Film Notes Reply

“The Post”

Slow-paced, talky account of how the Washington Post and its larger-than-life executive editor, Ben Bradlee, obtained and published the “Pentagon Papers,” a secret history of the US involvement in Vietnam, in 1971. The key performance is by Meryl Streep as

Hanks and Streep in the Post 2 x 3

Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep defy Nixon.

Katherine Graham, owner of the paper, who evolves from socialite and timid businesswoman to a fearless defender of the free press – in about a week. A crisis can have that effect, I guess.  The film also explores the tangled relationship between media titans like Mrs. Graham and Bradlee on the one hand and politicians, including presidents, on the other.  One gets the impression that the Post might have acted differently if the president had been someone other than the socially undesirable Nixon.  Bradlee is portrayed by Tom Hanks in the latest of his long series of roles as All American Hero.  If you’re interested in films about the power of the press, “Spotlight” was better, in my view.

“The Darkest Hours”

So we all know Winston Churchill led Britain through World War II with a mixture of defiant resolve and immortal rhetoric, with a splash of Scotch. Most Americans have no idea he faced political problems even among his own Conservative party, which led to the “war cabinet crisis” in 1940, early in his tenure as prime minister. Churchill speedily outmaneuvered the “umbrella men” who were interested in finding out what terms

Gary Oldman as Churchill 3 x 2

Gary Oldman defies Hitler.

Hitler might have had to offer, but the fact that he had to do it reminds us that the war might have turned out differently if he hadn’t been there.  Gary Oldman turns in a stellar performance as Churchill, replacing Albert Finney’s as the definitive impersonation of the great man.  Any history buff will thrill to his rendition of snippets of Churchill’s speeches:  “We will fight on the beaches . . .”  Attaboy, Winnie!  Just disregard the fantastical parts, such as Churchill’s impromptu research on public opinion on the London subway.  Churchill, alas, knew very little about the lives of ordinary people, which is why they cast him aside as soon as the war was won. But all in all, a very good historical film.


Little noticed last year was another film on Churchill’s wartime performance, this one set in the days before the D-Day landings in 1944. It is based loosely on the fact that

Brian Cox as Churchill 2

Brian Cox defies actual history.

Churchill and the British high command had some reservations about the idea of invading France in the first place.  Churchill would have preferred to attack Germany from the south, through Italy or the Balkans.  But the Americans always assumed that landing an army in France was the only way to get to Germany and win the war, and Churchill never seriously contested that strategy.  The film bizarrely takes the approach that Churchill was fighting the Overlord plan right down the wire, motivated largely by his guilty recollections of the Dardanelles/Gallipoli disaster in World War I, of which he had been the chief advocate. The movie is very strange, a “chamber drama” with a small cast and a few sets.  The only saving grace is a very good performance as Churchill by Brian Cox, a British actor not well known in this country.  Makes an interesting bookend to a viewing of “Darkest Hours.”

Metrics? Really? Reply

Let me say I think the United States should adopt the metric system. I mean, who wouldn’t love to drive 100 on the interstate? Most of the conversions are easy. A gallon is basically four liters. A meter is about a yard. If Starbucks made the venti slightly bigger, it would be half a liter, We could call it a “half,” and you could order a half-caf half with half and half.

But I digress. I realize I am in the minority on this one. That is why I was slightly amazed to see that some guy from Rhode Island (or is it Connecticut?) thinks he can seek the Democratic nomination for president on a platform that includes adoption of the metric system. Mr. Chafee, whose dad was such a Republican that he named him Lincoln, seems to be a little unrealistic about a lot of things. But coming out for metrics may be the goofiest move we have seen yet in what is shaping up as a highly entertaining campaign season. Wherever she is hiding from the press right now, Hillary Clinton must be smiling.

Lynas urges biotech companies: label GMOs Reply

Mark Lynas, the British author of books such as “The God Species,” delighted many in the biotechnology industry in January when he renounced years of anti-biotech activity and put himself firmly in the pro-GMO camp. Since then, he has given many speeches and interviews supporting GMOs in food and agriculture and blasting the opponents as quacks, charlatans, and nutjobs.

