Sunday, December 30, 2012

UNDISCOVERED

I feel like a mountain, undiscovered,
lost amongst a forbidding range,
its quiet sides rock-strewn and snow covered,
its anonymity unlikely to change.
No climbers seek out its cloud shrouded peak,
hidden beside greater visions,
there is nothing special of which to speak,
never to be map-made revisions.
It blocks no path or points the hiker’s way,
None even find it derisible,
For all the world I, can confidently say,
It is simply invisible.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

NAKED

No, not me, silly. You wouldn't want to see that. But what you might want to see, and there is some nakedness in it, is the British movie Naked (1993), starring David Thewlis as Johnny, a somewhat unlikable misogynist on the run from Manchester who escapes to London searching for someplace to land, hoping it might be with his ex-girlfriend Louise (played well by Lesley Sharp). Although I didn't see the attraction, physically or personality-wise, women seem open to sexual relations with him, despite his abusive bullying and intellectual ravings. Thewlis is wonderful in the role, especially as he roams the streets seeking some sort of connection to people, but he is both irritatingly superior and pathetic. Except for the crying scenes, the late Katrin Cartlidge was decent as Louise's needy roommate. I didn't quite understand the role of Jeremy, similar in personality to Johnny but wealthier. The movie seems gritty and real for the most part. It is not my favorite, but it definitely was interesting.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NEWTOWN

I regret the things I did not say
when braver paths should’ve been my way,
to limit harm and protect the young
both at home and worlds far flung.
Lets block greedy goals that unmake men,
shun those afraid, seeking fateful omen.
Too many lost in six hundred ticks,
not time now for partisan politics.
No need to take away every gun,
but return the ban once before won.
Ten thousand annual to graves patrol,
don’t need this type of population control.
Who needs to fire one hundred rounds?
Elementary schools are not killing grounds.
Restore some balance to mental health,
a few less dollars for bombing stealth.
And while we’re at it, end hunger and pain,
So that young souls did not die in vain.

Monday, December 17, 2012

SOUNDTRACK IN MY HAPPINESS

I just downloaded to a MP3 player about 600 songsnd I tried to assess about 30 songs that were tops in my mind, becasue they touched me, or had some special sound, etc. Of course, the following list is both incomplete and subject to change, but I love these songs and it is a good start. I love so many more, but this will give my friends an idea.

*“A Friend” Winans
*“A Little Sweetness” Nelson Rangell
*“Ain’t No Stopping Us” McFadden & Whitehead
*“Ascension” Maxwell
*“Back Together” Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway
*“Closer” Goapele
*“Fabulous” Jaheim
*”Funkin For Jamaica” Tom Browne
*“Georgie Porgie” Toto
*“I Apologize” Anita Baker
*“I Still Dream” Boney James & Al Jarreau
*“If I Break” Al Jarreau
*“In the Name of Love” Bobby Caldwell & Richard Elliot
*“Iris” Goo Goo Dolls
*“Jamaica Heartbeat” Acoustic Alchemy
*“Just in Case” Jaheim
*“Just Like Music” Erick Sermon
*“Kisses in the Moonlight” George Benson
*“Morris Brown” Outkast
*“Mr. Chow” Acoustic Alchemy
*“Native New Yorker” Odyssey
*“Nights Over Egypt” Jones Girls
*“Nite Life” Ronnie Laws
*“Oh People” Patti Labelle
*“One Night” Earl Klugh
*“Outstanding” Gap Band
*”Paradise” Winans
*“Pretty Wings” Maxwell
*“Somehow Our Love Survives” Joe Sample & Al Jarreau
*“Southern Cross” Crosby, Stills & Nash
*“Stomp” Kirk Franklin
*“What You Won’t Do For Love” Bobby Caldwell
*”When You Cry” Winans
*“When You’ve Been Blessed” Patty Labelle

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

RED DOG

For dog lovers everywhere comes the delightful, silly, funny, Australian film Red Dog (2011) about a wandering mongrel in the northwest region who adopts a mining town and in particular its American bus driver and his Aussie girlfriend and gains nationwide fame for loyalty and perseverence. It is a family friendly, heartwarming, and melancholy tale that can be enjoyed by everyone. The star is Koko, but there are good performances put in by his human actor friends, such as John Lucas, Rachael Taylor, Rohan Nichol, Luke Ford, Arthur Angel, and John Batchelor,a s well as a host of lesser roles by actors playing members of the mining town and local community. The story of the pup, based on an allegedly true story, is spun as a truck driver delivering a statue to the town is accidentally engrossed by the tale as it is told to him in a local pub by people who witnessed the events and knew Red Dog.

MY FRIENDS


A nostalgiac look back at four of my friends who used to dance locally with Columbia Classical Ballet, and with the NUTCRACKER being performed last weekend, I was thinking about them all, now dispersed around the country and Brazil. Akari, Kaori, Waldilai, and Renata.

Monday, December 3, 2012

VOYAGER I

Mankind's long-flying space probe to the farhtest horizons of our solar system has reached the edge and is prepared to enter space beyond, making us an interstellar people, I guess. Thirty years it has been sailing and communicating information back to Earth. How cool is that?

KID ROCK


Kid Rock, who actively supported Romney during the presidential campaign, was at the White House and met President Obama, and afterwards was quoted as saying about himself, "But I believe if you don't stand for something, you don't stand for nothing." Is it just me, or was he channeling George W. Bush?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING

Sometimes my social history background is pleasantly pleased and excited by a movie in which the director and company try to produce a faithful rendition of a time and place. I like to see how the people lived, the social stratifications, the costumes and (especially)art, and all else that goes with the time. Although I may not be a specialist in that period, I usually get the feeling as to if they carried it off. And I think they did in the wonderful film, Peter Weller's Girl With a Pearly Earring (2003), a story about a young servant girl in the employ of the great painting master Jan Vermeer in the city of Delft. The movie focuses on the relationship that develops between master and servant as the painter tries to satisfy the wishes of his most powerful patron, and how her presence (and the spector of a former dalliance by Vermeer) affects his wife, child, and even community. Colin Firth is excellent as the laconic Vermeer, who seems to be irritated that he has to answer to the whims of a patron, but he has family obligations, particularly a large family. Scarlett Johansson is very good as the servant girl Griet. I thought Joanna Scanlon was extremely good in her role, and if she wan't nominated for anything, it would be a crime. Judy Parfitt, who plays Vermeer's mother-in-law Maria Thins, and Essie Davis, who plays his wife Catarine, were very good. Though he is a decent actor, there is something about Cillian Murphy that I just don't like (unfairly), but I just don't like his look or something. Maybe because he often plays villans. What is relly interesting to me is the insight one gets into the running of a somewhat wealthy (though financially stressed) wealthy household in seventeenth-century Holland. You can almost get a feeling of what some of our colonial forebears were like and how they existed, bringing some aspects of their world to America. The only thing you don't get is the smell, and you can imagine. I was confused with the camera obscura, which I thought would have been invented much later (and will have to go look that up). Generally, though, if you want a nice, slow movie with beautiful scenes and you like historical fiction, I think this movie might be one you would like to pick up on dvd.

Friday, November 30, 2012

POLITICAL POST-PARTEM

Although I hate the political ads and mailings, the crowded street corners festooned with signage, and the heated rhetoric, I do miss the intensity and immediacy of the presidential campaign. There was always some new report, opinion, or poll to check out. I feel as if I am missing something, now. Quieter. And that is not a bad thing, as I can go back to my regular boring life. Thankfully my guy won and there is not the need for handwringing and introspection, and I was allowed a giant breath of relief, but I also feel an emptiness. Maybe I should move to Iowa and get working on the Clinton campaign. :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

GAMECOCKS

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love my Gamecocks. It is almost an obsession, a love that can often temper or accelerate emotions, cause heartache or joy, confuse or clarify. At least for me and probably a couple hundred thousand other fanatics. I realize I am not alone in this mania, as millions follow their individual teams fervently as well. I don't even allow orange in my house for the most part (although since my eldest son likes the Gators, I permit certain combinations as long as blue is involved and orange is not the dominant color). How crazy is that? The only one in my family with a similar level of devotion to one team is my sister Bobbie, who loves the Buckeyes. And to a lesser extent, Paul loves the Seminoles. Both of them are suffering a little this year, as OSU can't bowl and FSU lost to UF.

The solid defensive effort put in against Clemson by the Gamecocks on Saturday, as well as a good stand-in performance by second stringers such as Dylan Thompson and Kenny Miles, was a thing of joy to watch. I kept expecting Clemson to explode, and it just didn't happen, largely because of the ability of the Gamecocks to hold the ball on long drives, repeatedly making lengthy third downs, and great defensive plays. When the ref robbed our defender of an interception midway in the game, I thought to myself, "here it comes, paid-off officials again" (which I know not to be true, but there have been odd occurances over the years). Even one of the holding calls against us on a running play looked shady. But the Cocks overcame. People complained about the interference calls against Clemson, though I thought their DBs were hitting our receivers early almost every time. Clowney simply dominated at his position, and the plan to limit touches by their offense succeeded. Their playmakers seldom touched the ball. Boyd had a great year against largely inferior ACC and nonconference foes, but against two good defenses he didn't look so good. I think talk of him winning the Heisman disappeared. I don't know what USC will do against whatever opponent we get paired up against in a bowl, but this has been another great year. It could have been enormous, had we earned three more points against LSU. The Florida debacle hurt, but anyone can have a bad game, and the team didn't play poorly defensively against the Gators. We lose a lot of great players this year, so I hope talented newcomers are in the pipeline.

