October 22, 2014

Music Is, or Should Be, What It's All About

Reading about the protests against the Metropolitan Opera's staging of John Adams's "The Death of Klinghoffer," I'm reminded of the riots that took place in 1913 when Stravinsky introduced his ballet, "The Rites of Spring," in Paris. Like Beethoven's 9th changing the way symphony music was presented, Stravinsky's ballet changed ballet. Before, all ballet was graceful, pretty, quiet, then came Stravinsky's dancers, leaping and plunging, "landing so hard on the stage that their internal organs shook," or so I read someplace. Fistfights broke out as those who appreciated the new "thing" duked it out with those who did not like change. Even before the halfway mark, the audience was fighting. Police calmed the scene, only to see it erupt again later. Stravinsky was so shaken he fled the auditorium before the ballet was over.

Now, people in New York are queueing up, for and against, the decision to put on the opera, the story of the Palestinian terrorists boarding a cruise ship and pushing Leon Klinghoffer overboard in his wheelchair, among other atrocities. The best I can tell, some Jewish organizations and individuals are accusing the Met of promoting terrorism, merely by showing it on stage.

I like all the tussling. It gives music a bit of a boost, in my mind. Rather than sit on our hands as if we were at a tennis match, let's behave at least a little bit more at the symphony like we do at the Stones. Classical music needs us all, and in fact, I've been told by my daughter, who knows, that before a certain point in time (which I don't remember), audiences did raise a little hell at symphonies and operas and the like. There is some opinion that the move to quiet consideration, not to say nodding off to sleep, has, over the years, caused would-be audiences to stay home. I imagine that, if that is indeed the case, the atmosphere at concerts will surely revert to rowdier climates. I've even read that there is discussion underway, regarding turning crowds at tennis matches loose, letting them root, root, root for the home team, rather than pat-pat-pat their white-gloved hands.

Music is the greatest thing on Earth--and, I'm sure, beyond. As a matter of fact, reading today about the idea of "genius" in The New York Review of Books, I learned that "experts" consider Bach the reigning musical genius--not his choral works, his Mass in B Minor, but the instrumental works, and the keyboard works in particular, that give some credence to the theory that man's mind--or some people's minds, some very few and select people--has capacity for genius, and, indeed, has evidenced now and then an almost God-like ability to figure things out. When Carl Sagan was asked what music he would send off with Voyager 1 on its eternal journey way out there where there might possibly be other intellectual life, he said, "I would vote for Bach, all of Bach, streamed out into space over and over again. We would be bragging, of course, but it is surely excusable to put on the best possible face at the beginning of such an acquaintance. Any species capable of producing the music of Johann Sebastian Bach cannot be all bad." That was a long time ago--Bach, I mean--the 18th century. To modify a well-known aphorism: what have you musicians done for us lately?

Well, quite a lot, really, and in more ways than just writing music or playing it, though we must note that John Adams, the composer who should be credited for creating some action at the opera, is alive and well and even lives (I think) in LA. But I point to others, who bolster the claim that great musicians are whizzes at math, and even brighter than that.

Pardis Sabeti, an associate professor of biology at Harvard University, is among the leaders in the race to come up with some kind of antidote for the Ebola virus. She is the head of a lab at Harvard, and leads viral genome efforts at the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard. And here's the kicker: In her spare time, Sabeti is the lead singer and songwriter for an indie band called Thousand Days. Its fourth album has been delayed owing to her work on the Ebola outbreak.

Don't you love it? An indie rocker leading the worldwide charge against Ebola (about which, yes, I expect to write more in the near future)? I do. And her researcher sidekick is a tall, handsome young guy with a tattoo of a particle of monkeypox, a stylish image of the virus's inner structure the guy, Stephen Gire, designed himself, on his left forearm. (He, BTW--hey!--is a talented chef and turned down a spot on the TV show "Top Chef" to go to the Democratic Republic of Congo to study monkeypox--related to smallpox).)

Yours in faith-based play it again, Pardis-ism.

