Dr. Barbara Chaffee

The link below leads to a few paragraphs and a short video clip. Even if you want to ignore the text – and the rest of this post, for that matter – watch the clip. It is part of a documentary nearing completion on the life of Dr. Barbara Chaffee, Binghamton physician, mom, and community member, by her son filmmaker Tim Chaffee. Barbara was at the forefront of treating AIDS patients in Binghamton back before HIV was well understood. She was a compassionate and caring person in whatever situation presented itself and her story should be preserved and shared with the world.

Yes, this is related to fundraising and I have made a small contribution myself, but, no, you don’t have to give money to support the film. If you like the link, please do share it via your blog, twitter, facebook, ello, email, or whatever mechanism you use to get the word out.

With thanks,
JC

http://wildgeesefilms.net/news-timeline/34-just-infrastructure

Into the Woods

What degree of geek are you when your spouse, in telling you about who is playing which part in the upcoming cinematic version of Sondheim’s Into the Woods, says that the baker is being played by Stormageddon’s father and you know immediately to whom he is referring?

(Feel free to weigh in via the comments section.)

Interstellar

It’s relatively rare for me to get to a movie theater to see a film on opening weekend, much less opening day, but B. and I got a chance to see” Interstellar” on Friday afternoon.

What should follow is a long review, but I don’t feel moved. If I had to sum up my opinion in one word, the word would be “meh.”

There were moments that were startling or thought-provoking, but most of the movie was just boring – and I don’t bore easily. Perhaps the pacing was intentional to denote the hopelessness or vast lengths of time involved. If so, other cinematic or writing techniques should have been deployed.

I also think the music score needs to be toned down. As a former organist, I admit that I loved a few prominent appearances of the organ, but overall the music was too loud and intrusive.

I’ll be interested to read some of the professional reviews – to see how far off the mark I am…

Julie, Julia, and blogging

My first big exposure to personal blogging was the film Julie & Julia.  I knew that blogging existed in some vague way before I saw the movie, but hadn’t read many blogs or heard much about blogs that were written by individual folks.

I have to say that I was not impressed.

Julie, the blogger in the movie, becomes so obsessed with her blog about making all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year that she becomes whiny, petulant, and inattentive to her job, her friends, and her spouse. She gains media attention, notoriety, and a book deal, but the costs to everyone around her are high.

On the other hand, I loved the intertwined story of Julia Child in France.  Her question of “What should I do?” and her quest to figure out what that was and to pursue it with passion, persistence, and good humor, all the while staying connected to her spouse and her friends, resonated with me.

My greater affinity with Julia has a lot to do with some similarities.  Julia McWilliams Child was a proud member of the Smith College class of 1934. I am class of 1982.  That women’s college/liberal arts background was evident to me in her ability to tackle new challenges and discern her way forward, especially as an outsider at the very French and very male Le Cordon Bleu, later as part of a circle of women chef-teachers, and finally her decades of teaching people to enjoy cooking and sharing food through her television shows and cookbooks.

I also related to Julia’s age in the film. She was about 49 when Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published, which was my age when I saw Julie & Julia.  I could appreciate the re-invention(s) that women make in their middle years and the ability to keep learning and growing that makes re-invention possible.

Maybe, if Julia’s story were unfolding in the 21st century, there would be a fabulous blog or website to accompany her book and television endeavors.

Maybe not.

Still, despite my initial bad impression of blogging, here I sit, writing a blog post about it.

Julie taught me things that I didn’t want my blog to be:  limited to a narrow topic, time-constrained, high-pressure, all-consuming.

Julia taught me to stay open to change, to accept criticism but to maintain the integrity of my work, to remember to enjoy time with family and friends (and food), to persevere even when it looks like the goal is unattainable.

So, I find myself five years after the film with a blog that is almost a year old that is eclectic and (I hope seen as) thoughtful, that has started to attract a small group of readers and commenters who appreciate some of the topics I write about and the way in which I write about them.  I have also in these years rediscovered poetry and am working to improve my poems and find appropriate journals or publishers with a goal of being published in print.

Unlike Julie and Julia, I am unlikely to ever publish a full-length book. I may eventually be able to publish a chapbook of poetry, but it won’t be as a result of my blog – or my cooking.

And I won’t give up from the discouraging number of rejection notices.

Julia didn’t.

 

 

“The Fault in Our Stars”

While I usually try to read a book before seeing a film adaptation, I did not read “The Fault in Our Stars” before seeing the film earlier this week. The book was written after my daughters were of an age to have read it, so it wasn’t on my radar.

Within the first few minutes, I correctly guessed the final outcome, but that didn’t really matter. The film resonated with me because it re-inforced ideas that I know to be true.

