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AMOUR PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Wednesday, February 06 2013 10:00

The current French film Amour ranks for me as one of the best I have ever.seen. In the boldness of its subject matter, the beauty of its artistry, and the marvelous performances of its three main actors, Amour stands out for its excellence.  As the Academy Awards celebration approaches, I hope for this film the prize as the best and that Emanuelle Riva, now 85 years old, will be honored as best actress. 

 I approached Amour with some trepidation, knowing in advance about its depiction of old age suffering.  That may apply to me, I thought, and I do not want to face in my own life what the couple in the film must endure.

But the film does not deal merely with suffering though it surely does this.  Mainly, however, it deals with love as its title suggests.  My heart stirred to what love demanded of the two old people, she by way of enduring debilitating illness, he as the provider of her care. 

I dare not say anything about this film’s conclusion.  To do so would violate what moviegoers have a right to see and judge for themselves. And, almost surely, they will be deeply moved, I can confidently say.   

Written by Richard Griffin   
Tuesday, January 29 2013 14:23

Reading about cabaret shows in the arts section of the New York Times, I often feel frustrated in not being able to attend. I would love to see and hear in Manhattan some of the singers that are reviewed. Not a few of them, I have noticed, are highly experienced in show business, not to say no longer young or even middle-aged.

That’s true of Christine Ebersole, a long-established star of Broadway who will be sixty years old on February 21 of this year. That fact adds to the enjoyment I experienced during her show January 26 at Sanders Theatre in Cambridge. Christine displayed a persona full of energy and humor. 

She joked a lot about aging, with an approach that the gerontologist in me did not entirely appreciate. For instance, she announced: “At my age, trying to stay young looking isn’t just a full-time job, it’s really expensive.”  And: “All you have to do is click your heels together three times and realize that eternal youth is right inside your heart.”

But she’s a comic and a good one so I can’t complain if she favors youth over age. After all, in her younger years she scored some great successes, as when she played both mother and daughter Beales in “Grey Gardens,” a play I saw her in on Broadway.  I did not see Christine in “42 Street” but can easily imagine the oomph she brought to that great sensation.

At Sanders, the singer was accompanied by three musical performers: a pianist, a reed player, a bassist, and a drummer. To have herd them play jazz brought me way back to my college days when I used to frequent jazz artists in Boston, South End.

Cheristine’s was a show to remember!


Myles/Miles PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Tuesday, December 18 2012 10:40

When I inquired, my student lifeguard at the swimming pool volunteered that his name is Myles.  That set me thinking, during the next fifteen minutes, as I moved slowly up and down the lane.


On emerging from the water, I asked Myles if he had ever heard poetic lines that had been reverberating in my head.  “And miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep.”


No, Myles had not heard of the lines, nor did he recognize the name of the poet, Robert Frost. “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” a poem that had charmed me for some six decades or more, had never swum into his awareness. 


I had thought the sound of his own first name might have made him sensitive to its use by one of America’s signature poets.  But most people I meet, young and old, do not attach much of any importance to their names the way I do. Nor do they seem to care about our poets, no matter their place in our history.


For Richard PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Tuesday, December 04 2012 09:12

This graceful verse, written many years ago by my father-in-law, shows how he welcomed me into his family.


A name meaning "strong"like a czar,

From a rhyme is impossibly far,

But it's not such a wrench

If you say it in French,

So we're shouting "Hurrah for Richard!" 

Celebration, Inner and Outer PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Thursday, November 08 2012 10:04

Yesterday, November 7, 2012, was a time of high emotion for me.  The electoral outcomes I had feared might not happen, did happen.  Barack Obama was chosen, both by the nationwide popular vote, and the electoral vote, for a second term as president.  And Elizabeth Warren was elected U.S. Senator from Massachusetts by a margin of eight percentage points over her opponent, a sitting senator.


It’s reassuring once more to be confirmed about having chosen to live in Cambridge.  Eighty-six percent of my fellow citizens voted for Obama; eighty-four chose Warren. That means virtually all my local friends and neighbors made the same choices as me. So did most of the people I know elsewhere.


For fear all of the above may seem trivial, I must add a word about its significance. Approaching this election, I felt the wellbeing of this country at stake.  Were the Republicans to be elected to the White House and perhaps gain control of Congress, the country would have been dominated by those who place supreme importance on money. Already they had poured billions into the race; fortunately most of it proved wasted. But I feared the demise of the Affordable Care Act, legislation the Republicans had vowed to repeal. To my mind that would have been a disaster.


Similarly I feared the rise of a new militarism featuring a likely war against Iran. The Republicans have given every sign of being committed to an American exceptionalism that has proven dangerous to us and the world.  The people who would have been appointed to high office, including the Supreme Court, made me worry about the future of our country. The thought of Romney choosing John Bolton as his Secretary of State was enough to send shudders down my spine. 


The glasses of fine drink I raised on election night and on the next day as well marked my feelings of joy.  I am glad and thankful to have reached this point in American history.







Barack Demise? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Thursday, October 04 2012 08:56

One candidate came prepared for a debate, the other for a discussion.  Mitt thus scored big time while Barack lost out.  I was appalled to see the president so ineffectual.  It was enough to make me worry he was losing the election then and there.