So I get another year of not having to listen to the Orange smack talk. After so many years of pain, this really feels nice. A senior class that never fell to their upstate rivals. How cool is that? And we should have a competitive team next year, barring injuries. Perhaps we will get another star in recruiting this year. I feel for my Tiger brethren. . .just not too deeply! GO GAMECOCKS!

Monday, November 19, 2012

FOREIGN MOVIES


Yes, I watched a foreign romance this weekend. Not just any romance, but an Indian musical of the Romeo-Juliet variety that questions Pakistani-Indian rivalry and calls for the improvement of conditions and education of women in both countries, as well as reform of the justice system. Yash Chopra's Veer-Zaara (2004) is a delightful movie. Dancing. . .yes, we gots some! Colorful dress and beautiful women. . .we've gots that too! :) Luckily the Bollywood extravaganzas were kept in check (though I was let down that there wasn't a huge final fling), but there was the chance an outbreak of motion could occur at any moment. The leads, Shah Rukh Khan (as Veer, who I have seen in Indian movies before) and the lovely Preity Zinta, are wonderful, as is also Rani Mukerji, who plays the progressive Pakistani lawyer who comes to Veer's aid. After saving Zaara from a bus accident while she is on her way to deposit her Bebe's ashes in her homeland village in India, the free-spirited woman is taken under the chivalrous and smitten Veer's wing, as he shows off his country while falling in love. Despite her betrothal to a stern Pakistani man in an arranged marriage for political purposes, Veer steps aside for the sake of her family and is unjustly forced into jail under a vow of silence to protect her honor, and it is only through the retelling of their romance to the newly appointed legal defender that we learn of his plight. Normally Indian films are little more than eye and ear candy (I love the music, rhythms, and dancing though, as well as the colorful costumes), but I really enjoyed this movie. The running time is a little over three hours, so get settled. But I really enjoyed it. I thought it was interesting how often English words crept into the dialogue.

Not to be totally sissified in the eyes of my few followers, I also watched a Thai film, Headshot (2011), a rollicking story of a framed ex-policeman who becomes an assassin for a secretive dealer of justice outside of the corrupt legal system. There is no dancing here! But lots of shootouts and dead bodies. And yes, beautiful women. . .especially Sirin Horwang and Chanokporn Sayoungkul (who is eye candy that you wouldn't believe). Nopachai Chaiyanam, as former undercover drug agent Tul, is shot in the head during a later assassination and surprisingly survives, only to find that he sees the world now upside down. Of course, circumstance that you will see in the movie have already turned his world askew. I wouldn't rank the movie highly in a cinematic scale, but it is lively and entertaining, and (did I not mention this), there are really beautiful women and lots of shoot-em ups. Who wouldn't like?

Friday, November 16, 2012

ODi


The lovely Irish songstress ODi speaks to her adoring new fans after her concert at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbia. Bruce, one of her opening acts, stands next to her, while I am (luckily) obscured by Joey, with Chimo stalking in the rear. Taken by Fred. If you get a chance to see her live, do it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

THE LETTER "R"

Funny, but pointed and true, article by FredNietzsche on Daily Kos, from which I stole a few portions. Go to this link if you want to read entire article, which I encourage you to: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/11/1160484/-Defeat-and-Humiliation-Brought-To-You-By-the-Letter-R

Herewith some portions:

"Earlier today a slide was posted on Daily Kos purporting to be an announcement by the cast of "Sesame Street" that "today's show" (presumably the 2012 election) was brought to us by the number "47" and the letters "f" and "u"."

"The final major component of the Republican party is the Religious Right. They are the most responsible for this year's drubbing at the polls because it was they who infected their party with the Radical Rejection of Reality. What do today's Repugs believe? They believe that climate change is a myth. They believe that gay people cause hurricanes, earthquakes, and the deaths of U.S. military peronnel. They think that magic cells in the female reproductive system prevent pregnancy unless the woman is secretly enjoying herself or the rapist is sent by God to give her the gift of an unwanted child. They believe that President Obama committed voter suppression by turning out more young and minority voters because unskewed right-wing math can't be wrong. Let's face it: objective reality has no place in today's Republican party. It's truly astounding that what the hippies couldn't accomplish with LSD, pot, and mushrooms back in the 1960's, the Religious right has accomplished today with prayer and Bible study. So severe has the Repugs' embrace of subjective reality become that this year senescent fart and bible knocker Billy Graham managed to embrace Libertarian dreamboy Paul Ryan despite Ryan's lifelong crush on notorious atheist slut Ayn Rand. Ah well, if you believe that the young Jesus played with dinosaurs then you'll believe that the Lion will lie down with the whore and cast the first stone at anyone who messes with the free market."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

ODi: UNEXPECTED PLEASURE

Every once in a while you take advantage of an unexpected offer, totally unaware of what you will experience, and you wind up being introduced to something really beautiful. Tonight my boys and I had the opportunity to see ODi, a gorgeous talented Irish singer-songwriter touring the South for the last month or so. She, backed by her English friend Dave, delivered a really enjoyable acoustic set, a mix of original pieces and covers that enthralled the audience at Columbia's Unitarian Universalist auditorium. I feel sorry for those people who didn't attend. Strumming their guitars to what felt like a cozy coffee-house crowd, the duo playfully explained their songs and then wound us around their fingers, having no trouble enticing everyone to sing along. They were funny and cute, and even when she forgot lyrics to one cover that they hadn't practiced much, no one cared, because her chorus was sparkling. They had such a nice presence and rapport on stage, an easiness that was enchanting. Her voice is a joy---sharp and strong with a tinge of edginess, yet still soft and inviting---that will easily find a following with folk and country audiences, and crossover pop as well, though at times it felt as if she were holding back. She could easily have overpowered that small crowd, her voice seemed to have untapped strength.

In addition to playing covers of songs by artists such as John Martin, Springsteen, The Beatles, and Pearl Jam, they offered a number of original works that were quite good, polished in fact. And as nice as they were to hear live, her songs are also excellent with studio accompaniment (especially the piano), so go get a copy of Maslow's Songbook or download some songs. You can also experience the very nice "One in a Million," "Leaving My Love in New York," and "Something Beautiful" as well as others online, and I encourage you to do so. My favorite song of the night was "What You Deserve." Also very nice were "Devil's Dance," "You Win But You Lose," and the title piece. There were several other good ones, but can't remember the titles. If she comes to your town, make sure you attend, because you will not be disappointed.

My benefactor this evening (and I thank him very much), Fred Ingram, played the opening set during open mike, and I think it was one of the best I have heard from him, especially in tandem with mandolin-playing Bruce Clark, who also played a few solo pieces. Most of Fred's set I have heard before, but a few new pieces really captured my attention. I definitely liked his "Sonnets" introduction to covering "In Your Eyes." I also enjoyed Bruce's "Karaoke" song.

You can go to ODi's Myspace site at http://us.myspace.com/odimusic
She has a UK site, but the link is not working for me.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

FOX BUBBLE

A good quote from Allison Benedikt on SLATE concerning the conservative media bubble FOX viewers put themselves in: "Fox News and other conservative media are “far more intellectually closed” than, say, NPR. Fox News feeds its viewers a line of bull about the way the world is. Viewers buy this line of bull. Misinformed viewers become misinformed voters. And then misinformed voters are shocked when Obama wins. Hey, I thought everyone hated this guy?"

"Evidence?? We don't need no stinking evidence!" Or so it seems Karl Rove was saying. I have family and friends who truly believe every bit of crap that is forwarded and promoted by the Conservative Channel. They believe every bit of malarkey and misinformation and downright mischievous misspeak. They tune into Rush (who had a meltdown of his own the last few days) and Glenn Beck, and some of the other wackos. I listened to it sometimes, and I was often mortified. I hope some people learned something, but I doubt it.

OBAMA WINS: THOUGHTS

A long night, first waiting for the results, then for Romney to concede, then for Obama to give his final campaign . . .I mean, acceptance speech (which I think was very good, if not a bit long winded). I am happy with the results and thankful I don't have to kowtow to my more conservative family members (I love you all though). The best man won, simple as that. Romney was a fake and liar (though I think he probably is a decent man). The country is divided, but there are people (see: old white guys) who now need to accept the fact that our nation is changing, becoming more diverse. Women are getting stronger politically and economically. You can no longer disrespect them or "mansplain" to them (Akin and Mourdick. . .I mean, Mourdock. . .went down in flames). Hispanics are gaining strength and numbers, and this shift will only increase as more achieve citizenship (just look at the number serving in our military). Younger people are getting more involved. Possibly even the regularly disenfranchised are finding their voices. Craziness and extremism have limits (hear that, Talibani Teapartiers and religious extremists?). Will there be a third party movement? If so, that possibility likely means the Democrats will stay in power much longer. Money is much too important in modern elections, but saying that, it doesn't mean that seats can necessarily be bought (ahem, McMahon). A strong federal government is still important to our collective well being (how many Hurricane Sandys do we need to reiterate this fact?). The Republican Party needs to rethink their role, or they risk permanent outsider status, with the pressure mounting inside their caucus more damaging than that from without. I hope some sanity returns to the deluded fans of FOX and Rush (when will they realize they are being lied to?). We all live here together and this is our country too.

There are many problems our politicians have to address quickly. Major problems. At some point our elected representatives have to work together. Compromise. Do what is best for the country rather than bending over for narrow interests. Our Senators have to lead.

