Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gratitude for Having an Attention Span

An odd thing struck me last night. I am very grateful to have an attention span that allows me to appreciate old and slower moving entertainment, whether it be movies, radio, or television. It has allowed me to enjoy things that others apparently are unable to these days.

People have been mocking the ever decreasing attention span of the modern American ever since MTV became popular in the early 1980’s. That which was flippant in many cases (at least I was) has turned out to be true as communications between humans has devolved considerably. We have gone from physically getting together to speaking on the telephone to email to texting on mobile to Facebook and finally to Twitter. Every stage has lowered both the quantity and quality of ideas communicated.

Even how we get our news has been affected. Going from five minute sound bites to five second texts is not a sign of great intelligence. It may be hip, but the price paid for it becoming stupider or at least less mentally disciplined.

Lately I have been watching more movies from yesteryear and appreciating the fact that even the action films didn’t have explosions going on every other minute. So when a friend mentioned that he was amazed how slow and boring the pacing of the original Doctor Who stories were, I was a bit taken aback. It also made me flashback to another friend who had the same problem with Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai.

These are not dumb people by any measure of IQ, by the way. Upper one percent to be precise if you care about such measurements.

Perhaps it is because I am older or that I grew up in a household that only had broadcast television and did not go to movies in the theater. Maybe it is because I have worked on personal patience since my teens. It could be that I am just different that way.

I remember watching 2001: A Space Odyssey as a very little kid and understanding it. It was not the least bit boring, to the contrary it was fascinating. Then there were all the old black and white movies which were still a staple of filling in programming blocks in the 1970’s. The comedies were masterpieces of timing and the art of the slow burn was often on display.

Whatever the reasons, I find myself becoming more of an iconoclast sniping away at modern culture at nearly every turn. Entertainment especially is irking to me and the decline in sales seems to support my hypothesis that quality has gone down hill drastically. In the end, feeding short attentions spans may be the dominant factor in that decline. It certainly cannot be helping.

You know, it is a good thing I have a long attention span. When you have a chronic illness, you end up with too much time to kill and can’t be productive. Perhaps it is all a defense mechanism to keep from going crazy.

Whatever the cause, I am very grateful for it.

P.S. I am still in shock anybody can find the original appearance by the Daleks boring. Scandalized, in fact.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Even Science Is Primarily Political

One of the things that I have come to a reluctant conclusion on is the fact that hard science is not really hard at all. It is subject to the same vagaries that all things human are, which is a fancy way of saying politics. Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) is just the latest of many unsubstantiated theories touted as fact for political gain. This is nothing new with recent examples including ice age hysteria in the 1970’s and about anything to do with the Leakey’s in Africa.

For me, learning the reality of this has gored some of my sacred oxen held from childhood. I was always ready to believe my teachers and Walter Cronkite (aka Voice of God to generations) when they breathlessly talked about the latest discovery. Somewhere in my late teens I began to look harder at things as my love of things scientific blossomed further. I admit a twinge of desire that I had not done so, for ignorance truly is bliss.

So when my father forwarded the link to a story on child psychologist Arnold Gessell, I recognized the timeless aspect of politically motivated but accepted theories that had been flushed down the toilet once exposed to the sunlight of reality.  Eugenics is one of the nastier branches of science that has long since been discredited, but one hundred years ago it was at the cutting edge of left wing politics. Of course it took decades for it to fall out of favor, yet it spawned an organization, Planned Parenthood, which is still very active today. This quote sums up the problem:

How, Harris wondered, did someone such as Gesell become so enamored of eugenics that he would actually manipulate research? Harris said it is important to place Gesell in the context of the times. Social scientists were as much crusaders for the improvement of the human lot as they were researchers.

Things are no different today.

This behavior is not uncommon, despite what researchers would have you believe. There is another influence that does damage and that is simple greed. Far too much money flows into science supporting causes, though I admit quite a bit of data doctoring is also to keep one’s position in a “publish or perish” academic climate.

Beware do-gooders in science is what I say since it usually ends up skewing all the results . Science needs to be cold and ruthless. More Spock’s and fewer Dr. McCoy’s are needed. It may not be exciting to the masses, but I prefer accuracy over popularity. I imagine the residents of Alma back in 1913 would agree.

