Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Birds in Tuxedos

Speaking of good movies (weren't we?), have you seen March of the Penguins? Brilliant! I hate to admit that a Frenchman did anything worthwhile, partly because ze French were so rude to me when I was over there years ago, but I have to admit it in this case. I know it’s been out a long while now and I should realize that the world’s love affair with penguins has just about run its course, but as mine hasn’t, I feel compelled to talk about the cute little buggers. Of course, the movie isn’t cute, or about them being cute (well, partly; have you seen those baby penguins?!). It’s mostly about them being so darn intrepid. It’s hard for me to watch, actually; I have a really hard time seeing animals suffer hardships or, God forbid, actually die as I watch helplessly, sitting on my couch with no way to just pick him up, dammit!

This movie made me alternately admire the penguins for steadfastly persevering in spite of the eternal hardships they endure and condemn them for so stupidly enduring such ridiculous hardships. I know it’s not their fault, of course; I realize they don’t have a choice. Evolution plunked them down in this Godforsaken place and it’s nothing less than astonishing that they’ve survived at all. The emotion I felt most keenly, however, was shame. I was (and remain) ashamed of ever complaining about anything in my life. (Of course I still do; I’m got too many years invested in this attitude to shed it that easily. But I want to be better; that counts for something, right?)

I really wanted to adopt all of those poignantly comical (comically poignant?) penguins and put them somewhere cold (but not an icy vortex that has got to be one of the circles of Hell), free from predatory seals (never expected to say that), and full of nice plump fish to eat (sorry, fish). Hmm, I seem to have invented a zoo (or an aquarium, the Zoo with Water). Ideally the penguins wouldn’t have to be dependent on people to take care of them in their little wet zoo, but then we’re back to Nature and survival of the fittest. Sigh. Why can’t we all just get along?!

Okay, I know, everything has to eat, one way or another. Circle of life, it’s natural and beautiful, yada, yada, yada. But as I tell my father every time he wants to watch a nature show featuring animals eating animals (usually when we're trying to eat), “I know it’s Nature, but I don’t have to watch it.”

With this movie, I’m glad I did. If you haven’t seen it, rent it immediately. And make sure you have plenty of Kleenex.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Greatest Escape

Reading is the perfect escape for me and I’ve just figured out why. I guess I’ve known why, really, intuitively, I simply never articulated it before. Here it is: not only is it an escape from a world I don’t much like (well, the people part, anyway), but it is an escape into a world I largely get to create. I choose the book to match my mood and then while reading, I get to imagine the characters, the place, everything, just how I want it to be. The power!

Movies can be nice escapism, but everything is there for you, even forced on you. Not only do you not have to think or put any effort into it beyond looking and listening, there’s really only so much you can do. Not that I’m anti-movie. I love a good movie; it’s just that there are so few of them out there.

TV is the same, but it’s usually an even more vapid medium than film. That being said, there are TV shows that I love. One is the old Gilmore Girls, as anyone reading this blog already knows. Others are Joss Whedon’s creations – Buffy, Angel, and the cruelly shafted way-way-way too short-lived Firefly. What a great show that was. They all were, really, though Buffy went into a decline, in my opinion, before it finally ended. Part of the reason I like these shows so much is that they were (and to some extent Gilmore Girls still is) so well-written, and (mostly) so well-acted. But also they were all great at creating atmosphere and pulling the audience into their world. I felt like I knew all of those people, and I cared about what they were doing.

But I still prefer to read. I like the freedom of creating my own images to go with the story. I’m usually disappointed when a book I like is turned into a movie or television show, even if the adaptation is extremely well-done. Because now I’ll picture Daniel Radcliffe every time I read a Harry Potter book, and I no longer remember how I pictured Harry when I first read The Sorcerer’s Stone. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Daniel Radcliffe; I’m not sure they could have found a better young actor to play Harry Potter. But he’s still not my Harry.

So, vive le livre! The book is dead; long live the book!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


I had forgotten how much I liked the Police song Synchronicity II until I listened to it recently. (Yes, it's been Old Home Week with me and music lately.) I think it's brilliant. As is, of course, King of Pain , which I love, love, love. I have never figured out why it wasn't more popular.

