els: 5.5/10 (8 for first half – 3 for second half)
Amazon: 4.4/5 stars
Rotten Tomatoes Critics: 95/100
Rotten Tomatoes Audience: 88/100
Metacritic Metascore: 81/100
Metacritic User Score: 7.8/10
Awards: 4 Academy Awards – 4 Golden Globes
Directed by: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Written by: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
Music by: Son Lux
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis
Film Locations: California, US
Budget: $14.3 – 25 million
Worldwide Box Office: $106 million
A wonderfully brilliant, light speed extravaganza of a show dazzling with talent, novelty, and invention. A pair of directors pulling together a complicated plot with aplomb, but one does need to pay attention. A screenplay of action and comedy with no plot holes that would have made Jackie Chan proud, who was initially slated to star in the movie, but the Daniels decided Michelle Yeoh provided more contrast. No argument from this quarter. Yeoh, Quan, Hong, and Curtis are superb, naturally melding into their parts where the viewer gives no thought to their offscreen persona or that they are acting.
The only distraction in the first half of the movie was Stephanie Hsu’s acting. She cannot walk and deliver lines at the same time. Her scenes should have been delivered from a hospital bed with thousands of tubes and wires, tying her down like a mummy on House unable to move and hopefully unable to speak.
The first half of the movie was 12 Oscar material then the second half happened. Picture yourself as an 8-year-old seated between your mom and dad, getting shushed and thumped for fidgeting, on a hard church pew listening to an old geezer in the pulpit delivering a monotone sermon on God only knows what and he, criminy, will not shut up. That’s the setting for the final 427 minutes of this movie. The Daniels genus turned to hubris cobbled together with no self-awareness of when to stop. By the end all the fun in the movie has evaporated and your soul has withered to that of a week-old bagel and transported itself to a perpetual B-movie drive-in.
Serge Fauchereau, born on Halloween in 1939 in France, is an art curator; art critic; professor of literature, art history, and writing; and author of artist biographies and art styles. Fauchereau has spent his adult life educating the public on, and extolling, 20th century avant-garde painting and sculpture, specifically the abstract and cubist styles.
Abstract art attempts to free visual representations of reality from the concrete, expressing form and color spiritually, emotionally, metaphysically without the chains of perspective, fact, or conclusions. Cubism, a mathematical sub-set within the abstract world, takes the whole of reality apart piece by piece, reexamines and reimages the pieces, giving them their own perspective, color, and frame; and then collects the many pieces into something greater than the one. Sometimes this works.
Paul Cézanne, 19th century French post-impressionist painter, is considered the father of Cubism but not actually a Cubist himself. Cezanne stretched the accepted norms of perspective, giving separate objects within his paintings their own reality, their own commentary. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, along, to a lesser extent, with Fernand Leger, took their cues from Cezanne, developing a style that became known as Early Cubism in the first 15 years of 20th century.
Fernand Leger, born in Normandy, France in 1881, was an extrovert who successfully kept his private life hidden from the public, expressing himself exclusively through his paintings and films. His early works, before 1908, were strongly influenced by the French impressionistic painters. Dissatisfied with his impressionistic efforts he destroyed all his paintings from this period.
Moving on from impressionism, he circulated with the Parisian modern art crowd, where he began to experiment with the Cubist style, finishing his initial works, La Couseuse and Compotier sur la Table in 1909. After WWI, in which he served on the Verdun front and was wounded, he developed his own style, a modified form of Cubism which he called Tubism, more a foray into pop art than a formal artistic movement. Beginning in the early 1920s he collaborates and directs art films beginning with La Roue followed by Skating Rink and Le Ballet Mecanique.
Till the end of his life in 1955 he continued to paint, lecture, exhibit and travel, cementing his reputation as pioneer in the world of modern art. His reputation continues to grow with his Cubist Contrast of Forms selling at a Christie auction in 2017 for $70,062,500.
James Gleick left Harvard in 1976 with a degree in English and a disposition towards independence from the 9 to 5. His initial attempt at independence after college was launching a weekly newspaper in the midwest city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. This endeavor ended in failure within a year, and it would take another 10 years before he could leave his day job, succeeding as an author of history of science and a provider of internet service in New York City.
