Thursday, January 26, 2012

Recreating a Historical Character

Time-Travel with Emily Dickinson

written and performed by MiMi Zannino

March 2012 Performance Dates - Free to All

March 10, Saturday, 3 pm, Federal Hill Library
1251 Light St, Baltimore, MD 21230
Enoch Pratt library phone: 410-396-1096

March 31, Saturday 2 pm, Govans Library
5714 Bellona Ave, Baltimore, MD 21212
Enoch Pratt library phone: 410-396-6098

For more information: call 443.528.6464
or email:

My friend and fellow poet Rosemarie ("MiMi") Zannino will be presenting a one-woman show on  poet Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) at two local Baltimore libraries in March.  I will be advising MiMi on the project but she did not want me to see the script beforehand but asked that I see her presentation first.  It should be interesting.

I suppose in a way I have mixed feelings about actors playing historical characters.  First of all, as I mentioned to MiMi in a recent telephone conversation, any director or writer coming to a historical project is going to bring their own point of view to the portrayal of past events. Just the mere distance in time means that as much as directors and screenwriters try to capture the past, they may or may not do so, and today's political and sociological whims don't help in the effort.  While hopefully whomever mounts such a portrayal of a historical figure will attempt to faithfully portray the character and the events in which they were involved as they happened, it is likely that the artist is going to at least bring their own flavor to the portrayal or, in the extreme, give a distorted view of the person and the occurrences. 

There are two current films that come to mind that provide portrayals of larger-than-life characters: Leonardo Di Caprio as the long-time director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar and Meryl Streep's portrayal of former British Prime Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady directed by Phyllida Lloyd (previously known for Mamma Mia). 

I have seen J. Edgar but have not yet seen The Iron Lady.

Both portrayals have been slated by some critics as being more "impersonations" than fully rounded portrayals.  Indeed, The Iron Lady has been described by many as being a poor movie despite the fact that the actress has been praised for her performance.  Noticeably also, in the Academy Award nominations announced on Tuesday just before President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address (the President was not nominated for an Oscar!), but Streep was nominated but DiCaprio pointedly was not.  I am not surprised by this, because although I thought J. Edgar was an interesting film, it was by no means a great one. 

Part of the trouble with J. Edgar is that, as director, Eastwood was trying to cover too much territory in following Hoover for over a half century from the Red scares of 1919 right up to the time of his death in 1972 -- the FBI man just missed out on Watergate -- Hoover died on May 2 and the "Plumbers" break-in at the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate, ordered by President Richard M. Nixon, took place six weeks later on June 16.  Given that Nixon and Hoover were both notoriously suspicious men who nursed grudges, it is intriguing to wonder, if Hoover had lived longer, what the FBI director could have done to discredit the president over the scandal.  Might Nixon might have been forced to resign earlier, or would Hoover have just blackmailed Nixon?   

In any case, because of the need to cover so much of Hoover's long career, as a result, J. Edgar doesn't quite hold together.  I also felt that Eastwood was trying to tiptoe around the issue of Hoover's relationship with his longtime associate Clyde Tolson.  The director more hints at the homosexual nature of the relationship than actively explores it. 

In terms of the Streep portrayal of Thatcher, who unlike Hoover, is still alive, a number of the former British PM's political associates have slammed the film as being an "insulting" portrayal of the British leader.

As for Emily Dickinson, the Amherst, Massachusetts poet, long regarded as reclusive and virginal, famously characterized as "The White Lady" based on a portrait of her, has undergone somewhat of a revisionist reappraisal in recent years with feminists and others seeing her as much more activist and engaged in her New England society than previous treatments of her have conceived.  It will be interesting to see how MiMi Zannino approaches her.

Meanwhile, yours truly is due to provide the voice for Sir Charles Warren in Erie, Pennsylvania director Justin Dombrowski's Ripper script, "Autumn of Terror." Initially, this will be a play for voices preliminary to doing a full-scale film of the project.  Justin tells me: "Think of it as a project to build up a visonary medium for when it will be optioned out."

Sir Charles Warren (1840-1927), Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police at the time of the Whitechapel Murders of 1888.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Newt and the Bomb

The Conspiracy Theory of History. . . .

