This week, I was planning to discuss in detail THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. This was my agenda for two reasons. First, and simply put, this film is well-worth seeing and reviewing for a range of reasons. Second, it was shot on location here in upstate New York.
Each Passover season for the past twenty one years, the Jewish residents of our region's group homes for developmentally disabled adults have been coming to our synagogue for a model Seder, or Passover meal, prior to the holiday. Our volunteers spend a long Sunday afternoon cooking, setting up our social hall, and serving between twenty five and thirty people and their overworked, underpaid aides. Over the years I have learned that some of the residents have families who look after them, yet some of them were abandoned by loved ones or forgotten in the family shuffles caused by aging, physical distance and death years ago. Their disabilities are a spectrum of severity, a variety of developmental delays, neuro-motor and communication disorders. From what their helpers tell me, our Seder is one of the highlights of their year. We welcome everyone as they come through the door. We play music and sing, we tell the story of the ancient Israelites' liberation from Egypt, we eat a nice meal together and we have fun. We are a noisy bunch performing a boisterous narrative about redemption for people whose voices, literally and symbolically, are imprisoned or extinguished.
In 2001, when I was younger and all that goes with that, I was on the US Maccabiah Games triathlon team that would compete in the so-called Jewish Olympics held in Israel every four years. As my friend put it, I wanted to be the world’s fastest Jewish triathlete, something I didn’t do when I competed in the Games four years prior in 1997.
For meta-historians who take the long view, e.g. Arnold Toynbee, there is the emergence of a “looming global peace” that is gaining acceptance in the corridors of Academe. It is predicated on the belief that we are nearing a point in history where war as we know it has disappeared. Presumably the world is becoming safe and secure with few violent conflicts. Moreover, the United States faces no plausible existential threats or great power rivalry. This is the unvarnished theme at its most basic level.
Yesterday was the last day to file our tax returns for 2012. If you enjoyed it you are probably either an accountant who earned lots of money filing other people’s returns, or you have enough money to have an accountant file your returns, or you were getting a BIG refund. For the rest of us it was anything from a mild annoyance to a big pain.
Last week, President Obama offered his plan for the federal budget. According to the President, his proposed $3.7 trillion budget for 2014 would cut deficits by $1.8 trillion over the next decade. The President’s plan includes a number of proposals, most notably: ending the “sequester” (that’s the current law that has automatically cut federal spending), reducing spending in the Medicare and Social Security programs, as well as tax increases that would primarily hit high-income households and corporations.
Of all the actors who came to the fore after the end of the Second World War, perhaps the best-recalled are Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas, Montgomery Clift, Robert Mitchum, William Holden... But they are not the lone stars of the era. Glenn Ford may not have appeared in as many timeless titles as the Lancasters and Pecks, but he was a prolific performer whose star glowed from the postwar years into the 1960s.
This week, in classrooms across the state, hundreds of thousands of elementary and middle school students are taking standardized tests – the first tests given by the State Education Department based on the new Common Core learning standards.