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There's A Fire, Somebody Grab The Gasoline

But my mind is deep.  How to reconcile.  I was asked about Amanda Knox, and I replied, "I think she's guilty - because she's not that hot."  Now, of course that isn't what I think, but I imagine it allows me to determine if someone gets my sense of humor or not.  I've had encounters of late with people whom I've tried to tell jokes to but they responded only with literal, serious remarks.  Others laughed.  I'm reading Martin Gardner's (I'm guessing here) posthumously assembled autobiography.  Some fascinating facts that I did not know about the man and it's quite entertaining but at times I feel less like he's telling me about himself as much as he's telling me stories about his past.  The two are not the same thing.  For example: He mentions that Norman MacLean was a professor at the University of Chicago during his time there, and even mentions his superb novella, A River Runs Through It.  But no mention is made of what Gardner thought of it, if he even read it.  Been listening of lat eto DJ Shadow's 'Preemptive Strike' and assorted Doc Watson recordings.  Also that damned Van Cliburn performance whose composer I finally figured out.  Score one for me!  I also read 'Slow Getting Up,' by Nate Jackson, which is a fascinating memoir by a former NFL player that even if you hate sports, and the people who play it, and those who watch it, and even those who hate the people who don't hate it like they do, could possibly enjoy.  I'm not Joe Namath but I'm almost there regarding the book.  Also, people in prison read the same things people out here do.  A recent documentary on JD Salinger had a bunch of them come in asking about 'Catcher In The Rye.'  I just hope my job counts towards that whole, "I was in prison, and you blah blah blah" that Jesus said.

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During a particularly dull housesitting venture in my recent past, I burned a slew of CD from the local library.  I have no idea how or why it happened, but one of them is labeled "Van Cliburn."  Perhaps I'm missing a song, have them in the improper order, added some tracks, I don't know.  The album, when I put it in my computer and order it to find album info, only responds with "not found."  In listening to it now, and I have been listening to it consistently and frequently over the last month, I have no idea what he's performing, or even if it is Van Cliburn.  Wish I could hum the theme into my phone and have it tell me what it is.

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I read that Richard Feynman was a brilliant physicist because he was able to see the problems with equations by not getting lost in the math but applying the formulas to real scenarios.  I know nearly nothing about physics so I can only assume that's correct.

Currently, the Zimmerman verdict is stirring up what is, thankfully, anger and frustration only on the net coupled with inappropriate gloating from the usual suspects.  Regardless of what whether you think Zimmerman was right, there is a still a mother and a father who lost their 17-year-old son.

So, using the Feynman method, let's approach this incident without getting lost in the character assassination attempts and racial baggage that are inevitably linked to it.

We have a 29-year-old man who follows, confronts, loses a fight to and then kills a 17-year-old boy.

What happened in the fight?  No one knows.  Dead men tell no tales and I think it fair to say Zimmerman as a witness would be as trustworthy as Fox News on election night.  But, I don't think any reasonable person can argue that had Zimmerman done his civic duty and simply called 911 to report Trayvon's actions then gone home to watch Death Wish was for the 657th time, we would not be having this discussion right now.

That's all the case is to me: One man, with no law enforcement training, trying to insert himself into a not even potential situation rather than leaving it to the professionals.  That the courts would find him innocent of any wrongdoing is appalling, that people are celebrating is disgusting on a level that I lack the vocabulary to express.

Say a prayer for the Martins, and for Zimmerman too, that one day he will be able to understand how responsible he is for that young man's death.
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The problem with the movie is that it is an obvious, maybe even unrepentant, product.  A built-in fanbase will generate lots of dollars, but not if you make changes they're uncomfortable with.  Thus, the two-and-a-half hours of the flick run like a checklist across the screen: Here's her hunting, here's the drawing, here's you get the idea.

Jennifer Lawrence is a terrific actress, and does far more with the character than the movie lets her.  Frankly, I think that's the reason why it's made money: Whatever isn't on-screen she does a superb job of getting across.  And let's be honest about this: She is the reason the movie is doing so well.  Everyone else is competant but shackled by what I'm guessing is a desire to not alienate as many fans of the book as possible.

So as a movie in and of itself, it's astonishingly banal.  Not bad.  Not incompetant.  Not a disaster.  It can't be because it never tries to.

Which doesn't segue into my thoughts on abortion.  I have two nephews: Grahm (4) and Jack (2).  Neither were planned.  Neither were convenient.  Neither has been anything but a joy to the lives of those that know them.  I have made sacrifices to help when I could with them, and it's nowhere near what their parents had to do.  Has it been easy?  Not always.  But I have a MA, and that wasn't easy either.

There's a quote from Walker Percy: "The Nazis favored abortion for theoretical reasons (eugenics, racial purity) whereas modern liberals do so for consumer needs (unwanted, inconvenient)."  My cousin, an admirably stereotypical liberal, said that was no connection between the two.

Sadly for him, the next week a Portland couple made news for winning a settlement from the hospital where they received prenatal care as the test run did not detect that the child being carried has trisomy-21 (Down's Syndrome).  The article does mention that the couple love their daughter, but knowing what they know now...

I pointed out that most people are eugenicists - they simply want to abide by their own criteria.  I wouldn't mind the attitude weren't so many people it utter denial about it.

I hate to sound morbid or joke about something that isn't funny, but I really wonder what would have happened had they just killed the baby in the delivery room.  People would be outraged, I imagine, but I've no doubt the more irreverent and attention-seeking amongst us would offer, "Well, who would adopt a baby with that disability?"

Ugh.  Our culture is one of such convenience.  I'm not pretending to know, directly, the issues that arise with having a child with that disease, but, I do know that this idea that life is supposed to be as easy as possible has moved swiftly from a stroke of to a GD entitlement.