I would like to take a moment to thank Sting for references to such things as Mephistopheles and the Scylla and Charybdis in his songs. Songs that were played on the radio. A lot. Do we get such literary references in popular music these days? I think not. He easily stumped me, callow youth that I was, but he also stumped my English teacher, who of course did not admit it but loftily told me to look it up, as that was the best way to learn. Indeed it was. (Not to mention the only way.)

But I don't want to be too hard on my teacher, whom we all loved. We are talking small-town Louisiana public school here, not exactly an exclusive prep school. But hey, it was free and I would say I got a pretty good general education there.

I've found Sting's more recent works to be disappointing; actually I haven't liked anything since ...Nothing Like the Sun. Admittedly I never really listened to much after that besides what I heard on the radio, but if I didn't like those songs, why should I buy an album or cassette (yes, those days, in the Before Time, in the long-long ago) on the off chance I would like any of the other songs? (Call me cheap, but I'm not exactly made of money. Keep in mind there was no burning or ripping of songs then; you were lucky if you could hold your tape recorder up to your radio and catch a decent rendition without your mom or sister bursting into the room or the DJ talking over the end and effing it all up.)

To give Sting the benefit of the doubt, maybe it's me. Maybe I changed. Maybe I just needed some time alone.

Be that as it may, I miss intelligent, if a bit pretentious, lyrics in pop songs. Imagine it, pop songs! To whom can Sting pass this literary torch? O Modern Pop Music, where is thy Sting?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lurning Rules!

Here’s what prompted this entry. I went to a fast food chain for lunch and found some creative expression scratched onto the surface of the table where I sat. There was the obligatory picture or two with “Jester” spelled out in oddly-shaped letters. So far, so typical. Then, our valiant artist could restrain himself no longer – “Vandelysm Rules!” he exclaimed defiantly to an uncaring universe.

Sigh. It’s bad enough that people feel the need to ruin every smooth surface they encounter, just to prove they exist, apparently, but to misspell it?! I think the universe will continue to be cold and uncaring as long as it can't understand the message.

In a similar example, a friend of mine once told me that while waiting to contest a traffic ticket, he found himself sitting next to “Sinerman,” according to the gent’s burly tattooed forearm. So he said, “Sinerman?” (pronouncing it as spelled, sīn' ur măn). The very large and fairly hirsute gentleman in question glared at him from under unruly brows and from deep within the mass of muscle and beer belly growled, “That’s Sinnerman.” Ah, of course it is.

We laughed and laughed. (Later, of course.) Nothing like a permanent advertisement of your ignorance, prominently displayed on your own body. I’m not sure that can be topped.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Very Serious Entry

After my previous post, I'm now going to regress to babbling about inconsequential things, like TV shows. I've heard that Amy Sherman-Palladino, she of the wacky top hats and self-conscious witticisms, is leaving The Gilmore Girls. I don't know if this is good or bad. It's good if the horrible downward spiral the show has been in for the last two seasons is her doing. It has to be her doing, or at least it's been done with her blessing. It's her show, after all. (And hubby Daniel Palladino's, because he's her husband. I just read that he has something to do with Family Guy, which explains a lot, to me anyway.) So maybe it will get a breath of fresh air with their departure and find its feet again.

Here's what I'd like to see... Luke back to his old good self, but more interesting; Lorelai and Luke together and happy (stop driving them apart, it's annoying and there's more going on on this show than just these two and their romance, so get them together already!); more of April, who is interesting, but not of her mom, who is not; more of Sookie, who is adorable; more of Paris, who is hilarious (sorry, unintentional rhyme); more of Lane and her band because they're way more fun than Rory and her snooty friends; more of Lorelai, because Lauren Graham makes this show; more of Emily and Richard, because the actors are just so darn good. LESS OF RORY. I'm sick of Snow White and how perfect we're supposed to think she is. SHE'S BORING.

And please make Logan's plane to London go down in a fiery mixture of Dalmore 62 and self-satisfaction (or something, anything really, as long as he's GONE). I don't like that guy. And no one else I know does either. I mean, really, who likes a young man who addresses grandparents by their first names? Presumptuous much? Who likes someone who refers to other adults by cheesy nicknames like "Ace" (or Buddy or Sport)? I have yet to like anyone who refers to others in this arrogant pseudo-hearty "I can't be bothered to learn or remember your real name" way. (Personally, I'm always tempted to respond to a "Hey, Buddy!" with a "Hello, Ass!" but I am regrettably too polite to actually do it.)

