Friday, November 20, 2015

Bridge Of Spies ... review



Great film. What a remarkable man. If you made this story up, no one would believe it. Good performances, intelligent script--just all good.

See this film!



See this film! All of the performances are great, but Bryan Cranston is truly wonderful as this principled man. It's a story that needed to be told long ago about a dark chapter in US history. It's done well in all ways and with great understanding. I say don't miss it. You won't regret it.

The Martian ... review



Loved it! It was so interesting watching him survive. Matt Damon has been good in everything I've seen him in and this was no exception. Great script, great story, great all around. I heard that the science was good too, which made it even more interesting. See it!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Surviving the Sixties ...

As I read the biographies of several creative people over the last couple of years, what struck me was that even though they were wildly talented and successful, it wasn't enough to keep them from self-destructing. In fact, there were so many talented and successful stars that flamed out when they were 27 that they are in what we came to call the 27 Club. It made me so sad that all that ended far too soon.

But recently I read Mick, about Mick Jagger, and now I'm halfway through Dylan and it's a whole different story. Both Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan are survivors of their halcyon days, not because they didn't do things that were equally self-destructive, like drugs and other forms of hard living, but because for some reason, they lived long enough to slow it down and survive. They are mega-stars, legends really, and still going strong.

And I realized that all of us who went through the sixties and seventies and made it to our sixties and seventies are survivors of the battles, experimentation and risk-taking we lived in those years. We're still enjoying our rock 'n' rollers from forty and fifty years ago, and we're still fighting for what we think is right. We've lost a lot of people and times have changed a good deal but, as the song goes, we're still here.

We wanted to change the world and in many ways, we did. Some think it was for the worse. I don't. I have a friend who always says we changed the dress code, and maybe that's a good metaphor for what we changed. Everyone can pretty much dress the way they want to now, and they can pretty much be who they want to, without having to adhere to the rigid codes we grew up with in the fifties.

We brought about many other changes as well: pot is on the way to being legal, same-sex marriage is the law of the land, women have more equality now, the black middle class has grown, civil rights legislation is the law of the land, abortion is legal, the draft is no more, people can live together and have children without being ashamed that they aren't married, there is more legal recourse for discrimination and abuse.

It's not all roses. The environment is under siege, so is abortion. Women and minorities are still unequal in so many ways. There are far too many people in jail, especially minorities, and they are too often in fear of the law. Same-sex marriage is having a rocky start. There are far too many rapes in the military, the greedy corporations and the rich are taking way too much for themselves. And public education is fighting to survive.

Although we've all come a very, very long way since our hippy days of civil rights and anti-war protests, be-ins, communes, sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, peace, love, good vibes and the whole counterculture world, many of us who survived the sixties are still fighting for the ideals that drove us then. And millions more now share the sixties ideals and are just as willing to fight for them. In fact, there were enough of us in 2008 to elect the first African American president.

We didn't realize back then that change would take so long, but I take courage from knowing times have changed, which means they can keep changing, for the better. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Chicago, my kind of town ... a small ad for my favorite big city.


James Hunter--a great singer we just heard last night at the City Winery. He blew us away.
So by the time the week is over we will have seen Mike Dvorak and Jack Clark, folk singers, at The Grafton Pub, seen Bob Dogan and his jazz group at the Jazz Showcase, gone to Timeline Theater to see the play "That Hopey Changey Thing," and seen two dynamite groups, Paul Cebar and James Hunter at the City Winery, a really great music venue--and last week we saw Kazuo Ishiguro and Alexander Hemon, two wonderful writers, in conversation at Logan Center, and "Live at the Sahara," a musical about Louis Prima and Keely Smith, at the Royal George Theatre ... ask me why I love living in Chicago ...

That's why we retired here. Not just because we both grew up here and love it because of that, but because it's also such a great city. We have great music of all kinds (jazz, blues, opera, classical, rock, you name it), which we can see in all manner of venues (big concert halls to small clubs to wonderful outdoor and indoor options), great theater (small theaters to Broadway shows), great restaurants (inexpensive ethnic to four- and five-star), fabulous museums, beautiful parks, ethnic neighborhoods with summer festivals, great shopping, even our unique Navy Pier, and so much more. 

We have great public transportation from where we live, so we don't need a car. And we have a tiny house, just the right size for us, on a quiet block with lots of trees that's near a great bike riding path, so we have our sanctuary from the world and our private park when we want to be away from it all. 

And for us, of course, best of all, our great friends live here. We don't want to be anywhere else. We have it all right here.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

More reasons NOT to vote for Rahm Emanuel from In These Times article ...

I have already posted why I'm not voting for Rahm in my previous post, "Why I'm NOT voting for Rahm Emanuel and Why I AM Voting for Jesus Garcia)." This article gives even more reasons to not vote for Rahm and to vote for Jesus Garcia.
Rahm has had four years to show us what he has to offer. Now we now have a chance to tell him we're not interested. Here's an excerpt from this article:
The Chicago Tribune reported that of Emanuel’s top 106 contributors, 60 of them received favors from the city. Another in-depth investigation discovered that City Hall had lied repeatedly about a signature initiative of the Emanuel years, automated cameras that issue tickets for the running of red lights. The administration insisted the cameras led to a 47 percent decline in “T-bone” crashes, when the true number was 15 percent—and they also caused a corresponding 22 percent increase in rear-end collisions. That reinforced suspicions that the cameras weren’t installed for the safety of “the children,” as Emanuel sanctimoniously insists, but are a revenue grab, a regressive tax that falls disproportionately on the poor.
The International Business Times discovered that Emanuel was evading his own, much-trumpeted executive order banning campaign contributions from city contractors by shoveling $38 million in city resources to his donors via “direct voucher payments,” a sketchy loophole that lets businesses get city money without bids or contracts—without, in fact, any way of documenting what the money is used for.
And a joint investigation between public radio station WBEZ and the magazine Catalyst Chicago demonstrated that the Chicago Public Schools CEO Emanuel hired, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, was able to juke the statistics on high school graduation rates—which supposedly went from 70 to 85 percent over the last decade—by contracting with for-profit online education companies that demanded very little work from students, while still allowing them to receive diplomas from the last school they attended.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why I'm NOT voting for Rahm Emanuel and I AM voting for Jesus Garcia

When Rahm was elected, I thought I'd be reasonably satisfied with him. But in the past year, I've asked myself, is he the mayor we need?