1. Young love is real love. Even without the maturing influence of battling cancer at a young age, young people can be very deeply in love. My husband and I met in our early teen years and have been married for 32 years and friends for 40 years. Obviously, our story is not that common nowadays, but it is a testament to young people being capable of both love and good judgement.

2. Words are powerful. There are many instances in the film where words – spoken, written, emailed, texted – are what drives the plot. A book and its author are a central plot device.

3. Reality trumps fiction. I knew before I saw the film that there was a scene in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam that some people found gratuitous. My reaction was different. The preceding scene dealt with the main characters’ interaction with the author of a work of fiction that was important to them. The viewer expects this to be a breakthrough moment for the two young friends; instead, it is incredibly disappointing. It is a taxing trip through the Anne Frank House, with Anne’s words of hope appearing in writing and speech and the realization that only Anne’s father survived the concentration camps, that leads Hazel to accept Augustus’s desire to be more than platonic friends. I also felt using the Anne Frank story as a plot device made sense, given that the intended audience for the book was young adults, because most US schoolchildren read either Anne’s diary or a play based on it as an early teen, so they would immediately be able to make connections with it.

4. It’s really difficult to be the parent of a sick child. I thank God that I have been spared having a child with cancer. I have had to deal with difficult, long-standing medical issues, though, and could empathize with parents desperately wanting to do everything they can to help, even when they intrude too much on their child in their efforts.

5. Funerals are for the living. A character in the movie says this and it is true. As a music minister, I’ve been to more than the usual number of funerals. While a funeral often reflect the person who has died, its function is more to comfort the living, even when that means avoiding some of the truth about their final days.

6. Don’t wait to be kind, loving, authentic, and open. None of us have a guarantee as to how long we have here.

Groundswell Rising LTE

Below is a follow-up letter to the editor of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin based on this blog post.

The link to the letter to the editor itself is:  http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20140406/VIEWPOINTS03/304060005/Letter-Documentary-shows-results-fracking, but I have printed it below to keep people from getting tangled up in the subscription process for the paper.

I am assiduously avoiding looking at the comments, as I know a few locals will tear into anything I write, so I am sparing myself the aggravation.

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With over 70 other local residents, I recently watched “Groundswell Rising,” a new documentary on the effects of the fracking industry on individuals and communities and their response to it. Much of the film focuses on Pennsylvania, showing the noise, light, air and water pollution — and the health problems many have experienced as a result.

The most powerful segments show ordinary folks telling stories of how their lives have been changed by the industry moving into their backyards. These stories, along with a growing body of science, obligate Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stand up to the gas industry and protect New Yorkers.

Even though the people already affected will never be able to regain what they have lost, they have banded together to become the “groundswell rising,” fighting for their own health, their right to clean air and water, and their communities and ours.

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PS  I hate writing with a 150 word limit. 😉

Groundswell Rising

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to see “Groundswell Rising,” a new documentary on the effects of the fracking industry on individuals and communities across the country and what some of those people are doing in response. You can view the trailer and get much more information, including signing up for updates here: http://www.groundswellrising.com/ .

Because I have been involved in advocacy against shale fossil fuel for several years, the information in the film was not news to me, but it was powerful to see the story compacted into an hour and twenty minutes, beginning in the West with Erie, Colorado, and moving East into the Marcellus with the impacts in Pennsylvania and our ongoing fight in New York to keep drilling – and as much of the waste disposal and infrastructure impacts as possible – out of our state.

Because my town is on the NY border with a heavily drilled PA county, we have seen impacts up close and have felt some ourselves, including heavy truck traffic, road degradation, and noise, light, and air pollution. And because much of the filming was done in NY and PA, I have had the privilege of hearing rally speeches, lectures, or debates from many of the people who appear in the film, including Dr. Tony Ingraffea, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, NY Assemblymember and US Congress candidate Martha Robertson, (now retired) Rep. Maurice Hinchey, Vera Scroggins, and Craig Stevens. There was also footage from events in which I participated, such as the the Stop the Frack Attack rally and march in Washington DC.

We were privileged to have a question and answer session after the film. Renard Cohen, executive producer/director (Resolution Films), and David Walczak, associate producer, were there to answer questions about the film itself and local community organizer Isaac Silberman-Gorn gave the NY political perspective. Most powerfully, there were four of our PA neighbors who are affected by drilling and fully engaged in the fight against it sharing their stories: Vera Scroggins, Craig Stevens, David Kagan, and Ray Kemble. When you hear such personal stories and hear the emotions in their voices, you know this is not some political-economic power play; it’s about regular folks who have had their lives and homes violated and who will never be able to regain what they have lost. It was especially poignant as the day before the screening, Vera Scroggins had been in court over an injunction that Cabot Oil and Gas had placed last fall which has kept her from setting foot on over the third of the land in her PA county. (Links to media coverage on that here:  http://www.nofrackingway.us/2014/03/26/cabot-martyrs-the-vera-for-frackcrack-photo/ . Warning: post contains photo of a gas worker mooning Vera, because they try, albeit unsuccessfully, to intimidate her at every turn.)

