August Movie Reviews by Ellen Miller


, , , , , , , ,

Summer seems like the worst season for new films, particularly the month of August. We probably saw fewer films this month than any other this year (in part because we were on grandparent watch for two plus weeks), and in part because what there was to see just didn’t appeal. (Big box office hits just aren’t our thing.) But we soldiered on and tried to pick the best out there. We didn’t like The Big Sick, The Trip to Spain, or Tulip Fever. All of these failed in some basic way: narrative, screen play, cinematography, or acting – some of them failed on all four of these criteria.

Enough said about those three somewhat popular films.

Four films did standout, and Richard and I recommend all of them to you. In order that we saw them:

Detroit  (Ellen ****    Richard ****1/2)

This is a stunning film about the Detroit riots of 1967 – a mixture of original news footage and reenactments of the police brutality that aided and abetted the violence. It is a horrific story, and it’s based on facts. It’s a story that didn’t end in Detroit.  It’s a complex film — and it’s not perfect — but we very much recommend it. You will walk  away from it shaken and with a better understanding of the forces at work in Detroit in 1967 and today. The director of this film directed two other dramatic films (The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty), and Detroit is engaging in the same manner.

Wind River  (Ellen ***** Richard ****1/2)

This film tells a gripping story centering around a murder on a Native American reservation in Wyoming. The lead actor (Elizabeth Olson) is a rookie FBI agent sent to investigate the crime. She enters a world of misogynist white men. and the story delves deep into a multitude of prejudices against women and Native Americans. The film keeps you glued to the edge your seat with great story telling, beautiful scenery, and throbbing pace. It’s gorgeously photographed and very well acted. All together it is a very compelling and moving thriller.

Step  (Ellen **** Richard ***1/2)

This film is a close-to-home documentary that focuses on the lives of young Black women in Baltimore who attend a Charter school. The goal for the first graduating class is to have 100% of the students be accepted to college, most of whom would be the first in their families to attend college. In addition to their rigorous classwork, supportive counseling, and many other services and opportunities available to these teens is the “Step Team” — a metaphor for their life. The film is filled with intimate interviews with three of the young women on that Step Team and their families; Step competitions; and the young women’s struggles to succeed. It is straightforward, hopeful reporting.

Columbus  (Ellen *****   Richard *****)

This is a brilliant film, perhaps the best we have seen all summer. It takes place in a small mid-western town (Columbus, Indiana) noted for its architectural diversity, modernity, and excellence. The story is about relationships: a son and his father (a well-known architectural scholar who has fallen ill in this city); a young woman and her mother (the daughter fears leaving this town because of the support she provides her mother); and the unlikely relationship of this son and this daughter.  An overarching theme is what one sees and understands about architecture and how “physical space can affect emotions,” according to one reviewer. The pace is purposely slow and steady, and it unfolds in one beautiful scene after another. The photography is magnificent. The acting is moving, particularly that of Hailey Lu Richardson as Casey, the daughter. From beginning to end Columbus is an entirely satisfying and beautiful film. (Note: this film is a directorial debut for the South Korean based Kogonda, who is also the screenwriter.)

Notes from the Editor:

1. With this post I am pleased to report that Ellen Miller has agreed to become the prime film reviewer for MillersTime. Because of the overwhelming positive reception to an earlier film review posting by Ellen and because I find film reviewing the least enjoyable part of this blog, I am delighted to be relieved of what has become a chore for me. Know that while Ellen and I generally agree about the films we see, there are some differences, though they are not significant (see the star ratings which we give without knowing each other’s rating). Plus, I will no doubt add some thoughts on occasion.

2. If you check out the Rotten Tomatoes‘ scoring of films as one way to judge if a film may have interest for you, I highly recommend the article, Rotten Tomatoes, Explained. I found it quite informative and believe it will change I look at their ratings, both the ones by Critics and by Audiences.

National Book Festival Is This Weekend

The one day National Book Festival is this Saturday, Sept. 2 at the Washington Convention Center. From 9 am until 7:30 PM you can see and hear more than 100 authors, attend events specifically designed for children and teens, get books signed by authors, and purchase books at the Politics & Prose Bookstore at the Festival.

And it’s all free.

