Thursday, May 25, 2017

Orchestra New England mindful of history in free New Haven Memorial Day Conce

Image result for orchestra

NEW HAVEN >> New Haven’s Memorial Day Concert is one of the better free offerings of the weekend — graced with talent, honor and a history evident in the numbers.
For one thing, the 5 p.m. Monday event falls on Orchestra New England maestro Jim Sinclair’s 70th birthday. It’s also ONE’s 775th concert — an astounding number if there ever was one.
There is no number associated with the price of admission at the venue, Lyman Auditorium at Southern Connecticut State University, because it’s free, as is parking.
Another number is 100, since this year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of composer Leonard Bernstein and ONE will perform music from his “West Side Story” score 60 years after the show’s Broadway premiere. Click here to continue reading.

Salads with Sauteed Radishes

Sometimes being a single parent means accepting that I am imperfect, that the ability to teleport doesn’t exist and that it has to be okay that I cannot do everything.
I received a loud and clear reminder of that last week. It was impossible to mistake.
My son’s final middle school track meet of the season started just before my daughter’s ballet class. I had to drop her off, and make sure she was settled, before I could go to the meet.
That’s how I missed his first two events, both held early in the meet.
When I got to the stadium, I met him on the bleachers and we shared a snack. Quietly, I kept my fingers crossed his third event would start before I had to leave to pick my daughter up. When they called the girls’ heats, I thought maybe — just maybe — I could see him run before I left. Click here to continue reading.

Aging at Home Will Be Harder With Medicaid Cuts

Image result for medicare

In 2012, Ti Randall of New York City, who has Alzheimer’s disease, had run out of savings. His Social Security and a veteran’s pension helped cover his basic living expenses. But it took Medicaid to provide Randall with other services he needed in order to remain at home.
“He needed companionship and assistance,” says Ann Burgunder, 69, his long-time partner and caregiver. Burgunder, meanwhile, wanted and needed to continue working.
Randall’s needs have since grown. Now, at 93, he must have help bathing, dressing, cooking and toileting. At this point, “he couldn’t be left alone at all,” says Burgunder, who works as a coordinator for New York University’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Family Support Program. Through Medicaid, Randall has the services of home-care aides 12 hours a day Monday through Friday and half the day on Saturday. Medicaid also pays for his incontinence supplies, which cost more than $300 a month.
Proposed cuts to Medicaid under the American Health Care Act passed by the House recently could change life for Randall and many others. Medicaid is not only an insurance program for low-income people. It’s a lifeline for older adults like Randall who need supportive services to stay at home. At-home services are a lifeline for Medicaid as well, which would otherwise be paying for more expensive care in an institutional setting. Click here to continue reading.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Movie Review—A Quiet Passion

A Quiet Passion
A Quiet Passion.png
by Peter J. O’Connell    

A Quiet Passion. Released: April 14. Runtime: 125 mins. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, disturbing images, and brief suggestive material.

Emily Dickinson always has been a challenging figure. She challenged her family, who loved her dearly—and whom she loved—but found her “difficult.” She challenged the townsfolk of Amherst, Massachusetts—where she was born (1830), lived her entire life, and died (1886)—who witnessed the transformation of a high-spirited young woman, who might have become the “Belle of Amherst,” into “Myth Dickinson,” the reclusive woman in white who wrote from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. in her room, did not leave the family home, and spoke to visitors from the top of her home’s staircase rather than face to face.

And she challenged the literary establishment. She wrote some 1,800 poems, but only ten were published in her lifetime. Yet when her poems began to be published a few years after her death, they proved popular with readers but were put out in versions changed by her executors and editors, who did not care for—or even understand—some of her idiosyncratic, yet meaningful, wording, capitalization, and punctuation. It took until the 1950s for accurate and complete versions of her work to appear. But from 1890 to the present, Dickinson’s work never has been out of print.

