F. Scott Fitzgerald in one of his least prescient comments said there are no second acts in American life. Stacey Abrams seeks to be the latest to prove Fitzgerald wrong, announcing she'll run again for governor of the Gret Stet of Georgia. After ...
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Stacey Abrams reprises Georgia governor campaign as small faction of Atlantans elect new mayor and more...

Stacey Abrams reprises Georgia governor campaign as small faction of Atlantans elect new mayor

F. Scott Fitzgerald in one of his least prescient comments said there are no second acts in American life.

Stacey Abrams seeks to be the latest to prove Fitzgerald wrong, announcing she'll run again for governor of the Gret Stet of Georgia.

After engineering a Democratic sweep of the state's 2020 election with her voter registration drives, Abrams hopes to excite Democratic newcomers to Georgia and reclaim the governorship, held by Republicans for this entire century.

The MSNBC favorite bolsters a strong Democratic ticket of female candidates, joining Jen Jordan, running for attorney general, and Bee Nguyen, seeking election as secretary of state.

Abrams launched her campaign the day after Andre Dickens was elected Atlanta's mayor, receiving 50,071 votes in a city of 500,000 residents. Dickens' challenger, City Council President Felicia Moore, didn't event break the 30,000-vote barrier.

Moore was favored by white Buckhead, which apparently has withdrawn from engagement with Atlanta as the city of Buckhead movement grows. After an early funding and marketing buildup of the separatist movement, led by a New York City transplant who's been in Georgia for about three years, Atlanta's big money movers and shakers are stirring to quash the rebellion.

Arthur Blank, Ted Turner's daughter, Laura Seydel, executive Peter Aman, former state Rep. and high-octane attorney Edward Lindsey, developer David Allman, business leader Larry Gellerstedt, and Buckhead Coalition and Buckhead Community Improvement District chief Jim Durrett are among hosts of a Dec. 8 fund raiser to battle passage of a bill to allow Buckhead to vote on forming a separate city. The entry cost is $1,000 for an individual and $2,000 for a couple.

As Atlanta's wealthy and powerful awaken to the city of Buckhead threat, signs calling for the vote keep popping up on Buckhead lawns. The white banners have spread like noxious mushrooms along Loridans Drive, a major thoroughfare from Wieuca Road to Peachtree Dunwoody, where the city of Atlanta touches Brookhaven and Sandy Springs, separatist bellwethers.

I wouldn't be surprised if a local news operation discovers that the Koch organization is funding the city of Buckhead campaign. A separate Buckhead will likely seek to join Sandy Springs, strengthening GOP political power and crippling the Democratic-dominated city of Atlanta.

While Abrams takes aim at incumbent Brian Kemp, or Donald Trump's puppet David Perdue, the re-election campaign of Sen. Raphael Warnock holds much greater national significance. Warnock must run again next November, and Democratic hopes of retaining control of the U.S. Senate depends upon his re-election.

Another volatile political year looms. The dismal turnout in the city of Atlanta election shows voters are sick of campaigns.

 

"Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time" a revealing portrait of "Slaughterhouse Five" author

Kurt Vonnegut's laughter haunts Robert B. Weide's loving portrait of the author.

Weide, who won an Emmy Award for directing Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," recently released his documentary, "Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time," completed after 40 years.

The then 23-year-old Weide, whom Vonnegut didn't know, wrote the "Slaughterhouse Five" author a star-struck letter in 1982 asking if he'd be interested in making the film. Weide had produced a documentary on the Marx Brothers. Vonnegut shocked Weide by agreeing to participate in the project.

At the time, Vonnegut was 60. Financial problems and career disruptions kept delaying Weide from finishing the Vonnegut film, at last completed with a Kickstarter grant. Weide, now older than Vonnegut at the start of the project, apologizes for taking a central role in the movie.

Thankfully, Weide's account of his friendship with Vonnegut and his own autobiographical changes result in a compelling story. Weide's life and Vonnegut's career unfold in counterpoint.

Vonnegut's story is dominant, a mesmerizing drama of family dynamics, artistic failure and triumph and how history shapes individuals. Personal interviews with Vonnegut are augmented by home movies of his childhood, scenes of his lectures and TV appearances, remembrances of fellow writers, biographers and critics, and bitter and fond recollections of his children.

