Some Days

Some days just putting one foot in front of the other is almost as much as you can do. It would be so much easier to just give up. Sit down in the row. Drop out of the marathon. Avoid the news. Read junk books. Watch utterly mindless TV.

Some days are like that. Even in Australia.

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under mental health, personal, politics

Do pictures never lie?

The easiest thing in the world to alter is a photograph.

It was easy long before Photoshop and other image-manipulation softwares. It was even easy before computers.

It all depends on how the photographer frames the shot. You can make five people on a single row look like a larger attendance by just shooting directly from behind those five people. It’s a human thing to “continue” a photo from what’s seen to what’s implied beyond it. The average viewer will see those five people, shoulder to shoulder, and assume there are more people on either side. It’s just how we humans are wired.

You can make a large crowd look like a small crowd, depending on where you stand (or kneel or climb) to take the photo. You can do things like this without ever actually “posing” the picture, which a real photojournalist would never do. You don’t ask people to move or reposition themselves in a photo that’s supposed to be an “in action” or in media res shot. (If it’s a staged shot, all bets are off.)

The photographer’s framing decisions are paramount. Suppose there’s a pretty good attendance at a meeting, and the speaker is being well received, but there’s this one guy who is frowning. Choose to frame the photo with that guy in a strong position, and it implies that the speaker was, in fact, NOT well received. Or you can do the opposite, obviously: Focus on the small cheering section while the rest of the group boos.

Or consider protest scenes. If the photographer chooses to focus on a few people who are destroying things or fighting back against the police, it implies that the whole situation was like that. Even though the truth may be that those were a half-dozen bad actors among a peaceful crowd of hundreds of protestors.

Or even a more personal, small thing: Selfies. Chances are that the person we see in a selfie may look quite different in person. Sometimes that’s because of theatrical makeup, of course. (Who doesn’t know how to change your appearance by using highlights and shadows and distractions?) But even a simple thing like how you angle your head and choose your lighting can visually erase double chins, enlarge eyes, soften features… (There’s a reason so many selfies have heads at those few particular angles.¬†ūüėĬ†I do it myself.)

Maybe everybody already knows this. But it bothers me more than ever these days. The old truism used to be “A photo never lies.” That’s no longer true, if it ever was. A lot of us still tend to think, on some unconscious level, “It has to be true, there’s the evidence right in front of your eyes.”

This is on my mind because I was scrolling through an old friend’s FB feed and came across a photo of 45’s inauguration crowd that looked completely, utterly, different from the ones I’ve seen before. It was posted as “evidence,” obviously, that the mainstream media was lying about the crowd size.

That photo looked completely real. Even looking closely, I couldn’t tell whether it had been altered. (Sometimes you can tell.) It buffaloed me so bad that I had to go search for inauguration photos from a dozen or so sources, and even then it was difficult to determine. Heck, maybe the ones I’d been seeing, from mostly mainstream or liberal sources, weren’t accurate either.

What’s the point here? Basically, that you can only trust photos if you trust the source providing the photos to be presenting an accurate image. And that photos can lie, smoothly and believably. And that if the particular thing we’re outraged about at the moment relies heavily on a image, it’s worth taking a long, hard look at that image.

Never base an outrage on the “evidence” of a single photo.

Never, ever assume that a photo is telling or indicating the whole truth. The choice of framing and selecting which photos to use can change people’s perceptions of reality.

Which is exactly the position we find ourselves in right now, living in two entirely different versions of the United States.

1 Comment

Filed under media consumption, personal, photography

Paper

Clean blank perfect sheets of paper

Bright colorful patterned paper

I am surrounded by paper

Awash in paper

The feel of it, the smell of it, the crisp snap of it

The exuberant glide of ink across the snowy plain of it.

Such an abundance of delight it is to have paper

Paper enough to write on

To doodle

To rip

To crush and toss and taunt the cats.

When I was a child, it was not common to have paper at home.

I fell in love with paper at school.

So much paper, always available,

To write on, draw on, toss away.

The unexpected riches of paper.

Now I surround myself with paper

And never take it for granted.

