THE BEST MOVIES I HAVE SEEN

Once in a while I sit down and think about movies that have really stirred something in me at the time that I have seen them. These are not necessarily those on the all time list, as listed by some prestigious organization. They are the ones that have made a lasting impression on me. They are in somewhat of an order:

The Thief of Baghdad (1940- Sabu)
The Juggler ( 1949 Kirk Douglas)
Diabolique ( 1954 Simone Signoret)
I’m All Right Jack (1959 Peter Sellers)
Big Business ( 1926 Laurel and Hardy)
Psycho ( 1960 Tony Perkins, Janet Leigh)
Inspector General (1949 Danny Kaye )
Wizard of Oz ( Judy Garland 1939)
The Prestige ( 2006 Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine )
The Return of the Pink Panther ( 1975 Peter Sellers )
2001, A Space Odyssey ( 1968)
Frankenstein (Karloff 1931)
Dracula ( Lugosi 1931)
To Kill a Mockingbird ( GregoryPeck, 1962)
American in Paris ( 1951 Gene Kelly)
Some Like it Hot ( Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon 1959)
Star Wars ( 1977 Ford, Fisher, Harmon)
The Godfather (1972 Marlon Brando, Al Pacino)
The Graduate ( 1969 Dustin Hoffman)
Gone With the Wind (1939 Gable, Leigh)
Jason and the Argonauts ( 1963)
Fargo ( 1996- Frances McDonald, William Macy)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002 Nia Vardalos, John Corbett)
Mrs. Doubtfire ( 1993 Robin Williams)
The Loved One ( 1965 Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters, Rod Steiger)

CASSIDY- A VISIT FROM A SIX YEAR OLD

Cassidy is the youngest of our grandchildren. She is the daughter of our son Marc and his wife Jacy (ne Jacqueline). Every so often we have the privilege of hosting our grandchildren. Each of them is different in so many ways. In entertaining our fifteen year old grandson, Cameron and his friend Brendan, we were surprised to find out that they pretty much wanted to eat, sleep and play X box. We did have a truncated visit to Philly to roam the Reading Terminal and look for food. Our encounter with the historical sites, notably the Liberty Bell, ended with a quick cab ride to the 30th St. Station.

Cassidy is a horse of a different color. She is a pistol ( try and explain that term to a six year old). She is as curious as can be. “Why don’t you go to work, Grandpa?” How come there are those funny signs in your garage (large maps of PA). “Can I see your gold tooth?” Some of the questions are unanswerable.

She comes in various moods of elation and tears. “When are we going to see mommy and daddy?” Listen to me sing in my very high voice. She is a good eater and will try mostly anything. She is truly adventurous. Even when I gave her some Parmegiano Reggiano from Modena, she disliked the original taste, but said that it left a good feeling in her mouth afterward.

She is a real girl. She loves to dress well and is pretty well up in Biddy Baby styles (the junior of the American Doll). When taking her to an American Girl Doll store, she took a great deal of time to pick out an outfit for her doll. She chose the ruby slippers and informed me that it came from the Wizard of Oz. Her understanding of popular culture is truly astounding.

She is also somewhat of an actress. She may sometimes be seen singing songs of her own creation in a number of voices from Frog Man Henry to Maria Callas. She is an accomplished cheerleader. Her favorite cheer being C-A-S-S-I-D-Y. She is also an artist of repute. As I type this, she is decorating my desk blotter ( because there was nothing on it) with pictures of a girl with various hairdos from Afro to Rapunzel. When she is finished, I will tear off the page and encourage her to draw some more.

She has a delicious sense of humor and if she finds your funny bone, she will continue to tickle till she is tired of it. She interrupted me with the electric pencil sharpener which startled me into stopping. She was giggling that she made me halt this tome to pay attention to the loud noise.

She is at peace with her grandma. The first question when we pick her up is usually, “Grandma, can we do a craft?” Carol is prepared with many kinds of activities to fill up the mind of this six year old. Good thing that Carol was a teacher because Cassidy requires many activities before the day is out. Her favorite is going to the pool and sliding down the water slide. She is deliriously happy each time she does it. She lifts her head as she lands to see if G and G are watching. We always are and we are smiling.

JACKIE ROBINSON REDUX

I just saw a program called,”Boys in the Hall.” It was a description of the Negro Baseball League of the 1930’s and the `940’s. The host was Tom Brokaw and the speaker for most of the program was, Buck O’Neil, a well known Negro League player.

O’Neil recounted the trials and tribulations of the often helter skelter day to day activities, which often included very long bus trips and run down hotels. He surprised me by saying the the Negro League was the third largest African American business enterprise in the U.S. next to a black owned insurance company and a hair products and cosmetic company. That was really news to me.

