Wednesday, December 31, 2008

London on New Year’s

Awaiting the fireworks over the London Eye: We ate a little Italian restaurant near our hotel, not the most elegant meal we have ever had but quite good and of course Terry enjoyed the people-watching.

Since then, we have returned to our hotel and spent the time in the Executive Lounge (only place for free WiFi) contemplating what we may do for the rest of our time in London. Also spent some time reaffirming why we love each other and how important each of us is to the other. I would be bereft without Terry.

Earlier we went to the theatre. We saw a new version of PIAF. It was terrific (although I hate the fact that in a theatre as small as the Vaudeville - maybe 600 seats - the producers felt the need to use wireless mikes on the actors). Piaf herself would have been appalled. She gained notoriety for the power of he voice (honed by singing over the traffic in Paris). The actor had the vocal power to replicate that, so not sure why the need for mikes.

As an old-fashioned actor myself, I pride myself on the ability to hit the back wall (even in a state-whisper) without the need for amplification. Unless you are in the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, or some 5,000+ seat house anywhere, you should not need amplifying. Okay, sermon over.

We loved the show, the cast as a whole was quite good, but the woman playing Piaf and the woman playing Marlene Dietrich were particularly outstanding.

London Theatre – what a joy.

London on New Year’s

Awaiting the fireworks over the London Eye: We ate at a little Italian restaurant near our hotel, not the most elegant meal we have ever had but quite good and of course Terry enjoyed the people-watching.

Since then, we have returned to our hotel and spent the time in the Executive Lounge (only place for free WiFi) contemplating what we may do for the rest of our time in London. Also spent some time reaffirming why we love each other and how important each of us is to the other. I would be bereft without Terry.

Earlier we went to the theatre. We saw a new version of PIAF. It was terrific (although I hate the fact that in a theatre as small as the Vaudeville (maybe 600 seats) the producers felt the need to use wireless mikes on the actors. Piaf herself would have been appalled. She gained notoriety for the power of he voice (honed by singing over the traffic in Paris). The actor had the vocal power to replicate that, so not sure why the need for mikes.

As an old-fashioned actor myself, I pride myself on the ability to hit the back wall (even in a stage-whisper) without the need for amplification. Unless you are in the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, or some 5,000+ seat house anywhere, you should not need amplifying. Okay, sermon over.

We loved the show, the cast as a whole was quite good, but the woman playing Piaf and the woman playing Marlene Dietrich were particularly outstanding.

London Theatre – what a joy.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In London

Long overnight flight from Denver via Chicago. We are in London, ensconsced in a room at the London Hilton Park Lane.

Arriving at 6am, then car service to the hotel (arriving at 7:30am) in hopes of having a room ready. Not to be, though we were able to spend a couple of hours in the Executive Lounge having breakfast and waiting for our room to be prepared. Ready shortly after 9:00am. A shower, and a nap and we are ready to get out and about.

London at Christmas is London as it always is: the greatest city in the world. We love Paris, and San Francisco and Singapore, but London is just London. Our room has a great view of Green Park, St. James Park, Buckingham Palace, Westminster and the London Eye..

Right now, we are sitting in the Exec. Lounge drinking wine and trying to decide what plays we want to try to see.

It is cold here (big surprise) but there still is no place like London. Tomorrow we will head to Leiscter Square and the Half Price Ticket Booth to see what is available. Looking forward to seeing some great theatre. Usually the serendipitous find is the most rewarding.

We will also do our traditional ride down the Thames to Greenwich to see where time starts, always appropriate at the New Year. We do this boat ride after having bought an eggnog Latte (yes I know Starbucks, but what the hell) and topping it off with some brandy. You simply don't mind the cold and the view along the river is great.

We may try to ride the London Eye again (the best view of central London you can get), but whatever we do, it will be great.

It is London, and Terry and I are together.

Cheers for the new year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another historic inaugural

With many of us now excitedly focusing on the inauguration of Barrack Obama as President, I was thinking back to the first time I was invited to a Presidential Inaugural.

It was the inauguration of Lyndon Johnson in January of 1965.

Johnson had won the 1964 election in a landslide. Johnson carried every state but six. Goldwater carried five states in the deep south (but not Florida) as well as him home state of Arizona. Johnson carried states that had traditionally voted Republican, including the state of Kansas.

Kansas as you might know has always had a lot more Republicans than Democrats. That is particularly true of the western half of the state where I was living in 1964.

