25 March 2013

The Only Thing We Are Responsible For is Being Offensive and Then I Tell a Story

“The humblest citizen in all the land, when clad in the armour of a righteous cause, is stronger than all the hosts of error."  -- John Dos Passos, The 42nd Parallel

Mired in sophistry. People dulling their minds with trivial debates and debating trivia while empires crumble civilizations tumble and hunger

Got sucked into it myself today for a bit. An article on a city news site about a poorly attended rally for pedestrian safety. The organizer was quoted as complaining of apathy and dangerous driving in Berkeley. I couldn't resist posting a comment (mistake!) pointing out that Berkeley could hardly be accused of apathy (the least of its faults to be sure) and that drivers were no more reckless within our borders than any place else. The quoted responded to my comment by saying that I had offended all of Berkeley's pedestrians and was lacking in reading comprehension skills. Well of course. I rebutted that I had in that case offended myself as a Berkeley pedestrian and that I was in turn offended by his attack on my reading skills. "Offenses for everyone!" I concluded.

The subject of offense-taking has been a theme of mine of late on this blog. Never did I think that I would be accused of offending pedestrians. A group of which I am a proud member. Poor pedestrians we are just another beleaguered minority. No one --  it seems --  is immune from offense taking or giving.

You blaggard! You scoundrel! You ruffian! You cad! You roustabout! Or how about this: you person of another color! Or you person of a differing sexual orientation or of a gender or religious belief or lack thereof or weight or personality type. Or you person of a differing opinion! Put 'em up!

"Nobody calls a Firefly an upstart!" - Groucho Marx as Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup.

I swear this society is headed back to the days of dueling. Throwing down of gloves slaps across the face and perhaps even ten paces and fire!

A popular target group of offensive remarks that has been getting an especially spirited defense of late is fat people.  You see its not their fault that they are constantly inhaling milkshakes and 98 ounce sodas. No of course not. No one is to blame for anything. Racists can't help it they were raised to believe in the inferiority of other plus these poor people are ignorant. Leave em alone. Drug addicts and alcoholics have a disease they were born with. Homicidal maniacs have serious mental issues that are not to be made light of. Polish people were born of Polish descent. No one is responsible for where they are or any aberrant behavior they engage in. We are all victims of what we are and we are all every one of us precious and not to be made fun of. Humor is offensive. Satire is rude. Observations are risky. Sarcasm must be eliminated.  Opinions are noxious. Art is dangerous. Self expression an abomination.

The only thing we are responsible for is being offensive.

Not to change the subject but....

Ted and Martha thought that they should drop by. You know at least make an appearance. For appearances sake. They were pretty good friends with Chuck and Lisa and it would be wrong not to stop in and say hello even if they didn't really know anyone in Chuck's family -- Lisa's family was all back East -- or most of their other friends. They made a point to be half an hour late knowing that most people would be fashionably late. They left earlier than they should have but killed some time by stopping for a bottle of wine. Nothing cheap but nothing too expensive either. They were still early so they circled the neighborhood which they had to admit was a pretty nice one. Chuck had done well for himself and apparently Lisa's real estate business was doing okay after all. Ted had predicted it would be a bust but as Martha reminded him he'd been wrong before.

They arrived exactly a half hour late. Ted and Martha found the hosts and gave each a quick hug and a peck on the cheek (well Ted didn't give Chuck a peck). They complimented their hosts on how nice the house looked and how they appreciated the invitation. Chuck and Lisa were busy hosting so couldn't chit chat for long but promised to catch up later in the afternoon. So Ted and Martha helped themselves at the buffet table and got themselves a glass of wine. They separated and each looked for people they knew. Ted saw a few familiar faces but they were mostly already deep in conversations. He wondered if coming so late was such a good idea after all. He managed to talk for a few minutes with Lyle Conklin about yesterday's game but Lyle was just a casual fan and had nothing of particular interest to say.