An openly lesbian Senator. How cool! A wounded female vet with Thai heritage earns a seat in the House. Yeah. New Hampshire has an all-female delegation. Right on. A Buddhist (as well as first Asian American female, born in Japan) and a Hindu win seats for the first time. All right! I'm not sure I am too happy with the new stoner states, though, but not too disturbed by it either. Rabid anti-gay supporters argued vociferously that the courts and legislatures that had okayed right-to-marriage laws would be disavowed by the electorate. . . and for the first time they were proven wrong. Let people be who they are and get over your prejudices. Let's make the schools, roads, and infrastructure better. Lets take care of our veterans. Find new things to make and greater goals to achieve. Be a world leader, not a bully. Convince Muslims in the Middle East that stronger women's rights actually improve life for everyone there. Repair this broken world environment. Stop the slaughter of people, the enslavement of children, the exploitation of females. So much to do.

God bless America and President Obama.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

OBAMA MYTHS

Despite the fact that today is the election and it really dooesn't matter much, Paul Brandus wrote an article about popular myths about Obama, many of which my conservative friends always bring up, and I liked his response. Herewith some portions of that article,

Obama has played more golf than any president in history

This isn't even close to being true. . .He plays on a regular basis: 104 rounds from January 2009 through Aug. 4 of this year. . .That puts him about in the middle when compared with other duffers-in-chief. It's less than Bill Clinton, and a lot less than Dwight Eisenhower, who played more than 800 rounds over eight years — four times as often as Obama plays.

And why is it an outrage if the president, who heads one of three branches of government, golfs 104 times in three-and-a-half-years, but the head of another branch of government, the Speaker of the House, plays four times as much? You heard correctly: John Boehner once told Golf Digest that he plays upwards of 100 rounds a year. Seems like a double standard, no?

Obama has taken more vacation time than any president in history

This isn't even remotely accurate either . . from January 2009 to October 31, 2012, Obama spent all or part of 72 vacation days

· Ronald Reagan was away for 436 days, usually at Rancho del Cielo (his mountaintop retreat in California) or Camp David.

· Bill Clinton, who didn't own a vacation home, loved to party with his elite friends in Martha's Vineyard and the Hamptons.

· George W. Bush spent 32 months at his ranch (490 days) or Camp David (487 days) — an average of four months away every year.

Obama shows his true colors by not going to Arlington National Cemetery

That being said, the tradition of going to Arlington itself on Memorial Day is fairly new. Most presidents never, or rarely, went. Let's look at the past six decades:

· Eisenhower: Twice in eight years

· Kennedy: Never in three years

· Johnson: Once in five years

· Nixon: Never in six years

· Ford: Twice in two years

· Carter: Never in four years

· Reagan: Three times in eight years

· Bush Sr.: Never in four years

· Clinton: Eight times in eight years

· Bush Jr.: Seven times in eight years

· Obama: Three times in four years

Bush Jr. and Obama really have perfect records as far as I'm concerned. The one year Bush wasn't at Arlington he was at Normandy, honoring the heroes of D-Day. The one year Obama wasn't at Arlington he was at a National Cemetery in Illinois, where the heroes who rest in peace are no less deserving of our respect than those who rest in Arlington.

Obama has never visited Israel as president
It's true that Barack Obama, as president, hasn't visited the Jewish state. Not once in four years. He's in good company:

· Nixon waited five-and-a half years to visit

· Ford never went

· Carter went once in four years

· Reagan never went in eight years

· Bush Sr. never went

· Clinton went six times in eight years

· Bush Jr. waited seven years to visit

Taxes under Obama are at an all-time high

If you buy this one, congratulations: You've failed not just history, but economics as well. Between the combined burden of federal, state, and local income taxes, Americans are parting with the smallest share of their income since 1958. The Bureau of Economic Analysis says we pay 23.6 percent of what we make, down from an average of about 27 percent during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Monday, November 5, 2012

WEEKEND WATCHING

The boys were off at the Camporee, so I had blessed quiet and plenty of dvds and books. I got to browse through the flea market and eat a restful Chinese meal, without squabbling brothers in tow. Started a new Sarah Vowell. And, again, there was dvd time.

Finished the sixth season of Dexter, one of my favorite tube series. It wasn't as intense as some of the former years, but pretty good. It seemed a tad off, but who's complaining. I didn't much like the somewhat blatant hinting of potential incestuous activity to come (even if they are not biological siblings), but I did like that Debra now knows of Dexter's activities and it will be interesting to see how she will react to this revelation. The disintegration of Joey seemed a little too quick and overdone, but I never really liked his character anyway. I kind of miss the Bennetts. I do like Jaime Batista (Aimee Garcia). I know that for the sake of the show it was important to move Debra into the Lieutenant's chair, though I think Angel should have (and probably would have in a real-life situation) gotten the office, and I don't think it would necessarily have changed the story line that much. I look forward to seeing the final season whenever it gets on dvd.

Although I do not love anime, I watched an unusual and very good Japanese-American animation Princess Mononoke (1997). The boys seemed to enjoy it a lot. I thought the art was quite beautiful, and the story interesting, if not a tad confusing. Neil Gaiman adapted the script to English (and I know that so much is lost in translation no matter how good the translator). I liked the directors Spirited Away, which I saw a while ago.

I threw in an old western (about Billy the Kid) to the mix, Paul Newman's Left-Handed Gun (1958), produced two years before my birth. One of his first big-screen performances (two of which he inherited after the death of James Dean), you can tell he is still learning his craft, but he is such a presence. I certainly enjoyed it. I can't remember if I ever saw it on television. Lita Milan is beautiful, no doubt why a South American dictator chased her. John Dehner was very good, though I kept feeling he was acting as if he were in a silent film. Newman plays Billy as somewhat silly and demented, but he pulls it off. Those eyes. . .if I ever met a woman with those eyes, I would be entranced. It is not a strong movie, but enjoyable.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

ST. ANDREWS CINEMA BAIT & SWITCH

Last night, Halloween, I took the boys to dinner and a movie, after they said they didn't want to go trick-or-treating. I arrived at the St. Andrews Multiplex Theater fifteen minutes before the start of the show and went in to buy tickets. When we came up to the concession stand a young man (probably high school or early college age), who seemed to be in charge, told me that they would not be showing the movie because not enough people had come to see it and they would not run it for just us three. I looked at him dumbfounded and pointed out that we were early. He did not offer to let us see one of the other films (though they too may have been cancelled, I don't know). No matter. They would not be showing the film. Period. You must leave. You could see they were already cleaning up. Despite it having been advertised online and in the newspaper (as well as in their phone recording). I said that since they advertised it, they should show it. He said the place was a "family theater" and therefore if they felt they weren't going to make money, they didn't have to stay open. I told him this was unfair, since I wasted gas and time driving across town (not to mention the expectations of my sons); he retorted that "what kind of idiot wastes gas to attend a $2 movie." I pointed out that to take the three of us to a regular movie it would cost around $30 instead of $6, but he again said that they have the right to cancel a show if not enough people show up. I was getting pretty riled up by his attitude and callous treatment. I don't know how many people may have come before me, but I sat in the parking lot and watched at least 11 people drive up and get turned away. I am not sure what the cutoff attendance point is for a profitable showing at this establishment. I asked some of the people getting turned away when they came out what movie they came to see, and it was the same one we came to see. After another couple was turned away right before the show was scheduled to begin, I asked what they had been told, and the man said, "The man said we were the first two people to show up for the movie and therefore they were not going to show it." Of course, a boldfaced lie. I went back up to the theater, but now the employees had locked the doors and turned off outside lighting. The manager was putting stuff away in the kiosk area, and when I called him out for his dishonesty, he said he was going to call the police. He turned to the other gentleman with me and had the cheek to say that I was the cause of them deciding not to show the film. As we were driving away, at 7:28, another group of people (it looked like five people) were getting out of their car in the parking lot and we passed other cars driving in. I estimate that maybe 20 people or so were likely turned away in the end. I don't know if the theater staff that night had a hot party to attend or that they were following some sort of preexisting policy, but it seems to me if a business advertises it should live up to its promised schedule (unless there is some true problem, such as a broken film or biblical flood), as it puts a lot of people out. I have personally sat through a couple movies in that place with fewer than five in attendance, and just two weeks ago went to a movie in Forest Acres where I was the only person in the theater, and still they showed their movie. There is no way this guy could have known how many people were going to show up for the movie fifteen minutes before it started (not counting any previews time). What if fifty people had rolled up? I have tried to call the owner or manager to get a clarification, even called Better Business and then State Consumer Affairs. They say I can lodge a complaint and they will send a letter of notice to the theater. I am mulling that option. I know though, that I will not be going back there again, for a while at least. The dvds usually come out at the same time. I guess I'll just have to adopt that option from now on. If the owners felt there was not going to be enough business they should not advertise. Maybe it is time they close their doors permanently.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SNOWY CHERRY TREES


Stole this from a blog. Just thought it was pretty. I don't know who to give credit to.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

SANDY

Hurricane Sandy ravaged the northeast last night leaving behind a lot of flooding and snow in the mountains. I wonder how bad the flooding will be as the water makes its way back to the sea. I know New York is in a bit of a disarray, but I suspect the Con Ed people will get things righted quickly, as well will the transportation engineers. A few deaths thus far. The replica BOUNTY sank off the coast North Carolina, apparently with the loss of two lives. I know my brother, niece, and sister-in-law (all of whom are in some level of law enforcement) have their hands full. Haven't heard much out of Virginia Beach. Seems Connecticut got a good punch. No doubt they are busier than they ever imagined. Such a huge storm enforces the belief of people such as myself that government is still very important, preparation is a necessity, and that Republicans simply don't have a clue. Romney showed while he was in the governor's mansion that his policies were not up to the task in handling such disasters. I hope the rest of the country gets the message before next Tuesday. It was nice that Christie praised Obama's efforts.