So who does like this character? The writers? Stop trying to make him sympathetic, we aren't buying it. Poor little rich rich rich rich rich boy. Gag. Whatever. Give me that money and I promise I'd be happy! I'd even go work for the irredeemably awful Mitchum Huntzberger.

I am ready to bid Amy and Daniel a happy adieu, hoping that this means the show can get back on a good track. I am trying not to feel sure that it is doomed. Ms. Top Hat did a great job starting this show, and though I think it tried too hard at the beginning to be clever and quirky, it ended up working, largely because of the great cast. So I say kudos for a great show! I just wish it could have stayed great longer.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Enlighten Up!

It is a depressing thought to me that humankind may be the peak of evolution. Given how much havoc we wreak in the world, it seems more like devolution to me.

On the whole, I much prefer animals to people. When we see someone acting in a cruel, barbaric way, we say they are acting like an animal. But they aren't; they're worse. Animals generally act in rational ways. They have a purpose: survival, protection, mating, even friendship and affection. People, on the other hand, seem often to act completely irrationally, sometimes even to their own detriment. It makes no sense. I think that having more evolved, complex brains leads to an increased probability of something going haywire. Like the more complicated an object you buy - stereo system, DVD player, whatever - the more likely it is that something will break. Well, that seems obvious, I know.

Anyway, I just wanted to make a plea for all the homeless pets out there: PLEASE adopt a homeless pet rather than buying an expensive (and often problem-riddled) purebreed or designer dog! These abandoned animals deserve love and care too. And if you can't or don't want to take care of a pet properly, DON'T GET ONE. And don't buy one for your child, expecting him or her to take good care of it, unless you have an unusually responsible and caring child.

Both of our dogs are rescued dogs and we couldn't be happier with them. One is a mix and the other a purebreed, but both were neglected and mistreated. I can't imagine doing anything to hurt something so loving and loyal and utterly dependent on me.

If you don't want to adopt a pet, please consider donating money or volunteering your time at a reputable shelter or pet rescue organization. These animals need all the help they can get. I think it's true that the more a society takes care of its vulnerable -- including children, the elderly, and pets -- the more enlightened it is. Enlighten up, people!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Res Ipsa Loquitur, I Hardly Knew Ye

I recently popped in my CD of U2's The Joshua Tree (their best album hands-down) after not listening to it for, quite literally, years. I remember every word.

This set me thinking. Why is it that I remember every single lyric to every single song on this album (after 19 years) when I can't remember one thing from law school (after 13) ?! Well, okay, I remember some random Latin phrases (I got your mens rea right here. No?) but, while I remember what the two I've used here actually mean, I'm not sure I would remember the meaning of one other phrase. Not one.

Of course, I haven't practiced law since passing the Bar (a thrilling and literally unbelievable experience), so that probably has something to do with it. And I was MUCH less diligent about studying law than listening to Bono croon, groan, bellow, or even sing anything from their albums up to and including The Joshua Tree.

Maybe if my professors had sung the lessons...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Miss Direction

Is it just me, or does it seem like most people aren’t really happy with their lives? Maybe I should re-word that. Most people seem to me unhappy with their jobs, not necessarily their entire lives. But as your job is a big part of your life, it’s easy to make such an overstatement. I know I’m not content with where I am in my life, but I’m not really sure what to do about it. And it seems like many people I know are in the same discontented boat, rowing with our oars of doubt and confusion, gliding forth with our billowing sails full of mistakes and misjudgments.

Okay, I’ll stop with the boat analogy. But you get my drift. (Ah, see what I did there?) Anyway, I always thought I’d be doing something else with my life, something more, but I never had a clear idea of what that something was. I was not born with an outstanding talent that gave me a clear path to follow; I was born neither with a lot of money to give me the leisure to try different things at will, nor with very little money, so that I had to figure out what to do with my life from an early age; I was also not born with an exceptional amount of drive or ambition. I was one of those kids whose parents bemoan the fact that they aren’t living up to their potential. And they were right; I didn’t.

So now, while not miserable, I am mildly disgruntled. It’s like something that makes you uncomfortable but you aren’t quite sure what it is, like a crooked picture on the wall that you haven’t yet noticed consciously. And I still have no clear idea of what I should be doing.