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Monthly Archives: August 2011

MOVIE REVIEW ON VIDEO: The Conspirator Is for those with Inquisitive Minds

Lithograph of the Assassination of Abraham Lin...

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The Conspirator is an excellent movie but not everyone’s taste. If you are in the mood for a mind numbing movie to kill a couple of hours then this is definitely not the movie you want; but, if you are a history buff and want your thinking and beliefs to be challenged, then you are in luck.

This post Civil War drama (directed by Robert Redford) centers on two minor characters in history who were on the fringes of the Lincoln assassination. Even though they were insignificant players, they played a major role in our legal system and the reconstruction period. It is the story of the trial of the conspirators behind the plot to kill Lincoln and one very unlucky and lonely lawyer appointed to defend one of the conspirators. Frederick Aiken, brilliantly played by Scottish actor James McAvoy, must defend Mary Surrat (Robin Wright) owner of the boarding house where the plot was constructed. As he fights for her rights he is abandoned by his fiancé, friends, social club, and colleagues.

Aiken, a Union war hero, becomes the unwilling defender of Mary Surrat, a southern sympathizer. Aiken tries to get out of the appointment but gradually begins to believe in her innocence. She is being tried in a military court even though she is a civilian and he sees that her rights as a citizen are being violated. He argues she is being denied her right to be tried by a jury of her peers.  However, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, played by Kevin Kline, wants her tried quickly to quiet the unrest and help the country heal after the devastation of the war and death of a president. What is implied is that he also wants her found guilty as quickly as possible so the uproar can be put behind them.

The real conflict of the movie is whether or not the rule of law will prevail. The rule of law, as defined by Lexis Nexis, an online legal source, is the principle that no one is above the law….The principle is intended to be a safeguard against arbitrary governance, whether by a totalitarian leader or by mob rule. Thus, the rule of law is hostile both to dictatorship and to anarchy.

Mary Surrat was found guilty and hanged; but was she guilty or not? According to Roger Ebert’s review, “They require us to think our own way through the case and arrive at our own opinions.” After the trial Aiken was instrumental in creating a law that requires civilians to be tried in civilian courts—not a military tribunal. The case and its consequences have relevance today. Can you imagine the hysteria if a similar scenario happened today? We would have 24 hour news services screaming for justice (remember the Casey Anthony case?) and angry mobs everywhere.

Our country is founded on the rule of law. That is, the law—not a single person, monarch, or even mob—has the final say. Our legal system and government aren’t perfect and many decisions have been handed down that were not popular; but it is the best system around. We have over 200 years that prove it. Look at what is happening in Libya, Egypt, Syria, etc.

Major criticism of the movie is that it is slow and I am sure it is to those accustomed to bang’um up and shoot’um up movies. However, I found it very engrossing and thought-provoking. I am happy to see that the producers, The American Film Co., have two other projects in production. One is a story about abolitionist John Brown and another about Paul Revere’s ride. I strongly recommend Sarah Palin see that one.

 I highly recommend this for history buffs, attorneys, and those with inquisitive minds. It brings a brief but important moment in history alive and puts us right in the center of it. You can almost feel the heat and contention in the courtroom.

I give it an A-.


Pryor eligible for NFL supplemental draft, must sit first five games | The Columbus Dispatch

My Recommendations to NCAA Rule Changes

Below is a link to an article from the Columbus Dispatch by Tim May regarding Terrell Pryor’s eligibility for the NFL draft that just popped up on my afternoon email updates from the Columbus Dispatch.

Terrell Pryor’s antics while at Ohio State and announcement of NCAA’s investigation of the University of Miami prompted my blog yesterday titled Football Offers Many Lessons. After completing yesterday’s blog I have given the idea of renegade college sports more thought and I have a suggestion for the NCAA when they look at revising their rules. I propose that any player who blatantly breaks the rules and then departs the university to avoid punishment should be ruled ineligible for the NFL draft for one year.

By allowing TP and others like him to become eligible for the draft rewards them for their bad behavior. If TP is drafted (and I’m sure some team will probably pick him up) he can be raking in a hefty paycheck while his team mates and fans suffer through their punishment. These people are being rewarded for being bad boys. Even if he never plays a down this season he will still be making more than he would be while still at Ohio State.

I also propose that any coach who knowingly condones or encourages illegal behavior should also suffer a harsh punishment. As it is now, a coach can move on after his school is sanctioned.  Unfortunately, the coach leaves a school in shambles while he goes on to greener pastures with a fatter salary. According to my husband, who has been involved with football most of his life and formerly coached a semi-pro team, there are several coaches who are known for running dirty programs and when they are caught they just move on. Other coaches just don’t want to know about outside activities or keep their heads in the sand. These coaches must be made to sit out at least one season for every sanctioned program they leave. That is, if a coach caused three schools to be sanction then he must sit out three years before becoming eligible for another coaching job at any level—public school, university, or pros.