1 Comment

Filed under fiction, personal, poetry

Top 15 Comedies Ever! (IMO, anyway)

Yeah, I sorta fell off the earth there for a couple of weeks, but I think I’m kinda back now. Knock on wood. And how better to celebrate the return than with the long-delayed rollout of my personal Top 15 Comedies? So here we go….

* 15. ¬†Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009. I had no real expectations going into this movie and was basically blown away. From ¬†the stop-action animation to the perfection of the voice casting to the utter delight of the story itself… I don’t really see how you could ask for more in a non-live-action comedy. If you haven’t seen this, or skipped it as “a children’s movie,” do yourself a favor and watch it.

* 14. Beetlejuice, 1988. There’s just something about this movie that is absolutely delightfully funny. And kinda gross. ¬†But really really funny. A recently deceased couple brings in a “specialist” (Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice) to run their awful relatives out of their now-abandoned house. Nuttiness ensues. And you’ll never hear “The Banana Boat Song” again without wanting to dance around a table…. or float!

* 13. Tropic Thunder, 2008. Apparently Tropic Thunder ¬†is one of those movies that you love or hate. Some people near to me ¬†really don’t like ¬†it, finding it gross and offensive. ¬†While ¬†I’m usually among the first to take offense, this movie just kills me. ¬†I laugh so hard every time I watch it that I nearly need an oxygen tent. ¬†Everybody in it is hysterically funny, from the people you’d expect like Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Danny McBride, to the much less expected like Tom Cruise and especially Robert Downey Jr. RDJ plays the controversial role of an award-winning white Australian actor playing a black ¬†American soldier in Vietnam, and he absolutely nails it. I could say more, but just go watch the movie. ¬†You’ll ¬†love it unless you hate it. LOL

* 12. Fargo, 1996. In which Frances McDormand became one of my acting heroes as massively pregnant Minnesota sheriff Marge Gunderson. And the always terrific William H. Macy is perfection as the put-upon husband who waffles ¬†about a crime involving his wife. Steve Buscemi is his usual excellent nervous bad guy. It’s a Coen Brothers movie, what can I say?

* 11. Groundhog Day, 1993. One of those rare movies that gets better every time you see it. Bill Murray (in his best work, IMO) is a local weatherman doomed to relive Groundhog Day endlessly until he figures something out. It’s sweet and snarky and hysterically funny, and I love ¬†it.

* 10. Toy Story. Here’s my one big cheat: I’m making Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 a single entry, because I don’t see how anyone could possibly rate one over the others. These movies are pure genius from start to finish, and if you don’t laugh until you cry… and then cry until you can’t see … you basically don’t have a heart. And should ¬†maybe get that checked out.

* 9. Tootsie, 1982. Yeah, it’s aged a bit. And the idea of a man in drag maybe isn’t as funny as it once was. But this is still a terrific piece of comedy with an outstanding cast from top to bottom. I laughed so hard at it in 1982 that I nearly ruptured myself. ūüėÄ Maybe it’s ¬†not quite as funny now, but it’s still sweet and a wonderful piece of ensemble comedy acting. ¬†“I’m just afraid you’re going to burn in hell for all this.” “You WERE A TOMATO! A tomato doesn’t have logic!” “… I was a better man with you, as a woman, … than I ever was with a woman, as a man.” ¬†God bless you, Dustin Hoffman.

* 8. Some Like It Hot, 1959. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, on the run from the mob, dress in drag and join an all-female band going on the road. With Marilyn Monroe. Hilarity ensues, but some of the best involves Jack Lemmon’s female and male characters and eccentric millionaire Osgood Fielding III. Which leads to one of the best conversations ever…

Jerry: Oh no you don’t! Osgood, I’m gonna level with you. We can’t get married at all.
Osgood: Why not?
Jerry: Well, in the first place, I’m not a natural blonde.
Osgood: Doesn’t matter.
Jerry: I smoke! I smoke all the time!
Osgood: I don’t care.
Jerry: Well, I have a terrible past. For three years now, I’ve been living with a saxophone player.
Osgood: I forgive you.
Jerry: [tragically] I can never have children!
Osgood: We can adopt some.
Jerry: But you don’t understand, Osgood! Ohh… ¬†[Jerry finally gives up and pulls off his wig]
Jerry: [normal voice] I’m a man!
Osgood: [shrugs] Well, nobody’s perfect!

