 and Snell – 1.89.

F. Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge together will hit at least 115 regular season HRs in 2018. (In 2017 they ‘combined’ for 111.) FALSE. Stanton – 38, Judge 27 + 65 HRs.

G. At least one MLB batter will strike out 220 times or more in 2018 regular season play. (Aaron Judge struck out 208 times in 2017, and Chris Davis struck out 217 times in 2016.) FALSE. Moncada the closest with 211 SOs, followed by Stanton’s 211.

H. There will be at least 8 Triple Plays in the MLB this year. (Over the last 10 years the average has been 4.1 per year, and in each of the last two years there were 7 each year.) FALSE. There were only two. Mariners and Rangers, the latter, not done for 106 years, an unusual 5-5-4.

I. At least three teams will win 100 games or more in 2018. (Three teams did so in 2017: Astros – 101, Indians – 102, Dodgers – 104). TRUE. Yunkees 100, Astros – 103, Sox 108.

J. One of Grand Papa’s (c’est moi) grandchildren will witness in person (at an MLB game) a grand slam, a triple play, a no hitter, an extra inning game, or Teddy win the President’s race at the Nats’ stadium. FALSE. Unfortunately.


Mary Lincer, see Contest #1 above, got the first nine correct and only missed the final one, probably because she thought I’d get the grands to more games than I did. Wins her choice of one of The 20 Best Books Ever Written About Baseball or a new book Power Ball: Anatomy of a Modern Baseball Game by ESPN writer, Rob Neyer (Published Oct. 9, 2018) and not to be confused with Michael Lew’s’  Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.

Runner-Up: Shawn Scarlett got eight right. T-Shirt winner.

Losers: Most of you who got five or less correct.


Who will be the two teams in the World Series in 2018 and which team will win it all?

Tie-Breaker: Name the five teams in each league who will make the playoffs.

Winner: Chris Bourtourline had the Sox over the Dodgers. No need for the tie-breaker (tho he got 6-10 right there). He is a repeat winner in these contests and will get one ticket to the 2019 World Series. Plus one of the new, updated T-Shirts.

Runner-Up: Maury Maniff, who both had the right teams in the WS but the wrong winners. He gets runner up based on his 6 out of 10 correct teams in the post season. He gets a T-Shirt.

Meg Gage/Steve King had the right teams but were behind Maury in the Tie-Breaker. Jere Smith had the Sox winning it all but over the Cubs, not the Dodgers. They both were runners- up above, but if they want to give a T-Shirt to a friend, I have plenty.

And that’s all for 2018.

An Admission


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(Photo by Jim Davis / Globe Staff)

An Admission

The Red Sox played 14 postseason games this year.

As everyone who cares about such things knows, they won the World Series.

They lost only three games on their way to the World Series, one each against the three (other) best teams in 2018 – Yankees, Astros, Dodgers.

Admission: I did not watch the first 13 games.

But I did watch the 14th and final game from start to finish.

So what’s up with that? How could I not watch my heroes?

Digression: In 2004, when the Sox hadn’t won the World Series in 86 years, I was watching at home on TV when they defeated the Cards in the third game of the WS to take a 3-0 lead. I got on a plane in DC early the next morning to fly to St. Louis (didn’t have a ticket to the game), after wrestling with myself whether or not to go.

My dilemma was how could I not go when my wonderful grandfather (Pappy) had introduced me to the Sox when I was seven years old. Never in his lifetime did he see the Sox win a World Series. I had to go for him. But, having been ‘schooled’ by being a Red Sox fan for 54 years at that time (now it’s been 68 years of pain and joy), I feared another disaster (think Bill Buckner, Bucky Dent, etc.) and wondered about being far away from home if that disaster struck, and the Sox lost to the Cards.

My love for my grandfather and reasoning that if I went to St. Louis and they lost the fourth game, I could stay for one more game. If they lost that one, I could hasten home with the Sox up three games to two, and I could lock myself in our study and suck my thumb while they blew the next two games.

I went. They won. It was the end of a long nightmare and a wonderful night that I will never forget (see this earlier post from my younger daughter who left a letter for me on the kitchen table to see when I returned: The Email on the Kitchen Table).

Admission, cont.:

Knowing myself, somewhat, I chose not to watch or listen to the first 13 games of the 2018 post season. The regular season had been superb with the Sox winning the most games ever in their history, going 108-54. They had a winning percentage of 67%, and I had watched many of those games as it was clear to me that something special was happening this year. And I posted that it didn’t matter if they won the World Series or not as they had given me and other fans a wonderful season (see For Me, the Sox Don’t HAVE to Win the World Series). I got a lot of criticism for that post and disbelief. But I meant it.

Plus, I couldn’t bear to watch them lose to the Yankees, Astros, or the Dodgers, as anything is possible in the postseason, especially to the Sox. So I went to bed every night not knowing the score of the first 13 games, often waking in the middle of the night to see what had happened. (Fortunately, Ellen kept silent about what was happening in each game as she apparently continually checked the score on her iPhone). If I saw they won, I would then watch every video and read everything about that win. If they lost (which they only did three times), I would immediately go back to sleep, except for that 18 inning game they lost to the Dodgers. That one demanded I read about what happened, and the ‘boo birds’ started with saying the WS had turned around, and the Sox would likely lose now.

When the Sox won the next game the next day and went ahead 3-1 over the Dodgers, I was presented with the same dilemma as I had had in 2004. If I watched, and they lost, it would be a miserable three-four hours, leaving me in pain.

