October 16, 2019

The Movie Man: ‘Joker’ Justifies Great Rating

The Movie Man, Kevin Ganey

Last month I emerged from screening It: Chapter Two with great satisfaction and went on to write a review asserting that the IT movies were practically gospel for horror fans. A month has passed and in that time, I was able to see multiple variations of reviews for the film and watch the IMDb rating drop to a 7.0 out of 10, with a dip in the 6 range highly likely in the foreseeable future.

Just last night I emerged from seeing an early showing of the highly anticipated origin story for the clown prince of crime of Gotham City, and I left with the same feeling of satisfaction, particularly with the characters and their actors’ portrayals. I chatted freely with my friend about how Joaquin Phoenix could possibly win the Oscar for his performance, making this the second time in Oscars history that two separate actors have won awards for playing the same character (the first, and so far only pair has been Marlon Brando and Joker’s very own Robert de Niro for Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II, respectively).

Phoenix would be joining said duo with the late, great Heath Ledger, who gave one of the most phenomenal performances ever in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. We parted ways for the night, and I proceeded to look up Joker on IMDb and was impressed to see that it was already on the Top 250 list at #13, but quickly saw that it holds a 62 on Metascore.

That stopped me in my tracks and made me think: “Wait a minute …”

I then proceeded to search the Rotten Tomatoes profile and saw that it held only 69 percent approval from the critics … Certified fresh, yes, but it still kept me in my spot, puzzled. I looked over to the next column to see that it holds a 92 percent rating from audiences.

This left me thinking: “Is this one of those moments when the critics don’t get what everybody loves? Or am I missing out on something?”

I will agree that there were some moments that were predictable and cliched, but that is generally the case when one is presented with an origin story for an iconic character. In this case, it is the classical fall into villainy and madness, with several rites of passage, including the first killings, that help bring Arthur Fleck to Joker, Batman’s eventual nemesis.

But I can say with pride that the movie left me satisfied when it came to finally giving the world an origin story to the Joker, whose background, until now, has been just as mysterious as it was the day he made his debut in 1940. We have been given a gritty presentation of a vulnerable man coping with mental illness clashing against a society that has so often kicked him while he was down (literally at one point).

Robert de Niro delivers, as he always does, this time as the bully talk-show host who exploits Arthur’s desperate desires to make the world smile, but while Zazie Beetz (best known from Atlanta and Deadpool 2) gave an acceptable performance, we need to acknowledge that it is because her role could have been made bigger than what she was left presented as a brief girl-next-door love interest.

So I must admit that I am hesitant to give this film a definitive, case-closed review due to my poor judgement with IT, but I can say that I would highly recommend seeing it if you have a chance. The movie may hold up, or it may very well dwindle into a disappointment, but hey, you might as well get a look while you can.

About the Author: Though no longer a resident of Lyme, Kevin knows he can never sever his roots to the tree of his identity. When not attending to his job in the elite hospitality industry of Boston, he is committed to ensuring a better grasp of current (and past) releases of cinema to his home community as he strives to leave his own mark in the same field that has always been his guide to understanding life. If you enjoy his published reviews here on LymeLine.com, why not follow him on his new website at ‘The City of Cinema and read more of his unique insights into entertainment?

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The Movie Man: No Decisions to Make: You Have To See ‘IT: Chapter Two’ AND Follow Kevin’s New Website!

Kevin Ganey

Amazing.

Just amazing.

That is the simplest description I can give for IT: Chapter Two. Although I had never read the whopping 1,000+ page novel, I could tell throughout the screening that this adaptation was just what Stephen King, Pennywise, and the Losers deserved.

IT: Chapter Two follows up on the events of Chapter One, set 27 years further. We come back on the group of outcast pre-teens, who have aptly labeled themselves “the Losers,” who return to their hometown of Derry, Maine upon learning that the mysterious entity that they refer to as “IT” has returned, commonly portraying itself as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, in one last attempt to defeat It for good.

The film is incredibly layered, so my review will not cover much of the events and the portrayals. But I can say that this was done incredibly well. Throughout the movie, I had a clear understanding of whom the characters were through and through.

That is one of King’s talents: he creates phenomenal characters. Every actor gave a stellar performance, and our attention will always be drawn towards Bill Hader as comic relief Richie (who has conveniently grown up to become a comedian.) But make no mistake: Hader nails it with the fear and desperation aspects. Not only that, the movie contains fantastic scares (if you are into such things) that had me saying to myself in a shaken and impressed manner: “Damn!”

I have seen the 1990 miniseries with Tim Curry as Pennywise, so I knew what to expect as the movie progressed, but I feel I would have enjoyed it even more had I read King’s novel. I worry about attempting to read It now, as I believe I will not be able to shake the actors from my mind as I delve into the original story.

This is a must see if you love a good movie of any genre. It is an even further necessity if you are a horror fan, almost as if it were canonical in a Horror Bible. Even if you shy away from scary movies, I definitely encourage you to find the bravery to sit through the entire two hours and 49 minutes.

About the Author: Though no longer a resident of Lyme, Kevin knows he can never sever his roots to the tree of his identity. When not attending to his job in the elite hospitality industry of Boston, he is committed to ensuring a better grasp of current (and past) releases of cinema to his home community as he strives to leave his own mark in the same field that has always been his guide to understanding life. If you enjoy his published reviews here on LymeLine.com, why not follow him on his new website at ‘The City of Cinema and read more of his unique insights into entertainment?

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Talking Transportation: Commuting Can Make You Sick

Jim Cameron

It shouldn’t come as much surprise to learn that commuting, especially by car, is hazardous to your health.

Research now shows that the longer your drive, the greater the risk of obesity, heart attacks and even low birth-weight babies for moms-to-be.  At fault are a number of factors:

STRESS: 
Being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic increases your cortisol and adrenaline levels, increasing your risk of a heart attack during your drive and for an hour after. Getting angry when someone cuts you off only makes things worse.  Increased blood pressure also leads to lack of sleep, leaving you tired even as you leave the house each morning.

OBESITY:  
The longer your commute, by car or mass transit, the more sedentary your life and the less exercise you get.  Couple that commute with fast food (and its sugar, salt and fat) and you’re at even greater risk.

BACK & NECK PAIN:   
A 2010 Gallup poll shows that a third of all people who commute more than 90 minutes a day complain of pain due to poor posture and uncomfortable seating.

POLLUTION: 
The longer you’re stuck in traffic the more bad air you breathe. A 2007 study of Los Angeles residents showed that half of their exposure to harmful air happened during their drive time.

