The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

This seven-part documentary follows the lives and careers of Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. It is the twenty-fifth documentary by Ken Burns and is narrated by Peter Coyote (who always seems to be the narrator for Burns’s features). Each episode is two hours long.

Theodore Roosevelt was a sickly child, dangerously afflicted with asthma, and there was a time in his infancy when doctors told his parents he may not survive. By his teens, he followed his adored father’s advice and engaged in weightlifting and boxing. He continued to fight health problems and become the “tough guy” among other sportsmen. But he had a considerate side. During a bear-hunting trip, the group captured a cub whom Roosevelt refused to kill, calling the other hunters’ behavior “unsportsmanlike.” That’s why we call the stuffed toy a teddy bear.

Graduating magna cum laude from Harvard, he entered Columbia Law School. However, the law was not his goal. He later became the youngest representative of the New York State Assembly. Tragically, his mother and his wife died on the same day, and in his crippling grief he traveled to the Dakota Territory as a cowboy and rancher for two years.

Roosevelt returned to politics in 1886 and remarried. His lifelong fascination with the Navy led to the position of U.S. Navy assistant secretary under President William McKinley. He later left the post to join the Spanish-American War, organizing the Rough Riders, famously taking San Juan Hill. Seen as a war hero, he was elected governor of New York in 1898.

Roosevelt was more progressive than many Republicans, and to put him aside, they nominated him for the Vice Presidency on McKinley’s ticket for re-election. (The Vice Presidency was considered “where politicians go to die.”) In 1901 McKinley was assassinated, making Roosevelt, 42, the youngest President in history. (The episode goes into much more detail about Roosevelt’s presidency. PBS is repeating it several times. You can also see it on PBS.com.)

In 1905 he walked his favorite niece and goddaughter, Eleanor, down the aisle as she married Franklin D. Roosevelt (her fifth cousin once removed). This first episode simply touches on Franklin and Eleanor. There are six more to come.

 

 

Herbie Hancock’s Memoir

If you’re too young or never heard of Herbie Hancock (shown here with Morgan Freeman at the UN International Jazz Day), you should get to know this giant in jazz. He has written a memoir, Herbie Hancock: Possibilities with author Lisa Dickey, to be released on October 28. The title evokes his 2005 album of the same name — his forty-fifth. In addition to winning 14 Grammy Awards since 1984, he won an Academy Award in 1986 for the soundtrack to Round Midnight. His 2007 tribute album River: The Joni Letters won the 2008 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, only the second jazz album ever to win the award. In 2013 he received the Kennedy Center Honors Award.

According to Jazz Times, currently Hancock serves as Creative Chair for Jazz for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and as Institute Chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. He is also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. He was named the 2014 Norton Professor Of Poetry at Harvard University, and conducted a lecture series, “The Ethics Of Jazz,” as part of the Charles Eliot Norton Lecture Series in February for a period of six weeks.

Hancock never studied jazz. His early education was in classical music, starting at the age of seven. At eleven he played Mozart with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. When he fell in love with jazz, he made an extraordinary name for himself, part of the Miles Davis Quintet, and worked with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, The Headhunters, V.S.O.P., Jaco Pastorius and Joni Mitchell.

In 2010 Hancock released The Imagine Project. He appears on the fifth Flying Lotus album, You’re Dead, to be released in October.

Upcoming Fall Movies

Yes, we’re sad that summer’s over, but some of the new films opening in September, October and November might make you want to go to the movies.

THE EQUALIZER, September 26

It used to be a 1980’s TV show. Now it’s on the screen starring Denzel Washington as a former soldier going after Russian mobsters. Directed by Antoine Fuqua. They worked together on Training Day. Another Oscar for Denzel?

GONE GIRL, October 3

It’s based on Gillian Flynn’s bestseller. (I read it. It was good but not great. Still, I’m eager to see the story on screen.) The film is adapted and directed by David Fincher. Ben Affleck stars as the devastated husband whose wife (Rosamund Pike) is missing. Or did he have something to do with it?

THE JUDGE, October 10

When was the last time we saw Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr.? Duvall is a retired judge. Downey is his lawyer son who’s called on to defend him on a murder charge. It’s directed by David Dobkin, who did Wedding Crashers. Quite a departure.

BIRDMAN, October 17

You remember Michael Keaton, right? Do you? He stars as an actor who’s made a big change from superhero to Broadway. It comes from a Raymond Carver short story and is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, who brought us 21 Grams and Babel. It’s his first comedy.