His first book, Chaos: Making a New Science, was critically acclaimed and a million copy best seller establishing Gleick as a first-rate storyteller of difficult subjects to the lay public. He wrote two other bestsellers, both biographies, Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman in 1992 and Isaac Newton nine years later.
Gleick presents Newton’s life in chronological order, painting a beautiful portrait of his acheivements but also imparting a sense of his being as a human. His accomplishments were beyond exceptional, but his temperament was that of a reluctant member of society at large, not easily befriended, easy to offend, and not quick to forgive. Current hypotheses suggest that Newton may have suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the milder forms of autism. As a social being he appears a lot like Beethoven, also a genius but also without grace or courtesy.
Issac Newton was born fatherless, on Christmas Day in 1642 according to the Julian calendar, still in use in England at the time, or the less interesting 4 January 1643 by the today’s Gregorian calendar, on a sheep farmstead far north of London in Lincolnshire County. His father died about three months before his birth and in three years he was shuffled off to a grandmother’s care for the next 9 years to keep him away and out of site from his mother’s new husband, Reverend Barnabas Smith. His early education was at the ancient King’s School, already more than two hundred years old when he entered in 1655 and still operates as an all-boys grammer school to this day. Upon finishing at King’s School, he entered Trinity College at Cambridge in 1661 and, except for a year away in 1665, he stayed as a student and professor until 1696. Immediately following Cambridge, he became Warden of the King’s Mint and in 1703 became president of the Royal Society and stayed in that position until he died in 1727.
Newton’s contributions to the world were many and varied. His Three Laws of Motion were revolutionary in the 18th century, and as a testament to their lasting correctness are still taught to every school kid early in their education. The Law of Gravitation explained the orbit of the heavenly bodies and why apples fall and not rise, float, or go sideways. It has since been replaced by Einstein’s General Relativity but is still a particularly good approximation for us lessor mortals. Calculus. Enough said.
Newton also intensely studied the bible, believing that the universe could only exist through the existence of God. He rejected the Trinity believing there is one God, God the Father with Jesus and the Holy Spirit subservient to God. Newton also predicted that the end of times would not come before 2060, 38 short years from now. Still a little early to be maxing out your credit cards.
Newton researched and experimented with alchemy, including looking for the Philosophers Stone and the force that keeps the planets in their orbits. Seeking the Philosophers Stone may have been worthy of Harry Potter but I’m not sure about Newton. Newton never published anything on his alchemy studies, likely because it didn’t make any sense. Now looking for the force that kept planets from falling your head during a walk-in park was worthy of Newton and the rest of the world, especially Einstein. Newton found it and it was called gravity.
My one complaint with Gleick’s book is his derisive commenting on Newton’s fascination with alchemy through today’s lens of knowledge rather than accepting that understanding and meaning in this world changes, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. People respond to the time they live in not to the unknowns of the future. Newton put it this way, “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” and one can only study the drop that he has.
One of my favorite quotes of Newton or anyone for that matter was, “A man may imagine things that are false, but he can only understand things that are true.” I liked this quote when I first saw it, not because it was profound, it was, but because it was an idea I had promulgated early on in my education, if it didn’t make logical sense, it probably was wrong.
Graham Greene traveled to the back water, impoverished central Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas in 1937 to research religious, anti-Catholic persecution by the country’s political rulers, army, and police. Repellent politics and dysentery almost sent him packing for his native England, but a tawdry, although meritorious, liable suit being litigated in the British courts between the then precocious child star, Shirley Temple, and Greene over his ill-advised movie review of the star, promised him plenty of scorn, justified mockery, and a room at a London gaol if he went back home. He chose to keep digging for local color and background in Mexico over the less inflammatory subject of religious bigotry.
Since the days of Mexican independence in 1810, anti-clericalism, anti-Catholicism has lurked around every bell tower and dusty church courtyard in the country. Challenges to the Church’s authority became constant as time progressed. Politicians with few opportunities to fleece the ubiquitous poor were envious of its land holdings and material wealth. And predictably the Church could be counted on to be its own worst enemy.
In 1913, Victoriano Huerta seized the presidency in a bloody coup that deepened the ongoing revolution and rebellion led by Emilio Zapata. Huerta’s ruthless tactics in suppressing Zapata’s rebellion were not popular and he had few friends within or outside of Mexico, but the Catholic Church supported him. In 1914 Huerta through the loss of support fled the country and died in an U.S. Army jail in 1916.