Friday, October 26, 2012

MORE JLB

Just finished Creole Belle. James Lee Burke, one of my favorite writers and responsible for nearly twenty volumes in the Dave Robicheaux series, still commands a wonderful array of descriptive language and usually tells a good story and people who love his characters probably don’t quibble about his prose, but he seems to be aging in style and power somewhat, now unable to avoid repetition both from previous volumes and even within these pages. In fact, I think it is time to wrap up the series, perhaps. There was a part of me that kept saying that he simply doesn’t have that much more to explore, even if new characters are added. And OMG, the “ands” rush by like a heard of deer in front of a firestorm (in one sentence I counted six). I suspect the publisher, knowing any new Burke would have good built-in sales, forgoed assigning an editor to his best-selling producer, and no one apparently calls Burke to account. Sometimes the infractions are minor, such as having two characters include “over the hurdles” just pages apart to more egregious problems of retelling information the reader should be able to retain on their own. Sometimes characters, not directly connected and at varied points, bring up the same historical events or remembrances (door gunner who couldn’t wait to get back to a free-fire zone). He is consistent with his former novels in the series (and outside as well) in his toilet and scatalogical references (someone always seems to be killed or beaten in a bathroom and something---often repeatedly--will be referenced going up a rear or spit in someone’s mouth or an item will be needed to be removed from a mouth). His dialogue is almost always angry: hardly ever can two characters, no matter when in the book, have a peaceful or genuine conversation, as they seem to be bitter and distrustful and dishonest and hateful and (wait, I’m sounding too much like JLB). And they all talk the same. Burke simply is unable to give characters unique tone (with the exception of some of the minor characters with local color). Still, I liked the story. I actually thought a favored character might be headed for his demise, but no. I am thinking about not reading any more of his books, but I would be willing to bet I’ll be first in line when another comes out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

WHY?? CRAZY REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES

First, there is Akin, with his rape fantasies, followed by a host of other kookie comments from anti-abortion candidates, but the craziness needs to stop. (Not to mention Coulter using the "retard" word several times to describe President Obama, and getting mad support on Twitter).

Now we have Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for Senate from Indiana, who this week asserted: "The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something God intended to happen."

God does not sanction rape. Full Stop. It is shameful that anyone who calls themselves a Christian would make such a statement. I am appalled. I know some people get overheated over this subject, and they can misspeak, but clearly he has thought about this, and he is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Although some have attacked Romney for having cut an ad in support of Mourdock, I can't believe he would support the Indianan's view and I hope he publicly repudiates it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

BINDERS

A really funny, sarcastic, and cutting commentary, lifted from Amazon.com (by Ellie Robins of MobyLives), which I reproduce here, and hopefully no one decides to put me in a legal bind, HA!

"As a woman, I’m not adept at making decisions that concern me. So when I need the right choice, I turn to the presidential candidate that KNOWS. One with prideful experience in this department. I don’t want to be filed away in an inferior & confusing electronic doohickey that I couldn’t possibly understand. Or heaven forbid, have a man ask for & listen to my ideas! I’d much rather rely on this top of the line, 1980s style, Avery Durable binder. It’s the choice America can trust. My education, my ideas, my opinions, my choices, please PLEASE keep them safely stored away here and far away from the men that might fear them (I mean, want to use them to hire me somedaynever). I’d write more about this most useful product, but it’s time I hurry home to make dinner. . .

Maybe it’s just my women, but they don’t seem to want to fit into the space I’ve designated for them in this binder. They keep sticking out over the edges, even getting away in some cases. I thought using clear, glass-ceiling page protectors would help, but it doesn’t seem to slow them down anymore.

I’m going to have to resort to more severe three-hole punching, to keep my women in line. And maybe switch to the Trap Her, Keep Her.

I have recently discovered that my small six-ring binder, especially when I remove all the people from it, works as a great defense against both legitimate and illegitimate rape. I carry it with me at all times–it’s so small that no one can tell that the little metal rings are actually left open (or “cocked” as it were). When jumped by friend or foe, I just snap those little suckers shut. The whole clamp/pinch action…talk about shutting that whole thing down. And the six little holes are always good for the lineup later. Cannot recommend enough."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

OBAMA ON WOMEN

From NH speech by President Obama, from today's campaigning, some lines I liked:

"Four years ago, I said in this great country of ours, nobody should go bankrupt when they get sick, and so we passed health reform--yes, I like the name “Obamacare”--so your insurance companies can’t jerk you around anymore. So young people can stay on their parent’s plans till they’re 26. So women can’t be charged more than men for their insurance--being a woman is not a preexisting condition. . .

And, by the way, we want our sons to thrive in math and science and engineering, but we also want our daughters to thrive in those fields, too. See, we don’t have to order up some binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women who can learn and excel in these fields right now. And when these young women graduate, I want them to receive equal pay for equal work. I don’t know why this is so complicated. Governor Romney still won’t say whether or not he supported a law to protect that right, no matter how many times he’s asked. This is not -- this is not that hard. I’ve got two daughters. I want to make sure they get paid the same as somebody’s sons for doing the same job. Pretty straightforward. Any confusion there? . . .

You know where I stand. Look, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, this was the first bill I signed into law. And I know you want the same thing for your daughters, or sisters, or moms, or grandmas as I do. And this is not--as I said in the debate, this is not just a women’s issue, this is a family issue, this is an economic issue.
I also believe women should make their own health care decisions. I know you’ve got -- and it’s not just Washington that sometimes deals with this issue. You’ve got a state legislature up here that sometimes acts like it knows better than women when it comes to women’s own health care decisions. My opponent has got the same approach. Governor Romney said he’d end funding for Planned Parenthood, despite all the work it does to provide women with mammograms and breast cancer screenings. . .

We made sure that insurance companies are providing women with contraception. He supported legislation that would turn those decisions over to a woman's employer. Think about that. Do you think, like, your boss, or your insurance company, or some politician in Concord or Washington should get control of your health care choices?


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

VOTE


I cannot watch; I closed my eyes, this debate process I do despise.
Who cares what they look like on screen, I’d rather hear their thoughts on green.
Who saved the jobs and fed the small, kept the country from hitting a stall?
Passed some laws for gays and poor, let immigrant kids stay on our shore.
Made women’s pay an equal thing, despite reaction caterwauling?
Promoted art, education too, as any civilized would do.
Made sure some money trickled down to people closest to the ground.
Helped some others keep their homes, unlike those giant greedy gnomes,
who’d let folks fail after rigging world, their narrow views fully unfurled.
Now people with existing woes, or assaulted by economic blows,
and college kids in sick despair, are sure to get decent health care.
Four solid years of no attacks, so who has really had our backs?
Osama’s dead, a whole lot more, bad guys knock on Allah’s door.
One war is ended though much pain, I hope we don’t do that again,
Another, slowly, winds its way down, I’d rather have our troops in town,
enjoying life and working hard, hopefully with their Union card.
Car companies allowed to live, the wealthy a little more won't give.
I could go on and list some more, don’t want an escape from this door,
So let women decide their fates, no matter their private health states,
I know there’s some who’ll wring their hands, but they’re acting like they’re Talibans.
In less than month we’ll right this boat, so don’t forget to go and vote.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

LAST DAYS (Brian Evenson)

There were times while reading this novella that I entertained notions of severing my hand so that I couldn't pick up the book again, but like a spectator frozen in a crowd at a French execution, my eyes remained riveted to the stilled guillotine, waiting for it to slice flesh and bone. Ahhh, can you imagine if people felt inspiration at a sight such as this and then made lopping off body parts a fetish, and then for it to morph into a religious experience with a fellowship turned cultish and schismatic, who in their ecstatic frenzy turned to murder and mayhem to promote and protect extreme ideas? (No, not the Taliban) Well, Brian Evenson has. Methinks this is one story that people have to go into with their eyes firmly attached to their sockets, because as riveting as it is (kudos to the author), its carnage and violence may not be suited to everyone's taste. I kept telling myself that it was a satire on religious extremism, and I might be right, or it was just a noir detective romp designed purposely to shock. Either way, it works. Don't judge me! I couldn't help if I, like Kline, pined for answers to the mysteries of cutters gone wild. Like prey caught in a giant spider's web, he struggles to understand his plight while feverishly trying to extricate himself. Some will really enjoy this tale, but take cautionary heed and tread lightly. . .or you might lose something.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

MUSING AFTER THE LOSS

Luckily they didn't fall with a thud,
as so many critics thought they would,
they fought hard and came really near
to putting the conference on its ear
I hope next week they eat Gator meat
and in Atlanta the Tide they greet,
so for now I'll just grin and bear it,
they're still great, this I swear it,
so get ready for the Gamecock storms,
I hope they wear their old uniforms!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

LA BAYADERE

Last night patrons of the arts were gifted with the Indian-themed ballet La Bayadere (or, if you followed the first act, also to be forever known as La Bayaderriere. Of course, I am being "cheeky," as there was a lot of posterior flashing going on), performed by the excellent company of the Columbia Classical Ballet. And although I jest, this was really a wonderfully lavish and colorful ballet performed by a talented group of dancers, many new to our state. Radenko Pavlovich is a master at attracting superior international talent, mixing it with young local dancers, and topping it off with the vibrant athletic power of our most-popular star, Brooklyn Mack (freshly awarded several gold medals in world competitions this past summer). I owe the opportunity to see this ballet (the first time) to Brooklyn's mother Lucretia (via Katherine Macedon). Thanks.

