22 January 2009

Movies that Shook the Theatre

SOMEBODY should think of doing an awards show that would pit ALL the best actors, best actresses, best pictures, best directors from all time against each other. They could run it in a series, with audience voting a la American Idol.

Stanley Fish: The 10 Best American Movies gives one man's take on this and his reviews of his choices are good, BUT how in the world did he overlook Caddyshack?

Seriously speaking, if you want a great movie (who knows if it's the best or not) try White Heat with James Cagney and watch it imagining you are not a jaded effects junkie. What a performance!

What in the World?????

Some of you out there have visited Google Earth at one point or another...you download software that allows you to search space photographs of various places on earth. Well, months and months ago I decided to "zoom in" on my own address in Jackson, Michigan, and was online with a Blogger friend, Andree in Vermont. She called up the same shot as I did and asked me what the tower was growing out of my apartment building. I said, no tower, what tower?

YIKES. As you can see in these two pics taken from Google Earth, SOMETHING that is not there IS there. AND IT STILL IS.

Much weirder still the apartment designated by the tip of the "white spear" collapsed on top of me.....two TONS of concrete ceiling came down. And I was saved from being crushed because I answered a phone call from Andree SECONDS before the collapse.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. >

18 January 2009

The How and Why of Doing Good

We had talks in my new church's men's group this morning and somebody brought in a piece written by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Boiled down, what it said was you may be persecuted or laughed at or thought half nuts for doing selfless good...but bottom line, do it anyway. NOTHING GOOD IS EASY. We have to realize this going in and basically refuse to let frustrations get us down. How? Well, the other big component of our talk was that the peace of the Lord is a communal thing...sharing deepens and strengthens our peace and resolve...to GIVE and TAKE COUNSEL with each other knits the fabric together.............

15 January 2009


Gail and Mary have bugged me for a long time to show my face (maybe for the prospect of printing out a dart target) but the best I can do at the moment is a shot back in time. My friend is Hybrow, who now lives with Gail in California. I've grown a mustache since then and it came in greyer than the old mare. Anyhow, this will have to do because I'm not really into photos of me. OK OK OK?

A Blonde in Winter

Gail Slaughter (aka leaflady) sends in this seasonally adjusted joke:

A trucker stops for a red light, and as he sits there he hears a banging on his door. Startled and curious, he looks out and it's a blonde, clutching a brand-new parka around her, looking concerned, so he naturally rolls his window down to see what she wants. Her breath comes out all smoky from the cold.

"Hi," she says, "My name is Heather. I was following you and I just thought I'd tell you... you're losing some of your load!"

The light's about to change, so the trucker shakes his head. "Better get back in your car lady, you'll get run over or something," and rolls the window back up before the wind can freeze his face off. The light changes and he grinds gears to get going again down the road.

Intent on what he's doing, the trucker almost forgets the whole thing until a mile or so farther on, another traffic light looms up red in the swirling snow and he has to pump the brakes and skid and crunch to a stop. He's just reaching for his coffee when BANG BANG BANG goes the door. Amazingly enough, it's the same blonde! Sighing, the trucker cracks the window open and she's shouting over the howling wind.

"Hi," she says, "remember me? Heather? Well I don't wanta nag or anything, but you're still losing part of your load!"

There's nothing to do but humor her. "Yeah, sure, right, thanks," he tells her, and waves her back to her car, hoping she'll find somebody else to bug. He looks back in his mirror and sees her pile into a little yellow car behind him. Shrugging his shoulders, grinding his gears, off he goes again.

It's a long day, miles and miles of road to cover, all over town, but wherever he goes, every time he looks back, there's that little yellow car with the blonde, following in his wake, so finally when it's time to pull over for coffee he jumps down out of the truck and heads to the back as she pulls up behind. Her window comes down but before she can say anything, he sets her straight.

"Look, Heather, my name's Mark, this is Michigan, and this here's a salt truck."

14 January 2009

What to do, what to do...

There is actually quite a bit of hope in every "crisis" situation because that's normally when people get off their dead butts and do something, if they are ever going to.

We need to look maybe twenty years ahead and design that world today... that's where we need a vision for what that world could and should be like, given what we have available now or can gather to ourselves between now and then. The vision need not be futuristic, though. I personally believe that basic solutions have been around from day one and many good ideas have fallen by the wayside as "outmoded" or "obsolete" or have perhaps suffered rejection because they were either too simple or because they were too far ahead of the common curve.

Technological stuff like cell phones, high speed communications, electric cars, and "miracle" drugs seem to me sometimes to be a kind of churning of the waters of our society, which often give the illusion of progress, but don't really add to our quality of life so much as feed our impulses and distract us from our higher calling. I think that higher calling is to understand why we battle each other and stop doing it.

