A Simple Man


Just this side of the Delaware River, in the heart of Philadelphia, is a rectangular stone slab that marks the grave of its designer–perhaps the simplest thing he ever created during a lifetime noted for historic inventions.

And                  Franklin

It is remarkable that he made it back to this continent in time to “go to bed,” as he called it, since he spent much of the second half of his life in Europe. But then, after more than 70 years of public service, he still had work left to do in America–a constitution to help write.

His life is presented in 500 pages, in Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Continue reading


True/False 2016, Day Two

Friday, March 4: Television/Father

Jesse Hall was the site of the first film Jen and I saw together this year, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. It was lighter fare than we are accustomed to seeing during the festival, but you really have to have about 20% on your schedule that aren’t overly demanding on your sensibilities, to maintain your sanity. Enter the father of the TV sitcom, Norman Lear.

AITFLear was the first to bring prejudice into our television entertainment, and make fun of it, beginning with Archie Bunker and All in the Family. He first brought a black family to TV with Good Times,  but the show fell apart after internal disagreements and claims that white Americans were forming an opinion of blacks based too much on Jimmie Walker saying “Dy-no-mite,” and other “buffoonery,” as Esther Rolle called it. A visit to Lear by the Black Panthers pointed out that Good Times also reinforced the idea of blacks living in poverty, which led to the moving on up of George Jefferson, in The Jeffersons. At 93, Lear is about to premier a Netflix series, One Day at a Time, a redo of the classic sitcom featuring a Cuban-American family.

Lear has almost ceaselessly brought controversial subjects and situations to TV, despite death threats and other intimidation from all directions. His life was shaped in no small way by the father that disappeared from his life when he was nine years old, but his inner child remains very active today, personified in the film by a Fedora-wearing boy.

Just Another Version of You, a phrase taken from a bumper sticker on Lear’s car, highlights his life as an activist. He is the founder of People for the American Way, and once purchased an original publishing of the Declaration of Independence, to tour it around the country for all to see. He currently has a campaign to fight back against the hateful speech of the leading Republican presidential candidate, and I couldn’t help but think about Lear’s take on the lack of diversity in Hollywood films today. As director Ewing spoke on stage after the film, with the lights up in the auditorium, I also found myself wondering what he would think of the make-up of the audience I was a part of, as I couldn’t see a single person of color. The film-festival, in general, tends to be a very Caucasian event, and True/False is a prime example.

But Lear has sought to bring people of all varieties together through the television medium, trying to show that we are all just another version of each other. Ewing and Grady’s biopic brings a man who has seemed larger than life to the big screen, making him larger still. But throughout the story, you understand that he is just another guy. A boy.


True/False 2016, Day One


Thursday, March 3: Tickets/Food

I decided to opt out of buying a pass this year, and instead purchase a Gateway Packet — tickets to three films chosen from a specific selection offered by the festival specifically for this option. I then purchased tickets to two additional films at the box office, without having to pay for the least expensive pass option. That would cost a little more, but allow me to see up to ten films — something it is nearly impossible to do in one weekend. After picking up my tickets, I strolled across the street to grab a slice of quiche and a chocolate croissant at The Upper Crust, an eatery inside the Ragtag Theater. I’d had it before, and it was just as good this time as I’d remembered.

Thursday: Terrible/Film-making

I took in a late-starting film alone Thursday night, because Jen had to work Friday and it was not a good idea for her to be up past midnight. One of the extra tickets I bought was for Kate Plays Christine (here is The Guardian‘s review), the subject of which is a newscaster who shot herself on a live broadcast in 1974. This film truly blurred the line between the true and the false, as it was a documentary following an actor starring in a fictitious movie about a very real person. Continue reading

A Challenging Time

challengerprepChallenger 1A” by AcroterionOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.


I was eating my lunch in the school cafeteria when I noticed everyone in the room turning to look at the TVs. They were just recently installed and normally showing news or educational programs of little interest to those of us who wanted to free our minds of constructive thought for a while.

I knew the space shuttle was supposed to launch that day, but it was supposed to launch for several days before that, too. The novelty of hearing about a teacher in space was actually starting to get kind of boring. But apparently it was happening–I was seeing the smoke trail as it finally ascended. Continue reading