Thursday, July 30, 2009

In Defense of Affordable Housing

This is a repost from a blog I did in March on the now-defunct ChicagoDads site. I am partly doing this in anticipation or celebration of a few events. One is the kick-off of Home Sweet Chicago, a joint venture of neighborhood watchdogs with the implicit goal of asking for more TIF funds in Chicago to be used for affordable housing for those who need them (an informative article from the Sun-Times about HSW and the regrettable practice of "affordable" housing is here). Another biggie is MAPA's big event in cooperation with a local After Schools Matter program (they had interviewed several members of the community and are releasing a book about it) at a local hot-spot on Monday night (interestingly enough, right in between my wife's birthday and our anniversary. I think three years is celebratory, eh?). The third reason, well, that may be the subject of an upcoming post soon.

Affordable housing is all the rage in Chicago recently. As in, some people get viscerally and physically angry about it. They feel that since they put a lot of money down for their property under the auspices that it is an “upcoming” neighborhood, setting aside new buildings for low-income families means that the undeserving get to steal a piece of the retail pie. Meanwhile, those who just invested much money into the fledgling area are swiftly losing their investment, or so some would have them believe.

First off, just a wee bit of education: Affordable housing is not giving away space to lazy, worthless, freeloading individuals or families. Everybody who applies for affordable housing needs to have steady income. They are already contributing members of society. Second, simply because they do not make as much money as some others does not mean that they should be pushed and shoved at the whim of those who can afford to buy and sell houses as if they were dealing in poker chips.

But then the opponents of affordable housing must further be asked: What of the people who have put down family and history and community and business in their area and have invested in it for decades? What if they have worked their tails off day-in and day-out just in order to get by, just to pay rent or mortgage and have barely enough money left over for essentials? What happens when they are forced out of their living arrangements because the area around them is moving in such a rate that they (or their landlords) cannot afford to keep up with, say, the new taxes on their property. So, owners are forced to sell their properties or jack up their rents. All of a sudden, a whole slew of people are looking for cheap apartments and yet has the type of infrastructure that is needed for their families.

So, what these hard-working families are left with is a volatile cocktail with any of the following options:

  • Live even closer to the edge of financial ruin by pulling money out of a safety-net (retirement savings, college savings, insurance, car, etc.)
  • Pull oldest children out of school so that they can earn extra money for family.
  • Move to an area where it is difficult or impossible to commute to current jobs or jobs within their skill set that would pay a decent wage.
  • Move to an area without social, societal, and scholastic infrastructure.
  • Declare bankruptcy and default on loans.
  • Become homeless. Which also may happen as a result of the items listed above over time.

I have shared in both the responsibility and the burden of having many of my students, friends and their families wrestle with these realities. What’s more, any of the above puts more burden on the community and society. A homeless family is primarily concerned about getting basic needs met now, for instance. Contributing to society is not a practical option by the way, Time magazine just ran an article on how 1 out of 50 children is now homeless . That includes a more than 20% jump of Chicago Public Schools students in the last three years that are deemed homeless - with total numbers well above the national average). Bankruptcy and financial ruin means less money. Kids being pulled out of college, high school and sometimes grade school may be necessary in the short-run, but is economically disastrous in the long-haul. Also, when families are cast out of their neighborhoods to other areas, existing school buildings lose students. As they lose students, they lose finances and function (this is happening at an incredible rate here in Logan Square). Soon, the schools have to close down. In the meantime, the new neighborhoods that the families are thrown into do not have the resources to school all of the new children. So, while the one school is being torn down, new schools - and social networks - are going to have to be built in entirely different areas. Not only does this not make financial sense, it doesn’t make ecological sense.

Save the planet, support affordable housing.

-originally posted in

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Happy birthday, dear Joss.

The terrible two's, eh?

It seems weird in that when she's not sick and holding on to us for dear life (and giving us kisses in an apparent decision to share her diseases), she's fiercely independent.

