Saturday, November 24, 2007



I finally watched Bobby last night, having every intention of liking it. Its political context, in which the subversion of the democratic process leads to the prolongation of a pointless war, is certainly timely.

Writer-director Emilio Estevez tells the story from the vantage point of the random assortment of collateral victims of the shooting -- their backstory, how they happened to be in the line of fire at that moment. Although that's a challenging tack, I'm sure there must be a way to make it work.

But not this attempt. The overwhelming impression was that of a cheesy disaster movie. And the late 1960s clothing and hairstyles made it even more reminiscent of flicks like The Towering Inferno.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Guage your mental decline...

... with this simple test:

How frequently do you forget which way to turn the hot and cold water taps in your shower or bathtub?

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Happy Thanksgiving

I was going to write a new blog post about Thanksgiving, but looking back into the archives, I found that I really couldn't say it any better than I did here, two years ago.

As with Thanksgiving food prep, the old ways are the best. Why come up with something new just for the sake of newness?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Should I feel shame or alarm?

Today's NYTCP gave the clue "Spock, on his father's side," and I immediately started writing "Klingon." I only realized my mistake when I found that I had run out of spaces after writing "Klingo."

I can't tell which feeling should predominate: alarm at my eroding memory, or shame at having mortally insulted the inhabitants of planet Vulcan.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Where's my $10,000???

So the Iraq War is going to cost every U.S. family of four about $20,000. I have a family of 2, so I figure that two Bush voters need to pony up $5,000 each to pay me back. No checks, please.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I'm running my kitchen like it was a crime lab!

I made a batch of regular and a batch of decaf iced coffee at the same time -- and forgot to mark which was which.

Can you please look at this picture and tell me which one you think is caffeinated?


Sunday, November 11, 2007


Into the Wild

I saw Into the Wild last night, Sean Penn's adaptation of Jon Krakauer's book recounting the true story of the last two years in the life of Chris McCandless. Right after graduating from college, McCandless embarked on a "journey of self discovery," bumming around the Western half of the U.S. for two years, ultimately reaching his destination of trying to live alone in the Alaskan wilderness, where he starved to death. From the beginning, McCandless made himself untraceable and made no contact with his family, driving his parents mad with worry and grief.

Although McCandless seemed to have been exceptionally charismatic and resourceful, there is nothing particularly original about a young man dropping out of society to "find himself" -- indeed, by the time McCandless tried it in 1992, it was perhaps as quaint and passe as the aging hippies he hooked up with for a time.

But that's why Krakauer's book was so brilliant: taking a well-worn story line of youthful angst and grandiosity, where we know the unpleasant outcome from the beginning, Krakauer spun a compelling, page-turning narrative.

Movie adaptations of books can go two different ways: either try to stay close to the source material, or else use the book as a mere point of departure for something different. Most go the latter route, since sticking close to the original book is difficult to pull off. Penn goes for the "faithful adaptation" and has made the best film rendition of a book I've ever seen.

I read a particularly galling and stupid review of Into the Wild, regrettably by eminent New Yorker critic David Denby, that attacked Penn for failing to see "the egocentricity in a revolt that is as naïve as it is grandly self-destructive." But both Penn and Krakauer understand and convey McCandless's egocentricity perfectly. Denby's critique is simply his own baggage -- that of a middle-aged fogy who can only deal with youthful angst by minimizing and denigrating it. Denby might as well could easily say the same thing about Hamlet -- whose quest for meaning, likewise triggered by rage at his parents, was just as egocentric, grandiose and cruelly heedless of others as that of McCandless. Isn't Into the Wild a retelling of the Hamlet story, with the backdrop changed from Elsinore Castle to the American west?

There are certain times when the soul opens a window into the bottomless question of whether our lives have meaning. One is when, as teenagers or a bit later (college graduation for McCandless), we stand on the threshold of adulthood and realize with resentment or outrage, that our parents will not in fact take care of us our whole lives. The next is when, on reaching middle age, we first truly understand that we are going to die.

These open windows are terrible and frightening. Egocentricity and neurosis probably distort whatever glimpses of "the truth" may be found by those who, like McCandless, take these moments seriously. The rest of us deal with our fear and anxiety by laughing at the foolishness of "teen angst" and "mid-life crisis." Shakespeare's gift to our culture was that, in Hamlet, he took that window of "teen angst" very seriously and told us that we can learn something from those who are willing to stare out into the void. I'm not saying Sean Penn or Jon Krakauer are Shakespeare, but like Shakespeare, they get it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Looks like somebody didn't get the memo about the Chevy "Nova"

DSCN9573 DSCN9574
The "Nothing" Corportion, Tyson's Corner, Virginia.

Monday, November 05, 2007


World's greatest murder mystery

You know this murder mystery movie formula: the first half of the movie sets up several possible suspects for the murder that has not yet, but inevitably will, occur. You see these several characters behaving suspiciously, acquiring a motive, and positioning themselves to have the opportunity to kill the victim.

Lately I've been feeling like a minor character in a great murder mystery -- just a helpless onlooker. The victim -- not dead yet -- is the human race, or perhaps even the planet earth. The suspects include global warming (or its handmaidens: flood, drought, severe climatic shift); pollution and/or extinction of species vital to the food chain; famine; MERSA, avian flu or some other pandemic; or nuclear terrorism; or a computer virus that shuts down the civilized world; or Putin's new Russia; or overpopulation. We don't quite know yet which one will get us.

Just another way to express my worries.

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