* 7. The Birdcage, 1996. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a gay nightclub owner and his diva partner who agree to pretend to be straight for a long weekend so that their adult son can bring home his fiancee and her uber-conservative parents for a visit. Hank Azaria steals large chunks of the show as the gay couple’s Guatemalan houseboy. Based roughly on the French “La Cage aux Folles.” Ultimately, it’s a movie about family and love, and I can watch it over and over. “I pierced the toast!!”

* 6. Zoolander, 2001. Another ¬†guilty pleasure, but this movie and it’s dumb-bunny fashionistas just slays me. I laugh so hard at the “walk off” that it actually hurts. “I’m pretty sure there’s more to life than being really, ¬†really ridiculously good-looking…” “So join now, ’cause at the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too, we teach you that there’s more to life than just being really, really, really good looking. Right kids?” And who could forget, “BLUE STEEL!”

* 5. Galaxy Quest, 1999. Imdb decribes it as “The alumni cast of a cult TV show have to play their roles as the real thing when an alien race needs their help.” But y’know, that just doesn’t begin to cover the awesome crazy nutty perfection of this movie. Anybody who’s ever been a fan, or been to a con, or loved something science-fictional with a love that defies explanation adores this movies. Most of us, anyway. From Tim Allen’s drunken captain to Sigourney Weaver as the (of course) communications officer in a mini-dress who can’t do anything else, to Tony Shalhoub’s slow but genius engineer to (especially) Alan Rickman as the generic facial prosthetic alien science officer, every single cast member is perfect. The adventures are funny and rollicking and just nutty enough… And there’s heart, big unexpected heart. “By Grabthar’s hammer… you shall be …. avenged!”

* 4. The Big Lebowski, 1998. I’m not sure it’s possible to give a pocket capsule of this masterpiece’s plot. ¬†Suffice it to say that a case of mistaken identity results in the spoilage of a rug that really tied the room together. And it goes on from there. Jeff Bridges is masterful as The Dude, and his bowling buddies John Goodman and Steve Buscemi are ¬†horrendously perfect. Add Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a flunky-like flunky and John Turturro in possibly the best ¬†tiny part ever in a movie, as the rabid bowler Jesus (“Nobody fucks ¬†with the Jesus.” and you’ve got a big old steaming pile of awesome. “Careful, man! There’s a beverage here!”

* 3. Ghostbusters, ¬†1984. The one, the only, the original… often copied, never duplicated. Jeez, but I love this movie. The classic trio of Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Harold ¬†Ramis take on the ghosts of New York, including one very irritated demi-god named Zuul, and the end of the world turns out to include a really really big Marshmallow Man. The classic lines are endless. “I’ve been slimed.” “There is no Dana, ¬†there is only Zuul.” “That’s a big Twinkie.” “This chick is TOAST!” “Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!” “Sorry… ¬†I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.” “We came, we saw, ¬†we kicked its ass!” And of course, the ever-important, “Don’t cross the streams!”

* 2. Raising Arizona, 1987. Seems the higher up the list I go, the more I hit things that are either loved or hated. ¬†This was my very favorite comedy for many years. Nicholas Cage (never one of my favorites) and Holly Hunter (always a favorite) are a sad-sack, down-on-their-luck couple who can’t have a baby. Then a local bazillionaire’s wife has quints and a wonderful, terrible plan is concocted. With five babies, they surely won’t miss one. And so begins the nutty, quasi-apocalyptic adventure of “Raising Arizona.” Another one from the Coen Brothers (I’m seeing a trend.) Another one with great lines: “Turn to the right…. turn to the left…” “You’re young and you got your health. What you want with a job?” “Sometimes it’s a hard world for small things.” “Son, you got a panty on your head.” “Edwina’s insides were a rocky place where my seed could find no purchase.” “Now get up there and get me a toddler!”

* 1. Airplane, 1980. Everyone on the plane is sick except the one passenger who is afraid to fly. Mwahahahahahaha!

C’mon, do I really have to say anything? This is possibly the funniest 90 minutes in history, and it’s still funny 32 years later. If this movie doesn’t make you laugh, something is seriously wrong with your tickle box. ¬†;D

“Stewardess, I speak jive.”

“And Leon is getting laaaarrrrggggeeeeerrrrr!”