But when has that not been the case?

In honor of her turning two, I gathered up 18 photos representing the last twelve months of her life (because we only took three pictures for every two months) and put a little She & Him on top of it like so much butter and maple syrup on your favorite pancakes. Mmm, 'joy!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Health-Care Reform - or - The History of the World, pt. 5b -Edit

These are in large part responses to some questions I've been hearing (and to be honest, re-hearing and re-hearing) in regards to health care in general in the US, mostly by US citizens who are fearful of losing rights and what they perceive as the slippery slope towards Communism. In lieu of a narrative or even a framing device, I give you points:

  • I do not consider myself to be a liberal. To me and many others, the term brings up images of naive folk who believe that people are, in their hearts, nice and good and gentle. We could all just get along if only we were allowed to. I tend to think that we all have goodness and corruption dwelling within us. And if the bad within us is not checked in social (and not just private) settings, well, some pretty monstrous and heretofore unimaginable events have happened just within the last century. People - in other words - need protection from people. And not just the scary, boogie-woogie men that lurk in shadows and alleys, either. We need protection from systems of people - which is where the worst that could happen not only does, but is condoned and justified (think Aushwitz, think Taliban, think Enron, think Manhattan Project).
  • If the federal government is something to be scared of, so are big, multinational corporations. And there's more money in those corporations than there are in the government. So, guess who has whose ear? But also, guess who, in terms of medicine and health care, is wasteful, uses large sums of government monies with no re-pay for their own profit, has immense overhead costs, limits patients' ability to see doctors and to get treatment off-campus, will deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, and is generally not affordable for members of the working-class who do not have jobs that pay a huge percentage of the insurance costs?
  • As the economy continues to suffer and bleed (although more slowly) while health care costs continue to rise, those companies will not be able to afford to foot the bills.
  • The Health Care bill making its rounds through the legislature is weak, ineffective and will probably end up doing more damage than good, convincing Washington and Joe SixPack that universal health care is a bad idea. Now, it may be a step in the right direction, and may be an impetus for some strong change, but I will not argue nor speak about the current health bill. As far as I'm concerned, it's a bad compromise, watered down by Big Pharm interests who are still threatened by it enough to send misinformation by paid think-tankers.
  • Who would dream of privatizing the military? Yet the military is run by Washington and is a pretty smooth machine.
  • And the post office. I constantly hear complaints that amount to a pandering, "We don't want our hospitals to be run like the post office." What?? Are you kidding me? The hospitals would be run by the staff and administrators, same as always. They would be paid by one single insurance company. That's the main difference: Single. Payer. Health. Care. Furthermore, if the insurance companies were to be run nearly as smoothly and effectively as the USPS, I would be a very, very happy man. I have lost less mail sending and receiving during my whole life than I have lost claims, files, and complaints sent to the insurance companies during my daughter's first year of life.
  • My wife and I easily spent the majority of our adult lives without any sort of health insurance. Where it not for SCHIP (an imperfect program, cf. the fourth point), our two year old would have been uninsured for most of her life as well - especially since my insurance ran out when she had turned two months old. Not a good spot to be in, for sure. To boot, we would have run in immense debt and would spend years trying to pay that off rather than, say, send her to preschool so she can begin her education amongst her peers.
  • Under SPHC, every one puts money into the pot. A three percent flat tax rate should be equal to or less than what is being paid now by most of those who are insured. As far as the companies, they will also pay at a rate around or less than what they pay now. Now, as per companies that do not now pay, I for one would be only too happy to see the largest retailer in the world finally give to the system that they have been stealing from. Although the costs may, at first, be a bit steep for many small and start-up companies, they will have the added advantage of not having to worry about hassling with a medical benefits package (and that would save money and time that would otherwise go to Human Resources and paperwork), and not have to worry about not having insurance as a carrot to get the better employees. Likewise, employees can relax and work where they want to and where they feel most needed and otherwise compensated as long as health insurance is not a worry.
  • Edit: Malpractice insurance will also drastically reduce. Think thusly with me, if you would: If the majority of money rewarded in a malpractice suit goes toward future operations to remedy the operation in question. But if all future operations are already paid for, that would reduce the settlements to, say, punitive and work-related damages, (reduced?) lawyer fees, etc.
  • All this talk asserting that socialized medicine will turn our country into another Communist/Marxist state is... I don't know, why don't you yell at Great Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway... you know, the Soviet Bloc run by Mao, Lenin and the Anti-Christ?
  • And the Republican strategy for reforming the health industry in the US is based on the promise of tax rebates. Tax Rebates? Seriously?? And not even guaranteed but suggested? How will this help the working poor? Seriously, they barely pay taxes in the first place. Who gives a crap about taxes? Seriously!! I can't think of a more silly idea. I'm offended by the idea...
For sure, there are other areas that could not be feasibly addressed by any government action yet would drastically cut costs while improving health and national proficiency. Regular exercise, cutting out of junk food, eating organic, alternative medicines, drastically reducing air and soil pollutants, perhaps making such dangerous and costly habits as excessive drinking as taboo as we have smoking, etc, etc. We also need to move away from this culture of medicine as business, where doctors prescribe what will get them the most money (some articles are attached below and they give examples, including the Mayo clinic and a community in Texas, will provide examples of what to do as well as what not to do), regardless of whether it's in the patient's best interest or not.

