July 31, 2006

KINGDOM OF NONSENSE

We got HBO when we moved back to the US, so we've been trying to catch up on movies that we missed while we were in Germany. So far we've been unimpressed with most of them that we've seen: A History of Violence (too creepy), Elephant (too existentialist), War of the Worlds (too Dakota), and most recently, Kingdom of Heaven.

Roger Ebert writes:

The Muslim scholar Hamid Dabashi, however, after being asked to consult on the movie, writes in the new issue of Sight & Sound: "It was neither pro- nor anti-Islamic, neither pro- nor anti-Christian. It was, in fact, not even about the 'Crusades.'" And yet I consider the film to be a profound act of faith." It is an act of faith, he thinks, because for its hero Balian (Orlando Bloom), who is a non-believer, "All religious affiliations fade in the light of his melancholic quest to find a noble purpose in life."

That's an insight that helps me understand my own initial question about the film, which was: Why don't they talk more about religion? Weren't the Crusades seen by Christians as a Holy War to gain control of Jerusalem from the Muslims? I wondered if perhaps Scott was evading the issue. But not really: He shows characters more concerned with personal power and advancement than with theological issues.

And that's precisely why I didn't like the movie. Orlando Bloom comes off sounding more like a modern campus activist than someone from 1184. His rally speech sounded like a debate on reparations, not the Holy Crusades:

It has fallen to us, to defend Jerusalem, and we have made our preparations as well as they can be made. None of us took this city from Muslims. No Muslim of the great army now coming against us was born when this city was lost. We fight over an offence we did not give, against those who were not alive to be offended. What is Jerusalem? Your holy palaces lie over the Jewish temple that the Romans pulled down. The Muslim places of worship lie over yours. Which is more holy? The wall? The Mosque? The Sepulchre? Who has claim? No one has claim. All have claim!

If Ridley Scott set out to make a movie where the premise is "all religions are equally dumb," then he succeeded. Because it sure wasn't a movie about the Crusades. It just wasn't really what I expected, but in hindsight, I don't know why I was surprised: it's so typical in 2006 to expect a movie where all people could live in harmony if white Europeans would just let them be. Oh, and where the Muslims win the battle of Helm's Deep. I should've seen it coming.

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July 30, 2006

GROWING UP

An interesting article via Instapundit: A Nation of Wimps: "Parents are going to ludicrous lengths to take the bumps out of life for their children. However, parental hyperconcern has the net effect of making kids more fragile; that may be why they're breaking down in record numbers."

I've managed to connect to one of the least pertinent parts of the article, but I couldn't help but notice this paragraph:

Adulthood no longer begins when adolescence ends, according to a recent report by University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank F. Furstenberg and colleagues. There is, instead, a growing no-man's-land of postadolescence from 20 to 30, which they dub "early adulthood." Those in it look like adults but "haven't become fully adult yet—traditionally defined as finishing school, landing a job with benefits, marrying and parenting—because they are not ready or perhaps not permitted to do so."

Using the classic benchmarks of adulthood, 65 percent of males had reached adulthood by the age of 30 in 1960. By contrast, in 2000, only 31 percent had. Among women, 77 percent met the benchmarks of adulthood by age 30 in 1960. By 2000, the number had fallen to 46 percent.

Granted, I've only grown up in one era, so I can't really compare my entry into adulthood in the 2000s with someone else's decades ago, but I can't help but feel that people my age are sometimes hopelessly immature.

The husband and I went to a party relatively recently, a housewarming picnic for a couple who just bought their first house. We didn't know any of the couples at the party, so we did a lot of watching on the sidelines, and as darkness fell, so did IQs. By the end of the evening, we stared wide-eyed as married women lifted up their skirts and flashed their thongs to distract single men during their men vs women beer pong game. Yes, you read that right. This party at a 30-something's new house in the suburbs turned into a night that rivaled anything I saw in college. And then of course we sat horrified as people grabbed another beer for the road and drove home.

These people all supposedly had jobs and relationships and should've been considered adults, but I've never felt more out-of-place or uncomfortable in my life. I'm not above admitting that I did some wild and foolish things in my college years, but that part of my life is far in the past now. These couples seemed to be having just another weekend of fun.

I have no idea if their behavior has anything to do with their upbringing or parents. I could speculate that it might have something to do with not being quite ready to be adults yet. I hear that the whole "failure to launch" thing is a real phenomenon in the US, and that people are less and less emotionally and financially ready to grow up than ever before. Could that be a reason why you'd flash your boobs at some random guy while your husband makes another trip to the keg? Is the world too big and scary to leave the comfort of the Fun College Years? I can't say I understand this, since I love every candle I add to my birthday cake; my husband and I constantly play a game where we imagine what we'll do when he retires and we're older and cooler.

I hope I can teach my children someday that growing up is one of the best things you can do. I'm trying to read articles like this and prepare myself, because I want to do whatever it takes so that my child isn't the one lifting her skirt at a housewarming party...

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July 28, 2006

5 THINGS

Saw this a couple of places.

