Friday, April 15, 2016

Short Takes

Nine dead from 6.4 earthquake in Japan.

Canada proposes a physician-assisted suicide law.

Microsoft sues U.S. over gag orders on search warrants.

Coal in the red: Peabody Energy files for Chapter 11.

R.I.P. Anne Jackson, legendary actor on stage and screen.

The Tigers beat the Pirates 7-4.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Short Takes

Belgian prosecutors: France was actually the intended target.

CIA Chief Brennan: The CIA won’t waterboard again even if ordered to.

Cruz wins Colorado caucuses; Trump throws tantrum.

Danny Willet won the Masters after Jordan Spieth folded like a lawn chair on the back nine.

Ah, springtime: dangerous storms hit the South while cold hits the Northeast.

R.I.P. William Hamilton, 79, cartoonist for The New Yorker.

The Tigers and the Yankees were rained out.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016

Short Takes

A car bomb explodes in Turkey, killing seven police officers.

President Obama welcomed world leaders to Washington for a nuclear security summit.

Yet another mass shooting, this time at a bus station in Richmond, Virginia.

All talk… Two more GOP senators agree to meet with Judge Merrick Garland.

Mississippi joins the boycott-bait states thanks to the passage of a law that enshrines gay discrimination.  (Like anyone would go there on purpose.)

R.I.P. Zaha Hadid, architect; the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Short Takes

Merrick Garland is President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court.

American ISIS fighter is a “gold mine” for U.S. intelligence.

U.S. hits North Korea with new sanctions for nuclear tests.

Denmark regains its standing as the “happiest nation.”

What if Fox had a debate and nobody came?

R.I.P. Frank Sinatra, Jr., 72.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Nancy Reagan — 1921-2016

Rest in peace.

Nancy Reagan, the influential and stylish wife of the 40th president of the United States who unabashedly put Ronald Reagan at the center of her life but became a political figure in her own right, died on Sunday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 94.

The cause was congestive heart failure, according to a statement from Joanne Drake, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Reagan.

Mrs. Reagan was a fierce guardian of her husband’s image, sometimes at the expense of her own, and during Mr. Reagan’s improbable climb from a Hollywood acting career to the governorship of California and ultimately the White House, she was a trusted adviser.

“Without Nancy, there would have been no Governor Reagan, no President Reagan,” said Michael K. Deaver, the longtime aide and close friend of the Reagans who died in 2007.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Short Takes

Iranian moderates make strong gains in parliamentary elections.’

North Korea shows detained U.S. student on TV.

It’s Super Tuesday for primaries.

R.I.P. George Kennedy, 91, Oscar-winning character actor.

He Talks! — Clarence Thomas breaks 10 years of silence on the Supreme Court.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Harper Lee

Rest in peace, Scout.

Harper Lee, whose first novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” about racial injustice in a small Alabama town, sold more than 10 million copies and became one of the most beloved and most taught works of fiction ever written by an American, has died. She was 89.

[…]

Nelle Harper Lee was born in the poky little town of Monroeville, in southern Alabama, the youngest of four children. “Nelle” was a backward spelling of her maternal grandmother’s first name, and Ms. Lee dropped it when “To Kill a Mockingbird” was published, out of fear that readers would pronounce it Nellie, which she hated.

Her father, Asa Coleman Lee, was a prominent lawyer and the model for Atticus Finch, who shared his stilted diction and lofty sense of civic duty. Her mother, Frances Finch Lee, also known as Miss Fanny, was overweight and emotionally fragile. Neighbors recalled her playing the piano for hours, fussing with her flower boxes and obsessively working crossword puzzles on the front porch. Truman Capote, a friend of Ms. Lee’s from childhood, later said that Nelle’s mother had tried to drown her in the bathtub on two occasions, an assertion that Ms. Lee indignantly denied.

