Tag Archives: Democratic National Convention

Good News Friday: “Hidden Figures” an outstanding, almost-perfect film. My favorite speech of the year, revisited. And a college student makes cakes out of famous paintings

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And a Happy Friday and Happy almost New Year to all; like most of you I’m sure, I can’t wait for 2016 to end, it’s been a miserable year in many ways (except for Cubs and Cavaliers fans, of course).

But we ring out 2016 with one more dollop of good news. As usually happens, the last week of the year doubles as “new movie time” for the wife and I, and one we have been looking forward to seeing for a while was “Hidden Figures,” which is playing in only a few theaters so far.

The flick, based on an incredible true story, is about three African-American NASA employees in the 1960s, who each in their own way had a significant role in helping America win the space race.

Taraji P. Henson plays Katherine, the most important historically of the trio, who has a fantastic brain for math and gets put on the Freedom 7 space shuttle project under crotchety boss Mr. Harrison (Kevin Costner, who was great here) while Octavia Spencer and Janelle Morae are also crucial to the NASA effort.

The movie shows us their rise, the obstacles they had to overcome as women and minorities in that time period, and how ultimately their contributions were vital.

It was an outstanding movie. I can’t believe, first of all, that this story hadn’t been told before. The performances, especially from Henson and Spencer, are fantastic. The script is funny and warm, even if a lot of the mathematical discussions went way, way over my head. I thought so much of this story was inspiring, and hopefully makes millions of kids in the U.S. realize math and science are worthwhile pursuits, even if our space program and NASA aren’t doing much exploration at the moment.

My only quibble with the film, and it’s why I’d give it 3.5 stars out of four, is that they go a bit overboard on ramping up the drama. We get hit over the head quite a few times with the themes of prejudice and injustice, so much so that I was basically saying to the screen “OK, OK, we get it, they’ve overcome a lot.”

By the end, the filmmakers almost ruined it for me by making Katherine’s character seem so incredibly important that we’re supposed to believe John Glenn never would’ve made it safely back from space if not for her, that she was the one and only person who could solve a final hurdle. It was a little too much to take.

Still, that’s a nitpick. “Hidden Figures” is a tremendous movie, one that I hope gets quite a few Oscar nominations. It comes out nationwide next week, I highly recommend it.

**Next up, seeing “Hidden Figures,” filled with brilliant, inspirational African-American women, made me think of one in particular who stole the show in 2016.

I will miss our current President’s intelligence, grace and calm immensely, but I’ll also miss his amazing wife. In a year full of nastiness and vitriolic speeches, there was one speech I thought about long after it was delivered, one I’ll remember for years to come.

One more time, Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention. This was one of the most powerful oratories I’ve ever heard. What a bright, compassionate trailblazer she is. Listen to this one more time, and realize what we’ll be losing in three weeks.

She’ll never run for office, I’m pretty sure. But man, if she did, I’d be the first person on line to help her get elected.

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**Finally today, I thought this was pretty cool. A 20-year-old college student named Emily Zauzmer has a pretty cool hobby: Re-creating famous paintings in sheet cakes.

She goes to Harvard, so she’s clearly pretty bright, but look at the level of detail and intricacy on the “American Gothic” cake above. That’s just fantastic.

You go, Emily Zauzmer. I just want to know how you can eat those cakes after making them look so beautiful. I’d want to frame them and hang ’em on a wall or something.

2016 out.

After last week’s debacle, Hillary and Kaine get their shot. The Rio Olympics are already a disaster. And remembering the biggest moment of Hall of Famer Mike Piazza’s career

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There’s always something to be said for going last in a two-person competition. You get to leave the final impression, you can see what the other person did and NOT do that, and maybe most importantly with this week’s Democratic National Convention, the bar for “being better than your opponent” has never been lower.

I mean, is it possible for Hillary Clinton and Co. to make a worse impression, to come off more disorganized, racist, plagiarizing and lying through their teeth than the GOP? I honestly don’t think it’s possible.

