Thursday, March 29, 2007

Sociological Irony of the Week

Mi novia and I made the mistake of going to a local pool hall the other night, only to discover that the place was way more expensive than the usual pool hall and had no public restrooms. Moreover, the place had no jukebox so the only available music was an odd mixture of sexually explicit and politically incorrect hip-hop being played on the PA system -- the type of music in which almost every song uses the N-word umpteen times and sings about sexual intercourse in a way that makes Berlin's classic “Sex (I'm A)” sound like an Amy Grant song. (I usually have no problems with hip-hop but this type of hip-hop I definitely had a problem with.)

Needless to say, mi novia and I didn't stay there long. (We played one game, then left.) But I did find it funny that though the songs were all by black singers, both the manager of the place and the majority of the customers were Asian-American.

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Seen in the Local Library Today

Overcoming Dyslexia for Dummies.

Yes, some rather obvious jokes do suggest themselves, but I take it that the book is not intended to be read by anyone who has yet to overcome dyslexia. Which would seem to suggest a paradox...

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Monday, March 26, 2007

All the Things That I Have Seen

1. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006).

I could choose to hate this film but I don't. Perhaps because the struggles of the Will Smith character in his search for success reminds me of the struggles my own father endured as he worked his way out of the Detroit slums. Yes, some parts have been fictionalized and some parts don't always ring all that true -- but the story itself seems affecting in a way I never expected from a Will Smith movie.

2. Catch and Release (2006).

Good for a romcom but that Juliette Lewis character is just way too cartoonish.

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Movie Quote of the Week

I ain't no native, I was born here!
--Dorothy Provine, The Great Race (1965)

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Random Thoughts

Der Untergang des Abendlandes will not be televised.

Paris is worth a màs.

Without you, I am nothing. With you, I am less than nothing.

That's funny, you don't look prolish.

I'm in love with myself, but, alas, my affection is unrequited.

Is the heterosexual female scholar's equivalent of a Scholar's Mistress called a Scholar's Gigolo?

My love is like a red, red nose -- I hope I don't blow it.

Her dress was as red as her politics.

Help me, I think I'm fallen.

I've done my share of looking for love -- and lust -- in all the wrong places. In all the right places, too.

Scribo ergo sum. (I write; therefore, I am.)

Pobre Canada, so far from God and so close to the United States.

Demons thrive on silence.

The heart has its reasons of which political correctness knows nothing.

Mestizaje -- the choice of a new generation.

Almost everyone's life is like a soap opera. Some of us just have better storylines than others.

We may not choose with whom we fall in love but we do choose what we do about that love.

Almost everyone's life looks happy from the outside. It's how it looks from the inside that counts.

Normality is a state of mind.

Poverty, like war, is most easily glamourized by those who have never experienced it.

It's easy to love people you rarely see. It's when you see them all the time that the real test of love begins.

It's easy to love people you see as being perfect. It's loving people you see as being imperfect that's the real challenge.

There is no such thing as a golden age or a master race. All ages have their bad sides and no race is perfect.

If you cannot forgive imperfections in other people, then you will find yourself doomed the day you discover imperfections in yourself.

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Quote of the Week

Of mixed ancestry, I felt from earliest childhood that America was the only home I could ever possibly call my own. I felt that it was expressedly founded for me, personally, and that it must be my first business in life to possess it.
--William Carlos Williams

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jennifer Jason Leigh and the Friends of Dorothy

Oscar time arrived quite recently and once again people chose to gripe about Oscar-winning Forrest Gump, a film much hated by would-be intellectuals due to its “anti-intellectual” subtext. To be fair, this film is hardly the most complex movie out there and the fact that so many of its smartest and possibly most self-aware individuals end up quite miserable would seem to indicate that the movie itself has an anti-intellectual message.

Yet one could find miserable smart people in many movies, including movies that are allegedly aimed at smart people. Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, for example, makes no bones about being aimed at smart people. (It's certainly not aimed at the type of people who prefer films like Forrest Gump.) And yet one would hardly argue that it makes an argument against the misery of smart people. Indeed, the movie would appear to argue that especially smart and witty people tend to have a special talent for making themselves especially miserable.

The main character of the movie is writer Dorothy Parker (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), a woman who herself had little time for sentiments like “life is like a box of chocolates.” Indeed, Dorothy Parker was very much an anti-sentimentalist. And yet she spends most of the first half of the movie “falling in love” with inappropriate sex partners--one of which is ironically her ex-husband, the man who gave her the title of “Mrs. Parker” -- whose chief attributes seem to lay in the fact that they're good-looking. To be fair, she does fall in love with newspaperman/writer Charles MacArthur (played by Matthew Broderick) who is also witty as well as handsome. And yet ironically the chief love of her life -- at least as far as the movie is concerned -- is the not-so-handsome-but-not-quite-that-unattractive Robert Benchley (played by Campbell Scott), a writer who pretty much remains Parker's kindred spirit for most of the movie. Not only is Benchley one of the few men in the movie with whom Parker does not have sex -- primarily because he is married -- but he remains one of the few men who supports Parker when almost every other man in the movie breaks her heart.

And yet alas, he dies off-screen from cirrhosis of the liver halfway through the movie, a fate quite ironic given that Parker drinks about as much -- if not more -- than Benchley. Indeed, Parker outlives almost all of her contemporaries, including those acquaintances who were part of the literary group known as the Algonquin Round Table (the “vicious circle” of the title). And yet survival alone does not make her happy. Indeed, despite all her wit and humor, she seems quite miserable during the last half of the movie -- very much the example of a smart, self-aware woman whose own intelligence and self-awareness are not enough to save her from unhappiness.

I doubt that we were meant to watch this movie and come to the conclusion that intelligence and self-awareness are bad things. And yet few would argue that such qualities prevent people like Dorothy Parker from making the same mistakes over and over again. If anything, intelligence often makes people more adept at finding excuses for their own misbehavior. One would think, for example, that a smart person like Robert Benchley would realize that excessive drinking could very well send him to an early grave. And yet a smart person would also rationalize the risk of excessive drinking, preferring to settle for short-term happiness in a bottle than a long-term life of sobriety.

This doesn't mean that dumb people avoid misery more than smart people. Just that smart people aren't as immune to the sorrows of the human condition as they would like to think they are. As the old song goes, what a fool believes, a wise man has the power to reason away. Even if such reasoning costs that wise man his life.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Song Quote of the Week

Before you read me
You gotta learn how to see me.
--Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy, “Free Your Mind”

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TV Quote of the Week

Spanish? I thought they were just English words I didn't know.
--Christina Applegate, Married... with Children, “Old Insurance Dodge”

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Movie Quote of the Week

In America, nothing is impossible.
--George Chakiris, West Side Story (1961)

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