But now Lynas has taken a position at odds with the biotechnology industry – but it is a position the industry may come to embrace.

Lynas has come out for labeling.

Food label from Australia

Food label from Australia identifying genetically modified ingredient.

Labeling, that is, of any food item produced with the aid of modern biotechnology — which in theory could include the majority of packaged goods and many others such as cheese and beer.

Lynas has concluded that the public supports the “right to know,” so the battle against labeling is lost.

“It’s time to make a virtue out of a necessity,” Lynas said in a speech to the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) summit in Chicago on Oct. 15. (The text of his speech and a video can be found at “If enough people say that GMOs should be labeled, then labeled they must be.”

USDA won’t make up missed reports Reply

The U.S. Department of Agriculture got back into business today as the federal government reopened, but announced that it will not attempt to make up key statistical reports closely followed by agribusiness that were not published due to the shutdown.
The World Agricultural Outlook Board’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report that normally would have come out Oct. 11 is canceled, USDA said in a news release.  The next report will come out on schedule Nov. 8, the agency said.  The same applies to Crop Production and Cotton Ginnings reports from the National Agricultural Statistics service (NASS).
Additionally, NASS’s Crop Progress reports scheduled for Oct. 7 and 15 are cancelled and its Cattle on Feed and Peanut Prices reports scheduled for Oct. 18 are postponed, the agency said.
“While the lapse in federal funding has ended, NASS has not been able to engage in the necessary data collection and analysis over the past few weeks,” USDA said in a news release.  “NASS is assessing its data collection plans and evaluating the timing of upcoming reports.”
Agricultural and food interests use the reports to help estimate supply and demand and facilitate price discovery.

Lobb Family Christmas Letter 2012 Reply

Christmas tree 2012 for FB

Dear friend:

Happy holidays! Just thought we’d bring you up to date on the Lobbs of Virginia.

Richard (Dick) started a new job in February as managing director of the Council for Biotechnology Information in Washington, D.C., helping spread the word about genetically engineered crops. Still in the food and agriculture world and still dealing with things that are a wee bit controversial!

Susan left Sunrise and is fulltime at home, keeping up with her friends here and around the world.

Bud is still with Legal and General of America and was featured in a recent company video for his knack with bowties (inside joke). Bud moved back to the family home recently while he looks for a new living situation. We’re delighted to have him back for awhile.

Matthew is in the city of Ha’il, Saudi Arabia, teaching English to students at the university there. This follows up his previous stint in Spain. He says that so far everything is going well. We Skype with him periodically and it sounds like he is enjoying this line of work.

Conor is 18 and is in his senior year at W.T. Woodson High School. He’s busy filing college applications. He’s also working at Lifetime Fitness in Fairfax in the daycare center for children of members and also supervises birthday parties. Conor received his Eagle Scout award from Troop 681 in Falls Church, which means that all three Lobb boys are Eagle Scouts. Conor and Richard took part in the last activity of the Hawks Patrol, a backpacking trip in Shenandoah National Park, as all the boys are aging out of Scouting. (And the dads aren’t getting any younger either!)

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The Lobbs

The Electrical College Reply

As everyone knows, we do not elect the president by a vote of the people but by a unique American institution called the Electrical College. It gets its name from the fact that it decides who gets power. Every now and then, however, it gives the country a big shock. This results from short circuits in the political wiring. All attempts to reform the Electrical College have failed because of disagreements over whether we should have AC or DC. The result is inertia, eventually leading to entropy and decay. No one seems too concerned about this.

Eagle Scout Conor Lobb Reply

Conor with finished shed

Conor, who stands 6’4″, with the finished wood drying shed at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, Va. The roof is clear plastic.

The Lobb boys are a grand slam for Eagle Scout with confirmation that Conor, age 17, made it. His older brothers Bud and Matthew are also Eagles. Conor has enjoyed Scouting with Troop 681, Falls Church, Va., including a trek at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and a 50-miler on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. His Eagle project was the demolition of a wood drying shed at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, Va., and construction of a bigger shed. This allows the park to harvest downed wood, dry it, and use it for furniture and other useful projects rather than chipping it or letting it rot.
Conor will age out of Boy Scouts in October but hopes to continue in Scouting in a Venture group.