Let’s Win the US Senate in 2020!


I’ve said it before and I’ll say again.  If we want to restore democracy and build hope for our future in the United States, the US Senate elections are as important and maybe even more important than the Presidential Election. Please join me in an all-out campaign to guarantee that the the US Senate will be under the control of Democrats and progressive independents.

This year there are 35 Senate seats up for election this year and 23 of them are currently held by Republicans.  That means there are 23 opportunities to flip a seat to the Democrats and create a strong majority in the Senate.  Below I’ve listed the names of Democrats running for the Senate with links to their campaign website.  Your mission is to:

  • Vote for the candidates running in your state
  • Adopt one or more candidates running in another state, especially if there’s no Senatorial election in your state
  • Donate and/or volunteer for the campaigns of as many Senate candidates as you can
  • Help people register to vote and advocate for your state to support things like automatic registration or same-day registration
  • Make sure that everyone is able to vote and have their vote counted by advocating for vote by mail, early voting, and sufficient polling locations
  • Volunteer on election day to help at polling locations and/or observe potential irregularities

If you are short on money or time, please target the 15 senate elections marked with in asterisk where there is a very good chance of Democratic victory and/or removing a particularly odious Republican from the Senate.

2020 DEMOCRATIC PARTY CANDIDATES FOR US SENATE

* Alabama: Doug Jones
* Alaska: Al Gross
* Arizona: Mark Kelly
Arkansas: Dan Whitfield (a progressive independent candidate because the Democrats didn’t run a candidate)
Colorado: John Hickenlooper
Delaware: Chris Coons
* Georgia (regular): Jon Ossoff
Idaho: Paulette Jordan
Illinois: Dick Durbin
* Iowa: Theresa Greenfield
* Kansas: Barbara Bollier
Kentucky: Amy McGrath
* Maine: Sara Gideon
Massachusetts: Ed Markey
Michigan: Gary Peters
Minnesota: Tina Smith
* Mississippi: Mike Espy
* Montana: Steve Bullock
Nebraska: Chris Janicek
New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen
New Jersey: Cory Booker
* New Mexico: Ben Ray Luján
* North Carolina: Cal Cunningham
Oklahoma: Abby Broyles
Oregon: Jeff Merkley
Rhode Island: Jack Reed
* South Carolina: Jaime Harrison
South Dakota: Dan Ahlers
Tennessee: Marquita Bradshaw
* Texas: MJ Hegar
Virginia: Mark Warner
* West Virginia: Paula Jean Swearengin
Wyoming: Merav Ben-David

Two states will hold non partisan primary elections held on November 3, 2020. 

* Georgia (special)
Special Election: November 3, 2020: Raphael Warnock
NoteAll candidates will be on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation.  If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff election, to be held on January 5, 2021

Louisiana
Nonpartisan Blanket Primary: November 3, 2020:  Antoine Pierce and Adrian Perkins appear to be two of the strongest candidates out of 15 candidates running including 5 Democrats and 7 independents!
Note: All candidates will be on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation. If no one candidate wins a majority of the vote in the primary, there will be a runoff election on December 5, 2020.

Movie Review: Animal Crackers (1930)


Welcome to Marx Brothers Mondays! I’ll be watching and reviewing the Marxist oeuvre over the next several weeks.

Title: Animal Crackers
Release Date: August 23, 1930
Director: Victor Heerman
Production Company:  Paramount Pictures
Summary/Review:

This is the Marx Brothers first true classic film.  Like The Cocoanuts, it is adapted from their Broadway musical, which is reflected in the stage-like sets of the film.  But in this movie the songs reflect and commentate on the plot (thin as it is) and support the Marx Brothers antics. The setting is a party at the home of socialite Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) who is hosting the celebrated African explorer Captain Jeffrey Spaulding (Grouch Marx). Another guest, art collector Roscoe W. Chandler (Louis Sorin) will be displaying a famous work of art by a painter named Beaugard.  Not one but two parties of guests decide to steal the Beaugard and put their own work in its place leading to the thin plot for the film and the source of most of its antics.

The movie has some cringe-worthy moments considering that Grouch is playing a man who hunts big game in Africa, thus leading to many horrible stereotypes about Africans (including being carried in a sedan chair but several Black men). Another running gag has Harpo chasing a young woman who is clearly not interested in him.  But all-in-all the movie is not as cringe-inducing as you might expect from a 90-year-old comedy.  Groucho’s song “Hello, I Must Be Going” is one of my favorite bits and a song I had on my voicemail greeting when I was in college.

