Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Devil Wears Prada

My review of The Devil Wears Prada was recently uploaded at Jeffrey Overstreet's Looking Closer site.

Ritz Waltzes to Victory

Well, thanks to everyone who voted. If I do that again, I think I'll make it shorter (8 entries instead of 16).

In honor of the winner, here are the lyrics from (See hyperlink below)

Puttin' On The Ritz Lyrics

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Send Irving Berlin polyphonic ringtone to your cell phone

Have you seen the well-to-do
Upon Lennox Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air

High hats and narrow collars
White spats and fifteen dollars
Spending every dime
For a wonderful time

If you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where Harlem flits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Spangled Gowns upon the bevy of
High browns from down the levy
All misfits
Puttin' on the Ritz

That's where each and every lulu-belle goes
Every Thursday evening with her swell beaus
Rubbin' elbows

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz

------ short instrumental break ------

(Boys, look at that man puttin' on that Ritz)
(You look at him, I can't)

If you're blue
And you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where Harlem flits
Puttin' on the Ritz
Spangled Gowns upon the bevy of
High browns from down the levy
All misfits
Puttin' on that certain Ritz

That's where each and every lulu-belle goes
Every Thursday evening with her swell beaus
Rubbin' elbows

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz

------ piano solo ------

Come with me and we'll attend their jubilee
And see them spend
Their last two bits
Puttin' on the Ritz

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What's Best?: Learning to Crawl or Puttin' on the Ritz?

Well, if I've learned anything from this experiment it's...that I shoulda made a shorter, 8 entry tournament instead of 16 (over in a week).

But if I've learned anyhing else, it's don't underestimate the power of music, even when polling people you mostly meet on a film forum. Beating up on Buford Pusser is one thing; beating up on Natalie Portman (with hair) is something else. And I didn't think anything could stop Se7en (though the Dixie Chicks sure gave it a shot). So, for the record....

"What's the Best of the Betters?": "Puttin' on the Ritz" or Learning to Crawl?

"What's Better?" Semifinal #2; Se7en vs. Learning to Crawl

This one is hard to call. Se7en lingered in a dead-lock with the Dixie-Chicks, actually trailing in OT before a late equalizer sent it through on goal differential.

The Pretenders have been methodically dispatching of the competition, but are people really going to want to musical works in the final? That's anyone's guess.

"What's Better?": Learning to Crawl or Se7en?

P.S. And yeah, I know this isn't the album cover for Learning to Crawl, but I was getting tired of the same visual.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What's Better Semifinal: Puttin' on the Ritz v Inconvenient Truth

On paper, this looks like a mismatch. "Puttin' on the Ritz" rolls into the semifinals with the most cumulative votes of any entry, An Inconvenient Truth seems to be following the Jim Valvano mantra of "survive and advance." Still, we all know what happened when Valvano's Wolfpack took on the mighty Phi-Slamma-Jamma, don't we? I think it may take that kind of upset.

Nevertheless, for a spot in the finals, I ask:
"What's Beter?": An Inconvenient Truth or "Puttin' on the Ritz"?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What's Better? Quarterfinal #4: Penguins v Pretenders

Ah, thought I had forgotten about those pesky Penguins, did you? No, I just needed to give the Pretenders a break in between their first set and their first (and last?) encore. The Penguins may have marched past the Flight of the Phoenix, but the Pretenders crawled all over Walking Tall So who's the favorite to take the last semi-final slot? Let's find out...

What's Better?: Learning to Crawl or The March of the Penguins?

Monday, July 17, 2006

"What's Better?" Quarterfinal 3: Dixie Chicks vs. Se7en

Well here are a pair of heavy hitters. It seems like even those who begrudge the Chicks their political views grittingly admit they make some good music. And even those who find Fincher's flick full of nihilistic despair still think it professionally and artfully made.

So, "What's Better": The Dixie Chicks or Se7en?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What's Better? Quarterfinal #2: Portman v. Truth

Quarter-Final #2 pits Natalie Portman in Revenge of the Sith v. An Inconvenient Truth.
Now, granted, one is an actress who appeared in what has to be one of the twenty or so highest grossing movies of all time, but the other features a man who did receive more votes for president than the man currently residing in the oval office. So to even things up, I pulled up another publicity photo, one without those honeybun hair braids.

Okay, let's make this official. Web surfer's, "What's Better?":
Natalie Portman in Revenge of the Sith or An Inconvenient Truth?

Let Us Now Praise Dying T-Shirts...

Found a rip in my Kudzu Film Festival 2000 T-Shirt while folding laundry today.

How very sad.

The T-Shirt always strikes me as a poor way of trying to commemorate a memory you don't want to forget. It rarely lasts longer than the memory itself.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"What's Better?" Quarterfinal 1: Redick v Ritz

Today's quarterfinal match pits one winner that went through unopposed and one of the higher vote getters in the first round. Incidentally I drew all the winners out of a hat to have a totally random draw for the the second round.

So today's question is, "What's Better?": J. J. Redick or "Puttin' on the Ritz"?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What's Better: Round 1: Match 8 (Learning to Crawl v Walking Tall)

Well, for me this is a no-brainer, but I'm only batting about .500 in this tournament, so who knows the eclectic tastes of the surfer's by.