Images ran through my head of what a Republican victory would bring.  It would swing the whole country back into domination by the rich.

Can Barack recover from such a dismal start to the debate season of the campaign?

So There PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Wednesday, October 03 2012 08:37

                 By reputation, old age is largely a time that brings many unwelcome ailments and disabilities.  How-          ever, in a rare conversation with my gastroenterologist today, I discovered an advantage that can come with late  late life.                   

                She told me that I do not need to have a colonoscopy!

                So there.


One Sentence Letter PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Friday, September 14 2012 09:16

The following letter from Harvard Law School professor and former Solicitor General in a Republican administration Charles Fried appeared in the New York Times of September 14, 2012.

The text below was the entire letter!


“Mitt Romney’s response to the killings in Libya reminds us again of the wisdom of Napoleon’s warning that ‘the man who will say anything will do anything..’”

Written by Richard Griffin   
Friday, September 07 2012 08:56

The “I voted” sticker I wore on my chest yesterday made me a rare citizen.  Hardly anyone else was to be seen at the school auditorium assigned to residents of my ward and precinct. Only a half dozen or so workers occupied the hall; outside that space sat a Cambridge policeman who looked on the verge of falling asleep.

Such was this primary election, one in which only a handful of candidates were competing..  Some were not competing at all because they had no opposition from their own party or from anyone else.

What struck me as most strange about this election was the presence of Ed Markey’s name on the ballot.  He has been a member of the House of Representatives in Washington for many terms and ranks high among the leaders of that body. I identify with his political viewpoint and am glad he is continuing in his current role.

Markey was on our ballot because of redistricting.  That means the Massachusetts Senate chose to add my part of Cambridge to his congressional district.  It also means we have lost our several term congressman Mike Capuano, the former mayor of Somerville.  I liked Mike and would have wanted to continue having him as our national rep. As already indicated I also like Ed Markey and do not object to a future with him as my advocate in Washington. 

For the few who showed up yesterday, it may have not been a shock to see Markey’s name. (incidentally, he had no oppostion.) Many of them, if not most, were probably political junkies like me, citizens well informed enough to know about our redistricting.  But I dare say that when the presidential election comes up in November, the average voting citizen will be surprised to see Capuano’s name gone and Markey’s in its place. 

I have trouble believing in democracy delivered this way.  To my knowledge, no one of us was consulted last year when members of the Massachusetts legislature took upon themselves our expulsion from the congressional district in which we have long resided.  Only our part of Cambridge was joined to Markey; the rest stayed with Capuano. And, so far as I know, Markey never made an appearance in his newly acquired area.

As I recall, some leaders in my city objected to the splitting of the city.  They considered it an affront to our urban unity and considered weak the announced rational of the move.

For me, it raises questions about how our democracy works.  How are citizen rights respected when we suddenly find one of our veteran representatives in Congress losing our portion of the city and another imposed on us? 

Admittedly, my position can seem less strong since I admit identifying with the political approach of my new rep.  However, the principle of the thing still counts in my political world.


Written by Richard Griffin   
Friday, August 24 2012 07:32

A close friend tells me of his sister Ruth’s wedding. She is 85 years of age and, last weekend, she married Joan, her 56-year-old longtime woman friend. They live in New Haven, part of a state in which such matches are legal.

 My friend took part in the event, as did some twenty other extended family members.  The weekend celebration went off beautifully with everyone united in wishing the couple happiness in their marriage.  Though Ruth and Joan will live together, it will be on separate floors of their house. 

 This strikes me as the new America, one in which legally recognized love has standing.  Of course, Connecticut is one of only a few states that honor such matches. Almost surely, as I see it, same gender marriages will one day become legal all across the nation.  People my age will not live to see that happen but it will mark the era after we are gone.

 Unlike the bishops of my church (Catholic), I favor recognizing forms of love like that of Ruth and Joan.  It seems to me unwise for church authorities to brand such unions as immoral and unacceptable.

 Why don’t they instead accept people of the same sex wanting to share lives in love? To do so need not damage their focus on marriage between male and female people.

GREEK TO ME PDF Print E-mail
Written by Richard Griffin   
Tuesday, July 24 2012 08:54

What do you call a beginning student who’s advanced in age?

If you were trying to solve a recent New York Times acrostic, you would need to search in your head for an eight-letter word that answers the question.  For the life of me, I could not discover or devise any such word.

That frustration held despite my keeping up with gerontological lore featuring continuing education and other forms of learning on the part of elders. This country offers programs galore for older people eager to learn more.

The answer to the question, it turns out, is “opsimath.”  I defy you to have arrived at this response on your own. Not an American in a million has any knowledge of the word, I can assure you.

Were you well versed in ancient Greek roots, you would perhaps have had a shot at it.  But my own knowledge of such basic foundational language in Greek did not help in this instance.

Humiliated by my ignorance, I had to wait for a week before looking at the answers. They revealed the awful eight letters not known to me.

The root “opsi” means late.  I have no recollection of hearing or reading it in Xenaphon’s Anabasis or other Greek classics.

The word “manthano” means learn. It’s another Greekism, perhaps once learned by me, but not deposited in my memory.

So, if you wish to impress your friends with your linguistic, not to say gerontological savvy, cultivate the English word opsimath. 



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