LOW BIRTH-WEIGHT:    
Researchers at Lehigh University, studied New Jersey birth records. They found that for pregnant women commuting 50 miles each day, there was a 1 percent increase in the chance of having a low birth-weight baby for every 10 miles they traveled. Not only was “chronic maternal stress” a factor, but so too were missed doctor visits due to lack of free time.

The average commute time for Connecticut residents is 26 minutes each way, and climbing.  For Fairfield County residents going to jobs in New York City, it’s more than an hour.  And as traffic worsens and trains run slower, those commute times are climbing.

For those who bike or walk to work, the risks are lessened, but not eliminated.  The physical exertion is better for your heart, but bikers and pedestrians are still prone to collisions and accidents en route.

Just 20 years ago up to 70 percent of kids walked to school.  Now it’s only about 20 percent as the others take the school bus or are driven by Mom.  We’re turning our kids into local commuters at a very young age.

What can you do if you must commute long distances?  Plenty:

Try not to get stressed out while driving.  Leave a bit earlier than usual so you’re not grinding your teeth fearing you’ll be late.  Listen to books on tape, podcasts or something fun … not the news, which will only contribute to anxiety.  Try varying your route.  A change of scenery will keep you engaged.

On mass transit, don’t isolate yourself.  Socialize by talking to your fellow commuters (but not in The Quiet Car!)

In your automobile, keep the windows up and the air recirculating to avoid auto exhausts.  Make up for the sedentary (though stressful) drive by taking a walk at lunch.

Acknowledge the lack of control in your commute when traffic or train delays happen.  Just know that you’re doing the best you can with the things you can control … that you’re going to get there eventually and most of all that you’re trying to get their safely.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  For a full collection of  “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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A la Carte: Add Flavor to ‘Everything’ with Chile Crisp, Basil Pesto

I have written two recipes for today’s column. The recipe for chile crisp is from a writer, who always has a jar of it in his refrigerator. He puts it on everything from “eggs, guacamole [and] pizza.” It does seems spicy, so if you make it, try a little less than a quarter cup of red pepper flakes, although I like spicy, especially for breakfast.

The other recipe is the basil pesto I have made for decades. I use it in all my red sauce recipes, often in stews and love it by itself for pasta. I don’t have a garden this year, but friends are giving me big handfuls of basil and my pals on the board of education gave me a gift certificate for superb olive oil at Capizzano in Pawcatuck. I have a bag of pine nuts in the freezer. My food processor does all the rest.

Chile Crisp

From ‘Bon Appetit,’ August, 2019

4 small shallots, thinly sliced
cloves from 2 heads of garlic (yes, heads of garlic)
6 star anise pods
2 cinnamon sticks
1 and one-half cups vegetable oil
2 inch knob of ginger
one-quarter cup red pepper flakes
2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar

Yield: 2 cups

In a medium saucepan, toss shallots and garlic over medium heat along with star anise pods and cinnamon sticks and vegetable olil. Cook, reducing heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer and swirling pan occasionally until shallot and garlic are browned and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes (it is important to go slow.)

Peel and very finely chop ginger. Mix in a medium bowl with red pepper flakes, soy sauce and sugar. Strain shallot mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into ginger mixture. Let shallots and garlic cool in sieve (they will crisp further.) Add to sauce.

Advance preparation: chili crisp can be made one month ahead. Cover and chill.

Making basil pesto. Photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash

Pesto alla Genovese

(from ‘365 Ways to Cook Pasta’ by Marie Simmons, Harper Collins, New York, 1988)

I triple or quadruple (or more) and freeze pesto in small zipper plastic bags. The pesto will last for more than a year and will thaw in minutes.

Yield: 1 cup or enough for 1 pound of pasta

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup pignoli (pine nuts)*
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated armesan cheese**

Finely chop basil, nuts, garlic and salt in a food processor. With processor still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream through the feed tube until mixture is thoroughly blended. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese.

Freeze in tiny freezer bags. When ready to use, you can thaw the pesto in freezer bag between your two hands.

*Pine nuts are very expensive but worth it. However, walnuts can be used. The flavor will be different but still tasty.

**Please do not use the grated cheese that comes in those containers that sit on the supermarket shelf. You cannot believe what a difference fresh, high-quality cheese makes. A good supermarket will grate Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for you (I have them grate Parmigiano-Reggiano and Romano together, which drives purists crazy) and you can store the cheese in an air-tight container in your refrigerator or freezer. Even better, buy a small chunk and grate it yourself as you need it.

About the Author: Lee White, a local resident, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Times and Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 

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Reading Uncertainly: ‘The Meaning of Human Existence’ by Edward O. Wilson

Who are we?

Edward O. Wilson, the eminent Harvard biologist and noted student of ants, describes our strange species in a remarkable and memorable book. In 15 brief, succinct and challenging chapters, each less than 10 pages, he suggests that, at once, we are far more and far less than we imagine.

His is a daunting title but the contents live up to expectations.

First, far less: homo sapiens have existed through a modest six millennia, a mere blip in the 13-plus billion years of our universe, the 4.5 billion years of this earth and the 400 million years of other “species on earth.” And this earth is but a “mote of stardust near the edge of our galaxy (an estimated hundred billion star systems make up the Milky Way galaxy) among a hundred billion or more galaxies in the universe.”

And even among the other species here on this planet, “how bizarre we are as a species … we are chemosensory idiots” when compared to most of them. “Our species is almost unconscious of most stimuli.”

But we are unusual.

We have the “capacity to imagine possible futures, and to plan and choose among them,” the “ability to invent and inwardly rehearse competing scenarios of future interactions.”

Dr. Wilson compares the “humanities” to “science.” The humanities tell us “what,” “the particularities of human nature back and forth in endless permutations, albeit laced with genius and in exquisite detail,” while science increasingly is needed to tell us “why.”

Are we trapped in our own egos?

In Chapter 11, The Collapse of Biodiversity, we seem to be knocking off many species, only to find more.  But “ … without nature,  finally, no people!” “The human impact on biodiversity, to put the matter as briefly as possible, is an attack on ourselves!” This re-confirms the famous Pogo adage, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Wilson suggests we remember the acronym HIPPO: Habitat loss; Invasive species; Pollution: Population growth; and Overharvesting. These may be the most important challenges our species face.

Has the human creation of religions helped? Wilson is dubious.

Religion’s “history is as old or nearly so as that of humanity itself. The attempted resolution of its mysteries lies at the heart of philosophy.” But “the great religions are also, and tragically, sources of ceaseless and unnecessary suffering.”

