Sneaking Suspicions
Archives--October 12-November 30, 2008

This page includes posts from October 12-November 30, 2008 in the usual reverse order.

Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

November 13, 2008
Film Festival reviews and such

We had a great time with the thousands of folks who came to this year’s film festival, and appreciate all the nice compliments we’ve received about how it was run and the great movies they saw.

I spent most of my time at the Festival Box Office, with a few breaks to see a movie or two. The veteran volunteers who handle the ticket selling are a great bunch, and it’s always fun to catch up with them.

As for what I thought about the movies I saw, here are my mini-reviews, using the same grading system used by the Film Society in the competitions for Best Feature, Best Debut Feature, Best Documentary, and Best Short.

A Time to Die—This gentle little Polish film features a great actress, Danuta Szaflarska, and a remarkably talented Border Collie as her supporting actor. Outstanding.

Grab Bag Shorts--

The Hunter--Directed by Benjamin Gray for his MFA, this adaptation of a Tobias Wolff short story is chilling in several respects. Very good.

The Last Farm--This Icelandic movie earned an Oscar nod for short films in 2005. An old farmer is anxious to finish his goals before his children come to take him and his wife from their homestead. Outstanding.

Waiting (A Espera)—This Brazilian movie tracks the days and nights of an old man who once lived a very full life, but whose existence is now very different. Very good.

Wing: The Fish That Talked Back--A young Chinese girl, living in the Netherlands with her extended family, looks for a way to help her relatives return to their beloved country. A compelling fantasy. Outstanding.

Tripe and Onions--A very funny Hungarian short that uses an old-fashioned cinematic technique for the big payoff at the finish. Outstanding, and it won first place in the Short category at this year’s Festival.

Tell No One—Reminiscent of Hitchcock’s best work, this French thriller puts a widowed pediatrician in the path of some very bad people, who have a reason to want him dead. Outstanding.

Trouble the Water--This documentary about Hurricane Katrina won a Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at this year’s Sundance festival. The personal stories were fascinating, but the movie gave insufficient emphasis on the role of the totally dysfunctional city and state government in responding to the crisis. Very good. 

A Man Named Pearl--Pearl Fryar is one of those folks who didn’t know they couldn’t do something, so they went and did it. In his case, it involves beautiful topiary sculptures. Outstanding. It also earned second place among a fine collection of documentaries for this year’s Festival.

A Secret (Un Secret)—Claude Miller’s award-winning adaptation of Philippe Grimbert’s autobiographical novel of a Jewish family in pre-WWII France, and their subsequent history. Outstanding.

November 5, 2008

What a landslide, eh?

Congratulations to President-elect Obama, Vice-President-elect Biden, Governor-elect Markell and all of the other winners in yesterday's hard-fought, historic elections.

Considering all the challenges they will face, it may not be too long before some of these winners begin to consider the wisdom of the warning to be careful what you wish for, because you might just be given it.

As a state, Delaware is now presented with several major changes in the local political landscape.

Senator Biden's elevation to the Vice-Presidency after 36 years in the Senate means that someone has to be appointed to fill his seat for the next two years. State Representative Terry Spence lost his bid for re-election, ending a twenty-year reign as the Speaker of Delaware's House of Representatives. Several other long-time state representatives also lost their seats, all of whom are Republicans. The State House is now officially in Democratic control.

Fewer changes took place in the State Senate races, but all of the open seats went to Democrats, expanding the party's long-time control of that house.

Later this month I'll mark the twenty-first anniversary of my appointment as a Deputy Attorney General, assigned to represent the Department of Transportation. Next January will be the very first time that I will be advising my client while one political party controls the Governor's Office, Senate, and House.

I think the Delaware results reflect not only the general national trend away from the GOP, at least for the time being. To a large extent, the Blue Hen state's political changes also reflect the impacts of a major demographic shift in its population.

Over the last fifteen years or so, Delaware has become a significant retirement mecca, especially for folks from states in the Northeast corridor. The Department of Elections records show that an equally significant number of the new Blue Hens are registered Democrats. The latest numbers show that the Ds now enjoy a huge advantage over the Delaware Republicans, of over 100,000 voters.

Sussex County is the only one of the state's three counties where Republicans come close to matching the Democrats in total registration, and even there the Ds hold a slim lead.