Rating: ****

Movie Review: The Little Mermaid (1989)


Title: The Little Mermaid
Release Date: November 17, 1989
Director: Ron Clements and John Musker
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures | Walt Disney Feature Animation | Silver Screen Partners IV
Summary/Review:

I don’t know what the experience was for moviegoers who saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on the silver screen in 1937, but I can tell you that there was an incredible buzz in 1989 when The Little Mermaid was released.  Disney was back.  Growing up in the 70s and 80s it was hard to see the classic Disney animated features which you might see in a theatrical rerelease, or the Wonderful World of Disney or on the Disney Channel, but generally as a Gen X kid you just kind of knew these movies existed without actually seeing them. By the late 80s, Disney started trickling out VHS releases of classic films, but it was the Millennial kids who’d get to watch them over and over.

As for the movies Disney released during the 70s and 80s, this was a well-documented down period for the animation studio, although The Rescuers was a hit and I have a personal soft spot for The Fox and the Hound. The reputation of Disney movies during this time was that they were “kiddie movies.” Teenagers, and even older grade-school children would turn their noses up at them.  The Little Mermaid was different.  It was a movie audiences of all ages enjoyed.

One thing that set this movie apart is the music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Teenage boys more macho than me at my high school enthusiastically admitted that they loved the songs.  The calypso numbers by Sebastian the crab ( Samuel E. Wright), “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl,” were the gateway, tying into the World Music trend of the late 80s. All of the songs fit into to the story following the Broadway musical model, and the soundtrack proved very popular.

The animation for the film is also excellent, looking better than any Disney movie had for decades.  The aforementioned musical numbers “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl” are particularly spectacular in the use of various marine life and visual gags.  The fluid mermaid movements of Ariel (Jodi Benson) and her hair are also spectacularly brought to life in animation.  While Ariel’s dream of marrying a prince may not be a particularly feminist plot, her characterization is more realistic and relatable than previous Disney portrayals of young women.

I hadn’t watched The Little Mermaid in a long, long time, and I was pleasantly surprised at how fresh and funny and just downright entertaining it remains after all of these years.

Rating: ****1/2

Podcasts of the Week Ending September 19


And Nothing Less

A podcast from the National Park Service hosted by Rosario Dawson and Retta examines the full history of the women’s suffrage movement and debunks a lot of myths. This seven-part series commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

Consider This :: Who Was Breonna Taylor Before She Became The Face Of A Movement?

Breonna Taylor’s family and friends talk about her life and how she’s become an icon in her death

RUNNING TALLY OF PODCAST OF THE WEEK APPEARANCES

States I’ve Visited


Having visited four new states recently, it’s time to update my Visited States Map courtesy of the Gas, Food, No Lodging blog.

Here’s the key:

Red means I’ve just passed through, maybe seen a thing or two.

Amber means I’ve at least slept there and seen a few things. I have a first-hand idea of what the state is like.

Blue means I’ve spent a good amount of time in that state.

Green means I’ve spent a lot of time in that state, weeks at a time on multiple visits – or lived there.

States I’ve Visited in Chronological Order

1973

New Jersey (home from 1973-1975)

Circa 1974

New York

Pennsylvania

1975

Connecticut (home from 1975-1991)

1976

Florida

1977

Massachusetts (home from 1998-present)

1980

California

1981

Georgia

1985

Delaware

Maryland

District of Columbia

Virginia (home from 1991-1998)

Rhode Island

1991

Illinois

1993

West Virginia

1994

Vermont

North Carolina

South Carolina

1995

Tennessee

1996

Arkansas

Mississippi

Louisiana

Alabama

1997

Oregon

Washington

New Hampshire

Maine

1999

Ohio

Michigan

Indiana

2003

Nebraska

2006

Wisconsin

2020

Utah

Idaho

Wyoming

Montana

National Parks I’ve Visited


Visiting Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks means that the grand total of National Parks I have visited is now the unimpressive number of five!  This is one downside of living in the Northeast where we have no National Parks within day trip distance.

National Parks Visited (5 of 62):
Acadia
Grand Teton
Great Smoky Mountains
Shenandoah
Yellowstone

Now I’d be happy to visit any of the remaining 57 National Parks, but at the pace I’m at of five parks in 47 years, I’m going to have to prioritize. So I made a list of the top ten National Parks I’d like to see.