I went to High School in a little town on the western border of Kansas, just 8 miles from the Colorado line. We were part of the 1st Congressional District of Kansas, considered at the time and to this day one of the most Republican districts in the country. It was represented at that time by Bob Dole, who of course went on to be a U.S. Senator and vice-presidential candidate.

However we were Democrats, so I spent the summer volunteering as a driver for the Democratic candidate for Congress, Bill Bork. He lost. I don’t think it was my driving (it was a lot of driving, it was geographically one of the largest districts in the country, something like half of the state) it was there were just too many Republicans, even in a year in which Johnson carried the state by like 54%.

Any way, in December of that year I got in the mail my official invitation to the inaugural that following January. I was not quite 18, couldn’t vote (in those days you had to be 21 to vote), but I had my first real experience in politics. We had lost the congressional race but won the presidential and I couldn’t have been more excited. I’ve been a political junkie ever since.

Here are copies of the invitation materials.

Not on the envelope that it is simply addressed to me but no street or box number just the name of the town and the state. No zip codes in those days.

Also note that one of the hosts is Mrs. Hale Boggs. Hale Boggs was a congressman from Louisiana who disappeared whose plane disappeared in Alaska in 1972. His wife Lindy succeeded him in the Congress. Hale and Lindy were the parents of the journalist Cokie Roberts, and Tommy Boggs of Patton and Boggs.

Click on the image to make it larger in a new window. I realize that in scanning these materials I neglected to crop them, oh well.

My pick for US Senate

The political news in Colorado has been non-stop since the election. First there was the daily speculation as to which Coloradan(s) might get a cabinet post, then when Senator Ken Salazar was named Secretary of the Interior, the speculation shifted to which Coloradan will fill the Senate seat. At the same time there was speculation as to whom the Governor would appoint to the unexpired term of the Secretary of State (the sitting Secretary, Mike Coffman was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and will resign as Secretary in early January).

For political junkies it has turned what is normally down time after an election to one as interesting as the pre-election period.

I expect that Governor Ritter will select Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper as the next U.S. Senator from Colorado. Speculation goes on however and there are other likely candidates, but I just have a sense that it is the Mayor’s if he wants it – and he does.

I think John will be fine and it will be a good pick, but not my pick. I would like the Governor to select the other John, - John Salazar. He is my pick for a number of reasons, but one very personal.

John is a good man who genuinely cares about other people.

When John was first running for the U.S. House, my father fell very ill and was in the hospital. It was in October just a couple of weeks before the election. When John found out about my dad, he took precious time out of his busy campaign to visit my dad in the hospital. He and his wife Mary Lou spent an hour with my father. No press, no photo op, just two very decent people helping to cheer my dad up and showing how much they care for others.

I will never forget that. It meant so much to my dad (who has since passed away) and to me and our family.

So is that sort of caring behavior and attitude a qualification for being a Senator? In my book it is. On top of all the other qualities and experience John has.

As I said, I am sure the Governor will select John Hickenlooper and it will be a fine pick. As would my friend Representative Ed Perlmutter, another fine person and good public servant. But my sentimental pick is still John Salazar.

I am a lucky man

31 years ago today, my daughter was born. Hard to believe and now she has a daughter of her own. And though it was 31 years ago, I can remember the details of the day vividly. I am a lucky man.

Monday, November 24, 2008

11 days and 25 movies later

The Starz Denver Film Festival is over. It was a great ride, with very few low-points (at least from my movie seat).

I have been trying to sort through my favorites, and as in years past, it is impossible.

There were so many.

On the last day, O'Horton was one that could make my top ten list for this year.

Also, earlier in the weekend, The Eternal City is one that I will reflect on for a long time. As a matter of fact, on the same day that I saw The Eternal City, I also saw Two Lovers. I liked Two Lovers very much. Wonderful performances. But frankly, I liked The Eternal City much more. It was made on a shoestring and did not have the big (and expensive) production values of Two Lovers. It did not have that 'slickness' that Two Lovers has. But in telling a story that engages, and deals with human emotions and the need for love, The Eternal City is superior. There is an honesty to it and an earnestness in the production, and the performances. I hate the trite 'labor of love' but that is what this film displays. There is a genuineness to the performance, the direction, everything. Wonderful story-telling with a reason for the telling coming through.

Lots of wonderful short films, and as I noted here earlier great documentaries.

Sunday night I saw Surveillance. The Jennifer Lynch film. Slickly produced, good performances, but somehow not satisfying. It is not just that the film is disturbing (it is), it is that I was trying to find the redeeming value in telling this dark tale. I couldn't find it.