Some other reading that may or may not be about single-payer health care but may lead to an intelligent conversation about affordable healthcare in this country anyway:

NY Times on a hospital that pays its doctors by salary, thus drastically reducing its costs (yet, oddly enough, is not being modeled in the bills in DC).
A fairly exhaustive FAQ's page about Single Payer Health Care.
A long but extremely informative (and well-written) piece by Dr. Atul Gawande on the culture war of medicine as business and how it is destroying us.
Stephen Colbert interviews Aaron Carroll on SPHC.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Modest Proposal for All Those Trying to Enter America

It appears that with every problem in these United States that we have, every time a resourceful citizen dreams up a possible and viable solution to a fundamental problem of the peoples (be it health care, economic prosperity, national safety, job retention, or problems in the bedroom with a member of the fairer sex), another road-block is thrown onto the streets. That roadblock is called "illegal immigrants." They apparently are the reason that we cannot afford childcare, welfare, health care, nor, apparently, Bel Aire.

Now, I know the answer that you are thinking to that ultimate question. We should run over those roadblocks and their children. They aren't even supposed to be there anyway. And that is a good answer, four years ago, when we could afford Expeditions and H2's. But this is a new, ecologically-friendly Depression-lite era, and unless you have a chipper in front of your Prius, that thinking just will not do justice for this day. We need a bold and creative plan of action that will once and for all solve the problem of too many immigrants.

Now you will notice that I did not say, "the problem of the immigrants." That wording is too broad. It does not tell you what it is that is wrong with immigrants. For surely not everything about immigrants (nor immigration) is amiss. Most reasonable men (and some of the more reasonable women folk) will agree that at least a small amount of new blood is good for the soil of our country. Who else will work crappy jobs for piss pay? The un-Americans, that's who!

So, we do not need to completely plug the holes, but rather to control the flow of foreigners coming into our land, dating our sisters, and eating our children. I, fortunately for you, dear reader, have thought long and hard for many, many minutes about this thingymabobby.