October 21, 2014

"Fury" A Good Title for War

I drove up to Crested Butte, to the Majestic Theater, to see Brad Pitt's new movie, "Fury." It was a David Ayer film, whoever he is. WW2, "THE" war, is shown in a way--dark, wet, cold, tiring--to give non-combatants like Yours Very Truly a good "feel" for what it must have been like (though it seems to me that it would be impossible to truly portray the visceral horror and fear those people involved must have felt). Pitt is really good, just like he always is, in my view. He actually smokes his cigarettes, unlike the stars who pretend to smoke them. He curses violently. He kills violently. He HATES the enemy. He is brutal, cruel, but smart. He is a sergeant and the commander of the tank, Fury. He has kept his crew alive--but one--while most of the tanks around them have fallen. And throughout, he and his men rally with the statement, "Best job I ever had." In the end, well, I guess I'll not go all the way to the end. You might see it. I cannot advise seeing it, because of one long scene--15-20 minutes--that just did not fit. For me, it ruined the movie. I know you'll be dying of curiosity after so mysterious an offering, so I'll just say that it was in no way pivotal to the action, did not lend anything at all to the story, and that is my objection to it. It's a scene in which Pitt, who pretty much knows everything, takes the newcomer, a very small and squirrel-like kid who's a typist and the butt of the rest of the crew's anger and jokes and general disgust with the whole thing into the apartment of a German woman and her young cousin, an apartment that has not been wrecked, bombed into rubble--and so forth. It just does not belong in the movie. (The kid's assignment to the tank crew is a metaphor for how muddled the army was, how short-handed, AND it was 1945, the last year of the war; that so many people were still dying so miserably at that late stage! But, after all, the game is not over till the last bell rings).

Watching it--and later, too--I thought of my father-in-law, who began WW2 in the cavalry! Yes, horses. (And, indeed, the GREAT opening scene of "Fury" is a German officer coming at us mid-screen, slowly, slowly, on a big white horse.) His stories about training down around Brownsville at the tip of South Texas and even in Louisiana in all that heat and all those woolen uniforms were great stories. But he was smart. He saw the writing on the wall, and when a chance presented itself, he signed up for the Air Force. From horses, he went to airplanes, learning to fly in just weeks, as they did then under so much pressure, and before he knew it, he was the pilot of a B-24 bomber, flying from Britain over Germany, bombing everything to smithereens. He told me he did not know what all the targets were; he just flew and bombed--30 missions and never lost a member of his crew. I've read that the fatality rate of bomber pilots was 89 percent. Everyone wanted to be on his crew.

But he didn't tell those stories until way late in life. I don't know if he was self-effacing--he was--or just didn't want to talk about it. I do know that he never flew a plane after the war. He said he had absolutely no desire to do so. I know some men who won't talk about their experiences--WW2, Vietnam--and I am sure I don't blame them. How could I? Asked by, say, me, someone who, even though I'm old enough to have fought in Vietnam, didn't, didn't even go into the service in any way, shape or form, those guys who did go can be forgiven for not talking to me. I knew fairly well one veteran, an infantryman, who became a professor at the university here. I knew he'd been at Normandy or Omaha Beach, one of those ridiculously ordered landings--though they were, I suppose, decisive in some ways, or at least hurt the Germans and kept us moving. I said to him one day at Rotary Club that, if he ever had the time, I'd like to talk to him about..."I won't ever have the time," he said. He's dead now, so he was right.

There are a few moments in "Fury" that are pretty sickening, and overall, well, it must have been a terrible thing. My late uncle was in the infantry, made one of those landings, went through the war and came home. He told me that you would get so tired and so cold and so mentally exhausted that it hardly occurred to you to do anything but what you were told. "We'd had a very hard time all of one day, one bitter cold day, losing a lot of the men, and at nightfall we were told we were charging a big machine gun nest the next morning. One young guy was crying. He said to me, `I can't do it, Corporal. I just can't do it. I'm 19 years old. I just don't want to die.' I said, `I'm only 22. The captain himself is 24. I don't want to do it either. He doesn't want to do it. But we will. That's just the way it is." But morning came, and the order came down, calling the charge off. "Can you imagine?" my uncle said. "I spent the whole night awake, thinking tomorrow would be my last day on this earth, and then to have it called off?"