Which would be worse: Newt Gingrich becoming president of the United States or Iran getting the Bomb?

Of course, U.S. presidential history is replete with examples of scare tactics being used by political opponents.  In the 1964 election, Lyndon B. Johnson's operatives famously employed the TV commercial showing the girl counting from one to ten as she pulled the petals off the daisy followed by an image of a hydrogen bomb exploding, intended to discredit Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater and to imply that a Goldwater presidency would put the nation in peril.  Similar fears were expressed by the Left about Ronald Reagan, who did go on to beat Jimmy Carter for the presidency in 1980.

“Daisy ad” made for Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 presidential campaign.  It was broadcast on September 7, 1964.

At the NBC debate last night, Mitt Romney tried to discredit former House Speaker Newt Gingrich implying that he is erratic and unstable and that he himself would be the clear choice for GOP voters and the country -- the "stable" and "safe" candidate.

What was amazing about the debate last night was that you had two candidates pretending to be what they are not.  Romney insisted that Gingrich served for years as a "K Street lobbyist" while Gingrich kept saying that he acted as a "historian" for housing finance agencies Fannie May and Freddie Mac, which were complicit in the 2008 housing crisis and subsequent financial collapse.  Gingrich released a copy of one year of his contract with Freddie Mac prior to the debate which clearly shows that he was a "consultant" and that he earned $300,000 in that period.  Many might argue that consultant equals lobbyist.  Similarly, Romney is running away from his record as CEO of Bain Capital which was responsible for people losing their jobs let alone pretending that he is a staunch conservative when in reality he was the moderate governor of Massachusetts, and enacted a version of health care that is virtually identical to and was used as a model for the national health care bill passed by Barack Obama.

Clearly many Republicans are afraid that Gingrich will get the nomination and wish that his rise be stopped.  The trouble is that the bumbling Romney may not be capable of stopping him.  Attempts to do so, as shown in South Carolina, may only fire up the Republican base more.  Perhaps with the rise of the Tea Party the age of smoke-filled rooms has passed.  Maybe.

Meanwhile, as reported by NBC, at a rally, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was faced by a woman who said that Obama is a "practicing Muslim", a charge that Santorum refused to deny, which does him discredit.  At least in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, GOP presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain had the good grace to deny a claim by a supporter that Obama was a "terrorist."

The Florida primary is coming up in a week's time.  Will Gingrich continue his surge or will Romney have damaged him enough to win?

What would Gingrich be like as a president?  My fellow football (soccer) fans might appreciate this analogy.  What if Mario Balotelli became president of Italy?  Think about it.

the candidate's
past: he's someone else now
-- a new person. . . not the same old

Christopher T. George

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Rebel State Speaks Its Mind

Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston harbor, April 12, 1861 (Currier and Ives print).

The state of South Carolina prides itself of having chosen every the Republican presidential candidate since 1980.  South Carolina is also of course where the Civil War began 150 years ago this April, when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, igniting a bloody four-year-long Civil War.  Yesterday in South Carolina, Republicans chose former House Speaker Newt Gingrich from neighboring Georgia as the winner of the state's GOP primary. 

Was this a seismic event or just a blip in the inevitable route march of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to the nomination?  Romney was beaten by a landslide, 40% to 27.9%, with Ron Paul and Rick Santorum lagging behind.  No doubt Gingrich's victory was made larger by the good debate performance he showed in the CNN debate in Charleston on Thursday night, right from the get-go with the opening question when he was able to blast CNN moderator John King for the inaptness of asking the candidate about the charge by his second wife that he had asked for an "open marriage" and Gingrich was able to take a sizeable hit at the media, which fired up the conservative audience.  The canny former House leader thanked King for a great debate at the end of the event.  "Thank you, CNN, you sleazy, slimy media you!"

Meanwhile, at the same debate, Romney fumbled an answer about when he will release his tax returns, giving the impression that he has something to hide, although on Fox this morning he did say he will release his 2010 tax return and a partial 2011 return... well, that's just only one full year and fails to include all the years that he ran Bain Capital that some observers think he should be releasing to satisfy his critics.