Martha could find none of her dear friends but was introduced to a Tanya Mickleson who had a shared interested in quilting. They had a nice chat before Tanya was called away to meet someone else. She then found herself talking to Laura Dugard who she really didn't like. Laura was full of opinions and never took a breath from offering them to hear what anyone else might say. Ted's luck was no better as he found himself talking to someone named Zeke who mostly bragged about his sail boat.

Eventually Ted and Martha found each other again and shared their mutual disappointment with the  party. Ted asked if it was too soon to go. Martha suggested that they should really give the gathering a bit more time and that things might pick up yet. Martha warned Ted not to have too much wine which annoyed Ted who rarely had a drop more than he should -- at least in his mind. Martha sensed Ted's irritation and worried that she'd just pushed Ted toward actually having a drink or three too many. She gave him a tender squeeze in hopes that it would help matters between them. The fact was that Martha had felt a strain in their relationship of late. Ted was clearly battling depression though he would't talk about nor would he get help. Ted was indeed suffering from severe bouts of depression and was troubled by his failure to earn a promotion at work though he was sure the two issues weren't linked. They weren't.

They ultimately decided to mingle some more and Martha fell into conversation with a woman named Cheri with whom she had a number of mutual acquaintances. They ended up gossiping and having a gay time and it was Martha who had more than her share of wine. Meanwhile Ted found someone to talk sports about and then finally got to chat with Chuck who gave him some good investment advice.

Around 9:00 people started leaving so Ted and Martha said their goodbyes and drove home. They agreed that it was a nice evening after all and it was good that they went. At home Ted settled in front of the TV and watched an old World War II movie for about the fifth time. He always got a kick out of it. Martha was still tipsy and made some phone calls to a sister and cousin then showered and read in bed for a few minutes before falling a sleep. She was snoring loudly when Ted climbed into bed next to her. He settled in under the comforter and remembered the pretty young black prostitute he slept with in New Orleans when he was in the service. He felt a weird mixture of excitement and guilt and hoped that her life turned out well. It was an hour before he could turn his mind off from distant memories and fall asleep.



17 March 2013

One Week Off 13 Movies Watched

Have had the past week off. With a big vacation trip in the offing I thought it best to stick around the house this week limiting travel to the gym and movie theaters and other points within Berkeley. Starting with the Friday preceding my vacation week and ending with today -- the day before I return to the salt mines -- I had time to watch 13 movies. That was five days of one film and four days of double features. If it weren't for those other annoying interests and errands I'd have doubled that total.

The films I enjoyed were either from Netflix my own DVD collection seen in theaters or in one case via Amazon Instant. Here are the lucky 13 -- presented in order watched -- followed by brief comments.

Le Havre (2011). Saw this when it first came to theaters and was suitably impressed. It was a surprise birthday gift from the missus. A gorgeous Criterion edition. And a much better film the second time. I imagine it will be even better with repeat viewings. Some movies are like that. The director is my fellow Finn Aki Kaurismaki. Understated subtle ironic touching and real. Him the movie and Finns in general. Kaurismaki eschews broad action big stars zingers sensational sex and dazzling special effects. If there's a fight its likely a case of the hapless hero getting what for. I have not seen a Kaurismaki film I haven't liked. This one is set in the French city of the title with a French cast speaking French. The director speaks very good English (all Finns do) but no French. Of course.

Heaven's Gate (1980). I first saw this film on New Year's Day and immediately wrote about it on this here blog. This was also a birthday gift from the missus though not a surprise as I practically begged for it. Was I as dazzled by the second viewing? Yes. It's a crying shame that the director Michael Cimino was essentially black balled after making Heaven's Gate. Think what else he could have created. See New York Times film critic Manohala Dargis' article on the film in today's Times.