He adds: “the true cause of hatred and violence is faith versus faith, an outward expression of the ancient instinct of tribalism. Faith is the one thing that makes otherwise good people do bad things.” Many will find this offensive but it is a considered opinion, backed up with solid examples. Wilson summarizes thus, “the best way to live in this real world is to free ourselves of demons and tribal gods!”

He returns to the balance of science and the humanities; the latter describe “the human condition,” while science “encompasses the meaning of human existence.”  We are “an accident of evolution,” from herbivore to carnivore, from wanderer to static, from small families to multiple “tribes.” And “when an individual is cooperative and altruistic, this reduces his advantage in competition to a comparable degree with other members, but increases the survival and reproduction rate of the group as a whole.” No wonder we have conflicting views of how to respond …

Dr. Wilson’s conclusion: “Are human beings intrinsically good but corrupted by the forces of evil, or the reverse, innately sinful yet redeemable by the forces of good? Are we built to pledge our lives to a group, even to the risk of death, or the opposite, built to place ourselves and our families above all else? Scientific evidence, a good part of it accumulated during the past twenty years, suggests that we are both of these things simultaneously. Each of us in inherently conflicted.”

“If the heuristic and analytical power of science can be joined with the introspective creativity of the humanities, human instinct will rise to an infinitely more productive and interesting meaning.”

After each chapter, I had to stop and reflect on Wilson’s ideas, taking many notes.

And I plan to re-read it in its entirety next year.

Editor’s Note: ‘The Meaning of Human Existence’ by  Edward O. Wilson, was published by W. W. Norton  & Co., New York, 2014.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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Legal News You Can Use: How do you Know When to Return to Work after a Burn Injury?

Photo by Cullan Smith on Unsplash.

Burn injuries are serious. They can lead to infections, deformities and other chronic issues with your body. Severe burns range from the most painful to those that leave you without the nerve endings you need to recognize pain.

When you’re at work and exposed to fire, hot items or chemicals that could cause burns, you must take steps to stay safe. Those steps could be anything from wearing appropriate personal protective gear to staying a distance away from hot objects.

After a burn injury, returning to work can be frightening. However, there are many resources that can help you return to work. One benefit offered by workers’ compensation, for example, is training for a new position or job so that you can return to work when you are able.

How do you know when you’re ready to return to work?

There are a few ways that you will start noticing that you are ready to return to work.

  • Your medical provider has stated that you are physically capable or safe to return to work
  • Your health care provider agrees that you are mentally or psychologically prepared to return to work
  • You feel you have the support and guidance to return to the job
  • You and your employer have discussed having you return to work and the role you would take on

Not everyone gets to a point where they can return to work, especially with serious burn injuries. However, if you feel you are ready, you may be able to train for a new position away from hot items or be able to return to your old position with new safety steps in place to prevent similar accidents in the future.

Editor’s Note: This is a Sponsored Post from Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law.

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Talking Transportation: The Train Ride From Hell 

Jim Cameron

It was the railroad trip from hell:  the hottest day of the year, stuck for five hours on a sold-out Amtrak train where only half the cars had air conditioning.

The ride to Washington days earlier had been uneventful, almost on time and pleasantly cool, even though I’d made the mistake of taking a Northeast Corridor train, not Acela.  Its older Amfleet cars, though recently refurbished on the inside, are still 50-years-old.

But coming back from Washington on a torrid Sunday, by cheaping out for the slower, less expensive train I got what I’d paid for.  Put another way, I didn’t get what I’d paid for.

Already a half-hour late arriving in Washington from Newport News Va., train #88 arrived on one of DC’s low-level platforms, meaning boarding passengers had to cue up for about 30 minutes before even being allowed on the platform to board.

One of the station agents said that “extra cars” had been added in Washington, so I immediately headed to the front of the train where I assumed the new cars would be empty.  It was already 98 degrees in DC, heading for a “feels like” high that day of 110, so I was looking forward to the super-AC Amtrak is known for.

No such luck, as even the newly added cars were only slightly cooler than outside.  That’ll improve when we get going, I thought.

Wrong!

By Baltimore it was getting hot and the fan system was intermittent.  Pleas for help to the conductors brought nothing more than promises that “they’ll try to reset the system in Philly,” another hour away.

In desperation I turned to social media, Tweeting sarcastically about Amtrak’s new “Sauna Cars”.  Direct messaging to @Amtrak brought no response.

The train was getting later and later on its schedule, partly because of the heat’s adverse effect on the power lines and potential warping of the rails. Knowing there’d be a lot of passengers getting off and on in Philly, I plotted my move to one of the few cars with breathable air.  Success … a cooler, though not cold, car with seats.

At Philadelphia, nothing changed, though we did learn that five of the 10 cars on this train bound for Boston carrying 700+ passengers were without air conditioning.

The DC conductor crew never apologized, though they did offer small, free bottles of water, which quickly ran out. But when a new set of conductors boarded in New York, the tone changed significantly.

“We apologize folks.  This is not the kind of service we want to provide or you deserve.  Please call 1-800-USA-RAIL and register a complaint.  If the cars don’t reset after New York, we’ll try again at New Haven,” said one conductor on the PA system.

We got off in Stamford, arriving 90 minutes late, so I don’t know if the cars ever did get cooler during the next four hours run to Boston.

The next day I called Amtrak Customer Service.  A 20+ year veteran agent commiserated, empathized and got me a refund voucher.

“Those old Amfleet cars shouldn’t be refurbished, they should be retired,” she said.  “Their air conditioning is either on or off.  There’s no moderating the temperature.  Next time you should take Acela,” she added.

Never mind that Acela costs twice as much.  Its AC works and it’s mostly on time! I’ve learned from my mistakes.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  For a full collection of  “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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A la Carte: Baby Carrot Soup is Best Served Chilled

Okay, I am having more fun this summer than I have in, at least, two years.

Last year was fine, too, as was the summer before. But this year, I am pain-free, since I had my hip replacement on July 1. A couple of Sundays ago I went to our boules party and saw people I rarely see except during the summer and our Christmas party in early December. I am not on a team this year, but I was able to throw a couple of boules (the game itself is called pétanque, while the stainless steel balls are called boules, but we all call the game boules, too). If they need a fill-out a team for the next two games, I can actually play.

I am also having such a good time with my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) produce. Unlike most farms, I can pick anything I want that is available at the farm stand. Last week I bought about eight pounds of tomatoes, some green frying peppers, a big loaf of bread (made by the chef of the Oyster Club in Mystic) and almost three bags of baby carrots.

