business news in context, analysis with attitude

It has gotten a lot of attention since there are no actual sports to watch … but "The Last Dance," on ESPN, is a fascinating 10-part documentary series about the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls - and especially Michael Jordan - as the team goes for its sixth championship in Jordan's last year with the team.   I won't even try to describe it here … I can just tell you that even if you aren't a basketball fan, this is one of the most compelling sports documentaries I've ever seen.  Watch it.

Bad Education, on HBO, is the based-on-a-real-story film that portrays the you-can-hardly-believe-it tale of Frank Tassone, a charismatic Long Island school superintendent who stole millions of dollars from the district where he worked over a series of years.

Played by Hugh Jackman with a kind of smarmy charm - he is expert at manipulating the school board for whom he works as well as convincing students that he understands their challenges and needs - Tassone also happens to be good at his job.  The film makes clear that even as he is defrauding his employers, he also has managed to propel the district forward in national rankings (though he monomaniacal about it in a way that is more than mildly disturbing).  And so, when his theft is discovered, the outrage is matched by extraordinary disappointment.

Tassone is more sympathetic than Pamela Gluckin, an assistant superintendent who has been committing her own fraud.  She is played to brazen perfection by the great Allison Janney, who as always manages to prove that she is capable of pretty much anything.

Bad Education has as its protagonist Rachel Bhargava (Geraldine Viswanathan), a high school student assigned to write a puff piece about the district; in a delicious irony, it is Tassone who encourages her to write something more serious, and she takes his advice, eventually uncovering the various frauds.  And it is extremely well crafted - as awful as Tassone's misdeeds are, it actually is kind of sympathetic about his sociopathy;  as the movie goes on and his secrets start to close in on him (Tassone also is a gay man with a long-time partner in New York and a boyfriend in Las Vegas), it is a measure of Jackman's skill that we feel sorry for him even while being appalled at his behavior.

In the end, Bad Education's lesson is how having the wrong priorities - whether it be national rankings or nicer cars or bigger houses - almost always get you in trouble, sending you down the wrong path.

I had the opportunity the other evening to watch The Stranger, a 1946 Orson Welles-directed film about Nazi (played by Welles) hiding out in a small Connecticut town after World War II.  Loretta Young plays his wife, and Edward G. Robinson is the government investigator trying to bring him to justice.  It is great stuff, done on a small scale, but you can tell that it has been directed by the same intelligence that gave us Citizen Kane.

A few folks asked me how the spaghetti al tonno I said I was going to make turned out … and I would say, in all modesty, that it was wonderful (and tasted even better than it looked):

Also had a wonderful rose - the 2019 Rotation Rose from California, which when served cold was perfect with my pasta dish.  (I also could've gone with a chianti, but the Rose was handy.)

And finally, because you asked:

That's it for this week.  Have a great weekend … and I'll be back Monday.

Stay safe.  Stay healthy.