DUMB AND DUMBER TO, November 14

Please. I have no words.

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY, PART 1, November 21

Jennifer Lawrence returns as Katniss, and Philip Seymour Hoffman reprises his role as Plutarch. Based on the popularity of the Hunger Games franchise and one of Hoffman’s last four 2014 films, get there early for a good seat.

 

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Did You Agree With The Emmy Awards?

emmyThe 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards were presented on Monday, August 25, only the second time they were shown on a Sunday. The Emmys traditionally air on the last Sunday before the TV season begins. This year, that would be Sunday, September 21, and four networks take turns airing the show. The reason is – football. Apparently the Emmys took a back seat to NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

The big winner of the night was Breaking Bad. It was a fervent farewell for the series, which will enter the Guinness World Records 2014 for the highest-rated TV show of all time. Breaking Bad won Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor (Bryan Cranston), Outstanding Supporting Actor (Aaron Paul), Outstanding Supporting Actress (Anna Gunn), and Outstanding Writing (Moira Walley-Beckett). It’s amazing that the show didn’t go past five seasons.

Modern Family won for Outstanding Comedy Series for the fifth consecutive time, unthreatened by Orange Is The New Black or Louie (who is hard to beat). But Louis C.K. did win Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. Ty Burrell from Modern Family won Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series.

Once again, Jim Parsons won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for The Big Bang Theory. In his speech, he said, “There’s no accounting for taste.” Allison Janney won two Emmys — Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Mom and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for Masters of Sex. She exclaimed that this was “number six!” In that business, I don’t blame her.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series was Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife. Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series was Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep.

Did you applaud your favorites? Were you angry about some snubs? Check out the complete list.

The World’s Greatest Inventors

When you think of inventors, Thomas Edison immediately comes to mind. Edison invented the phonograph, motion picture camera, light bulb and fluoroscope, to name a few. It has been said that the persistent Edison had far more failures than successes.

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, called the “harmonic telegraph.” Interestingly, Bell was a teacher for the deaf. Henry Ford invented the automobile and put the world on the road. Ford started as an engineer with the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. He introduced the Model T in 1908. Ten years later, the drivers behind the wheel of a Model T were one out of two. Ford introduced the assembly line in 1913, forever changing automobile manufacturing.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak invented the personal computer. No, it was not Bill Gates. The first PC was the Apple 1. It had great success until IBM made one of their own. Apple then invented the Macintosh. Mac lovers wouldn’t trade it in for anything.

Do you love peanut butter? Thank George Washington Carver, who found many uses for peanuts, including ink, milk, and soap. He was the first to show farmers the importance of peanuts.

Benjamin Franklin was a statesman and was instrumental in the emergence of the United States. He also discovered electricity, invented the Franklin stove and even bifocal glasses — in the 18th century! George Eastman invented photo film, Elisha Graves Otis invented the elevator brake, and the Wright Brothers invented the airplane.

So when you’ve made your travel plans online, there’s plenty of light for you to find an elevator to reach your plane, you put on your bifocals to see the departure times, you have your camera with you for the trip, you’re served peanuts on the plane, and you call on arrival, you know the people to thank.

The Short Romance of John and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy

indexFairy Tale Interrupted is a memoir written by John F. Kennedy Jr.’s assistant and publicist, RoseMarie Terenzio, who became close friends with John and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy.

Working at a New York PR firm, “Rosie,” as John called her, arrived at her office one morning to see John and another man boxing up the contents of her office. John had been a frequent visitor to the office, but the rest of the starstruck staff never knew why. Now it seemed he was moving in.

RoseMarie was mad, and not afraid to let it be known. When John said, “We can figure this out,” she replied, “Figure this out? Clearly we’re not figuring out anything, because you have already packed everything up.” (Italics the author’s.) John later commented that he liked her tough Bronx way of handling things.

Rosie subsequently became John’s assistant – more like a chief of staff, as she saw it. Immediately upon arrival she would attack the mail and voicemails and separate the worthwhile from the crackpots, some of whom even arrived at reception.

A close relationship formed with both John and his girlfriend Carolyn. She took RoseMarie on shopping trips to upgrade her look. Carolyn had been a publicist at Calvin Klein, and was always dressed in a beautiful and sophisticated way. RoseMarie almost fainted at the price tags.

There are two stories about how John and Carolyn met. One was that they were introduced by a mutual friend, Kelly Klein (Calvin’s then wife). Another says that John couldn’t stop staring at Carolyn when they were both jogging in Central Park.