The Thin Red Line (1998). I saw it during its initial run and was not impressed. Fifteen years later I thought it was time to give Terrance Malick's World War II film another look. Especially in light of all the glowing comments about it I've heard and read from fellow cinephiles over the years. There have been a lot of highly regarded films I haven't liked the first time but fell in love with the second time. Then Thin Red Line does not fit into that category. I found the voice over narration variously annoying boring and ridiculous. And I loved Tree of Life and liked New World. Both by Malcik. This one not so much. Happens.

Black Narcisccus (1947) The first of two Powell/Pressuberger films I viewed. I loved Deborah Kerr and co star Kathleen Byron as much as the much ballyhooed scenery. I could also tell this was a film that required repeat viewings to fully appreciate and I'm willing to eventually invest the time. This first look was more about following the basic plot outline and admiring the "look of the film." And what a look!

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935). My first of two Charles Laughton films during the week. Goodness he was a terrific actor. This is not your typical 1930's film. Laughton plays Ruggles a valet lost in a poker game by his British nobleman boss (Roland Young) to a pair of rich hicks from the fictional Red Gap, Washington. This all takes place in Paris. But then the scene shifts to Red Gap where all kind of shenanigans and hijinks end with Ruggles running a restaurant with a love interest played by...Zazu Pitts. Of course! RORG is an absolute delight from beginning to end and Laughton proves that he could do comedy with the best of 'em. Directed by the vastly underrated Leo McCraey.

Amour (2012). This was technically a 2012 release but it didn't get to these part until mid January and not in Berkeley until last week. Had I caught in December it would have topped my top ten films list for the year. I especially appreciate the fact that director Michael Haenke has such great respect for audiences and is willing to allow viewers to make decisions for themselves and think and contemplate and fill in gaps. Production line Hollywood films treat movie goers like small children who need to be told a nice tidy story with a beginning middle and end and no ambiguity.

No (2012) This is the story of the 1988 plebiscite in Chile in which voters were asked to vote YES! for more of Augusto Pinochet -- who seized power in a CIA backed military coup from democratically elected socialist Salvador Allende -- or NO! for a fresh start. The charismatic Gael Garcia Bernal plays the ad executive who handles the No campaign. Its an interesting and important story and a perfectly nice film but not a film I'd bother with a second time. Kind of like Argo only better. Thanks the same and well done lads.

Hobson's Choice (1954). My second Laughton film of the week was this one which  -- in my most humble opinion -- stunk. Okay you like the film so just ignore what I write here and move on to the next film. Go on you won't miss anything. Laughton plays the unlikeable Hobson who battles his unlikeable oldest daughter who marries an initially likable man who himself is unlikable by the end of the film. David Lean directed some good some very good and some great films and this one. Yuck.

The Red Shoes (1948).  All right if you're one of this film's many admirers you should move on. This was my second Powell/Pressburger film. It is much loved but not by me. The two protagonists were as interesting as yawning accountants. I wish the woman had leapt to her death in the first reel and taken her boyfriend with her. Half way through this insipid silly film I was playing words with friends. Much more engaging.

Lore (2012) Somehow this is an Australian film though it was done by starred Germans and Austrians. World War II has proven to be an endless source of movies including some of the greatest ever made. Of course many of these films explore some of the countless victims of the war. We're familiar with the tragedy visited upon people throughout Europe and Asia especially Jews Russians and other innocents in invaded countries. But citizens of conquering countries also suffered. Imagine the children of Germany even those whose parents were devoted followers of Hitler. Lore does exactly that. Following five young sibling (one a baby) led by the titular character oldest daughter Lore. It might be hard to feel for the progeny of Nazis when so much horror was visited on others but these children are victims too. Lore the character is a remarkable teenager who undergoes a dramatic transformation as a result of her trek. Well worth seeing.

Pulp Fiction (1994). Pulp Fiction is for me like sushi. I love sushi when I'm enjoying it but need to step away for awhile after indulging. What I noticed this time around was the manner in which Jackson Travolta Thurman Kietel and Rhames relished their lines. Director Tarantino benefits greatly from the work of screenwriter Tarantino (two Oscars for it). When you get such juicy dialogue to sink your teeth into your bound to make the most of your screen time. We're nearing Pulp Fiction's 20th anniversary and it is aging well.