It's something, isn't it? War is as ingrained in us as breathing, I think. It never stops and never will. I'm reading now, in The New York Review of Books, a great piece by Charles Glass, who, in September (if you can believe this), traveled the eastern boundary of Syria, all through that ruined land, a true Mad Max dystopia (don't ask me why he did, but he did). His article is "In the Syria We Don't Know." It's unbelievable, really, far worse, if these instances can be ranked, than the massacre (surely) of the young people down in the state of Guerrero in Mexico. I won't go on and on about Glass' story, just a part of the opening, in which a young woman shows him a picture on her phone of her cousin, a family photograph of a young man in his 20's with his two sons, age 5 and 6. Her next picture was off the Internet--"the same young man, but his head was severed. Beside him lay five other men in their 20's whose bloody heads were similarly stacked on their chests."

Pretty rugged. Can't get any worse. Well, maybe not, but Glass goes on, to another photo on the young woman's phone: "His once happy face had been impaled now on a spike. The spike was one of many in a fence enclosing a public park in Raqqa, a remote provincial capital on the Euphrates River in central Syria. Along the fence were other decapitated heads that children had to pass on their way to the playground."

I shouldn't be surprised or even horrified, at the thought of young children growing up (with luck) in that kind of environment. Why shouldn't I be surprised? Because I heard Brad Pitt tell the snivelling newcomer he'd probably be surprised "to see what men can do to each other."

A missive like this one can be read as depressive--we don't want to read this kind of stuff; give us accounts of a trip to the forest. The point is to make as many of us as possible vote against wars and for children.

Yours in faith-based people who love guns can kiss my grits-ism.

October 17, 2014

Lost on the Edge of Town

I suppose I could blame it on the heavy pondering, turning something I recently read in David Denby's movie review over and over in my mind: "A parent I know, grounding his teen-age daughter, took away her texting privileges for a week but allowed her to use the house landline. "You can call your boyfriend on the phone," he said. "I wouldn't know what to say to him," she protested.

Pretty good, huh? I was just walking along, chuckling, thinking of how texting has taken over the world. I'm even a big texter now. Call me "One Finger Mike." And, huh? I began to realize that I was lost. Well, no, I wasn't lost, not exactly. I mean, I knew where I was, sort of, but did not have a clue about how to get where I thought I'd been heading.

Yesterday and today have been two of the most beautiful days imaginable, just perfect. I got up, had some coffee, and, with a thermos of coffee and a water bottle and a power bar and a book, I drove about five miles to what is one of the most amazing places you'll find anywhere. It's called Hartman Rocks. It's just outside town, and consists of I don't know how many thousands of acres of what appears to be and feels like Southeastern Utah--Canyonlands, slick rock, towering canyon walls, and miles and miles and miles of bicycle trails, some of which allow motorcycles, and all of which are open to strollers like Yours Very Truly.

I came off Kill Hill at the top, waved to a friend, jogging with her dog, then made a turn and drove, I don't know, almost a mile into the canyons. I parked, and strolled off toward the east, keeping half an eye and a passing thought on directions. No problem. I went out so far, then turned around and walked back. It was 35 minutes. I had a drink of water, slipped off the warm-ups, and took off again in hiking shorts. My route this time was the Rocky Ridge Single-Track. I had no watch or compass or water. I walked quite a bit (even jogged now and then up a hill or two), realized where I was, and decided--crucial point this--to keep going, hit the main road, take it on back. Did I tell you it was a beautiful day?

The trail ended right where I thought it would. There is a big map on a signboard to show you where you are and so forth. I looked it over. Yep, right straight north on the main road toward Kill Hill, before I'd take one of many roads leading back east to my car. I did some walking, let me tell you, and walked right past MY road, then east, then south, back west, south, west, knowing where I was, but not where I was in relation to my car.

At last, from my perch way up high in the rocks, I saw the car parked on a ridge a mile to the SOUTH. I'd walked past MY road. I had quite a climb down, down, then, because I was tired, I bushwhacked through the sagebrush, up and up, and finally got to the car. Triumphant, I slumped into the seat, drank the whole quart of water, got my power bar and thermos, found a comfortable rock in the sun, and...