Now, let us talk about baby carrots. The carrots I bought were about the length of my pinkie finger, but even thinner, and the carrot tops were still attached. They are nothing like the “baby carrots” you buy at the supermarket. Those carrots are pared and thrown into a machine to make them look as if they are all the same size.

Sure, they are really carrots, but the ones I bought are tiny, sweet and still taste like the soil they grew in. I ate a lot them, then made a carrot soup I chilled and served with a dollop of sour cream (or crème fraiche.) I found the recipe online, but added a few fillips.

Of course, feel free to use big or smaller supermarket carrots.

 

Chilled Baby Carrot Soup

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 medium  sweet onion, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced thin
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 pound of carrots, pared and diced (if they are really baby carrots, just clean them of tops and soil)
1 carton of low-salt chicken stock or vegetable stock
One-half teaspoon each of salt and yellow curry (I was out of Indian curry so I added a little red chili paste)
One-quarter teaspoon red pepper flakes (use less if you don’t like things too spicy)
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, add oil over medium heat. Add onion, ginger and garlic. Cook until just translucent, about 5 minutes. Add diced carrots and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. Add stock and cook until just boiling, then reduce heat and add salt and yellow curry (or a quarter teaspoon or less red or yellow chili paste and/or red pepper flakes). Cook on medium-low for about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for at least an hour.

Using an immersion stick (which I do not have, I used my big Ninja), purée the soup. Put it back on the heat and add a can of coconut milk. Cook until hot and taste for seasoning. You can serve the soup hot, but I chill it and serve it cold with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche.

About the Author: Lee White, a local resident, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Times and Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day. 

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Reading Uncertainly? ‘Identity’ by Francis Fukuyama

Stanford University’s Francis Fukuyama always challenges our minds. From his The End of History and the Last Man, addressing our futures after the end of the Cold War (1992), and continuing with The Origins of Political Order (2011) and Political Order and Political Decay (2014), two monster 600+ page tomes, his newest, and briefest (a slim 183 pager!) is Identity.

Who on earth are we? Fukuyama sees we humans as trying to manage, simultaneously, two conflicting pressures. The first is “isothymia,” — “the demand  to be respected on an equal basis with all other people,” and “megalothymia” — “the desire to be recognized as superior.”  This disparity has “historically existed in all societies; it cannot be overcome; it can only be channeled or moderated.”

He continues: “Contemporary identity politics is driven by the quest for equal recognition by groups that have been marginalized by their societies. But that desire for equal recognition can easily slide over into a demand for recognition of the group’s superiority.”

His themes are thymos (the third part of the soul), recognition, dignity, identity, immigration, nationalism, religion and culture. He calls on many earlier observers: Socrates, Luther, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Hobbes, Locke, Mill, Nietzsche, Herder, Adam Smith, Sartre, Freud, and Kahneman, arguing that the demand for dignity, “should somehow disappear is neither possible nor desirable.” Resentment at indignities remains a powerful force, a “craving for recognition” we must learn to understand and balance.

National identities are “critical for the maintenance of a successful political order.” They begin with a “shared belief in the legitimacy of the country’s political system, whether that system is democratic or not.” They include physical security, quality of government, economic development, “a wider radius of trust,” and strong social safety nets, all of which eventually make possible “liberal democracy itself.”

His chapter on religion and nationalism is particularly challenging. Can people who share a particular culture and language be subsumed into a global belief system (Hinduism; Buddhism; Communism; Islam; Christianity)? Probably not, but these systems continue to try. The advent of social media makes “identity” now the property of groups, not individuals.

Fukuyama cannot resist a comment of Trump, a “political figure who almost perfectly describes … narcissism: narcissism led Trump into politics, but a politics driven less by public purposes than his own inner need for public affirmation.” And “Trump (is) the perfect practitioner of the ethics of authenticity that defines our age: he may be mendacious, malicious, bigoted, and un-presidential, but at least he says what he thinks.”

“What is to be done?” he asks.  One, ”confusion over identity” is a “condition of living in the modern age.” Two, a “pan-European identity may someday emerge.” Three, “education is the critical ingredient”, but it must include a process of universal not parochial values, economic mobility, interdependence, and a growing exposure to other humans and their customs.

We humans seem to be simultaneously breaking down walls and building new ones!

Editor’s Note: ‘Identity’ by Francis Fukuyama was published by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York 2018

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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Reading Uncertainly? ‘The Soul of America’ by Jon Meacham

This is an engrossing reflection on past American leaders, elected and publicly acknowledged, and how they have shaped our peculiar, yet resilient, form of governance.

Meacham leads us in a thorough review of our history: early (and conflicted) visions, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, its aftermath (Reconstruction, the Klu Klux Klan), Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and our entry into world affairs, the Depression, FDR, McCarthyism, Martin Luther King, and LBJ. Throughout he gives us the sense that all human beings, and, indeed, our so-called “leaders,” are both selfish and altruistic, often at the same moment.

We are both hopeful and fearful. It is, again, a story of trying to organize ourselves when we are simultaneously rational and irrational.

Meacham is a storehouse of relevant quotes from earlier observers. As an example, his last six pages cite 28 comments of others, often at length.

But his narrative ends with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yes, that was a momentous achievement, but our scrambling did persist thereafter. As Sean Wilentz, in his New York Times review on June 10, 2018 explained, “Suddenly we are thrust back into the present with little understanding of how we got here from there”. What has gone wrong, or has, indeed, anything gone wrong? Are we simply, as so often in the past, struggling to find reasonable courses of action, both domestically and internationally?

Perhaps an answer lies in his quote of Eisenhower on leadership: “It’s persuasion – and conciliation – and education – and patience.” But are we ready, even willing, to accept that rational guidance?

Throughout, the author cites our very human compulsion to accept ”the most ancient of institutions, a powerful chief” connected to “the more modern of institutions, a free, disputatious populace.” Can they work together? Is our system really worthwhile (a strong executive, balanced by an equally strong legislature and judiciary)?

I continue to look with envy at a system almost as old (created in 1848), the one in Switzerland: seven rotating presidents, each serving a one year term, with a strong Assembly and local cantonal legislatures. And the Swiss employ four languages! It works and it has much less publicity …

Meacham’s five concluding “ideas”: (1) Enter the Arena, (2) Resist Tribalism, (3) Respect Facts and Deploy Reason, (4) Find a Critical Balance, and (5) Keep History in Mind.