Five things in my purse
1. coupons
2. chapstick
3. Big Red One pen
4. Charlie's old dog tag
5. the wallet Angie Dente tossed out when she moved

Five things in my refrigerator
1. box of wine
2. pre-sliced mushrooms (I don't even have to cut them myself in this country!)
3. Big K Diet Cherry Soda (yep, we're such misers that we drink generic cola)
4. string cheese
5. Reeses Cup cheesecake bites

Five things in my car
1. air freshener
2. a towel to cover the steering wheel so it's not in direct sunlight
3. jumper cables
4. Really, that's it; I hate extra stuff in the car
5.

Five things in my closet
Five? Just FIVE? We lost about 700 sq feet in this move, and we're moving again in less than five months so nearly everything we own is in a closet. I just sent Erin a photo of our two hilarious closets. I don't know if you can properly tell from the photo, but these are huge walk-in closets. Or at least they're meant to be, unless you cram them to the brim.

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Yes, that's right, look at all that yarn. And that's not even the stuff I was whittling away for the bears...

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DER WALMART

We heard today on CNBC that Walmart is pulling out of Germany. Apparently it can't compete with Aldi on groceries and has lost about a billion dollars there. Yikes. There was no Walmart in our region of Germany, so I never went. Actually, we passed one once and were excited, but then we realized it was Sunday and thus it was closed. I should've taken a picture; have you ever seen a closed Walmart?

I also got a kick out of this description of why Walmart didn't work in Germany:

To American eyes, the new ethics manual is standard stuff. But when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. distributed the newly translated code to German employees a few weeks ago, it caused a furor. They read a caution against supervisor-employee relationships as a puritanical ban on interoffice romance, while a call to report improper behavior was taken as an invitation to rat on co-workers.
...
Rivals continue to chuckle about the customer reaction when, initially, Wal-Mart offered services such as grocery bagging. It turned out that Germans didn't want strangers handling their groceries. And when clerks followed orders to smile at shoppers, male customers took it as a come-on.

I still can't put Walmart and Germany in the same sentence without remembering that German haircutter who complained to my husband that she couldn't walk around in an American Walmart in just a bra. Hilarious. Some stuff just doesn't cross cultural lines; I guess Walmart and Germany simply weren't made to mix...

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LINK

'Disproportionate' in What Moral Universe?

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July 27, 2006

ALL TEDDIED OUT

OK, I think I'm a little burnt out on teddies for the moment. I suppose that's what happens when you make six of them in two weeks. As you can see, I got more creative as time went on, and I certainly got better at embroidering their faces! The green one is my favorite; it was my first attempt at a fair isle pattern, so I learned a lot about pulling too tight, and also about what happens when you accidentally read the chart backwards for a row. I'll send off my teddies to Mother Bear Project soon. And maybe I'll make another den of bears when the urge strikes again!

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(P.S. The maroon one has a really cool cable pattern that doesn't show up at all in the photo.)

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SAD

The husband and I have been watching some old Ali G shows on TV lately. We're always amazed at the utter garbage that he can get people to say; I can't believe that the guests don't smell a rat. My husband also constantly wonders about The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, how they can trick their guests into sounding so stupid. I guess I know part of the reason now: Wexler falls into a comedic interviewer's trap -- and he's not laughing. I feel sorry for the people who do these shows because they come off looking like complete idiots. Ali G isn't even fun to watch, because who really wants to see someone make Buzz Aldrin look like a fool?

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SWEET

Via RWN, 'South Park's' Trey, Matt spill on Mohammad, George Clooney

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WAR OF THE WORLDS

Last night we watched the movie War of the Worlds. I read the book shortly before we moved and loved it. But the movie added a twist that H.G. Wells never intended: Spielberg made the main character a father. The book was about what one man will do to survive. I used to lie in bed and wonder if I'd have the strength: Could I forage for raw potatoes to eat? Could I kill and eat a stray dog? Could I kill a man who became a threat to my survival? The book made me think about all these things, because the main character was such a powerful figure. In the movie, however, the main character thinks only of protecting his children, a vastly different concept. One reviewer said, "Leave it to Steven Spielberg to turn the end of the world into a treatise on responsible parenting." A man will not do whatever it takes to survive if it means harming his child. The stakes were totally different in the movie, and I prefered the childless protagonist. (Also, if I had to hear Dakota Fanning scream one more time, I thought I was going to beat her senseless.)

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July 26, 2006

AWESOME

My dad fishes every single day he can. Christmas too. But he got his biggest catch ever over the weekend: a 22-pounder!

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Now he just has to catch one as big as Kelly's dad's fish.

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REUNION

Lileks attended his high school reunion this weekend; I recently bought a plane ticket to my own. It was really hard to fill out the survey about what you've been doing since. When you know you're moving two months after the reunion, what do you put for address and phone number? What do you say your job is, what you did before or what you hope to do next? And when they ask how many places you've lived since high school, it's surreal to write 9.

I'm excited to go see people I haven't seen in at least six years, but the impending reunion has made it hard to get high school off my mind; I keep replaying stuff from school and wondering how I'd do it differently. I wouldn't want my life to turn out any differently now, but sometimes I wish I'd taken a different path to get here.

