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October 2013

Some time off

Nearly fourteen years ago, on Oct. 16 1998, this column was launched during the Clinton impeachment. Since then, through thick and thin, I have posted nearly every week, a column of both my own writing and that of my contributors. I usually only skip Christmas, Thanksgiving and long vacations. I have been very proud of my stamina and track record. But of late, my daily activities have been so boring as to be quotidian, and right now I am not seeing many movies. I could keep posting information from my contributors, but instead I am going to take a page from Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, and take a leave to recharge my batteries. Right now, I anticipate returning in mid-September. So, after about 700 columns, I hope this is not goodbye, but merely auf wiedersehen.

Political Briefs

Scalia offers to help Pope judge gays

Blue Jasmine

5 stars out of 5
This is quite possibly Woody Allen's best serious movie ever. I was looking over the list of the 44 films he has made, and I a pretty sure I have seen all of them. On a straight comic basis, he is never going to best Bananas or Take the Money and Run. But to compare those films to Blue Jasmine is like comparing Noel Coward to Eric Idle. They both write songs, but the level of sophistication involves is light years apart. The film, set in San Francisco, features Cate Blanchett as the wife of a Bernie Madoff figure (Alec Baldwin), whose life is destroyed when his empire crumbles. She moves in with her working-class sister in San Francisco, and then the "fun" begins, if you can fall it fun. I saw the film in a full house, and there were great Allen laugh lines scattered through it, but overall the film was a serious look at financial crime, ridiculous opulence, and Blanchett's complete and utter mental breakdown. Some of it is hard to watch, and it certainly has a few plot twists as well as an unhappy ending. But if you like your great art leavened with a few laughs, this movie is for you. When is the last time an August release instantly shot to the head of the line for best picture, best director and best actress? I don't remember that happening in a while. Oh yes, and I resisted the temptation to review the box office, except here at the end. This may be Woody Allen's highest-grossing film ever, and I say bully for him (of course to be fair there needs to be inflation adjustment)

MIT Whitewash, Why the Doonesbury Reruns, Dan Grobstein File

Unsurprisingly, MIT has declared its innocence in the death of Aaron Swartz. MIT is wrong:

July 30, 2013
M.I.T. Releases Report on Its Role in the Case of Aaron Swartz
A long-awaited report released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that it made mistakes but engaged in no wrongdoing in the case of Aaron Swartz, a renowned programmer and charismatic technology activist who committed suicide in January while facing a federal trial on charges of hacking into the institute’s computer network.

Bobbi Fox found this on the Doonesbury Slate news page:

Trudeaus Alpha House, a streaming video program (like a TV show except not on TV but available through the online Amazon Prime streaming service) was picked by viewers from 14 series pilots for development into a full series. The show, starring John Goodman as one of four Republican congressmen sharing a house in Washington, D.C., is expected to be out in November.

    Dan Grobstein File

Herb Kaplow, Voice of ABC and NBC News, Dies at 86


Mr. Kaplow'    s resonant voice and craggy face were familiar to generations of viewers of the nightly news broadcast.

  • Op-Ed Contributor
    Open Season on History
    Archaeologists do not hunt objects. We hunt lost worlds. Sadly, those worlds are slipping away under the relic-hunter?s shovel, all for the sake of a few bucks.