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March 15th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, TV, Photography, Fine Printing & Design; News, Politics, History & Media

Righteous Words from Shakespeare, So Pertinent to Today’s Refugee Crisis—Read by Sir Ian McKellen

%22Mountainish Inhumanity%22
In what appears to have been November 2010, at the Savannah Film Festival, Sir Ian McKellen had occasion to read lines of Shakespeare from a play called “The Book of Sir Thomas More,” words set in the voice of More, a councillor to King Henry VIII. Shakespeare didn’t write the original, but contributed to rewriting portions of the drama with other contributors some 400 years ago. It is not a well-known work, and McKellen says here that it may have never been performed for an audience until 1964. This 5-minute youtube clip is linchpin of a good Washington Post article published today by reporter Karla Adam, the headline for which opens this post, pretty well summing up the message of the words read by Sir Ian.

Adam also reports that the text of the passage, in Shakespeare’s own handwriting, has recently been digitized by the British Museum, and is featured in a new exhibit at the Folger Library in Washington, DC. McKellen explains that earlier, a year before his appearance at the Savannah Film Festival, in London at Trafalgar Square, or St Martin-in-the-Fields, as it would’ve been known in Shakespeare’s time, a man and his gay partner were set up on three hooligans, who killed him. The location is also where in the play More gives this speech. Below is a still from the very powerful video, and click here for the video itself. You may want to first read the Washington Post article for full context as I had done before I watched it.

I’ll add a New York City note to this post, about “a celebrity sighting.” Though they don’t occur all that often here, that’s what I dub them. On two occasions my wife and son and I have had occasion to meet and speak with Sir Ian McKellen. He is approachable, down-to-earth, and charming. The first time was in 2003, soon after “The Fellowship of the Ring,” the first of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies, had premiered. The three of us had just seen the movie a few days before, and we bumped in to him at the old Weber’s Odd-Lot discount store near W 72nd St and Broadway. He was in town doing a Strindberg play on Broadway with Dame Helen Mirren. With my son Ewan, then about seven years old, we found ourselves behind him in line, while my wife was elsewhere in the store for a moment. The wait in line was long enough for me to spot him, nudge my son, and whisper who was in front of us. I leaned in a bit toward the gentleman and without invading his space, said something like, “Sir Ian, congratulations on all the great roles you have this season.” Turning toward us with a warm smile we began conversing. I mentioned we’d only a couple days earlier seen the movie and had found it breathtaking. I added, “We miss Gandalf,” thinking of the fall in to the abyss he’d suffered fighting the Balrog. Sir Ian adopted the deep voice of the Grey Wizard, and addressing Ewan especially, he intoned reassuringly, “He’ll be changed, but he’ll be back. He’ll be changed, but he’ll be back.”

The other time was a few years later, at BAM where the three of us had just seen him perform as King Lear. We waited afterward at the stage door and came out to greet the handful of fans clustered there. He spoke to each group for a few minutes, for a warm and friendly chat. He is a good and decent man, and his humanity shines through in this remarkably fluent rendering of Shakespeare words about refugees, or “strangers” as they’re called here.
Sir Ian McKellen

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March 9th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: Art, Photography, Design; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Urban Life & New York City

Catching a Precious Part of the Day, Pictures March 9 2016

With March advancing toward mid-month, Iit keeps getting dark later everyday, and on a fine day such as this one was, it was light until past 6:30. I’ve been under the weather, and so not riding my bike this week, but I got down to the Hudson River for the first time in several days late this afternoon, leaving my home office after 5:00. I left work on my desk, lest I lose the chance to see how today’s sunset would turn out, and I wondered if I’d catch much of the light. As many who know me and this blog may attest, I have an appetite for late afternoon light. The amazing thing about living on the west side of Manhattan? We happen to have great sunsets, especially right at the river edge, or standing on the bluff above in Riverside Park, peering across to the river, with New Jersey on the far shore, and the rest of the continent beyond. I live near the park, and appreciate this practically every day. My appreciation of the neighborhood—the enchanted landscape and majestic bridge amid all the urban-ness, with people running, biking, walking dogs, plus the noise, aircraft overhead, traffic rushing by on the West Side Highway, and the light—began in 1990. I moved to the upper west side that year and had a Senior Editor job with Prentice Hall Press, then a division of Simon & Schuster. PHP staff were located—not in Rockefeller Center as S&S was, and is still—but in the office tower just north of Columbus Circle known then as the Gulf & Western Building. I had a small office with a window that invited me to peer westward across the Hudson, out toward America. We were on a pretty high floor, above the thirtieth, and it used to really sway in heavy weather. They do that, one hears, but it felt a bit like being on a ship. The building overlooked Central Park on the side away from my office, a great nabe to work in from July 1990-July 1991.

Quick as I could, I scrambled down there on foot and found the light this evening was extraordinary, and still evolving as a long drawn out event. These picture were taken near the Oscar Hijuelos Tennis Courts, the handsome clay ones, located along Manhattan’s west side river at around 96th St. It was one of the finest sunsets in all the years I’ve been photographing the Great Gray Bridge, the shore, upper Manhattan, the New Jersey side, always reveling in the light and atmosphere, and it lasted longer than most. You may click here to see more from tonight. And, if you want to see more photos like these, you can visit my flickr album labeled “GGB/sunsets/Hudson.”