It has struck me that the path to legal immigration and citizenship is wholly unlike the path that our forefathers took in founding this wonderful nation. George Washington never had to take a test that asked who George Washington is. No, the Washingtons worked the fingers of their slaves to the bones and threw tens of hundreds of thousands of voluntary military men into the range of fire for the right to be called a citizen of the United States of America (or, as it was called in the time, "America: F**k yeah!"). True heroes opened up the borders of what we would define as our God-given rightful land by heart-wrenchingly creating and then breaking peace treaty after peace treaty, raping, declaring war on, and/or enslaving brown-skinned people from

Our new visitors need to demonstrate that they have the same heart that our great forefathers did. It seems to me that very few, if any, of the recent migrants who have darkened our shores (be they via the Pacific, Atlantic, or Rio Grande Oceans) have raped, murdered, mangled or so much given a smallpox-infested blanket to an Indian. Obviously, there aren't enough Indians around for large-scale genocide in these times (Oh, the old glory days...), but that will in fact open up the stakes, for they will understand that they are being hunted down and will go into hiding.

The practicalities would work out as thus: by lottery we will choose, say, 2,000 "undocumented" immigrants for short visa stays per month. Within that month, they are expected to unload, pay their respects to the great centers of our nation (the Statue of Liberty, Liberty Bell, Wasilla, Savannah plantations, etc.) and then commit random acts of genocide on the Indian population.

However, if the foreigner has the ability to import a boat load of free laborers upon his or her arrival, that will also prove his or her character. The new arrival will not need to undergo the month-long process, but will be granted immediate citizenship upon arrival and a recitation of The Pledge of Allegiance (preferably with bombs bursting in air in the background). I mean the new arrival who owns the boat and the laborers, not the laborers themselves. They will each represent 2/3's of a person.

One perceived side-effect for this ultimate solution would be that there will be fewer casinos. Not to worry, since the gaming centers run on reservations may be staffed by Natives, but are not owned by Natives. Although, for nostalgia's sake, I'm sure you will be greeted by a tall, dark and handsome man wearing loincloth and carrying a tomahawk and peace pipe -- just like the Iroquios, Mohawk, or Fighting Illini.

That is, if you are a citizen.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Things You Find in a Closet

From Graph Jam via Tony Jones

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And I took the road less traveled... Or maybe not. Can't quite remember

Jocelyn turns two in a couple days (and of course, a powerful, rockin' montage set to a power ballad by White Snake is due). This isn't in itself great news. I mean, it would be if anybody at any particular time ever looked forward to their child becoming a two-year old monster. I imagine Joseph fretting about the decision he made a couple years back to stick with Mary and her "miraculous birth": "Why is this child throwing temper-tantrums in Egypt of all places?!"

We are excited, though, because it marks another era in our tot's life: day care. For the last two years, Jennie and I have traded duties watching the child. For a few months, my wife even went to work with the baby several days a week - wherein there was no nap time and there was plenty of screaming (mostly from Jocelyn, I'm assured). In a highrise office building. In downtown Chicago. The Loop.

For the last year, I stayed home with the child nearly full-time as I weighed my job options. Which, to be frank, were very limited to begin with - and moreso limited as the recession took hold of the pay-for-words world. But also during that time, I've begun to heal. I've faced some demons, and still have many others in my closet that I've yet to eradicate - but the process has begun. Life has slowed down to a crawl so that I may listen to someone who does not yet know how to speak her needs or wants. My hopes are that I continue to listen, I continue to grow and learn in this area for my family's sake and that I can take that with me wherever I go - that I may be a listener.

And I believe that those first two years were crucial for the child as well. She got to make permanent bonds with her parents that - Lord willing - will never, ever, ever break. But she is also ready to move on. Her first and primary inclination is to be inquisitive. We may as well have named her Georgetta. Secondly, she's sociable. Especially with people her size. She cried twice yesterday when we left two groups of neighborhood kids.

See how she gets along so well with others?

In short, three roads are converging right now, and they meet at Kedzie and Diversey at Diversey Day Care. Financially, we're about as ready as ever. Psychologically, I'm ready for the change. Socially, Joss is more than ready. Relationally, our family is ready.

Monday, July 13, 2009

RT Weekend: #1stdraftmovielines

A little late for the weekend, but have been wanting to do this since Saturday, so that counts, right? First, some of my favorites from others, and then the big letdown.