After the revolution, a new Mexican constitution was approved in 1917 that included the anti-Catholic Article 130 which codified that the church, and the state were to remain separate. It obligated state registration of all churches and religious groupings along with restrictions on all priests and ministers. The restrictions prohibited priests and ministers from holding public office, campaigning on the behalf of political parties or candidates, and they could not criticize government officials.
A few years later in 1924 a new president of Mexico, Plutarco Elias Calles, sanctioned through executive decree strict and absolute enforcement of Article 130 which became known as Calles’ Law in 1926 or the “Law for Reforming the Penal Code”. Calles’ Law provided specific penalties for priests who violated Article 130. A priest wearing clerical dress outside of a church was to be fined five hundred pesos, a huge sum that a priest was unlikely to have the means to pay. Criticizing a government official was penalized with a 5-year prison term. Most states chose not to see the priests’ transgressions, and the citizens chose not to speak of priestly trespasses of Calles’ Law. The state of Tabasco though chose law, and lucre, over morality, enforcing the decree with a lustful zeal, adding further insult by requiring priests to marry.
Calles’ Law initiated almost immediately the Cristero War, hostilities starting in 1926 and ending in 1929 with an U.S. brokered peace between the Mexican government and the Catholic Church, although the government continued to prosecute the war well into the 1930s, murdering an additional 5-6000 Cristero soldiers and leaders after the official end of hostilities. The law and the war reduced the number of practicing priests by over 90 percent with only 335 priests, forty believed to have been killed, remaining to administer to fifteen million people, with more than 70 percent being Catholic. It is believed that 5 percent of the population fled to the United States, during and immediately following the war.
Sinners abound in “The Power and the Glory”. The protagonist and anti-hero, an unnamed whiskey priest sinner looking for redemption. An antagonist and foil, a policeman sinner seeking social justice where the ends justify the means. A contagonist, a half-Indian peasant sinner seeking acceptance and awards. Numerous sidekicks who are all sinners, venial sinners but still sinners, all seeking a life that is less hard, less exhausting.
A temptress and confidant who is not a sinner, but the protagonist’s conscience and salvation. A temptress and confidant guiding the whiskey priest, forgiving him his follies, moving him slowly to accept his fate, his calling, to be a man of God for God.
Graham Green was a nominal Catholic, an agnostic Catholic was his term, when he set out to write this book, but his interactions with the simple and God loving peasants of Tabasco brought him to an understanding with Christianity. An understanding towards a belief and faith in someone more powerful and glorified than oneself.
Guy de Maupassant was a man of stories, a writer with few equals, and he shared his talent with the world: voluminously and consummately.
His passion was the short story, writing 300 beautifully succinct stories of love and hate, mirth and war, drama and satire, a fertile mind cataloguing an earthly no-frills style of life, a life of intensity and expanse with little or no satisfaction. He wrote an astounding 295 of his short stories in the last 11 years of his abbreviated life of 43 years. His pen brought him wealth and fame, but life brought him a wordless ending of pain and madness.
The female form was likely his only happiness, stating, “The essence of life is the smile of round female bottoms, under the shadow of cosmic boredom.” adding, ” Love always has its price, come whence it may.” Death haunted him, commenting, “The past attracts me, the present frightens me, because the future is death.” followed with an epitaph, which he wrote: “I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing.” A very heavy price to pay for talents that came from God.
A small coterie of Parisian painters, less than a dozen, mostly French, mostly young and middle class, disillusioned with the elite’s adherence to Neoclassicalism and Romantism, began to experiment in the latter half of 19th century with bold colors and light, loose, broad brushwork and forms, simple, pleasing scenes of everyday life and contentment, landscapes painted in the open air: en plein air, painting what their eyes saw, and their hearts felt. Their style came to be known as Impressionism, a term lifted by an art critic who intended censure and derision from Monet’s painting: ‘Impression, Sunrise’ (shown above right). Impressionism, initially disregarded and rejected by the critics and the public, became the solid foundation for all painting to come; Post-Impressionism, Art Noveau, Cubism, and onto what is today casually labeled modern or contemporary art.
As Impressionism birthed the future of painting in the west, the Realists: Millet, Corot, Corbet, and others created the base for Degas, Manet, Monet to which they added something fresh and enjoyable. Realists painted the world as they perceived it: poor, laboring, dismal, dystopian. The Impressionists kept the Realists’ stage, the world as it is, but added cheerfulness and peace by experimenting with light and form.