From the Politics & Prose website:

For book lovers, the National Book Festival has become an annual literary extravaganza, a star-studded, multi-stage show with authors and events drawing people from near and far for a day of festivities in Washington. This year the festival returns to the Convention Center on Saturday, September 2, with Politics and Prose again serving as the official bookseller.

Organized by the Library of Congress, the NBF has grown from humble origins 17 years ago—when a few dozen authors appeared in tents on the U.S. Capitol’s East Lawn—into one of the largest events on the nation’s literary calendar.

This year’s gathering will offer talks by more than 110 authors, illustrators, and poets, spread among ten stages throughout the day. In addition to book signings, the festival features assorted programs for adults as well as kids, from story times and a hunt for Waldo to a poetry slam and a behind-the-scenes look at the Library of Congress, the nation’s largest library. Family-friendly presentations include trivia sessions, an interactive maze illustration by master maze-maker Joe Wos, and an engaging session with illustrator and veteran New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast.

Before going to the signing lines, fans will be able to purchase books by their favorite authors in the sales area run by P&P. Dozens of our staff members will be on hand to answer questions and offer expert advice and book recommendations.

Here are some of the festival’s many highlights:

  • David McCullough opens the main stage at 10 a.m. with a talk about his latest work, The American Spirit, a collection of his speeches delivered over the past few decades reflecting this veteran historian’s knowledge, humor, and enduring optimism.
  • Other writers scheduled for the main stage include Diana Gabaldon, J.D. Vance, Thomas Friedman, Michael Lewis, Condoleezza Rice, and David Baldacci.
  • The Contemporary Life stage will feature prominent figures in such fields as medicine, space exploration, and culture, including oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee (The Gene) at 11 a.m., former astronaut Leland Melvin (Chasing Space) at 1 p.m., and author and essayist Roxane Gay (Hunger) at 4 p.m. On the Fiction stage will be Elizabeth Strout (Anything is Possible) at 10:20 a.m., Alice McDermott (The Ninth Hour) at 12:10 p.m., Jesmyn Ward (Sing Unburied Sing) at 3 p.m., Claire Messud (Burning Girl) at 4:55 p.m., and Amor Towles (Gentleman in Moscow) at 6:45 p.m.
  • The History & Biography stage will showcase Margot Lee Shetterly (Hidden Figures) at noon, Thomas Oliphant and Curtis Wilkie (The Road to Camelot) at 10 a.m., Sidney Blumenthal (Wrestling With His Angel) at 11 a.m., and Peter Cozzens (The Earth is Weeping) at 4 p.m. The Thrillers & Fantasy stage will present Don Winslow (The Force) at 10 a.m., Scott Turow (Testimony) at 1:40 p.m., and Megan Abbott (You Will Know Me) at 2:35 p.m.
  • On the Poetry and Prose stage at 10 a.m. will be an event dubbed “Poetry Out Loud” intended to encourage young people to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. And at 6 p.m. on the Teens stage, a youth poetry slam will host top groups from the nation’s capital and around the country.
  • At “A Book That Shaped Me Contest,” fifth- and sixth-grade winners of an essay-writing competition, sponsored by local public library systems in the Mid-Atlantic region, will read their submissions.

This is just a small sampling of what the NBF will be offering. The festival will run from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public and free to everyone. For more information, please go to the NBF’s website and start planning your visit now!.

NOTE: If you’re considering attending, know that this event has grown and has become so popular that there are literally throngs of people at the event. But if you plan ahead and see the list of authors and the schedule for the day by spending some time on the Festival’s Website, you can get to the events that most interest you.

Nats’ Tickets Available – Six Sept. Games


, , ,

Fortunately and unfortunately I’ll be traveling in September, which means I have some Nats’ tickets available for MillersTime ‘readers.’

The seats are terrific, Sec. 127, Row Z, Seats 1 & 2. They are about 20 rows off the field, between home and first base, closer to home.

As in the past, the two tickets for four of the games are free if you meet the conditions outlined below. Otherwise, one ticket is free and the second will cost you $60.

If you have not used my seats so far this year, you’ll have first shot at them. But don’t let that stop you from requesting them. Also, you can give me two dates/games that would work for you as I will juggle requests.