RT @timcarvell: "Play it for me, Sam. Play 'Pop Goes the Weasel'."
"Bond. James Bond, D.D.S."
"Badges? Wow, those'd be a great idea! I don't know why we didn't think to bring badges. Wait here. I'll go get some."
RT @urbanape: 'Who runs Bartertown?' 'Look, I told you. We're an Anarcho-syndacalist commune....'
RT @robcorddry: "Rosebud... My sled, Rosebud!";
"I'm Bruce Wayne! I mean... sh*t."

RT @GothamCityGeek: Get your stinking hooves off me, you da-ah-ah-ah-mned dirty sheep.
RT @SonOfND: "You had me at whaaassssuuuppp!"
RT @cariosity: "Skip, Forrest, skip!"
RT @hodgman "who rules swapmeet town? I, master blaster rules swapmeet town"

RT @jasdye: ""I find that you are lacking in the whole faith department. And, frankly, I'm a bit perturbed. Disturbed, even."
"Nobody puts baby in the spot where one wall meets another wall at a right angle!"
"You search every outhouse, henhouse, treehouse, farmhouse, doghouse until..." "Found him!" "Well, that settles that"
"Stella, are you upstairs? Can you come down here so we can talk this out like reasonable adults? Stella? C'mon Stella."
"Did you ever dance with the Devil to the Macarena in the pale moon light? I ask that of all my wedding guests."
"I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a baker, or even a candlestick maker."
"Heeeere's me again, trying to creep you out."
"We're on a mission from Todd."
"Tell him we've got a peanut butter & jelly sandwich he CAN'T refuse."

New one:
"If I have a straw that goes allll the way down the hall... d'ya think it'll qualify for Guiness Book of World Records?"

What's your favorite? Got any of your own? Add to the commentary in the comments.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Really Bad Sociological Analysis

While at the park yesterday I noticed that there are two girls by the name of Sophie who are both my daughter's age. I'm a bit curious about trends, so I'm trying to think of other girl names that are repeated for kids around her age. And it strikes me that I've met a lot of other Jocelyns - although a bit older (usually around five years old).

Factor in a couple other facts: 1) Sophie means "Wisdom", Jocelyn means "Joyous"; 2) Nannies brought the Sophies to the park, yet the Jocelyns are generally from lower-income Latino families. Therefore, we can surmise, rich people value learning and poor people would rather be happy.


Jonathan and Chris at New Community Covenant Church's Warming Center

Somehow that joke was funnier in my head. But as I was stewing it up, I was thinking about a misconception that I've been hearing quite a bit about recently. It's this idea that a multicultural/multiclass environment is good because it allows the poor (and, specifically in the cases that I'm familiar with, Black and Hispanic) to learn healthy work habits from the more affluent.

That is ignorance on so many levels. It supposes, again, that there is a superior type of people who's job it is to teach the less-fortunate. It supposes, again, that poor people are poor because of laziness or lack of knowledge.

These stereotypes are as old as the divisions at Babel, I guarantee. But that doesn't make them true. I would suggest to anyone to whom this may come as a revelation to get to know some poor people - or, better yet, a lot of them. And to be honest, vice versa.

We could all, after all, use a little learning.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Boys don't cry

I know that there's other, more important stuff in the news today. Like Derek Webb releasing his sh*t-filled record online today only to have complications with the ordering process. And Facebook is acting mighty peculiar - maybe because they're so busy turning our status updates over to the robots and general stalking populace.

But I got caught up in just how naive this couple is. Parents of a 2 1/2 year old child are being purposefully ambiguous about the sex of their child. They dress "Pop" up in both boys' and girls' clothing (jeans and dresses, which, incidentally, my 2 year old girl wears) and have sported the child in traditional hairstyles of both genders.