The literary establishment for several decades had difficulty coming to terms with Dickinson. For example, in 1892 Thomas Bailey Aldrich, a popular author of the time, wrote: “. . . an eccentric, dreamy, half-educated recluse in an out-of-the-way New England village (or anywhere else) cannot with impunity set at defiance the laws of gravitation and grammar.” But opinion had changed by 1937, when noted critic R.P. Blackmur wrote: “Her gift for words and the cultural predicament of her times drove her to poetry instead of antimacassars . . .. She came at the right time for one kind of poetry: the poetry of sophisticated, eccentric vision.”

Women took up Dickinson’s cause. Poet Adrienne Rich wrote in 1976 that Dickinson “carefully selected her society and controlled the disposal of her time . . . she was determined to survive, to use her powers, to practice necessary economics.”

In 1994 uber-critic Harold Bloom placed Dickinson among the 26 central writers of the canon of Western Civilization.

Now in A Quiet Passion, writer/director Terence Davies takes up the challenge pf putting Emily Dickinson’s life on the screen. In the film we first encounter Emily as a student at Mt. Holyoke Female Seminary. (In the film’s early scenes, Emily is played—well—by Emma Bell; in later scenes, by Cynthia Nixon—superbly.) Emily resists the evangelical pressures at the school and returns to her family home. Her father (Keith Carradine) allows his son and two daughters some independence—but only up to a certain point. Cross that line, and he defends “propriety” as any stern Victorian patriarch would. Coming to terms with this mixed heritage may have been the challenge to Emily Dickinson’s consciousness that made her such a challenging figure to others.

The first part of A Quiet Passion has an almost Jane Austen-like quality as Emily, her sister, Vinnie (Jennifer Ehle), and a friend, Vryling Buffam (Catherine Bailey), walk in sunny gardens and engage in witty repartee, exchanging bon mots, and sometimes, in Emily’s case, firing off the mid-19th century equivalent of one-liners and insult comic-type putdowns of pretentious figures. There is also the hint of a crush on a young minister, but he is married.

As time goes on, however, the film’s tone becomes darker. In the larger world, the Civil War rages; in the domestic world, friends and family pass away. Emily devotes herself more and more to her poetry; outside scenes are no more. Brown and gray and shadows begin to predominate in the excellent cinematography. This excellence is also manifested in the careful camera movements, which convey a sense of constriction, though not of suffocation.

As Emily enters her “Myth Dickinson” phase, it is as if she deals with the cultural constriction hampering women and creative folk by voluntarily making an extreme version of it into her personal lifestyle. In some ways she is like the eponymous character in Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street,” who “prefers not to” accept the role of worker drone that he has been assigned—or to leave the workplace where he has been assigned it. Bartleby’s revolt was a quiet one, but a revolt nonetheless. So it was with Emily Dickinson, a quiet, yet passionate, revolt.

As was said at the beginning of this review, Emily Dickinson is a challenging figure to portray. But Cynthia Nixon is more than equal to that challenge. Her expertly modulated performance captures the loving essence of Dickinson, her use of imagination to maintain her independence, and her laser-like insights into the human condition, whether in an “out-of-the-way New England village (or anywhere else).”

A Quiet Passion uses read-overs by Nixon of some of Dickinson’s poems to moving effect. Curiously, there is one not read that seems to express well the Emily that we see in Davies’ well-directed film. Here is part of it:

The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door.
To her divine majority
Present no more . . .

I’ve known her . . .
Then close the valves of her attention
Like stone.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Movie Review—The Circle

The Circle (2017 film).png

by Peter J. O'Connell     

The Circle. Released: April 2017. Runtime: 110 mins. MPAA Rating: PG-13 for a sexual situation, brief strong language, and some thematic elements, including drug use.

Mae Holland (Emma Watson) is a somewhat shy, yet spunky—she kayaks solo—young woman who works in a cubicled call center in California but longs for better things. She would like to help her mother (Glenne Headly) and father (Bill Paxton, in his last film role). Her father has MS. So when Mae's application to work at The Circle, a massive high-tech corporation with many projects, is accepted, she is very happy.