Let me know your interest by Tuesday, Aug. 29, 7:37 PM.

Available Tickets

Thurs., Sept. 7, 7:05 vs Phillies – Both free if you take a kid, broadly defined.

Sun., Sept. 10, 1:35 vs Phillies – Both free if you take a kid, broadly defined.

Tues., Sept. 12, 7:05 vs Braves – Both free if you take a kid, broadly defined.

Thurs., Sept. 14, 7:05 vs. Braves – Both free if you take a kid, broadly defined.

Fri., Sept. 29, 7:05 vs Pirates – One free. One for $60. (Parking next to stadium available but not necessary. $40.)

Sun., Oct. 1, 3:05 vs Pirates (Final game of the season) – One free. One for $60. (Parking next to stadium available but not necessary. $40.)

Email me – – with your requests.

Mother Knows Best


The results from the Baby Photo Contest are in, and I guess there is no real surprise about the winner.

Samantha and Brooke’s mom, Elizabeth, was the only contestant to correctly identify all 10 of the pictures (reshown and identified below).

I probably should say “Mothers Know Best” as two other mothers, Elizabeth’s sister Annie and sister-in-law Heather, correctly identified 9 out of the 10 pictures. Also, Aunt Janet got 8 out of the 10 correct.

Then came the two fathers, Brandt and his father Chuck, who between them averaged 75% correct identification, correctly identifying 15 of 20.

(Update: 5:48 PM: Upon referee’s review of the ‘father’ outcome, actually the combined score for Brandt and his father was 70% – 14/20.)

Others, Renee – 7/10, Emily G – 6/10, Ping – 6/10, Cousin Abby – 6/10, Sue – 5/10, Cousins Eil and Ryan – 5/10, and Carrie – 5/10. Ray G. said simply they were all beautiful and liked #5 the best, whoever it was. Many other readers made approving comments about the two babies but refused to commit themselves to identifying who was who.

If EACH of you who participated in the contest (those named above) will send me your T-shirt size, which picture you like the best, and your snail mail address, I will send you a T-shirt with that photo. You can substitute the one of the family (Photo #11 below) if you prefer.

Photo # 1: Samantha

Photo #2:  Samantha

Photo #3: Brooke

Photo #4:  Brooke

Photo #5:  Brooke

Photo #6:   Brooke

Photo # 7:  Samantha

Photo #8:  Brooke

Photo #9:  Samantha

Photo #10:  Brooke

Photo # 11: Family Photo

Disaster in Sierra Leone. You Can Help.


, , , , , ,

The photos below were sent to me by a friend from Sierra Leone, West Africa, following a mudslide August 14 just outside the capital of Freetown. Warning: they are not easy to take.

Hundreds of dead bodies have been recovered and burial graves are being dug. Four hundred people are known dead and perhaps another thousand have yet to be uncovered. This has only lightly been touched in the US media.

The Sierra Leone friend (he currently lives in the Washington, DC area) who sent me these photos lost his niece, her husband and her two children. At least 18 other members of this friend’s family are still missing, along with many others who had moved to the Freetown area from my friend’s village.

As in many disasters such as this, there are many needs to be met, and a call has gone out for assistance. And of course, this is personal to me as I was in the Peace Corps there in 1965 to 1967.

Here are three possible organizations that I am aware of that are reputable groups providing assistance. If you are able to help, please consider donating to one of these (or any other that you may know of that can responsibly provide assistance to those in need):

Global Giving (Includes 10 different projects that are providing relief in Sierra Leone)

Schools for Salone

Save the Children

Much thanks in advance.

Baby Contest


, , ,

As some of you may know, our daughter Elizabeth (Beth) and son-in-law Brandt are the parents for a second time with the birth almost two weeks ago of Brooklyn (Brooke) Shapira Tilis.

Brooke has had a lovely first several weeks, what with adoring grandparents (two sets) around and with various other family and parental friends attending also. Her sister’s (Samantha) most frequent ‘words’ (after ‘mom ma’) are ‘ba ba’ as she refers to this new addition to the family. Whether she understands that Brooke is a permanent addition or not is yet to be determined, but so far, the whole family seems to be adjusting well.

And who does Brooke look like?

See if you can tell.

