Tuesday, October 27, 2009


A good op-ed by Leonard Pitts, of the Miami Herald, on Fox News, published on Oct 4. A snippet is here included:

"But Fox is in a class by itself. In its epidemic inaccuracy, its ongoing disregard for basic journalistic standards of fairness, its demagogic appeals and its blatantly ideological promotions it is, indeed, unique - a news source in name only. That's not just an opinion: A 2003 study found Fox viewers more likely to be misinformed than those who get their news elsewhere. . . Fox forfeited any expectation of being taken seriously by serious people when it made itself an echo chamber less concerned with reporting news than with affirming the ideological biases of its viewers."

Friday, October 23, 2009


My second foray into foreign film this week came with the viewing of the Iranian film, The Fish Fall in Love, a quiet, almost sad, story of a man who was jailed as a political prisoner when he was young, destroyed his relationship with his fiance. While he is in prison, she is married off into a marriage that soon goes bad, but she has a daughter, and her husband disappears. Most likely the daughter is Aziz's, the protagonist, but this is only hinted at in the movie. The film begins with Aziz returning after more than twenty years to his hometown in northern Iran, probably on the Caspain, originally with the intention of selling his family's property, only to find his former fiance and his daughter occupying one house that they have turned into a well-attended restaurant. He moves in upstairs, and the four women running the establishment try to make him stay by feeding him delicious meals (many of them looked scrumptious). But he is so stoic, and does not rise up to accusations nor does he ever step in and explain himself, which is frustrating. And she is strongwilled. I think the end of the movie was on a high note, but I am not sure. I do not know the actresses well, although Golshifteh Farahani is very beautiful. It was a nice movie, and it gives some insight into a part of Iran that few people probably even know about. It is not heavy handed in its criticism of the government, but it is there.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


I declare that I am a member of the ever-expanding cult of Christopher Moore. His absurdist-humor-fantasy novels usually leave me chuckling and grinning, retelling the story in segments and anecdotes to coworkers and friends in attempts to get them to pick up his books. I am a Moore ambassador! Just finished reading Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings. Although it is not quite as openly humorous in ways as some of his earlier books, I loved it just the same. And it seemed that he went deeper in depth into the story, in this case whale research, than he has in a few of his lighter volumes, and I relished what I learned as well as the enjoyable story. He likes to take light-hearted jabs at institutions (whether it be the Church, history, vampirism, or, in this case, research academia). Most of his writing, it seems to me, is character driven. . .you get to know and usually like all the characters, good or bad, especially the wise-cracking everymen. I loved the first half of this book, but still enjoyed the weirdness of the latter half. Without giving too much away, it is about an absorbed whale researcher and his photographer buddy, as well as several cohorts, who stumble onto knowledge that causes them to get acquainted with a mysterious underwater world. Moore likes mixing stereotypes and creating vivid personalities. I loved his telling of how Nate Quinn met his third wife, and her later conversion to lesbianism (which brings up another thing. . .Moore has a dabbling fascination with beastiality in almost every one of his books); his merry description of the "whaley boys" (you will have to read to finds out about them); Kona, the rasta-surfer-blonde-stoner dude with a large heart and inherent wisdom and smarts. Moore has an interesting warped mins, and I greedily await my next foray into his off-kilter world. How some of the stories haven't been turned into movies is beyond me.


I’m back to watching a few foreign films. Last night I caught the movie Absurdistan, a delightful little comedic romp, done almost as if by an amateur crew, about two star-crossed lovers anticipating their first night together and the complications that embroil them in a struggle of the sexes. The movie was apparently filmed in Azerbaijan and it looks like most of the crew may have been local (although well casted). The story is basically about a contest of wills between the women of the town (14 families) who decide they are going to withdraw their sexual attentions to their spouses (who have a reputation for being oversexed), led by the young female protagonist and her gypsy-like grandmother, because their basically lazy, not-to-be-bothered menfolk have refused to fix the aging water system and the town has been doing without much water. The story mixes a little magical realism with the age-old battle-of-the-sexes theme. The acting is often rough, but the cast was enthusiastic, and the story is easy to follow. In the end, you realize that is was a nice film and you smile. Sure, it isn’t slick, but very worth the time.