Keep listening, reading, and thinking!

Editor’s Note: ‘The Soul of America’ by Jon Meacham was published by Random House, New York in 2018.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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A la Carte: Corn Cacio e Pepe is a Perfect Summer Dish

Writing is a solitary pursuit, but, unless you write science fiction or fantasy stories, you become one with your protagonists, whether victims or predators. But if you write nonfiction, and I consider food writing nonfiction, you picture yourself with your readers and, in most cases, you have to go out to learn what you eat, what to shop for and what to cook.

I have been writing about food for decades. Much of that time, I have been writing in New England, some in Massachusetts and, during the best time, on the Connecticut shoreline. For the past three weeks, I have been just incommunicado, first for two days in the hospital getting a new hip, the rest of the two weeks at home.

I have a three-story condo. For three days, I slept on the couch. I made the stairs by the middle of the week, sleeping in my own bed on the second floor, but that trek was difficult. As I write this, I am up and down many times a day, have been driving for eight days, went to a movie with friends and ate a Norm’s for breakfast once and Olio twice (a lunch and a dinner). Yesterday I got my hair done and went to two meetings, a total of six hours.

As I sit on my desk working on my computer, writing two columns, I realize that I have missed you more than anything.

When my marvel of a daughter left for California, I was bereft. And scared.

My next-door neighbors spent lots of time with me, even helping me clean the cats’ litterbox and carted it, and other garbage, off to the dumpster. My appetite is just coming back, so I lived on eggplant parm my daughter made (what a dish, recipe coming in a few weeks), Chinese takeout my friends bought at Golden Lantern in Uncasville, and leftovers from Sneekers (chicken and penne) and meals from Olio (mini hamburger salad and veal piccata) 

I didn’t cook for two weeks, but I am cooking again now.

Whittle’s (and probably lots of local farms) has Silver Queen corn. This recipe, plus fresh local sliced tomatoes, means I am happy once again.

Corn Cacio e Pepe

From Bon Appetit, June/July 2019

Yield: 4 servings

16 ounces gemelli, orecchiette or other medium pasta
3 cups corn kernels (from 3 large ears)
8 ounces aged Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, finely grated (about 2 cups), plus more for serving
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving

Fresh, sweet corn is a key ingredient of this delicious recipe. Photo by Virgil Cayasa on Unsplash

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; add corn about 30 seconds before pasta is done cooking. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta and corn to the pot.

While pasta is cooking, toss cheese and 2 teaspoon peppers in a medium bowl to combine. Add one-third cup cold water and use a fork to mash mixture into thick paste (try to get it as smooth as possible). Still mashing, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until paste is about the consistency of cream cheese.

Add cheese mixture to pot with pasta and corn. Using a rubber spatula, toss pasta until cooked  (the cheese mixture will be too thick to form a sauce at this point). Tossing constantly, add reserved pasta cooking liquid a splash at a time, until a glossy sauce forms. (It should still be fairly thick.)

Transfer pasta to a large bowl and top with more cheese and a few additional grinds of pepper.

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Reading Uncertainly?  ‘Doing Justice’ by Preet Bharara

This is an entrancing, literate, and thought-provoking review of the experiences of the former U. S Attorney for the fabled Southern District of New York, now on the faculty of the NYU School of Law.

 “Justice is a broad and hazy subject”, he writes. “It is one of the most elusive and debatable concepts known to mankind, and disagreements over its meaning have spawned revolutions, religions, and civil wars.”  He argues its importance as “it seems preferred these days to demonize one’s opponents rather than engage them, to bludgeon critics rather than win them over. There is creeping contempt for the truth and expertise. Rigor is wanting everywhere. We swim in lies, never corrected … This moment in America (is) alarming.”

This is an odyssey of Bharara’s own experiences, focusing on many legal cases, a continuing search for “justice” found in engaging stories of human frailty. He argues for balance: “I have not only a healthy skepticism for the potential guilt of any suspect but also the necessary converse, skepticism of the innocence of any person.”  He adds, “the key is to make sure that prudent hesitation does not turn into paralysis and that responsible aggressiveness does not turn into recklessness.”

 His chapter on “Confirmation Bias”, natural to all of us, argues that every conclusion must be subject to challenge and revision.”  That on “Curiosity and Query” suggests that “dumb questions” are often the best to ask. That on “The Principles of Interrogation” note that “patience and humanity outperform threats and brute force every times” as proven in experience at Guantanamo. That on “Continuity and Change” concludes that “mindless adherence to old ways is, I think, worthy of mockery. Tradition is good and useful and grounding. But lazy habit and knee-jerk hostility to change are not tradition: they are an intellectual strati jacket.”

 Bharara presents his thoughts because, he argues, today “a crisis persists in public discourse and political debate. It is coarse and vicious and tone-deaf. Truth is a victim of self-interest and extreme tribalism, as are decorum and respect. The very notion of civility — and even the need for it – are hotly debated. Meanwhile the political tribes insulate themselves more than ever.”

This worried lawyer concludes with some cogent counsel: (1) “Justice, as I keep repeating, is done by human beings.” (2) Much of the time, your most important job as a lawyer is not to talk; it is to listen.” And (3)  “ …  probability is not certainty, and the uncertainty is always palpable.”.

I have a young grand-daughter, who has expressed interest in the law: I’m sending a copy of Preet Bharara’s challenging book to her to encourage that interest.

Editor’s Note: ‘Doing Justice’ by  Preet Bharara was published by  Alfred A. Knopf, New York in 2019.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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The Movie Man: ‘Spider-Man: Far From Home’ is Deemed an “Entertaining Delight”

Kevin Ganey

New York City’s web-slinging superhero takes the stage all the way across the pond in Marvel’s newest installment, Spider-Man: Far from Home, and proves to be an entertaining delight.

Following up on the events of Avengers: Endgame in which the half of universal life that disappeared in what is referred to as “the Blip” has returned, Peter Parker and his classmates venture on a summer trip to Europe, where he unfortunately must confront another villain during his eager attempts to sway his crush, MJ.

We will notice that the iconic superhero, who debuted nearly 60 years ago, has been re-imagined in many ways. Aunt May is relatively young, Mary Jane is no longer a red-head and is now a different race — she also has a macabre sense of humor.

Changes in technology play a part in the plot, drones in particular, as well as internet-based news (this you will only see if you stay for the two post-credits scenes shown in every Marvel movie, and you will be more than satisfied to see the return of another important character in Spider-Man’s life, as well as the actor whose shoes nobody else can fill).