After the family hospital picture below, you will find 10 photos, of both Brooke and Samantha taken during their first two weeks of life. Do not assume there are five of each. See if you can distinguish between them. The correct answers will appear in the Comment section of this post on Thursday.

Photo # 1:

Continue reading »

Baseball Happenings West of the East Coast


, , , , , , , ,

(Last night another walk off win in the bottom of the 9th)

Have you noticed what’s going on in baseball on the left coast? I know some of you have long ago given up on following Da Bums since they betrayed their Brooklyn fans and left Ebbets Field for LA. That, plus the fact that their games end after much of the country has gone to bed, makes them sometimes an after thought for some of us.

But check them out. Fifty-one games above .500, playing at a .715 win percentage rate, leading their Division by 18.5 games, and clearly on a path to win well over 100 games (115 if they continue at this rate).

Nats’ fans take note.

And then there’s Houston. Yes. Houston. Winning at a rate of .617 (74-46), 12. 5 game ahead of their closest Division rival, and likely headed for a 100 win season at this rate. Last year Houston ended just a bit over .500 and 11 games out.

On a different note, thanks to an email from MillersTime reader and baseball fan LL, something curious is happening in Kansas City too.

         (Could it be because of base running? Photo by Denny Medley, Reuters)

While they are not playing at the level of the Dodgers or the Astros, they nevertheless continue to exceed expectations of virtually every computer projection (last five years). They simply are winning more games than those who love and live by statistics project.

Just what’s going on?

Check out this good article from the WSJ by Jared Diamond:

What’s up in Kansas City? The Baseball Team That Computer Models Can’t Figure Out.


Seeing a Total Eclipse


, , ,

(Credit Reuters)

I suspect many of you have seen a partial eclipse (of the sun). But most of you probably haven’t seen a full eclipse. I haven’t.

And I hadn’t planned to stay in Kansas City where I am as I write this (‘helping’ my daughter and son-in-law celebrate the birth of their second child). Specifically, my wife and I had planned to return to home to DC on Sunday, having been here a full two weeks by then.

As it turns out, Sunday is the day before the August 21 full eclipse, and the view from the Kansas City area, which, according to NASA, is in “the path of totality.” Still, my own parents had always warned me about over staying one’s welcome.

Then I read Annie Dilliard’s Classic Essay: Total Eclipse, which has just been reprinted in The Atlantic. It was first published in 1986, and she quite convincingly writes that there is no comparison between a partial and a full eclipse. Beyond that, her essay is eyeopening and beautifully written.

I urge you to read it also, while I am in the process of changing my reservations back to DC, where the viewing is decent, but nothing close to what will be possible from here.

Baseball’s Next Big Thing?


, , , ,

Close observers of baseball all recognize that home runs and strikeout are up, and many say that the two are connected.

But sportswriter (and a favorite of mine) Joe Posnaski thinks that the reason Houston is doing so well is they are going beyond just accepting that ‘baseball wisdom.’

See this recent article. I think he and they are on to something:

Houston’s Awesome Hitting Feat Is Defying Trends, Joe Posnanski, MLB columnist.

Summer Film Reviews by Ellen Miller


, , , , , , , ,

While your ‘trusty’ blogger was away on ‘baby watch’ in Kansas City, Ellen saw a number of films and agreed to write mini-reviews. The bold stars are her ratings, and for the three we had previously seen together, my ratings follow hers:

Maudi *****+

This is a stunning 5*+ movie. Based on a true story of a Nova Scotia folk artist — Maude Lewis  — it’s a memoir about her debilitating physical handicaps, about rejection by her family, and about her art. It’s also about her husband –Everett Lewis’ life of isolation and hardship, and their love in rural Nova Scotia. When they find each other, both of them are lost and unloved (and unlovable) souls in a stark, depressing world. Yet, every element of this film makes you hopeful. It rings first class on all the film values I can think of: acting, production, photography, narrative, pacing, and film writing. Ethan Hawke plays Everett, and Sally Hawkins plays Maude. Both will certainly be nominated for best actor awards. It’s not surprising that this near perfect film is a co-production of Canada and Ireland.

It won’t be playing long or maybe not even where you are, but this is a must-see if you can.