By the way, when Grahm was four weeks in the womb, Amanda (his mommy) went to the ER with stomach cramps.  The doctor told her miscarriage, as they couldn't hear a heartbeat.  The nurse coldly gave her a prescription for medication.  My brother, being a paramedic, later read the report and noticed major differences from Amanda and the person on paper.  They went to an OBGYN and found out Amanda wasn't pregnant long enough for the baby to even have a heart.

Oh, and the hospital sent my brother and his then fiancee a bill.  When he called some attorneys asking about not paying, the response was the same: "Yes, the hospital royally screw up.  But, your son was born healthy and happy, so there really isn't any money in it."  One even told Terence, "too bad she didn't take those pills."  He hung up before he said anything he would regret, or could be used in court against him."

Grahm hasn't been easy for his parents: He needed a helmet to correct the growth of his head.  He's been in the ICU when his blood sugar got down below 40.  He's had nurses' elbow twice and uncounted scrapes, cuts and bruises.  He can be stubborn as a tree stump and used to wake up at sunrise and tell his parents it was time to play (when the sun went down, it wasn't time to go to sleep because, as he explained it, they could turn on the light).

Yet, when my parents and I took him and Jack to Knott's Berry Farm last month, his parents both confessed that they "didn't know what to do with themselves" without the boys around.  People are surprisingly flexible.  We can and somtimes do the right thing.
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Most drummers keep time.  Levon Helm could make music with his sticks.  That he was a hell of a singer too makes it seem unfair to someone has musically untalented as myself.

But don't read my bland words: Listen to The Band and wonder why we have that but want to listen to the nonsense that is the sounds that surround us.

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My NY resolution was meant as a way to fill my time while I worked a part-time job waiting for one a bit more demanding of my (limited) skills and (ample) hours.

My mother said a novena to St. Jude and, hand to God, on the 10th day I got a phone call then an interview then an offer and the point is I've been working.  I'd like to think I'm not hopeless, but really, who am I kidding?

Anyway, here's my review of Drive.

1. There's just something I dislike about films that don't name their protagonists merely because they think it makes them cool. It doesn't.

2. Having said that, the opening scene is really amazing. The robbery scene and chase were also pretty awesome.

3. "Existential" must be a synonym for "waiting for the director to yell 'Action!'"

4. I've been in gentleman's clubs before. I doubt very seriously dancers would kick back and stare while some guy went after their boss with a hammer. Even if it was Ryan Gosling.

5. This is one of the few movies I've seen that appreciates Los Angeles. New York in most films looks like a tourist brochure. Not LA.

6. If I was on a jury, I probably wouldn't convict Christina Hendricks of anything.

7. The not-quite love story was tastefully done.

8. Vrooooooooooom!

9. Albert Brooks was neither snubbed nor robbed. He's not only played a vicious psychopath before, but here he has his usual middle-class meltdown merely with the addendum of stabbing someone in the eye with a utensil.

10. The style was deliberate, the tone consistent, I thought the violence a little overcooked and am not a fan of homeopathic drama, so I can admire the film without entirely enjoying it.
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The Help

Hollywood racism.  Honestly, it's little wonder most people think themselves above such ideas because they're not like at all like those people in the movies.

Yes, indeed! Racism's lingering effect on culture can be cured with ease. Alls one needs is a girl from Scottsdale, AZ to write a book about how bad it is. Empowerment follows as night does day. Bravo!

...And The Pursuit Of Happiness
And just to show I don't hate everything I see, here's my take on Louis Malle's documentary work.

Bunuel's done some of my favorite feature films (Atlantic City, Au Revoir Les Enfants) but he actually might be a better documentarian. I watch ...And The Pursuit Of Happiness every year at Thanksgiving. The rest of these selections, about India, small town America, an automotive plant and that stupid bike race through France no one cares about in the states unless an American wins it, are equally compelling.
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Maher's movie has some funny moments, but he strikes me as the type who thinks funny and profound are synonymous. That someone with a BA in English from Cornell clearly doesn't understand the concept of reading any text except in a literal manner makes me thank God I went to a public U (go Cats!). I'm even more thankful he doesn't try to talk about poetry.

So a guy who learned everything he needed to about religion when he was 13 (always a great idea because that's an age when we know everything already) and seems to think St. Thomas is just an island in the Caribbean asks truck drivers and theme park employees to tell him about Jesus. Makes perfect sense.
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I'll get to that in a second, but On New Year's Eve Cee Lo sang "Imagine" and changed the lyrics, and certain people have their panties in a bunch.

For the record, I think the song is pure bullocks. It's hard to take seriously a guy who, among other things, left England because of its tax laws and lived in the Dakota celebrating the idea of no possessions. For a guy who sings about a "brotherhood of man," one would hope he wouldn't emotionally abandon his own wife and son, to say nothing of how he treated his second one. Nothing worth dying for, nothing that is loved enough to matter? Like many ideas, Lennon's is perfect abstractly but in reality it actually sounds worse than what we've got.

So when I hear people upset over changing one line's meaning from, "I wish everyone would believe like me" to "everyone can believe what they want," I have to wonder.

So back to the titular subject.  I'm going to write reviews on Amazon.  These will be terse, hopefully funny and (even more hopefully) true.

First one is of Quinten Tarrantino's Inglorious Bastards, which I think I misspelled but don't want to check.

Christoph Waltz stands out in this picture like Lady Gaga at an Amish barn raising. I mean that in a good way. Turning the Nazis into a gaggle of incompetent boobs, the film is stripped of tension as the viewer is left to sit around and wait for the shooting to start. How did a Jewish girl end up owning a theatre in WWII Berlin? As Ed Wood reminds us, the audience only looks at the big picture.
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Listening to Falstaff.  I wish I could at least understand Italian.
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