To wit, science should no longer be put upon a pedestal. Perhaps it never should have been in the first place. I can only hope time filters out all the corrupted data rather than accumulating it or we are in real trouble.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Health 8-28-2011

Not a good day at all, stuffed up and pain index is steady 5 peaking to 7. Very poor sleep due to the latter. Symptoms started yesterday morning.

Had a choice of not going out last night but though I was feeling better by the evening. May not have been a wise decision in retrospect.

Didn’t go to church and would have been foolish if I did. Very bleary on top of it all – crossword puzzle took nearly half an hour. Not even going to bother with Audiosurf since I’m getting a headache. Even though classical music is all I use for it on Sabbath days,  sound and flashing lights are the last thing I want to endure right now.

UPDATED 8-29-2011

Glad it was a transitory cold, I’m doing much better today as both the crossword puzzle and Audiosurf showed. Time to get some long postponed groceries!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bleach Ep. 7: Greetings from a Stuffed Lion

Ichigo continues to battle the mod soul in his real body, a stuffed animal toy joins the cast, and a tragedy from the past starts to be revealed. The themes of free will, the right to live, and rain are the high points of this increasingly moody episode.

Bleach1 Main TitleBleach7 Title

Instead of directly continuing from the cliffhanger of the previous episode, we are presented with another look at the denizens of the black market shop, The Urahara Store. Kisuke Urahara, the shady owner and wearer of hat and clogs, comforts a distraught Ururu over her mistake that caused the mod soul to be sold. Maybe his isn’t such a bad guy after all. Preparations are made to retrieve the “defective merchandise” and it looks like they are well armed.

Bleach7 Urahara Comforts UruruBleach7 Two Ichigos

Back at the fight, Ichigo saves the three kids from the wrath of his stolen body, only for the artificial soul to make his escape when an emergency call comes in. Duty comes before retrieving one’s body, apparently.

While Ichigo and Rukia search for the monster, it turns out the mod soul can sense it – and sense that it is endangering the kids he was about to beat up. A tortured decision leads him to return to protect the children, but he is clearly outclassed despite his incredible leg strength.

Fortunately for him, this is a heroic show about heroes, so the main hero comes in to save the day. Unfortunately for him, Ichigo is very angry about the damage his body has taken. When the Hollow decides to butt into the argument, it is the last mistake of his existence.

Bleach7 AntsBleach7 Urahara's Cane

An interesting heart to heart conversation between a somewhat sympathetic Ichigo and the mod soul follows. The idea of everyone having a right to live is discussed and the idea of free will being important is touched upon as they watch a trail of ants marching. One thing the creator of Bleach, Kubo Tite, has going for him is the ability to create characters with fully formed personalities and that is on display here.

Alas, the interesting conversation ends when Urahara shows up to take the mod soul away to a mandatory death penalty. An intervention by Rukia leaves the now pill bound mod soul in the possession of Ichigo. For someone who insists on following the rules, she does a lot of rule breaking. She tries to be the Sheriff of Nottingham but keeps behaving like Robin Hood instead.

Bleach7 Mod Soul into Stuffed LionBleach7 Kon Is Born

Still angry about the damage to his body, Ichigo wants to castigate the mod soul further but can’t since he’s just a pill again. This less than noble motivation leads to a mad scientist experiment using a thrown away stuffed lion. To their surprise, Rukia and Ichigo witness the toy animal come to life. For the mod soul, it is more like sheer horror. After all, how will he get the girls when he is made of fabric and stuffing?

So now the stuffed lion in the opening credits makes sense (relatively speaking) and we have a new cast member. Named Kon to his great annoyance, the mod soul refuses to give up his perverted tendencies despite his utter impotence and this becomes a running gag in the series. But at least he gets to host the joke sequences after the end credits to bolster his oversized ego.

Bleach7 DateBleach7 Orihime's Art

Needed downtime from all the action begins, but why is Ichigo staring at his watch? Tatsuki knows and reveals the secret to Orihime, but not before we get another example of how the redhead’s mind works. That, uh… unique piece of art she drew of how she sees her future self makes me think she is in need of counseling, ASAP. Mecha-Orihime?! Disturbing but funny.

Bleach7 Needlepoint BoyBleach7 Family Meeting

Another face from the opening credits makes his appearance and he seems to be watching Ichigo and Orihime closely. The bespectacled boy also likes to do needlepoint. Sinister, don’t you think? The needlepoint, I mean.