The "Republican establishment" (whatever might be) is said to be worried about the rise of Gingrich, feeling that he would be unelectable in the Fall. Commentators on the Sunday morning political talk shows puzzled over what exactly that establishment is.  It is true though that many of the Republicans who served in Congress with Gingrich in the 1990's have expressed doubts about him, saying that even though he engineered the Republican takeover of Congress during the Clinton administration, he proved to be a poor and unpredictable leader.  From my point of view, it looks to me as if Gingrich at least stands for something, although conservative values that I as a liberal Democratic voter do not hold, whereas it's hard to know what exactly Romney stands for.  Because Romney has chosen not to run on his record as governor of Massachusetts, he has left himself open to criticism that he is a hard-hearted capitalist and a man who does not hold the conservative values that Republican voters today say they admire.

See the following video, where Romney backer New Jersey governor Chris Christie pushes back hard about what he claims to be Gingrich's character flaws and lack of executive experience:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Spitballs.... Great Political Theater!

CNN's Southern Republican debate last night in Charleston, South Carolina, began with fireworks as host John King attempted to get former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to address a televised claim by his second wife that he had requested an open marriage, and Gingrich heatedly attacked King for what he described as the despicable act of beginning a Presidential debate with such a scurrilous charge, much to the delight of the audience.  It was great political theater and couldn't have played better into Gingrich's hands, combined with Newt's master stroke of releasing his tax returns. Meanwhile, nominal Republican front runner Mitt Romney has refused to disclose his tax returns and badly fumbled his response to King about when he might do so.  This once more reinforced the idea that Romney is a bumbler.  Mister Vanilla Ice Cream.

Last night's debate performance and the associated political theater will put Gingrich in a good position to win Saturday's South Carolina primary, considering that he was already rising in the polls based on a likewise solid debate performance in last Monday's debate.  Romney's candidacy meanwhile received another blow when it was announced early yesterday that a final count of votes in the Iowa caucus of a couple of weeks ago shows that Rick Santorum and not Romney had won the vote, although by an extremely narrow margin.  Whoops.  Also with Texas governor dropping out yesterday and backing Gingrich, the momentum has seemed to go to Newt.

Romney might still go on to win the Republican nomination but Gingrich will certainly have given him a scare.  Coming as he does from the South, from neighboring Georgia, the ex-House Speaker might have been expected to have an advantage, as almost a favorite son, just as Romney was anticipated to have an advantage in New Hampshire, right next to the state of Massachusetts where he had served as governor and instituted the "Romneycare" so controversial today among the Republicans he will need to win the presidency.  Whether any Gingrich surge and possible win in South Carolina will vault him to the nomination remains to be seen.  There's a long, long way to go, it seems.

MSNBC’s Bill Press has stated, “Newt is a GOP Suicide Bomber.”



In honor of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, I have begun a new blog on the war at  There I intend to share news of upcoming events on the War of 1812 including speaking engagements in which I will be featured as well as my views on the conflict.  It is one of the most significant events in the history of the United States but a war that has been woefully overlooked. Hopefully we can remedy that in the next three years.

Christopher T George presenter Star Spangled Banner Flag House Symposium 2001
Not a new line-up of Republican candidates but Chris, right, as a presenter at the "Flag Making in the Early Republic: The Fourth Annual Symposium" hosted by the Star Spangled Banner Flag House Association, Inc., March 31, 2001. From left to right: Marilyn Zoidis, Sally Johnston, Stephen W. Hill, Fenella France, Earl P. Williams, and Christopher T. George. Photograph by Richard R. Gideon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mitt Marches on to the South. . .

Abstract swirls 6

Romney won, but will there be buyer's remorse
-- can the candidate stay the course,
is he the nation's bright new up-and-comer,
or will there be four more years of Obama?

Yes, a handy win for Mitt Romney in the New Hampshire GOP primary yesterday. With 92% of the vote counted, the former Massachusetts governor received 39.3% of the vote. Libertarian Ron Paul coming in second with 22.9% and fellow moderate Jon Huntsman finishing third with 16.9%.  Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was a distant fourth with 9.4%, similar to Rick Santorum with 9.3%, and Texan governor Rick Perry who is concentrating his campaign on finishing strongly in the South, with a measly 0.7%.