“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?”

“Joey, have you ever been in a … Turkish prison?”

“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking. (smoking… sniffing glue… amphetamines)”

“I am serious… ¬†and don’t call me Shirley.”

“This? Why I can make a hat, or a brooch, or a pterodactyl…”

And now I’ve had enough second-hand giggles to hold me for a day or two. Hope you’ve enjoyed this. And share some of your favorite comedies in comments! Agree, disagree, open up new things I haven’t considered. And thanks for hanging around here, at least for a while.

2 Comments

Filed under media consumption, personal

Three Things Americans Don’t Understand

1. We completely undervalue the U.S. Postal  Service. As one of the oldest public institutions in this country (along with public libraries), the Postal Service has provided regular, reliable, convenient, and inexpensive delivery of mail without interruption. Now it struggles with layoffs and budgets cutbacks, and nobody seems to care. 

But how will it be when we have to drive 45 minutes to the nearest post office? How will it be when the mail isn’t reliable, when it might come or it might not, when it might keep your mail safe or it might throw it away?

I’ll tell you one thing that will feel real pain if we manage to let the mail service fail: Small businesses. My artist daughter currently spends $2 to ship her work to buyers using the USPS. The one time I buyer requested one of the big “express” mails, the same size box cost $12 to ship.

Save small  businesses: Save the USPS.

2. Bigger is not always better.

Mass production and “economies of scale” have come close to destroying the individual artisan in this nation. And under the artisan umbrella, I include farmers. If it costs me more to grow fresh vegetables in my backyard than it does to buy them from ¬†the local megamart, ¬†where they probably came from California or Chile or Costa Rica or Mexico, how can a local farmers’ market compete?

Sure, locally grown is fresher, probably less poisonous, likely more nutritious, but the farmer has to make a little money from ¬†the sale of it, or she won’t be able to plant again next year. Meanwhile, “economies of scale” make it cheaper to grow, insecticide, pesticide, fungicide, grade, crate, label and ship the same vegetables from some massive amoebafarm halfway around the world.

If we care, we really need to buy local  whenever possible.  Even if it costs a dime or two more.

3. Americans have no clue that water is not forever.

Water is a non-renewable resource. Many parts of the world are already struggling with water shortages ranging from minor nuisance to disastrous. Yet here we are, merrily going along with our half-hour showers every day, our faucets left running in the sink, washing a load of clothes every day when nobody can remember the last time most of our clothing was actually dirty, our throwaway bottles (sometimes only half-empty) of water, our cars that must be washed once a week.

And my very very favorite, lawn sprinkling. ¬†I lived for a while in ¬†California and hated that the neighborhood association required lawn sprinkling. So what if the grass would go brown and die if you didn’t sprinkle it? Didn’t that tell you something?

But it drives me the worst crazy here in Missississippi. ¬†In order to get our grass as brown as California, we’d have to set it on fire. That’s if we could get it to burn. Mississippi grass is hardy and green and tough as a week-old biscuit, and it needs watering like I need more candy in my diet.

Which is to say, um, not much.

One day I saw what, ¬†to me, was the ultimate show of water arrogance here in our fine state. It was raining. A nice, ¬†soft, gentle rain, the kind that makes things grow like wildfire around here. And in the pampered crop fields of someone I won’t name, the irrigation system was just chugging away, spraying precious non-renewable groundwater up into the water falling naturally from the sky.

Sometimes  I despair.

* Support the USPS.

* Support local  farmers and small businesses.

* Start saving water, ¬†before it’s too late. ¬†I don’t like ¬†to think ¬†about my grandchildren having to walk miles every day just to get a single bucket of water ¬†for a family’s use. ¬†It’s happening now in some parts of our world.

It can happen here.

NOW is the time to take action, ¬†not when it’s too late.

End of rant. For now.

2 Comments

Filed under personal

Just for Laughs, Part 2

Okay, just for the sake of having something to talk about, from here on out my choices will be numbered. Yep, an old-fashioned countdown.

To be honest, I’ve rearranged this Top 25 at least a dozen times, and might very well do it again before I hit the Publish button. Consider yourself warned!

Without further ado, in reverse order, numbers 25-16.