The Delaware GOP leadership certainly has its work cut out for them.

On the other hand, the Democrats are now in complete charge of a state facing the loss of major employers such as the Chrysler and GM assembly plants, with a continuing drag on the state's revenue projections in all sorts of revenue categories, and an increasing demand for state services from a growing population.

How the Ds work their way through those issues will go a long way toward determining if this year's state election results are a one-time fluke, or just the beginning of a long-term relationship.

November 4, 2008
Gaining press attention

The Film Festival is being noticed, as tomorrow's opening night approaches.

A reporter from a local paper interviewed me recently, and her story is being picked up and repeated in other outlets.

I'm on call to handle election law issues today, but otherwise I'll be busy with Festival preparations.

As before, once the Festival begins I will post here mini-reviews of the movies I'm able to see, in between stints at the Box Office and other required duties.

And if you're able to come to the Festival, stop by the Box Office in our Big Tent and say hi.

November 4, 2008
Thank you, President Bush

I don't have any better idea of what will happen in today's elections than the major media outlets do, but that's not saying much.

Nonetheless, I think for today it's fitting to think back to Election Day 2000 and what's happened since.

Back then, I made what I considered a protest vote, without any real expectation that enough other folks would feel the same way about the Presidency and legitimate expectations of behavior in that office to make a difference in the results.

I was mistaken, because Bush won--even after all the recounts.

Going into his first term, I didn't expect Bush to be able to follow through on much of his party's election platform. Most presidents don't have that opportunity, because those plans are usually overtaken by events.

That certainly happened to Bush, and with a vengeance, especially after September 11, 2001.

On the other hand, over the next seven years I came to appreciate Bush's determination to refocus the country to face its significant national security threats, especially from Islamofascism. I really don't think it requires a huge leap of faith to conclude that his steadfastness in pushing back against Al-Qaida and its allies, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and its other home bases is the main reason why we've had no terrorist attacks on our own soil since 9/11.

I can only hope that his successor stays on that path, because the alternative is simply not acceptable.

As for his tax cuts, efforts at Social Security reform, and the conduct of the war, in my view the results are decidedly mixed. The bitter residue of the 2000 election probably would have poisoned any president's efforts to push through any significant domestic policy changes, even one whose abilities at public persuasion were better than his.

As for the war effort, I've read too many histories of our own Civil War and our subsequent conflicts. Military advisers, as well as the civilian contingent of advisers on matters military and political, almost always over-promise and under-deliver. Going into Iraq and Afghanistan was the right thing to do, but there was always going to be some level of muddling through until a good result could be obtained.

From what I read about Iraq now, especially since its first-ever democratic elections a few years ago, that country's prospects look far more promising than they were on September 10, 2001.

So thank you, President Bush, for what you were able to accomplish during a very difficult time in our country's history. You met the primary mission of any modern-day president in defending our country from its enemies, and for that I believe an ever-growing number of your fellow citizens will come to appreciate that fact.

November 1, 2008
Festival preparations

Preparing for next week's Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival lets me indulge my inner office supply geek.

As before, I'll be overseeing the box office operation, so I went to Staples today to meet the need for pens, white board markers, and other stationery effluvia.

The Festival box office opens up for Locals Night on Wednesday, November 5, at 2:30 p.m. at the Festival tent, at the traditional location on the east side of the Midway Shopping Center. As before, Film Society members had an opportunity to buy their tickets during the pre-Festival ordering period from October 15-31.

Those folks exceeded last year's pre-Festival sales volume, which should be a good sign considering all of the current financial worries.

The other good sign is that the Society's decision to add more screenings to the five-day Festival had an effect on the number of pre-Festival screening sell-outs. Last year there were fifteen such instances, and this year there are only nine. As best I can tell, the additional screenings spread out the sales a little bit more. That frees up viewing options for those who wait until the Festival is underway to buy their tickets.

During the recent ticket sales, to express appreciation to the volunteers helping the Society I made two large batches of the Oatmeal Raisin Movie Cookies, in keeping with tradition. They went quickly.

I'll soon be baking another batch for the Festival, for distribution to a select group of volunteers, Board members, and friends.

If you'd like to make your own, here's the recipe. I know you'll like them.