Monet’s genre masterpiece, ‘Woman with a Parasol-Madame Monet and Her Son (shown above left), captures his wife and son in a leisurely stroll around a blustery Argenteuil, a suburb of Paris, in 1875. The woman and son are looking down on the painter with her umbrella blocking out the sun creating an impression of light dancing through the clouds and sky, imparting a stark contrast for the shadows below moving across the grass and flowers. The woman’s vail and dress ripples across her face and body in tune with the breeze. The boy is in the background giving the painting an added sense of depth. The detail of the painting (above right) shows the broad brushstrokes, bold colors and contrasts that came to characterize Impressionistic art.
‘The Impressionist’ brings form and substance to the lives of six of the greatest artists of the genre: Pissarro, Manet, Degas, Monet, Renoir, and Sisley, who gave birth to something new.
Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was selected by Time magazine, in 2016, as 97th most read female writer on college campuses. Number 1 is a non-fiction manual on writing, well, non-fiction. So much for layers and layers of fact checkers and editors not to mention the gross ineptitude of today’s journalists. Waugh’s fifth novel ‘Scoop‘, a farcical and possibly autobiographical look at newsrooms and their paid occupants, should be required reading for our exalted modern journalists if for no other reason than to familiarize themselves with one of the 20th century’s best writers–and humor. The less than flattering reviews by journalists of the book ‘Scoop’ suggests that as a profession, journalists are incapable of recognizing or appreciating sarcasm and irony, much in a similar vein of reasoning that has reporters fact checking the Babylon Bee or the Onion.
Leaving the critique of Time magazine’s prowess to others, Evelyn Waugh authored 13 novels or 10 novels and 1 trilogy from 1928 through 1961 plus numerous short stories, letters, travel logs, essays, articles, reviews, diaries and an autobiography. By the numbers a productive life of writing, which after publication of the novel ‘Brideshead Revisited‘ also made him a wealthy man.
Waugh’s ‘Decline and Fall’ is also a partially autobiographical farce chasing early 20th century English society down the rabbit hole with relish and ridicule. For some reason Waugh had to tell his readers that the book was meant to be funny, and it is, very. Maybe journalists are not the only ones having difficulty with recognizing humor.
Paul Pennyfeather, ‘Decline and Fall’s’ luckless, not really a hero, protagonist, plays it straight for a large cast of stooges, miscreants, and demented characters bent on bringing him down to their level, whether deliberately is not necessarily pertinent to this story. Philbrick, a butler, living more biographies in his head than a school library. Mr. Grimes, a peg-legged opportunist taking the profession of teaching to lengths not attainable by those who went before him. Pendergast, synonymous with a bad toupee, finds his doubts about scripture inimical with his chosen profession as man of the cloth. Pennyfeather joins them all, without censure, in their world much below where he would rather be.
It’s hurricane season but fortunately it’s winding down just to give way to the equally dreadful artic blasts of winter. During the summer season of excess wind, one’s thoughts, for the curious anyway, inevitably lead to queries, theories, or low proof opinions attempting to understand the causality, if any, between the frequency and strength of hurricanes with climate change or global warming. These are perfectly sensible and logical thoughts along with the subsequent questions, such as: Are hurricanes increasing in frequency due to climate change? Are hurricanes increasing in strength due to climate change?
These are valid questions, but likely a more germane question, or three, may be: If climate change is occurring what would the expected outcome be for the frequency and strength of hurricanes? Increasing? Decreasing? Something else? Are human gas inputs into the planet’s atmosphere causally linked to its energy budget?What methods and processes would one employ to answer these questions?
If you thought, I was going to attempt to answer the questions posed above you would certainly be wrong. I do not have the training or knowledge to provide even a precursory opinion, much less a tested and critiqued theory, but I do know how to analyze data and dagnabit I’m going to do just that.
The data used in the analysis below comes from NOAA for the years 1851 through 2021. The data are for hurricane strength only storms, category 1-5, that made landfall over the Atlantic Basin lower 48 states: specifically, the coastal states from Texas to Maine. Excluded from the analysis are all the named Atlantic Basin storms that formed but did not make landfall. Satellites, beginning in the 1960s, are able to observe and track all hurricanes whether they make landfall or not. The satellites have detected considerably more hurricanes developing in the Atlantic Basin than past data, based on storm landfall, suggested. There is a strong link between the recent increase in hurricane strength and frequency due increased observational capabilities rather than anthropogenic origins contributing to climate change.