Sure, life is a struggle... that's the cliche. But if it is, we've made it one with fear and selfishness and an imprisonment of our spirit. Technology itself is frequently a cause of our unrest rather than a source of peace and satisfaction.

I think we each need to seriously start to identify those things we encounter which are disruptive of the spirit and make our position against those things known. But not simply by protest. We must suggest and support quality alternatives to the trash. And we must be patient and perservering in our resistance, not rash or volatile or caustic.

What to do? Make a resolution. Every day, encourage someone. Every day, meditate awhile on what your true needs for living are. Every being on earth will have those basic needs, the same as you. Only their outward frustrations are different. Only your reaction to those frustrations, if negative, keeps that cycle of frustration going. You can break the chain off at its weakest link by simply saying, "This ends with me... I'm not going to let this madness past this point."

In short....be a firewall for frustration.

If you try to operate this way........ you'll be doing good.

I am certain of nothing but the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination- John Keats

06 January 2009

Not-so Brave New World

Change, change, change... and the more things change, the more they... what?

Remain the same, of course, and we should remember that when we look back from the future and recall the present days. We will be looking back from a world, about five or so years hence, that will have experienced rather startling changes which we should not consider startling at all.

We should not be startled because these changes will be technological, not spiritual, and certainly not fundamental. Nor will these changes make it possible for the human race to solve any of its differences, feed any greater fraction of its population adequately, or lessen our risks of war.

It's not going out on a limb to say these things, crystal ball-wise. It's only a simple matter of looking backwards and seeing where we've been to figure out where we will be going.

The issues in my future, regardless of how high-tech we become, will remain:
  1. How far can I trust myself financially? That is, there will always be questions of how much to spend on what, and afterwards, all the same self-incrimination for goofing up the process. It's safe to say I will never, ever solve this conundrum or REALLY feel I have a handle on all my money issues.
  2. Who loves me?
  3. Where am I going when I die and if there's any chance I'm heading to the wrong destination, how much time have I got to get the situation straightened out?

So It's All Very Simple................(send HELP!!!!!!)

Brave Not-so New World

05 January 2009


Barack Obama"There will be sacrifices we'll all have to make..."
(meet me down at the volcano...bring virgins)

"What the American people need above all is change..."
(the car's repo'd, the bus won't take bills)

"I have a New Vision of what we can and should be..."
(and it scares the hell out of me)

"Promises made must be promises kept..."
(so name your kid after me, the way you said)

"We need to steer clear of this poverty of ambition,
where people want to drive fancy cars and wear nice
clothes and live in nice apartments but don't want to
work hard to accomplish these things..."
(so we're gonna have just regular poverty, instead)

03 January 2009

The Secret of "A Wonderful Life"

George Bailey never would have jumped off that bridge if left to his own devices.

Oh, I know it looked like he would at one point...but it also looked at one point that he'd head for South America and build bridges and railroads. It also looked at one point that he'd spend his honeymoon in fine hotels quaffing fine wine and making mindless love with his new wife. It also was very nearly his fate to get into the plastics biz with his "hee-haw" buddy. And wasn't George an inch from accepting a princely salary from Potter by simply allowing the shaky "good ol' Building & Loan" to sink into oblivion?

But each time George teetered on the brink of happiness, something intervened to spoil it for him. Time and time again. Where was Clarence when all this was going on, is what I want to know. Strings were being pulled, that much is obvious. SOMEBODY was monkeying around with George's life. Setting him up???

Is it coincidence that, when all this monkeying has brought George to the juncture of despair, no place to turn except the dark waters of the raging river, the angel Clarence, admittedly motivated by a two-hundred-year-old desire to earn a set of wings, got in the way?

Then, by subterfuge, play-acting, and "what-ifing" Clarence convinced George that all was indeed lost unless George embraced his second-guessing loser life as flawed but livable.

If you remember, at several points George says something to the effect that this "Pottersville" was an illusion that Clarence was causing him to hallucinate.

George was soooooooo right!

Clarence wasn't really dotty... he was crafty, and declared innocently that this invented alternate history was no dream. This was a bald-faced angelic lie! One wonders about heavenly expediency. If ones wings hang in the balance, just how far are you authorized to go? Periodically Clarence glances skyward and asks how he's doing. Supposedly. And each time somebody eggs him on with encouragement. Supposedly. We don't hear this encouragement in the soundtrack. Hmmmmmmmmmm.