The Awful Truth (1937). My second McCray film of the week and this is a real rarity because it is film stolen right from under star Cary Grant -- the grandmaster of the screwball comedy. The thief is his co star Irene Dunne. She accomplishes this feat in the scene in which she drops in Grant's and his fiancé and her family and pretends to be his sister. Grant is of course a delight throughout as he is in so many films. But Dunne walks away it. Let me offer this comment from an IMDb user:
I love classic films but I guess screwball comedy just isn't my bag. I recorded about 45 minutes of it from TCM the other night and just sat down to watch it. It started on the scene where Dunne showed up at Grant's place and kept answering the phone which resulted in him lying to his new lady about Dunne being his sister. It quickly went south from there. I suppose we are supposed to find Dunne's antics cute and endearing because neither character is ready to let the other one go but I just found her annoying. When she showed up at the dinner party as his "sister" and proceeded to ruin any hope he had at being happy with Barbara (and his soon-to-be in-laws), I was annoyed. When they left the party early and she pretended to be drunk and rowdy and nearly got him in trouble with the cops TWICE, I'd had enough. I shut it off and completely deleted it from my DVR. How did movies like this get made? And sadly, with Ben Stiller movies around, they are STILL being made. Does anyone else find this kind of comedy unbearable to watch?
Let me offerYou can't make up stuff like that couldn't if you tried. Priceless.

The White Ribbon (2009)
"A cottage small is all I'm after,Not one that's spacious and wide.A house that rings with joy and laughterand the ones you love inside.
Some like the high road, I like the low road,Free from the care and strife.Sounds corny and seedy, but yes, indeed-y;Give me the simple life." Lyrics by Rube Bloom and Harry Ruby
My second Haenke of the week and my second viewing of this extraordinary film. Whodunit? What was going on in this German village in 1913-1914 that was disturbing the idyllic small town peace? Ghastly crimes. Burning a barn. Mutilating a disabled child. Setting a trip wire for a motorbike. And children seemingly always at the center of events. This is a Haenke film so there are no easy answers and not even many revealing clues. What there is a stunning visual show and loads of imponderable to ponder. In a week that included a few duds and a few masterpieces and a few better than average films it was nice to end on such a strong note.

Twas a week well spent.

12 March 2013

On Growing Up Finnish American in the '60s

On most weekends of my childhood my family would go to some sort of Finnish gathering. This could be a dinner with relatives or a ski trip or a barbecue or an extended family party. There were also functions held by the local Finnish Brotherhood Hall in my hometown of Berkeley. There were sometimes soft religious undertones to these, but as Finland is a Lutheran nation, there was nothing terribly overt. Maybe just a passing reference to god and a short prayer. Mostly there would be food and revelry and live accordion music and dancing. Wherever it was a point was being made for everyone to have a good time and forget whatever cares might be troubling them. The old and the young alike were treated with respect and dignity. Women were generally responsible for preparing meals and took on a greater share of the set up and cleaning, but this was in line with the times. I have never felt that my upbringing was especially sexist, certainly not relative to the rest of the world at the time. Women's voices were heard and respected.

I had a strong sense that everyone was happy. In fact that was rather the point of weekends. Finns are a notoriously hard working people. The proclivity to drunkenness usually manifests on weekends and often in the form of binges. Work gets done and quite efficiently thank you. The Finns of my parents' generation were enjoying the fruits of post war America. As a carpenter -- like seemingly every other Finnish American of our community -- my dad was benefitting enormously from the building boom. He always had work. The union was strong and he made enough that my mother didn't need to work yet we owned a home and two cars and my father was able to invest in and help build apartments in Lake Tahoe. The United States that I grew up in was a sharp contrast to the Finland where my dad was raised. His family was never poor but they did struggle and consumer goods were not readily available nor was the latest technology. So the Finns in the Bay Area of the late '40s '50s '60s and even into the '70s had cause for constant celebration. They were enjoying the American dream and homesickness was alleviated by the strong Finnish community around them. (Of course today Finland has the most respected education system in the world and was ranked by Newsweek magazine as the best overall country in the world to live in. Meanwhile in the US middle class homes usually require both parents to work and union power is fading and the economy...you get the picture. Times change.)