The graph above plots wind speed in mph versus year of formation for Atlantic Basin hurricanes making landfall along the lower US 48. Years with no hurricanes making landfall are excluded but they account for about 20% of the analyzed interval. The basic analysis of the data shows that for the chosen years, 1851-2021, the average hurricane at landfall is a category 2 storm with an average speed of 100 mph. The trend line shows that the strength of landfall hurricanes has not appreciable changed over the last 170 years: slope of the trend line is 0.0077 or among friends can be taken as 0.
The graph above is the same as the first one shown except, I have attempted to account for the years with no hurricanes making landfall. I accounted for the years of no landfall by setting those data points to 0 mph. I am not comfortable with this approach but ignoring 20% of the data isn’t correct either. The analysis of the data is not significantly different from the previous graph. The average hurricane speed at landfall has decreased to 91 mph from 100 before with the average category being 2. 91 mph is a category 1 hurricane so the average category should be 1 but this is just a rounding up error. Slope of the trend line is again near 0.
The frequency of landfall hurricanes also shows little variation over time. The average number of hurricanes is 1.86 per year with the maximum number of 11 hurricanes occurring in 1917. The gaps in the x-axis are the years with no hurricanes.
The NOAA hurricane data presents a picture of little to no variation in hurricane strength or frequency from 1851-2021. What this says about climate change or global warmer is indeterminant. The question asked above about what changes are expected in hurricane frequency and strength if climate change is occurring needs answering before hurricane variability can be linked to it as a known outcome or consequence.
The other Michelangelo, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, was born almost 100 years after the Michelangelo of Florence and Sistine Chaple fame, in the northern Italian city of Milian, at the time a part of the Spanish Empire; coming of age as a painter in the dying days of the Renaissance art period and the birth of Baroque, developing and leading a style with an increased attention to detail, lighting, and volume not so much in contrast, but in addition to the scientific realism of the previous 200 years.
Caravaggio took the Baroque art beyond the biblical themes of the Renaissance while retaining the humanism, maintaining naturalism but with detail likely unavailable to painters before him, improving on perspective and volume through the use of light and dark: Chiaroscuro, and giving the subjects an emotional bearing that communicates to the viewer a deportment not obtainable to the first Michelangelo.
The book cover, Judith beheading Holofernes, detail above with full painting shown below, depicts Judith looking down and to the viewers left with a look, according to some, of revulsion and disgust, but my interpretation is one of apathy and possibly puzzlement, as noted by the slight creases between the eyebrows and the bridge of the nose and the minor squint of the eyes. Panning out may add an unquestioning repugnance to the painting but not to Judith’s countenance, it remains one of bemusement, a ‘is this all there is’ to vanquishing one’s enemy, while an old woman looks over Judith’s shoulder concurring, not seeing the gore of the moment but the moral of the act and feeling ‘Good, it is done’. The detail may be there, but the viewers interpretation is still required.
A ghostly collection of 53 short stories of the supernatural by authors known and unknown, many memorable, a few best forgotten, the frightening mingled with the ridiculous, overall, a compilation worthy of nighttime reading and bedtime frights.
This selection of stories mainly spans from the 1850s through the 1980s, with the big gun authors of Dickens, Wilde, Irving, Asimov, and Collins providing the most entertaining accounts of ghosts and their distressed victims. Dickens supplies the best punch line ending – ever in the ‘The Tale of Bagman’s Uncle”. Wilde’s ‘The Canterville Ghost” keeps it on the light side with a ghost slowly losing his mojo. Washington Irving’s contribution is from one of his lesser known, but delicious tales: ‘The Tale of the German Student’, a cautionary story for the good Samaritan. ‘Legal Rites’ is a tongue in check, but altogether a very original story by the sci-fi master Isaac Asimov featuring a ghost deciding that an imaginative lawyer trumps a milquetoast haunting.
There is more in this book of short stories, much more with plenty of authors that you have known since your younger years and a few that will turn out to be new friends in the future. The tales are all fun and short enough to read to go to sleep by. Sweet dreams.