Archive for May 29, 2009

Perhaps not so much fun with language

Some people take it kinda seriously.

Trivia: New computer

All day I’ve been moving from my old computer to my new one. I have no time to play!

Here’s a clue, you all run with it:

For an early role in a cult classic, she refused to do a nude scene, and a shadowy silhouette is used instead, but three years later she appeared nude in a movie made extremely controversial by someone else’s nudity.

Monday Movie Review: Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School

Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (2005) 9/10
On an isolated road, Frank (Robert Carlyle) comes across a devastating car accident. He calls 911 and waits with Steve (John Goodman). Since the dispatcher told him to keep the victim talking, Frank learns that Steve was on his way to the Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School for a fated meeting.

When I first saw an ad for this movie, it looked interesting. Then I saw terrible reviews: 22% on RottenTomatoes, 2 stars from Ebert, and I passed.

Well, the other night Arthur and I saw a preview for it, and it just looked so charming, so I took a chance, and my oh my I’m glad I did.

The movie follows three paths; Frank and Steve by the roadside, and then in the ambulance, Steve’s childhood, during which he attended the titular school, and Frank’s life following his encounter with Steve. The tone is poignant, sad, wistful, and fantastical. There’s something of the fable in this story, something as if Frank has gone down the rabbit hole, and the Red Queen is Marilyn’s daughter (Mary Steenburgen), still teaching dance as if forty years had not passed since Steve’s fond memories of his childhood.

Steve wants to meet the girl he loved when he was twelve years old; the girl he promised to meet at the dance school on this day. Certain of the rightness of this reunion, he crashes on the way, and presses his ticket onto Frank to go in his stead, and tell Lisa he tried to make it. Everyone in this story lives atop a terrible pain; Steve alludes to a dark choice made long ago, Frank attends a widower’s therapy group where no one seems to be getting much better, Miss Hotchkiss’s daughter pretends her mother had not been dead for thirty years, and on and on.

In this fable, everyone can either carry a burden or put it down. Everyone can change or stay the same, and dance is the means by which they will discover what to choose. It is tender and sentimental, but not corny, and it is populated by wonderful characters: Meredith (Marisa Tomei), her lunatic companion Randall (Donnie Wahlberg), Gabe (Adam Arkin) who is full of anger at his late wife, and really, a host of familiar character actors who make the action light and funny and charming.

Some movies are fables. They are not meant to be closely examined for what really would have happened. They are magical tales, and the qualities of a musical (although this really isn’t a musical) are there to clue you into the fantastical elements, so that you won’t be too bound up by the need for veracity. Still, some people are going to hate that sort of thing. I’m not one of them.

The original 1990 short film, concerned only with the school as it was in 1962, is included on the DVD.

Is a religion its gods?

I have a friend who describes himself as a “Jesus-ian.” He says he worships Jesus but he’s not a Christian. This used to drive me crazy: Isn’t that like saying “I only sleep with the same sex as me but I’m not gay”? At what point to you get to twist definitions past what they mean?

…which opens up a whole possible conversation about definitions which I’d really like to get into, but is not the point of this post. This post is about religion.

I worship Kali. In terms of formal worship, I do so infrequently and imperfectly, but She is with me and a part of me (literally, via my tattoos), and I often worship informally. Through my relationship with Kali I have developed spiritual relationships with other Hindu deities, specifically Shiva and Ganesha, but also Lakshmi, Durga, and Hanuman.

But I’m not a Hindu. There’s more to Hinduism, after all, than its gods. I’m not a Hindu because I don’t believe in liberation as a basic goal of the human soul, because I don’t accept the Vedas as a primary source of sacred scripture, and because I don’t believe in a guru system nor do I seek to have a guru. Primarily, I think, I’m not a Hindu because I already have a religion: I’m a Wiccan. And while Wicca doesn’t in any way demand that you be exclusive to Wicca (it’s not monogamous), Wicca informs my ritual life and my sense of who I am as a spiritual being. Any Hindu ritual I do is ancillary to my core Wiccan practice, not because Wicca requires it, but because of who I am.

So if I worship Kali and am not a Hindu, I guess my friend can worship Jesus and not be a Christian. I dunno, it still kind of bothers me, I guess because there are SO MANY different kinds of Christians, so many different belief sets that are defined as Christian, it seems like he should fit in there somewhere; if nowhere else, as a “mere Christian,” to quote C.S. Lewis.

