The Hoofers’ Guide to Passion, Ambition, Success and Love

Poster of La La Land movie
Click poster for studio’s page on movie

It wasn’t work-of-genius good. In fact La La Land shouldn’t be rated on a four-star system because three and a half stars is ambiguous, but the movie was definitely four stars out of five ****o.

Other write-ups say, often flatteringly, that the stars’ dancing was good, very good even, but not great. That’s the wrong angle. Leads Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone would have given any level of slick grace if that’s what they were supposed to do. But they weren’t. Even if dancing’s not their first performance skill.

The choreography likely was deliberate, maybe the dancing was designed to not be too memorable. However, I recall the dance scenes clearly, expect that the plan was they were a few steps beyond what you or I could handle, not the spectacle of the mid-20th-century hoofers.

The movie’s opening dance number, which includes but does not feature the two leads, was clever but frankly nothing compared to the opening of the movie adaptation of Hair — longish at 5:43 as it starts seconds before the music and a long moment before the dance.

That’s pretty much the same problem with La La Land’s music. The melodic “City of Stars” theme is memorable and hardy enough to do the work the plot requires of it. But otherwise, we get just pleasant tunes and pleasant wordcraft.

Also, the Gosling character is a 2016-ish jazz musician, a classicist meaning perhaps anything but now (before the ’80s?). The score generally is musical theater style with jazz-swing influence. Continue reading

Canopy Cassoulet

Logo of Canopy Northwest Arkansas, a refugee resettlement serviceAs a volunteer with the refugee resettlement group Canopy Northwest Arkansas, I made a family’s first meal in their new home.

The mom and dad, ages 30 and 28, have been living in camps since fleeing Democratic Republic of  Congo in 2003. Their son just turned 6. Who knows what they’ve been eating all this time. A recipe, a north African-style tajine stew that my wife and I enjoyed a couple of times in recent months, made the most sense.

Did they like it? The adults were nearly beyond exhaustion, and there was a language barrier. They ate silently but heartily. The volunteers who brought them to the apartment from the airport wanted the recipe, it smelled and looked so good.

The boy? For a long time, his folks couldn’t tear him away from the toy trucks the group had waiting for him. Continue reading

An Ajar Letter to Arkansas Electors

Graphic of hand dropping ballot into slot
OpenClipArt

To the Honorable (Arkansas elector)

Dear M-. _______,

I am a native of our state, now living in Northwest Arkansas. This letter is to request you vote for any presidential candidate besides Donald J. Trump when the state’s electors meet Monday, Dec. 19.

This request does not come from partisanship but from consideration of the man Mr. Trump has shown himself to be personally and professionally through his adult life, since he declared his candidacy 17 months ago and, especially, the two weeks before and two weeks since the Nov. 8 general election.

Of the last period in particular, Mr. Trump

  • Has dropped promises he repeatedly and consistently made to woo voters
  • Continues or allows subordinates to engage in business that profits from his federal standing
  • Nominated individuals to top Executive Branch positions who lack sufficient competence in the areas they are to lead (yes, some seem OK)
  • Displays a lack of shrewdness and self-control when reacting on social and news media to mere criticism
  • Exhibits other serious character flaws as reported in reputable journalism organizations, so well covered that you don’t need me to further list

None of us has a crystal ball, but Mr. Trump will need far less than the four-year term as Commander in Chief to — at the least — bring shame to the people of the United States of America. Indeed, it is reasonable to foresee domestically economic turmoil or internationally greater risk of military or terroristic upheaval during his administration. Greater risk, that is, than with any of the other top candidates of either major party.

This is not a plea to vote for the Democratic Clinton-Kaine ticket. By your helping to drop Mr. Trump’s electoral total below the 270 simple-majority votes — by choosing anyone else or abstaining — you will prove your patriotism. Please let the Constitution guide the next steps, in Congress.

You were selected as an Arkansas elector because you are a longtime loyal Republican. You may find “disruptive” or “overwhelming” — as the Democrat-Gazette quoted two electors Nov. 20 in “State GOP Electors: Changing Trump Vote Out of the Question” — citizens contacting you about the Electoral College. Perhaps this is because you were appointed by your party, not by the state nor by voters. But by the Constitution, U.S. Code and state law, you do help select the president of this democracy.