Columbia often waits with baited breath for Brooklyn to take the stage and wow us with his soaring leaps and captivating presence, but this time we got him for the entire length of the production (which is truly a great pleasure), as he became Solor, bedecked in white and sparkles. Anyone who follows ballet locally is aware of his growing international fame and primary position with the Washington Ballet. He danced wonderfully, as he always does, and it was a great performance. I enjoy watching him dance and look forward to every time he is here.

As great as Brooklyn is, he was accompanied by a sterling group of dancers. While there have been many additions to the CCB company, with a large contingent coming from Asian locales (especially Japan), there are many wonderful holdovers from past years, too. My friend Zoltan Boros was great as the High Brahmin, though it was more an acting than dancing role. Wonderful costume! Five-year professional Oleksandr Vykhrest danced in several roles, principally as the slave Ali, and bravely, I must add. The tall, lithe, Lauren Frere, who has been with us since 2008, had several lead roles. A host of second and third year performers added to the show, including Edward Persondek, Maggie Hegarty, Matthew Waters, David Greenberg, and Nations Wilkes-Davis.

[Somehow the printed program insert seemed to have messed up the names of some dancers with their roles, so if I missattribute, please forgive me, because many faces were unfamiliar.] The new dancers were lovely and wonderful to watch. Nana Yamatani was impressive and excellent as Nikiya, and she was delightful in her pairing with Brooklyn. Also spectacular was Tamako Miyazaki as Gamzatti. I really adore the Japanese ballerinas. Yukihiro Tamura may have stolen the show with his golden turn as the Bronze Idol (I really hope this is attributed correctly, because he seemed to float in his dance). Tae Seok Kim was very good also. There were quite a few new dancers in the corps, and I especially liked their Shade dance.

My favorite part of the show was act III, with wild dancing and lots of activity. I thought the costumes were very nice overall and the scenery generally pretty good. There wasn't as much humor as in some of the productions, and no swordplay (odd, isn't there always swordplay?) I really enjoyed the dancing and pageantry. A good night. We are lucky to have this group.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

MALALA

Pray for Malala Yousafzai, a fourteen-year-old Pakistani girl who since the age of eleven has written a blog advocating for education and freedom for girls and women in that blood-soaked and religiously reactionary corner of the world. Taliban members ambushed a van she and two other girls were riding to school in and sprayed them with machine-gun fire. She was hit in the neck and throat. Luckily she survived and has undergone several surgeries to repair the damage and remove the bullets (one, I think, is still lodged in the neck). No doubt the assholes will try again. Although Pakistan needs more females (and men) to stand up against advocates of darkness, intolerance, and anti-feminism, I hope someone in the United States can help get her out of that country, help her recover, enroll her into a great school, and then let her continue her fight. The world needs more brave people such as her. Especially in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia. . .do I need to mention them all? Of course, we need advocates for progress and education and common sense throughout the world (even in the United States), but some areas need it far more than others. I grow sicker with every report of a girls' school attacked, schoolgirls doused with acid, minors forced into marriages (especially with aged men), women excluded from many courses of education (as is currently happening in Iran), women kept down economically and socially, women snatched and traded as slaves on the sex market, and a whole host of crimes carried out against women while officials and men turn blind eyes. It is time for these travesties to end. Sad to say that the world would be a much better place if the Talabani and their ilk simply disappeared, died off. Efforts must be made to protect the truthsayers (such as Yoani Sanchez in Cuba), the rabble rousers.

UPDATE: Apparently three of the Taliban attempted assassins have been detained and have revealed the individual who set up the hit. Malala seems to be doing better and was moved to a better facility. She still has a ways to go. And opinion in Pakistan has opened even more debate on the role of the Taliban in their country. I would love to see some violent push-back against these religious reactionaries.

UPDATE II: Little Malala has been airlifted to Britain and reports are she is responding well. I hope they keep her out of Taliban clutches and she gets to continue her education and crusade.

UPDATE III: Reports are she is standing and communicating, much very good news.

Monday, October 8, 2012

GAMECOCK APPREHENSIONS

I am delighted with this past weekend and the start of a new week, especially because of a dominating performance by the whole Gamecock team over our rivals---the Dawgs of Gawga! And it really was a domination. Sure, they had a few chances and we had a little luck when we needed it, but the defensive line really looked good (especially stoning them on the goal line), and the offensive played within itself, didn't make too many mistakes, garnered a few exciting plays, and again our special teams did pretty well (Ace was great). So why am I not dancing around? Because these are still our beloved Gamecocks, and there is plenty of room for disaster. I know, I sound like a worrywort, but I am also a realist and have had my heart crushed before. Like losing Lattimore last year and letting Auburn slip past us. I teasingly and cheekily have remarked that our current mantra might be, "Who are We Afraid of? Wofford!" True Gamecocks know the linger doubt that Navy caused us so many years back. And we have often played down to our opponents. So it is prudent to remain calm, not overly excited, and hope for the best. Still, I think USC has a great team, possibly even championship-caliber, if they can play like they have over the last six quarters, stay focused, and do their job (and not have an crushing unexpected turn). USC still has really challenging games ahead, and a few potential traps to face. But unlike some years in the past, I think we have a team capable of handling these hurdles, and I really hope they can. At least the Gamecocks are in the national title discussion (and that hasn't happened often). Anyone in the nation who watched the game saw the enthusiasm the fans here have always had for our boys in garnet and black, and no doubt a few aspiring gridiron stars thought, "Hmmmm, I'd like to play there." I hope so. We have suffered for a long time, and yet have never failed to support our team, and it would really be nice to have a fabulous season (which it has been thus far). Defeated a strong rival; now greater goals are there for the team. Good luck to them.

Friday, October 5, 2012

WISH OBAMA HAD SAID THIS

I like this imagined speech put into the mouth of Obama in response to Romney by SLATE contributor Eliot Spitzer:

"Quite frankly sir, from the comfort of the economic recovery my policies have begun to create, you are now second-guessing the tough choices I made that have brought this nation back from the precipice of economic collapse—an economic collapse that was created by the very policies you want to embrace once again, a precipice that was far deeper than anyone appreciated when I entered the door of the White House, an economic threat that was the direct result of the disregard my predecessor showed for the warnings he was given by those who understood the cataclysm that would result from his policies—and from your policies. So, sir, while I will not claim that your comments about 47 percent of the American public merely wanting to be dependent upon government reflects a callous disregard for these folks on your part, I do suggest that it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the American people, of how our nation was built, of how we have all reached for a helping hand at some point, how we all strive to succeed, how we are not all born with the financial wherewithal to find that success, and how those who have succeeded have always recognized the mutuality of our obligations to one another. We see the world very differently—and the choice we present to the American public could not be more dramatic."

Friday, September 28, 2012

RAINES ON O'REILLY

Or should it be OH! Really?

Herewith link to opinion piece by Howell Raines (whose writing I have much respect for) on FOX.
http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/28/opinion/raines-fox-romney/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Monday, September 24, 2012

BANKING BS


Simon Johnson, on Slate, tells us:

"No one has succeeded in the modern American political game like the biggest banks on Wall Street, which lobbied for deregulation during the three decades prior to the crisis of 2008, and then pushed back effectively against almost all dimensions of financial reform. Their success has paid off handsomely. The top executives at 14 leading financial firms received cash compensation (as salary, bonus, and/or stock options exercised) totaling roughly $2.5 billion in from 2000 to 2008, with five individuals alone receiving $2 billion. But these masters of the universe did not earn that money without massive government assistance. By being perceived as “too big to fail,” their banks benefit from a government backstop or downside guarantee. They can take on more risk—running a more highly leveraged business with less shareholder capital. They get bigger returns when things go well and receive state support when fortune turns against them: heads they win, tails we lose. And the losses are colossal. According to a recent report on the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, prepared by Better Markets, an advocacy group that pushes for stronger financial reforms, the cost to the U.S. economy of the financial crisis—caused by financial institutions’ reckless risk-taking—amounts to at least $12.8 trillion. A big part of this cost has come in the form of jobs lost and lives derailed for the bottom 47 percent of the American income distribution."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

ROMNEY'S 47%

Per L.Z. Granderson in Slate: "Republicans, especially in the South, who are not rich, better take a good, long hard look at the man and what he said in the video. It may seem like Romney is trashing Democrats at the $50,000-a-plate dinner, but really he's talking about Republicans. Eight of the 10 states with the highest percentage of filers who didn't pay federal income taxes are red states that voted for John McCain in 2008: Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Idaho."

WOODMAN

Photography, like abstract art to some degree, poses difficulties for the critic in assessing value or beauty, beyond that of the image's appeal in itself. Some argue that the only important thing is how the viewer relates to it and does the work somehow alter their worldview or aesthetic. The background story, or intent of the artist, should not necessarily impact on the evaluation, but of course it does. And the history or inspiration of a picture or painting is occasionally more interesting than the work itself, in fact sometimes threatens to overshadow it. Art does not live in a vacuum. Recently I was introduced to the startling and beautiful images of tragic Francesca Woodman, who in a short time as a young woman produced a riveting body of work that influences photographers today. The daughter of artists, including a celebrated ceramicist mother, at age 22 she took her life, and like so many in any genre cut down prematurely, one wonders how that act deprived the world of genius, of images that could have changed humanity (and with art, it seems to me, always for the better). Of course, one can never know and can only judge what was actually contributed and left behind. Retrospective exhibits, the documentary The Woodmans, as well as printed collections such as Chris Townsend's Francesca Woodman, provide art lovers with an opportunity to see a small sampling of the images she produced (reportedly more than 10,000 taken over the span of around five years).