Ms. Lee, like her alter ego Scout, was a tough little tomboy who enjoyed beating up the local boys, climbing trees and rolling in the dirt. “A dress on the young Nelle would have been as out of place as a silk hat on a hog,” recalled Marie Rudisill, Capote’s aunt, in her book “Truman Capote: The Story of His Bizarre and Exotic Boyhood by an Aunt Who Helped Raise Him.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” was the first grown-up movie my parents took me to see, it was on my summer reading list for Grade 9, and of course it was the automatic choice when I first taught high school English.  Every writer, I think, secretly harbors the wish that they could paint so delicate a portrait of life and character as she did.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Scalia Dead

Via the New York Times:

Justice Antonin Scalia, whose transformative legal theories, vivid writing and outsize personality made him a leader of a conservative intellectual renaissance in his three decades on the Supreme Court, was found dead on Saturday at a resort in West Texas, according to a statement from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. He was 79.

“He was an extraordinary individual and jurist, admired and treasured by his colleagues,” Chief Justice Roberts said. “His passing is a great loss to the Court and the country he so loyally served.”

The cause of death was not immediately released.

In the Quaker tradition, I hold him in the Light.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Show Must Go On

Alan Rickman was a fine actor, playing everything from villains to a Shakespearean actor reduced to playing an alien on a space opera and relegated to attending science fiction conventions, but he always looked like he was having fun.  He gained a lot of fans by playing Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series, but his role in Galaxy Quest perhaps reflected all of his facets.

Brian Bedford — 1935-2016

A great actor has made his exit.  From the Globe and Mail:

Acclaimed British actor Brian Bedford, a Tony Award-winning mainstay of Broadway and Ontario’s Stratford Festival, has died.

The festival in Stratford, Ont., told The Canadian Press that Bedford died on Wednesday in Santa Barbara, Calif., after a 2 1/2-year battle with cancer. He was 80.

“The doctors were just astounded by his will to live,” said Ann Swerdfager, the festival’s publicity director.

Antoni Cimolino, the festival’s artistic director, said in a statement that “Brian Bedford was the prime reason I went into the theatre.”

Bedford had been ailing in recent years.

In early 2014, illness forced him to pull out of his role as the pope in a touring production of the Vatican mystery thriller “The Last Confession” that visited Toronto. It was a part he said he’d been “really looking forward” to, noting John Paul I was “a very, very sweet, modest, lovely person and I haven’t played that kind of part for a long, long time.”

In June 2013, he withdrew from his role as Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice” at the Stratford Festival due to “a medical condition.” He also missed shows during the festival’s 2011 season.

Bedford was a fixture in the southwestern Ontario community of Stratford, where he worked at the festival for 29 seasons, acting and directing.

In 2009, he brought down the house directing and starring (in full drag) as Lady Bracknell in the festival’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest,” which moved to Broadway and earned him a 2011 Tony Award nomination for best actor. The production itself won a Tony for best costume design and was nominated for another for best revival of a play.

I saw the performance of “Earnest” at Stratford (my notes here) and thought it was one of the best plays I’d seen in all my years there.

He was a great actor, a fine director, and by all accounts, a very nice person.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Short Takes

Relief aid reaches starving towns in Syria.

The Supreme Court sounds like it might deal a big setback to public employee unions.

Millions of ISIS cash destroyed by U.S. air strikes.

The Koch brothers’ dad helped build an oil refinery for the Third Reich, according to a new book.

William Del Monte, the last-known survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, dies at 109.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Little Night Music

The internet, the radio, and everything in between has been filled today with tributes to David Bowie.  His music and voice are everywhere; even the classical station out of Interlochen, Michigan, played a portion of his 1978 recording of “Peter and the Wolf.”  So I thought that instead of playing something everyone has heard, I’d find a piece that may be a little less known — and a bit out of season — but it’s beautiful.  Not only that, it is a duet with one of the great voices of popular music of another generation: Bing Crosby in his last Christmas special from 1977.  It was made (obviously) before Der Bingle died in October of that year, but the network put it on anyway.  They made a great team.