November 1, 2008

Yesterday I had to travel up to Wilmington for a civil motion hearing in Common Pleas Court, to be heard at 9 o'clock a.m.

It turns out that the hearing schedule is more of an expression of hope than a reality. The hearing for my client's case was one of twenty-four such matters to be decided that morning by Judge Flickinger.

A dozen or so attorneys, most of whom were obviously frequent visitors to the New Castle County Common Pleas system, quietly sat in the audience areas and at the traditional counsel benches, with their stack of files and the occasional client. A few pro se litigants also joined us.

When the judge began the day, he told us that he wanted to go through the motion calendar, deal with the non-contested cases first, and then work on the issues that required him to do the deciding. I knew my case was hotly contested, so that meant my morning in court was going to take a lot longer than its position at number 7 for the day had previously indicated.

The uncontested motions then began to work their way off the calendar, as attorneys obtained court orders for default judgments, a couple folks had their driving privileges restored, and so forth.

My ears perked up, however, when two attorneys stood up and admitted that they had a contested issue that still needed resolving, but---

What they really wanted to do was put off the hearing on their dispute for a couple more weeks, because of the Phillies.

It seems that at least one of the learned counsel had been waiting 28 years for the Phils to win the World Series. He had a car parked outside, with the motor running, waiting to take him up I-95 to the celebration parade. If he stayed in court, there was no way he'd make it to the parade before the noon-time kickoff.

It just so happens that Judge Flickinger's favorite sport is baseball.

He quickly agreed to reschedule the hearing for two Fridays later. The two lawyers thanked him profusely and rushed out.

I hope they had a good time.

The judge ruled on my case just before noon, by the way.

October 20, 2008
Down another pint

So this afternoon I left work a little early to go lie down for a bit--but I wasn't sleepy.

It's just that the Bloodmobile has these recliners on the converted bus, for blood donors to relax and rest, as their containers fill up.

I'm in the Blood Bank of Delaware's Lifesaver Program. They call me about every 8 weeks or so for another pint of O Positive.

If you're medically able to join in the fun, you'll be doing someone a lot of good if you sign up for your local community's blood bank.

October 20, 2008
Wedding season

The past weekend marked the second of three weddings for us this fall.

It's now the season where our friends' children are beginning their new lives with their new loves--and our older daughter will shortly take part in that same procession.

The first set of nuptials for this fall took place locally, with a beachside wedding service and a lovely reception at a Lewes B&B.

This weekend's wedding was in Richmond, Virginia. The wedding was held in a beautiful church not far from the University of Richmond, and we then traveled to Tuckahoe Plantation for the Saturday evening reception.

The young bride is the daughter of one of my best friends. For his dance with her, my friend chose Heartland's "I Loved Her First."

Let's just say that there were no fathers in the tent with dry eyes afterward.

October 15, 2008
Catching up

I've been busy with a few other matters the past two days, so I thought for now I would simply provide links to the September and October golf columns:

With the markets down, can golf stay up?
October 10, 2008

The recurring world-wide turmoil in the financial markets is bound to have broad-reaching effects.

Since this is a golf column, however, I thought I’d stick with that element.

Dual biography shows both sides of titanic rivals
October 3, 2008

Truly phenomenal peak performers are different from the rest of us, but no two of them are necessarily alike.

That’s the primary lesson to be learned from Arnie and Jack, a fascinating double biography of Palmer and Nicklaus, by Ian O’Connor (Houghton Mifflin; $26 SRP).

Time to look at the stats
September 26, 2008

There is a good article in the October issue of Golf Digest magazine that should be helpful to Cape Region golfers.

Allen connection works again--for a new team
September 19, 2008

This year’s edition of the George Washington College Invitational Golf Tournament had the same winner as last year, but with a different squad.

The Second Lesson
September 12, 2008

The path toward improving one’s golf game is not as straightforward as one might like. With enough effort, however, there should be some unmistakable signs of progress.

A round at The Peninsula
September 5, 2008

I think the way the four of us played the thirteenth hole at The Peninsula Golf and Country Club was perhaps the best single example of what it was like to play this challenging Jack Nicklaus Signature layout.

I should have a post up tomorrow on a new topic, but the Phillies victory has taken precedence for tonight.


