Review: The Homesman

In The Homesman, the central human dilemma is how the various characters form, avoid or break attachments with others, a primal matter in even the most benign of circumstances, let alone in the rough 1850s Nebraska territory. Caring too much for others brings misery, but not going along to get along also brings misery. Do … Read more

Helen Vendler on Humanities in our schools

One of the critics I most admire, Helen Vendler, has issued a cogent, convincing, and (alas) Quixotic call for American schools to ensure that their students encounter their artistic and musical heritage. “I want to see students coming into college already proud of Winslow Homer and Mary Cassatt, loving the repertoire of spirituals and of … Read more

Review: Last Days in Vietnam

Rory Kennedy’s Last Days in Vietnam is a wonderful documentary, with an engaging mix of period video, talking head remarks, contemporaneous cassette letters home, and some judicious computer graphics. The film depicts the chaotic evacuation of Americans and some Vietnamese as Saigon fell, ending the Viet Nam War in 1975. Rory Kennedy focuses on how … Read more

Review: Tremendum, Augustum

Leonore Wilson’s Tremendum, Augustum (AldrichPress 2014) is a wonderful poetry collection, and a remarkable poetry collection. Like a Brahms symphonic movement, I know that there is power and substance here even if I am not fully able to grasp it. And who wants to bother with poetry that you can fully grasp at one reading? … Read more


“TERROR MONSTERS IN THE CROSSHAIRS!” That sounds like a ludicrous 1950s Hollywood B-movie, and I can almost see the lurid poster, with its determined hero clenching his jaw, the buxom starlet lifting her hands in fear, and the hideous, outsized monster menacing the planet. But this is not a poster. It is the splashy New … Read more

No good will come of this: Obama’s speech on Islamic State

President Obama has promised air attacks in Syria, and increased air attacks in Iraq. He sounded disturbingly like President Bush in his September 10th national address, optimistically announcing deeper American involvement in the chaos of Iraq and Syria. “We will degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL” Degrade, sure. Destroy one organization whose name will probably change … Read more

Review: The Trip to Italy

Josh Long’s review of The Trip to Italy (2014) on the website Battleship Pretension calls the film “a feast to the eyes, uproariously funny, and keenly introspective.” I’ll go along with the “feast for the eyes” here, but I can’t agree that The Trip to Italy was uproariously funny. Funny, yes. And I certainly can’t … Read more

August jobs report: good news and bad news

Two articles in the Sept. 8, 2014, The Wall Street Journal are interesting when read together. 1. Grocery chains and food companies are struggling. Why? Walmart says consumers are concerned with “depressed wages and cuts in federal benefits.” Roundy’s (a mid-west grocery chain) says that the grocery and food businesses are suffering decreased profits because … Read more

Film Review: Ai Wei Wei: The Fake Case

Like all humans, yet far more obviously than most, Ai Wei Wei exists in some indefinable middle ground between being free and being under house arrest. That is true of his life in general, but especially as he waits out probation as depicted in Ai Wei Wei: the Fake Case. In this documentary he appears … Read more