Two and a half hours, wandering, not really worried. I truly did know where I was, but sneaking a look at the clear sky, silted a little with smoky cloud stuff, being very grateful for the lack of rain. A bluebird day in the Rockies can turn quickly into buzzard conditions--uh, huh, buzzard.

It's a wonderful place, Hartman Rocks. Quiet. Now and then, a biker or two will pop suddenly out of a rock formation that appears an impossible place to ride. These people can ride, brother, and that's all there is to it.

Finished with my coffee, I eased the seat of the Subaru back and just rested there. A family of four--father, short, fat mother, two little girls maybe 9 and 11, two beautiful matched dogs--parked, unloaded their bikes, and off they went DOWN a steep single-track called Beck's. The little girls were ready! None of that, "I don't want to. It's too hard. I want to stay here" kind of stuff. Just got out of the car, slipped into their camelbacks, and poof, slipped off in single file down that steep track.

Then, my eyes closed, I heard a scratch, scratch, scratch, coming up the road. A beautiful, dark-haired young woman in a solid black jogging outfit came scratching by--scratch? She was wearing those glove-shoes, all the toes in their own "fingers," accounting for the odd noise. I waved, she smiled and waved, and scratched on out of sight.

I'm home now, hoping to get lost like I did today a time or two yet, before you know what falls. Even then, skiers slide all over those quiet acres, freezing weather be damned.

Finding a way to get outside and get back again in God's High Country, I remain yours in faith-based another old geezer, still picking 'em up and laying 'em down.

October 16, 2014

Life. It is what it is.

Remember when we--"we"--called those firecrackers that, once lit, spaz out of control "nigger chasers?" Or, the sling-shots we "crafted" from small "Y's" of tree branches "nigger shooters?" Or, when someone had a pocketfull of money but not enough to get past Saturday night, was "nigger rich?" Etc. Man, them were the days, huh? Talk about "PC."

I cannot believe--well, yes, I can--some of my memories. Memories? The results or remains of things that actually happened. Memories are made of this. I can say that my early and continuing engagement with these "memories" have not kept me from being entirely "socially embedded" today, but I'd be lying. We--at least, not I--don't just shed our birthrights and formative experiences like Superman does his cape. We are stuck with them. The best we can do, or hope to do, is educate ourselves over the rest of our lives to be clear of BELIEVING those kinds of embedded lessons.

And it runs both ways--no doubt, in many instances, stronger from the "other" perspective than our own. What is the relationship of blacks and whites in sports locker rooms? I wonder. We've read and heard and seen the in-house reactions of many, or most, of the Brooklyn Dodgers when Jackie Robinson showed up, hot, sweaty, ready for a shower. How far have we come? I mean, now that, in many if not most, locker rooms, black players are in the majority.

Pretty far, in many ways. Black quarterbacks are no longer anomalies, inspiring disbelief in the stands. Black pitchers, catchers, in baseball, and, of course, you know what NBA stands for.

Oh, well. Truly, I don't know what brought this racial rumination on. I sat down at the keyboard, thinking, gosh, how long has it been since I've posted? Like the great old advertisement put it, How long's it been since you've had a bowl of Wolf Brand Chili? Well, that's too long, I just started pecking away, thinking of little or nothing--a talent of mine--and before I knew it, Wham! Black Power!

Are black players the only players in whatever league to have fathered children with several women all over the country? Are they the only ones to WHACK! a woman or child who disobeys? I don't know. I doubt it. All I DO know is that the owners and league officials who punish them are white. All I do know is that a friend sent photos of Cowboys owner (team worth $3.4 billion) Jerry Jones, bleary eyed, $2000 suited, with two 30 year old women in what I'd call "compromising" shots. No word of a fine. So forth and so on.

Man! I can get going. As in...

These sports franchise owners are slave holders, actually. Colleges, too, but I have to draw the line.

Every year, these college athletes who are leaving school--half of them (generously speaking) can't spell what WE want them to say, Yassir, Masser--are, uh, surveyed. NFL combine. They are pinched and questioned and timed in the 50-yard dash and judged on how many times they can bench press (I don't know) 300 pounds (can you even get on the BENCH without straining your back?). They are out there, almost naked, being "looked at, evaluated," by rich, white owners, who will BUY THEM, put them to work, then get rid of them as they lose value.