Watching Isshin conduct the Kurosaki family meeting is inspiring. The way he suckers Karin in with a political move is hilarious and reminds me of how real politics works, sadly. But it is so effective.

Bleach7 Orihime and the RainBleach7 Lost Childhood

Bleach occasionally reaches emotional levels that belie its aimed at demographic of young teens and preteens. As Ichigo’s secret is revealed, the theme of falling rain is used in a very poetic series of scenes that make for a very moody moment in the series. Sweet concern from Orihime about the object of her crush leads to one of the more memorable passages in Bleach:

If I were the rain… could I ever merge with somebody’s heart, like the way rain merges Sky and Earth, never meant to connect…

Bleach7 Soul Society

But things are afoot in Soul Society too, which looks a great deal like ancient Japan in our first glimpse of the place.


For an action show, Bleach doesn’t shy away from drama or slower moments of introspection. The recipe of action, manic comedy, and serious emotion is very present in the seventh episode. This is also the beginning of rain being associated with Ichigo’s heart and is a theme throughout the rest of the series.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Memories Are Made of These

Wednesday nights have become a family history night for my father and me. We’ve begun work on correcting and expanding out the family tree that I have in Personal Ancestry File (PAF) but have to halt that for a bit due to technical issues. However, there are piles of photographs from the 1990’s that have never been put in albums that have to be sorted.

Complicating things is how fuzzy memories get after more than a decade after events. Just figuring out which year has become a painful exercise in guesswork. Seeing all the departed people and cats does not help things one bit. Too bad I did not do this earlier, but the 90’s were not a good time for me health wise.

Of course, no time has been. But I hadn’t learned all the different ways to micromanage energy and time yet, plus all the other ways to cope with a chronic illness. 

Still, it would have been better if the photos had been labeled at the time so there were dates on them. One advantage of the digital camera era is timestamps recorded in the picture files. That’s if you got the camera set up right in the first place.

So after we finally get the 1990’s sorted out, labeled, and placed in albums our next task will be to choose which digital pictures to print out from the 2000’s. Which leads to another issue – weeding out all those pictures. Digital photography is wonderful but it leads to taking exponentially more photos!

Meanwhile, I see a hurricane named Irene is headed for the East coast of the United States. Looks like it could be a real menace.  Interesting how it comes on the heels of an earthquake in the region.

Here I have a less catastrophic problem to deal with. My Radeon 4850 video card decided to develop problems with overheating despite the fan and heatsink working correctly. Looks like the silicon has developed some faults since it idles at 64 C and hits 90-98 C while gaming. Black screen failures have come with that, so it is time for a new video card. Good thing I keep my older cards around. With the old Radeon 3870 in the system at least I can keep going until next month and a new card.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bleach Episode 6: Fight to the Death! Ichigo vs. Ichigo

Comedy ensues when Ichigo is introduced to a strange item from Soul Society and consequently finds his reputation at school endangered because of it. There is no greater conflict than a man at war with himself. Or something like that…

Bleach1 Main TitleBleach 6 Title

A disquieting tone is set in the beginning with Rukia having problems with her artificial body, or gigai. That quickly evaporates as we have yet another scene of domestic bliss violence at the Kurosaki home.  Rukia isn’t there and that has Ichigo concerned while acting strangely to cover up she lives in his closet. This in turn causes Suzu and Karin to worry over the change of behavior in their older brother and their father starts rhapsodizing on adolescence being the cause. Fortunately for all of us, the afore mentioned violence cuts him short.

Nice to see that the family isn’t written as being oblivious to that something is going on with Ichigo. That’s a trope I despise.

Bleach6 Rukia WorriesBleach6 Urahara

Meanwhile, Rukia shows up at a run down shop where two kids are fighting with each other while doing chores. A glimpse of her big sister tendencies in reaction to bullying by the boy is something that won’t be touched on again for a long time. But the biggest thing to note here is the introduction of the shady owner of the shop. Lazy and unkempt, he appears wearing a hat and traditional wooden shoes.

Rukia knows him and is there to pick up fuel for her gigai.  Their conversation hints at much bigger problems for the wounded Soul Reaper.  A black market shop for items from Soul Society is an intriguing concept and makes Soul Society all the more mysterious. The visit concludes when a special item is retrieved by the bullied little girl for Rukia.

