Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Frontline .. Jesus in China

Watched a segment about the rise of Christianity in China. I have a friend who I worked with in Chicago whose family went through the Cultural Revolution when Chairman Mao came to power. Her father was an engineer and taken from the family to a work camp. They came to America in the 1980's. When I went to the Soviet Union (was still the Soviet Union), I went to many many Churches, Russian Orthodox Churches, with people literally crawling all over each other to pray. It was counter to what I was taught in school ... Communism=no religion. What I did find interesting was in Red Square and the Kremlin, the red star was specifically placed higher than the crosses of the churches in the Kremlin ... yes, there are churches in the Kremlin... within a stones throw of the government buildings.

Ok .. so China is such an interesting place, in many ways. When Mao took over, he banned all Churches, so they went underground. Christianity has been in China for a long long time. It came with missionaries of various faiths who travelled the hinterlands converting people. Now, China doesn't ban religion ..THEY CO-OPTED IT! There are government run Christian churches with government trained ministers. It was eye opening! If you can't beat, control 'em I guess. But, there are still many many underground Christian churches and there are more people at these "house churches" than go to the government churches. Can't blame them, really ... They literally will meet in holes in the wall and worship. The police crack down every now and then and detain ministers, mainly for harrassment purposes. The whole world is watching China, they can't start slaughtering Christians without repercussions from the rest of the world. Anyway, it was very interesting to see. I'm not overtly Christian, but am always interested in seeing how people find ways in their hearts to believe in something.

Ok, for kicks ... see my playlist over there??? Go click on the Internationale by Billy Bragg now ... it's appropriate.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Watched Frantic last night. Wasn't overtly Polanski, nothing really strange ... starred Harrison Ford, so it couldn't be weird. I can't think of any movie with Harrison Ford that could be construed as weird. The movie also starred Emanuelle Seigner, who happens to be Polanski's wife. Now, I would normally roll my eyes, but she's a good actress. And beautiful to say the least. The only on film I've seen her in was Bitter Moon, which kicked butt, again, directed by Polanski. I guess I was pleasantly surprised by the film overall. It had a tv movie feel to it, but I guess it did play in theatres. Tried to watch Chinatown afterward, but couldn't get past the opening credits ... sleepy me.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jude! Spoilers.

Finally got through Jude. It took me a few tries to get into it because of the English accents, and I will admit, that it put me to sleep a couple times. It's one of those movies that everything happens in the last 15 minutes. It's about 2 cousins who fall in love and .. gulp, have kids. They are already married to other people and are forced to move around because nobody will accept them. It's icky ... sure, but the ending ... spoiler alert, sorry ... Jude's son from his marriage, KILLS, his 2 step siblings and then hangs himself. The kid can't be anymore than 7 or 8 ... it was disturbing. I can't even say that I liked the film. I love Kate Winslet in most anything. She's a great great actress. But this film is just too ... too ... yuck. I deleted it off the tivo as soon as the credits rolled.

Started watching Polanski's Frantic. It has Harrison Ford in it ... dozed off about 20 minutes in.

Back to Kate Winslet for a moment. I love the film, Little Children. So good, great story and Jackie Earle Hailey! The little skinny kid from Breaking Away .. wow, what a great actor. Kate was superb as usual, but the thing that I took away from it more than anything was the narrator. It's the guy who narrates Frontline on PBS is the narrator for the film. Whoever thought of and got him to agree is brilliant! I watch it just for the narration. Yea, I'm weird.

Gotta go get me some David Sedaris books from our library. Librarian must read :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Eleanor Roosevelt on American Experience

I am ashamed of myself. When I was a young history student in college, I took one look at Eleanor Roosevelt and wondered how the heck could someone this homely be anything of importance ... yes, I'm ashamed of myself for thinking that way and I'll cop to the fact that as a late teenager/early twentsomething, I was a true idiot. Mind you, the name, Eleanor Roosevelt wasn't even mentioned during my high school career, maybe my idiot evolution would have reared it's ugly head sooner otherwise.

Ok, confession over. Mea Culpa.

