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 27, 2006

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 13, 2006

DMV

OK, time to vent. Remember when we went and picked up our car from the port a month ago? Well, I've been trying to register it for that long. We want to register it in Missouri like our other car is because we're only going to live here for five months. Calling the DMV is even more ridiculous than going there, but I thought I had finally figured out what we needed and I mailed everything in two weeks ago. We got it returned today marked "rejected" because allegedly we didn't show proof of insurance; they returned all the documents to us, including...the proof of insurance paper. I called this morning and was told "whoops" and that I should send it back. But now our temporary plates on our car are expired. Can I tell you how angry this makes me? Someone halfassed his job and now I have no car to drive around for another two weeks while they actually do the job they were supposed to do two weeks ago. And amazingly, some people in this country want the government to do more stuff in our lives.

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July 12, 2006

SHAMEFUL

If the proposed memorial to Flight 93 goes through as planned, it will be a disgraceful, disgusting monument to the hijackers instead of the passengers. Reading this information makes me want to throw up. I left a comment on the memorial website; I sure hope that citizen action has some bearing on the final memorial, but for some reason I'm not holding my breath...

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July 11, 2006

HUH?

I find it interesting that it's OK for a teacher who believes Bush orchestrated 9/11 to teach a class on Islam because that's "encouraging students’ critical thinking by allowing analysis of even the most controversial ideas", but a science teacher who believes in creationism is considered kooky and ignorant. Isn't that kind of the same thing? Maybe we could get people who believe in the tooth fairy to teach dentistry...

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July 10, 2006

PRIORITIZE

This article over at Hud's caught my attention, especially since I just finished gagging over Parliament of Whores. Imagine if we could get government to think before they spend!

So all the more credit to Mr. Lomborg, who several weeks ago got his first big shot at reprogramming world leaders. His organization, the Copenhagen Consensus Center, held a new version of the exercise in Georgetown. In attendance were eight U.N. ambassadors, including John Bolton. (China and India signed on, though no Europeans.) They were presented with global projects, the merits of each of which were passionately argued by experts in those fields. Then they were asked: If you had an extra $50 billion, how would you prioritize your spending?

Mr. Lomborg grins and says that before the event he briefed the ambassadors: "Several of them looked down the list and said 'Wait, I want to put a No. 1 by each of these projects, they are all so important.' And I had to say, 'Yeah, uh, that's exactly the point of this exercise--to make you not do that.'" So rank they did. And perhaps no surprise, their final list looked very similar to that of the wise economists. At the top were better health care, cleaner water, more schools and improved nutrition. At the bottom was . . . global warming.

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July 01, 2006

WHEW

OK, I loved it. Kevin Spacey was perfect, the plot was good, and Lois was meh, but I never really liked Lois anyway. I thought some stuff was rather Smallville-ish, but I suppose that's inevitable. My heart ached for Christopher Reeve, but Brandon Routh did a good job, though there's no way on earth anyone could believe that Routh was supposed to be Clark Kent at age 35. But who am I to opine on the aging of Kryptonians? Overall, it was definitely worth the price of admission, and thank goodness it didn't come off as campy or multicultural or anything else I kept hearing about it.

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SNIFF

We made plans to go see Superman this afternoon, and then I saw this "truth, justice, and all that stuff" article and I could just cry. I honestly don't know if I want to see this movie or not; I keep changing my mind every day.

But now that I know Hud liked it, I guess I can assume I will too.

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