Bleach6 Soul CandyBleach6 Something Is Wrong

All of this is setup for Rukia introducing Ichigo to “soul candy” at the high school later on. Sounds like drugs, doesn’t it?

So what is soul candy? It is an artificial soul to put in an empty gigai when a Soul Reaper departs it to fight Hollows. This way Ichigo’s body will be occupied and cover for him while he is outside of it. The fact that it is a pill that comes in a disturbingly cutesy PEZ dispenser should be a warning that things won’t work out well.

It seems Rukia has a soft spot for all things cute bunny and the duck is not to her satisfaction, but hey it is black market goods after all. A Hollow attack summons the duo to another fight, leaving the substitute in Ichigo’s body to cover for him. Yeah, that look on his face doesn’t bode well.

Bleach6 Hitting on OrihimeBleach6 Horrified Girls

Instead of keeping Ichigo out of trouble, the artificial soul starts getting into mischief of all kinds. But it is his discovery of pretty girls, especially busty ones, that causes the biggest trouble. He dares to go where the hero refuses to and macks on Orihime and Tatsuki to the horror of the girls in Ichigo’s class. Pure manic comedy follows.

Bleach6 Ichigo vs IchigoBleach6 Invisible Foe

And so we finally get to the events of the title for the episode. It is an amusing fight because we get to see it from the class’ point of view. All they see is Ichigo’s body kicking empty air and it is played to great effect. But there is a moment at the end of the skirmish that turned it slightly serious as the fear on the kids faces showed when an invisible Ichigo is kicked through the desks to the wall.

Bleach6 FreedomBleach6 Three Kids

A stunned Rukia figures out what is going on and reveals a scandal from Soul Society’s research into creating artificial warriors called “mod souls.” Somehow, one had survived being destroyed and now has control of Ichigo’s body. But more worrying for Ichigo is how his carefully cultivated image has been destroyed. I’m with Rukia in how she reacts to that particular tidbit.

The mod soul is on the loose, happy to be free, and has very, very dangerous anger issues.


Episode 6 of Bleach has a lot going on, but it all feels like setup for more to come. From the introduction of the strange shop owner and his employees to Orihime somehow knowing it wasn’t Ichigo who kissed her, hints about the future storylines are being dropped all over the place. Normally that clutters up a television series episode, but here it works because most of it is played for laughs.

Again I have issues with the English dub. The shop keeper comes off as playful but sinister in the original Japanese performance, but is played as a surfer dude in the dub. It just doesn’t convey the character the same way at all.

Health 8-24-2011

Note: Written under duress from myself to be conscientious about logging problems.

Bad night again, this time from having my left eye begin to burn and weep uncontrollably. Looks like pink eye from the light discharge this morning. So much for going out to get a haircut and drop by some of my home teachees.

Also sniffling quite a bit, so I’m leaking all over.

Sleeping in to recover the lost time from last night failed. Massive muscle cramps in the left calf and a lesser one in the right were the culprits. I’m still limping hours later from it. When I was younger I’d occasionally have bouts of this but not this severe.

The irony is I ate two large bananas yesterday including one a couple of hours before going to bed.

Also, in case I forgot to document it, I’ve been feeling somewhat better since discontinuing taking vitamin D 1000 units. Not only did it not help, I suspect it made me worse.

My body has no respect for current opinion, I’m afraid.

Crossword puzzle went okay, Audiosurf not so much. I blame Rush for being tricksy in their song compositions. Yeah… that was it…

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Interesting Start to a Day

Despite a bad night with intermittent sleep, I had to get up early to get out the door in a somewhat awake condition. Why?  My state senator, Jeremy Miller, was having a coffee and conversation meeting in Caledonia at 7:30 AM. Forget campaign rallies and debates, these kinds of interactions with the public are the best to attend.

It was a low turnout compared to last year, but that was a campaign year and Jeremy wasn’t in office yet. As Sen. Miller quipped, it is probably a good sign. When people are mad at you, they show up in numbers. Fortunately for those of us in Senate District 31, he’s been doing a great job in office.

One of the local township officers was there and so the conversation was dominated by tax and aid issues. These are more complex than most people realize and affect us a great deal in the area. The delicate balance of state, county, township, and municipal budgets is always a thorny issue with things being made more difficult by the ongoing financial problems of the time.