Buck O’Neil was old enough to have played against Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb and all of the famous negro players- Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleton and many others. However, the one story that he told put me back in mind of my hero Jackie Robinson.

Robinson had been a great athlete at U.C. L.A. and had gone into the military in 1942. His military career ended at the end of the war and he signed on the play with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League.

Robinson had played on an integrated football team and U.C.L. A and had also played football on an integrated semi pro football team in Hawaii. When he traveled with the Monarchs, who stayed at racially segregated facilities, Robinson was not satisfied.

After a game in Kansas City, the team was heading out of town on their bus to the next city. They stopped at a gas station and began to gas up their bus. The sign on the bathroom said, “For whites only.” Robinson headed towards the bathroom. The owner of the station said, “Boy, you can’t go in there.” Robinson said, “Take the pump out of the bus and we are leaving.” The bus had two fifty gallon tanks to fill. The owner looked at the sale and said, “ You can go to the bathroom, but don’t stay in too long.” From that moment on, the Monarchs never stayed or had business with those who would not let them be at their facilities.

Buck O’Neil said that Robinson was the inspiration for the Civil Rights movement in this country and I could not agree more.

BRAGGADOCIO

Each year we have what is called, “A Community Weekend,” with our scholarship winners from the Lenfest Prep School program. We have seen about 110 young people go through the program. This is the last year. Gerry Lenfest felt that the program was becoming too expensive and that he could send three high school seniors to college for the price of one in prep schools.

The kids who were chosen for the prep schools from rural areas might not have gone to college at all. Almost all of them have actually gone and we have young people in the upcoming freshman class to men and women who are in the workforce or who are getting their masters degrees or doctorates.

Each year we see a number of them at this weekend along with the scholars from the college scholarship program. We know some of the college scholars, but the prep school kids are our family.

We were surprised last night at Gettysburg College by our prep school kids who delivered one of the nicest things that has ever happened to us in our career. For one and one half hours, they spoke about our influence on themselves personally, academically and career-wise. The headmaster of one of the prep schools spoke as did counselors from the four prep schools we dealt with for the last eleven years.

The final gift was a book of letters from a number of the scholars who both were there and were not there. There was much emotion, hugging and tears and a great deal of laughter. Our little kids who entered the program at age 13 are now thriving young men and women with responsible jobs, some with families, and some with important positions in the world of work.

The most significant thing that they told us about was that when we spoke to them, we would listen to them completely. They discerned at that moment that our attention was on them and not on something or someone else. That, for us, was the biggest compliment that they could give us.

As we watch them make their way in the world, we have great confidence that they will make things better. They already have for this couple.

A RIOT IN VANCOUVER

The Vancouver Canucks hockey team was favored to win the Stanley Cup, emblematic of the world champions of hockey. They did not win. After a tussle with their rivals, the Boston Bruins, they lost by 4 games to 3. It was a close battle and Vancouver might have won but didn’t. The night of the loss there were riots in Vancouver. 150 people were injured, fires were started, much property was damaged, cars were overturned and it went on for 3 to 4 hours.

This means that the hockey team will have to wait another year to see if they would win the Stanley Cup. It strikes me as strange that the reason for this outburst was the loss of the game. If that were true, than the Chicago Cub fans would have destroyed the entire town, for they have not won anything since the beginning of the 20th century. The Red Sox had not won anything since Babe Ruth left until 2004.

The Detroit Lions football team has not won since the 50’s and some NFL teams have never won a Super Bowl. Why is it that these fans have not started riots in those cities? Why is it that “hooliganism” at soccer matches, especially in Great Britain is so prevalent? Why are there riots in South American countries after soccer (their name is football) matches? It is all very strange to me.

I am a Brooklyn Dodger fan and have been all of my life. I was preceded by my father who was a Brooklyn Dodger fan before me. I do not remember any rioting when the Dodgers did not win a World Series until 1955 and then left Brooklyn for L.A. a few years later- no riots or hooligans.

Maybe it’s the crowd mentality, whatever that is. Is it possible to start a riot with one single person, or is there really a plan set out by people before the sporting event happens. My guess is that this stuff is all deliberate and not an accident.
I believe that these kinds of riots have their origins with one person or a group of people before the event.

The excuse maybe a loss, but the plans are set forth whether a win or a loss. After all, who asks the riot instigators who they were rooting for, or even whether they were rooting for anyone? There really are those kinds of people in the world who really do enjoy chaos ( just finished a Rick Riordan book about the conflict between chaos and order, it’s really a kid’s book, but it hits that point).

With all of the TV cameras that now adorn lampposts and other structures, it may soon come to pass that we can identify these kinds of people. Wouldn’t it be weird if they move from place to place to ply their trade?