I also watched Fragments, about how a group of survivors from a mass shooting in a small restaurant deal with the experience and the loss of loved ones. The cast was good, but there was simply too much going on, and although it wasn’t bad, I wasn’t too impressed either. Unless you can’t handle subtitles, Absurdistan is a better choice. I thought Dakota Fanning and Josh Hutcherson, both young actors, were very good in their roles, and most of the rest of the cast were good, but these fragmented multiple storyline movies are often less than satisfying. Kate Beckinsale is very pretty and she did a good job. Forest Whitaker is a great actor, but he seems to be getting smaller roles.

Monday, October 19, 2009


On Sunday, we attended a "play" about Sherlock Holmes, but it was a bit over the boys' heads, so we opted out and went to dinner and to play for a bit, then caught Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which wasn't bad a t all.

Tonight we attended the South Carolina Fair. . .ok, actually, we attended the Midway, using the "all-for-one-price-ride-ticket". The boys had a grand time, and Chimo was able to do almost all of the rides. He missed out on the giant slide (why he wouldn't be allowed on that, I am not sure), but then Joey couldn't play on the Raiders set, so they were even. Chimo did well on most rides, but the Pharoh (basically a giant swing), which he rode, still scares him. . .and I saw him up there, huffing and puffing. Joey loved the rides that went fast backwards. I think they would have ridden the flume ride over and over, had I let them, but it was simply too cold for that. The first priority when we arrived was to ride Crazy Mouse, since last year we used up about an hour and a half, or more, waiting in line for it, only to have it break down. Once we got it out of the way, they reluctantly accepted the challenge of the Inverter. . .and once they saw they would surivie, it was off to the races. Joey was flashing the grin he so seldom shows. I had fun watching them, though my wallet took a beating. Joey really wanted friend mushrooms and pizza, so I relented. Wasn't much I could eat, so I had a turkey leg. Did not eat any fried flour goodies. They really liked the SuperSwing.

Friday, October 16, 2009


The boys and I attended the Columbia Classical Ballet production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame this evening at the Koger Center. Choreographed and staged by Radenko Pavlovich, it was a very nice first production of the season and both boys seemed to enjoy it, especially Joey, who I think not once took his eyes off the stage. Even Chimo was in minimum-wiggle mode. Many thanks to Myra Nelson for blessing us with tickets.

The Forest Acres-based company has grown to more than twenty dancers now, and at times the stage seemed, well, a bit overpopulated at times. In fact, one of my few criticisms of the show would be the crowded stage---the constant distraction, for me, caused by the moving about and chatting and posturing of the background characters, especially with such a large large support cast. . .both regular dancers not currently involved in the performance, adults in costume, and a large portion of the kids' company. Not that it was that much of a problem, but I felt at times that they took away from the performance of dancers being spotlighted on the stage. And those dancers were wonderful.

The costumes and set were very nice. The boys thought it was funny that we could see the reflection off the stained glass, even in the darkened state, when the Notre Dame was raised and lowered; I chucked that maybe the secondary title should be, "ballet of the Flying Cathedral." I liked that there was a much greater role for the kids in this performance than in the Wizard of Oz, and I thought the younger dancers comported themselves professionally and well.

Overall, I enjoyed the second half over the first. This was a new production for me and it was a nice change; there were also quite a few newcomers to watch, as well as some holdovers from the last few years. Zolton Boros did an exceptional job as Quasimodo, a role that must be fairly difficult for a dancer, having to contort oneself when dancing. He was expressive and convincing. Kaleena Burks sparkled as Esmeralda, though at times I think they could easily have incorporated a little more "gypsy" music and moves into her role, maybe made her a little more alluring (not to say she isn't beautiful), even let her hair down at some point (although that may not be how it is done in ballet). One of the lead male dancers, Aoi Anraku, had a bit of an off night as he struggled with some of his lifts, stumbled and fell on a spin, and almost lost it at least one other time. Yet, in portions he was wonderful, and had some nice, graceful leaps. I think they should really rethink the costume of Frollo though, making it a darker, more menacing style. Our friend Waldilei did not have as much of a role as I would have liked. The young Journy Wilkes-Davis is maturing as a dancer right before our eyes, getting stronger with every performace. I bet the women loved it that he had trouble keeping his torn shirt on in one scene. One of my favorites, Akari Manabe, was as lovely as ever and I can't help but to watch her when the corps is on stage. She and Kaori dance nicely together.