American Experience ran this most excellent biography of this great lady ...GREAT LADY!!! Born rich, tragic little girl ... lost both parents young. Was the favorite niece of my favorite president, Theodore Roosevelt, whom terrified her (he gave her away at her wedding to FDR ... who was a cousin). Insecure personally, but what a dynamo professionally. I wanted to jump through my tv when they discussed J Edgar Hoover's disgust for Eleanor ... I guess her FBI file was over 3K pages long. He hated her because she ... perish the thought ... was a very early proponent for civil rights ... oh the horror!!! She was in charge of drafting the UN Declaration of Human Rights and she didn't budge much during the negotiations. She had to fight her way into the hearts of people (me included) and she managed to do it, each and every time, well, save that little cross dressing freak J. Edgar Hoover ... what a twerp. Her failings as a parent, it's really a shame, but her husband has to bear some of the brunt of that too. But she took it personally to her grave ... I doubt FDR did. Her own daughter betrayed her by arranging to have FDR's lover with him when he died, rather than Eleanor ... how awful.

God I love her. I wish they could give posthumus Nobel Peace Prizes because this woman, of all women, deserves one.

It took me 4 days to get through this 2.5 hour documentary. I kept falling asleep! I have a ton to catch up on ... still trying to get through Jude. It takes me awhile to get my ears used to listening to very heavy British accents. Also have 2 Polanski movies to get through.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Got through Swingtown

I realize that anything I write that is positive about this show will be misconstrued, similar to my writing on Roman Polanski (HE'S A STINKING WEIRDO, but he made the best holocaust movie ever).

Swingtown .. summer offering from, off all networks, CBS. It's about wife swapping swingers in the chicago suburbs during the 70's. Grant Show, who was Jake in Melrose Place, is the main character complete with the most cheesy mustache I've ever seen on a man ... worse than Burt Reynold's Smokey and the Bandit staches. He's a pilot, his wife, who is the coolest chick on tv, introduce their new neighbors to swinging ... as in to swing (my tribute to the czechoslovakian playboys from SNL). Anyway, the whole swinging thing isn't the main thing .... but boy it sure does hook you ... the sets, the food, the music (by Liz Phair !!!!), the lack of cordless phones, cell phones, computers ... cable tv ... even the color is muted ... people .. it wasn't that long ago, but boy, it might as well be from the last centur ... no, wait, it WAS the last century ... duh ... you know what I mean. I know, I'm old, but good lord, I remember this stuff! Oh man, I am old. Ok, now I'm completely depressed that I like this show.

It took me 2 tries to get through it ... that mustache just made my stomach turn. I've jumped that hurdle and will be watching again next week.

I have some movies set to tivo ... 2 by Polanski (Frantic and Chinatown). Have a Michael Winterbottom movie to watch too .. Jude.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Roman Polanski ....

Roman Polanski, Roman Polanski, Roman Polanski.

Watched this show on HBO called Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. I cannot say that I like his movies. I liked 2 of them, Bitter Moon and The Pianist, which is one of the best films ever made the THE BEST film on the Holocaust EVER made (better than that stupid tripe called Schindler's List ... thank you Steven Spielberg for makin Munich because I was about ready to chuck you into the bin). Polanski's movies, in general just deal with sex sex sex, not that I'm opposed to sex sex sex, but it just gets old. I haven't seen 9th Gate, guess I'll have to check it out. But anyway, Polanski has had an incredibly topsy turvey life ... Holocaust survivor, his wife and unborn baby butchered by the Manson family ... then, the idiot ... has sex with a 13 year old girl! KNOWING she was 13 ... accused of rape (rightly so), ends up in a long drawn out drama with a judge who cares more about publicity that administering justice. The 2 attorneys, the prosecutor and the defense attorney were very ethical and upstanding ... that judge, yuck. In any event, Polanski served 42 days in prison undergoing a psych exam and deemed not to be a dangerous sex offender. The judge didn't like that he spent 42 days in the pen and wanted him back in prison, so Polanski hopped a plane and never came back. He even had to have his Oscar for the Pianist (richly deserved!) taken to him in France by Jack Nicholson ... in whose house he had sex with the 13 year old ... euuuuu!

The 13 year old ... now a grown woman with 3 kids, has publicly forgiven Polanski (her mother agreed to let her go with Polanski, unaccompanied, to have her photos taken, sorry, but that was mistake numero uno) and a judge (the original judge was dismissed) even stated that all Polanski has to do is turn up in LA for sentencing and he won't have to go to jail (this is to just close the case as it is still unresolved in the system). Polanski, now in his 70's, won't come back because he doesn't want the hearing and sentencing to be on tv. So I guess the case won't be resolved until he's dead. Anyway, Roman Polanski is a werido, plain and simple. He admittedly likes young girls ... sicko ... but the Pianist is just a fabulous film. The film of his life and I will always love the film for what it is.