The Circle, directed and co-written by James Ponsoldt, explores the world of The Circle with Mae. Mae soon discovers that The Circle, many of whose staffers are sort of human drones like the mechanical ones that fill the skies over the corporate campus, seeks to envelop her in a round of group activities both at work and after hours. Her independent spirit and the influence of Mercer (Ellar Coltrane), an ex-boyfriend who lives “off the grid,” make her a little standoffish. 

Like other staffers, however, Mae is entranced by the periodic talks given by Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), head and co-founder of The Circle, along with portly Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt). Bailey comes across as brilliant but very friendly and casual—sort of a warm-and-fuzzy version of Steve Jobs. Or maybe an “everyman hero” type like those played by Tom Hanks in the movies. Watson is lovely, with an expressive face, but the best thing about the film may be the way in which Tom Hanks plays a character who places a “Tom Hanks character” persona over his true self.

Bailey promotes the global distribution of The Circle's visual and audio products that transmit and record whatever is happening, wherever the device is. This is in fulfillment of his statement that “Knowing is good, but knowing everything is better.” The company's slogans are: “All That Happens Must Be Known” and “Privacy Is Theft.”

Mae is converted to this way of thinking when the devices help her out of a dangerous situation. She allows herself to become the poster-child for making all activities (except bathroom ones) known to all the world. She says that “Secrets are what make crime possible.”

But Mae comes to realize that what The Circle is really seeking to bring about is not a better future but an updated version of Orwell's 1984, with the pleasant-seeming (but only “seeming”) Bailey rather than glowering Big Brother as its presiding dictatorial presence.

Aided by Ty (John Boyega), a staffer who knows that The Circle's abhorrence of secrets is a lie and also knows where the corporation's own secrets lie, Mae faces a momentous decision.

The Circle raises very interesting and important questions, but the way that it answers them is rather lacking in the necessary intensity. A more “visionary” director—say, David Lynch or David Cronenberg—might have been a better choice for helmsman instead of the somewhat pedestrian Ponsoldt. But some audience members might disagree. Why not ask them as they leave the theatre and go out into the parking lot under the surveillance cameras while absorbed in their digital devices? 

Monday, May 1, 2017

99-year old golfer scores first hole-in-one.

99-year-old C.D. Madsen made his first ever hole-in-one this week at Marin Country Club.

From Gold Week.

C.D. Madsen proved this week that it’s never too late to make your first hole-in-one. The 99-year-old aced the 108-yard, par-3 16th with a six iron at Marin Country Club.
Madsen has been a member at the Novato, Calif. club for 58 years, according to Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU. It’s not like Madsen was hacking it around the course, either. He had a good round going before the ace at 16 and shot 85 on the day.
Such is the beauty of golf. Most sports are too physically taxing to continue playing past a certain age, but this is indeed a lifetime game. We don’t know of any 99-year-olds capable of dunking a basketball or hitting a home run, but the potential for an ace exists as long as one continues to tee it up.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Jean Cherni: Many seniors are, unfortunately, too trusting for their own good

Jean Cherni

Here we are on Palm Sunday with spring and all its accompanying feelings of renewal, happiness with warmer weather and a tendency to reach out in friendship toward our fellow human beings.
But readers, beware! It is also a time of increasing scams and frauds that target vulnerable and trusting seniors. A special fraud alert has been posted regarding Medicare card changes. Congress passed a law that requires the removal of Social Security numbers from all Medicare cards, which commences in April 2018. New beneficiaries will get the modernized cards first and then new cards will be issued to current or existing members.

This is being done to protect people’s identities. Some Medicare members are receiving calls asking for payment in order to receive their new card or asking to verify their Medicare number. Medicare will NEVER call to verify your number and there IS NO COST to get your new card. If you receive a call like this, hang up immediately. Click here to continue reading.