So we wait now for next year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Denver Film Festival - Random thoughts at the halfway point.

We are halfway through the Starz Denver Film Festival and as usual there are some terrific films being screened. Many of them, I have noted here.

But a couple of other things have struck me.

First it appears to me that attendance is down. I don’t have anything other than my own observation to base that on, but it just seems that the theaters are not as crowed, there are fewer necessary queues’, and certainly at the Big Night screening there were a number of empty seats on the main floor.

Given the state of the economy, it would not necessarily be a surprise if attendance at any discretionary entertainment event is down. We will see after the festival when actual attendance is reported, whether my perception is accurate.

Second, I miss the ongoing screening of a sponsorship film.

In years past, a clever film noting all the key sponsors of the festival was shown before every screening. Not only has that been missing from all the screening this year, the one that was produced and screened prior to the Big Night film was so lame it was painful to watch (maybe that is why it has only been shown once, to date).

Equally lame is the Magic Cyclops pieces that appear to have replaced the sponsorship film before each screening. With perhaps one exception, all the ones I have not only not been funny, they have not been anything. Moreover, one of them probably has a number of film copyright owners pulling their collective hair out. It suggests that moviegoers bring their own video cameras to the theater and tape what they see for later viewing – so they don’t miss anything. I know it was done in jest – and no one will really believe that the idea was serious - but the humor was so lame, it didn’t really read.

Okay, enough negatives.

Logistically, I think the festival has handled things well. The one time I was involved in a queue, staff handled moving the audience from the queuing location to the theater smoothly and fairly. In the past those logistics have devolved into a mob scene, with little or no order. Well done this year. Also, the addition of a public address system in the court yard has improved (and saved staff voices) the ability to inform patrons of information.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Slumdog Millionaire and other Untold Consequences

Untold Consequences is a collection of terrific short films - the longest being 22 minutes. One of the great joys of the Denver Film Festival is the ability to see short films. Often some of those shorts stay in your memory longer than long-form films (last year's The Job is an example). This year, there are some definite possibilities, some I saw yesterday in Untold Consequences. Spider, August 15 and Triple Concerto in D Minor to name just three.

The title of the collection Untold Consequences is very understandable when you see any or all of the shorts. You will have to see them for yourself and you will know what I mean.

Untold Consequences could have included a long-form film, if that film is Slumdog Millionaire.

What a terrific film!

Slumdog was the Big Night film on Saturday. And has been the case in the past, the film deserves to be called a Big Night film. I don't remember being disappointed in Big Night films in the past and this year is certainly no exception.

Did I say Terrific Film!?

See it. It will get a commercial release and probably a big one given how good it is and the buzz that is now accompanying it.

So see it, even though when your friend says, I want to go see this film about impoverished kids in the slums of India who seek salvation through a life of crime and winning a game show.

I'll say it again, what a terrific film.

On another note - No Subtitles part II

No Subtitles the documentary about cinematographers Laslo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond deals a lot with their escape from Hungary during the 1956 uprising. The two were film students in Budapest at that time and as the Russian tanks rolled in and the attempt at freedom was eventually quashed they filmed what they saw and participated in.

As the uprising was quashed the two escaped to Vienna, smuggling the film out with them.

It was noted that those involved in the attempt at freedom in Hungary expected the West and particularly the United States to come to their aid. That expectation - that hope - went unfulfilled.

Tragically for those in Hungary the Eisenhower administration had encouraged such an uprising and paid all kinds of lip service to freedom and overthrowing dictatorial regimes, etc. But it was all rhetoric because the reality was that the United States was in no position to do anything. Eisenhower believed the risk of such an intervention was a widening war in Europe and a global nuclear conflagration.

As I watched the documentary I remembered those days. I was 10 years old, but the memory of the news footage and the reports is still vivid. And in remembering, I thought of a recent similar kind of event. The invasion of the Republic of Georgia, again by Russian tanks. In that case there was no uprising by Georgians to overthrow their government and there are a lot of differences between what happened this summer and that summer over forty years ago, but what was similar was a lot of bold talk by a US administration and political leaders, with the knowledge that the rhetoric could not and would not be backed up with action. Just as in 1956 (though for somewhat different reasons) the US was powerless to back up its words.

The tragedy then as now? Those that hear the words, the encouragement and act in the belief that the words will be backed up do so and then have the rug pulled out from underneath them.