The documentary was well done. The 2 attorneys involved were amazing ... Gunson and Dalton, I believe are their names. Good men.

The Daily Show had a great guest by the name of Rick Shenkman on. He wrote a book called How Stupid Are We? Gotta check it out from the library. It discusses how willingly ignorant the American voting populace is or is becoming. Preaching to the choir here! It saddens me to no end how much like sheep some people are. Will write more once I read the book.

Re-read Saboteurs. I don't know why, but it really depressed me this time around, especially the stories of Herbert Haupt and Wolfgang Wergin. They were US citizens of German descent from Chicago who fled to Mexico because Haupt's girlfriend got pregnant. They ran out of money and since they didn't have US passports, they went to the German consulate in Mexico City for help. They ended up on a German freighter for work in Japan and then they ended up in France ... right after Germany declared war on the US after Pearl Harbor (nice timing!). They ended up with relatives in Germany, not knowing them and were conscripted into the German army ... they were US citizens. Haupt ended up volunteering for the mission to come into America to sabotage US sites. What he just wanted was to go home and saw this as his chance. He landed in Florida and hightailed it back to Chicago to see his family. Ended up getting caught by the FBI, tried and .... executed as a traitor. Wergin didn't want any part of the sabotage mission, so he was sent to the Russian front. He lived and was tried as a traitor and set free. What a story. I wish they would make a film about those 2. It would be fascinating.

Tried watching this new CBS show called Swingtown. Takes place in Chicago, so I'm hooked already, but it deals with the mid 70's swingers ... why???? Grant Show is a main swinger and he completely creeped me out so I couldn't watch it. I may try again as I tivo'd it. The whole show is filmed weird, like the color is off. Just strange.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

This American Life

It was the season finale!!!! Ugh!!! Oh well, last night's was magnificent. It was about 7 people named John Smith. Started off with John Smith, 2 months old ... so stinking cute! The parents thought he was going to be a girl. I love infant's eyes ... so full of wonder and innocence. No fear, no, I don't want another baby. Then an 8 year old John Smith who is a freaking genius, although that is never mentioned. A few other John's all the way up to 79 years old. The 70 year old John Smith lost his son to AIDS in 1988 and that was just sad sad sad. He just referred to his son getting into a lifestyle that he couldn't understand, but loved him right to the end. It was touching and I cried like a baby for the first time during the show. Then the 36 year old John Smith who was raised by a single mother who was dying of cancer ... ok, waterworks again. What a great show. The only issue I had was how Ira Glass introduces the show. He films himself with a handheld video camera. Last season, he was sitting at a desk and talked about the show ... the classic emphasis on the word, THEME, like THEEEEEEEEEMMMMMMM ... love it. Can't believe that was the entire season, bummer.

Tried to watch this show on IU's violin program, but had to delete the thing because I found myself feeling 2 ways while watching it, inadequate as a parent and stressed out watching these kids and their parents. Am I depriving my kids by not getting them into music now? I played clarinet, really well, I may add. Won 1st in state as a freshman in high school with an ensemble, got a perfect score when I was in 8th grade for my clarient solo (played The Carnival of Venice) ... but gave it up for sports after my freshman year, which I don't necessarily regret ... won lots of stuff in sports too and it got me into college, lord knows my academic record sure wouldn't :) I liked playing my clarinet .. to this day, I can't read music for crap, but I can still play that 8th grade solo from memory. Played by ear mostly .. could never figure out the difference between 3/4, 4/4, or 6/8. So there must have been some natural ability there somewhere. But what frustrates me is that every musician I've ever met has been great at math, which I am not .. not by any stroke of the word. Math hates me ... it's math that hates me. I tried to like it, but it shunned me like I'm one of those rotten tomatoes we are hearing about in the news. Now science ... hate science, never tried to like science .. science is like those rotten tomatoes. Nope, I'll stick with my history and social sciences.

