Christmas-time movies have been rolling out since before Halloween, echoing the tinsel and snowflakes prominent in the malls where multiplexes rule. I've seen two holiday releases; one is worth your investment and will leave you glowing with seasonal spirit; the other is depressing and, should you stupidly go to see it, will undermine any family holiday occasions with suspicion and dissatisfaction.
The one to miss is "Everybody's Fine," starring Robert DeNiro. I seldom accompany my husband to screenings, since my criteria of no violence, suspense or slapstick only leaves a repertoire of romantic comedies. But this was billed as a heartwarming story culminating with a happy Christmas scene, so I thought I'd take advantage of spending the evening with my man.
I should have known better. On the way there, my husband said, "Any movie with Robert DeNiro in it is bound to be depressing." Unfortunately, we were on the freeway, or I'd have gotten out immediately.
"Everybody's fine" was the euphemism that covered myriad long-festering problems. You come out of the movie wondering who in your circle is hiding something; whether you've missed a deep-seated issue that you should have seen--and whether those you love who you think are doing well really aren't.
But across the hall at the multiplex is bound to be Disney's "A Christmas Carol," the 3-D animated masterpiece wonderfully faithful to Dickens' original story. Jim Carrey offers all the malevolent timbre you expect from Ebeneezer Scrooge (he plays the three ghosts as well), and the magic of the animation takes you so close to his world that you can see every wrinkle on his miserly countenance was honestly earned.
Little kids might be spooked by the scary Christmas Yet to Come, but for those about age 8 up, the creative vantage-points (sometimes so weird they're a tad distracting) and roller-coaster-like glides (perhaps one too many) will enthrall. The colors and detail will amaze, as will the exhilarating ending that every viewer knows so well. Finally, you'll leave with a new song in your heart, specially written for the film by Alan Silvestri.
I look forward to the holidays--twinkling lights, beautiful carols, Hanukkah parties...I much prefer to celebrate the closeness of my family, which is real and enduring, than sink in the dysfunction of others.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
A new survey of 510 students at five geographically-diverse campuses reported in The Journal of American College Health says coed dorms dramatically increase the likelihood of collegiate binge-drinking and sex. As reported in USA Today, pupils in coed housing are 2 1/2 times as likely to binge-drink weekly, and nearly a third more likely to admit having at least one sexual partner in the last year.
(The photo's from a Time article on the evolution of college dorms.)
(The photo's from a Time article on the evolution of college dorms.)
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Just a few days short of Veteran's Day, an army psychiatrist, proclaiming "Allahu Akbar," goes on deadly jihad at the nation's largest military base, slaying 13 soldiers and wounding 29. Everything I read calls Nidal Malik Hasan the "alleged" "shooter" (not murderer), or the "suspect," when dozens of eye-witnesses watched him in action. If he had been taken out, (as surely he would have been if this occurred in Israel), would he be called the "alleged" shooter? The "suspected" killer?
My favorite radio talk-show host distinguishes between this calculated attempt to kill as many soldiers as possible, and a "tragedy," which is news media's ubiquitous term for Hasan's rampage. The Fort Hood deaths and woundings were each enormous crimes. Shakespeare wrote tragedies, in which characters, often due to personality flaws but never intentionally, fell or met their doom. Tragedy involves destiny, the collision of events, an inevitably sad, but unplanned result. The monster Hasan left a trail of behavioral and online breadcrumbs that should have led superiors to the devouring witch of Islamic fanaticism.
I'm annoyed when news outlets like the New York Times continue to elevate this premeditated murderer by using the title of Major. My father advanced to the rank of Major in the army during World War II. He served at many posts, one of which was running a prisoner of war camp in Anchorage, Alaska. I grew up hearing his profound respect for the dedicated officers with whom he served, and of the efforts he made to achieve that rank. Hasan the murderer no longer deserves the title of Major. I think he should be called the Fort Hood terrorist.
And he is a terrorist. I was flummoxed by early media stories insisting that Hasan wasn't one. But recently-uncovered associations and rantings now make his deadly agenda undeniable. Still, few news outlets are willing to call the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia, which Hasan attended in 2001 with three 9-11 hijackers, a well-organized, dogma-driven source of anti-American fervor. Oh, no.