Fractivism feels like a David versus Goliath enterprise, a small number of the common people fighting the powerful industry that has co-opted much of the government that should be protecting us. Given that a lot of time is taken up with private research and comment writing and writing/calling government officials, it is easy to feel isolated. When you see the suffering that the industry is causing, it is easy to feel discouraged. That is why films like this are so important. For those of us in the fight, we can see the people with whom we are connected in spirit and advocacy and draw energy and inspiration from them. For those who aren’t familiar with the topic, this film presents a sobering introduction to what it is like to live near drilling.

The film’s subtitle is “Protecting Our Children’s Air and Water.” It is that vital. Please look for a screening near you or request a screening, if one isn’t yet scheduled. Watch for it at film festivals. There are hopes for cinematic release or television. I have put in an email to POV on PBS, suggesting that they include it in their series. (I’m hoping for PBS over HBO because it is easier for those of us without premium cable to see it.)

We have kept the industry from drilling in NY for over six years. People in other states are fighting hard to keep the industry out or to rein it in or put moratoria in place. By documenting the fight, “Groundswell Rising” is doing important work. Let’s make sure as many people as possible get to see it.

Philomena

Today I went to see Philomena at an early Saturday showing with only three other people in the theater. The setting matched the intimacy of the film.

Spoiler alert:  While I won’t reveal the entire plot, don’t read further if you plan to see the film and don’t want to know any of the crucial details beforehand.

Judi Dench’s performance in the title role is outstanding. It must be difficult to play a role based on a real, still-living person, but I found her portrayal of Philomena to be compelling and relatable. Philomena’s long-standing pain and guilt, enforced by the Church, society, and her lived experience, were palpable and made her indecision about how far to take the search for her son and his loved ones understandable.

What was most meaningful to me was the contrast between those who had hardened their hearts and were mired in being judgmental and unforgiving and Philomena, who was open to love and so was able to forgive those who took her son away from her and kept her from finding him in this life. Her ability to show mercy enabled her to find peace. That she was able to know that her son had loved her and Ireland and had searched for her as she had for him felt like it was not only a comfort but also a reward from God for her steadfast love.

Philomena, whose name can be translated as “powerful love,” was the one who taught us about God, mercy, family bonds, love, and forgiveness.

Robert Reich’s “Inequality for All”

Yesterday, I took the opportunity to see the documentary Inequality for All with Robert Reich. (Information and trailer at inequalityforall.com.)

During the film, he is shown a number of times teaching a course on income inequality in the United States at University of California – Berkeley. Reich appears to be a great teacher. I was especially impressed with his ability to make the complexities of the topic understandable not only to his students in the filled-beyond-capacity lecture hall but also to a general movie-going audience who may be lacking in knowledge of economic theory. The documentary also includes the stories of individuals from across the income spectrum, making it easy to relate to your own situation and the conditions in your neighborhood, region, and around the country.

My husband and I graduated from college during the Reagan recession, which features in the income inequality graph as the start of the huge rise of inequality. Our daughters graduated from college in the aftermath of the 2007 meltdown, which was also a peak of income inequality, equalling that of 1928 before the 1929 market collapse. Reich’s graphs and explanations made sense not only as data and analysis but also in our lived experience of the economy and the concerns we have for our extended family’s future.

Like Robert Reich, I am shorter than average. The implications of being short appear throughout the film and are handled with humor and grace – the practicalities of driving a Mini and of carrying his own box to stand on at the lectern so he won’t disappear behind the microphone, his own gentle joking about his height, the visuals of Robert Reich and (the very tall) Alan Simpson hosting a television show together, what it is like to be picked on as a short child by taller classmates, and finding protectors. The most poignant moment in the film for me was Reich telling the story of one of these older friends who helped protect him, who was subsequently tortured and killed while engaging in civil rights activism in the South in the 1960s. Reich’s passion for social justice and for fighting against all forms of inequality are so evident in his decades of work and in his writings; I appreciated hearing him tell the story of the roots of that passion.

Because this is a documentary, it may be more difficult to find a screening, but I would urge people of every economic level to see this film and enter into the discussion of how the current situation intersects with our civic and moral values and our history and what our path forward as a nation and a society should be. Thank you, Robert Reich, for sharing your knowledge, passion, and vision with us!