I am happy to see that if TP is drafted he must sit out five games which is, coincidentally, the same number of games he would have had to pass over if he were still with OSU. It is time to eliminate the gangsta’ atmosphere and bad boy hero worship that is pervading all levels of sports. Let me know what you think of my proposals and if you agree please help me get the word out.


PS—I have made a correction to Football Offers Many Lessons. It seems my grandson is growing faster than I thought. He is now 252 pounds of pure muscle. No wonder his dad says he lives in the pantry.

Pryor eligible for NFL supplemental draft, must sit first five games | The Columbus Dispatch.

Football Offers Many Lessons

Adam Notestine--7th grade

Football season is just around the corner and this year promises to be interesting. There is a shifting force at work and only time will tell whether it is for good or bad. Long time powerhouse programs such as Ohio State and Michigan are in a state of transition as they adjust to new coaches.

While Ohio State fans lick their wounds and wait for the dreaded judgment day to learn our punishment for breaking the NCAA rules, we learn that the University of Miami has an even bigger problem. Our Tattoo-gate seems amateurish next to Miami’s allegations of sex parties, prostitution, nightclub outings, cars, and even an abortion.

As a grandmother of a young football player showing great promise, all of this worries me deeply. Do I want him exposed to this ugly side of college sports? Will he have the moral fiber to resist the temptations? When he began in the sport in the first grade, it was just fun and games to him. He was usually too busy laughing and having a good time to pay attention to what was happening on the field. Even though he was usually the largest kid on his team he merely played patty cake with the opposing linemen rather than having his mind in the game. He showed potential but never got serious about the sport until one day it all clicked. From that point on he has been serious about his sport and has taken up wrestling in the off-season to improve his agility and footwork. He has even taken a special conditioning class to improve his strength and stamina. Entering the eighth grade, he is 6’2” and 252 pounds of pure muscle.

It looks like he will have the size for big time college football. He is also showing dedication, determination, and desire to continue to improve. All of these qualities are what coaches look for in their players. If he continues on the course he has set, I’m pretty sure he and his parents will be hosting college coaches in their living room in a few years to choose the school right for him. Although, if Ohio State comes calling no other school need apply since his bedroom is full of OSU memorabilia.

Will the NCAA, the colleges, and their boosters have a workable system for clean sports programs worked out by then? NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. “If the assertions are true, the alleged conduct at the University of Miami is an illustration of the need for serious and fundamental change in many critical aspects of college sports,” Last week, Emmert led a group of university presidents in drafting an outline for change in college sports, including higher academic standards, a streamlined rule book and new parameters for athletic scholarships.

“The serious threats to the integrity of college sports are one of the key reasons why I called together more than 50 presidents and chancellors last week to drive substantive changes to Division I intercollegiate athletics,” Emmert said in his statement Wednesday.

In the past 18 months the NCAA has investigated or sanctioned Southern California, Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and LSU. The mere fact that eight leading universities across the country have been investigated shows that a serious problem exists in college sports. Many fans view the players as gods and the players begin to think of themselves as deserving special and privileged treatment. Nevin Shapiro, a former Miami booster and the source of Miami’s current troubles, said he did it because he could and because there was no one to stop him.

Young people learn a lot from sports. They learn life lessons that will be with them through their entire lives. They learn teamwork, goal setting, self-confidence and self-reliance, how to handle diversity, how to deal with defeat and how to win with grace. I once worked as a secretary for a minister who was a former football player and watched him verbally abused and attacked on many occasions. But when those same people needed help he was always the first one at their side. I asked him how he could bounce back so quickly and rush to their aid when they had been so cruel to him. He told me he learned in football “you play the game on Saturday, take Sunday to rest, and Monday is the beginning of a new week.” This was a life lesson that had served him well for many years and one I try to follow. The game is over so it is time to put the past behind you and go on.

Football is an honorable sport and I hope the players and fans can maintain this honor. I feel most coaches try to run a clean program but it is usually the people hanging on in the outer edges who bring trouble. Many players are also at fault when they expect privileges and adorations. I hope my grandson will be able to play a clean game and always be proud of his performances both on the field and off—and keep a level head.

I hope someday all of this nonsense will be part of the past. A new season is about to begin, so as the teams put on their fresh, new uniforms and the fans trot out their lunatic regalia, let us have fun with the sport and do it in a clean, honorable fashion.


MOVIE REVIEW: The Help Is About as Good As It Gets

You don’t find many movies that make you laugh and cry at the same time but The Help is one of them. It is a story set at the beginning of the civil rights movement and told from the maids’ point of view.