Continue reading

Cloakroom Talk

Endorsing Conner Eldridge for U.S. Senate

Let’s leave the 2016 presidential race a moment. It’ll continue without us. Let’s consider Congress. From an Arkansas view.

Conner Eldridge
Conner Eldridge
Source: Wikipedia

The Republican Party has had majorities in the House and Senate the last two years. The party has worked hard to oppose most of the Democratic president’s agenda for both of his terms. Yet, these bodies for legislation (to pass new laws and fix old ones), have failed to put forward much of their own agenda. What’s the problem? They have over 50 percent representation.

In the nearly eight years of the Obama administration, Congress has overridden a presidential veto once, only weeks ago. Oddly, GOP leaders regret doing so, according to USA Today Sept. 30, “White House: Congress Has ‘Buyer’s Remorse’ after Overriding Obama Veto.

Our federal government runs on checks and balances. The judicial branch needs all nine justices. Every time the Senate advises and consents on a president’s choice, opposition makes its voice heard and sometimes quashes a nominee. Reasonably astute judges always have been approved to fill the Supreme Court bench within few months.

The GOP leadership promises, however, it will continue to blockade even the most respected, middle-of-the-road candidates if a Democratic president nominates them. The Grand Old Party plans similar tactics elsewhere.

Obstruction of the judiciary is irresponsible. Especially if the legislative branch isn’t working on laws itself.

Steve Womack first was elected to represent the Third District (Northwest Arkansas) in 2010. He faces no Democratic opposition, just a Libertarian. Womack likely will keep his House seat, but let’s send him a message, “We are watching you.”

We warn him, not by skipping the marking of this ballot, but voting for the other guy, Steve Isaacson. We must do this even though Isaacson does not care for his party’s Johnson-Weld presidential ticket but supports Donald Trump.

Representative democracy isn’t checkers but more chess.

Continue reading

Will Rogers. For President?

Bookmarks showing Will Rogers for President buttons
Bookmarks showing Will Rogers for President buttons. (Source: Will Rogers Memorial Museum online store)

TULSA — Somewhere in the mist of the beginnings of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists arose two icons, Ernie Pyle and Will Rogers. NSNC has other now-ghostly mentors, including Erma and Molly and Art, but these two men from the first half of the 20th century are the modern mentors of columns.

It’s taken me years to understand why.

I loved Ernie Pyle’s World War II columns, classics of our genre and also of overall journalism. Did those send him to the top? Not to me. When, however, I pored through the collections On a Wing and a Prayer: The Aviation Columns of Ernie Pyle, co-edited by our friend the late Mike Harden, and Home Country, American travel stories edited by Lee G. Miller, it became obvious: Pyle observed, then he wrote it true.

What of Will Rogers? He started out a vaudeville solo act of spinning rope and spinning quips and stories. He turned those into movies then into newspaper columns, among other outlets.

Those one-liners of Will’s haven’t gone stale nearly a century later, repeated especially in election years. Worthy of hero-worship? By the end of our Labor Day weekend to Rogers’ hometown of Claremore then to Tulsa for its museum of another gifted performer, the answer came out yes and the reason became obvious.

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Basket of Responsibles

bushel-picking-basket-openclipart-org-734x800
“Bushel picking basket from the book: Vegetable Gardening by Ralph L. Watts, 1919
Source openclipart.org

It’s only Oct. 1, and my prescription for Damnitol is nearly out. I may not have any more refills authorized. Dr. O’Connell probably thinks I’m popping them like peppermints.

Maybe I am.

This week, though, I’ve figured out a drug-free solution, maybe even drub free: Form a club: the Basket of Responsibles.

This is a third American basket. The first this election season is the “basket of deplorables,” coined by 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. The second is HRC’s “Other Basket.” Many people in the GOP “Other Basket” would be proud to be with the Responsibles.

First we have to define my basket a little. It’s tough, because I’m not gray enough to proclaim “being responsible” as groovy. (And groovy was nearly before my time.)  Continue reading