Tom Holland continues to deliver as Spider-Man, especially as his boyish looks allow us to believe that he really is a high school student, in contrast to the previous two actors who portrayed this character. Jake Gyllenhaal also delivers as Quentin Beck/Mysterio. In fact, the whole cast delivers on their performances, there was not a single character that I was not taken in by.

Photo by Muhd Asyraaf on Unsplash

There are only three complaints I had upon exiting the movie: the plot is somewhat predictable, the music just doesn’t live up to the hype of the action, and the design of Spider-Man’s suits. Okay, maybe the last one is based on a personal preference, but I still hold the design of the suits used in Sam Raimi’s trilogy to be extremely cool with the appearance of the “web” and “eyes.”

But you will get many laughs out of this flick, as Marvel is expected to deliver on this aspect. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Marvel always excels while DC’s movies tend to disappoint. Marvel makes their characters lovable and gives you a good time, without experiencing any form of despair, somewhat of a theme for DC.

If you are a Marvel fan, seeing this latest installment is a must.

If you are not a Marvel fan, I highly recommend you see this anyway because this movie will entertain you, either way (and isn’t that what the movies are all about?)

About the Author: Kevin Ganey has lived in the Lyme/Old Lyme area since he was three-years-old, attended Xavier High School in Middletown and recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a degree in Media Studies. Prior to his involvement here at LymeLine.com, he worked for Hall Radio in Norwich, as well as interned under the Director of Communications at High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center. Kevin has a passion for movies, literature, baseball, and all things New England-based … especially chowder.

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Talking Transportation: Airlines That Are No More

Which airline company will disappear next into the clouds? Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash.

Rail fans call them “fallen flags”… railroads that are no more, like the original New Haven and New York Central Railroads.  But before I start getting all misty-eyed, let’s also pay homage to airlines that have flown away into history.

Like PEOPLExpress, the domestic discount airline ,which flew out of Newark’s grungy old North Terminal starting in 1981.  Fares were dirt cheap, collected on-board during the flight and checked bags cost you $3.  You even had to pay for sodas and snacks.  The airline expanded too fast, even adding a 747 to its fleet for $99 flights to Brussels, and was eventually merged with Continental under its rapacious Chairman Frank Lorenzo, later banished from the industry by the Department of Transportation.

There were any number of smaller, regional airlines that merged or just folded their wings, including MidwayL’ExpressIndependence AirAir CaliforniaPSA and a personal favorite, Midwest Express, started by the Kimberly-Clark paper company to shuttle employees between its mills and headquarters in Milwaukee.

Midwest flew DC-9’s, usually fitted with coach seats in a two-and-three-configuration, but equipped instead with business-class two-and-two-leather seats.  Meals were free and included fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

We all probably remember the fallen giants like TWA (acquired by American Airlines), Eastern Airlines (also gobbled up by Lorenzo), Braniff (which even flew a chartered Concorde at one point between Washington DC and Dallas TX) and Pan American (which was the US’s semi-official overseas airline for decades.)

And let’s not forget more recent carriers like Continental, merged with United Airlines in 2012 or US Airways (previously known as Allegheny Airlines), which was taken over by American Airlines in 2015.  Or how about the old Northwest Orient, which Delta took over in 2008?  I especially remember flying AmericaWest before its 2005 merger with USAir.

And then there were the name-change carriers, like ValueJet which rebranded as AirTran after a deadly crash in the Florida Everglades in 1996 following a series of maintenance and safety issues.  A 1982 crash of an Air Florida jet taking off in a Washington DC snowstorm quickly grounded that airline for financial reasons.

Anyone remember the Trump Shuttle, successor to Eastern Airlines’ Boston – LaGuardia – DC hourly service?  It only flew for three years but innovated such in-flight technology as GTE’s Airphone.  You could even rent laptops for use in-flight.

But did you know that the cruise ship line Carnival once had its own airline of the same name?  Its fleet of 25 jets funneled passengers to their ships in Fort Lauderdale until 1997 when Pan Am took it over, only to itself go belly-up months later.

Another quirky little airline was MGM Grand Air which flew JFK to LA in an all first-class, luxury configuration. There were swiveling lounge seats, private cabins, an onboard chef and even in-flight fax machines. Their 727 carried only 33 passengers and operated out of a private terminal at LAX, making it very popular with camera-shy celebrities. One way fares were $1400.

But did you know that there was also a Hooters Air, modeled after the restaurant chain of the same name? From 2003 to 2006 the seven plane fleet featured business class seating at low fares and in-flight meals served by, you guessed it, tight t-shirt clad Hooters Girls. The restaurant chain is still going, but the airline folded after $40 million in losses.

Jim Cameron

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. 

You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  For a full collection of  “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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Talking Transportation: Summer Vacation … Fly or Drive?

Photo by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

Going on vacation this summer?  If so, the question is … how to travel: drive, take the train or fly? (I’m eliminating the bus option because, well, life is too short to endure that kind of misery.  I have no problems with commuting by bus, but a 10-hour ride is not going to happen!)

In most cases, the choice depends on how far you’re traveling and what your budget allows. For trips of 300 miles or less, the train is my first choice … assuming it goes where I want.  In the Northeast, Amtrak service is frequent, convenient and affordable.  But to other destinations, not so much.

But it also depends on how many are in your ‘party’ (and traveling with your family is always a party, right?) because traveling as a family of four can add up, especially when each member needs a ticket.  Even going into New York City can be cheaper by car (including tolls and parking) than on Metro-North when you have three or more people.

Flying is faster, but maybe not if you include all of the door-to-door time: driving to the airport, arriving two or three hours before departure, checking your bags, going through security, then after arrival at your destination grabbing your bags, finding your rental car, driving to your destination.  In most cases by train, you go from city-center to city-center.  And by car, well, you get to determine where you’re going.

By train you get to see the country.  But so too with driving.  Train travel is pretty stress-free.  Not so with driving, and certainly not in flying.

In about eight hours you can drive 400+ miles, even with pit-stops.  If two drivers can share the behind-the-wheel duties, a full 12-hour day’s worth of driving can easily get you 700 miles.  That’s almost the distance to Chicago or maybe Atlanta.  But staying alert can really take its strain, so be sure to take frequent breaks and caffeinate.

Of course, having kids on board can complicate things … more stops, more whining.  “No, we’re not there yet!  Play with your Gameboy.”