Do we think the black kids don't know this? They know. But what else are they supposed to do? They not only love to play. Hey, it's something they are good at. They not only need a life. They not only have grown up poor, hungry and with a gun to their head and a father in prison--father? maybe, or who really knows--they have, from a sadly early age, been shuffled into a chute of no choice, hardly different from the chutes we force cattle through to slaughter.

But when an All-Pro abuses his girlfriend or his child or his dog, it's out of work, disgrace, and often prison. Jerry Jones? Plenty more where that one--what was his name?--came from.

Oh, brother, no more of this. Next time, something fun. Hey, how about Amos 'n Andy?

October 10, 2014

War! What Is It Good For?

A day or two ago, I "helped" (as in "paid") a carpenter friend plant a new mailbox in front of the house. The other one was as old as I am and almost as feeble, flopping side to side in a gentle wind. The new one is really nice, so nice, in fact, that I expected to begin receiving a better class of mail. My hopes were high the first morning I checked the new box--white, gold numbers, red flag, heavy-duty 6X6 doug fir post--but, alas, the same old stuff: flyers advertising sales, credit card applications, bills, political ads...and more political ads.

It's that time of the year. Elections are coming up. In our town and county, we can, if we are red-white-and-blue diehards, go to the polls and vote, but, truly, it's an effort at basically total mail-in balloting. So few of us vote in most elections that "they" are trying to make it easy for us, though not in some states, of course, where voter ID's and this and that have been implemented, designed to keep a certain "element" from voting. Not here, however; vote! We do everything we can to get everyone out--or to make sure they get their ballots in the mail.

One of the political flyers--and they are ALL huge and glossy four-color slicks, which is expensive--comes from a moderate guy, running for reelection to the state legislature. He's from Durango, I think. His opponent is a troglodyte Tea Partier, so I'm voting for the current rep's reelection, even though--and this is my point or theme--every one of his flyers touts his service in Vietnam as a Marine, a fighting man, and what does that have to do with anything anymore?

Not much, other than to inspire this little post. That is, I have great admiration and appreciation for those who served in Vietnam, or any of our wars, for that matter. I cannot imagine being, say, up to my waist in snake-infested, mine-infested water, explosions all around, millions of people I can't even see hating me, out to kill me. I can, though, understand how so many young people did things in our wars that, had they not been at war or had there not been a war to be in, they would never in a thousand years have done. Atrocities. So many 19 year-olds committed terrible atrocities, then have had to live with them for 50 years--and more than 50 years for WWII veterans, most of whom are gone now.

I have a friend who has been very nearly impossible to be around all his adult life. Very few of us have any use at all for him. He is a total sourpuss, a cynic, rude, on and on. Why? I only recently learned that he is a Vietnam vet, who, as a 19 year-old kid, was a "grunt" in 'Nam, where, yes, he was an active participant in some atrocity, maybe more than one, even massacres and perhaps worse of women and children. He came back, graduated from college, and has been a teacher all his career--still working, still sour, still carrying it all around, too silly or scared or hard-nosed to seek counsel. Bless his heart.

But I can understand. I can understand Bob Kerry, former US Senator from Nebraska (more importantly, former boyfriend of Debra Winger), who lost part of a leg in Vietnam, and who has acknowledged having taken part in atrocities. Kerry is better off than my friend. He, for whatever reason, had the good sense to what? Get it off his chest?

Now, I read in the Times about a tussle over the Pentagon's portrayal of that war on its website, www.vietnamwar50th.com. The idea is to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of Vietnam, but in so doing--and spending $15 million in the process, so far--the Pentagon, the same outfit that waged the war, has been rewriting its history, referring, for one example, to the 1968 My Lai "massacre" as an "incident." The sugar-coating has attracted the attention of the old anti-war horses like Tom Hayden, Daniel Ellsberg, others, and here they are again, after all this time, still protesting the war. They, like you and I, want to honor the people who fought and died there, but not by lying about it.