My father, Aimo Hourula*
It was a warm and happy and comfortable cocoon for me to grow up in. Besides my folks and big brother I had grandparents aunts uncles and cousins and family friends who were like relatives. There was no indoctrination, just an exposure to the culture of my forebearers. I had an amazing amount of freedom. Children were to be looked after and indulged and loved unconditionally. They were not -- however -- to be treated as square pegs to be jammed into holes round or otherwise. Today's children are often more programmed than raised, given an endless string of clubs teams organizations and groups to join. Their non school hours are so precisely scheduled that they even are assigned play dates. Many parents build their lives around their children sacrificing much of what made them unique before parenthood. In the Finnish community I grew up in parents made accommodations for their children and included them as part of their lives. Children were honored not deified. Unlike many children of today we did not feel we were the center of the universe just a valued part of it.

Of course this was no earthly paradise. Marital problems were not brought up beyond the tightest inner circle. Alcoholism and mental and emotional problems were closely held secrets. There were such strictures on mentioning them that even the sufferer was unable to admit it to themselves. Thus my poor old mom. She developed what was likely bi polar disorder which coupled with alcoholism shattered her life in such a profound way that she could not even recognize anything was amiss. Paranoia gripped her like a vise.  I doubt that there were anything more than whispers when my father started turning up alone at social gatherings. Even as evidence came to light of my mother's serious issues there was probably never much but idle gossip. Finns of that generation had no mechanism to cope with such issues. My father himself was at a loss to help her or even himself. It was a situation that was not within his ability to grasp. Part of him simply died I think. I know part of me did. Eventually he met another woman and divorced my mom who lived on for another 28 very sad years. Undiagnosed and alone. The world I grew up was reluctant to acknowledge difficulties especially ones so exotic as my mom's. They were in a boat that was not to be rocked. While liberal in most senses of the word Finnish Americans were troubled by protesters whether for Black equality or against the Vietnam war. They had such a good thing going they wanted no one suggesting anything was wrong anywhere for anybody.

I've made a point in my life not to idealize my youth, my culture, my family or anything else. Having a mother go mad will do that. But I do look back with great fondness at my childhood and the manner in which I was shaped and comforted by my Finnish identity. It is a powerful and useful and positive drug to have a strong sense of group and to participate in it fully. To work hard and achieve and give back and to enjoy. That's really what sticks out for me. People getting together and having fun. I had an uncle -- a younger brother of my dad's -- who I'll always remember with this impossibly large smile beaming from his handsome face. I'll also remember his powerful and frequently released laugh and his incomparable kindness to me. He built himself a big house in the suburbs and loved to host parties in it. Christmas Eve there was magic. Some of the great memories of my childhood are from holidays, get-togethers and bashes held there. I'd play with my cousins, eat a magnificent meal prepared by my aunt and feel an overwhelming sense of the world being a safe and wonderful place because it was not just the kids who were having a great time, but the adults too. Ya can't beat that.

If anyone reading this enjoyed it then it's dedicated to my late great big brother, Robert. If you didn't enjoy it then leave my brother out of it.

*Photo from my niece Matlena Hourula's website. You should totally check out her work.

11 March 2013

We are Wonderful We are Contradictory

Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves. -- James Joyce, Ulysses.

There's a certain glamor that can attach itself to stories recovering addicts and alcoholics tell about themselves. They create a narrative which makes them tragic romantic heroic figures with rich colorful pasts and inherit wisdom that normal people can't possibly understand. These self glorifying drunks and junkies use their diseases to imbue themselves with a glorious wisdom deserving reverence. These people are -- of course -- full of shit. What they have in bravado they lack in humility.