Since Rahm's got at least $11 million in his campaign fund and I'm hoping he doesn't get elected, I decided to do this email and blog to tell you the reasons I don't intend to vote for him for mayor on February 24--and why I'm supporting Jesus Garcia. 

If, after reading this, you feel so inclined, I'm hoping you'll get this to people who know Chicago people by forwarding this as an email, posting my blog address (toniapicelli.blogspot.com) to your social networking sites and by any other means you can think of. I'll do the same with relevant election information you want to share with me. 

Rahm's polling at 50% the last I heard. If he doesn't get 50% of the vote on Feb. 24, it will force a runoff on April 7. So that gives someone a chance to defeat Rahm. 

I put an article with the schedule for five debates at the end. 

In addition, here's a link to a questionnaire the Chicago Tribune sent to all the candidates asking them about their background, qualifications and where they stand on policy issues. Chicago Tribune Editorial Board Questionnaires.

Why am I not voting for Emanuel? The proposals for hundreds of millions of dollars in ill-advised development projects, mis-use of TIF funds, school closings that led to questionable results at best, inefficiencies and 'pound foolish' costs associated with closing mental health clinics, privatization of city services with manipulated and no-bid contracts, as well as the expensive and almost comical over-reaction during the NATO meeting, along with a management style that includes far too much arrogance and secrecy, are only some of the main reasons he's failed to inspire my trust.

So you can decide for yourself, I've listed the book and articles with a short summary that mostly led to my non-support of Rahm and support of Garcia. (Click on the titles to get to the full piece.) 

So here goes.


Thoroughly researched and filled with solid reporting, Lydersen's 2013 book is a good place to find information on Rahm's background, experience and record in office. It's so well written I couldn't put it down. Her skill reflects well on her stint at the Washington Post and her Medill journalism degree. If you read only 7-8 pages a day, you can easily finish it by the election. It won't be a waste of your time.


Ben Joravsky is a reporter for the Reader who I discovered when I read the this review of Lydersen's book. I've begun reading the Reader again because of him. There's an archive of his Reader columns that's well worth perusing for more information on Mayor Rahm and his mayoral record.


Joe Cahill of Crain's Chicago Business, describes this now $170 million project's estimated cost overruns and unrealistic financial projections as "a bad idea that just keeps getting worse." Ask yourself why taxpayers are funding a private religious university's sports arena in a location that's nowhere near its campus. Developers who are making money on the project are probably very happy with it. (What do you think the chances are that they are Emanuel campaign contributors?)


Blair Kamin at the Chicago Tribune says, "City officials, starting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Forrest Claypool, have understated the flyover's urban design costs while overselling its transit benefits." The project's developers are likely happy with the $320 million project. Taxpayers and the owners of the many businesses and the 18 buildings that will be destroyed, NOT. Interesting that their reasons for needing the project have changed as objections have been raised. Slick overselling indeed.


Ben Joravsky describes how Mayor Rahm's financing scheme will double the cost of a pre-K program because he will borrow the money even though he has funds in the budget for it. "If all goes according to plan, the lenders will receive more than $34 million for a preschool program that only cost $17 million. Even Tony Soprano would be impressed with that haul." (The lenders that will profit, guess what, contributed to Rahm's campaign.) 


For this Rahmbo experiment in education, 12,000 students were displaced from 50 'under-utilized' schools and hundreds of teachers were laid off. Results show that the experiment did not yield measurably good results for the students. After all that disruption, it turns out what was needed was good, solid neighborhood schools. Mayor Rahm could have first tried giving these 50 grossly under-funded schools decent books, supplies, and equipment to put them on a level playing field with north-side and charter schools. (Apparently the class sizes in those 50 'under-utilized' schools weren't much different from those in the private Lab school his children attend in Hyde Park.) 


Now an elected Cook County Board Commissioner, Jesus Garcia came up through the ranks, starting out as a Democratic ward committeeman. During Harold Washington's administration, he was an alderman and in '91 the IVI named him one of the city's best aldermen. He was the state's first Mexican-American state senator and in 1996, the Chicago Tribune endorsed him for re-election calling him "one of the most independent and open-minded legislators." In his second term he was praised by the Wall Street Journal  for his ability to work with different races and ethnicities. 

He is backed by Karen Lewis and David Orr among many others across the Chicago community. Over the next month we should hear more about him and his ideas for the city--the only city in the state that doesn't have an elected school board, which he is in favor of. 

Here's the link to the article on the debate schedule: 
Mayor Agrees to Five Debates with Challengers
And here's the schedule:

Jan. 27 Chicago Tribune 10 am  
Feb. 4   7:00 pm WTTW-TV Ch 11 on "Chicago Tonight" 
Feb. 5   WLS-TV Ch 7 & Univision WGBO-TV Ch 66  sponsored by League of Women Voters 
Feb. 10  6:00 pm WBBM-TV  Ch 2 & WVON 1690-AM sponsored by the Chicago Urban League
Sun-Times on a date to be determined 

That's all I've got for now. Hope I didn't overwhelm you. It'll all be over soon!