Archive for December, 2019

Marriage, money and inequality haunt the four March sisters of Greta Gerwig’s strangely delightful ‘Little Women’

December 30, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 30, 2019

Little Women, Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, is a charming chronicle of a Massachusetts family, particularly the challenges faced by the four young daughters.

Alcott’s book, published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, was based on her own life. In reality, her family was beset by poverty and hardship, and the writing of the novel for which she became famous was strictly undertaken for cash. “I plod away although I don’t enjoy this sort of things,” The Sun reports her as having (ungrammatically) confessed in her diary.

Gerwig, here making her third directorial outing, and her second as writer-director after Lady Bird, casts proceedings in a decidedly more glamorous light. The costumes are glorious; the March family’s home is handsome and spacious, if a bit blandly decorated; and writer stand-in Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) is fiercely proud of her story, which she sells to a mercenary publisher named Dashwood (Tracy Letts) in the movie’s final act. (She also begins writing it on her own initiative, unlike in real life.)

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President Trump’s impeachment message to the Speaker of the House: A close read

December 18, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 18, 2019

Let’s look at some of the more interesting parts of the letter that President Trump sent yesterday to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.


This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers…

Two American presidents have been impeached to date; Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 when it became clear that Congress would almost certainly impeach and remove him from office. Impeachment and removal of the chief executive is a mechanism incorporated into the Constitution by the Founding Fathers.

The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever.

These are the first two examples of many instances in the letter where the president lists three or more items. He claims that the impeachment articles are not recognized under a standard of Consitutional theory, interpretation or jurisprudence (1-2-3). He further asserts that they include no crimes, no misdemeanors, no offenses (1-2-3).

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President Donald Trump’s Dec. 17, 2019, message to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on impeachment

December 17, 2019

Author’s note: President Trump’s letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on impeachment is widely available on the web in portable document format. However, I wanted to present it in text form, as many readers, myself included, find that easier to absorb. I’ll have some comments on the president’s message in an upcoming post. MEM

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON

December 17, 2019

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Washington, DC. 20515

Dear Madam Speaker:

I write to express my strongest and most powerful protest against the partisan impeachment crusade being pursued by the Democrats in the House of Representatives. This impeachment represents an unprecedented and unconstitutional abuse of power by Democrat Lawmakers, unequaled in nearly two and a half centuries of American legislative history.

The Articles of Impeachment introduced by the House Judiciary Committee are not recognizable under any standard of Constitutional theory, interpretation, or jurisprudence. They include no crimes, no misdemeanors, and no offenses whatsoever. You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!

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Parents just don’t understand the number of the beast in Grady Hendrix’s sprightly horror novel ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’

December 13, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 13, 2019

Abby Rivers, the heroine of the comedic horror novel My Best Friend’s Exorcism, bonded with her new classmate Gretchen Lang in December 1982, when they were both fourth graders. The bulk of Grady Hendrix’s 2016 novel takes place during the fall of their sophomore year, in 1988. That gives the author, who seems to have grown up around the same time as his characters, an excuse to reference a whole bunch of 1980s pop culture that many readers may have forgotten, or never known in the first place.

An early chapter about Abby and Gretchen’s budding friendship reminds us, among other things, that Madonna’s early music and the miniseries The Thorn Birds were considered to be very scandalous at the time, at least in certain quarters. That’s not the only appeal to nostalgia here; in a clever touch, each chapter title is borrowed from period pop songs: “The Number of the Beast,” “King of Pain,” “Missionary Man” and so on.

This eighties homage will obviously appeal to members of a certain generation. But that needn’t limit the book’s appeal. Hendrix, a prolific author with a deep love of horror, trashy novels and Asian movies, has crafted an appealing story about teenage friendship that should resonate with people of almost any age.

Gretchen’s sophomore year goes awry shortly after it begins, when she, Abby and their friends Margaret and Glee take tabs of acid over a September weekend at Margaret’s family’s beach house outside Charleston. The drug doesn’t seem to have much effect, but Gretchen wanders off and disappears into the woods until dawn.

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Weekend ruminations

December 8, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 8, 2019

One night this week, I parked by my house and started picking my way across the yard to the front porch. In the dark, I put my left foot down on something that was neither flat nor stable. (It was a little chunk of concrete, I found the next morning.) My left ankle rolled sharply, and I yelped in pain. It’s been slightly tender ever since.

•••

On Wednesday morning, I woke to a text from someone who works for my landlord:

Hello! Lowes has called and said they will be delivering the new machines today between 12pm-2pm. We’ll be meeting them there to install it.

