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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Undaunted

It's been a roller coaster ride these last few days. Up, down, and sideways.

Of course, my favorite movie clips is this one, from the movie Parenthood (1989) ...SO much better than the TV series it so recently spawned...



The roller coaster, of course, is life.

We're all ready for Christmas. There's presents to put under the tree, food to put on the table.

Yesterday, after reaching an absolute emotional top, things plummeted.  After driving two hours to get in to see my son, and waiting an hour in line to get into the facility, I was the second car to be turned around because they'd met their (newly reduced) visiting quota for the morning.   I had three choices:  I could come back at 12:15 and take my chances again.  I could pull over off the road and start the line for the next visit (almost 4 hours away) or I could go home.  My son called me, and told me to go home.  I did.

When I got home, I had blow number two:  I went to pick up the girls to do their grocery shopping (it was food stamp day) only to find that their food stamps hadn't been applied to their card. They can call on Monday to see what happened, but I doubt anything will be done to rectify this until the new year.

I was able to use the $15 (in quarters) that I had reserved to buy my son lunch (they use vending machines, and you can only bring quarters into the facility, nothing else) to get them some apple juice, soups, yogurt and yes, I splurged and got a chocolate bar for them to split, since Cay wasn't feeling well, and said all she wanted in the world right then was chocolate.

This morning I've split my food again (except for the Christmas stuff) and will be bringing a bag over to them, and Tuesday morning, bright and early, We'll be doing the one thing I'd hoped to not ever have to do again:  Stand in line at the food pantry with 400+ other people waiting for a holiday food basket (which we won't use for the holidays, but will keep us fed until the Social Security comes in next month).

Tay is already despairing over how to pay the electric bill AND buy food.  I'll be walking them through the LIHEAP application, as well as likely driving them to food pantries and helping out with food as I can.

Now the weekend isn't all dismal.  Last night we went to see the living nativity at the Baptist Church (see previous post) and today we'll be going to the dog park and meeting up with some of the seniors from my complex and their dogs.  Tomorrow I'll be going to a choral concert, Tuesday will be "downer day" with the food pantry, Wednesday will be Christmas Eve and we'll be doing the Canyon Road walk in the evening (caroling, cider, farolitos) and of course the following day will be Christmas!

I posted about the Canyon Road walk last year, and found this video on YouTube (by another user) from the year before:



This year I'll definitely try to catch more video footage, and some of the caroling as well. We're also bringing the dogs this year, which will add some fun for everyone. Cinnamon (my dog) really thrives on attention, and was so happy during La Posadas that I think she'll really enjoy the evening on Canyon Road.

The post-Christmas let down is likely to hit hard with the financial crunch (unless social services can get the food stamps to the girls), and will likely involve a few food pantry trips. But then New Years comes... and we haven't even thought about how we are going to celebrate that yet!  I do, however, have one bottle of sparkling grape juice up in the cupboard that the kids didn't drink at Thanksgiving, so maybe instead of pulling it out for Christmas, I'll save it for New Years Eve.

Life is a roller coaster.  It's got all it's breathtaking heights and frightening plunges... they seem to go hand in hand.  The trick is to remain undaunted by the falls and head toward the elation of the heights.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Living Nativity

One of the things Cay missed most about Albuquerque was the Christmas celebration in Old Town, and especially the living Natvity at Filipe de Neri Church, so I was happy to find, earlier this week, a sticker ad on the newspaper for the First Baptist Church's living nativity here in Santa Fe.

As it turns out, this was no small production.  The church creates a comprehensive scene, with different areas of the grounds set up as different parts of the nativity story.  There is a "merchant's village" where the villagers were conducting business unaware, while Roman soldiers roamed the street.  There was a field of sheep and shepherds, and of course the stable and nativity scene itself, with multiple levels of building where angles looked down onto the scene.  This year they even added a camel.

The bactrian camel was quite the draw.  Both girls were amazed at how large it was.







Heading toward the church hall, farolitos  lined the walkway and fires were lit in the merchant village:



Across from the stable is the field where the shepherds watched over the sheep:


Inside the church hall, the choir and children's choir sang while visitors enjoyed cookies, hot cider and hot coffee.





The living nativity is an annual event put on by First Baptist Church of Santa Fe.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Wrong -un

image: Sony Pictures
Suddenly, this movie that was pretty much universally panned by the critics who saw it is at the top of the news.

Color me bemused. 

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing.  First, I thought the movie itself was likely in very bad taste.  It uses the assassination of a current leader (loathed as he is) as the vehicle for a comedy.  It's not satire.  It doesn't rely on the dictator in question being Kim Jung-un... he's just an easy mark.  It's just a stupid Seth Rogen comedy that had all the earmarks of a total flop.

