Friday, December 28, 2007

Gladwell, Bhutto, Clinton, and Obama

I've been reading Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink. Benazir Bhutto was murdered yesterday. Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama are running neck and neck in New Hampshire.

These are three seemingly unrelated sentences--but I'm trying to come to a clearer view of the world right now--and somehow or other I'm going to make these three sentences relate to one another.

I just finished reading the Warren Harding chapter in Blink. In this chapter Gladwell explains that we form subconscious views of people based solely on their looks. Harry Daugherty put a mediocre Warren Harding into the White House because he looked presidential where he served for two years as the worst president ever. He explains in this chapter that regardless of how we choose to think in our conscious mind, our subconscious is bombarded with images about who would be the best president. Some analysts think that John Edwards will come out on top in Iowa because he's the white guy. This seems so inconsistent with the way our country should decide on a leader. I'm not opposed to John Edwards--I'm actually concerned that I'm overlooking his politics because I'm excited by what it will say about our country if we finally elect an African American or a woman. Yes I said it!! I'm admitting that this does indeed play a factor in my interest or disinterest in a candidate. Am I wrong? Of course I am! But I will say this--after reading about the subconscious need for Americans to vote for a president that looks presidential--(tall, white, and handsome)--anyone who doesn't fit that mold and manages to break through the ranks must be something worth taking a second look at.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto hit me in the gut yesterday. After watching Charlie Gibson's War, I began to relate to who she was. In the movie, Gia is the President of Pakistan--after Benazir Bhutto's father was ousted and then sentenced to death. After living in exile, she came back to serve as Prime Minister of Pakistan. The rest of her biography can be read on a number of news releases, so I won't recap. Her life--all that she accomplished--contributes to how the world's subconscious views women in politics, women as revolutionary figures, and women in politics in the Middle East. Doesn't it make you wonder a bit when Argentina, Pakistan, England, India, and Israel have all had female presidents and people are still implying that our nation isn't ready for a female president yet? (Thank you Fred Thompson.)

I hear people talk about how they're fine with the idea of a woman president, but they're not okay with Hillary Clinton. That's fine. That's to be expected. But I wonder about the road to the White House for women in America. Could a woman plausibly run on the Republican ticket? Interesting thought. Right now there are 16 female Senators serving. I believe 5 are Republicans. Anyone remember Paula Hawkins? She was a Republican and a Mormon from Florida who served from 1981-1987.

I haven't figured out who I'm going to vote for yet. I will say this though--Hillary Clinton is undoubtedly the smartest of all the candidates. Is smart always effective? Maybe. But I'd prefer smart over obstinate.

As for Barak Obama--I love how he's running. I love the integrity with which he is running. But he's an African-American who smokes. How very un Warren Harding of him! Then again, having Oprah Winfrey on your side is bound to impact the unconscious opinion of many Americans.

I don't even want to talk about the Republican candidates right now. I'm sick the Republican Party. We've had 30 years to see what trickle down economics can do for our country--and I'm sorry--I'm not convinced. It's someone else's turn. In Washington, DC--the salaries of the upper class have sky rocketed, while the poor and middle class incomes are stagnating. The trickle can only trickle if people take the tax break and invest in their employees.

I'm grateful for brave people who's lives help me to change the way I unconsciously view the world. Whether Hillary Clinton wins or not--she's made a positive contribution to how we view leaders in America. And as for Bhutto--she's the poster image for a brave female leader.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Movies I enjoyed in 2007

Before I do a list of favorite movies, keep in mind that I haven't seen Juno, Waitress, Namesake, or even Transformers yet. I'm excited for all that my netflix will bring to me in the coming year.
So far--these are the movies that taught me something in 2007. These are the movies that inspired me to go home and reevaluate myself. There are some movies that I enjoyed like American Gangster and Bourne Ultimatum--but they didn't change my world in the same way that the movies I've listed below did. I'm going to list the movie and what I learned from the movie.