Humility is precious. A drop of it is worth pounds of gold. And lest you think I don't know what I'm talking about I'm talking about what I've been for much of the past decades. Wearing a checkered past like a badge of courage and honor. I crawled out of the pit of hell and now bestride sobriety like a colossus.

Humility is the recognition the understanding and the acceptance that we are part of a whole and while we're different we're no better than anyone else no matter what we do.

Of course a lot of us spend our whole lives smugly being different than everyone else. We are not normal not regular not ordinary we are fucking awesome and other people are just too dumb to now it. We have a special vision seeing what others cannot. Experiencing life more meaningfully. Sure we suffer for our self bestowed beatitudes. Addiction and mental quirks -- ranging from idiosyncrasies  to manic depression -- are some of the prices we pay for our heightened senses of awareness. Mere mortals can not possibly understand. How we suffer for our state of grace.

There are 12 step programs that can help wash away some of our self righteousness. But we can practices certain principles in all our affairs and still feel deep down that we are above it all. Deep down and above. Our wonderfully contradictory spiral into the depths of ourselves.

Life is a process. There is no finer aspiration than to pursue progress and not perfection. It's all we have really. Taking steps forward even if the winds of misfortune are blowing us backwards. There is much to be said for the person who gets up everyday and takes that shower and eats that breakfast and heads for that job and takes care of business and doesn't just rail and scream impotently at injustices small and large but does something. Keep on truckin' is not such a silly notion.

If you hang in there putting one foot before the other you'll surely be rewarded. Just being part of the world is a miracle. To experience love and friendship and art and beauty and nourishment and light and ideas...what gifts! By allowing ourselves to be part of it all we then can truly see that while we are all unique and special we are not of a superior quality no matter what we know and what we've experienced and what we've learned and who we've known. Cherishing who we are without deifying ourselves is an art best mastered in order to know true happiness.

It's all ridiculously easy and impossibly hard and wonderfully ambiguous and we are all fully capable and sorely lacking. We are the contradictions we seek in the world whether we're looking for them or not.

09 March 2013

Thoughtless Commuters The Overweight and Compelling Sports Stories

Commute home on BART the other day I notice a guy standing next to me who looked to be about 90 years old. His cane barely keeps him from toppling over into a heap. No one was offering Methuselah a seat. The reasoning must have been that he's going to die pretty soon anyway so what's the point. Save the comfort of sitting for those young and healthy enough to enjoy it. I've seen pregnant women left to stand too. Why give a seat to someone who might be going into labor any minute? It would be that much harder to get her off the train and to the hospital from a sitting position. You could be a one-legged pregnant octogenarian and not be given a seat. Then again I see some people demand the seats by the door that are reserved for the old infirm and expecting. They've every right too. Recently however I saw a woman demand a seat from someone who looked younger than her. She was neither in a family way nor disabled. She was however fat. So because you're fat you can demand a seat? I'd have been like: "hell no I'm not giving up my seat to you just because you eat donuts by the box and drink coke by the liter." But that's me. I am not awash with sympathy for the obese especially when I see them coming out of ice cream shops or ordering a danish with their coffee. Should I have to make accommodations for smokers or drunks? I've been both and my message to addicts including those whose drug of choice is pastry: get some fucking help. There's plenty of it. I'm sorry you have an addiction I know what its like but this one's on you. No one gets clean or slender or off cigarettes unless they want to and no one is living in addiction for very long who doesn't know and hasn't thought about getting out.