National Parks Wishlist:
Arches
Crater Lake
Everglades
Glacier
Grand Canyon
Isle Royale
Joshua Tree
Mesa Verde
Voyageurs
Yosemite

I’ve had better luck visiting other National Park Service units other than the National Parks.  By my accounting I’ve been to 54 out of 419 National Park Service units. Luckily, there are plenty more of these in New England and New York that I could fairly easily add in the near future.

National Monuments (4 of 84):
African Burial Ground
Castle Clinton
Muir Woods
Statue of Liberty
National Historical Parks (11 of 57):
Boston
C&O Canal
Colonial
Harpers Ferry
Independence
Lowell
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Minute Man
New Bedford Whaling
San Francisco Maritime
Valley Forge
National Historic Sites (11 of 76):
Boston African American
Ford’s Theatre
Fort Point
Fort Vancouver
Frederick Law Olmsted
Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Jamestown
Lower East Side Tenement
Pennsylvania Avenue
Saint Paul’s Church
Salem Maritime
National Battlefield Parks (1 of 4):
Richmond
National Memorials (9 of 30):
Arlington House
Federal Hall
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
General Grant
Lincoln Memorial
Thomas Jefferson
Vietnam Veterans
Washington Monument
Wright Brothers
National Recreation Areas (3 of 18):
Boston Harbor Islands
Gateway
Golden Gate
National Seashores (4 of 10):
Assateague Island
Cape Cod
Cape Hatteras
Point Reyes
National Parkways (2 of 4):
Blue Ridge
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
National Historic and Scenic Trails (1 of 3):
Appalachian Trail
Other NPS protected areas and administrative groups (3 of 11):
National Capital Parks
National Mall
Wolf Trap

Book Review: The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer


Author: Nancy Springer
Title: The Case of the Missing Marquess: An Enola Holmes Mystery
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren
Publication Info: Recorded Books, Inc., 2006
Summary/Review:

The upcoming Enola Holmes movie on Netflix made me aware of the existence of this first book in a series about Sherlock Holme’s sister.  I’ve read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes writings and numerous non-canonical works by other writers, and this is definitely a good addition to that body of work.  Enola Holmes is certainly more interesting than the mystery sister introduced in the BBC’s deeply-flawed final series of Sherlock, who also had an odd name starting with E – Eurus.

Enola is the much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft who grows up isolated at the family’s estate after the death of her father and her mother estrangement with her brothers.  The novel begins on Enola’s 14th birthday when her mother disappears without a trace. Her famous brothers arrive and Mycroft decides to send the non-gender conforming Enola to a finishing school.  Enola decides instead to run away and investigate her mother’s disappearance on her own, stumbling into another mystery along the way.

Springer does a good job avoiding making Enola immediately as intellectually brilliant as her more famous brothers, allowing her to develop these skills over the course of the book.  She also does a good job showing the Holmes brothers dismissive and chauvinistic attitudes – which is straight from Conan Doyle’s characterization – and the restraints Enola has to work with in as a woman in Victorian society.  Although I know the book is a series, I was surprised by the unresolved conclusion. Nevertheless, I would like to read more about Enola Holmes.

Recommended books:

Rating: ***1/2

Day 7: Leaving Yellowstone


Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the seventh day of our travels.

We packed up our van at the Canyon Campground and headed out for our return journey to Salt Lake City.  The Artists Paintpots was the one remaining attraction we hadn’t seen that was still on my wish list, so Susan graciously agreed to make a stop there on the way.  I thought the Artists Paintpots was a roadside attraction like the other geysers, but upon arriving we learned there was a 1.2-mile hike for the round trip to the paintpots.  Kay was not up for this, so Susan returned with her to wait in the van while Peter and I made the hike.

It was worth the trip.  We’d seen geothermal features by Lake Yellowstone in West Thumb and in arid basins in the Old Faithful area, but this was the first time we saw them in a forest.  The rising steam in the woods gave it a fairy tale feel.  I did have the impression there would be more bubbling mud than we actually saw, but I guess it was the dry season.  We returned to the van at the right time, because a wave of other tourists were just heading in. In fact we’d see a lot of inbound traffic heading into the park for the Labor Day weekend as we drove out.  Not all the congestion was human-made, though, as we delighted in the awesome experience of seeing a large bison bull saunter down the road.