On one hand we've got (is it fair to call this) the breakout album of Chrissie Hynde & Co, featuring such memorable ditties as "Watching the Clothes Go Round" and "Middle of the Road."

On the other hand we have the original Buford Pusser biopic anchored by the peformance of Joe Don Baker in the role many think he was born to play.

So, to close out the first round, I ask, "What's Better?"
Learning to Crawl or Walking Tall?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What's Better: Round 1: Match 7 (24 v 7)

Here's a battle of two works that generally are well respected amongst people whom I otherwise consider sane.

I got about 1/2 way through 24 Season 1 and found it outlandishly silly. I watched Se7en and found it morbidly gross. Yet each work has passionate fans that insist that it elevates the genre it inhabits.

So I ask, "What's Better?"

24 or Se7en?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What's Better: Round 1: Match 6

We've had the Dixie Chicks, we've had J.J. Redick, so what else engenders strong emotions? Al Gore and the Vietnam War for two.

An Inconvenient Truth is described on IMDB as follows: A documentary on Al Gore's campaign to make the issue of global warming a recognized problem worldwide.

A Bright Shining Lie is described on the same site this way: True story of Army man John Paul Vann, whose military success provided him the fulfillment he never found in his personal life.

Like in the battle between Takin' it to the Streets and Puttin' on the Ritz, though, this one isn't just about the individual works of art. It's about whether or not what is represented by each title, conceptually, is preferable to that which is symoblized in the other.

So, I ask, "What's Better?"
An Inconvenient Truth or A Bright Shining Lie?

Monday, July 10, 2006

What's Better: Round 1: Match 5 (Redick v Riddick)

As we pass the 1/2 way point of the first round, there are still some interesting challenges to go.

Today's battle is anyone's guess. In one corner we have a former Duke star (now with the Orlando Magic). In the other corner, we have a science-fiction extravaganza with Vin Diesel and Judi Dench (no, that's not a typo).

Sooooooooo...What's Better?:

J.J. Redick or The Chronicles of Riddick?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What's Better: Round 1: Match 4

Today's matchup features two contenders you don't want to mess with, each with a lot more grit and determination than you might think at first glance. So, "What's Better?": Dixie Kong or the Dixie Chicks?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

What's Better: Round 1: Match 3

Well I think I know who'll win this one, but after yesterday's shocker, who can tell? So without futher ado, what's better:

"Puttin' on the Ritz" or "Taking it to the Streets"? (Remember, it's not just the's the idea, the concept, the meaning of it all.)

P.S. Looks like we have a tie going for yesterday's vote, so we'll leave it with a golden goal situation--next vote (for either Natalie Portman) is the winner.

The Long Loneliness (210-235)

This section is given the title "Community."

I feel a resistance in myself when Day speaks of the poor. Resistance to what? I'm not sure. Often, if I parse her sentence, I find I agree with the meaning, for example when she writes:

"As Peter saw it, to live according to Gospel simplicity meant that you begged when you were in need and by this you gave the opportunity to the rich to become poor for Christ's sake. 'Appeals, not demands,' was another of his slogans."

The slogan resonates, and I have a hard time atriculating anything conceptually wrong with the passage (other than, perhaps, I'm suspicious of any understanding of "Gospel" anything that can be reduced to a slogan or focuses exclusively on our material goods). I do know that while reading it (and this section) I find myself mildly bored and vaguely irritated. Is this my conscience being pricked (and me not liking it)? Is it my sniffing a problem (but not putting my finger on it)?

Day speaks of advocating detachment from unecessary luxuries (cigarettes, beer, cosmetics, television, movies, radio) and using the savings to buy a farm. In this, she doesn't sound that much different from an investment columnist for Motley Fool who speaks of tracking your entertainment budget to increase savings. But she recognizes that there will always be illnesses, emergencies, things that may impoverish those who have not necessarily been profligate.

Maybe I just grate my teeth at the ease with which an "unecessary luxury" is defined. (Are there "necessary luxuries," I wonder?) I had a student once who was working on a speech that argued that Christians should not go to the movies, and one of her arguments was to point to all that could be done with the money Christians spent on movies if it were given to missions. Nice thought. Of course, she was on the basketball team, and I asked her how much money she had spent in her life on athletic shoes, equipment, tickets to games, seminars, etc. There really is a tyranny of the utilitarian argument.

Day's not naive, though. She recognizes many of the problems and possible contradictions in the actions she chronicles (her's and others'). One should embrace voluntary poverty...but a man is someone who should provide for his family. One should give profligately...but one should also save frugally.

Over all my reading, I suppose, is an enculturated attitude towards "the poor." I remember coming out of a theater many years ago after having seen Hoop Dreams and being behind two late middle-aged women and hearing one tsk-tsk that they couldn't pay their electric bill but "they all had televisions and $300 sneakers." I hoped I would never become so...(what was the word I thought, or did I even finish the thought?)...out of touch?...snobbish?...racist?....selfish? Since then I've learned that as one moves slowly up the food chain, calls for voluntary poverty can be received in a different spirit than when one has, relatively speak, generally less than one's neighbor.

