Top 20 Movie “Do the Right Thing”

Top 20 Movie Do The Right Thing (1989) ranks 7th in Matt Lynn Digital’s Top 20 Movies in ranked order listing. This critical look at race relations, political issues, urban crime and violence brought film producer, director, writer, and actor Spike Lee an Academy Award nomination for the best writing category for screenplay written directly for the screen.

The film stands as a testament to acknowledging racial tension in a way that speaks with sympathy to the perspectives of many sides. As the Roger Ebert review of Do The Right Thing says

“[Spike Lee] didn’t draw lines or take sides but simply looked with sadness at one racial flashpoint that stood for many others.”

Do The Right Thing 2(Spike Lee as Mookie in Do The Right Thing)

Do the Right Thing tells the story of a day in the life of one Brooklyn street. We meet the neighbors and the neighborhood, seeing in small steps how a heated, hot day in the life of a neighborhood looks and feels like. We see the humanity and the frustration as a neighborhood living in bigotry boils over into violence, and the setting of a revenge fire in the face of an unprovoked murder at the hands of the police.

Do The Right Thing 3 (Love and Hate for Radio Raheem as played by Bill Nunn in Do the Right Thing)

It is the loud music of Radio Raheem’s boom box, in concert with the demands of Buggin Out (played by Giancarlo Esposito) to see African American faces on the wall of Sal’s Pizzeria that ostensibly leads to the film’s resolution. Sal (played by Danny Aiello) takes a bite of hate out of the booming sound of Radio Raheem’s boom box, symbolically answering one form of disrespect (the loudness) with another (property destruction). The pizzeria is destroyed while Raheem loses his life; the inequality of this exchange given that insurance can rebuild a pizzeria is the testimony that speaks loudest.

As Rosie Perez, who played Tina in the film, is quoted as saying in the 20th anniversary DVD for Do the Right Thing:

“I saw the magic of the filmmaking…There’s a science to it. And it’s science, plus love, plus art, plus talent. And that occurred, and that’s why I think this movie is an American classic. I really do. I really do. Hands down. Hands down. Hands down.”

Do the Right Thing is our eighth (8th) ranked film. Twenty-eight years after the initial release, the message of this film still stands up today.

Matt – Saturday, December 9, 2017

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George Stephanopoulos apologizes to his ideals in All Too Human in recapping service to U.S. President Bill Clinton

All Too Human by George Stephanopoulos serves as a young yet powerful political consultant’s experience inside the presidential administration of former United States President Bill Clinton. The presentation is largely early presidential career biography with firsthand storytelling for Stephanopoulos in his early 30’s, from transition to the 1992 campaign for president through much of Clinton‘s first of two terms as United States President in 1996. This book gives insight into much of Stephanopoulos‘ role within the campaign, the first term administration, and offers the political junkie a lens through which to see a layperson’s view into the day-to-day of becoming, then serving, inside a presidential administration.

All Too Human 2 (George Stepanopoulos)

George Stephanopoulos spends much of All Too Human apologizing for his actions in serving idealism and ambition as a political aide to the most powerful person in the world. He ends up confessing to an endless compromise of pragmatic decisions that wound up undercutting the good fight for an agenda that he, Stephanopolous wanted for the administration of 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton.

All Too Human 3 (Former First Lady and President Hillary and Bill Clinton)

Much of my motivation for reading the book, which I started last fall when I thought that Clinton would wind up in the White House again as First Gentleman, was to reacquaint myself with the dynamic of both Bill Clinton and former U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Getting to know them more, through the eyes of somebody near the inside for the better part of five years, seemed like a way to gain insight.

Truth be told, I struggled through much of the second part of the book because I lived so much of the Bill Clinton presidential narrative the first time around. The nature of the advice and council that Stephanopoulos offered never really is addressed in the book, though largely I think his role was to be a voice in the room, understand the moods of the president and his wife while serving as a buffer for them, and to sometimes help as speechwriter.

All Too Human 4 (Bob Woodward)

It was interesting to see how Stephanopoulos was played a bit, within the evaluation of the Clintons and others, for bad council that Stephanopoulos had given in offering background for Bob Woodward‘s book The Agenda. It was interesting to see how Stephanopoulos butted heads with Dick Morris, who championed much of the re-election campaign for Bill Clinton‘s second presidential term by moving the president from many Democratic Party positions in America towards, at the time, more Republican Party positions.