October 13, 2008
Craig Crawford

Last Friday night Dr. Schranck and I went up to the Milton Theater, for a speech by Craig Crawford, of Congressional Quarterly and MSNBC.

Based on what he's written about the experience, it sounds like he also had a good time.

His talk was loosely based on his book, The Politics of Life, in which he attempts to update Machiavelli's advice to match our current circumstances--and far beyond the merely political, at that. Most of the chat, and the question-and-answer session thereafter, dealt with the current presidential campaign. Crawford also told some very funny stories about his own experiences with politics and politicians.

From what he said, Crawford worked on Carter's campaign in DC in 1976 at the same time I was working in DC on Birch Bayh's short-lived effort.

The folks from the Dover Walden Books outlet were at the Theater with a bunch of copies of his book for sale, so we took the hint and bought one. It looks pretty interesting. I will probably read it when our younger daughter brings it back to the house.

Crawford signed the copy, with a note telling her to enjoy her first vote next month, and she was pleased with our little gift.

During the signing, my wife asked Crawford which of his "25 Rules for Survival in a Brutal and Manipulative World" did he think the Hillary Clinton campaign had failed to follow.

Crawford laughed and said, "Most likely it was 'Arrogance Makes An Easy Target,' but I think that was primarily the people running her campaign."

As he noted in his blog post about the trip, most of the questioners were clearly huge fans of the Democratic slate, and not merely because Senator Biden is on it for the Vice Presidency. On the other hand, my wife noticed several folks with McCain buttons, so perhaps they were just a bit more shy than their pro-Obama counterparts.

October 12, 2008
Start planning now

The Film Festival is coming soon, so this weekend we returned to one of my favorite pre-festival activities--going through the Festival program and figuring out which movies to see.

You can too, by clicking here (Warning--this is a fat pdf file, and may take a while to load.

For Boomer-aged Festival patrons, reading the program's plot summaries is a lot like what the pre-Christmas season used to be for us when we were kids in the 1960s.

The mail would bring a few fat pre-holiday catalogues from the big department stores. With five kids in our house, the toy sections would be well-thumbed in no time, with dog-ears on the pages to remind us where the really cool stuff could be seen again and again until Christmas day, when surely the real thing would appear in our living room.

The Film Society's programmer makes the final decisions about which films will be shown, after negotiating with the distributors over rentals, screening fees, and the like. I may be the president of the Society, but I don't know any more than any other Festival-goer what will be shown until the program comes out.

During the event, I'm usually busy with box office operations at the Festival tent. I see two movies a day, but none back to back, so picking a movie for pre-Festival ordering is a bit more involved than it is for others.

Each year I meet some folks at the tent, who proudly announce they have seen upwards of 20 movies during a single Festival. After all that time in the dark, they should need some Vitamin D injections.

The pre-Festival ticket-buying begins on October 15, and if past experience is any indication, despite the non-recession recession, the Society's office will be jumping for the next two weeks in handling the members' requests.

As with last year, however, anyone can pre-order tickets for the Wednesday night opening selection of sixteen movies, without regard to membership status.

Don't be shy.

October 12, 2008
Saved by the sun

The dog and I have our regular morning rituals.

They include retrieving him from the back yard after his constitutional, and then retrieving the newspapers from the front drive before returning to the house.

During this time of year, the only real hazard from this modest activity is walking into a giant unseen spider web that some enterprising arachnid spread across my likely pathway overnight.

I hate that.

Fortunately, I slept in just enough this morning to have the sun be in just the right position to give me a warning.

He can have that side of the driveway, and I'll take the other side--for now.

October 12, 2008
I'm back

So apparently I needed a break from blogging way more than I thought.

Glad to be back, and I hope you all come back, too.

There are a few things left on the non-blogging schedule, such as older daughter's upcoming wedding and this year's edition of the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival. They may cause another stoppage of bloggage for a day or two. However, I intend to keep up with posting as much as I can, while still remaining gainfully employed in my regular jobs.

Thanks again for stopping by!

Note: No posts were filed between May 23 and October 11, 2008, so you don't have to go looking for them.


Contact Information:

Fritz Schranck
P.O. Box 88
Nassau, DE  19969

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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2008