* 25. The Philadelphia Story = 1940. Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart may be the best comedic trio ever in this witty, stylish, utterly funny movie about a spoiled rich girl who doesn’t know exactly who she wants to marry. For those who recognize the name, here’s where Tracy Lord originated. If you can get through this ¬†one without giggles, especially little sister Dinah, you’re one tough cookie.

* 24. The Great Dictator – 1940. Charlie Chaplin at his peace-mongering best as a lowly Jew who turns out to be a doppleganger for a certain poorly thought-of dictator. An awesome movie… ¬†and very funny.

* 23. Legally Blonde – 2001. Maybe somewhat politically incorrect for the uber feminist, but I love Reese Witherspoon in this movie, and how she proves a woman can be fashionable AND smart. And her dog is a hoot.

* 22. Dr. Strangelove – 1964. Peter Sellers leads a stellar cast in showing us why we should learn to stop worrying and love the bomb. An anti-nuclear comedy with one of the best lines in all moviedom: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the war room.”

* 21. The Princess Bride – 1987. It’s inconceiveable that anyone out there hasn’t seen this thoroughly wonderful and wonderfully funny movie, but if that describes you, then go, right now. Watch it. I’ll wait. A fabulous deadpan fairy tale with everything you could imagine in it – pirates, princesses, giants, wizards, swordsmen, chases, battles, sword fights … even some kissing. Very little kissing. Go, watch, you’ll love it or my name isn’t Inigo Montoya.

* 20. O Brother Where Art Thou? – 2000. Homer’s Odyssey set in the Depression Era Deep South, with George Clooney, ¬†John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson as possibly the most inept set of prison escapees ever. Worth not only watching, but rewatching. And you’ll be humming the music of the Soggy Bottom Boys for days afterward.

* 19. Monty Python and the Holy Grail – 1975. Killer rabbits. Tim the Enchanter. Soggy women lying about in ditches. ¬†“Help, help I’m being oppressed!” Behold the violence inherent in the system. African swallows. Singing knights and dancing maidens in Camelot, which is a deeply silly place. Bring me a shrubbery! All this and more. Be there and join the minority who can find a quote from this movie that is suitable for every single thing that ever happens. She turned me into a newt… I got over it.

* 18. Men in Black – 1997. Will Smith is a funny guy, don’t get me wrong, but this movie is absolutely stolen by Tommy Lee Jones. You WILL believe that Elvis is an alien. Good for a laugh every single time.

* 17. Bull Durham – 1988. Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and the hilarious Tim Robbins in a comedy about baseball and love and baseball and camraderie and baseball. Watch this once and it’ll change forever the way you watch pitchers pitch.

* 16. Best in Show – 2000. Another Christopher Guest fake documentary starring the usual cast of amazing actors, this time as owners, trainers, competitors at a national dog show. Don’t even get me started: I can’t THINK about it without a fit of helpless giggles.

And that’s 16 through 25. Look for 1-15 in an internet notice near you sometime soon!

And tell me what makes you laugh! I’d love to hear.

Leave a comment

Filed under media consumption, personal

Just for Laughs, Part 1

Some online friends of my husbands are doing an online poll of greatest comedies ever, and it got me started thinking about movies that claim to be comedies. I have a sort of odd reaction to many of them, because I really don’t find many so-called “comedies” of the past 30 years or so to be funny. Gross, yes. Sophomoric, absolutely. Annoying, beyond a doubt, but not funny.

For a movie to make my list, it has to have made me laugh out loud at least once, preferably more. In the interest of fairnness, I’ll admit that I like witty comedy and have limited patience with very broad slapstick. Never could understand the appeal ¬†of the Three Stooges, although I love The Marx Brothers.

So without further ado, here’s the second half of my list of 50 favorite comedies. These are in no particular order. I’ll get to the Top 25 in a day or two.

* Rocky Horror Picture Show – 1975. Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick. What can I say? If you’ve seen it, you know. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for? Most singable comedy EVAH.

* Victor/Victoria – 1982. Julie Andrews, James Garner, Robert Preston. Julie Andrews as a woman pretending to be a man, pretending to be a woman. Worth every minute of the watching just for the fantastic performance of Robert Preston.