M’KEN CHALISHEN AVEC

I owe a great deal to my maternal grandmother, Frieda Bernstein. Even as I sit here computering this blog, I look straight into her face as she stands leaning on a chair at my aunt’s wedding. She is a formidable looking person, the tallest woman in her village in the 1890’s at 5:5. She remains in my memory at some odd times when I cannot think of an English phrase that properly describes what is happening to me or to others.

There is no better word for Congressman Elliott Weiner than pascudniach, kind of a lower level weasel. She would decry her grandchildren’s slovenliness as a churben. In a situation where there was an evil overtone, she would ascribe it to the malach hamawves, the angel of death.

For the past week or so it has been unbelievably warm. So warm, in fact, that there are very few people walking the streets of Harrisburg. Usually on the days when the legislature is in doing its business, you can see a long line of lobbyists standing outside the capitol building conversing with each other and exchanging information. No such activity over the past week.

My grandmother’s description of these intensely heated dog days is to say, m’ken chalishen avec. You could actually fall away, or die from the heat. I can remember her describing the heat in the kitchen, the temperature in our tenement apartment, the weather and also the actions of some stupid person ( another way of falling down and dying is from the actions of these stuypes).

The current heat wave at the beginning of June is certainly out of place. There are those who believe that this is all part of “global warming.” There are also those who ascribe it to the end of days. It is just plain hot.

I was in such a foul mood yesterday, because I could not go on a walk along the beautiful preserved waters near the city, that I decided to go to the movies and see some mind flush picture. I ended up seeing, X men, the first class. It was not a bad movie as these Marvel epics go, but it was very depressing seeing the opening scene at a concentration camp, with one of the heroes mother’s get shot by a Nazi doctor. It did not get any better as the good guy turned into the bad guy at the end.

I finished off the day trying to cleanse my van in the garage ( which is not cooled) and patch up a wall in the garage that I had run into. By the time I was finished, I was wishing that I was back on the Norwegian Jade trawling the Ionian Sea.

Even today, going out is going to be a job. I am now considering staying at this computer and composing an impressive number of blogs. Not sure that’s going to happen.

GULLIVER TRAVELS

It’s not that Jonathan Swift wrote a book that described his travels to far off and exotic places, he just was fed up with England and wanted to get away in his own mind. Sometimes, you just have to get away. I don’t mean the current Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black either (it could have been so much funnier handled in another way). Carol and I needed to find out if I could actually have enough stamina to spend a couple of weeks away from home. The answer was a resounding yes.

We went to Bologna, Venice, got on a cruise ship and visited Santorini ( the best that there is), Mykonos, Olympia and Corfu in Greece. It’s nice to be old and still have a few bucks to do these things. We went with our good friends Bill and Kathie. The nice thing about them is that they ( especially Bill) take care of everything.

There is no one on this earth that can get better prices and arrangements on Priceline than Bill. At one point we were staying at a very nice hotel for 25 Euros. By the way, the Euro is getting stronger these days- a buck forty six. It was so much nicer when it was one for one.

We arrived in Bologna after a wonderful flight on Jet Airways ( an Indian airways). It was probably the nicest plane ride Carol and I have ever taken. This was all courtesy of Bill, who got us a deal that you can hardly believe. Yes, we had one stopover for a couple of hours in Brussels, but it was sure worth it.

We had a great tour of Bologna and a tasting tour of a Parmesano Reggiano factory. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how they make the cheese, but it is magnificent. We toured a balsamic vinegar factory with vinegar made one hundred ninety six years ago (according to the guide) and a prosciutto factory. In between we had a snack that consisted of 7 courses ( including wild boar and rabbit) and a ton of Greek dancing in which we participated. The snack, which included wine, water and beer was so overwhelming, we did not eat for a day.

We also had a town tour of Bologna, which has the honor of having the oldest university in Europe- 1088. The architecture, the churches, the parks and the gelato are the greatest. If you want you can go to school for 3 weeks and learn how to make gelato. It would really go over big here in Harrisburg. Beats the heck out of Dairy Queen.

Our time in Venice before and after the cruise was highlighted by long walks for hours in the largest tchachkie shops in the entire world. We even managed to get to Murano and buy some stuff. Our daughter in law needed some Murano jewelry and a couple of cans of the real Nutella.

The actual cruise was spectacular, if you like to eat 24 hours a day. They had some great shows. One of the acts were 4 Spanish guys, called 4ever. Three came from Spain and one from Uruguay. They were beyond great. Each of their voices could have been a fine solo. One of the young men hit a c above high c, whatever that means. I was told that he did. It was so high, I could hardly hear it.

We gambled, of course. Bill shoots craps and wins and I play the video poker machines and lose . The odds on most of these boats in somewhat lower than the usual odds in casinos. They are very nice to you, plying you with free drinks while you gamble away your Euros.

This was a perfect vacation and proof positive to me that I can still spend money. That was something that concerned me after my heart procedure.