Why? Well, they believe that gender is a social construct, according to The Local (Sweden's News in English, according to the virtual masthead). Further:

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It's cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

The child's parents said so long as they keep Pop’s gender a secret, he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.
I will not argue that gender is not a social construct, just that it isn't fully. Nobody forces a boy to like a Tonka truck or to be more aggressive in his pursuits -- sometimes ostracizing girls - like my infinitely curious child- in the process of protecting their GI Joes, as I noticed at a Reading for Tots on Monday morn. Or ostracizing nearly everybody else in declaring their Alpha-ness as I noticed in my childhood - being quite the Zed kid. Neither my wife nor I are crazy about phones, so it strikes me as a bit odd on first view to see how much Joss loves to take just about anything (including plates, cups, stuffed monkeys and the loose cell phone) to pretend talking on it. As curious as she is about objects, she's much more interested in people and in social circumstances. It wasn't our expectations -- or others' -- that forced that on her.

What is it? I'm not sure. It doesn't sound like anybody's exactly sure. Some very heterosexual girls prefer playing with cars and straight boys would prefer to wear dresses if they get the chance (as many married men have been caught doing while the wife's away).

Psychologists differ on the overall effect of this experiment, but I'm left wondering why the same people who believe that gender is primarily 'learned' do not believe also that sexual identity is learned, but rather primarily biological.

Just sayin'...

Oh, yeah, and then there's the whole Xianjiang-China civil strife thing.

And some influential pop star died.

Monday, July 06, 2009

John Donne had some of these in his closet

Clearing through my mega-mess today and just found this throw-away poem from my latter undergrad days. Just a lark, I'm sure.

It's 7 in the mornin'
the sun come thru, it's warmin'
my head - roll outta bed
grab my dashiki
ain't got no time for eatin'
my cornflakes
i was late - in such a hurry
news caught me in a blurry
from a time last night
and my girlfriend cried
my brothers laughed
my mama almost had a heart attack
"Oh my,
I'm sorry mom"
what i guess i failed to mention
and i promise 'twas no intention
me and my dashiki
went out streakin'

Books I'm Crazy to Give Away for Sooo Free

Books are categorized as Christian, Education, YAL or whatever. Trying to get as rid of as many of these as soon as humanly possible. If you're interested in one or several, leave a comment on the blog, at my fb, twitter, email, wherever. If you can pick it up, awesomest! If I need to send it to you, could you please send a couple bucks for S&H (especially for the whole H thing). just trying to keep it as free for all as humanly possible. Allright? ttyl.

Christian: theology/practice/inspiration:
Adams, Jay E: Ready to Restore: The Layman's Guide to Christian Counseling
Augustine, St: Teaching Christianity
Campbell, Ernest T: Christian Manifesto
Green, Melody & David Hazard: No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green
McBride, Neal F: How to Lead Small Groups
McLean, Gordon: Cities of Lonesome Fear: God Among the Gangs
Johnson, Phillip E: Darwin on Trial
Piper, John: Future Grace
ibid: Taste & See
Schaeffer, Francis A: A Christian Manifesto
Sinsabaugh, Ginger: Help! I'm an Urban Youth Worker!
Strauch, Alexander: Biblical Eldership
Warren, Rick: The Purpose-Driven Life

Atwell, Nancy: In the Middle: New Understandings About Writing, Reading, and Learning
Charles, CM: Building Classroom Discipline
Clancy, Tom: Tom Clancy's Net Force: The Ultimate Escape
Cushman, Kathleen: Fires in the Bathroom
Eagleton, Terry: Literary Theory: An Introduction
Heward, William L: Exceptional Children: An Introduction to Special Education
Holden, James & John S Schmit, eds.: Inquiry & the Literary Text: Constructing Discussions in the English Classroom
Morenberg, Max: Doing Grammar (2nd Ed)
Rosenblatt, Louise M: Literature as Exploration
Selden, Raman & Peter Widdowson: Contemporary Literary Theory
Weaver, Constance: Teaching Grammar in Context
Wilson, Dr Eboni: Breaking the Cycle: From Special Ed to Ph D
Wong, Harry K & Rosemary T Wong: The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher

Young Adult/Children's Literature
Babbit, Natalie: Tuck Everlasting
Bligh, William: Mutiny on the HMS Bounty
Burroughs, Augusten: Running with Scissors
Howe, James: Bunnicula Strikes Again!
L'Amour Louis: The Burning Hills
Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird
Myracle, Lauren: ttyl
Myers, Walter Dean: Monster (several copies)
Myers, Walter Dean & Christopher Myers: A Time to Love: Stories from the Old Testament
Paulsen, Gary: The Crossing
Petry, Ann: Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad
Stroker, Bram: Dracula
Twain, Mark: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Verne, Jules: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Great Illustrated Classics)
Wolfe, Tom: The Right Stuff (poor)

Lansky, Bruce: The Very Best Baby Name Book
Ellis, Jack C: A History of Film
Noriega, Chon A: Shot in American: Television, the State and the Rise of Chicano Cinema
Cicero: On Oratory and Orators
Wood, William: Elizabethean Sea-Dogs
Reader's Digest, compiler, edit: Today's Best Nonfiction:
  • Ambrose, Stephen E: Undaunted Courage: Merriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West
  • Simon, Neil: Neil Simon Rewrites: A Memoir
  • Nesaule, Agate: A Woman in Amber: Healing the Trauma of War and Exile
  • Yates, Brock: The Critical Path: Inventing an Automobile and Reinventing a Corporation

The Passion of Soroya M. & The Adventure of Tedium

The Mrs. jasdye and I rarely go out to the flix these days. So no love for T2: the Crapocalypse or Revenge of the Moctezuma this year. However, we did check out two films within the last month that have made me think enough to rev up the ol' blog engines again.

Pixar does it again. I may not end up liking this movie as much as Wall*E, but then again, it's less heavy-handed (and doesn't tie up its producers in a two-faced lie about mass consumerism) and may end up getting an Oscar nod for best pic this year (thanks to the desperate - but perhaps well-timed - move by the Academy to extend the nominees to ten from five this last month). It's a fun movie, and I think it's more well-rounded than the writer/director's last one, Monsters, Inc. which didn't seem to have a real theme besides, "Little girls are cute and you shouldn't scare them." The theme of the adventure of the mundane, the idea that "It's the boring stuff that I remember the most," that really struck home with me. Because, mostly, I tend to be or around home a lot.

I'm kind of like a hobbit in that way.

The 3-D was cool. Joss was sitting between us and watched most of the movie with her glasses on. But then the Mrs. discovered that she fell asleep when she started leaning over - I was a little slow on that end. Didn't feel that they were over-reaching with the 3-D (like no dogs jumping out of the screen, that type of stuff) but it didn't really seem to further a purpose, either. Which I think is fine in for repeated viewings. In general, though, the movie looked good. Many wonderful colors, which I can't help but think were muted by the glasses/effects.

The Stoning of Soraya N.

Jim Caviezel in another The (Violent Act) of (Innocent Victim) movie. I'm sure there've been many parallels drawn by many critics. But I have not read their reviews, so I feel free to infringe my own comparisons.

* Jim Caviezel speaks a variant of ancient Persian.
* Middle east, under oppressive rule.
* Murderous mix of theocrats and more-or-less secular politicians scheming to save their hides.
* The titular act is relentlessly bloody and barely winces until the main character has died - leaving viewers rather breath-less.
* Lots of dry stones.
* Demonic arch-villain piling on the accusations and urging the blood-letting.

Though the movie is heavy-handed and not did not strike me immediately as very film-ic, the story is an intense thriller and offers a microcosm view of not just the Iranian countryside, but of any tribe that desires to put the interests of the powerful (usually men) over those of the voiceless (usually women). There is critique also of entertainment and media alternately triumphalising this violence and hiding it, of the legacy of the sins of the fathers, and of those who proclaim that their duties are the will of God yet are heedless to the voice of God.