The youngest member of a prosperous Indianapolis family, Vonnegut saw his life shattered by the Depression, which destroyed the career of his father, a once successful architect. Vonnegut's older brother Bernard was a world-renowned physicist who developed cloud-seeding technology at General Electric. Depressed by the family's downfall and her failed writing career, his mother committed suicide. In 1958, Vonnegut's beloved sister, Alice, died of cancer at an early age.

World War II shaped Vonnegut more than any other event in his life. Taken prisoner in the Battle of the Bulge, Vonnegut was sent to the beautiful medieval city of Dresden. As a POW, he experienced the horrific firebombing of the city by the U.S. military. After the carnage, Vonnegut was forced to search for the bodies of civilians buried in the rubble.

In a devastating scene, Vonnegut claims that his Dresden experience had little long-term effect on him. That's belied by his chilling laughter at reading the names of high school classmates killed in absurd ways during World War II. The film also recounts his long struggle to write "Slaughterhouse Five," the blockbuster novel based on his Dresden experience, which brought him universal fame.

Before completing the novel, Vonnegut worked as a public relations writer at GE, a job he acquired thanks to his brother. Finding success writing short stories for the then lucrative magazine market, Vonnegut with the support of his wife, Jane, quit his GE position and moved to a small Cape Cod town with his family. As magazines like Collier’s, which bought his first story, died, he turned to writing novels, finding little success.

In an amusing aside, Vonnegut opens a Saab dealership, which quickly went broke. With the pressure of providing for his growing family, including three sons of his late sister, Vonnegut desperately seeks to earn a living writing. His children paint a dark picture of Vonnegut as a remote and unstable father. At last, a surprise offer to teach at the University of Iowa's famed writing workshop saves his career. At Iowa, he finds the key to finishing "Slaughterhouse Five."

The novel's overwhelming success led to the dissolution of his marriage to Jane. Moving to New York City, now a beloved international savant, Vonnegut leaves his long loyal wife for the famed photographer Jill Krementz, known for her portraits of writers.

Before dying at age 83 in 2007, Vonnegut reached a new generation with a collection of essays, "A Man Without a Country," condemning the George W. Bush administration for invading Iraq after Sept. 11. The avuncular, whimsical Vonnegut, with his Albert Einstein persona, starkly contrasts with the haunted young writer, who with a severe haircut and wounded eyes looks more like Truman Capote.

The film traces a long, loving friendship, and Vonnegut's spiritual and artistic growth. Weide took a final picture of Vonnegut at his New York City townhome just before he suffered a fatal head injury. He's a man in full, who had witnessed war's horrors and suffered personal tragedies,  transfiguring his pain into great art.

At times chilling, Vonnegut's laughter at other moments reflect a buoyant love of life. He tells Weide that he laughs instead of weeping.

 

 

 

Farewell, Lee Elder, the first black to play in Masters

Journalist Buddy Pinkston's series on pioneering black pro golfers when they were banned from the PGA because of their skin color illuminated the grit, determination and skill of players like Charlie Sifford, Ted Rhodes and Pete Brown.

Pinkston, then sports editor of the afternoon Columbus, Ga., Ledger while I worked for the morning Enquirer, searched through yellowing newspaper clippings and talked to former players in writing his chronicle of the United Golfers Association. The PGA didn't allow black players to join until 1961, more than a decade after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier. Buddy, also a fine musician, was later my colleague at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Lee Elder played on the United Golfers Association tour during the prime of his playing days, barred from competing for big prize money and major titles. After joining the PGA relatively late in his career, Elder in 1975 was the first black player to compete in the Masters, notorious for its Southern plantation ethos. Elder, who played in the 1966 U.S. Open and 1969 PGA, was 40 when he broke the Masters' color barrier, the last in major sports. He won the 1974 Monsanto Open to secure his Masters invitation.

Elder died Sunday at age 87 in Escondido, Calif., after visiting his daughter for Thanksgiving. He won four PGA events, losing two more in playoffs, and was a member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1979. He won eight senior tour championships, and competed in 14 U.S. Opens, tying for 11th place in 1974. He also tied for 11th in the 1974 PGA and played in several British Opens.