* Wag the Dog – 1997. Robert deNiro, Dustin Hoffman. Blackly cynical, fascinating and hysterical movie about politics and entertainment, and where’s the line. If, in fact, there is a line any more.

* You Can’t Take It With You – 1938. Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart, Lionel Barrymore. A zany concoction about possibly the most wonderful ¬†family ever. ¬†Directed by Frank Capra.

* A Mighty Wind – 2003. Another Christopher Guest mockumentary with the usual cast of mind-boggling comics. This one is about the preparation for a 1960s folk music reunion. It’s not a full-out funny as “Best in Show” or “Waiting for Guffman,” but the more you know about ’60s folkies the funnier it is.

* A Day at the Races – 1937. The Marx Brothers. At the races. Do I really need to say any more?

* A Shot in the Dark – 1964. The second of the Pink Panther movies and my personal favorite, with Clouseau (Peter Sellers) investigating a murder and driving his boss (the wonderful Herbert Lom as Chief Dreyfus) insane. It is crazy funny, even if a bit dated now.

* Arsenic & Old Lace – 1944. Frank Capra again, directing a very funny Cary Grant and an assortment of pros from the theatrical version of the play, which had run for a while. Grant’s Mortimer Brewster discovers (through a crazy series of events, of course) that his two elderly aunts have been poisoning “nice elderly gentlemen” with their elderberry wine. The dizzy old ladies are the best part of the movie, in my mind, but Cary Grant has never been funnier.

* Babe – 1995. James Cromwell and a cast of hundreds of barnyard animals. I haven’t seen this one again since I saw it on the big screen, but I know I was utterly charmed by the ¬†little pig and the rest of the talking animals. ¬†“That’ll do, Pig,” has been a stand-by phrase in our family ever since.

* Be Kind Rewind – 2008. Jack Black, Mos Def. Two non-too-clever friends set out to refilm the contents of a video rental store. You’ll have to watch it to see why. A charming and oddly sweet movie, and I loved it.

* Burn After Reading – 2008. Brad Pitt, George Clooney, ¬†Frances McDormand. Basically the polar opposite of “Be Kind Rewind,” but oh, so, cynically funny. Pitt and Clooney are obviously having a complete blast, and the Coen Brothers know how to do skewed screwball ¬†comedy.

* Duck Soup – 1933. The Marx Brothers. I rest my case.

* Ed Wood Р1994. Johnny Depp in the title role as arguably the worst director ever to make movies. Includes  a bittersweetly funny performance by Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi.

* Election – 1999. Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon. A viciously funny take on one poor teacher’s journey as he undertakes to get involved in high school student elections. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, you’ll laugh some more.

* Elf – 2003. On the whole, I’m not a Will ¬†Ferrell fan. I find most of his ¬†characterizations to be too over-the-top to actually be funny. But as a human raised among Santa’s elves, he hits every note perfectly. ¬†Much credit goes to director Jon Favreau to keeping under control a movie that could easily have spiralled into utter stupidity.

* A Fish Called Wanda – 1988. John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin. I still find this tall tale of theft and double-crossing to be one of the funniest movies ever, but I made the mistake of watching it with my daughter once and she found parts of it horrifying. So… I kinda don’t watch it any more, but I still think that Kevin Kline’s burglar is a work of genius. Cleese co-wrote the script. You’ll never look at a fish tank or a little yappy dog the same way ever again.

* In & Out – 1997. Kevin Kline (again!) as a teacher in a small Midwestern town, on the verge of marriage, who is accidentally outed on live TV by a deliriously happy former student who just won a major acting award. After that, it’s a comedy of errors and gender questioning. Tom Selleck is perfect as the man in love with Kevin Kline’s character. This movie always keeps me laughing and leaves me with a smile. It didn’t do much box office on release, but that’s just goes to show that you can’t ¬†trust the public. Highly recommended.

* Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – 2005. Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer. This quirky crime movie is not a comedy. But it is so freaking funny. Both Downey and Kilmer are beyond entertaining. This just makes me giggle.

* This ¬†Is Spinal Tap – 1984. If you’ve ever said, “Turn it up to 11,” you owe a debt to this movie. A fake documentary/parody about Spinal Tap, “the world’s loudest band,” this stars Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and a mob of other people whose faces, comedy and voices we’ve all known for decades. It’s funniest if you know something about bands of the 70s.