[8/4 Update – Richard ***** – Just saw this and concur on all points above. Ellen did not overstate her praise for this film.]

A City of Ghosts *****

Put this documentary in the category of “what I didn’t know” (ashamedly). By filmmaker Matthew Heineman, it won great acclaim at Sundance, not only telling the story of the horrific violence of ISIS in the Syrian city of Raqqa (which I did know), but how the brave, mostly “citizen journalists” have gotten the word out to the world, in a time when no one was paying attention. The early footage is shot in July 2014 when the Islamic militants took control of Raqqa and contains brutal images of the aftermath. The real-life nightmare that citizens face there has been told with hidden cameras and video. Possibly, the impactful part of the film focuses on the journalists who fled to Turkey and Germany, and who – at great risk to their lives– have found clandestine ways to tell the story of Raqqa to the world.

In the end, this is a deeply sad movie.

Lady Macbeth *****

This is not a film for everyone. It’s tough (and beautiful) to watch. The “Lady Macbeth” in this movie is a young woman in Victorian England, who, in a trade along with some land parcels, is handed off to a much older man. He seems to reject her, and she rejects the conventions of the times. She takes a stable hand as a lover, and then goes to extreme ends to keep her independence. The cinematography is stunning – each scene is exquisitely posed to create the most tension possible. The acting is first rate, and the story line is gripping and stark.

The audience ultimately has the responsibility of how to view “Lady Macbeth’s” ethical choices.

Variety Magazine sums it up well “At one level an extreme, unflinching feminist cautionary tale about the ultimate perils of chauvinistically containing or instructing a woman’s desires and impulses, “Lady Macbeth” also works as a fascinatingly inverted character study — wherein continued abuse and silencing gradually makes an oppressor of a victim.”

The film is based on Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novella “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk.”

Midwife ***

I will admit right from the start that I saw this film because I wanted to see Catherine Deneuve again, and because I haven’t seen a French film in a very long time.

I was disappointed.

It’s very French in its story: two women attached to one man — the father of Claire (played by Catherine Frot) was the former lover of Beatrice (played by Catherine Deneuve). The two women meet after 30 years, make peace with their pasts and bond together (with some reluctance) over new, compelling circumstances. Both of the characters are sympathetic (Claire is a caring midwife), though not always or at the same time.

I expected a sparkling and crisp performance from Deneuve and was disappointed.

Dunkirk ***** (Richard ****1/2)

This is one of the most extraordinarily extravagant and grand films I’ve seen in years and perhaps one of the greatest stories of “war is hell” ever filmed (or at least the greatest one I have ever seen).

The story centers on the British evacuation from Dunkirk in 1940, and the land, sea, and air efforts mounted in the execution of that task. The production of this film is over the top — you are there in every moment — flying the Allied bombers; in the hulls of the ships transporting the solders; on the beaches at the Germans run their bombing raids; in the flaming water as soldiers are being recused. The tension builds in this film (cued a bit too loudly by the music), and you find yourself gripping the edge of your seat for most of the film.

But as much as this film is about war, it is also about the extraordinary patriotism of British citizens who supported them with a touching story that you will long remember.

See it.

[Richard: I saw this also and was not quite as enthusiastic as Ellen. The extraordinarily loud music bothered me and seemed somewhat out of place, and I couldn’t hear/understand some of the dialogue. Plus the lack of a linear story line had me confused at a number of points. Guess I sound like an old man. But it did send me to learn more about Dunkirk, and the two articles below added to my understanding of the film: one gives you background about the war itself, and one is a thoughtful review of the film.]

What is Dunkirk? Everything You Need to Know about the World War II Battle by

Review of the film by the New Yorker‘s film critic Richard Brody.]

The Exception **** (Richard ****)

If you think of this movie as part spy thriller and part Holocaust fairy tale (yes, that’s an oxymoron), you’ll appreciate, and perhaps even enjoy it, which I did.

A German soldier has been assigned to spy on the Kaiser who living in exile in the Netherlands when he improbably falls in love with the Kaiser’s Jewish housemaid. When the SS shows up, the clashes ensue, and everyone is forced to make some difficult moral choices.

By far the star of this show is Christopher Plummer who is a pleasure to watch as the erasable and unpredictable calculating Kaiser. Honestly, it’s worth seeing the film just to watch him.