As with Henry Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's home run record the year before, Elder received death threats and racist insults before his Masters appearance. But Augusta National's black workers, including the caddies, then the only ones allowed during the tournament, lined the first fairway to cheer Elder.

While not as monumental as Aaron smashing a home run in Atlanta to break Ruth's record, Elder's breaking the Masters color barrier stands with the 1970 Southern California-Alabama game as milestones in the white South's acceptance of black players. USC's dominant black running back Sam Cunningham led the Trojans over Bear Bryant's all-white Alabama at Legion Field in Birmingham, leading to the advent of black players at Southern football powerhouses.

Augusta National last spring honored Elder as an honorary starter, along with his contemporaries Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Player invited Elder to play in apartheid-shackled South Africa in 1971. Nicklaus, who once beat Sifford in a playoff, praised Elder for his accomplishments on and off the fairway.

Like baseball's Negro League players, black golfers deserve recognition for their play before the civil rights movement toppled segregation. Barred from the PGA during their best years, players like Sifford and Elder broke par on ragged courses before sparse galleries for little pay.

Elder had an outstanding golf career, after losing too many years to racism. He likely would have won a major, perhaps several, if the fairways had been open to him in his younger years.

Like Robinson, Aaron and Cunningham, Elder's legacy goes beyond sports. Tiger Woods and Steph Curry saluted him, a man whose love for the game, and humanity, overcame hatred.

 

Scrooge won't let Cratchit family use his Peloton

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein starred in an Apple Christmas commercial a few years ago. Unfortunately, the monster’s conversion was proven false by the Trump era.

This year, the updated 19th century British literary character is Charles Dickens' Scrooge, wildly pedaling his Peloton.

One of the pleasures of such commercials is figuring out which half-remembered character actor plays the leading role.

Brad Garrett, now a mobster on a Jimmy John's ad, was Frankie; Brett Gellman, Phoebe Waller-Bridge's creepy brother-in-law in "Fleabag," plays Scrooge.

In the Peloton commercial, Scrooge like Dickens' character disdains the Christmas spirit, slamming  his door to caroling children in Victorian dress. Riding his Peloton sends him to self-absorbed ecstasy, with the narrator intoning "When your workout's a joy, it's a joy to work out."

Gellman's narcissistic Scrooge would ignore the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. He'd be so carried away by his Peloton that he wouldn't give Bob Cratchit a raise, bring the Cratchit family a turkey on Christmas Day or have his heart melted by Tiny Tim.

Scrooge on Peloton. Solipsistic greetings.

 

Jason Gay's rules for family touch football a Thanksgiving tradition

I fell into the Thanksgiving spirit reading another edition of Jason Gay's rules for family touch football.

The Wall Street Journal sportswriter has been doing the column for 11 years, and it's still fresh and funny.

Gay's annual rules column evokes the love and understanding of family get-togethers, the bittersweet travails of aging and the joy of new generations.

The touch-football rules column is now as much a part of the holiday as the Macy's Parade in New York City, turkey and dressing, and pro football games.

With political conflicts dividing families and Covid still hanging over the country, Gay's column celebrates shared traditions that still unite us.

The column brought memories of friends and loved ones who've passed away, and Thanksgivings of years past:

Furman Bisher's annual AJC column giving thanks for the blessings in his life.

The AJC's annual ad-heavy Thanksgiving paper.

Trips to Louisiana, Ohio and New York City. Years at home, hosting others.

Driving from Chattanooga to Atlanta with my then fiance and mother-in-law to be.

A family feast at the Waldorf Astoria and walking through snow past Radio City Music Hall to watch the Macy's parade, its famous helium-filled cartoon characters floating by, tossed by the wind.

Golf with my father at Baton Rouge's Sherwood Forest Country Club.

An LSU-Arkansas game at Tiger Stadium.

Taking my then small children to a Georgia-Georgia Tech freshman game at frigid Grant Field.

Late night trips to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport to pick up a child coming home from college and Joe, my late brother-in-law, flying in from New York City.

My now grown-up children home from school in Gainesville, Baton Rouge and Princeton.

Watching Alex Karras and the Detroit Lions beat Vince Lombardi's undefeated Green Bay Packers.

Family gatherings, the voices and laughter of so many now gone.

I'm thankful to be thankful.