Day does not romanticize the life of service or voluntary marginalization, and I appreciate that fact. She speaks of it as being hard and, at times, disappointing. Like others, though, she speaks of its rewarding aspects. Yet she often speaks of the hardships with more skill, detail, and pathos than she does of the rewards. I wonder if this is a function of a life of trying to get the blinded to see and feel the suffering around them and of less contemplation on the joys (whatever they may be).

Take, for instance, the passage where Day relates of a a farming commune in Northern Minnesota: "It was a grim experience, though all seem now to look back on their days there with nosalgia" (232). Here she speaks of her friend's philosophy of work: "But because of the Fall the curse is laid on us of having to earn our bread by the sweat of our brows, in labor. St. Paul said that since the Fall nature itself travaileth and groaneth. So man has to contend with fallen nature in the beasts and in the earth as well as in himself. But when he overcomes the obstacles, he attains again to the joy of creativity. Word is not then all pain and drudgery" (227).

In both of the passages cited above, the drudgery, the pain, the grimness of the experience seem so much more palpable and real than the abstract nostalgia and the joy of creativity. I'll be the first to admit that I have a gloomy disposition, so perhaps these phrases are just on a frequency I am more attuned to hearing. I was thinking, though, that I was reading Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking in another context, and she does an excellent job of conveying the satisfactions or joys that can come with hard, painful, sacrificial giving as well as chronocling just how bad those less fortunate than her readers have it.

Or so it seems to me. There is, of course, always the possibility that I resist out of my own continued selfishness to distance myself from the poor and the call to love them.

What's Better: Round 1: Match 2

Is bald beautiful? Or are honeybuns sweeter than honey?

What's better? Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta or Natalie Portman in Revenge of the Sith?

Friday, July 07, 2006

What's Better: Round 1: Match 1

Okay, over at Arts&, I was lamenting the apparent disappearence of one of my favorite time wasting web sites,

The premise of the site was that you got two people, items, concepts, places, and you clicked on which one was better. Judging by the response to the A&F thread, it looks like I wasn't the only one who missed it.

So, to further promote numbingly mindless comparisons, I thought I'd try having a "What's Better?" tournament. I'll post 1 pair per day and see if I get any comments. Whichever pair gets the most votes (in the comment option) moves on. If there are enough responses, I might even make it double elimination. If there are no responses, I may just quit.

So here's your first "What's Better?" match up:

What's Better?
The March of the Penguins or The Flight of the Phoenix?

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Long Loneliness (182-210)

Okay. I like The Long Loneliness, really...

can you sense the "but" coming?

I've forgotten if the original list given by Renovare was called "Spiritual Classics" or "Devotional Classics" and I'm occasionally puzzled by the incorporation of some of the more autobiographical works into a category of devotional literature.

Hmmm...will have to look that up.

I have no notes on the chapter entitle "Paper, People, and Work." None.

Onto the section entitle "Labor."

Day says of Christ, "He spoke of the living wage, not equal pay for equal work in the parable of those who came at the first and the eleventh hour" (205). Interesting point. Intuitively I wanted to insert the phrase "minimum wage" for "equal pay for equal work." I wonder if this was a loose phrase or if there is a sense of this passage that I'm missing.

Ah, here's the passage, I had marked as the most troublesome for me:

"He died between two thieves because He would not be made an earthly King [....]His teaching transcended all the wisdom of the scribes and pharisees, and taught us the most effective means of living in this world while preparing for the next" (205).

One of the things I appreciate about Foster's Streams of Living Water, upon which parts of the Spiritual Formation Workbook seems to be grounded is the idea that in the different emphases of different traditions there is wisdom that can be gained. I have a deep respect for those brothers and sisters who have practiced in or advanced the Social Justice tradition, but I confess my knee-jerk, rigorously drilled I-V doctrinal, evangelical response to the first sentence was "Oh, is that why he died? I thought it was to wash away the sins of the world." I understand the two are not mutually exclusive, but I do remain concerned that in the writings that I would associate with the Social Justic tradition, Jesus can sometimes come across as a great teacher-thinker-exemplar (all of which he is) but a bit fuzzy on the whole Messiah-savior thing.

And yet...

So many who are advanced or practiced in the Social Justice tradition do (or appear to do) such a better job at following Jesus's teachings than I do that one feels a bit Pharisaical to question them on doctrine.

That being said, I'd feel on a bit firmer ground if there was a bit more about God/Jesus here and a bit less about the Catholic Daily Worker. But that's just back to the main point, which is that the subtitle is "Autobiography" of Dorothy Day, not the "Devotions of Dorothy Day."

Post Script--A search back to Renovare's page indicates that they do indeed label the list "Spiritual Classics" not "Devotional Classics"

Saturday, July 01, 2006

World Cup 86

My brother and me on the way to the Mexico-Bulgaria knockout game in 1986. No way we were getting mistaken for Bulgarians at the Estadio Azteca. (I'm the one in red.)