Sami Blood **** (Richard ****1/2)

This is an odd little film with beautiful photography, a meaningful story, and very little dialogue.

The time is the 1930s, and the chief protagonist is a 14-year old girl from a remote Swedish ethnic minority known as the Sami people. She leaves her family and their world and attempts to integrate into modern day Sweden. At every turn she is faced with discrimination and racism. It’s a story about Swedish society that I didn’t know. It’s shocking to observe Sami as she struggles to makes her way in the modern world (and through her adolescence), and it’s easy to sympathize with her plight. It’s a quietly profound film. The acting by new comer Lene Cecilia Sparrok is superb.

(Richard: The story is one you’ve seen or read before. What was new for me was the ethnic minority and the setting, Scandinavia and not the Americas.)

Understanding Trump & His Supporters


, , , , , ,

The morning after Trump’s victory over Clinton, I simply posted:

The country spoke yesterday.

And we must listen.

I have tried to follow my own advice and have struggled with where my biases, my instincts, my thinking, and my emotions have led me. And as readers of this site know, I have mostly posted links to articles and books that seek to explain what I continue to find hard to understand: how is it that this President can continue to say and do what he does and to continue to have support from many of those who elected him?

Thanks to a suggestion from a MillersTime reader in the Comment section of a post a few days ago on this topic — Understanding Others: Tone More Than Policies? — I believe I now understand much more about Trump and about his supporters than ever before.

In a long interview/discussion between two individuals, Sam Harris and Scott Andrews, both strangers to me, I now have a frame that helps me see what has been in front of me but which I have not sufficiently understood. While my sympathy and views are largely similar to those of Sam Harris, it is Scott Andrews — he predicted Trump’s rise and victory all along — who is responsible for my new understandings.

You will need some time to listen to the lengthy podcast of the conversation between these two knowledgeable observers, but you don’t have to listen to the entire 2 hours and 17 minutes of that conversation. After a slowish start, the heart of what they discuss is contained within the first hour. I know that is long time to devote out of your busy schedules, but given the amount of time many of us have ‘devoted’ to reading about the latest news, fake or real, for me it was time well spent.

You can begin to listen to the Adams / Andrew’s exchange by going to: The Waking Up Podcast.

You will likely view what is happening in our country with clearer vision than many of you/us have until this point.

Ai Weiwei Returns to DC


, , , , , , ,

Ai Weiwei — the prolific Chinese dissident artist — returns to Washington in the sense that his latest creations are once again on display at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden in DC. (See my 2012 post: Ai Weiwei: Today’s Most Powerful Artist? about one of his earlier exhibits here.)

Since that previous show of his work, I’ve followed this contemporary artist (sculptor, architect, photographer, painter, performer, woodworker, potter, activist, protester…) and continue to be fascinated by his creativity and his ability to express his views about art and society in a way that is immediately understandable to the viewer.

The current exhibit — Ai Weiwi: Trace at Hirshhorn — consists of just two pieces of work, spread over four or so rooms at the museum. The first work is two sets of wallpaper composition titled The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama but is Really an Alpaca. It covers much of the circular wall space on the second floor of the museum. One is produced in a gold colored print, and the second is a black and white version of the same wallpaper. When you first see the wallpaper, especially from a distance, it appear simply to be a traditional wallpaper pattern that repeats itself. As you begin to examine it more closely, you discover that it is something quite different. You realize that it is about “surveillance cameras, handcuffs, and Twitter bird logos, which allude to Ai Weiwei’s tweets challenging authority. Together, the massive works span nearly 700 feet around the Hirshhorn’s Outer Ring galleries.”

The wallpaper is actually background for the major part of the exhibit, Trace, which “features 176 portraits of people around the world whom the artist considers activists, prisoners of conscience, or advocates of free speech. Each of the portraits is made of thousands of plastic LEGO bricks, assembled by hand and laid out on the floor. This piece was originally commissioned in 2014 as a site-specific installation at the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. It was commissioned by FOR-SITE Foundation, and became a collaboration of the National Park Service and the Golden Gate Park Conservancy. It reportedly drew nearly 1 million visitors.”