Not having much of a photography background, I sometimes wonder about the art of it, if photographers are rewarded more for taking a beautiful shot or for recognizing the most impressive shots out of hundreds they took on any one day. Is creation as much accidental as effort? I suppose this is true for almost any art. . .how many poems are thrown away, or repeatedly altered? How many canvases painted over or destroyed, the most appealing left hopefully in the hands of the reverent? Lyricists and musicians produce hundreds, even thousands, of songs, yet may only garner one hit. Not every artist, of course, but even the most celebrated ones seem to produce a pile of. . .well, shall we say that there are few masterpieces in the overall body of artistic endeavor. Abstract art is particularly open to this criticism, me thinks.


What I have seen of Woodman's photographs is amazing. I don't like all of it, but the body of work is remarkable, black and white images that capture the eye and draw the viewer in. Although commentators often focus on her nude images (both of herself and models), I don't feel that they were intentionally erotic, but an attempt to juxtapose a youthful, fresh, clean beauty against a decaying world, a darker existence; she seems to want to capture darkness, to strip the image to basic elements, and this often required nudity. Her subjects are often blurred, or covered by torn wallpaper, other photographs, or masks. Her backgrounds are uniformly consistent: old abandoned rooms with peeling paint and plaster, raw unfinished denuded walls, water stains and corrupted corners, floors cluttered with the detritus of years, brick and masonry exposed to the elements. I can almost imagine her scouting through neighborhoods looking for abandoned buildings or dusty attics, chasing out squatters for a moment so she can capture an image. It is a wonder she didn't use more dead animals, or that she didn't take pictures of the poor or street people. She clearly enjoyed experimenting with shadows and angles. Her blurred visions are almost spectral. Mirrors are often an important element. So much of the work seems to be saying, "Come look at me, come see how I am playing with light, learning, growing." Alas, it is almost heartbreaking to think of how amazing her work would have been in her more mature hand.


Some images stand out for me, and they are not the nudes (as lovely as she was). Francesca sitting next to a boyfriend, his face blurred by a sudden movement seems to bespeak of her dissatisfaction with love (though it may originally have been just one image culled from a series). Francesca dressed in black, looking like a widowed Italian woman, the only hint of ornament the trim along the edge of her neckline, her hands, made to look weather worn by shadows laid out in the crease formed by her thighs, her face and eyes seeming wary, elusive, sad. Francesca dressed in a nightshirt hanging Jesus-like from a door frame with a black chair in the forefront, the black and white tiles contrasting against the white walls. Her shadow series, made by blowing flour over her body leaving a dark outline of her shape, as if her camera had been an atomic blast.

FRANCESCA WOODMAN

Art has to capacity to obsess and dominate individuals, especially creators, and it can lead to wonder but also tragedy, even madness for some. In the case of an entire family immersed in art all the waking hours, the stresses and competitiveness might be too difficult to handle. But outsiders seldom get to open a window on this world from the inside, getting perspective that is personal and intimate, as is the case in the beautiful documentary The Woodmans (2011), featuring the remarkable photography of Francesca Woodman, the interesting ceramics of her mother Betty, the painting of her father George, and mixed media work of her brother Charlie. Unfortunately the apparently fragile and unfulfilled Francesca could not handle some aspect of her world and chose to end her life. In this film her parents prominently try to tell their daughter's story. I really liked a lot of her work, though often not what others might have enjoyed the most; she was daring, an exhibitionist, a provocateur. Her peers and teachers recognized her talent, but like her father, recognition on a broader, commercial, museum scale lagged; Betty, stern and demanding, seemed to get much more applause. There is a lot to absorb here: the confusion and yearning of an artistic young woman, the loss experienced by parents, the value of art, the beauty of individual works, the preservation of legacy. There were a few times I thought that there could have been a little critical assessment, but overall I really enjoyed the movie (and the haunting score).

Monday, September 17, 2012

BILL ATHEY

This past weekend William Athey, who I always knew simply as Bill (or sometimes Billy), died in an ultra-light accident in Florida. He was 53. Although I don’t recall seeing him after he graduated from Leto High School a year ahead of me (I sometimes heard about what he was doing through the grapevine), he was a formative and frequent presence in my life from the time I moved to Odessa and joined the Boy Scouts in 1971 until 1975. He was about a year older than me, and at various times we held leadership positions (always senior to me) in Troop 68, the Keystone Kampers. He was a solid guy, kind of like Clark Kent, seemingly indestructible and always on the side of righteousness. He took scouting very seriously, and from what I have heard lived up to the Scouting ideal, where I was a bit more freewheeling about it. You could rely on him, and he was a great camper and hiker. Sometimes I felt he was too serious, but he would give you a wry grin if he thought something was funny. In 1974 we shared the stage as newly minted Eagle Scouts, and the pictures show this towering rock standing next to me (I seem pretty silly looking). He probably was bemused that I was getting the award at the same time, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had asked that it be that way rather than separate celebrations, because he was that kind of guy. I am sure our scoutmaster Larry Vaughn would have said Bill was one of the best boys he had ever mentored. In fact, it is probably safe to say that Bill was a far better scout and man than I could ever be. Had I remained in the Tampa area I definitely would have made sure that he was the Scoutmaster to my two boys. That’s how much I respected him. The one indelible image I have of him from our scouting days was a wild nighttime capture-the-flag battle in the Ocala National Forest, as I tried to match him step for step on opposing sides of a railroad cut through the woods, both of us running full speed, when suddenly he seemed to be running on thin air as if he were Wily Coyote. Unbeknownst to him, the railroad builders had made a side cut and his edge of the wall jogged right unexpectedly. I know that it was unchivalrous of me, but I doubled over in laughter, after he called up from the dark that he was bruised but ok. It was that funny. God bless him and his family, especially his younger sister Sybil, whom I knew from her days as a Girl Scout with my sisters. Bill leaves behind two sons, and there will be hundreds saddened by the news of his passing.




A few more pictures of Bill at the Eagle ceremony can be found at http://sylvannovelust.blogspot.com/2014/08/eagle.html

BERNIE

Sometimes a horrible crime can open the door for storytelling and movie making, but one does not expect it to be a comedy. One such example is the delightful Bernie (2011) starring Jack Black as the true-life assistant funeral director who was beloved in his small East Texas community, especially by the widows, who gets increasingly sucked into the personal life of an (allegeldy mean-spirited) wealthy widow (played wonderfully by Shirley MacLaine) and in some unexplainable moment shoots her to death. Black brings all of his singing, comedic, and acting skills together to play a really unusual role, that is truly funny without seeming too gross or over-the-top; he is the perfect actor for the role. Matthew McConaughey is also great as the DA determined to make Bernie pay for his crime despite the overall wish of the community to let him go free. Presented in a documentary style with local actors playing gossips, the director (Richard Linklater) seems to capture the essence of East Texas mentality and life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A SEPARATION

Watched tonight the powerful, troubling, heartbreaking Iranian movie A Separation (2011) directed by Asghar Farhadi. Peyman Moadi plays Nader, a good man and father, loving son and caretaker to his Alzheimer's stricken father, struggling with not only that burden but raising his eleven-year-old daughter as his wife Simin decides to file for a divorce in an attempt to pressure him to leave Iran (I think because she got a teaching opportunity overseas). Leila Hatami plays his wife. Sarina Farhadi does a nice job as the daughter. This is not a movie one can walk away from without jumbled emotions. It will make you angry, frustrated, heart-weary, and sad. Although advertised as a story of a conflict between separating husband and wife, it really is about lies, how they snowball and can cause a swath of pain. I must say that for the most part my sympathies lay with Nader, who is forced to hire a pregnant woman (played by Sareh Bayat) whose actions will cause chaos for two families and thrust them into the Iranian court system. Her husband is ably played by Shahab Hosseini. There are many social, cultural, legal and religious issues that bubble up throughout the story, not all of which I fully understood. What power do the women really have in Iran (although clearly much more than in many Islamic countries)? How do individuals tread the quivering highwire as they deal with honor, truth, family, responsibility, emotional pain, fear? Does the judicial system work fairly (and in this case I thought the portrayal was somewhat favorable to the judge in this instance)? What is the role of blood money, authority within a marriage, the crushing weight of unemployment and failure, the lure of better opportunity against the responsibilities of family and country, and many other issues. This movie has been widely acclaimed and honored, rightly so, but it is not an easy film to watch, but will reward the viewer if they take the chance.

Monday, September 10, 2012

SANDMAN SLIM

This weekend I finished the first entry in the fantasy fiction genre, Richard Kadrey's Sandman Slim. Having been (and still) an avid reader of Jim Butcher's Dresden series, all I can say is move over Harry, at least a bit, because I enjoyed this series as much as I enjoy that one. James Stark (Sandman Slim) is an angry, revenge-seeking mythological human/something else who returns from Hell to eliminate the miscreants who sent him to the underworld in the first place. There, as the first human, he is forced to fight in the arena, where surprisingly he finds he cannot die and does well in defeating his Hellion opponents. The result of his battles is that he becomes increasingly stronger and proficient in battle, and he yearns to avenge the death of his beloved Alice. Like Jim Butcher, Kadrey has constructed a world filled with unusual and vibrant characters who infest a major city, this time Los Angeles instead of Chicago, who clash and connive like the demons and angels they are. Slim's sidekicks include Candy, a blood-drinking Jade (kind of like a violent, seductress vampire); Vidocq, a several century old French alchemist; Allegra, a smart video-store employee who is brought into his new circle; Kinski, an otherworldly (I don't want to ruin it for you) magical healer; and a host of lesser characters who are interesting and destined to continue to play roles, I am sure, in the future books. Kadrey is a bit more blasphemous and violent than Butcher, but entertaining in much the same way. There are frequent references to pop culture and witty observations on the dark side of life in the City of Angels (which seems apt). I really couldn't put down the volume, and I know I will be spending a lot of time with Sandman, much in the same way I did when I came under Butcher's spell.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

DNC

Ted Strickland: “Mitt Romney has so little economic patriotism that even his money needs a passport."