Ok, so back to this IU thing. Josh Bell is from Bloomington. He's my age and he's the best violin player, well, maybe not the best, but he's the best known violinist. He's like the equivalent of a major rock star in violin circles ... he's my age .. he's my age ... he's MY AGE!!! Anyway ... these parents seemed like the pushy parents I see at these sports events I take my kids to. One family just wouldn't even consider putting all their kids in anything else. Like they have no choice in the matter. I don't know, it just made me feel like I'm a lousy parent for not being that pushy and insistent. I want my kids to have fun and try new things, be kids. I didn't start playing music until the 5th grade. My parents didn't push. I took this aptitude test and tested high, so the music teacher talked to my parents and they went with it. I think the little kids with little violins are cute as heck, but I look at the carvings on the body of the violin and they just look like dollar signs to me ... so anyway, I had to delete the thing before one of the parents turned to me and chastised me for not getting my kids into music RIGHT NOW!!! But IU does have a terrific program. We are fortunate to have the school of music so close to us. I remember riding a bike past the school when I was a graduate student and hearing all these wonderful noises. IU is great.

I also got word that they are cancelling Dirt ... not too upset by it. This season was disappointing. I blame the writers for making Don normal. Schizo Don made for better viewing and I'm ashamed to have written that.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Vanderbilts .. god love 'em

Since we are having a flood, I finished up watching Little Gloria: Happy at Last. I think that pre-stock market crash 1920's has to be my favorite time period. Gatsby, Cole Porter, flappers, Ziegfield. Of course, this means that if I transported myself back to that time, I'd have to have tons of money ... Vanderbilt money. Gloria Vanderbilt ... what a messed up childhood. I can't say that her mother was that great ... too selfish, but still. Bottom line is that you don't mess with people with money. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, who was no saint, used her money well, hey, that's who I could go back in time and be ... no, I think I'd love to be Jennie Churchill, Winston's mother, or Clara Bow ... too many to choose from! I remember being shocked when I heard that Anderson Cooper was Gloria's son ... she did a great job with him. He's so unassuming and down to earth ... even if he's firmly in the closet. But again, money buys good locks.

Just got my copy of the movie, Control. It's about the tragically short life of Ian Curtis, the lead singer for Joy Division (a song or 2 is on my playlist). The guy who played Curtis in 24 Hour Party People was spooky and the guy who plays him in Control looks even spookier. And what's funny is that the guy who plays Ian in Control was ALSO in 24 Hour Party People, just not playing Ian Curtis. Talk about ruining your movie career. Hope he got paid well. Samantha Morton plays Deborah Curtis, Ian's wife/widow. She's just a fabulous actress and it does my heart good to see that she's not that much of an ahhhhhhtist to take on roles like this one. Gotta figure out a time to watch it.

Speaking of 24 Hour Party People, what the heck in Michael Winterbottom doing these days? Party People is one of my favorite movies, but I kind of feel guilty for putting it on a top list because I'm biased because I love the music that came out of Manchester England during the 1980's & 1990's ... Joy Division/New Order, Smiths, Happy Mondays, Charlatans, Stone Roses. I love Winterbottom's Welcome to Sarajevo ... so underappreciated and soooooo good. It's one of Woody Harrelson's best roles. Not enough movies are made about the former Yugoslavia .. not enough attention is paid to what those people went through and the pain that they inflicted upon each other. I think I need to set up a Wishlist on my tivo for Winterbottom. There are probably things out there that I'm not paying attention to ... ugh, more to watch!!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Summer doldrums

I can't say that I've been watching a whole lot of anything lately. Daily Show is cool, as usual. I wish I could be more like John Stewart. So smart and disarming. He can make the most intense leader of a country downright likeable (President Mushareff in particular). Checked out the book, Saboteurs, from the library to re-read. It's about the attempted Nazi raids on America during WWII .. where the landmark Ex Parte Quirin case came out. Fascinating stuff.

I have a fascination with old monied families. The Vanderbilts, the Roosevelts, the Vanderbilts, the Vanderbilts .... I'm slowly watching Little Gloria, Happy at Last for the umpteenth time. Gloria being none other than Gloria Vanderbilt, the jeans gal and Anderson Cooper's mom. Me and Anderson were both born during the month of June in 1967, so that makes us .. well, nothing, but I still think it's cool. Watched an American Masters episode on Cole Porter. Not a fan really, but what a life. He's from Indiana you know? Grew up in Peru ... If you've seen DeLovely, Kevin Kline was very good as Porter ... Kline is an IU graduate.

Meant to tivo Swingtown, but missed it, dangit!

Fall season ... get here fast!!!