The individuals portrayed on the floor of the various rooms at the Hirshhorn with the LEGO creations (using 1.2 million individual LEGOS) are generally grouped around regions of the world from where the individuals have lived, worked, and/or been imprisoned. Each room has an easily accessible video display where visitors can learn details about the activism of each individual. Some of the highly pixellated portraits are in black and white, and some in colors — often colors associated with the country from where the activist/dissident lives/lived. Each of the LEGO portraits is based on actual photographs of the dissidents, often their “mug shot.”

Ai Weiwei has said that he wants his “art to be fresh and understandable” by all, including children. This exhibit certainly accomplishes that goal. As you walk through the six or eight sections, you likely recognize a number of the names — Edward Snowden, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandala, Aung San Suu Kyi. But there are many more that I suspect you only vaguely know about or don’t know at all. The list of those he included was inspired by a Amnesty International list of individuals targeted by their governments for their activism.

The impact of these portraits is important: The portraits represent people from all over the world — every continent — and dissidents from countries with both authoritarian and democratic governments. It is clear what Ai Weiwei wants us to understand.

And finally, the scope of the project, in its creation, in its political audaciousness, and in its execution (number of people involved in putting it together and the length of time to do so) along with the process of transportation and installation is simply mind-boggling.

It will remain at the Hirshhorn until Jan. 1, 2018 where you can view it free of charge between 10 AM and 5:30 PM every day except Dec. 25.

“America Has Spoken: The Yankees Are the Worst” – 538


, , , , , , , , , ,

Well, something that we Sox fans have known from our first scrape with the Evil Empire has now been verified. While you-know-who-might call it fake news or question the source of this information and article (FiveThirtyEight), it is comforting to have ‘verification’ of what some of us have long known.

Check out this article which also includes ‘info’ on which teams are most liked and lots of other useful/useless information:

America Has Spoken: The Yankees Are the Worst (and the nation mostly agrees the Cubs are pretty cool), by Harry Enten, 538, July 20, 2017.

Books Favored by MillersTime Readers – Jan.-July 2017

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

Here are all, in one place, the 2017 mid-year favorite books by MillersTime readers. There are 205 titles, 115 fiction and 90 nonfiction. Fifty readers contributed to this wonderful list.

The first eight below ‘arrived’ in the last week or so and were not in earlier posts. They are followed by all the ones I posted earlier.


Final Additions to the List:

Kathleen Kroos:

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (F).

Setting Free the Kites by Alex George (F).

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (NF), my summer project…

Charles Tilis:

Giant of the Senate by Al Franken (NF) is likely a “must read” for progressives and a “never read” for conservatives. Senator Franken exposes the seedier side of politics today with a unique combination of wit and self-reflection of which both are needed to remain sane in today’s polarized environment. He does bring to life the rigors of big-league politics with the need for fundraising and impact on families. One thing is clear though—Senator Franken has the chops to aspire to greater office.

Land Wayland:

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston (NF), about the 10 day visit in 2015 to the (non-Mayan) City of the Monkey God by a team of archaeologists, film makers, photographers and writers who traveled to a lonely, lonely, lonely area of Honduras called La Mosquitias, where no human has been seen for about 500 years…a city, indeed an entire civilization of 30,000–100,000, was abandoned due to the arrival of a parasite that causes the lips and nose to develop huge ulcers and eventually causes the person’s face to erode or waste away. The infection is exceedingly difficult to (1) detect and (2) treat and 8 out of 10 team members got it (they all survived) but it will never be out of their system, as it waits for a breakdown in their immune system to finish the job.

Before they walked away, the inhabitants carefully placed their entire civilization’s cache of sacred objects, including a number of sculptures of monkeys, in the main square.  And even though these these items would be worth millions of dollars to tomb-raiders, they were still in-situ 500 years later.  No one had been there.