But the broader point is that a religion is more than its gods, although we seem comfortable defining religion as “the worship of ____.” Religion is gods, stories, practices, beliefs, goals, and community. All of these. And all of these are found, for me, in Wicca. That other gods are also a part of my life doesn’t actually change that.

Round robin trivia

I’m focusing on other things today, so play amongst yourselves:

“But Captain, to obey, just like that, for obedience’s sake—without questioning—that’s something only people like you do.”

New Elvis

Not usually a music blog, but I just heard Complicated Shadows on the radio, and my mind is well and truly blown.



Apparently, “Murder She Wrote” is a meme

…as in a language meme, not a survey on MySpace.

Because the other day, a friend referred to Castle as “Murder He Wrote.” HA!

And here’s an interview with Joss Whedon about Dollhouse:

The last few episodes we got to play “the man behind the curtain” a lot. We did less of, “And this week, she’s a neurosurgeon!” Which we’ll still do to an extent, it’s part of the fun. But we got into what makes the place tick, what makes it wrong. It was less, “Murder She Was Imprinted to Write.”

Priceless quote, pure Whedon. Except that’s twice in two weeks for me, and that’s weird.

Monday Movie Review: Mozart and the Whale

Mozart and the Whale (2005) 10/10
Donald (Josh Hartnett) has Asperger’s Syndrome. He runs a group for other people with Asperger’s, austism, and other socially-isolating disorders. When Isabelle (Radha Mitchell) joins the group, a tentative romance begins.

I see a fair number of movies. And most of them are good, because I’m picky and I read reviews and I have no taste for “so bad it’s good.” I see many movies I like, admire, and recommend. But I don’t fall in love all that often. I don’t often say, “Oh, my,” with stars in my eyes after seeing a movie, and that’s what happened with Mozart and the Whale.

So I saw this movie with my son, and he has Asperger’s, and that kind of colors everything, doesn’t it? I mean, I rearranged my Netflix when he came home from college so that there were movies we would want to see together. But this could all have backfired. Because Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a part of Asperger’s, not getting it right can be painful, and any sense of humor about sensitive subjects is right out, and overall, I was fully prepared for him to run out of the room. (As an aside, the movie opens with the unusual disclaimer, “This movie is a work of fiction based on a true story.” Most movies use a shorter “based on a true story” statement, and I am 100% certain that the longer version was needed to appease the OCD of Aspies being depicted.)

So where was I? Right, run screaming. He didn’t. He loved it. It may be his new favorite movie (except he has a whole OCD thing about calling things his favorite). He declared Isabelle “my perfect woman.” He related to the characters, who were not cute or pretty or comic relief fodder or disgusting or charming or inspiring or heroic or any of the other things that we expect to happen to real people when they become movie characters. In fact, the only way Donald and Isabelle were movied-up is that they were played by breathtakingly pretty people.

The whole thing works. The supporting cast (including Rusty Schwimmer, Gary Cole, and John Carroll Lynch) do the job. The filming is understated and warm. The cinematography and set decoration work to convey these people and how they place themselves in the world. The love story is unbelievably touching. And the sum total is that you feel enriched just to have watched it. Just to have been there, witnessing the act of loneliness being eased by love.

Just see it, ‘kay?

Dell hates women

Via Sociological Images I find this delightful Dell website for women computer shoppers.

Apparently women shopping for computers care about (1) style– whether or not it matches their outfits, (2) how light it is to carry around when they hang out with equally-coordinated friends and their laptops, and (3) the ability to check movie times, and restaurant directions whenever you need to.

It takes 3 clicks to even get to anything about the actual computers’ processor speed, RAM, hard drive capacity etc.

I am so offended.

You know what? I’d like computer accessories in different colors. I hate that my wheeled laptop case was only available in black. That I tote around a black laptop with a gray mouse in a square black case. Color is good. Style is good.

Why do I have to choose between INCREDIBLY DUMBED DOWN and ugly and utilitarian? Are geek men so fearful of feminization that color must be banned?

I can choose color and styling details on my car while still shopping for safety, reliability, horsepower, and gas mileage. I should be able to choose color and styling on my laptop without being made to sit in the girl corner.

Actor trivia solutions

I never know when I’m going to stump you, and when it’s going to be easy.

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