* The Rabbit of Seville – Can’t give you a date or anything else for this one, but if you’ve ever seen Bugs Bunny giving Elmer Fudd a shave and haircut set to opera, you’ve seen it. ¬†I paused and wondered for a while whether to name this one or “What’s Opera, Doc?” with Wagner (“Kill ¬†the wabbit, kill the wabbit….”) or “Long-Haired Hare” in which Bugs pretends to be an opera director and torments a singer something fierce. I’ll just leave it with this… ¬†If you really, desperately need a laugh, you could do worse than to invite Bugs Bunny in for a visit.

* Trading Places – 1983. Dan Ackroyd, Eddie Murphy. Both of these guys are an acquired taste for me, and they can get to be way too much pretty fast (see ANY “Big Momma” movie, for example). But this classic story, directed by John Landis, uses them both to their very best effect. Dan Ackroyd’s snobby millionaire is forced to change places with Eddie Murphy’s poor con artist, and both comics play it for gold.

* Waiting for Guffman – 1996. Christopher Guest, Michael Levy, Fred Willard, Catherine O’Hara, et al. Another midwestern town, where a tiny community theater group has received word that a famous Broadway producer will be visiting their next show. Insanity and really bad theater ensue. I love these guys. They make everything funny.

* Young Frankenstein – 1974. Mel Brooks directs the story of the famous doctor’s grandson, ¬†who takes a walk in Grandpa’s shoes. With Gene Wilder as the doctor, Peter Boyle as the monster, pop-eyed Marty Feldman as Igor and Madeline Kahn, Terri Garr and Cloris Leachman representing for the ladies. Moments to remember: “Roll in ze hay, roll in ze hay” “Puttin’ on the Ritz” “Could be worse. Could be raining.” And more.

Wow. ¬†That took a while to do. Not sure if I’ll do the top 25 in one post or two, but that’s a question for another day. What comedies to you enjoy? Sharing is good for the soul. ;D

2 Comments

Filed under media consumption, personal

What Goes Around Comes Around

I’ve been reading a fair amount of historical nonfiction lately, and one thing that’s struck me is how the U.S. tends to go through fairly regular cycles of progressive vs. conservative thinking. Here, from “Asleep,” is some interesting data from the 1920s and thereafter.

“Most historians now consider the 1920s an extension of the Progressive Era. The movement began with the antitrust laws that promised to rein in some of the business megamonopolies, but it soon grew into the progress laws and ideals that aimed for a more ¬†modern, safer and healthier lifestyle. Legislation like mandatory milk and meat inspections, restrictions on tenement housing, improved working conditions, and child labor laws passed. The movement then morphed into legislation concerning civil responsibility, granting Native Americans citizenship, and allowing women to vote….”

At the same time Warren G. Harding, widely considered the most corrupt president, died in office. The Teapot Dome Scandal and many others bloomed in the aftermath of his death.

Again, from Crosby’s “Asleep,” comes the ¬†pointed corollaries of all this progress. Immigration became a hot-button issue. The Ku Klux Klan spread like a cancer through the country. Bills were proposed to overturn American’s open-door ¬†policy and stop immigration. A conservative backlash called for the country to return to its “original” religious and ethnic mix. Particularly hated and discriminated against were Italians, Irish, Germans, Puerto Ricans and the migration of American blacks toward Northern cities.

This all ended, of course, with the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. “Most historians agree it was a complicated combination of factors like consumerism, market speculations, easy credit and business monopolies.”

Sound at all familiar?

By pure chance, the next book I read was set during the era of the Civil  Rights movement, when so many of these factors rose up again. And now, we see them again, and again.

* The destructiveness of consumerism and uncontrolled big business.

* Rampant fear of ¬†“the other,” whether immigrants or people with different lifestyle choices, ¬†or even the old familiar ‘BlackMexicanAsianArab.’

*  The spread of hate groups.  The Klan may be underground, but its brethren  are fully with us.  Westboro Church, anyone?

* Wars to keep us (we the people) distracted from real problems.

* Angry youth.

* Destructive drug use.

It all goes around and comes around, and probably has been since earliest pre-history. Does that mean we give up,  knowing that the cycle appears to be never-ending?