1. The Queen
This movie changed the way I view powerful people. I suddenly felt the urge to go walking everyday. I learned that knowing is better than being known.
2. Pan's Labyrinth
This movie taught me that life is the only thing that can be exchanged for life. Taking human lives for power or money is a horrible exchange. Giving your life to save a life is the only time that violence is not horrible and wrenching.
3. Breach
I learned that the best intentions cannot protect us from pride.
4. Ocean's Thirteen
I learned that watching hot men have fun is fun for everyone!
7. Hairspray
I learned that watching people having a wonderful time is exhilarating!
8. The Simpson's Movie
I saw myself as Homer and I journeyed with him to the north. Truly, an existential experience.
9. Stardust
I learned that Peter O'Toole and Robert DeNiro are both HIlarious!
10. 3:10 to Yuma
This whole "I learned" thing is getting old.
11. Michael Clayton
George Clooney was subtle and delicious and Tilda Swinton was divine!
12. Dan in Real Life
Again, that whole subtle and delicious card gets me every time.
13. August Rush
Okay--I've read the reviews of this film. I've read how this film was "implausible"--ya da ya da. Really folks? It's not realistic? Ya think? I suppose Star Wars is unrealistic too. Gimme a break! It's a movie! Let yourself get past whether it's realistic or not and just enjoy a good modern day fairytale about magic in music.
15. Enchanted
I had a marvelous time watching this movie. Didn't learn a thing. Don't think what's his name is hot in the least bit--but cleaning rats is funny. This movie warmed my heart. And watching Amy Adams cry over the divorcing couple made my heart melt.
17. The Golden Compass
I loved it. I left feeling a need to get to know myself better. Nicole Kidman's scene where she slaps her monkey was incredibly moving. It moved me to ask myself this haunting question: "Am I slapping my metaphorical monkey?" (I'm being completely serious--but the use of the phrase slapping the monkey is kind of cracking me up.)
18. Charlie Wilson's War
Oooh--what a nice bi-partisan look at how we screwed up everything. I'm not sure how this changes the way I view things in the middle east, but I think history is always the best place to look when we're trying to find our bearings.

And that's all I've got for now folks. More favorites to come!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Lexington, VA

I just got home from spending Christmas in Lexington, VA with the Larsen family. I always have a good time with their family. It's very relaxing, everyone is always laughing at something, and the food is divine. While I was there, I took some pictures of Lexington, home of Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute.

I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas. I wasn't able to go home this year, but I think my family had a good time without me.

I sent them funny tee-shirts and copy of Chris Clark's new movie Stalking Santa.

The Larsen's had a very nice Christmas program where we read about the birth of the baby Jesus, and then Lesley pulled out hair ties and she made everyone wear little bunnies in their hair. I had two right on top of my head. I looked like little Cindy Who, so I took some tape and pulled my nose up. Lesley looked like a unicorn and we won't even talk about how she looked with her nose taped up. I don't know that I've ever laughed so hard. Her nieces and nephews were so much fun. And her brother Fred sat and let his daughter Emily and Lesley put 12 little bunnies in his hair.

I would post these pictures, but I think I'd better not publish them on the world wide web just yet.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Lion in Winter

I've been alone in the house since Saturday afternoon. I've basically grounded myself until I get my papers graded and the grades turned in, but how could I miss the opportunity to run amok when I had the house to myself?!

So yesterday, I had a small dinner party where I cooked a roast. The roast needed to cook all day. It just wasn't as good as I wanted it to be, but everyone was very nice about it. (Liars!!)

After everyone left I sat down and finally got around to watching The Lion in Winter. Among my favorite lines was this gem: "Of course he's got a knife! It's 1183 and we are barbarians!" The movie was hilarious and touching. As an actor I was overwhelmed by the brilliant tit for tat that Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close were enjoying in playing off of one another. There's something amazing that happens when an actor is less concerned about their own singular performance and more concerned with what they can create as an ensemble of giving artists.

I highly recommend this to anyone who hasn't seen it yet.

I watched another movie with Glenn Close this weekend entitled Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her. I didn't plan for this to be a Glenn Close weekend, but Netflix had other plans I guess. I wasn't crazy about this movie. I loved the acting, loved the writing, but the whole piece just didn't quite do it for me. I enjoyed that the man who made the movie was able to capture exactly how subtle and complicated women can be, but I left the movie feeling--well, feeling like a man who understands that women are complicated and knows that understanding that women are complicated is the only real anchor I will ever grasp.

I appreciate the respect that Rodrigo Garcia has for women, and I appreciate the understanding that I now have of the confusion that men feel about women--because at the end of the movie I was left with a lot of images and storylines and no real consensus as to how to assemble this jumble of impressions.

So to put it concisely, this movie about women helped me to more fully grasp how confused men are by complicated women.

I have graded countless assignments this weekend--but I'm on the home stretch. I will have my students' grades posted before Santa gets here! Merry Christmas Virginia! You're getting a D!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


For Christmas this year, we decorated the house rather well. I'm putting up some pictures of the house, but it doesn't quite capture the grand results. Right now, I'm trying to blog and watch The Lion in Winter (2003) as I blog. It's difficult because I am really enjoying the movie.

Here are the pics.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Maiden Voyage

I've been trying to figure out how to send Christmas cards out this year, and I thought I'd explore the world of e-cards, but instead I got distracted and started a blog.

This is it.

I'm excited to share all of my crazy opinions and thoughts with all of you!

But right now, I'm at a loss for words. This whole first post thing is a little scary.