Georgia in 2008 is different than Hungary in 1956, but the callous arrogance of those that hold out hope where they know none will be is despicable.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No Subtitles Necessary

Last night was the second night of the Denver International Film Festival. I saw two documentaries. DIFF is notable for the number of documentaries it shows as part of the festival and I always try to see as many as I can. Firstly Documentaries rarely get shown anywhere else, and certainly not in conventional, commercial movie houses. Unless it is Michael Moore, don't look for them at anyplace other than an art movie house and even then rarely. They do show up on niche cable TV channels and on Public Television stations, but still the vast number of documentaries made are almost impossible to see, thus my desire to see them at the film festival.

The two I saw dealt with 'entertainment figures'. Entertainment figures who were/are giants in their respective venues.

"Count Basie: Then as Now, Count's the King" and "No Subtitles Necessary, Laslo & Vilmos."

The Basie documentary left me wanting something more. I thought it could have done so much more with a subject such as the great Count Basie. The film consisted of the usual archival footage and photographs and then former band members sitting around a table at Elaine's in New York, reminiscing about their days with the band.

The stories were fun and it was enjoyable to hear them, but as I said, it left me wanting more. I really didn't come away with a sense of who Basie was; no real sense of the person. And for those too young to know about Basie or experience his music, the film really didn't establish his huge impact on music and popular culture; and why 'the Count's still the King.'

"No Subtitles", however is a different story. This look at two of greatest cinematographers of the last half of the twentieth century was wonderful. It not only described their impact on film-making and their influence on the visual - 'the picture' and its style and quality as the story-teller - but who these two men really were and their friendship that was extraordinary.

A superb documentary. Among other things, it made me want to re-see many of the films they each made. As clips from their respective films (i.e. Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Paper Moon, The Deer Hunter, MaCabe and Mrs. Miller) were shown as part of the documentary, I found myself thinking about each one, 'oh wow, I love that film! I'd like to see it again!"

And of "No Subtitles", I'd like to see it again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Barack has won -

And as much as I am looking forward, at my age I always have to look back.

Earlier in October, I heard talk about how if McCain was going to win it was going to take 'the perfect storm' meaning there needed to be a convergence of many elements for McCain to overcome what was clearly a juggenaut.

I believe that the 'perfect storm' existed but it was the convergence of elements that led to Obama's election.

But beyond that, this year was about Obama, his great ability to organize and run a successful campaign, it was about Howard Dean and his 50 state strategy, but at the end of the day, that would have elected a Democrat this year, but to ensure that an African-American was elected, it did indeed take someone of Obama's abilities and accumen and it meant that he stood on the shoulders of those that came before.

He is the product of Brown v. Board of Education, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Thurgood Marshall, students at Little Rock High and James Meredith and yes Jack Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. He is also the product of all those who died in bombings and lynchings - both white and black - in the name of freedom.

I got on a Continental Trailways bus in Salina Kansas in March of 1965 to go to Selma Alabama. I was a very young, and very frightened young man of 18. When I got on the bus in Salina, as a member of the Methodist Student Movement, I was full of bravado. As the bus moved farther south, my bravado changed rapidly to fear and a thought rattling through my head: What the hell are you doing?

But I was there, not brave, but committed to what was right; what needed to be done.

As I watched Obama's speech tonight and thrilled to what I believe is indeed a transformative election, I felt a part of that history.

Obama transforms our nation. He does it because of his intellect, his ability and his unique ability to connect with hundreds of millions of Americans: black, white, hispanic, young, gay, etc.

He is in a position to do that because he matches his abilities in the context of history. What came before set the table for what is to come.

I could not be happier, nor prouder.

This is not a victory for Barack Obama, it truly is a victory for America, our values and our history.

As Franklin Roosevelt's election preserved capitalism and kept revolutionaries from the streets, Obama's election preserves our democracy and keeps revolutionaries from the streets.

I don't think I overstate.

Obama has indeed provided hope. Because without Hope, despair and frustration prevail and that can lead to revolution.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Political ads

It is Saturday before the election, and I know everyone is sick of political ads. Here in Colorado, in addition unheard of numbers of candidate ads (we wanted to be a battleground state, didn't we?)
we have 14 (18 if you count the questions that will not be counted but are still on the ballot) state-wide ballot questions.

I say, everyone is sick of the ads, but I'm not. They are a part of the process, and to avoid any hypocrisy, I cannot complain about political ads because I often do them.