No. We live and seek joy and try to love even our least loveable neighbors. We lend a hand whenever we can,  turn our backs  on selfishness, fear and hatred.

Because no matter what happens before or after, all  each of us us guaranteed is this one existence. What a shame to waste it on fear and hatred and sadness. Somewhere the sun is shining.  Delight in  the day.

P.S. My daughter says I’m too optimistic. My husband probably agrees. But still… smile, laugh, see the beauty rather than the ugliness.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under media consumption, personal

Being Quiet

The days I remind myself to shut up

seem to expand.

A brave new world of vast global communication

and still I hear this message inside and out to be quiet,

Stop talking

You’re blathering

Nobody cares what you’re interested in.

The voices come mostly from inside, I suspect.

Echoes of my father’s “I don’t want to hear any more about it.”

Echoes of my mother’s “You don’t have to tell me about every single thing.”

But then how and where does this lonely country only child share?

Not in school. “Stop talking.”

Not with friends. “Nobody’s interested in that stuff.”

Not a church. “You ask too many questions.”

 

Ultimately it come to this: a pen, a notebook,

a keyboard, a file,

a blog spiraling its way into the vast emptinesses of hope

to friends I’ve never met

people I’ll never know

other voices needing to be heard.

All of us crying into the darkness in a desperate attempt

not to shut up.

 

– By Judy Wall Crump, 2012

Please don’t reproduce without credit. Thanks.

 

6 Comments

Filed under fiction, personal

“The American Plague” and “Asleep”: Reviews

in 1878, yellow fever struck Memphis, Tennessee, then a vibrant and booming town of about 5,000 souls. By the time it left, that autumn, at least one out of every five Memphians was dead, countless more debilitated by the fast-moving and rapidly shifting disease.

All told, more Memphians died in that one summer of yellow fever than the number of Americans who had been killed in Chicago’s Great Fire, San Francisco Great Earthquake, and Johnstown, Pennsylvania’s Great Flood COMBINED.

And then it was gone, and the reeling medical community had no more idea of where it had gone than of where it had come from. Memphis was far from the only place struck by yellow fever that year, but it was the largest single place and bore the most grievous injuries. Was yellow fever a bacterial sickness? Was it viral? Was it spread by poor sanitation? By contact? By air? No one knew, and the medical community, such as it was, was dying just as quickly as everyone else.

The weather cooled. Fall arrived, and Memphis was left to pick up the shattered pieces. Imagine a town in which one of every five citizens – men, women, children, rich, poor, black, white – one of five had died.

Molly Caldwell Crosby takes up the incredible story of the Memphis yellow fever epidemic in her newish book, “The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic That Shaped Our History.” Crosby is a deft and entertaining writer, wrapping statistical minutae inside fascinating human stories. And her book only begins with the Memphis epidemic.

From there, the story moves to Cuba and the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in 1898. Of the roughly 3,000 U.S. soldiers who died in that war in Cuba, only about 400 died of war-related injuries. The rest were victims of disease, including malaria and, especially, yellow fever.

About two-thirds of Crosby’s book focuses on the amazingly dedicated work of U.S. Army doctors, led by Major Walter Reed, to try and find the cause of yellow fever. This, while continuing to treat all the men ¬†(and some women) who succumbed to the disease.

Crosby tells the story tightly and with enough interest that it kept me up late for several nights trying to finish it. If you enjoy a good piece of popular history that reads as fascinatingly as any thriller, I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

“Asleep,” Crosby’s second recent nonfiction book, doesn’t quite live up to the promise of “The American Plague.” The subject matter is interesting enough – the recurrent outbreaks throughout history of encephalitis lethargica, the “sleeping sickness” that sometimes seems to parallel flu outbreaks.

Unfortunately, although the topic is fascinating, the way the information is communicated leaves something to be desired. Where “The American Plague” was tight, fast and engaging, “Asleep” is loosely jointed, surprisingly slow-moving, and easy to lose interest in. Which really irritated me, because I was completely looking forward to this book. Oh well.

So, in short:

“The American Plague” by Molly Caldwell Crosby. A++ Would read again. Highly recommended.

*Asleep” by Molly Caldwell Crosby. C+ Probably won’t read again.

Leave a comment

Filed under media consumption, Uncategorized