This was welcome news. I’d reported a problem with the combination washing machine and dryer some time in early November, after the washer failed to drain. The rental management agency took a look at it and, after receiving the needed parts, dispatched workers to fix the appliance on Nov. 20.

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Adventure and intrigue await a small party of climbers at the top of the world in Dan Simmons’s ‘The Abominable’

December 6, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 6, 2019

1924. Europe is recovering — some parts more quickly than others — from the Great War. The world’s highest summit, Mount Everest, has yet to be scaled, although the Royal Geographic Society and other adventurers are keenly interested in doing so. Mountaineering in general is a hazardous endeavor, even as some climbers have begun using bottled air to battle the oxygen deprivation that is endemic at higher altitudes.

Near the beginning of The Abominable, Dan Simmons’s 2013 novel, a 37-year-old English war hero secures backing from the family of a British aristocrat who’s disappeared on the perilous slope. Together with two fellow climbers — Jean-Claude Clairouox, 25, certified by the world’s oldest association of mountain guides, and the narrator, Jacob Perry, 22, a recent Harvard graduate and member of an esteemed Boston clan — Richard Davis Deacon gathers the equipment and expertise that the trio will need to find a body high up on the colossal peak.

“The Deacon,” as his friends call him, wishes to conduct the trip in secrecy in an effort to avoid interference from potential rivals. Deacon has other reasons for the clandestine approach, as Perry and the readers will discover in the course of events. Together with a party of Sherpas, a cousin of the missing Lord Percival Bromley who operates a Darjeeling tea plantation, and a hardy doctor with an unusual background, the climbers confront a variety of antagonists, not least of which is the massive mountain’s challenging terrain and formidable weather.

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Bad-Ugly-Good: Taking stock of 4-8 Stanford

December 4, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 4, 2019

I marked the end of Stanford’s 2019 football season where I’d welcomed it: At Tobacco Road, where I watched the Notre Dame game with elation that eventually shaded into apprehension and then despair. It’s fair to say that I was cranky during the second half.

• The Bad

What for Stanford doesn’t belong in this category, especially as the game wore on? The Cardinal was outscored 24-7 in the final 30 minutes, as the Irish gained 249 yards on 44 snaps and held the ball for nineteen minutes and 37 seconds. Stanford’s equivalent figures were 120, 27 and 10:13.

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Irish clobber Stanford, 45-24

December 3, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 3, 2019

Notre Dame rallied from a 10-point first-half deficit for a 45-24 over host Stanford in the finale of the worst Cardinal football season in more than a decade.

The Irish finished 10-2, with its only losses coming on road clashes at Georgia and Michigan, then ranked third and 15th, respectively. Stanford, condemned to its first losing season since a 4-8 finish in 2007, closed out a 4-9 campaign that saw the Cardinal go 3-6 in Pac-12 games.

The game turned with less than five minutes remaining in the second quarter. After Stanford junior quarterback Davis Mills was only able to run for three yards on third and four, freshman kicker Ryan Sanborn was summoned to punt with the line of scrimmage at the home 24. Freshman defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey blocked the ball, which Notre Dame freshman punter Jay Bramblett recovered at the 1-yard line.

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Conflict echoes even through decades of peace in Mark Obmascik’s fascinating World War II history ‘The Storm on Our Shores’

December 1, 2019

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 1, 2019

Dick Laird was the fifth child born to a dissolute father. Frank Laird’s gambling and drinking led him to squander a modest inheritance. The Lairds moved from one coal town to another during Dick’s childhood, sometimes because there was no work for his father, sometimes because the locals forced the family out.

At age 14, not long after the start of the Great Depression, Dick quit school and went to work in a coal mine. It was a physically punishing way to make a living, assuming one was able to stay in the bosses’ graces and keep a job in the first place. It was also wildly dangerous: In the early 1930s, about one in 340 mine workers were killed on the job.

Laird, as he was widely known, was a strapping lad; at age 18, he was six feet tall and a well-muscled 160 pounds. He would have pursued a career as a boxer had not a doctor discovered a heart murmur that disqualified him from competition. At a buddy’s urging, he decided to join the U.S. Army. In the words of Mark Obmascik, author of the 2019 book The Storm on Our Shores: One Island, Two Soldiers, and the Forgotten Battle of World War II: “Could his odds of being killed in the peacetime Army really be any worse than his 1-in-340 chance at the Powhatan mine?”

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