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A very long time ago, my brothers and I slept three beds across in the same room downstairs. Several times each week our father made popcorn, drank soda, and read his magazines in the kitchen at the top of the stairs.  It was a ritual of his, and my mother apparently gave him that space; he worked long days and Saturdays, too. Some nights, after we were supposed to have been asleep, we heard the sound as he shook the iron skillet across the stovetop. This while the smell of fresh-popped corn wafted down.  Occasionally one of us would creep upstairs and ask for a bowl–but we would not be asking for a bowl of just any popcorn. The kernels came from the farmers in

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Movies

The movie “Room” is going to win its share of awards at the Oscars. If it were named Best Picture, I would not be surprised–nor would I disapprove. It has already won prizes at the Golden Globes and the Critics Choice Awards (to name only two). It’s exactly the kind of independent movie I love: it’s relatively simple, thought-provoking, inspiring, and balanced: at once sweet and somber. There’s a long-haired five-year-old boy, Jack, who has never seen the outside of a fortified garden shed. His only experience of the outside world is the sky through a skylight, and his mother’s explanations of the images on a cheap TV. They are captives. In an early scene, Jack begins his day by greeting the fixtures. “Good morning sink,

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[Note: I wrote this a few years ago, before I moved back. But SE Wisconsin was just covered in snow today after a very mild December. It reminded me of this piece.] I am in the North for a family visit. My elderly parents manage their simple life with a grace that humbles me. They could be threatened by the simplest acts. My minor setbacks would be their calamities: a fall, the flu, a minor accident driving to the store. Today they were mirthful and sweet and I could not decide if they were revisiting childhood or auditioning to become angels. Last month, I watched the movie “Amour,” an intense look at a couple managing change after half a century of life together (they managed

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Movies

  Is Captain Fantastic is a fantastic film? –Yes. Is it a fantasy? –I hope not. Is Captain Fantastic a fabulous film experience? –Yes. Is it a fable? –I suppose, but in a good way. For everything else it might or might not be, it is one of most inspiring movies I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s an organic film, though that could be construed to mean that it’s about carbon footprints and healthy food and hippie philosophies. It’s beyond those things. The story carries themes of independence and self-reliance. It’s also about a family that rejects conformity and convention–not to be rebellious, but because they see modern conventions as flawed and wrong. And it’s about courage–not the physical kind (though that’s there too),

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MarketsMovies

I am beginning to see Michael Lewis, author of the book that formed the basis for the film, as one of the most important authors of the 21st century. I have only read a few of his books, but I already know him the way I know other very good writers: when I read his books, I despair at the excesses and folly he makes accessible and visible (not everything he covers is simple or overt), and I take hope and inspiration while his protagonists (real people) act as proof that conscience and virtue are still at large in the world. The full title of his book is The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. It has as a backdrop the events leading up to

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About 30 months ago, I left Arizona after having lived there more than half my life. I had grown up in Racine, Wisconsin, and when I left for Arizona to go to graduate school, I had just turned 26.  A marriage, a divorce, and a couple careers later I was 55; my work-life was changing and my father’s health was failing. The decision to move back to Racine was made easier through a series of ever-longer visits back “home,” to the same house I grew up in, the nearby Great Lake, the change of seasons, the mix of industry and farming, and the community that somehow still knew me. Twenty years ago, in conversation with  Karen P______, an AA friend, I heard some words that

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