The New Hampshire win sets up Romney nicely for the South Carolina primary on January 21 and the Florida primary at the end of the month.  Reportedly Winning Our Future, the pro-Gingrich Super PAC has bought $5 million of  media commercials to attack Romney in the Palmetto State with money donated by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.  And Gingrich is the man who accuses Romney of sleazy politics and of attacking him with unfair Super PAC commercials.  Ugh.

Most pundits seem to think that in South Carolina, as in Iowa, the conservative candidates, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum, will divide the vote enabling Romney to win again.  If that happens, he might be on cruise control to the nomination going toward the Republican convention.  The question might be what Ron Paul will do.  He has little chance of winning the GOP nomination given his extremely conservative policies and ideas.  If, in the general election, Paul decides to run as a third party candidate, it could damage Romney's chances of winning the presidency.  Stay tuned.

A casino owner's super PAC keeps Gingrich afloat,
enables Newt to attack the Mittser's throat
with commercials that treat Romney with disdain.
Which of these two candidates will remain?  rolleyes

Michele Bachmann. . . flaky, nutty, choose your word,
and still the gal from Minnesota persisted, undeterred.
It was a short, comic run -- a quite entertaining one.
If Sarah Palin had stood instead, would she have won?

You might enjoy the following hilarious video parody of the Republican debates if you have not seen it:


My friend, the Aardvark, has no opinions on politics.  Let me know what YOU think. . . .

Abstract swirls 5

Abstract swirls 2

Abstract swirls 1

Meeting Dave and Steve at the One World Café

Three poets, survivors from the Sixties, meet for coffee and more.
Earlier, on my sixty-fourth birthday, an Ethiopian Evangelist tries
to save my mortal soul -- he offers to murmur a prayer for it.

The retired mailman, the ex-prison worker, and the still-slaving
editor (me) discuss the economy, how saps these days can't afford
to entirely retire: it's each man or woman for him or -- er -- herself!

I grunt down the path with an overloaded garbage bag.
A young female student offers to help. Doesn't she know
that I regularly struggle up and down the three flights

of our Baltimore walk-up apartment house?
A boy becomes an adult, becomes an elderly man.
Order me a drink -- make it a double. Boats against the current.

Christopher T. George

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mitt Romney's Most Genuine Moments

New Hampshire

Sign in a New Hampshire restaurant: Oh, yeh?

Unfortunately, Mitt Romney's most genuine moments are when he is caught off guard and speaks unscripted.  As when he said that "Corporations are people" or offered the $10,000 bet to fellow candidate Texas governor Rick Perry.  Or, most recently, on the eve of today's New Hampshire Republican primary, when he said at a breakfast meeting with business leaders, "I enjoy being able to fire people who provide services to me." He was talking about about firing insurance companies but it sounded too much like he received enjoyment from firing employees.  Just the wrong thing to say when Americans are hurting from high unemployment.  It is very revealing that at a moment when he would be expected to feel most comfortable, around businessmen such as he has been for much of his life, he would say such a thing.

All these unprovoked remarks show that Mr. Romney, a multi-millionaire, is realms away from the average American voter.  Not only do many of his own Republicans feel uncomfortable with him but he is proving himself so with a broad swathe of Americans as well.  So the question remains whether a Romney coronation is inevitable as the Republican nominee let alone the Republican who will deny President Barack Obama a second term in the White House.

Another significant moment occurred on Sunday morning during the "Meet the Press" Facebook Republican debate when fellow candidate Jon Huntsman, answered Romney's criticism during the debate of the night before that he had worked for President Obama as U.S. Ambassador.  The former Utah governor made the salient point that he, Huntsman, would always put the nation first and that the type of Romney's criticism shows what is wrong with the country today.  Huntsman followed up his riposte to Romney and the Massachusetts man's gaff about firing insurance companies (read people) -- when he told reporters in Concord, New Hampshire yesterday, "Governor Romney enjoys firing people; I enjoy creating jobs."