Julian Castro: "I don't think Gov. Romney meant any harm. I think he's a good guy. He just has no idea how good he's had it."

Harry Reid: "Never in modern American history has a presidential candidate (Romney) tried so hard to hide himself from the people he hopes to serve."

Reid: "We must stop the Tea Party before the United States Senate falls into the hands of extremists and ideologues, who leave no room for reason or compromise, who don't recognize common ground even when they're standing on it."

Deval Patrick: "Mitt Romney talks a lot about all the things he's fixed. I can tell you that Massachusetts wasn't one of them."


Sunday, September 2, 2012

TRUE ROMANCE

Every once in a while a weird, violent, unusual movie comes along, and you miss it at the theater and then you just forget about it, even if you knew about it in the first place. That's right. You never saw it, until years later you picked it up on dvd and you are amazed not only by the story, but by the great cast of young actors that you know much better for their later works. Somewhere in the late 1990s, before his groundbreaking Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino wrote True Romance (1993), which ended up being directed by Tony Scott. The story is fairly simple, about an Elvis-ghost-seeing comic bookstore clerk who falls in love with a callgirl from Alabama, who then confronts her pimp and in the melee that follows walks away with $500,000 in cocaine, that is owned by the mob and they intend to get it back. A few of the actors would have been well known at the time the movie was made, including Christian Slater, Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, Samuel L. Jackson, Conchata Ferrell (at least by face), Chris Penn, and Gary Oldman. Patricia Arquette had been in a few things and would have been recognizable (and she was beautiful in a cute way), though this may have been her first big movie. Val Kilmer (who you really don't see him in the role as the Elvis ghost) would have been known because of his roles in Top Gun and The Doors. Brad Pitt had recently made hearts flutter in Thelma & Louise and A River Runs Trough It, but he was yet the marguee name (and he plays a wonderful stoner). Bronson Pinchot was working his way from his Balki days on television. Relatively new faces included Michael Rapaport, James Gandolfini (channeling his later turn as Tony Soprano), Tom Sizemore, Michael Beach, and a few other lesser names that nonetheless have popped up both on the big screen and on television. A producer probably couldn't come close to being able to assemble this cast today for less than a few hundred million. This is not a movie for kids, much bad language, sex, situations, and violence, but it is pretty good.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

MORE BURKE BASHING

There was a time when I considered James Lee Burke one of my favorite authors, and I still read his books, having finished two recently while waiting for the latest Robicheaux to hit my desk. He can be downright expressive with description, positively lyrical in fact, but he is also like that super-bright student who just slides by on talent because he can, taking the C rather than working for the A. Yes, I am reluctantly saying that Burke is a lazy writer. I am starting to feel about him like a spouse of forty years who you love and never plan to leave, but you know their every tick and repetition by heart and can see through personal screens others cannot. Although you let them get by with the irritations, they sometimes grind at you. Nevertheless, at the end of the day you crawl into the bed and hope for another day. I've written about some of these issues before (see BURKE BASHING), but while reading Cimarron Rose and Heartwood, a competing series Burke engaged in that may just have been his way to get some distance from Robicheaux or perhaps to just make some more cash, but I found weaknesses and repetitions that kept popping up with irritating regularity. Some would say that I am nitpicking, and why even comment on these matters when no one really cares, especially since I will likely keep on reading his books anyway. And I will. . . I truly enjoy Robicheaux, Cleve, and the world Burke created for them. Some writing problems may be because Burke has gotten to be such a bestseller than publishers don't put editors on his books. Or perhaps not, but then that means we have a writer who is unable to change the temper and design of his words or stories, despite the often wonderful descriptive rifts, especially in developing the dialogue. Every character from the littlest to eldest, male or female, domestic or foreign, cop or civilian, ghost or seer, good or bad, talks and thinks as if they are one. True, like so many serial writers, there is little alteration of basic plot, solutions and action seldom develop beyond a well-worn path, but in Burke's work his characters practically all have the same brains and delivery---heroes, villains, and others. Action, plot, and pacing will often mirror that of previous books. You can be almost certain that someone will get beaten in a bathroom (often with a head put in a toilet, or the threat of such); some character, often the protagonist, will pick up an object and sucker punch a rival; a mystical spirit or individual will provide guidance and/or pithy commentary from beyond; one (or more) women will be constantly irritated with the main character (and often have a short life span to boot), with conversations tortured and angry; and someone will always be told to take something out of their mumbling mouth (in Heartwood it was "brown mule", and there is also a reference to taking shit out of one's teeth---a two-fer---but in other books multiple characters say distinctly similar words, with only the item changing, be it mashed potatoes, mud, marbles, etc). It was aggravating enough in his earlier books, but redundancy escalated in the Billy Bob Holland series. Repeatedly Burke employs familiar phrases, or outright retells information, as if the reader is an idiot. In some cases he does it literally within a few paragraphs, three times in two pages ("a Berkeley graduate, in Vermont"). He insists on spelling out every name, almost as if he is a high schooler padding his term paper. He employs favorite words ad nauseum, such as dimpled, flecked, marbled, flopped, fecund, rippled and a host of others, as well as scenes regular readers of have become all too comfortable with. In one he had a thing for organdy. In both BBH books, I think he mentioned his horse was a Morgan about three times, apiece. And his narrator's voice occasionally veers toward the racist, sexist side, particularly when several characters as well use objectionable words (which I do not believe reflects Burke's actual beliefs, as evidenced by occasional sermons that take a liberal bent). When a reader tackles only one or two of Burke's books, he can get away with it, but his loyal fans deserve better. I wonder if this is part of the reason he is not placed amongst the higher pantheon of writers, adored but not respected at the same level.

BUILDING. . .AMERICA FOR EVERYONE

The Republicans have harped on a sound byte, taken out of context from the middle of a speech. Seems clear to me that Obama was talking about how much the federal government has contributed to setting the stage for individual business buidling and financial success through infrastructure, public services, and other aspects of government involvement:

"Look, if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own," he said. "You didn't get there on your own. I'm always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

"If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges.

"If you've got a business -- you didn't build that," he continued. "Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don't do on our own."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

POET (kinda)


My friend Fred, who sang one of his own compositions at the Mind Gravy event held at Drip in Five Points near the University of South Carolina, took this photo with his cell phone of muah getting up for the first time at open mike and reading one of his poems, "Thwarted," which I am sure all my faithful followers (all two of you) have already read. The poem seem to get a hearty laugh from the crowd, which was encouraging, and I got a lot of nice compliments from attendees. It was nice. I thought I gave a good rendition, though Joey said I needed to smile more and make my voice more peppy. My coworkers will not flay me tomorrow when I tell them I finally jumped in the pool.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

THE MAKIOKA SISTERS

On the eve of World War II in Japan four daughters of a recently deceased shipping magnate struggle with family and marriage issues in the beautifully done The Makioka Sisters (1983), a slowly unfolding movie that speaks to culture, class, and conflict. Two olders sisters, one married to a successful banker and the other to a businessman (who is secretly smitten with one of the younger sisters), attempt to find suitable prospects for their two younger siblings, but the eldest spinster is reluctant and repeatedly passes on proposals that do not suit her (some of which are comical), while the headstrong youngest daughter, who makes and sells gorgeous dolls, wants to forge her own path in love and business. Although some of the photography is well done, the outfits (especially the kimonos) are absolutely wonderful. If anyone studies traditional outfits, they should see this movie. I loved the role of the servants too, who while being deferential also managed to be critical and aware of family conflicts. A good insight into the rituals and expected roles of members of a well-to-do Japanese family.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

HUNGER

I thought last night about Taliban prisoners in American custody after seeing a movie and that as bad as that is, they should be thankful they are not under the sway of the British in the 1970s & 1980s. Michael Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, the IRA leader who went on a 66-day hunger strike and gave his life (as did nine others)to protest conditions at the notoriously brutal Maze prison in Steve McQueen's Hunger (2008). Fassbender and the other actors well displayed the anger, resistance, and commitment to their cause while existing in horribly nasty conditions. I wonder if any guards there were indicted for brutality or war crimes. . .no, I suspect not. There are some great scenes, and there seems a particularly dedicated bit of acting by all involved. Definitely not a spirit lifter, but worth seeing when you are able to do so.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

CORIALANUS

I am not the greatest lover of Shakespeare's plays (not because they aren't masterpieces, but because I always had trouble understanding them), though I have read and seen many performed, and much to my chagrin I do not remember ever trying Corialanus, but tonight I watched Ralph Fiennes' movie adaptation (2011) and was much impressed by the blending of the bard's words and modern background. I hope they didn't mess with the original words much (but I wouldn't know), and suspect there would have been an outcry had they. It is amazing how well the story translates to our times. I thought the acting was great, especially Fiennes in the lead role of a man bred for war and successful at it, but whose integrity and inflexibility does not bode well within the political arena, and whose banishment leads him to take up arms against his own country in revenge for the slights he suffered. His pride and rigidity undo him. Gerard Butler and Vanessa Redgrave are wonderful as well. You almost sensed that the actors were taking this project with an extra dose of seriousness. I truly enjoyed it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

TODD AKIN

The Republican Representative and Senate candidate from Missouri stepped in it this week, when he asserted that "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." What an idiot---both because of his sexist attitude toward victims of rape and his ignorant understanding of biology. I know that in part, it is a result of the anti-abortion crowd not wanting to give any ground in their crusade, but I think the comment speaks to many issues the far Christian right (which I call the Tea Party Talibanis) advocates. They generally distrust women (I am waiting for them to call for burgas and stoning). They hate education and science; for them being able to read the Bible is just about all one needs. They are inflexible in their views and often unfeeling and, well, un-Christian, in their treatment of and attitude toward anyone they do not approve of. How ironic that this complete doofus sits on the House Science committee! How could that be? Clearly it appears he wasn't listening in high school; or, perhaps, actual science was not part of the curriculum at his college (although his views probably were formulated later when he attended a ministerial college). Now many Republicans, even those like Paul Ryan, who basically toe the same line as Akin, are scrambling to distance themselves from him. Whether he drops out of the race or not, this too will blow over and be forgotten, but his mentality is actually much more widespread than some believe and must be actively countered. I believe there is room for both religion and science, but not orchestrated ignorance. And. . .rape is rape, no means no, and women should be the only ones to make decisions about their own health.