What they found in 2015 is like all of the best jungle exploration stories of all time—even better. Beautiful quiet rivers surrounded by towering mountains and riotous jungle with bugs and butterflies and dragonflies and frogs never seen before.  Strange noises all night long including the sounds of big animals moving through the camp. They had multiple encounters with 7 foot jaguars and 6 foot deadly aggressive fer-de-lance snakes. It rarely stopped raining. And there were no paths of even the smallest kind and every step had to macheted into submission  There were deep quicksand pits, and thousands of serious big stinging ants waiting on trees to drop off onto your skin, and ticks, ticks, ticks and deadly spiders, spiders, spiders. And the ground was very literally covered with cockroaches at night. You could get lost 15 feet in the jungle from your group. The most important piece of equipment each person carried was their cell phone with a GPS  system that was accurate within one foot  Without it on and working (double checked) you did not dare step 3 inches outside the camp boundaries.

This is a book to read while seated in a chair with its legs in buckets of bug killer, covered with three layers of the finest grade bug netting, every part, every part, every part  of your entire body slathered in DEET, breathing through grade 7 nose filters and wearing swim goggles to keep the deadly no-see-ums out of your eyes, having blood samples drawn every hour to pick up the first signs of kidney or liver failure, and tuned by radio to the priest or rabbi back home who is sending constant prayers up in your behalf because the doctor;s are praying you don’t come back and bring stuff with you that will destroy their hospital’s  plan for dealing with exotic infectious diseases. And no I don’t exaggerate  nearly enough.

Elizabeth Tilis:

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (F). Your yearly mystery thriller a la Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, etc, but with a twist – the story is written backwards!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (F). A fun, light and quick read. I also enjoyed the HBO miniseries based on the book that came out this winter.

David P. Stang:

House of Names by Colm Toibin (F).

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (F).

(Please see the Guest Post: Thank You George Saunders & Colm Toibin, wherein David Stang delves into aspects of these two outstanding novels that were not evident to me when I read them.)

Brandt Tilis:

The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Team in Baseball and Breaking the Curse by Tom Verducci (NF). It’s almost like reading a Moneyball sequel 15 years later after most teams caught up to that line of thinking.  How do the smartest Front Offices stay on the cutting edge of building a winner? As a bonus, we get to see the stories behind the characters that broke the Cubs’ curse (not just Theo Epstein but also Joe Maddon, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, etc). You don’t have to be a baseball fan to like this book, but you probably have to have enjoyed the Cubs’ run last year. There is some “Smartest Guys in the Room” BS that goes along with the book when reading it through the prism of some of the Cubs’ struggles this year, but that existed in Moneyball too.

Dixon Butler:

Ike and McCarthy by David A. Nichols (NF). The McCarthy era poisoned American life from 1950 – 1954. This book provides a thorough and quite readable history of Eisenhower’s role in bringing this reign of anticommunist demagoguery to an end. It transformed my view of Eisenhower.

Edan Orgad:

The North Water by Ian McGuire (F) is an incredible book to listen to. I hope they make a movie. Great recommendation (h/t EllnMllr).

 Previously Posted:

Continue reading »

Understanding Others: Tone More Than Policies?


, , , , , , ,

In the past eight months, I have never heard anybody express regret for voting for Donald Trump. If anything, investigations into the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia have made supporters only more faithful. “I’m loving it—I hope they keep going down the Russia rabbit hole,” Matt Patterson told me, in June. He believes that Democrats are banking on an impeachment instead of doing the hard work of trying to connect with voters. “They didn’t even get rid of their leadership after the election,” he said.


We were at a coffee shop, and Patterson wore his goth look: silver jewelry, painted nails. “I’ve never been this emotionally invested in a political leader in my life,” he said. “The more they hate him, the more I want him to succeed. Because what they hate about him is what they hate about me.

— from Peter Hessler’s New Yorker article, Follow the Leader: How residents of a rural area started copying the President.

I suspect some readers of this blog site mirror, to some degree, my difficulty in understanding the continuing appeal of President Trump to those “Outside the Beltway” — the title of this particular category of MillersTime’s posts.

Peter Hessler, the author of the article above, is someone I have read for years. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer who wrote one of the best Peace Corps books/memoirs I’ve ever read, River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze. He followed that up with Oracle Bones, then China’s Lost Cities, and Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip. He has been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 2000 reporting from China and Egypt. In 2007 he moved to rural south west Colorado.

If the two quotes above have interest for you, check out the article from which they are quoted. Hessler has spent at least eight months listening to people in rural Colorado (and elsewhere?) and currently lives Ridgeway, CO,