It is our foibles and weaknesses and flaws and defects and mistakes and accidents that make us such compelling viewing. Perfection is boring. Give me stories of defeat and loss and tragedy and fatal error and you're giving me something to reflect on to learn from to be inspired by. My hero is Muhammad Ali. It would have been nice if he'd retired from boxing several losses before he did and never suffered from Parkinson's Syndrome but one has to admit that his story has taken on the shadings of Greek Tragedy as a consequence. Also that first loss to Frazier along with being exiled from boxing set Ali up for his greatest triumph -- reclaiming the heavyweight crown not once but twice. There was an other world quality to Ali's string of victories his beauty his poetry his politics. But ultimately he proved mortal.

I never much cared for Lance Armstrong. There was far too much perfection in his ceaseless winning. (Besides it was just riding a damn bicycle.) I sensed something amiss about him and was not at all surprised when it all come tumbling down and he was exposed as a lying cheat. Suddenly I was interested in him. Now instead of not giving a damn I actually could work some really strong animus. His story was far more interesting.

John Wooden was a much admired college basketball coach who racked up a string of national titles several earned by unbeaten teams. He and his team generally carried themselves with class and there was not a whiff of scandal around his UCLA programs. Yawn. Coaches and players can learn a lot from the late great Wizard of Westwood but what a snooze of a story.

In sports it is defeat that defines character. I have reveled in my favorite baseball team's (SF Giants) two World Series titles these past three seasons. But I am lucky to have suffered from so many near misses from the time I was a wee child through adulthood. Those crushing defeats merely strengthened my love for the team and made their first two titles of my lifetime so much sweeter.

Without agony ecstasy has little meaning. There are some who toss their team aside after bitter disappointment or an embarrassing pratfall. I've had two teams I love suffer shocking defeats recently. First of all you get used to it and can and should remind yourself that yes it is in fact only a game. (It is amazing for how many years I refused to accept that it was not just a game and would have an entire weekend ruined by a team's loss.) But also those losses make the wins meaningful and precious.
Sports are cruel if you measure success only in terms of championships. Locally the 49ers pro football team reached the conference title game last season and the Super Bowl this one. In both instances they lost and in excruciating fashion that brought out an endless cacophony of could haves should haves would haves. But goodness they had great seasons in both instances -- particularly given a long string of bad ones that preceded. It seemed impossible for locals to appreciate their accomplishments instead boo hooing the final loss. Perspective is everything and is often missing in the what have you done for me lately mindset of sports fans.

Okay my writing is spent for now. Can't think of a clever way to wrap this up so I reckon maybe I should just stop....

03 March 2013

The Best Spam I've Ever Received and More Fun With IMDb User Comments

Subject Line:  ARE YOU DEAD OR ALIVE?.

The Letter: 

Dear: Customer,  How are you today? Mis Mary came to our Office this morning to Claim your fund, she stated that she is your younger Sister, she told us that you had a fatal Accident but unfortunately you survived but later gave up to ghost, she said that you instructed her to claim the ($750,000.00) Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand dollars on your behalf before your death.  And here is her address she provided us to transfer the fund, Address: Spring Hollow Ct. Roswell, GA  30075. I will like to know and to confirm if you are the one that gave her the power of claim, if yes, kindly provide a letter of claim from a chief judge or from a reputable attorney in your country before we can release your Fund to her, if no, you are to quickly get back to me to avoid wrongful transfer so we will stop the release of your fund to the little lady who claimed to be your younger sister, okay.And she even say that she will pay for the dispensation international account opening fee of $105, so we are still searching if we can relaese the fund to her or not. 
So we can get her arrested because of the criminal act and it will soon be reported to the police authority. Use this  code as your subject when replying this mail to me (CODE SV01 AS YOUR SUBJECT) so that you can not make any misstake when getting back to me to arrest her.
Barrister Paul Edward

First of all the subject line is irresistible. My initial temptation was to send this reply. "Yes I am in fact dead. Fortunately some of us have internet access in the afterlife and having been a paragon of virtue my entire time as a mortal I am eternally online.  Also the deceased who possess cyber privileges do not have to deal with ads when watching you tube clips. Indeed there are no ads anywhere on heavenly websites. Best of all the comments sections have been disabled so there is no temptation to read any rude racists off topic illiterate screeds that typically follow well-thought out essays or posts. So in terms of post mortality web experiences death can be a real treat.
"Anyway thank you ever so for your email. I did not have a sister named Mary or anything else. Not a real one. I did have an imaginary sister Jezebel. Let me tell you she was a caution and about as real as the money you purport to have more...."