None the less, my friend Steve, his wife Chris and some others have recorded a ditty that Steve wrote about political ads. Take a look and listen.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday in the Park with Barack

On a beautiful autumn Sunday in Denver over 100,000 of Barack Obama's close personal friends gathered to hear him speak (all came to see him but the size of the crowd and the distance that many were from the stage only allowed them to hear).

I was one of them. What a great and exciting day.

I have been doing politics all my adult life and I have not experienced anything like this election since Kennedy in 1960. I remember the Kennedy campaign of 1960 but because I was in high school, the sense of excitement I felt then and now is difficult to equate; to compare in context with who I was, my age, etc.

There was certainly a high level of excitement, and a sense of a new generation taking the torch, a new era, change, a lot of what is happening now. What I don't know is how that would compare for me if I had been a mature adult at the time.

However, it doesn't matter. I am so excited about the prospects for the future. I am energized in a way, I have not been in a long time. I see what is happening and I want to believe. I have the desire to see a rebirth of the Camelot spirit. To see an entire country energized and motivated not just to elect a President but to participate in the rebirth of our country.

Just as the 1960 election was less about Jack Kennedy than it was the re-energizing of America and Americans; to reinstilling our values and can-do spirit (Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country). This election is less about Barack Obama than it is involving/including/energizing legions of Americans: A belief in them that, Yes We Can.

Former Mayor Pena was there yesterday, and I thought about his slogan as mayor: Imagine a great City. What I think Barack is about and what is energizing millions of Americans is: Imagine a great Country.

This from a person who supported and believes in Hilary Rodham Clinton. I started as a Hillary man, and I remain a Hilary man. But Barack is not only my choice for President now, he is my enthusiastic choice for President. I am a true believer.

Here is some video I shot at the rally. Just two clips and a bit shaky.

Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain's miscalculation

I don't think McCain's gamble with regard to his positioning re: the bailout and improving his poll numbers is or will work. He's getting no help from his Republican friends. Instead of looking like a leader he looks like a posturing politician.

Mad Men

I don't mean the wonderful AMC cable series (though the spinmeisters on that show would be right at home with the spinmeisters in DC) but indeed the clowns in Washington who have put us in this mess and are now scrambling (after denying for months that there was a problem) to find a fix. Frankly when Democrats tried to get relief for mortgage holders who were at risk of going into default, the Bush administration would have none of it. Yet had $700 Billion bent spent either refinancing those mortgages at affordable rates or otherwise supporting them, the mortgage assets that are causing the current crisis would not have to be bailed out now.

The crisis would have been averted and homeowners would not be facing default and the loss of their homes - with all the other serious consequences that is entailing.

Moreover if we weren't spending $12 Billion a month in Iraq combined with foolish tax cuts for the wealthy and the resultant ballooning deficit and debt, the dollar would be stronger, oil would be cheaper and our economy would not be in crisis.

Them's the facts folks. Read em and weep.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ray Powers passes away

Former Colorado Senate President Ray Powers passed away on Thursday. Ray, a Colorado Springs Republican was certainly a conservative, but was not a wacko. He truly was a decent human being. Interestingly, his wife Dorothy is a Democrat. Thought that must have made for strange conversations at the dinner table.

In addition to being a decent human being, Ray had principles and would not let party affiliation or the 11th commandment get in the way of speaking up for what he believed was right.

I particularly remember a fight he got in to with then Speaker of the House (and also a Colorado Springs Republican) Doug Dean over Dean's double dipping the state for expenses and per diem.

Dean was billing the state for expenses of the apartment he was renting/sharing with another legislator. In addition he was taking the $99 per day per diem. It had always been believed that the per diem was to cover the expenses incurred by legislators who had to stay in Denver from out of town. Dean claimed that it was additional salary. There was a hearing before Legislative Council regarding the matter and Dean got into a shouting match with Powers over the issue. Dean made some accusatory remarks about the fact that Powers was wealthy, could afford a house in Denver and didn't need to worry about the additional income. Powers was incensed and yelled back at Dean that he was sick of Dean's attitude.

There was no love lost there.

I also suspect that Ray, the gentleman, did not approve of Dean's philandering. He was notorious for cheating on his wife, and indeed was involved in a messy incident with a lobbyist with whom he was living (and divorced his wife over) when he broke into her house with a screwdriver.

Ahhh, the good old days.

Ray was a good guy. We could use more like him in both parties.

Friday, September 19, 2008


New to blogging but couldn't resist any longer.

Posts here will be random and cover a wide range of topics of interest to me: Politics, the arts (particularly the Theatre and Film), music, ramblings......... Eclectic tastes lead to eclectic posts.