Leaving Yellowstone through the west gate, we arrived in the town of West Yellowstone, Montana.  We stopped here to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a small zoo for rescue animals that would give us the chance to see some of the wildlife we didn’t see in the parks, including grizzly bears, wolves, raptors, and otters! We arrived at the right time being the last family admitted for a noon entry group. Inside we saw the grizzly bear Nakina, and then the change over when the twin sister cubs Condi and Seeley enter the enclosure.  One of the cubs climbed the tree to get a feeder left by the center’s staff, but had some trouble getting back down from the tree.

Susan spent a lot of time talking with the naturalist, learning facts about the bears and their behavior.  She also got confirmation that she and Peter probably saw a glimpse of a bear several days earlier on the Moose-Wilson Road.  I spent a lot of time watching the otters until dragged away by the children. We headed into Yellowstone and were able to get lunch from a 50s-style diner.  Then it was on the road again for a long drive to Salt Lake City.  The route back through Idaho was less scenic than on our drive to Grand Teton, but we did pass numerous locations for boating and tubing that were attracting Labor Day crowds. We arrived in Salt Lake City just after sunset, happy to check into a hotel room with comfy beds and a television.

Coming Soon: Classic Movie Project, Part II


Last year, and the beginning of this year, I gave myself the project of watching 93 highly-regarded films that I had never seen before. I had so much fun that like many a great movie, I’m making a sequel.  This time I will be watching a mix of movies I’ve seen and never seen before, but I haven’t reviewed any of the movies on this blog before.

I will be working off the following two lists of “greatest movies of all-time.”

Between the two lists, I have 109 movies to watch and review, so this may take a while.  So grab a bucket of popcorn and meet me at the movies!

Day 6: From Old Faithful to Mammoth Hot Springs


Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the sixth day of our travels.

We had a full day catching on many Yellowstone attractions we hadn’t seen yet.  Since we didn’t make it to Old Faithful on our geyser day, we headed there first. We arrived in the confusing complex of parking, access roads, hotels, and support buildings wondering where the actual geyser was located.  But it was Kay who pointed and said, “It’s right there, Dad!”

The next eruption was not expected for another hour so we went into the Old Faithful Lodge to pick up breakfast food from the cafeteria.  We took it outside to eat on a bench under the eaves of the Lodge and watch the steam rise from Old Faithful in the distance.  People were already gathering on the crescent of benches around Old Faithful, so after breakfast we claimed our own socially-distanced bench.  Peter & I went for a walk on the trails around Old Faithful and saw some of the smaller geothermal features in the area.

On schedule, Old Faithful erupted as it always does.  Kind of remarkable to think it has been doing so for hundreds probably thousands of years.  Having fulfilled our Old Faithful obligation, we returned to the van and drove to the Midway Geyser Basin.  It was also crowded and we ended up parking down the road along the Firehole River instead of the parking lot.  This gave us a nice walk along the river before reaching the boardwalks around the Grand Prismatic Spring.

The Grand Prismatic Spring was lovely and the boardwalks were nowhere near as crowded as all the parked cars would indicate.  I also began to notice that it was “Wear Lycra Leggings to Yellowstone Day” but we didn’t get the memo.  So embarrassing.  There is a path that leads to an overlook to see the Grand Prismatic Spring but we didn’t know where it was and after being in direct sunlight at both Old Faithful and Midway Geyser Basin, it was getting too hot to consider hiking up a hill.

So we returned to the van for a nice, long air-conditioned ride through the scenery to the park entrance in the northwest corner.  This included passing through a windy, mountain pass and into lower elevations than we had been to since arriving in the park (although still higher than most of the peaks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains!).  We visited Roosevelt Arch, the formal gateway to Yellowstone dedicated in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt himself. We did some shopping at a Yellowstone gift shop – where Kay got a bison hoodie – and then ate lunch at a pizza place.

We reentered the park and made our next and final stop at Mammoth Hot Springs. These springs deposit minerals creating terraces of stone with remarkable patterns.  Susan said it was like the inside of cave on the outside.  We walked up and around the boardwalks increasingly noticing that we were feeling quite warm.  The kids had enough so I took them to the van while Susan did some more climbing to an overlook.  While in the van we checked the local weather and learned that it was 90°! I guess this is what people call a “dry heat.”