While it might be boring to some, I enjoy having a glimpse of the nuts and bolts of how government funding and expenditures work. Every time I hear Kermit talk about the local infrastructure funding issues, I learn something new and he gave Jeremy plenty to think about too.

Our rookie senator continues to impress me with his command of the facts and willingness to truly listen. All politicians learn to at least pretend to listen, but Miller really does listen. How do I know that? Because I’ve heard issues raised at meetings like this and then heard well thought out positions on them later on from him – and now legislative action as well. Gotta love that.

There was a reporter from WXOW Channel 19 there and I hope I remember to check the news tonight to see if the story airs.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Health 8-22-2011

Not one of my better days. Been bedridden most of it. Got home last afternoon and didn’t feel great but muddled through. Today I slept in and had a hard time waking up. Crossword puzzle went fine, but Audiosurf was mediocre at best.

Took a nap, tried to get up and my legs were very rubbery. Dizziness and chest congestion again, ended up going back to bed. Typing this is far harder than it should be, so I probably have picked up a bug in my weekend travels.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thirteen Days (2000) Review

Kevin Costner stars in a meticulous dramatization of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Painstaking attention to detail breathes life into the true story of when an untested President John F. Kennedy found himself challenged by the Soviet Union with the fate of millions on the line. But the superb performances of the actors is what makes this piece of history a great film.

Thirteen Days Title

The movie begins with a rocket launch followed by a serious of nuclear explosions. It is a grim and unsettling presentation made more profound by the realization that this is real footage of tests, not special effects. Boldly confrontational, this sequence sets the tone for how serious the consequences could be in 1962.

Thirteen Days U-2CThirteen Days Missile Sites

Chronologically laid out, Thirteen Days follows the events of each day complete with documentary style titles. Things start on October 16, 1962 when a U-2C spy plane comes back with fresh photographs of construction by Soviet military personnel in Cuba. Quickly the cylindrical objects are identified as being SS-4 Sandal medium range nuclear tipped missiles.

The reconnaissance pictures shown are the real thing, by the way.

An interesting choice by director Roger Donaldson was to portray certain scenes in black and white to convey a feeling of the era. In fact, many of these scenes recreated photos from Life magazine. It is the kind of stage gimmick Orson Welles would have approved of and succeeds in evoking nostalgia.

Thirteen Days Kenny O'DonnellThirteen Days John F Kennedy

We are introduced to Kenny O’Donnell (Kevin Costner) and his family. O’Donnell is John F. Kennedy’s right hand man; the one you have to go through to see him. Like Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood), O’Donnell inhabits the hardball side of politics filtered through the prism of a jock’s attitude.

Thirteen Days Robert F KennedyThirteen Days McGeorge Bundy

That’s also a trait shared with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp in an eerie performance) which becomes very obvious as the dynamic between the three shows. They are young by Washington, D.C. standards and very aggressive. Bobby enters the picture after the briefing given on the missiles by McGeorge Bundy (Frank Wood) from the NSA.

Thirteen Days Soviet MissileThirteen Days Missile Ranges

The untried trio are the focus of the movie and everything revolves around them as the crisis unfolds at break neck speed. With over thirty missiles serviced by 3,400 Soviet technicians and soldiers in Cuba, the Soviet Union finally is building a first strike capability against the continental United States. To say this is a major problem would be a truly drastic understatement. In fact, Washington, D.C. is only five minutes away after launch. But the news gets worse – the missiles will be operational in twelve to fourteen days.

The Kennedy brothers take this as a betrayal by the Soviets since there had been a verbal agreement not to station any offensive weapons in Cuba. They are also afraid of looking weak, since their father had been involved in the Munich Conference of 1938 where the West gave the Sudetenland to Hitler in an effort to appease him. Compounding this fear is the ghost of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion earlier in the Presidency.

 Thirteen Days Robert McNamaraThirteen Days General Maxwell Taylor

Having a bunch of people around a table talking doesn’t sound like a recipe for riveting cinema in this era of big explosions and crazy plot twists. This movie shows how compelling and tense these scenes can be as we witness officials being gathered together to figure out the situation. Standouts are Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Dylan Baker) and General Maxwell Taylor (Bill Smitrovitch) representing the defense establishment. The nerdy arrogance of McNamara is on full display throughout the film and you can see the roots of his mismanagement of the Defense Department.