Most spam is merely clutter but gems like these do come along and they are to be cherished.

Here's an adorable TV show review by and IMDd user for a very short lived reality series called The Catalina:

The Catalina is a show for younger people that like to party and have fun.It's not meant to be a completely serious show,it's a fun show that shows a family of workers! It's always fun to see that work can be fun but still getting things done.I think this show is very entertaining. I don't think people are getting it enough credit, get your heads out of your asses and just learn to have fun and enjoy life a little bit! Cast is pretty funny and Morgan cracks me up I have a good friend that is a lot like her I love it! This hotel looks awesome if I ever come visit South Beach i'm staying at the Catalina! I also like the diversity of the cast cool to see all different kinds of people coming together and learning new things from each other !

I think the author's advice that we get our "heads out of your asses and just learn to have fun and enjoy life a little bit!" is spot on. People who cannot enjoy the televised garbage that is reality programming clearly have managed to do the seemingly impossible and placed their heads into their anal passages and  further are the type of individual incapable of enjoying life. Although if you can actually pull off that little trick with your head and buttocks you probably have conceived some pretty clever ways of enjoying life "a little bit!" The author celebrates the "diversity" of the cast. Usually when someone recognizes a TV show for diversity it means there's a token African American and someone who either looks or in fact is Latino. Judging from the show's poster that would be the case with Catalina. My daughters watched some of the Disney channel and Nickelodeon TV series when they were younger and the casts invariably included a Black kid who you'd swear was white if you just heard his or her voice.

Her review is not unusual. I see countless such defenses for bad shows and movies that are examples of the belief that the best defense is a good offense. The writers attack any would-be or actual critics of the show holding firm that this show or film is for fun so don't bring your high faultin' artsy attitudes about what's good and bad to this shlock. "Hey I know this candy is empty calories and will contribute to my obesity but its not meant to be nutritious it's just for fun to eat so leave me alone!"

For classic films there are countless IMDB user comments like this: "will someone explain to me why this is supposed to be so good? I just don't get why this is considered a classic. Don't get me wrong I tried to like it but...." Explaining to someone why a film is great is a futile exercise. If the person is 12 years old then just suggest they revisit the film in 10 or 20 years. A lot of my favorite films are ones I didn't at all like when I was younger. Tastes change as a person ages.

I leave you with this final IMDb user comment on Hitchcock's Rear Window:

I think my 6 years old cousin could build up a better thriller than this. 
Yeah it's a good movie, I gave it a 8 out of 10, but seriously, is it really that good? Of course, the directing is very very good, the acting is good, the sound and the cinematography are great for the 50's, but what the *beep* was that plot? 
It's such an easy story, I don't even get chills, this movie could have been so much better. They're so many moments in that film that just made me say: wtf is that, how dumb is that, oh wow the police are already there, oh yeah of course he hid something in the plants while he could've just put it with the rest, and the ending, oh gosh just a big lol at the end, yeah he'll just take 30 seconds to walk from the door to the chair while letting his eyes open...) 
Maybe I build up myself too much, but when you have a 8,7 grade and you're the 29th best film on IMDB, you're suppose to be really better than that. 
This movie is supposed to be: mystery and thriller. I watched a romance and a comedy! 
I mean... I liked Hitchcock work as a filmaker in this movie, really really, but the screenplay just wasn't good enough. 
P.S. to the ones that'll call me a hater or a Twilight fan, I'm not lol, I really loved Psycho as a matter of fact, may be I thought I'd get the same excitement throughout the movie...
 I checked and this commenter considers Titanic the best movie ever. Whattaya gonna do?