The main character Eugenia, or Skeeter, has just graduated from college with dreams of working in publishing. She returns home and begins working on the local newspaper writing a household tips column. Since she doesn’t know anything about cleaning she asks her friend’s maid to help her. She observes a lot of mistrust between her white friends and their colored maids. After talk at her bridge club turns to a campaign for separate toilets for the maids, she asks Aibileen Clark, who is helping her with the tips column, how she feels about that. Skeeter eventually convinces Aibileen to help her write a book from the maids’ point of view. At first there is great resistance within the maid community for fear of retribution and going against old southern taboos. As tensions mount between the races, however, the need to be heard overcomes their fears.

Since I am a child of the 60’s, this movie brought back a lot of memories—some good and some bad. One of my mother’s friends had a maid named Coco (how appropriate) who oversaw the children. I thought that was strange, why didn’t their mother do that? The movie also shows the conflicted feelings of love and servitude between the maids, the children and their mothers. Skeeter was raised by her maid in place of her absentee mother and is very disappointed when she returns from college to learn her beloved maid is no longer with them. The mystery behind her sudden disappearance drives Skeeter to continue her book.

The movie is full of southern bells and bitches you both love and hate. Each one is an interesting character, in her own right, and her maid and their relationship adds another dimension. The movie also includes handy tips on housekeeping and cooking; and, just wait until you find out the secret recipe for chocolate pie!

The movie is based on a book by the same name and is written by first time writer, Kathryn Stockett, who was turned down by 60 literary agents. (Note to self—pull out that manuscript and begin sending it out again.)

I predict you will hear more about this movie as awards season approaches. It is warm and touching and will make you cheer and jeer. It is populated with interesting characters portrayed by excellent actresses. What more can you ask for? I give this an A+.

More news on fracking

Did you read yesterday’s lead editorial in the Columbus Dispatch titled Shale’s Promise? It must be true what they say, “great minds run in the same channel” because it closely parallels my blog of the previous day titled Memo raising questions in the fracking fray. Or did they read my blog?

Prosperity is headed to our state, according to the editorial, not only in the form of what the wells are projected to bring in but also in the construction and steel industries. Plans are underway to remodel or build new plants to make the steel casings needed for the wells. Business leaders see this as an opportunity for a cheaper energy source, and the petrochemical industry expects a shale-gas boom to provide cheaper raw materials.

However, the editorial warns against a gold-rush mentality and cautions the industry to do things right. It quotes Ohio’s state attorney general, Mike DeWine, cautioning landowners to beware of sharp operators who might try to trick them into signing away rights to the gas and oil on their property too cheaply. The editorial also states that protecting the environment should be given equal priority to developing the business.

In a bit of encouraging news, the editorial says that Gov. Kasich sent a letter to dozens of oil and gas companies in May inviting them to consider the opportunities in Ohio, but also noted the need to protect public safety and the environment, asking them to make a “commitment to responsible corporate citizenship.”

The editorial closes by saying ,”Kasich declared himself “simply thrilled” to hear the bullish Chesapeake report, predicting a boom to the state and if the shale-gas reserves prove as rich as reported and can be extracted without damaging Ohio’s surface and ground water, he’s right to be. “

In other related news, Larry Wickstrom, state geologist, said that the shale resources can transform the state’s economy. “I believe that we could be at the beginning of a new and extended positive chapter in Ohio’s economy, and it’s essential that we properly marshal our economic development, job training, environmental and regulatory assets to make this work right and work well for Ohio,” he said.

In a “it could be good or it could be bad” category a federal panel just released a report approving the fracking process but qualified its announcement by saying the hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” can continue safely as long as companies disclose more about their practices and monitor their environmental impact.

The committee’s report could pave the way for more gas exploration but calls for new standards to limit harmful air emissions. In 2001 shale gas accounted for less than 2% of the total U.S. natural gas production, today it is 30%, and the Energy Information Administration projects that it will amount to 45% by 2035.

The U.S. Department of Energy says companies must do more to reduce air pollution and threats to groundwater. The report also says companies should follow best practices to limit leaks of methane and other air pollutants to safeguard streams and groundwater.

The report also calls for:

  • ·         Companies to use better seismic monitoring to ensure that only gas bearing shale is fractured
  • ·         Full disclosure on the chemicals used for fracking
  • ·         More research on the potential of shale gas to contaminate groundwater and drinking water supplies.

It is encouraging to see that some recommendations are coming out at the beginning of this boom, however, only time will tell if these recommendations carry any weight. It would be great if this country could become completely independent of foreign oil, maintain a cheaper supply of energy at home, and extract this fuel in a clean and safe manner. It is up to the public to maintain vigilance and continue to pressure the companies to provide a safe environment.