All Too Human 5 (Dick Morris)

I sense from Stephanopoulos own account that he never came to grips with accepting, if even understanding, much of why the Clintons needed Morris for getting a second term. I think this was evidence that fed the narrative feeling of the tale; the tale of of George Stephanopoulos losing some degree of influence and idealism and suffering over the loss of the moral platform that he felt he shared with former president Bill Clinton.

Overall, the presentation was clearly and forthrightly told. While difficult to stay with at times, I found myself entertained. My rating for the book is 3-stars out of 5 stars.

Matt – Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Fire Next Time offers a personal and intimate account of racial injustice

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin offers a strikingly personal and intimate account of James Baldwin‘s early life in Harlem while examining the consequences of racial injustice. Rooted in an intellectualism that is simultaneously and unapologetically provocative by design and delivery, The Fire Next Time this 106-page personal search for meaning wedded with civil rights call for action for 1963 America. These two essays (or letters?) were targeted to a white and black American audience, 100-years after the Emancipation Proclamation, attacking the terrible legacy of racism and calling for legitimate cultural and social action in American civil rights.

I am a male in my forties, married without kids, “parent” to a well-mannered dog. In reading Mr. Baldwin, there are parts of the struggle that I intellectually recognize as difficult. I can look back to inequities in the outcomes and treatment for people of color in the day and see wrong. I see efforts to legislate change as well meaning movements towards justice aimed at the legacy of institutional wrong. I see the struggle there is with race in elements of society in 2017, and the honest difficulty people have in how society thinks about racial violence, policing, access to fair treatment in professional opportunities, and more. My early experiences with race are not the same as James Baldwin‘s in Much of the account is deeply personal, getting into the daily frustrations. Baldwin helps you feel the intimately devastating realities of needing to have a gimmick to struggle with being black and poor in Harlem. He provides the context of needing a “gimmick” to overcome the carnal or religious seductions of this time and place; he sees education as a path that led to nothing for too many. Regarding education, Baldwin sees that merit in educational accomplishment wasn’t rewarded with professional opportunity.

The Fire Next Time 2 (James Baldwin)

The first letter in The Fire Next Time was “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation.” This reflected Baldwin‘s evaluation on the racism in America in the 1960’s, along with guidance to his nephew for behaving as a catalyst for changing the fortunes of an aggrieved black population. Baldwin contends, as this excerpt from eNotes shares, that “White America holds fast to ideals that are not actually practiced. This failure to practice its ideals is proven in its steadfast denial of the value of black lives. Baldwin tells his nephew that American society has narrowly circumscribed his world so that his dreams will never move beyond the street corner of the Harlem ghetto.”

The second, longer essay for The Fire Next Time is “Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind.” In this essay, Baldwin first discusses the how growing up in the Harlem ghetto lead him to becoming involved in the church, almost competing with his father who simultaneously preached at the church. Later, Baldwin reflects on the black nationalism as occasioned in meeting with Elijah Muhammad of the Nation of Islam. In the the third movement here, Baldwin offers solutions to the racial conflict confronting America in 1963.

Much of the account is deeply personal, getting into the daily frustrations. Baldwin helps you feel the intimately devastating realities of needing to have a gimmick to struggle with being black and poor in Harlem. He provides the context of needing a “gimmick” to overcome the carnal or religious seductions of this time and place; he sees education as a path that led to nothing for too many. Regarding education, Baldwin sees that merit in educational accomplishment wasn’t rewarded with professional opportunity.

The Fire Next Time 3(Quote from The Fire Next Time)

The broader message, that is solution, that James Baldwin offers in The Fire Next Time was that both white America and black America broaden its conceptions of reality in order to transcend their experience, beliefs, and fears with relation to their own stereotypes of themselves and others. The effort to reach across the gulf of difference in a real sense, not simply through legislation but in actual practice, is where meaningful change would and could be realized for the benefit of an aggrieved and aggrieving population.

Overall, I give the book 3.5-stars out of 5.

Matt – Monday, May 29, 2017

Luke Dittrich explores chilling questions of moral ambiguity in his book Patient H.M.

Luke Dittrich explores chilling questions of moral ambiguity in his book Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets. As revealed in the biography of Dittrich by Penguin Random House, Patient H.M. largely tells the “true story of Henry Molaison, an amnesic who became the most studied human research subject ever.”

The book extends the exposition into Dittrich‘s grandfather, Dr. William Scoville. The book delves into much of the history of “psycho-surgeries” (read lobotomies) that Scoville and Walter Jackson Freeman II promoted widely and spread with enthusiasm through the 1940s and some of the 1950s. The book Patient H.M. shares how Molaison was lobotomized by Scoville as a “culmination of a long period of human experimentation that…[Dr. William Scoville]…and other leading doctors and researchers had been conducting in hospitals and asylums around the country.” This August 9, 2016 New York Times article is the source of that quote.