Thirteen Days General Curtis LeMayThirteen Days B-52 Missile Carrier

As each day unfolds, something new happens to make things even worse than the previous day. With the perceived weakness of the Kennedy’s, the military doesn’t trust them to do the right thing after the Bay of Pigs. On the administration’s side, they felt betrayed and misled by the military over that operation, so conflict was unavoidable. It didn’t help having a loose cannon like General Curtis LeMay (Kevin Conway) openly champing at the bit to attack the Soviets. Speaking of him, Conway is a scene stealer every time he appears.

Thirteen Days CampaigningThirteen Days Mayor Daley

1962 was a midterms election year. As a result, efforts to hide what was happening meant the President had to go on the campaign trail, much to his annoyance. It also made rounding up Congressional leaders very difficult on short notice. This was a time before cellphones and the Internet; communications were slow in ways younger people can’t begin to imagine.

Thirteen Days Presidential AddressThirteen Days Worried Public

Subsequently, the military buildup begins, the media starts sensing something is going on, and the Kennedy brothers float a dangerous idea that sends things spinning out of control. All the while the actions of the Soviets are a mystery to the Americans. A beleaguered JFK eventually is forced to go public with what is going on and a stunned public worries about World War III.

The reaction shot above right is cleaned up and colorized from actual media footage during the crisis. It is said a picture can say a thousand words and that face speaks volumes about how the public received the news.

Thirteen Days DestroyerThirteen Days Walter Cronkite

The blossoming power of television is ever present in the movie. After all, Kennedy was our first “TV” president. Real footage of Walter Cronkite adds to the feeling of being there. Younger folks don’t know him, but that man was considered something close to being the voice of God to most Americans for decades. What he said was considered the absolute truth, not to be doubted or questioned. It isn’t something people in this more cynical time can relate to.

Weaving all the events with a very candid and personal look at JFK and RFK through Kenny O’Donnell’s eyes was a brilliant decision. Their humanity is ever present driving what could have been a very dry retelling of historical bullet points. People in power seem remote and more than human, but the reality is they aren’t that much different than us.

Thirteen Days RF-8 Photo CrusadersThirteen Days Recon Run

That isn’t to say the events are portrayed in a boring fashion. There are some very memorable scenes and the one that stood out to me the most was a low level reconnaissance run by two RF-8 Photo Crusaders over the missile sites being worked on. Between the political maneuvering around the mission and the intensely executed sequence you get a good impression of how everyone was walking on a razor’s edge of danger. The special effects here are superb, being a mix of the practical and computer generated that make for a thrilling run through the jungle at tree top level.

Thirteen Days Russian UN AmbassadorThirteen Days Adlai Stevenson

The verbal duel at the United Nations between the Soviet ambassador and Adlai Stevenson is another worthy scene out of many. Like most of the dialogue, it was taken verbatim or condensed from the records of the time. It is a moment of high drama watching a once powerful politician in the twilight of his career having to come through while the world was literally watching.

Thirteen Days DestroyerThirteen Days F-101 Voodoos Buzz Ship

Once the naval “quarantine” is imposed by the United States, the tension mounts in the movie like it did in real life. Confusion reigns as conflicting messages are received from Premier Krushchev via teletype and a backdoor offer comes from a KGB spy to an ABC newsman.  The drums of war are beating and it seems like nothing can defuse the situation.

In the end, the “will of good men” saves the world from nuclear war. There can be no spoilers, since I’m sitting here typing this review. What a different world it would have been otherwise.

I particularly liked the ending of the movie at the O’Donnell residence as the kids react to their father finally breaking down now that things were over. Once again, showing the humanity of the participants in the crisis is what makes this a great movie.


Thirteen Days takes its title from the book written by Bobby Kennedy with that as the basis for some of what is portrayed. The bulk of Kenny O’Donnell’s side of things was derived from an interview he did in the late 60’s. More information and dialogue was taken from recordings of the meetings from the National Archives.

While meticulously factual, this is not an unbiased film since the makers of it are clear fans of the Kennedy’s. Watching it with the commentary track on reveals that very quickly and it is interesting to hear what conclusions they came to on the famous brothers. What’s more interesting is how I came to different conclusions from watching their final result. This is most likely because I am not a Boomer and never held the myth of modern day “Camelot” in high regard.