John McCain did directly label Hasan's rampage "an act of terror." In an Associated Press story that again "alleges" Hasan's culpability, McCain clarified to University of Kentucky students that it's clearly terrorist to kill one's fellow military on a base, motivated by "an extremist interpretation of an honorable religion." Awk, even he can't stop pussy-footing. Let's get this straight: Hasan considered non-Muslims infidels and wanted them cowed; last week, he wanted them dead.
I took the time to read all 50 screens of the powerpoint presentation Hasan gave to a group of army doctors in June, 2007, when he lectured on Islam, instead of sticking to his assignment to discuss medical issues. Aside from plentiful grammatical and spelling errors, the most notable aspect was the plethora of quotations that explained Muslim beliefs on reward and punishment, defensive and offensive jihad. Much is cryptic and requires explanation. The concluding slide recommends that Muslim soldiers be allowed the option of "conscientious objector" release from the military, "to increase troop morale and decrease adverse events." And then, Hasan perpetrated a horrific "adverse event."
Veteran's Day is a time to celebrate those who served our country--who are alive to be appreciated. On the eve of Pres. Obama's announcing the extent of additional troops to be sent to Afghanistan, we must renew our gratitude to the men and women and their families who continue to defend and protect us.
We who are so blessed to live in the United States chug along, heads down, thumbs poking our iPods and Droids, contemplating which t.v. program or movie to watch tonight. We are so spoiled. As the Fort Hood massacre reminds, life is fragile. One minute, one ideology, can change everything.
Monday, November 9, 2009
At the first three stops, no one boarded, but at the next, a family entered, two parents and two little girls, one holding tightly to her mom's hand. The elder girl, about 8, debated where to go, stepping out of the car--just as the doors closed. The parents frantically pounded on the closed door as the train pulled away, their screaming daughter running alongside, falling behind as the car accelerated.
At the next station, just three minutes away, the family jumped off; the conductor announced that the parents of a girl left behind at the previous station should return, an easy task as the opposite-direction train would arrive just a few feet away. Clearly, this little drama would end happily, and we could return our attention to the now-visible outdoor scenery.
Everyone knows that light rail is a financial disaster. I can't find any instance where publicly funded rail lines have made a profit. Rather, they serve a political agenda--to eliminate private autos and ultimately, independent travel. It's part of a larger worldview that promotes leveling the field--eraticating differences between people based on wealth and achievement. Often camouflaged as an effort to promote environmental causes, the crusade against cars and for mass transit really seeks to quash anything that differentiates and individualizes people and their choices.
I can understand that classic subways, like Manhattan's or Paris' are necessary--they serve cities built before cars, urban sprawl and suburbs. But west-coast towns, like L.A., San Francisco and Seattle burgeoned because of the automobile; trying to reconfigure these cities to light rail is like trying to cram toothpaste back in the tube.
I certainly enjoyed my jaunt today on Seattle's downtown "tube." It was cheaper and lengthier than a ride at Disneyland. Unfortuntately for taxpayers, like the attractions at the Magic Kingdom, Link light rail is also built on fantasy. No one wants to give up his car to take four times longer and pay perhaps double or triple, with much greater inconvenience. Even friends who, in principle, support light rail admit they don't use it. Every time I drive by the Mount Baker Station on Rainier Avenue, which I do often, I search the station for activity. Usually there's no one, either walking near the station or on the trains. Once I saw an orange-vested maintenance man.
Seattle just elected Mike McGinn its new mayor, by a super-thin margin. His primary promise is to expand light rail; he worked to block new suburban roads. He's a Sierra Club officer and rides his bike to work. Though he'll rationalize Link's poor performance and lack of customers, sanity may still prevail. Given the cost over-runs and delays inherent in building light rail (Central Link is the most expensive such project in the nation, ever), he'll long be out of office before the next segment can break ground.
Monday, November 2, 2009
I've always been a fan of naked mole rats. It's true; I've been known to drag friends to our Seattle Science Center so they can join me going ga-ga over these absolutely bizarre and awesome--as in causing true awe--creatures. So I was delighted to find one of my favorite mammals in the news again, this time helping humans avoid cancer.
If you, like me, are captivated by naked mole-rats, you'll love this Smithsonian zoo site, and want to peek at the naked mole-rat cam.