Dittrich‘s book explains that Scoville was in part motivated to find a cure for his first wife; Scoville’s wife at this point (there were two) was Dittrich’s biological grandmother. The book confirms that Scoville performed surgery on Molaison, most likely the wife that would later divorce him, and an estimate of thousands of other patients as well. That this was done with the ostensible support of the American medical establishment, even after the legal and ethical condemnations to human experimentation in Nuremburg following World War II, shocks me. See this Doctor’s Trial link for more details. Patient H.M. explores this subject in enough detail that the reader is left to struggle with the ethical mortification imbued in Dittrich’s exploration.

The book goes into some of the history Dr. Suzanne Corkin of MIT, who studied Henry Molaison as a patient for more than 50-years. (Understand that Molaison underwent the lobotomy as an epilepsy patient in his 20s, and lived into his 70s). It was through much of Corkin’s research that awareness of the way memory works in the human mind became known. Dittrich asks some pointed questions about the raw data underpinning Corkin’s research, what she had to gain from information she kept or did not, and the ownership of Molaison’s brain (and the work product governing it) after Molaison’s death.

Patient H.M. is described in this Amazon book listing as a “biography, memoir, and science journalism” book, which is where it aims and largely lands. The storytelling does demand a certain degree of focus from the reader. Many threads of the narrative tend to get explored for periods of time, dropped, and then reappear. I’ve seen commentary from neuroscientists that indicate some of Dittrich’s knowledge is lacking, though the level of information worked for my tastes as a person not trained in medical science.

I came away with more insight into memory and the different ways that it works. The larger stories of Molaison, Scoville, neuroscience in the 20th century, and the meaning this had to Dittrich‘s family, fascinated me. The ethical questions around informed consent and the lines between the research and practice in medicine, trouble me. Upon finishing Patient H.M., my interest in a deeper dive on that last subject.

I would read this book again; I recommend that others read it. My rating is 3.5-stars out of 5, mostly owing to my interest in the subject matter coupled with the author not having taken a firmer stand about his own personal feelings surrounding the morality of his grandfather’s actions.

Matt – Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Politics mingles with post-Reformation Europe in Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love

Politics mingles with post-Reformation Europe in Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love. The book as written by Dava Sobel offers the reader a baited hook in terms of the close relationship between iconic scientist and Roman Catholic Galileo Galilei and his eldest daughter and cloistered nun,  Maria Celeste. While the book certainly offers crumbs to the bond between these two based on the limited surviving correspondence, the truth of the matter is that the book justifiably brings more focus into the life and times of Galileo.

The book does an engaging job of laying out the career, travels, brilliance, and creativity of the scientist that we know as the biggest influence in arguing for the sun as the center of the solar system. The many distresses that Galilei endured in his efforts to explain the nature of the world came into sharp exposition and challenge by the Roman Catholic church of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in and around Rome.

The Roman Catholic church was a largely political animal in this time that had suffered challenges to its political and spiritual authority spurred by the Protestant Reformation as notably instigated by theologian Martin Luther, theologian and journalist John Calvin, and King Henry VIII of England. Galileo suffered from findings of heresy and censorship as a response to that Reformation through the Roman Catholic church’s Counter-Reformation efforts. The story of Galileo’s one trial at the hands of the Roman Inquisition makes up a more forceful component to Galileo’s Daughter, in my opinion, than does the telling of the relationship between Marie Celeste and Galileo.

Galileo's Daughter 2

Galileo’s Daughter drew me in from the beginning and held my interest throughout the telling. The hook for me was having a front row, biographical telling of the human story of who Galileo Galilei was to those that loved him, were his friends or many dependents, and those that ultimately were there at the end or vacated their sense of decency, open-mindedness, and political courage in the face of Pope Urban VIII’s inquisitor, Father Vincenzo Maculano da Firenzuola.

The 1633 heresy conviction that resulted in house arrest for the remainder of Galileo‘s life (he outlives his daughter Maria Celeste) is captured well with tension, interest, and excellently with the hook of Maria Celeste’s loving interest. The earlier telling of Galileo’s telescopic inventions, motion experiments (including in Pisa), and increasingly earned influence were phenomenal. I think that I concur with one of author Dava Sobel‘s earlier arguments; namely, Galileo Galilei was able to reconcile science with his religion. That Galilei was clearly ahead of western culture in reconciling these two, then as now, is a story still with us today.

My overall grade for Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love is 4-stars out of 5.

Matt – Thursday, March 30, 2017