Think about THIS.... George already had experience in winter water rescue... he saved his brother Harry when the ice gave way under Harry's coal shovel sled. In the first place, why and how did Harry slide so much further onto dangerous thin ice when all the other participants did not? A little not-yet-angelic shove? The question could be asked. But most glaringly, if George could survive cold water and drag his brother to safety as a mere child, what's the likelihood of him choosing a river to commit suicide? None at all. When it came to water, George was in his element. Don't forget the High School Hidden Pool Affair. Jimmy Stewart as George was the first one in, and was enjoying the experience so much, splashing around with Donna Reed, that EVERYBODY went into the pool after him!

Doesn't the evidence point directly to would-be-winged Clarence as the author of all this from the beginning? Clarence knew perfectly well that George was preconditioned by his previous rescue of his brother to do exactly the same thing again! Ladies and gentlemen of the jury......!!!!?

Other evidence abounds, and some of it is extremely sinister.

Not content to deprive George of any existence he ever had, all the money in his pockets, and even Zu-Zu's petals, Clarence incited Nick to have them both thrown out of that tavern by making outrageous requests for antiquated drinks he knew they weren't intending to pay for. Even in Martini's bar back in Bedford Falls you'd be shown the door for trying THAT.

As in all mysterious treachery, unresolved questions abound. Uncle Billy was distracted. Why? Was it that raven hanging around him all the time? Donna Reed smashed that record of "Buffalo Girls" and yet she kept the drawing she'd made of George lassoing the moon... why? To taunt him later, a sign of dreams left unfulfilled? How did Bert the cop get to the airport and back so damn fast with Harry the hero.....and yet find time to pick up an accordion? an accordion we never knew he could play? and learn Auld Lang Syne by ear?

It all seems pretty suspicious to me.

How deep and for how long had this deception of George gone on? At the end of the movie, the whole TOWN shows up to put the gag over the top... all conspirators from day one? Ah, that would seem incredible. But is the notion of a SECOND, parallel illusion, brought on by Clarence in his quest for wings, so far-fetched? Perhaps George never HAD been born in the FIRST place! But speculation about illusions gets us nowhere.

I won't spin out all the possible alternatives a delusional angel might spawn, that would merely confuse the issue. Instead I'll stick with the final scenario: the aftermath.:

1) The real George, one Hedman P. Lakewurst, was born, grew up, failed to prosper, and died miserably, in good ol' Bedford Falls---NOT fictional, as so many claim, but located too far east of Lake Woebegon to be of any notice to anybody but Frank Capra. Capra was stranded there one Christmas Eve in a blizzard. Frank got drunk in Martini's Bar, and was run out of town by Bert the cop, but all the rest he improvised.

(Capra, before he died, blurted out a mumbled explanation and apology for his screenplay, which came down to us as his but which was actually directed by Elia Kazan, who swore everyone associated with the picture to secrecy about his participation.)

2) Donna Reed was not a virgin when she seduced Jimmy Stewart. In the script, when she tells her mother Jimmy's there "making passionate love" to her, the reason her mother doesn't take the comment as a sarcasm is because it wasn't.

3) We know the ensuing years were not pretty. Bert the cop made it all the way to Chief of Police until he made the mistake of threatening to expose Potter's theft of that $8,000, a fact he'd known all along but had been happy to accept smallish bribes to overlook. Potter, reacting logically enough, ordered Bert's assassination. Nick the bartender took the contract, slipping cyanide into Chief Bert's beer stein. Ernie, still a cabbie, thought he might finally get out of town with some ready cash, so he agreed to help Nick cart off the body to that highway bridge and drop it into the raging waters of no return. Unfortunately Potter had his "chair lackey" wire a time bomb to the cab's ignition. Of course, their names live on today, Bert and Ernie as hand puppets and Nick as a rerun television network. Potter himself was too evil to ever die. Instead he wound up a hedge fund manager...a dark shadow in the festering back alleys of Wall Street. .

4) In every movie, names are changed to avoid lawsuits, but in this strange case we have a twist: one of the first instances of reverse product placement. Getting wind of the movie, a small town in mid-Michigan decided being known as a city of sin was preferable to never having any reputation at all, and paid the studio handsomely to change "Onondaga" to "Potterville." Somehow this was garbled to add an "s", which made "Pottersville", which was not in Michigan but in Missouri. But so what. Nobody cared one way or the other.

It was a nice try, but the Indian Casinos all located elsewhere.

5) Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed passed on to greater glory after the movie was made. Stewart moved into gosh darn tootin' westerns and Reed evolved into the quintessential sixties housewife. Their torrid backstage romance was never exposed because to do so would contaminate American youth. ,

6) Clarence was an angel, though as you might surmise, a fallen one. The "mission" he was sent to earth to accomplish was NOT to save George Bailey but to demonstrate the futility of economic parity. He failed in this task so miserably that his wings were revoked six months later and he was permanently assigned to the redemption of Joseph Stalin.