Archive for Film/Television

Why Should You Care About This Man?

This is Garry Kasparov, the former World Chess Champion. Not only is he a Grand Master chess tactician, as a critic of Russian politics he is also a student of Vladimir Putin’s tactics. He knows Putin is a cagey, calculating, politically savvy, cold-blooded killer. He’s seen Putin’s enemies murdered – Alexander Litvinenko poisoned in London and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov shot four times in central Moscow days before the Russian election.

Kasparov’s is only one voice, but it raises the question of whose voices are worth listening to in the divisive acrimonious debate surrounding Russian interference in the American election. We need to know the truth on both sides, the Russian and the American. How do we go about identifying, sorting, and selecting from all the voices vying for attention in order to get closer to the truth?

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The End of the Beginning

Tomorrow (Thursday June 9, 2017) is The End of the Beginning, a big day in the unfolding of America’s future. I, for one, am taking the day off. I need to watch former FBI Director James Brien Comey Jr.’s testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Comey’s testimony is not the end of this tortuous period in our democracy, but it will be a turning point. We are far from the end of this Constitutional puzzle. Will the President be cleared of wrongdoing or will the Russian saga end in impeachment or prosecution? Was Trump colluding with the Russians to disrupt the 2016 election? Is he in deep trouble with the Russian banks? Do they have him by the short hairs? Will he self-destruct? Will the Republicans finally stop ignoring and apologizing for his erratic, ignorant, dangerous rants? However it ends it will be a turning point in the contemporary struggle for the soul of the republic. I’m all in until it’s over.

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Gutless Wonders…

The political mysteries of the moment are:

  • Why did only half the eligible voters think our presidential election was worth turning out for?
  • How did such an ill-informed unfit candidate become President of the United States?
  • How did the Russians manage to meddle so effectively in our electoral process?
  • Why doesn’t a Republican Congress that distrusts or at the least feels ambivalent about its President fully embrace an investigation into his possible collusion with the Russians?

American democratic traditions and institutions are under attack. The vultures are circling. Why haven’t our elected officials come together to thwart the attack and bring the nation together?

Last week, after four months of Congressional foot dragging, during which we watched the President fire all of the nation’s serving US Attorneys, Acting Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI director James Comey, Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein decided to take the investigation of criminal wrongdoing away from a partisan, gutless Congress and appointed an independent Special Council. Former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s charge is to look into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians in the 2016 election.

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Trump and Turkey…

There’s a lot to like about Turkey. It’s exotic, mysterious, and diverse – beautiful blue water sailing on the southwestern coast where the Aegean and Mediterranean meet, ancient rock dwellings at Cappadocia, the broad expanse of the Anatolian plateau, and a blending of cultures where Europe and Asia meet at the Bosporus. (above).

Long before the Orient Express, Istanbul felt mysterious and unpredictable, as if a camel driver might be blocking the path of a Mercedes consular car around the next corner. I spent time there on my own and on layovers as a Pan Am pilot. I had a favorite smoke-filled café near the Golden Horn that served doner kebab for a couple of bucks and a tiny shop nearby where I bought pistachios and squishy dried figs carefully wrapped in brown paper by the owner. I loved Istanbul, the crowds and excitement, even the diesel fumes, a Eurasian jumble of mosques, churches, narrow winding streets, designer shops, shared taxis, noisy ferries, and hard bargaining rug merchants in the Grand Bazaar.

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Zipless in Nevada

In  Erica Jong’s 1973 novel, Fear of Flying, we were introduced to the “zipless fuck,” a sexual encounter involving two previously unacquainted persons with no emotional commitment.

In Grounded, a play by George Brant, a young woman in an Air Force flight suit tracks a terrorist on the ground 8000 miles away. She’s “flying” a missile-armed drone from her air-conditioned trailer in the Nevada desert. She is prosecuting America’s zipless war.

As an ex-Marine fighter pilot, I resist the conflation of jet pilot and drone operator. Real fighter pilots strap in, light the fire, pull G’s, land on aircraft carriers, and swap sea stories in the Ready Room. In Grounded, the unnamed pilot feels the same way. She’s a hard charging, adrenaline-fueled F-16 driver, but following maternity leave she finds herself assigned as a UAV (unmanned air vehicle) “pilot” in a windowless trailer in the Nevada desert. She is not happy with the assignment. She misses the excitement. She misses “the blue,” but war is changing and she has to deal with it.

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