I did not find Jack or Bobby to be as strong as the film makers did. Much of the problems they faced were of their own creation due to showing weakness and ineptitude in dealing with the very complicated political landscape of the Cold War. That impression was reinforced by additional documentary features I’ll discuss later.

The fact I came to these conclusions actually pays tribute to just how honest they film makers were in producing Thirteen Days. They show the flaws of the Kennedy brothers without shying away from them, though some of these won’t be apparent to those viewers who don’t know the history of the time. From showing JFK being in chronic pain and popping pills to their foul mouthed tendencies, we get a relatively unvarnished view of the real men.

The excellent performances by Greenwood and Culp contribute immensely to this. Greenwood is closer to the JFK of myth in that he has a lower more authoritative voice and better looks than the real man. For the record, I don’t understand why anybody thought President Kennedy was good looking. Maybe it was the fact he had hair and it had been decades since we’d had a president with hair. As Bobby Kennedy, Culp simply becomes the man I’ve seen in historic interviews and footage.

I better not leave Kevin Costner out of the praises. His Kenny O’Donnell is the kind of guy that was needed to ground things. Through him we get a feeling of normalcy in what was a highly romanticized administration. It is a part Costner threw himself completely into and at one point during the early commentary he lapses into the Boston accent of the character without realizing it. It’s a superb performance from an often underrated actor.

There isn’t a bad performance in the sprawling cast. I get the sense everyone in the movie knew they were working on something special and put out their best effort. New Line Cinema lost money on this movie and probably knew they would. $34 million gross on an $80 million investment isn’t something studios are willing to do today.

Something that struck me on watching this that I hadn’t caught before. That is how the Roman Catholic faith is quietly present throughout the film with a couple of church scenes being the most obvious. But it is the phone call between Kenny and the U-2 pilot near the end of the movie that made me notice it. It is an exceptional scene made all the more so by what follows.

I highly recommend Thirteen Days with one warning. The PG-13 rating is earned exclusively due to the large amount of profanity in it. That prevents it from being a family friendly movie and while faithfully accurate to the records it wasn’t really needed. So parents, be aware of this and watch it before showing to children. It is an excellent movie and should be required viewing for anyone interested in history.


The movie is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and is of superb visual quality. 5.1 Dolby Surround sound is well used when needed, but this is a talky movie.

What sets this DVD apart from any I’ve seen is the “infinifilm” option that allows you to watch it with popups you can click on to see more information. Include in this feature is documentary footage, interviews, making of details, extended and cut scenes, plus the standard actor resumes. All of these extend the film another extra hour plus but are well worth it.  To me the interviews with Nikita Krushchev’s son, Sergei, are the best part of the extras. Here you finally get the Soviet side of events and I never realized just how much of the Cuban Missile Crisis was directly controlled by Premier Krushchev.

The option to watch them separately from the movie is available on the DVD menus, but they suffer from being cut to be inserted into the film and do not flow on their own.

The commentary track is better than average though it suffers from redundancy with the “infinifilm” features. The film makers are relaxed and even develop a running joke throughout. Many times commentaries don’t really add to a movie, thankfully this is not the case here.

If watched on a PC, there are additional features that I didn’t check out including the ability to read the scripts while watching the film. Online extras are listed, but I didn’t check to see if they still worked.

Extra Screen Shots

Philippine Air Force F-5E Tiger’s and defunct F-8 Crusader’s were used in the flight line shots on location. Repainted to depict American aircraft they did a good job conveying the look of the period, though the F-5A only started production in 1962 for foreign countries. The F-5 program was saved by the Kennedy Administration so it is appropriate to have them in the film.

Thirteen Days F-5 Fighters Thirteen Days F-8 Crusaders

One thing the makers of the movie did that was interesting to me was the restoration and colorization of period footage. A lot of good views of military equipment rarely seen anymore. Check out the very rare McDonnell F3H-2 Demon fighters in the last shot.

Thirteen Days Helicopter CarrierThirteen Days F-100 ScrambleThirteen Days B-47Thirteen Days F-8 Crusader LaunchThirteen Days A-4 SkyhawkThirteen Days F3H-2 Demons