But if they won, how could I not have watched it, including the celebrations at the end?

And after all, I ‘reasoned,’ they still would have three more chances to win the WS. So I didn’t really need to be fearful of sharp instruments or high places if they lost that fifth game.

I watched it.

You all know how this story ended.

Land of the Incas: It’s More Than Machu Picchu – Photos & Words by Ellen Miller


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By Ellen Miller:

When fellow world traveler Fruzsina Harsanyi (and sometimes travel companion to Richard and me along with her husband Ray) asked if I was interested in a trip to Machu Picchu, I immediately told her ,“Yes.” While not at the top of my travel list, it had long lingered as a possible destination. Richard was never very enthusiastic about it, and, in fact, on an earlier trip to Peru we had chosen to spend four days on the Amazon over Machu Picchu. But here was a chance, with a great friend, to explore this mysterious place about which I knew very little.

The date was set for early October, 2018, and the travel to Lima was easy (with only an hour time change). We worked with our travel agent and a relatively new agency in Peru – Coltur Peru – to produce what turned out to be a perfectly sequenced trip that included a careful calculation on adjusting to altitudes of up to 12,500 feet. With altitude pills to help moderate the changes, we were off.

Lima, where we began our trip, contained many surprises, including its Huaca Pucllana, a towering pyramid, now in the middle of one of Lima’s trendiest neighborhoods, built by pre-Inca societies; the Cathedral of Lima; the San Francisco monastery with its catacombs full of thousand of skeletons; and Convent and its various museums. We also squeezed in two museums the first day and a walk through the charming Bohemian district of Barranco on the ocean. (I was particularly wowed by the Mario Testino Museum (MATE) and a beautifully decorated private home recently opened to the public, where, by chance, we were introduced to the resident.)

But the ‘real deal’ began for us in the Sacred Valley. After making the acquaintance of different types of llamas and learning about weaving and wool dying techniques, we headed to the town of Pisac and its archaeological park. There we got our first  glimpse of Inca terraces, exquisitely poised on a steep hill side in the afternoon sun. We were unprepared for the absolutely glory of the perfect setting of our initial site. Our surprise and delight was amplified by every additional individual site we saw in the Sacred Valley from that point on, from Chinchero, Moray, the salt pans of Maras, to Ollantaytambo. Each of these sites is absolutely stunning and fascinating, and the beauty of them will remain with us for a very long time.

After several days in the Sacred Valley, we arrived at the Machu Picchu Citadel (via a 30 minute frightening bus ride up a mountain from the town of Agua Calienties where we were staying). While we did not do the most strenuous hikes, we found that our “climb” that offered us our first glimpse of the iconic Machu Picchu scene was breathtaking (double entendre intended). Our first surprise was that the mountain made famous by every picture is really called Huayna Picchu, while Machu Picchu is a larger mountain after which the entire region is named. Our second surprise was that the Incas, at their most powerful in the 14th and 15th centuries, had no written language, nor had they invented the wheel. And yet their accomplishments in architecture, engineering, astrology, and physics were astounding. We stayed that day until sunset (which was spectacular) and returned for a full morning on the next day when it was misty with clouds temporarily covering much of the view, creating a very different sort of atmosphere. This day we explored the ruins in detail. Thanks to our guide, who was a marvel of facts, stories, and mythical tales, we were stunned by the sum of what had been accomplished at Machu Picchu and throughout their empire.

We left from Machu Picchu on the Hiram Bingham train, named after the famed explorer and modeled after luxurious train travels of yesteryear. We spent a full day in Cusco, once the capital of the empire whose reach and power we could still feel as we explored the enormous stone structures of Sacsayhuaman. Cusco itself is a jewel, (a very lively colonial town which we thoroughly enjoyed), visiting the San Pedro Market, The Golden Temple, the Cathedral, and the historic sites.

We flew to to our last major stop, Lake Titicaca – the highest navigable body of water in the world – that spans both Peru and Bolivia. There our pace slowed down (as did our oxygen saturation rates!), and we moved more to the cultural side of rural Peru; groups of families living on floating islands; families as subsistence farmers; and rich lands being prepared for post-rainy season planting. The vistas were spectacular, and I often remarked that the skies simply couldn’t be real. We found the people we met, whether walking along the side of the road, or those who invited us into their homes on a prearranged tours, open, curious, and friendly. We also went to the little visited site of Sillustani near Puno –– a breathtakingly beautiful necropolis.

Our biggest takeaway will be no surprise. While people generally talk about going to Machu Picchu, we were so taken by the beauty of the Sacred Valley, and other sites we visited around the country, that we learned that a trip to Peru is so much more than one famous single site. We’d urge any fellow travelers to take their time in Peru and see the full range of its wonders.

Below are a dozen of my photos from the trip. To see the full slide show follow the link below. (And thanks to FH for her additions to the above, and for being a most enthusiastic and companionable traveler.)

If you would like to see the entire slide show of photos (highly recommended):

1. Click on this slide show link: Thru Ellen’s Lens.

2. 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.

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

Every Vote Counts

When I was in Ohio working on a ‘Get Out the Vote’ campaign in 2016 and Donald Trump surprised many by winning the Presidential election, I wrote late that night, actually early the next morning, the following”

The country spoke yesterday.

And we must listen.

We’ve now had two years of Trump and his supporters speaking.

It is time the country speaks again.

And Trump and his supporters listen.

Every vote counts.