It's interesting, I think. The Pentagon is advertising its effort, telling us that it will "provide the American people with historically accurate materials" suitable for use in classrooms. It's worse than the Texas School Book Selection Committee. The Pentagon, which lied to We The American People the entire war, now wants to rewrite history. Well, we'll see if protesters like Hayden, 74 now, Ellsberg, 83, and others can still put a stop to warmongers, out to--let's face it--cast themselves and their behavior in a suddenly decent light. Fifty years ago--of course, they're still doing it today--the Pentagon and its minions wasted 58,000 young American lives in the most horrible fashion, and who knows how many--2 million?--Vietnamese. Now, they want to come off as being so generous and big-hearted, to "honor" those who they, in their Beltway offices, sent to Hell to die. Somehow, I have to say that, again, though I not only honor but stand in awe of those who served there, who died there and who came back barely alive, this whole thing just don't seem right. Dishonor sounds more like it.

It's not about the argument we've all heard so many times, that "we could have won that war but Washington wouldn't let us." No. It's about what that war, and all wars, do not only to the people we send to fight them, but about the low-rent deceitful nature of those "leaders" who stay home, then try, when they think enough time has passed and enough heat has died down, to slip in and take some credit for something that was so completely discredited so long ago.

That's the kind of mail I'm getting now from my new mailbox. Write me, please. I need new and more-uplifting information. Is it too early for Christmas cards?

Yours in faith-based WAR! What is it good for-ism?

October 7, 2014

Character. Do any of us have it anymore?

Reading a review of a retrospective of the 40-year career of Robert Gober (an artist I'd never heard of) in The New Yorker recently, one paragraph seemed to bolster the idea that way too much public money is wasted on goofy art (to describe it in the mildest terms), that way too much of ANY money is wasted on goofy art most of us had rather poop on than promote. I read this: "Odd sculpted and painted objects, such as bags of cat litter, complicate the installations. Gober's intentions mostly go unexplained, though a wall text shares his understanding of the litter as an accommodation for filth that permits amicable relations between humans and felines. This idea suggests a theory of civilization: the reconciling of gross realities and refined desires." Say what? Horse radish. Who honestly thinks Gober's stuff is anything other than that, stuff? No one? Well, so what? Does that really matter, the lack of public acceptability? Isn't art, like learning, worth something just in and for itself?  Hmmm. Is that so? Hmmmm again. I have no difficulty, imagining not just the knuckle-draggers among us, but also the well-educated and more conservative part of the population--maybe even a laggard liberal here and there--thinking, uh, if this is art, it can kiss my grits. Who can blame them? Not I, but surely there is more to it than that. Surely Gober's work really is art, and surely art is work that has value.

Gober's own story is, to me, a stronger reason for not just "allowing" this kind of art to not only be made but shown than is his art itself: "Already (as a pre-teen) enamored of art, but largely ignorant of it, Gober was thunderstruck by a visit, at the age of eleven, to the Yale Art Gallery, in New Haven. A spare abstract painting by Ellsworth Kelly so baffled and intrigued him that he remade it in his family's basement." I mean, yeah! That's what I'm TALKIN' about. One man's trash is another man's treasure, and that means that both the trash and the treasure are not only worth keeping, but MUST be kept.

The author of the review, Peter Schjeldahl, winds it up by emphasizing the show's title, "The Heart Is Not A Metaphor." He writes: "The heart is an excitable physical organ that registers sensations of fight or flight and of love or aversion: the first and last unimpeachable witness to what can't help but matter, for good and for ill, in every life."

"Cannot help but matter--in EVERY life."

I agree. Don't you? I mean, really? If something "matters" to someone--anyone, one, several, millions--then it matters to us all. it's worth doing, painting, writing, showing. Don't you think? How often now, in our dotage, do we go outside ourselves, leave our comfort zone, tackle something we've never tackled before? How often do we avoid doing so? If we avoid, we lose. That's all there is to it. What, after all, do we have to lose? We have, many of us, just a few years left before our race is fully run. Why not pick up the pace? Stretch? Run faster and farther than we've ever run before?

Or try to, anyway.

Yours in faith-based the heart (have you heard this one before?) is a lonely hunter-ism,

J.M.R.