Lots of things I’ll be watching for in the next days, some quick-hit thoughts on what should be a pretty good show in Philadelphia:

— Tim Kaine in his national spotlight audition. I didn’t love Hillary’s choice of the Va. Senator as veep; he’s a bland, moderate white guy, when so many more appealing choices were available (Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, hell even Tom Perez would’ve gotten people more excited). But after a few days of reading up on Kaine’s background (dude’s never lost an election, that has to be encouraging), voting record, etc., I think he’s probably a decent choice. I don’t love that he loves Wall Street and banking deregulation so much, but otherwise he checks most liberal boxes. And he’ll help in Virginia. I’m anxious to see what kind of performer he is under the huge spotlight this week.

— Bernie Sanders speaks Monday night, and boy will he have a lot to say. The DNC email leaks scandal is one thing, and happily, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the maestro of the incredibly tilted Democratic primary this year, has resigned. But I really want to hear how Bernie speaks about his core issues, since he did so much better than anyone thought he would, and what he says about Hillary, after months and months of attacking her.

— Michelle Obama speaks tonight, too; will she make me and millions of others happy by starting with “When I was a young girl growing up in Slovenia…”? That would be so awesome.

— The Big Dog, Bill Clinton, talks Wednesday: Will he talk about Hillary as her husband, or as a future President, and how many great one-liners about Trump will he get off?

— Barack Obama’s speech on Wednesday; he and Hillary have some history together as rivals and then partners, and he, too, is in supreme position to push back on all the lies Trump told last week. I hope he calls out every one of them.

Should be a fascinating four nights.

View of an athlete's room at the Olympic and Paralympic Village for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on July 23, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBAYASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images ORIG FILE ID: AFP_DI6ZI

**Next up today, rarely has an Olympics looked more like a shitshow than these Rio Games appear to be. So many problems in Brazil right now, from the economy, to the uncertain political leadership, and the nation looks completely unprepared to host an Olympics, who oh by the way, start in 10 days.

I don’t know, you think THIS is a bad sign? Sunday the Australian delegation announced that upon arrival at the Olympic Village, where thousands of athletes will be staying, the place was “uninhabitable.”

The toilets wouldn’t work, there was a rank smell, and all sorts of exposed wiring. Again, this is TEN DAYS before the Olympics.

Man oh man, I know lots of Olympics have looked like they’d be disasters before they started, and everything then ran smooth, but I don’t see how that happens here.

**Finally today, one of the few baseball things I pay attention to each year happened Sunday, the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

I was incredibly fortunate, when I worked in upstate New York for the Glens Falls Post-Star, to get to cover two HOF inductions, and they were awesome, some of the best things I’ve ever covered. Cooperstown is such a special place, the people are incredibly friendly, and Otsego Lake is spectacular.

Anyway, Sunday was this year’s ceremony, with Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. being enshrined. Griffey Jr., was a no-doubt pick, and it’s still incredible to me that he didn’t get 100 percent of the vote (No one ever has.)

Piazza’s a more iffy case, because rumors of steroids (very, very strong rumors) have dogged him for a long time. But as a New Yorker, what I’ll always remember Piazza for, beyond the whole “Roger Clemens throwing the bat at him in the World Series thing, is that he gave me one of the most indelible sports memories I’ll ever have.

On Sept. 21, 2001, the Mets and Atlanta Braves played the first professional sporting event in New York City since 9/11. The whole city had been feeling so awful for 10 days, and sports seemed even less important than usual. Nobody was smiling, for any reason.

In the bottom of the eighth, with the Mets down a run, Piazza pummeled a pitch over the center field wall for a go-ahead home run. Shea Stadium went nuts. I remember going nuts, too, and I’m a Yankees fan. As Piazza rounded the bases, the sound from the crowd just kept growing and growing, and the TV cameras flashed to a bunch of FDNY firefighters in the crowd, and I get goosebumps right now just watching the above video.

An incredible night I’ll never forget. After so much horror, for two minutes, millions of New Yorkers got to feel just a little bit of joy.

So I’ll always be grateful to Mike Piazza for that.