If you’re confused about the fly-drive value calculations, there’s a great website that can help:  the Be Frugal Fly or Drive Calculator.  Plug in the information … origin, destination, make and model of car, driving hours … and voila!  The app will figure the cost for both alternatives, even including highway tolls and your car’s mpg.  Mind you, gas prices are heading up this summer, so factor that in too.

The final issue is safety.  You do want to arrive alive, right?

It used to be on airlines that after you landed the flight attendant would say something like “The safest part of your journey has just ended, so drive safely”.  Statistically, that’s true.

Federal safety stats say that one person dies for every 100 million vehicle miles traveled.  (Interestingly, Connecticut’s statistics are lower than the national average). Still, there are a lot more highway crashes than air disasters. In 2018 there were no fatalities on US commercial flights and worldwide, only one fatal accident for every 300 million flights.

The National Safety Council says you have one chance in 114 of dying in an automobile crash, but only one chance in 9,821 of dying on a flight.  You’re eight times likelier to die by drowning on vacation.

Thanks to the stronger US economy, a lot more people will be taking a vacation this summer.  A little planning and you should be able to save time and money.  So, bon voyage!

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media.

Jim Cameron

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. 

You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  For a full collection of  “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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The Movie Man: We Really Didn’t Need ‘Toy Story 4’ … Pixar Should Have Stopped At Number Three

Kevin Ganey

Corporate Disney has tossed away creative Disney’s masterpiece ending of Toy Story 3 and continued the series in a shameless attempt to rake in even higher profits.

The third installment presented us with one of the most beautiful endings in movie history, in which grown-up Andy hands his boyhood toys to the next generation of children, and tearfully waves goodbye to his favorite, Woody, who mutters “So long, partner.” Anybody watching the third film could tell this was the perfect way to end a series revolving around some of the most lovable characters in cinema. Because of this, many of us were scratching our heads when we learned that Pixar would be producing a fourth installment of the series.

As the years have gone by, I have had the ability to reflect on the world of Woody, Buzz, Slink, Jessie, and the Potato Heads and realized that all feature films, and even short films, revolve around the same plot formula: a toy goes missing, and the others must embark on a journey to bring it back. One could imagine my disappointment upon screening the trailer for the first time and observing that the plot remains the same for every film.

In the fourth part of this potentially endless series, Bonnie, their new owner, is off to Kindergarten, and Woody sneaks into her backpack and uses subtlety to help her create a new toy from the trash bin: Forky (Tony Hale of Veep and Arrested Development … to be honest, I’m always disappointed to see his characters with an in-tact left hand.) But Forky jovially identifies as trash and is always looking to return to the nearest garbage bin, much to the chagrin of Woody, who seems to be looking for something to fill his time as he is being played with less and less.

On a family road trip, Forky escapes and Woody dutifully goes to retrieve him, but on the way back runs into Bo Peep, who now lives an adventurous lifestyle as a “lost” toy near an antique store and temporary carnival. I particularly got a kick out of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s characters, Ducky and Bunny (aptly-named stuffed critters, who are prizes at the carnival), as well as the sub-plot of Buzz listening to his “inner-voice.”

Major film buffs will take pleasure in noticing one of the creepy songs that plays in the antique store where we meet our antagonist, a baby-doll named Gabby Gabby (voiced by Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks.)

The viewer will observe that identity and vocation are the dominant themes during their screening. It’s never too early to teach little children about who they are meant to be and what their purpose is in society.

But I do hold some complaints about this installment, as the conflict does not stand out as was the case in the three previous films (escaping a sadistic pre-teen boy, Woody being kidnapped by a self-centered toy collector, and being held prisoner by a disenchanted toy at a day care center). The urgency does not match what was previously presented to us viewers, which I believe was also what made Finding Dory a disappointment.

However, Toy Story 4 remains an enjoyable flick.

Unnecessary, but enjoyable.

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Legal News You Can Use: What is a Nonadversarial Divorce?


Sponsored Post from Suisman Shapiro Attorneys-at-Law 

If you are in a situation where you and your spouse agree that a divorce is the right path, then you may want to pursue a nonadversarial divorce. The nonadversarial divorce process takes only 35 days at most and doesn’t require you to go before the judge. Typically, a divorce takes three or more months.

What makes you eligible for a nonadversarial divorce?

You may be eligible for a nonadversarial divorce if you have been married nine or fewer years, are not pregnant, have no children (adopted or biological), have no real property or interests, have no pending bankruptcy and have no property owned over $80,000 in value.

You will also have to show that there are no protective orders or actions for the dissolution of your marriage pending at the time you apply for the nonadversarial divorce. If so, you may need to wait for those to be dismissed.

You might ask yourself who would pursue this type of divorce, but there are many people with few marital assets and no children. Those are the primary factors that you’ll need to meet to get the divorce, along with being married less than a decade. If that sounds like your situation, then you may wish to reach out to your attorney to see if this divorce is right for you.

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Reading Uncertainly: ‘The Sense of Style’ by Steven Pinker

Every day we use words to communicate, in voice, letters, emails, reports, and even tweets. But do others really understand us?

Perhaps it is time to refresh our use of the English language. Steven Pinker, a renowned Harvard professor and author, suggests “the effective use of words to engage the human mind” (my italics), in his latest book.

“Style still matters,” he argues. It gets messages across, earns trust, and, perhaps most important, adds beauty to the world. We need to develop our “instinct for language,” coming from both reading and conversation, avoiding both the overly rigid rules of semanticists and simultaneously, the confusing colloquialisms of day-to-day communication. Trash such as “like” and  “you know”!

Pinker is an engaging writer. He begins by recommending a re-read of three earlier commentators on language: William Strunk and E. B. White’s immortal The Elements of Style (1959), Henry Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1926), and Theodore Bernstein’s The Careful Writer (1968).

But Pinker moves on from those writers, as does our language. Today, he cites the common problems of overuse of jargon, abbreviations, and technical vocabulary. He reminds us of Strunk and White’s repeated urging for simplicity. Avoid passive sentences and lengthy phrases. Use the active sense. Be brief.  Paragraph breaks: not too many and not too few. Avoid the “prissy use of quotation marks.”

One writer’s problem today is how to avoid the overuse of masculine nouns, when we are cautioned to use feminine or neuter. Pinker follows his own advice, alternating in each chapter, using masculine first as the object and then the subject, then the feminine, avoiding altogether the ugly and confusing neuter words.

For many years, I’ve followed the counsel of Occam’s Razor (the simpler answer may be correct). Pinker introduces Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” I’ll use this in my next critique of politicians.