October 1, 2014

Thoughts on Film, Books, LIFE (get your pen and notebook)

I know. I know. It's been awhile since we've posted. Hey, cut us some slack. We've been busy, with Susan's rehabilitation programs (she's doing great--"She's going to win rehab," our good friend said, and she is), getting ready for winter, the Crested Butte Film Festival, and general lounging around. So, don't be upset. Here I am, don't you see, working you in.

Our good friend here gave us her two passes to the festival. We were, after all these years, Patrons. We could go into any film or anything at anytime, and the managers and directors would smile at and thank us! No standing in line, like we've done--years ago now--so many times in Telluride. I think the Patron Pass there is $3,900 now and always sells out. In CB, it's $160. This is, of course, just the fourth year for the CB Fest, and we've watched it grow. A nice couple from Boulder started it. Now, they live in CB full time. It's clear to me, though I've got no concrete information to bolster my claim ("concrete information?" say what?), that they either 1. were either occasional or regular CB visitors, noticed an opening, and started the festival, or 2. they thought, hey, we love movies, we'd like to live someplace where we're not living now, hmmm, let's see: no, Telluride already has one, but, look at this, honey. Crested Butte does not!

Well, it does now, and my bet is that they make a good business deal out of it. Crested Butte loves the festival; the founders are treated like royalty. And the great thing, to me, at least, is that the owners and everyone else who has anything to do with it are just laid back and friendly, as are the festival-go'ers. No tension, no rude treatment, genuine attempts to help with whatever might be your cause.

From Thursday evening when the festival opened with two films, to Sunday when it closed with four, we saw 13 "programs." That is, a full-length feature or documentary, or several "shorts" that, together, made a program. That's a pretty good mark, though it falls short of what we used to do in Telluride--"used to's" have become my default statement, I'm afraid. Out of all that number, Susan says every one of them was good; I say all but one was good. It was a huge clunker, "About Alex," billed as "a Big Chill for the millennials." If so, Jesse Zwick owes the millennials an apology. There was not one thing good about it--well, I take that back. The actress, Audrey Plaza, was good. The others stank up the joint. And Jesse Zwick? He was there. His parents have a place in Crested Butte, and his presence was billed as a "hometown boy makes good" kind of thing. His dad is Ed Zwick, one of Hollywood's big-time director-producers (he shared an Oscar for "Shakespeare in Love." He directed "Glory," "The Siege," "Defiance," "Blood Diamond," and others I really like. As the credits rolled, my friend noticed that the film had been produced by Bedford Falls Productions, and said, "Bedford Falls? Sounds familiar." It should. It is the name of the town in Capra's "It's A Wonderful Life." So, Jesse's dad also gathered up the money to make the movie. Hollywood is truly a company town. I actually don't have a big problem with nepotism; I'd do the same, were I able. Still, the father, whose work has been of very high quality, owes both his son and those of us in the audience AND, more importantly, the movie industry itself more critical decision-making. His laissez-faire approach resulted in a black mark for nepotism.

The weather was, until Sunday, perfect, and even on Sunday, it was only a tad cloudy with intermittent rain. During a break, we went into town and had lunch, both os us lusting after French fries. We knew where to go--Pita's in Paradise, where we got big sandwiches and curly fries. As we neared the end of the meal, Susan said, "This is the first time I can remember being brought more fries than I can eat." Me, too, believe it or not.

The last film we saw was a documentary, "Freedom Summer," about the summer of 1964 when all the white college kids from the north and east went south to push the voter registration drive, the summer when two of them, and one young black person, were lynched by ignorant rednecks down there (yes, "ignorant redneck" is certainly redundant). We almost chose not to see it. We've seen so many films set in that era and focused on that subject, we thought, oh, just more of the same. Well, this one was a winner, and a major part of its subject was something neither of us was aware of--the effort by black democrats to take the place of the all-white democratic committee that represented Mississippi at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. Their effort failed, or appeared to. Actually, LBJ's heavy-handed squashing of the black committee's effort to be seated at the convention resulted in major good publicity, which helped back home, if a place like Mississippi really can be home to anyone with any sense, and any sense of what's right and wrong.

So, that's how we wound up our festival. It could not have been better. Now, we have a knock down drag out book club session tomorrow night over Doctorow's "Ragtime." Gunnison, a heaven just bursting with culture.

Yours in faith-based onward is the only direction-ism,

JMR