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March 5th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: News, Politics, History & Media

No Benefit of the Doubt for Trump—Campaign Pledges He’d Refrain from Torture, then Candidate Promises to “Go Further” than Waterboarding

Sunday March 6 Update:
The latest update to Trump’s pro-torture gambit came last night after the primaries and caucuses, when he said he wants to change the laws (“extend” them was his word) so as to permit waterboarding, and more extreme measures. So it really would be like VP Cheney again, with the Executive rewriting the laws to suit their agenda. This is an excellent article by Rosa Brooks about the possible response among the serving military to a Trump presidency. Here’s a tweet I wrote last night after the post-voting statements by Trump.


—–
Yesterday, when the Trump campaign supposedly altered the candidate’s pro-torture stance, and walked back his intention, if elected president, to compel US forces to waterboard prisoners, and commit worse illegal acts, I posted this on my Facebook page:

Annoyed that much of the media will accept ‪#‎Drumpf‬’s claim he wouldn’t try&compel US troops to break international law. All his campaign did today is walk it back, lest he seem like the wannabe war criminal he’s already repeatedly promised to be, eager to commit torture with gusto. A possible Trump presidency augurs a repeat of Cheney-ism, and the press shouldn’t fall for this hasty revision. Even the headline at TPM, “Trump Does About-Face On Torture: I Won’t Order Military to ‘Disobey’ Law,”  gives the walk-back credence it doesn’t deserve.

Turns out, as the first press release was landing in reporters’ in-boxes, Trump, at a rally in Warren, Michigan, once again promised to use waterboarding and said that the US under him “should go much further.” Thanks to Right-Wing Watch for reporting on this, and for posting the video at their website. I’m playing catch-up now to report on the incoherence of the statements of the campaign and the candidate, but will some other news-gatherers do the same? Come on media, help me out, fact-checking Trump is a full-time job!

This episode shows why Trump should never have the benefit of doubt on matters like this, or on his supposed ‘disavowal’ of David Duke and the KKK, especially because we know that a Memphis rally last week White nationalist James Edwards was given press credentials and did radio broadcasts from the hall for three hours, during which he did a lengthy interview with Donald Trump, Jr.

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March 3rd, 2016

By Philip Turner in: News, Politics, History & Media

The Republican Establishment Tries Striking Back, Finally

It’s ironic that while DEMs are worrying, pondering, and agonizing over whether our own nominee will be able to defeat the likely Republican nominee Trump, it suddenly seems, with Mitt Romney giving his well-written and well-delivered throw-down speech, they are from their upper echelons really finally going to try and prevent Trump from becoming their candidate. I’ve even noticed that neocons are massing to knock Trump out on national security grounds. I see the Party as an institution trying to muster all its internal cohesion to try and in a coordinated way deny Trump the nod, and stop what they see as a foreign invasion of the party, even with the dangers this entails now. To risk the all-out civil war that will erupt in their ranks, I believe the Rs may have internal polling and election models that show them definitely losing the presidency by a large margin, also the Senate, and even putting at risk their House majority with Trump at the top of the ticket.

The irony I began this post with applies as I end it: worried though DEMs are about vanquishing Trump and his strange celebrity charisma, it’s also possible that the Republican panics signifies what few DEMs fully believe, nervous as we are. If we do oppose Trump, we may defeat him in a landslide. If he is denied the nomination over the next few weeks, next we can worry about being deprived of the opportunity of running against him. If so, then we can begin imagining who might lead the Republican ticket—one of the remaining three, Cruz, Rubio, or Kasich—or someone as yet undeclared. Paul Ryan? Mitt Romney, again?

Meanwhile, DEMs of which I am one, will continue watching from the sidelines, with steadily rising anxiety, much more severe than in other election years, and much earlier in the cycle than is typical. We have eight months to go, and every day brings another menacing bizarreness.

Here’s a screenshot the first few paragraphs of Romney’s speech today. For the complete text, you may click here.

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February 28th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: News, Politics, History & Media

The Shape of the General Election, about Eight Months from November

I’ve read almost a half-dozen stories this morning with what feels like an explosion of updated and new reporting about the unvarnished racism and excessive authoritarianism of the Republican Party.