Pinker meanders a bit in his chapters on diagramming sentences (too complex; I prefer my own ear) and coherence (do we really need to understand the wars between prescriptivists and descriptivists?) These chapters are often overly detailed, although rich in examples.

By far his best chapter is his longest (117 pages), “Telling Right From Wrong”. It is a detailed discussion of possibilities, often with no “right” answers. Examples: split infinitives; shall versus willthat and whichwho and whom; “very unique”; plus a section on words as seen and used by purists and relativists. How do you define and use decimate; convince; presently (one of my pet peeves); adverse versus averse; bemused; data (singular or plural?); fortuitous; irregardless (ugh!); parameter; tortuous; and the use of serial commas.

More damn fun and Pinker will change your habits. Enjoy stringing words together and above all, be coherent.

Editor’s Note: ‘The Sense of Style’ by Steven Pinker was published by Viking, New York 2014

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008). A 20-year resident of Lyme, he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there. For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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A la Carte: Spice Up Summer With These Carb-Free Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Photo by Brenna Huff on Unsplash.

My first visit to Stone Acres for my CSA [Community-Supported Agriculture] on a warm, pretty afternoon and it would have been perfect had not my old hip hurt. Fortunately, the parking lot is just a hop, skip and jump to the farmstand.

As I walked to the stand, I saw Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons and his wife take some visitors on a tour of the farm. Someday I would love to see the farm; instead, I patted a sweet black Labrador and talked to a young girl, who explained that that Lab wasn’t hers. “I have a yellow lab,” she explained. “Is your lab as nice as this one,” I asked. “Yes, she said, “but not as mellow.” 

As I showed my receipt, I was given a dark green fabric-zipped tote I could use for all of my CSA goodies over the summer. That week there were fat gorgeous strawberries on a counter and baggies of herbs. In the refrigerator I chose lots of different types of lettuces, some blue mushrooms (local, but not from the farm), some blue cheese from Mystic Cheese Company, and French radishes.  Each week there will be more and more choices. This is going to be a terrific summer of cooking and eating.

Over the weekend I did little walking and, for the first time, I finished the Sunday New York Times on Sunday. I also went through The Day, four weeks of the New Yorker and my latest edition of Bon Appetit. While that magazine, and most other June magazines, are called the grilling issue, I found some incredible salad ideas in Bon Appetit, including one with cantaloupe and snap peas.

Then I noticed this recipe that could be ready to eat in under 20 minutes and carb free, using my favorite lettuce, Bibb or butter lettuce.

Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps

From Bon Appetit, June/July, 2019

Yield: 4 servings

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal oelek or Sriracha
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar (light brown sugar will do)
1 teaspoon fish sauce
3 scallions
2 garlic cloves
1 pound ground chicken
Salt to taste
Butter or Bibb lettuce leaves, thoroughly washed and dried
For serving: lime wedges and ramekin of Sriracha for a little more heat

Mix together the soy sauce, sambal oelek or Sriracha, sugar and fish sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Trim the dark green parts of the scallions and slice thin. Set aside this part for serving. Thinly slice the white and pale green parts. Finely chop the garlic cloves.

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium Cook scallions and garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened (a little color is okay), about 3 minutes. Add ground chicken and lightly season with salt. Cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and tasting occasionally, until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Add reserve soy sauce mixture and cook, tossing occasionally, until liquid is almost completely reduced, about 2 minutes.

Serve in a platter with lettuce leaves topped with chopped dark green scallions.

About the author: Lee White (left), a former resident of Old Lyme, has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976.  She has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant.  She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for the Shore Publishing newspapers, and Elan, a quarterly magazine, all of which are now owned by The Day.

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Talking Transportation: Why the Scorn for Bus Riders?

Jim Cameron

Why do many people have such scorn for those who take the bus?

Forty-one million trips are taken on 12,000 public buses each year in Connecticut in communities across the state (not counting school buses.)  Yet, those riders are regarded as losers, not by the transit operators, but by those who drive by car.

When Southington was recently considering restoring bus service for the first time since 1969, a local resident wrote a letter to the local paper declaring “Towns that have bus service are towns that frankly have a lesser quality of people.”

Really?  “Lesser quality,” how?  Because they can’t afford to own a car?  Or because they are minorities?  That comment is either racist or classist or both.

As I wrote recently, the Greater Bridgeport Transit bus system carries 18,000 passengers every day (5.2 million a year), 90 percent of them either going to school or work.  Something like 26 percent of all Bridgeport train riders got to or from the station by bus.

Sure, some are non-white or non-English speaking.  But why begrudge them transportation?  You’d rather they not have a job or an education?

And yes, their fares are kept low with state subsidies.  But their incomes are also low and for them, even a $1.75 bus fare is expensive.  Remember … Metro-North trips (26.5 million per year), though also expensive (the highest in the US), are also subsidized.

But the biggest target of transit scorn is CTfastrak, the four-year-old, 9.4-mile-long dedicated BRT (bus rapid transit) system running between Hartford and New Britain.  Transit planners from across the country come to study CTfastrak. The Feds are looking to spend $665 million on similar systems across the US.

Yet Connecticut Republicans were trying to close it before it even began.

When it first opened in 2014, the CDOT projected 16,000 daily riders.  To date, the ridership is closer to 11,400.  Fares are cheap ($1.75 round-trip) and service is frequent with buses departing every few minutes.  From New Britain to downtown Hartford, it’s only 20 minutes, even at rush hour.  That’s about half the time you’d spend on I-84 stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

From the dedicated bus-only right-of-way, buses can also transfer to local roads into downtown Hartford and communities ranging from New Britain and Bristol to Cheshire and Waterbury.  The stations are clean and modern and the buses even offer free Wi-Fi … something we still don’t (and probably never will) have on Metro-North.

Critics complain about “empty buses” riding up and down the system.  Sure, the buses may not be jammed like Metro-North on a summertime Friday, but they do carry thousands every day.  Imagine if those bus riders were in cars.  How’d you like the traffic then?

Why the scorn for bus riders?  Beyond racism and class-warfare, I think there’s actually some jealousy.  Why do they get a fast, clean, cheap ride when I’m stuck in traffic?  Well, for some it’s a matter of necessity: they don’t own or have access to a car.  For others, as with train riders, it’s a matter of choice: they prefer the bus for speed and convenience.

So can we please stop shaming bus riders?

Like all of us, they have places to go, so let’s just allow them to ride in peace and harmony.

Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media

About the author: Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM.  The opinions expressed in this column are only his own.  You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com  For a full collection of  “Talking Transportation” columns, visit www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com

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