My school even has a reunion website. You can see me dead center, my eyes peeking out over the word "going". The bearded guy directly below me is now a Special Forces soldier; my husband and I are going to Bragg to visit him next weekend before he deploys again. And the girl up in the far left corner surprised my brother by being his doctor last year. It will be interesting to find out what everyone else has been up to.

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July 22, 2006

ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK

The other night I couldn't sleep, so my usual remedy is browsing knit blogs. I happened to find a wonderfully pertinent article on knitting backwards; this will certainly come in handy while I'm addicted to making these bears. Now I don't have to flip my work over to purl anymore, which is definitely a timesaver on these tiny rows of ten. Hooray.

But I hit a small knitting snag last night. For dinner we made a fabulous pork tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms, bacon, and onion. For some reason our smoke detector goes off at the drop of a hat, so it started going off as I took the tenderloin out of the oven. I got flustered and, for no good reason whatsoever, decided to grab the meat thermometer and just pull it out with my hand. I was looking right at it, so I was well aware that it said 165 F but, whatever, pulling it out barehanded seemed like a good move. As I instinctively jerked my hand back and started hopping around the kitchen, I looked at my husband and said, "I really have no idea why I just did that." Luckily I didn't burn myself too bad, but the burn is perfectly located where I hold my yarn. I was doing this funky modified knitting move all evening long. It's not as sensitive today, so I can't wait to finish up Teddy #3. Actually, this should be Teddy #4, but #3 only has 3/4 of a head because I ran out of the ball of brown I was using. I've been debating for days whether I should go buy another matching skein of it, since the whole point of these bears is to whittle down these balls that have been sitting here for years, not to buy more!

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July 21, 2006

SYMPATHY

There's no question that I support Israel in her current war. However, I do feel a sense of profound sadness for ordinary Lebanese people who don't support Hezbollah but are caught in a terrible battle in their own country. Via Amritas via Benjamin I found a blog called Lebanese Political Journal that is mesmerizing.

A week ago, I might have told you that my heart broke because my favorite World Cup team lost… I almost cried.
Now
I would do anything to watch my team lose - and bring down my sense of disappointment to that level again.

Follow these four Lebanese citizens as they try to grok.

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DANG

I swear, The Onion couldn't have made up a story this good: Iran leader asks Germany for help on Zionism

Speaking of The Onion, we were watching the news the other day and two newscasters were talking to each other. One asked, "Are you familiar with The Onion?" The other said she was not, so the first proceded to explain what The Onion is and why it's so funny. And then at the end of the segment, the other lady said, "Yeah, um, I know what The Onion is, I just wasn't paying attention when you asked me." It was such a random, weird admission that my husband and I cracked up.

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July 20, 2006

OH YEAH

Whew, Varifrank gives us both barrels in his discussion of proportional response!

And Varifrank also pimpslaps whiny people who want everything their way. He and others almost got on an airplane that quite certainly would've crashed, and all the passengers did was complain. I can't help but draw the parallel between these airline passengers and the sniveling jerks who are being rushed out of Lebanon. As one news commenter said this morning, there's been a travel advisory to the region for 20 years and yet people who chose to go there anyway won't stop complaining that the government took a few hours longer than Sweden to ferry them out for free. I think all passengers on that stupid cruise ship should be forced to sit through a reading of Whittle's Responsibility. And they should have to pay that 150 bucks too. Is there some way we can transport all those unused trailers from Katrina to Larnaca?

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July 19, 2006

WHAT AN INFLUENCE!

Hud found a funny website: A complete list of things caused by global warming

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TEDDY

Teddy #2

teddy2.JPG

I'm on a roll: I'm already up to the shirtline of Teddy #3!

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July 17, 2006

PUPDATE

Let's have some pupblogging to get our minds off the news, shall we? Charlie has graduated to sleeping outside of his crate most nights. He dives under the bed while we're brushing our teeth and stays there until I get out of bed in the morning and coax him out into the world. There's nothing cuter than seeing him emerge yawning and stretching...except for when he doesn't quite make it all under the bed in the first place. Every once in a while, this is what we find peeking out from under the bed:

piggies.JPG

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July 15, 2006

GIVE-AWAY KNITTING

I had give-away knitting on the brain the other day when I saw an episode of Knitty Gritty on knitting for charity. They made a cute teddy bear to send to kids in Africa. I have so many apple-sized balls of yarn in this house that I thought this might be a good way to whittle some of that stash down. So I grabbed some yarn and went to work; 36 hours later, I've got a bear to send.

teddy.JPG

He's not perfect, but hopefully some child will like him. I plan to perfect the technique by making a few more. I'm digging in to the two big baskets of yarn from my living room (Girls, you know what I mean!)

If you're interested in doing this super easy project, the pattern can be found here. (Seriously, I started him yesterday afternoon.) And check out the official Mother Bear Project website, especially the photos of the kids receiving their bears. And then get knitting!

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LINK

Annika sums up my thoughts on the Israel situation...and introduces fears I hadn't thought of yet. Great.

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