1)  Trump declining to disavow support by the KKK, on one Sunday morning show, and claiming he doesn’t know who David Duke is on another. About both, he told interviewers he has to consider the matter before deciding if he’ll condemn them, or not, accept their support, or not.
2) Then there’s the reminder that Rep Scalise of Louisiana, third in leadership in the House, modeled his political appeal on Duke’s popularity in the state with white nationalists, which Scalise has even conceded (He said in an early campaign, “I’m like David Duke, without the baggage.” Sorry, guy, not true anymore.)
3) I can’t leave out the revelations that Trump spoke approvingly of the Chinese government’s 1989 crackdown in Tianamen Square, praising it for being a “strong” response.
4) Nor omit the Republican frontrunner’s penchant for retweeting Mussolini quotes, which Gawker pranked him in to doing this morning.
So I have a question about all this:
If the Republicans’ racism and authoritarianism are this plain eight months before the general election—with the public and media increasingly aware of them, especially on a day like this, when it seems to have really broken through the media’s invincible shield—what is the general election going to look like in November? As I’ve written previously on this blog, there will be No “‘Etch-a-Sketch’ Moment” for Donald Trump, not after the most extreme primary campaign in my voting lifetime. (I began voting in 1976, when I got to vote for Jimmy Carter over Pres Ford). Democrats have lost some and won some over those years, so I fear anything’s possible, but really, the Republicans have run the most extreme primary campaign in my lifetime, perhaps in American history, and I don’t believe they can plausibly tack to the center after this—even if they want to—for that is the place, like or not, where most US elections are eventually won. That is where the Democrats will be, with a majority of the nation behind them.

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February 26th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: News, Politics, History & Media

About the Chris Christie Endorsement of Trump and Early Mulling on the VP Question

Trump knew wags would instantly speculate about Chris Christie as a possible VP or cabinet pick if he’s the nominee, which keeps the frontrunner ever more aloft in the news cycle. And it serves his purpose to be looking like presumptive nominee, mulling his future options, even though candidates at other times have been smacked down with ‘measuring the drapes’ attacks. But while some so-called experts will be apt to see the NJ guv as an ideal attack dog against a DEM nominee, especially Hillary in the fall, and in the VP debate. Remember though he would also bring seriously bad baggage from NJ that could blow up during the campaign. Consider that Romney declined to pick Christie after vetting him.

All this underscores how in this campaign year of all campaign years, the VP choice made by the DEMs, especially if it’s Hillary’s choice to make, will be critical because that person will among many key assets have to be 1) an articulate and agile defender of the head of the ticket, and 2) capable of batting back the insane stuff the members of the opposing ticket and their surrogates and supporters will surely be lobbing toward the DEM ticket amid a media environment that for now is still infatuated with Trump—witness CNN’s ridiculous decision to give Trump several interviews after last night’s raucous debate. With host Chris Cuomo, he of the ill-fitting sportcoats, Trump bizarrely claimed he’s been audited frequently by the IRS because he’s “a strong Christian.” Couldn’t be because he runs a sketchy business?

If Trump is the Republican nominee, the Democratic running mate will be the one tasked with parrying the daily insults, barbs, and baseless allegations made by the billionaire and his campaign.

Also a must-read today: Dana Milbank’s darkly funny column, “Donald Trump’s ‘Captain Underpants’ campaign“, where he assesses the grade level of the candidates’ statements.

 

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February 19th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: News, Politics, History & Media

Sanders’ Ugly Claim that Hillary’s Pandering to African-American Voters

I put this up on Facebook earlier today, and want to share it here, too. Could’ve written it here first—here’s a screenshot of what I wrote, and a link to it.

As some here will know, I'm supporting Hillary Clinton for president and look forward to voting for her in the April 19…

Posted by Philip Turner on Friday, 19 February 2016

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February 18th, 2016

By Philip Turner in: Personal history, Family, Friends

#TBT—Remembering Joel C. Turner, All the Way Back to May 1964

In this old photo I’m getting a hug from my brother Joel at a reception celebrating his Bar Mitzvah, circa May 26, 1964, which would’ve been Joel’s 13th birthday. I’m about 9 here. Looking at the image, I can almost remember the day.

Joel died suddenly in December 2009. A few years later, on what would’ve been his 61st birthday, I posted this remembrance of him here on The Great Gray BridgeScreen Shot 2016-02-18 at 5.48.46 PMObits also ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Publishers Weekly, and Shelf Awareness.

Thinking about him, as I do often, because Joel was a gregarious, social person, I know he would’ve enjoyed and thrived amid the advance of social media the past seven years. He had started on Facebook at the time of his death, but none of us, including him, was so aware yet, of how our lives would be influenced by this new media. Joel had early in his adulthood worked as a reporter, and always retained a prodigious appetite for knowing about what was happening in society; he really enjoyed talking with people, asking them questions, hearing what they thought, and offering his views on the matters at hand.  He and I didn’t share all the same politics, but the ways we thought about things was were still alike in many ways. He was a kind of social philosopher, and in 2000 ran for Congress on the Libertarian line in a Cleveland-area district. Growing up 3-4 years apart, we encountered many events as a pair in our five-person family—along with our sister Pamela, the eldest + our folks, Earl and Sylvia. We experienced events together, like the JFK and RFK assassinations. I recall be awoken the morning after Bobby Kennedy had been shot, our mom telling us as she woke us that day.  The summer of 1970, Joel and I drove from Ohio out to California and spent six weeks camping in a redwood forest. During that trip we adopted our dog Noah. I relate much of that personal history on this Great Gray Bridge webpage. Joel is much missed by all who knew him.Obit Joel Turner