 Unlike his character, however, Rogen, along with Goldberg and screenwriter Dan Sterling, display a lack of clarity in their aspirations and pretensions with this film, a comedy that never quite reconciles its comedic absurdity with its initially provocative scenario.  - Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine

Now I think that there is a place for making fun of Kim Jung-un... and it's done often enough in TV, without the virtual violence the hackers (who remain unknown, although today the FBI said that North Korea was at the bottom of it all, while also saying that they haven't ruled out that the hackers used by N. Korea may well have had inside help at Sony). 

Certainly Chaplin's The Great Dictator successfully and meaningfully took aim at Adolf Hitler... and presented a message to the world that still rings true today:


And as loathsome as it is and as universally reviled to use the death of a sitting leader as a vehicle to explore the way America has responded threats from the middle ease, Death of A President (2006) became an award winning film (mockumentary)  criticizing America for the very thing that came to be:  extreme racial profiling.

Most of the critics I've read so far don't see any of those social statements being made by The Interview... just the use of a testy foreign leader who is likely to take offense as a vehicle in a film that's short on meaning but has "plenty of dick and fart jokes" (Twitch ... note that the review was amended to contain commentary on the current situation) Twitch is the exception, labeling the movie as "satire", but failing to come up with any real reason within the movie that it should "deserve to be more than a footnote"

So does this movie warrant what has happened?  No.

Here's my summary:

  • N. Korea over-reacted.  This movie would have likely disappeared if not for the hacking of Sony.  And of course, it was a MOVIE, not an international attack.  And it was a STUPID COMEDY, not a threat against North Korea, not even sufficiently insulting to Kim Jung-un... not to be taken seriously.

  • Was the damage done by the cyber attack?  Yes.  Absolutely.  And information released that harmed Sony employees.

  • Was that cyber attack a nation threat?  That's a different story.  Let's face it, if N. Korea thought that this movie really represented American Policy... really believed this was an Act of War, there would have been attacks beyond Sony Pictures, and they wouldn't have let up once the movie was pulled.

  • as there a real, physical threat?  The FBI and State Department say no.  I'm inclined to believe them.

  • Were the theaters right in refusing to show the film?  Possibly.  I understand them not wanting to be hacked, but I think it was kinda cowardly.  However, judging by the critic's response to the film, they possibly had more to lose than gain by showing the film.

  • Was Sony right to pull the film?  No.  The damage had been done, there was no physical or safety threat, and having MADE the film and having gone through with the movie despite the hacks, they have the obligation to the film industry to NOT buckle and make the movie available to whoever would show it... or see it.
  • Ultimately what North Korea has accomplished is two things:  First, pulled the strings on American media. That's the worst part.  We shouldn't allow ourselves to be censored, especially by a foreign country.  There are better ways for a nation to make it clear that this movie was in bad taste.  Possibly the best way would be to ignore it and let it go the way of Ishtar (one of the movies that has been almost totally forgotten but was often seen as the most worthless movie ever filmed).   Second, N, Korea has successfully made it so MORE people want to see this film than would have been interested before.  Instead of it being a "dick and fart" movie, it's now a symbol of how America should not buckle under to foreign dictators.... and even those who had never heard of the film before, have now heard about it and taken a stand over it (one way or the other).  NOT showing it has had the opposite effect than North Korea had apparently planned.

    And ultimately, Sony can still cash in on this.  There are plenty of independent theaters who are clamoring to show the film.  But it's not being offered at this point.

    There are thousands of small independent theatres across the country, like my own, that would gladly screen THE INTERVIEW, regardless of the threats from North Korea, but instead of shifting the film to those venues, Sony has cancelled its scheduled Christmas rollout entirely. George R.R. Martin writes in his blog Not A Blog:
    I haven't seen THE INTERVIEW. I have no idea how good or bad a film it is. It might be hilarious. It might be stupid and offensive and outrageous. (Actually, I am pretty sure about the 'outrageous' part). It might be all of the above.

    That's not the point, though. Whether it's the next CITIZEN KANE or the next PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, it astonishes me that a major Hollywood film could be killed before release by threats from a foreign power and anonymous hackers.
    What is even more disturbing to me (and the reason I continue to feel strongly that this movie, which I had absolutely no interest in up until the hacking) is that now other production companies are following suite.    Here in Santa Fe, George R.R. Martin's theater (Jean Cocteau Cinema) offered a venue to show the movie, and when refused, decided to show Team America: World Police instead.  However, now Paramount is now "banning" the viewing of Team America: World Police. George R.R. Martin calls it craven.

    It's worse than that.