Not too much later they planned a private wedding on Cumberland Island, Georgia, in a rustic Baptist church without electricity, lit with candles and lanterns. Only forty guests attended. Even some members of the Kennedy extended family weren’t invited. Extraordinarily, they pulled it off. No cameras and no helicopters.

After their honeymoon in Turkey, followed by ten days on an Aegean cruise, they returned to their Tribeca loft to hundreds of paparazzi. John had grown up being followed by the press. He knew how to banter with them and move through the crowd. Carolyn was a private person who longed for a quiet life and practically never gave interviews. Privacy didn’t exist the moment she walked out the door. At one point John snapped, “Just ignore them. I do.”

Even before juggling wedding plans (preceded by a press statement that John and Carolyn were not engaged), John and his creative director, Matt Berman, created George magazine, named for our first president. Its tag line was “Not Just Politics As Usual.” Its theme was to combine politics with lifestyle. The first issue featured Cindy Crawford as George Washington. He never looked so sexy. Every month a different celebrity was morphed into a historical figure. (Well, there was the Happy Birthday, Mr. President issue, with Drew Barrymore as a spot-on Marilyn Monroe.)

John appeared on Oprah to publicize the magazine. The audience reacted as if the 1964 Beatles were there. Oprah gushed, as she often does, and used the word “hunk” in her introduction. No one advised her that he hated that? RoseMarie was called to the green room and was surrounded by Oprah’s staff. Told the surroundings were all Oprah’s vision, both John and RoseMarie were shocked by the group’s sycophancy. When John introduced her, Oprah’s snide how-do-you-do was “You must be the helper.”

George leaped off the shelves, partly because of Kennedy, but declined after his death, and early 2001 produced the last publication.

When Frank, RoseMarie’s best friend, suddenly died, John hugged her and shared kind words. One touching remark was, “Whenever there’s a tragedy, a tiny nub of green starts to grow inside you. It’s a regrowth. You have to hold on to that little nub until it grows into the tree that is the next part of your life.” He was a Kennedy. He knew tragedy. (I don’t usually cry when reading a book, but that did it.)

Carolyn didn’t want to go to Rory Kennedy’s wedding in July. John didn’t want to go without her and relied on RoseMarie to persuade Carolyn. She told Carolyn she was judged enough, and she shouldn’t want to be in that position. Carolyn agreed to go.

John and Carolyn had often spent weekends at his home in Martha’s Vineyard, and he was a confident and experienced pilot. On July 16, John and Carolyn met up with Carolyn’s sister Lauren, and they headed to Hyannis, intending to drop Lauren off in Martha’s Vineyard on the way. As the world knows, hours later the plane crashed. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that John had lost control as a result of spatial disorientation. Pilots were interviewed later and described a feeling of losing the horizon and not knowing whether they were going up or down.

Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was 33. John Kennedy was 38. They had been married for three years. The romance was too short. The world cried.

“Partners” — Two Thumbs Medium

“Partners” is a new sitcom based in Chicago (as are about six other series) starring Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence.

Kelsey Grammer just can’t stay away from TV. Anyone remember “Back to You” with Patricia Heaton? It ran for 17 episodes. Seemed like a very long time.

Grammer is Executive Producer of Partners as well as one of two lead roles. The other belongs to Martin Lawrence, and it’s a real departure for him.

Allen Braddock (Grammer) is a highly unethical lawyer (Is that redundant? OK, sorry, lawyers) who has just been fired from his own father’s law firm. He hears Marcus Jackson (Lawrence) talking about his upcoming divorce, and how he’s going to be cleaned out. Braddock tells Jackson it doesn’t have to be that way. But he has to fight, stand up for himself and stop being, well, so nice.

They form an uneasy partnership with Braddock showing just how many rules can be bent. Really bent. Jackson, a by-the-book environmental activist, seems baffled.

Nobody does conceited and condescending like Grammer. It’s not the pomposity of Frasier, but not as funny either.

The pilot was weak. It was followed by another episode about a “gwedding.” That’s right, a gay wedding. This is where Michael (Rory O’Malley), Jackson’s assistant, really shines. Michael’s two gay-guy friends are getting married, but it seems they’re being shafted by an unscrupulous wedding planner (Missi Pyle, who else). Amazed that the lawyers saw through her fraudulent ways, Michael has the best line of the night: “Never in a billion years or Cher’s lifetime, did we think we’d win this.”

The second episode was far better than the pilot. Partners will continue with back-to-back episodes for the next five weeks. The show has been approved for ten episodes. Let’s see whether it’s successful.