It also makes me wonder, because Akin is apparently fixated with the thought that rape is too often reported (and also was part of the group who tried to tighten definition of rape as well as shield husbands from being charged with rape), that when someone doth protest too much, there is some reason for it. I wonder if Akin was ever accused of rape?

I later saw this CNN opinion piece by a doctor and professor of pediatrics, and thought he said it much better than myself, so I provide this link: http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/20/opinion/carroll-akin-rape/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

Also, in an editorial on Slate, by Eliot Spitzer, he summed it up far better than I could do: "We should not be fooled that Akin's statement, merely because it is so offensive and quickly retracted or clarified, is a mere slip. It actually represents the worldview of Akin and many like-minded Republican colleagues. His comments are part and parcel of a view of civil rights, women's rights, and science that should be antithetical to a modern society. It reflects a worldview that has held up progress on too many serious issues, a form of know-nothingism for the modern era, a rejection of the very notion of learning."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Romney Taxes

Headline: "Romney: I paid 13% taxes last 10 years"; You know that he means 1.3%. . . A YEAR! :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

FALLEN ANGELS

The difficult part in watching some modern foreign films, especially from Asia, is that while interesting and often wonderfully filmed, they are often surreal and confusing. Wong Kar-Wai's Fallen Angels (1995) is one such film. Surely there are deeper messages here about the culture and (possibly in this case) the urban angst of criminals, but they are clearly beyond my comprehension. The general story follows a hitman and his partner (who plans the hits, but they do not see each other) as he has decided to call it quits and she is obsessed with him and determined to meet him in person. Intersecting this story is one about a mute man (Takeshi Kaneshiro, best known for role in House of Flying Daggers), son of a hotel manager, who breaks into closed shops and acts as if he is working there and harasses potential clients; he falls in love with a woman (played by Charlie Yeung, who has had a good career, probably best known in Western audiences for her role in Bangkok Dangerous) who pines for another man. Almost all the characters are crazy, especially the females. In addition to the killer's partner, who seems put off by men and likes to masterbate with her clothes on, there is a whacky wacked-out woman (played by Karen Mok in one of her early films) who dyed her hair blonde and falls in love with the killer. If she approached me the way she does him, I would be running away in fear. One of the strangest scenes is when the mute invades a butcher shop and gives a massage to a pig carcass. Perhaps one theme is that no matter one's profession or weirdness, everybody need to connect somehow with others. In many ways it was like a typical Chinese meal: you stuff yourself, but after it is over you still do not feel completely fulfilled. Still, I kind of liked the movie, Michelle Reis is gorgeous, and many scenes are beautifully shot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Obama Economics

Quotations from interview of Michael Grunwald, author of The New New Deal (2012) by Slate contributor David Plotz (8-14-12):

"It quickly became obvious that [Obama's] American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the formal name of the stimulus) was also a huge deal for health care, transportation, scientific research, and the safety net as well as the flailing economy."

"Most of the money in the stimulus went to unsexy stuff designed to prevent a depression and ease the pain of the recession: aid to help states avoid drastic cuts in public services and public employees; unemployment benefits, food stamps, and other assistance for victims of the downturn; and tax cuts for 95 percent of American workers. And the money that did flow into public works went more toward fixing stuff that needed fixing—aging pipes, dilapidated train stations, my beloved Everglades—than building new stuff. In its first year, the stimulus financed 22,000 miles of road improvements, and only 230 miles of new roads. There were good reasons for that. Repairs tend to be more shovel-ready than new projects, so they pump money into the economy faster. They also pass the do-no-harm test."

"First, the Obama team’s Recovery Act message was highly nuanced. It was short-term jobs along with long-term investments. It was tax cuts along with spending. It was the biggest domestic spending bill in history, but it was also just a first step toward normalcy. The economy needed fiscal stimulus in the short term but fiscal responsibility in the long term."


"Anyone who received expanded unemployment benefits or food stamps or Cobra subsidies or Pell Grants in 2009 or 2010 benefited from the stimulus. The stimulus saved more than 300,000 education jobs, and preserved over $100 billion worth of health services for the poor. We’re already using more clean energy and less energy overall because of the stimulus; the electric vehicle industry is here because of the stimulus; the domestically manufactured content of U.S. wind turbines has increased from 20 percent to 60 percent because of the stimulus. There are over 100,000 stimulus projects that have upgraded our parks, subways, hospitals, food pantries, and so forth. . . The stimulus helped prevent a depression, and as Romer says in the book, depressions really, really suck. They create horrible human suffering, and horrible deficits, too. The economy is quite lousy, but it really could’ve been a lot lousier. . .By 2015, almost all of us will have an electronic medical record because of the stimulus. The stimulus is also pouring $1 billion into desperately needed “comparative effectiveness research” that will help doctors and patients learn what kind of treatments actually work. There’s billions more for data-driven education reforms—Investments in Innovation and School Improvement Grants as well as Race to the Top—that will seek to scale up promising approaches in public schools. And the most exciting changes will transform the way we generate and consume energy."



Thursday, August 9, 2012

GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES


Watched tonight one of the saddest movies, a Japanese anime no less, The Grave of the Fireflies (1988), which amazingly was made twenty-four years ago. Two orphans (Seita and Setsuko), chased from their city by a massive bomber-caused firestorm, struggle to stay alive as Japan faces the reality of losing the war, and as supplies dry up. Starving and soon homeless (after being harrassed from the home of their aunt), the older boy (about 14 or 15 perhaps) does what he can to provide for his innocent younger sister, who is about 4 or maybe up to six, by establishing a home in an abandoned air-raid shelter near a pond, and begs, borrows, and steals to provide food for his gradually sickening sibling. I don't want to spoil anything, but if you are not prepared for a really melancholy movie, I would avoid this one. One of the saddest scenes is when the boy realizes that his sister has understood all along that their mother died (having been told much earlier by a relative), and after holding in the truth to protct her for so long, breaks down and cries. Although there is no overt criticism of U.S. actions, there is the implication that the Americans wreaked unjust havoc on the civilian population in a cruel manner designed particualrly to target innocents (though others would argue that the entire population was trained and prepared to fight to the last person in the even of invasion). In almost a metaphor for the military leadership, the boy is amazed when he discovers that Japan has already lost the war. Despite all the military allusions, there is no acknowledgement of Japanese complicity is starting the war or having engaged in atrocities against foreign populations at all. The strongest message for me however, is the enduring love of an older brother who sacrifices everything to look after his sister, the ability to bear up under repeated disappointments and losses, and the special bond that develops between siblings, and to some extent the strength of very young children to find some joy in a troubled world. I was disappointed me though, in that it seemed to me that someone would have made more of an effort to help these small children, even if they had taken the little girl from the boy. The anime is very good too, especially some of the more magical scenes, and I can see why it is considered a classic. The movie will leave you drained, but at the same time it is a beautiful work of art and I encourage people to try it if they are up to the challenge.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

ROMNEY WINDSOCK


I drew this a little while ago, but it wasn't as artistic as could be, so I shelved it, but I decided to put it up here anyway. If you can't see clearely, the little flag on the pole is from the Cayman Islands. And the button on his chest was my attemtp to recreate the double R campaign button. And he is wearing a tie.

CfA BULL (Damn, there goes Pride Week.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN

Watched tonight a truly delightful English romantic/satirical film, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011), about a rather scientific-minded, stiff but decent fisheries official (played wonderfully by Ewan McGregor) who is at a crossroads in his life (largely as he is stuck in a peaceful but apparently boring marriage) when he is unexpectedly tapped by the English assistant (Emily Blunt) in the employ of an Anglophile Yemeni sheik (Amr Waked)---who loves to fish---to undertake the folly of introducing salmon to a dam-driven river in his desert country (which is also hampered by native resistance to modernization). What he discovers as he grudgingly undertakes the daunting task (fueled by the deep pockets of his benefactor) is a renewed personal passion and spark, a sense of daring, and love. Much of the comedic aspect of the film is provided by Kristin Scott Thomas as the smart-mouthed, driven, public-relations official representing the prime minister who seizes on effort to project improved Yemeni-British relations. Especially funny is the too-short interactions with her family. I think she could carry an entire movie based around her character. Her role is wonderful. Many tongue-in-cheek jabs at fishermen, government officials, and the media. Great photography and location shoots, good acting and strong screenplay, and it comes together rather well. I liked that they showed a forward-thinking, tolerant, visionary for his country in the sheik. Perhaps a tad bit of Horatio Alger thrown in for good measure, but it does not ruin the film. I encourage people to try this movie.