Luckily, in the second half, which I thought was much better---more colorful and exciting (except perhaps for the crowd in the background)---my friend Renata Franco (the company's Ballet Mistress) got a much large role, and she was wonderful. Her partner in much of her section, Kazuki Ichihashi, was also very strong. I admit that I am not exactly sure how Diana and Acteon fit into the whole story, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and I think the crowd did as well. Oleksandr Vykhrest and Lauren Frere were also solid in their performaces. I think the march of the monks could have been accompanied with slightly more "churchy" music (maybe organs)---in fact, overall I was not impressed with the musical score. . .it just didn't seem to mesh well with what was happening in the dance at times. And, someone should tell the female dancers not to wear large earrings when they are in the monk habits! :) I am not sure why that bothered me.

Overall it was a very nice performance and was well received by the audience. Attendance was pretty good, which we need to support dance (and we have quite a few companies locally). I got to meet some parents of former CCBC dancers, and a dancer from Starrett's company came over and chatted as well. I look forward to seeing the Nutcracker and Alladin. Good job guys and gals.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Now, I like President Obama as much as the next guy, and a heck of a lot more than the wacko wing-nuts, and overall I think he has done a good job so far. But the announcement that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was a bit perplexing. Sure, he has attempted to move the United States toward a more peaceful path---despite being saddled with two wars not of his making---and I commend his efforts to reduce the nuclear stockpiles and reduce tensions with the Muslim world. But the Peace Prize? Already? Hmmmmm. . .I was thinking maybe this was a "preemptive awarding"! Perhaps the Swedes were worried we were planning on bombing them? Well, maybe they were just so delighted to have the warmongers in the Cheney (I mean Bush) White House replaced by the more pacifist Obama, that the committee members decided to award the prize as a hopeful gesture of future good behavior on behalf of Washington? But the Literary prize organizations better not start awarding prizes for forthcoming volumes!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Just finished Christopher Moore's You Suck, the sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, and I found it highly entertaining. I laughed out loud several times, and have recommended to others. No doubt we will meet these characters again. And I can't wait.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I encourage anyone who is interested in or enjoys dance to take the opportunity to watch any show put on by the Brazilian dance troupe called Grupo Corpo (Body Group). Some of their shows are available on dvd and online, and they apparently make frequent trips to the United States. This unique company of twenty dancers, hailing from the city of Belo Horizonte, mixes classical ballet and music, with modern dance, Brazilian rhythm and moves, and not a little of Cirque de Soleil (okay, maybe going overboard on that last one, but they did employ a bit of gymnastic-like activities, such as hanging from pipes suspended from the ceiling). Their performances are riveting and visually impressive, a wild mix of colors and often nontraditional movement, although some of the pieces seem to drag on at times, and they might have worked better had they been chopped up a bit. Often the scenes work best when all, or most, of the dancers are on the stage at the same time. I actually liked when you could feel the ballet coming to the forefront, as opposed to the gymnastics. Never have I seen as physically strong/built group of dancers---I cringe to think what their workouts and practices are like. Often there does not appear to be a real story being told; rather they seem to be trying to express emotion or experience through their dance. I didn’t enjoy everything they did, and some of the outfits were a bit off-putting, but overall they are simply wonderful. The lighting and backdrops are simple, for the most part, but effective. What seems interesting is that there doesn’t seem to be a hierarchy, though several dancers stand out. Overall, I can’t see how anyone would not have a great time attending one of their shows.