Anton Corbijn’s “A Most Wanted Man” with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright

I give this film a high recommendation.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died in February at age 46. This is his last completed film. He appears in a “truncated’ supporting role in Mockinjay to be released in the fall.  His best were The Big Lebowski, Capote, Master, Doubt, Charlie Wilson’s War….

“Wanted” is an enjoyable and suspenseful film. Hoffman’s performance was excellent, though  a bit of a “cut out” role, as so many of his have been. It’s as if his characters usually need to “get a life.”  And really, it looked as though he was afraid his face would break if he changed his expression even once during the entire film.*

English author John Le Carre’ (leh care ay) now 82, first novel was The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, while he was working for British spy agency MI6. He resigned to become a full time novelist. Most recent novel was the 2013 “A Delicate Truth”; most recent film adaptation: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” with Gary Oldman , inspired by the Kim Philby affair.

Anton Corbijn’s (COR-bane) most recent prior film was “The American” with George Clooney.

A more comprehensive review can be found here. 

*might be an exaggeration; you tell me.

 

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Restaurant review: Piperade, San Francisco

Piperade is a comfortable spot at 1015 Battery at Green, between Telegraph Hill and the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Supposedly Basque, but the cuisine is not  really dominated by that influence. The food is very good, price is not bad for the City, and the service is good. Thankfully, the noise level is generally low. Access is easy, good parking nearby, and there a number of interesting spots within easy walking distance.  From the south, follow 280 to King to the Embarcadero, turn left on Broadway and right on Front, to park.  Then walk two blocks. The restaurant is on the location of the American cannon battery of 1846, (hence the name Battery Street) placed there to defend the village of Yerba Buena against the Spanish in the period after California was “conquered” by the U.S.  The battery was given the name Fort Montgomery, though it was probably not much of a fort.

I had the fried manchego, duck comfit, and for dessert the orange blossom beignets…excellent.  Others at the table had the Piperade (sauteed peppers, onions and Serrano ham with poached egg).  This is definitely a place I’d go again.

Afterwards, you can walk a block west on Green to see the place where television was invented, at 200 Green, also the the site of the infamous Gray Brothers rock quarrying operation, that brought down a substantial part of Telegraph Hill before the nefarious owner was shot and killed by a disgruntled worker, much to the delight of San Franciscans, who acquitted him of any crime.

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Book Review: The King’s Grave by Phillipa Langley and Michael Jones

NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2013.

This is the story of the discovery and exhumation of the remains of Richard III in the floor of a medieval monastery in Leicester, England.  Certainly an interesting read, the book is flawed by the apparent intention of the author (P.L.)to make it about whether Richard was a good person or not. As a result, much of the book is consumed in attempting to read scraps of history or archeology, or indeed anatomy, in a way that would be exculpatory for Richard’s alleged misdeeds, including the killing the two boys in the Tower of London in the summer of 1483. .  Much history is provided, interspersed between episodes of the modern search and discovery.  Who knew there was a Richard III Society, the goal of which is seemingly to cast the Tudors (the family that followed Richard’s on the throne) and Shakespeare (author of Henry VI and Richard III as the bad guys, who invented nasty stories about Richard?  Well, there is, and Langley founded the Scottish Branch.

The high point of the book should have been the uncovering of Richard’s distorted bones, his “crookback’ (scoliosis) that, for all intents, proved the remains were his; instead of being thrilled, Langley writes how disappointed she was that Richard was actually “deformed.” Her thesis was that the idea of a deformity had been invented, Richard was portrayed as being deformed in order to make him seem more evil.  She then proceeds to put up a bit of a strawman of “hunchback”, saying that Richard’s deformity wasn’t actually that bad. Medically speaking, she was making the distinction between scoliosis (a lateral bending of the spine) and kyphoscoliosis (lateral and front-to-back bending).  The former is characterized mainly by a visible difference between the height of the two shoulders, while the latter is manifest by an apparent “hump” in the upper back.  This question is well-discussed here.

In studying the early descriptions of Richard’s disability, however, it is telling to notice the words which are not applied to him. To our knowledge, Richard is not described as “bunch-backed” in print until Shakespeare; the word “boss” (from the French bossu) does not seem to have been used either. Both refer to a swelling or hump. Shakespeare’s Richard is called “crookback” three times in Henry VI, Part 3, and is more specific himself about his appearance when he claims that nature made “an envious mountain on my back, / Where sits deformity to mock my body” (Act 3, scene ii), and later describes his shoulder as “thick” (5.vii). Rather than deliberately inventing the hunchbacked Richard, though, Shakespeare may have interpreted the word “crookback” as referring to this kind of spinal deformity. The OED’s first recorded use of “hunch-backed” is the second quarto of Richard III (1598), 4.iv, when Queen Elizabeth calls him “that foule hunch-backt toade” (“bunch-backt” in the first quarto; Q2’s variation is retained in later quartos). In one sense at least, it is plausible that Shakespeare (or perhaps one of his printers) is the inventor of the hunch-backed Richard, and that this term stems either from a typesetting error or from a misreading. If so, it is indicative of how influential Shakespeare’s version of Richard’s body has been.

So the high point of the search becomes, for the author, a disappointment, instead of a victory. Sort of deflates the whole book.

I recommend the book, though of course with a large grain of salt.  The historical discussions are interesting, but it is difficult to know whether the prominent bias of Langley might have introduced serious distortions. I look forward to a more balanced discussion by other researchers in in the future.

 

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If Our Founding Fathers Were All Christians, Why Did They Say This?

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“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

- George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (1789)

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.”

- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr (1787)

and many more….

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Government Surveillance of MLK Used to Try to Destroy Him: Who’s Next?

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Does anyone believe that the Karl Roves, J. Edgar Hoovers, Dick Cheneys, Chris Christies of the world won’t use surveillance against political enemies? and potential enemies? and opposing political donors? and “anti war” groups? and “protesters” of all sorts? anti pollution groups? and racial groups? and his cronies’ enemies? and on and on, right on down to YOU?  that NSA employees won’t spy on celebrities, girl friends, boy friends, etc, right on down to YOU?

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Best French Fries in San Francisco: Chow @ Church and Market

chowGreat fries at this bar/cafe/joint, which also has great ambiance and service.  The fries are thin, just crisp enough, and of course also the correct golden brown color.  Coffee is also good.  That’s all I had, so I can’t say more.

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TIME magazine gives up on independent journalism

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NY Times:

Time Inc. will abandon the traditional separation between its newsroom and business sides, a move that has caused angst among its journalists. Now, the newsroom staffs at Time Inc.’s magazines will report to the business executives. Such a structure, once verboten at journalistic institutions, is seen as necessary to create revenue opportunities and stem the tide of declining subscription and advertising sales.

The Dish comments:

Now remember this is not some desperate trade magazine; this is Time Fucking Inc. Journalists at Time will report directly to those on the business side (or is that now an anachronism?) seeking advertizing revenues and sponsored content contracts. That’s what the editors now are. And listen to the howls of outrage swirling around every other journalistic institution, read the columns decrying the end of independent journalism, witness the mass exits of outraged editors, observe the talking heads fulminate and readers rebel!

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