Archive for June, 2011

But How Do You Change the Channel?

Help! My remote requires a lesson in programming. I’m a college graduate. I know how to use a computer. I know how to read a map. I even know how to change the bag on the vacuum cleaner. But, apparently, I don’t know how to watch TV. After spending a lovely Saturday afternoon trouble-shooting (a euphemism for cursing and pressing buttons) my new cable system, I gave up and read a book. The blue screen mocks my ineptitude, the flashing lights taunt me but refuse to obey my commands. When did this happen? How did watching television become an exercise in mental gymnastics? What’s next? A computer program for recliners? The computer whizzes who design this stuff love convoluted programs. On/Off is sooo boring. Where’s the fun in Stop and Go, Heat and Serve, Wash and Dry? Geniuses love a challenge, I know. Okay, I admit it. I’m not a genius. If I were, would I even own a TV? By the way, my recliner is stuck at 45 degrees. Can somebody bring me a margarita?

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After Midnight in Paris

Can anything good happen after midnight? Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris, answers that question with a resounding maybe! Dreams, fantasies and mythical thinking happen after midnight. Painless time travel happens after midnight. But, lies, deception and stolen kisses also happen after midnight. And ultimately, crushed hopes and the harsh light of early morning happen…you guessed it: after midnight. However, in Woody’s world, repeated visits (after midnight, of course) to Paris in the twenties – the Paris of Zelda and F.Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway – only serve to reinforce nostalgia for that romantic era. The softening effect of rain upon narrow cobblestone streets only whets the appetite for more of the same. The seductive effect of a sweet and beautiful flapper from that era only increases the hunger. But flappers are only human. They, too, long for a different era, a more romantic era. A beautiful flapper wishes to discard her beaded sheaths and feathered headbands, if only she can be permanantly transported to La Belle Epoque. Ahhh, La Belle Epoque. Now, that would be the perfect time to be alive, she says. So, I wonder: If I could be transported into another era, which one would I choose? How about you?

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face value

Look, no wrinkles! Not at all scary, oh no.

“I’m invisible! I’ve never been invisible before!” So says Old Lodgeskins to Jack Crabb in the funniest movie ever made about cowboys and indians, Little Big Man. Old Lodgeskins is traipsing through a bloody battle between the United States  cavalry and the Oglala nation. Jack Crabb, played by Dustin Hoffman, desperately tries to shield the elderly chief. Old Lodgeskins ignores Jack’s pleas. He is convinced that powerful medicine makes him invisible to his enemies. Old Lodgeskins would be surprised to learn that in today’s culture, he would still be invisible, with or without powerful medicine. Why? Because he is old. In today’s culture, men and women pay top dollar for powerful medicine so that they won’t be invisible. Fragile skin that has survived more than half a century will be stretched, plumped and injected because of its inhabitant’s desperate desire to be seen, rather than ignored. Atomic breasts become missiles, aimed at the world, launch-ready and threatening, but definitely not invisible. Like overripe produce, bodies are laid out, examined for flaws, scraped and polished until their sell-by date is erased, hopefully forever. The culture that honored its elderly – the culture that Old Lodgeskins took for granted – is, today, as rare as a teepee.

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