It remains to be seen what traction Huntsman can get. Thus far he has seriously lagged in the polls.  Is he too moderate for the voters in Republican caucuses and primaries?  He didn't campaign in Iowa and has put all his efforts into giving a good showing in New Hampshire.  But can he be a valid alternative to Romney when it seems as if many Republicans are looking for a conservative alternative to the former Massachusetts governor?  One thing that could benefit him is that unlike in other states, Democrats and unaligned voters can vote in the Republican primary.  It will be fascinating to see how the Republican candidates do in today's primary.  Stay tuned, playmates.

The first few shots photographs that appear below are not of New Hampshire.  They were taken on a recent evening looking into the window of the Thunder Grill, Union Station, Washington, D.C., one of my favorite watering holes.  Oh, yes, and it is my sixty-fourth birthday. Why, happy birthday, Chris.  Enjoy that Harvey Wallbanger.....

Thunder Grill 5

Thunder Grill 4

Thunder Grill 3

Thunder Grill 1

Harvey Wallbanger

Harvey Wallbanger 1

Have another drink, Chris.  wink moving

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Will They Learn to Love Mitt.... Or the Tale of the Activist Judges

So former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney squeaked through as victor of the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses held on Tuesday evening by a mere eight votes over conservative former U.S. senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.  Romney won 25 percent of the vote, with a total of around 30,000, an almost identical percentage and number of votes to what he received four years ago when he finished second to the eventual Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona.  Clearly, Republicans don't love Mitt, and the idea that he is the obviously ordained GOP nominee for President in 2012 took a severe hit.  A big hit for Mitt.  Hmmmm.  Now if he fails to win in New Hampshire in that primary to be held next Tuesday or else only wins by another squeaker, in the veritable backyard of Massachusetts where he served as the moderate leader of that state, I predict that his candidacy will be in real trouble.

Meanwhile, former 1990's Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich of Georgia, renowned for his showdowns with former President Bill Clinton, took a major hit from attack ads from the special interest PAC groups supporting Romney, and he is as mad as hell about it.  As Howard Beale (the late Australian-born actor Peter Finch) yelled in the 1976 movie Network written by Paddy Chayefsky, "I' m as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" 

The ironic thing is that when Gingrich was riding high in the polls a few weeks ago, before those attack ads hit him, he was railing against "activist judges" or, as conservatives like to put it, judges who "legislate from the bench."  They mean, of course, liberal judges who rule favorably for progressive causes.  But what could be more activist than the conservative court ruled by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts?  In fact, it was Roberts and his colleagues who ruled in favor of Citizens United in 2010 and made it possible for Super Pacs to operate without any oversight and without answering to the public, the very thing that torpedoed Newt's campaign in Iowa.  Newt might have to do another flip flop--on his thinking on the judiciary.  How about it, Newt?

I understand that at upcoming at the end of March, the Roberts Supreme Court has scheduled three whole days for the justices to contemplate President Obama's health care initiative.  Such a block of time to be taken by the justices to contemplate one legal matter. is almost unprecedented.  Of course, the Obama health care law is being challenged by conservatives all across the country so it was going to land up in the nation's highest court sooner or later.  Will Roberts and his conservative allies on the court be able to help the Republicans to dismantle national health care?  Serious questions have arisen, for example, over whether Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from the deliberations. Liberals point out that his wife Ginni Thomas’s ties to a group opposing the health care law.  Questions have also been raised by conservatives in regard to the possible participation in the discussions by former Solicitor General and now Justice Elena Kagan.  Her role as Solicitor General in litigation challenging health care reform legislation has been questioned, and right wingers say that as a result she should recuse herself from the upcoming deliberations. See

Romney for President? 

Mitt Romney man doesn't excite anyone, Republicans or anyone else.  The man looks and sounds like a storefront mannequin.  His assertion that he has business experience and thus knows how to fix the economy is complete hogwash.  The best economic minds don't have a quick fix so Romney as a former corporate executive surely has no fix either.  This is the same man who several months ago declared that "Corporations are people too!" 

Activist judges?  How about instead, activist citizens to take our Democracy back?!!!

Elsewhere, I have written some thoughts about the prospects of Rick Santorum becoming the Republican nominee for President in 2012.  Go to my blog at Eratosphere at

Also check out my Jack the Ripper blog for some discussion of "A Bit of Graffiti and a Few Letters." Go to