Published on: May 20, 2011
When it comes to environmentalism, everybody wants to get into the act. (With apologies to Jimmy Durante...)Bloomberg
reports that “the first redesigned ammunition for the Army’s standard rifle in more than 30 years is faster, can penetrate concrete and is deadlier to people than the round it replaces. It’s also lead-free, making it safer for wild animals while reducing environmental clean-up costs amid tightening federal budgets.”
Don’t know about you, but I feel much better.
This is politically incorrect, but my favorite headline of the week is this one:Starbucks Sued By EEOC For Firing Dwarf
There must be a Randy Newman song in there somewhere...
(To be fair, the dwarf requested a stool so she could reach the coffee-making equipment. Not only did the store manager not give her the stool, but the manager fired her. The EEC maintains that this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
I think Will Ferrell is a very funny guy, but I find him funnier in short batches; there is something about many of his movies that feels like they are a really good “Saturday Night Live” skit that can’t quite be sustained for two hours. I know I’m in the minority, but my favorite Ferrell movie is Stranger Than Fiction
, the terrific Marc Forster movie about an uptight IRS agent (Ferrell) who inexplicably finds his life - and death - being narrated by an author in his head (Emma Thompson). It is nuanced, charming, extremely smart and also features excellent supporting performances by Dustin Hoffman and an almost impossibly sexy Maggie Gyllenhaal.
It’s been five years since Stranger Than Fiction
, and so it was with great enthusiasm that I went last weekend to see Ferrell’s newest movie, Everything Must Go
, an extraordinary piece of work based on a Raymond Carver story and written/directed by Dan Rush. Ferrell contributes a delicate and subtle performance as Nick Porter, a salesman struggling with alcoholism who finds himself, on a single day, fired from his job and locked out of his suburban Phoenix home by his wife, who has fled with every intention of divorcing him.
Porter finds that his wife has put all of his belongings on his front lawn, and he responds to that by taking up residence there and deciding to hold a yard sale. But this is no farce; it isn’t even a comedy, though it does have some bittersweetly amusing moments. I daresay that Ferrell’s performance could even be characterized as brave, since he never goes for the cheap laugh or even looks for audience sympathy. He’s a sad, lost, pathetic figure, looking for a light at the end of the tunnel but seeing only tunnel. And yet, we stay with him, hoping he’ll find redemption.
In addition to Ferrell, the film has a glowing performance by Rebecca Hall as a neighbor who is inexplicably intrigued by Ferrell’s character, and Christopher Jordan Wallace as a local kid who becomes Ferrell’s unexpected confidant.Everything Must Go
is a second cousin to The Company Men
, the Ben Affleck-Tommy Lee Jones movie from earlier this year about the impact of corporate downsizing, but it is infinitely better ... more ambitious, and less facile. I loved it. And I hope Ferrell does more work in this line, not less.
“Tabloid City” is the new novel from one of my favorite writers, Pete Hamill, and it is about two of his great loves - New York City and the newspaper business. The book takes place over a period of a day, and captures a series of stories from the perspectives of a wide range of characters - a policeman, a blind artist, a socialite, a hedge fund crook, a wounded veteran - who have specific voices, reflecting vastly different life experiences. First among equals are a Muslim terrorist with plans for an attack on the culture he loathes, and Sam Briscoe, editor of a New York City afternoon tabloid newspaper about to go out of business, which he sees as a kind of death of one of the great metropolitan traditions. (Briscoe has been resurrected by Hamill, who wrote about him decades ago in a trio of hard-boiled thrillers. But the world has changed, and Briscoe is older, wiser and a more sober character than in the earlier books.)
The language is at once crisp and poetic, and you can tell that Hamill spent much of his career as a newspaperman - he loves the color of the streets, the language of the city, and it seeps through every page. Some reviews have characterized “Tabloid City” as a thriller, but I don’t see it that way; rather, I’d call it an engrossing, meditative snapshot of a city and culture in the middle of change. Hamill may not like all the changes, but it’s still the city he loves, and always will.
My wines of the week are...
• The 2009 Leone d’ Oro Gavi, a crisp white Italian wine made from 100 percent Cortese grapes that is perfect with seafood or pasta.
• The 2004 Cantina Terlano Nova Domus Riserva, a blend of Pinot Blanc (60%), Chardonnay (30%) and Sauvignon Blanc (10%) that is elegant and full bodied - we had it with a pork roast, and it was great.BTW...the latter wine is one of the May selections from the MNB Wine of the Month Club. For more information, about this new MNB offering CLICK HERE.
MNB readers will know that over the years, in a variety of different contexts, I’ve addressed the question of belief vs. unbelief ... it must be the Jesuit education, but I keep coming back to it time and again. I find the notion of faith to be fascinating, and am intrigued by the gap - or chasm - that often exists between people have profound faith in certain theological tenets and the people who find such things to be human constructs - profound, defining, even spiritual, but not of divine origin.
There are, of course, no absolute answers ... only belief systems that define us.
Except that ... maybe there will be an absolute answer tomorrow.
I keep seeing signs on the road indicating that Saturday, May 21, is Judgement Day.
Not the one from the Terminator movies, but rather the one upon which Christ will return to earth and bring an end to history. (It will take time, I gather. Tomorrow will be the “Rapture,” the day on which believers will be swept up and taken to heaven. That will be followed by some five months of really, really bad weather, death and destruction, culminating in the end of the world in mid-October.)
There are, apparently, millions of people who believe this.
Now, I have to admit that I have my doubts.
To be fair, my doubts could be informed by my hopes and dreams. I want to see how my kids turn out. I’d like to enjoy my later years with Mrs. Content Guy. I still have a novel and a screenplay I’d like to write. I have a ton of books left to read. I’d like to know if the New York Mets ever will be competitive again. I haven’t moved to Seattle yet. I’d like to see the third James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig. Hell, there is a new Tom Selleck/Jesse Stone movie on CBS this Sunday, and I’m gonna be annoyed if it is preempted by the Rapture. (Though it is possible that the networks will be still broadcasting to unbelievers on Sunday, I’m guessing that the news divisions - which are mostly are occupied by liberal elite heathens, who we know aren’t going to heaven - will be preempting regular programming to cover a really, really big story.)
I’m really not making light of this. (Okay, maybe a little bit.) It’s just that whether one believes in God or not, it always has seemed to me that if the world were going to come to an end, we’d probably do it to ourselves. Having a divine figure come to earth and end things is a little deus ex machina
for my tastes.
But here is my serious question, tied to the whole question of belief and unbelief.
If nothing happens on Saturday, if we all wake up on Sunday morning and find that while the world may be going to hell in a handbasket, it isn’t literally
going to hell in a handbasket, what happens to all those people who believed in May 21 would be the Rapture? What do they believe then? Does this shake the core of their beliefs, or are they able to get past it and admit that maybe they had the dates wrong? What about the people - and there are lots of them - who have put their lives and ambitions on hold for the past six months because they figured it didn’t matter? What about the people who, according to the Los Angeles Times
, have “paid $14.95 to a website called You've Been Left Behind to send letters to non-believing loved ones in the event she is taken away in the rapture”? (No joke.)
What will the roadside signs say on Sunday morning?
Belief can be a powerful, driving, passionate thing. It can inform how we live our lives - both positively and negatively. And if the thing that one believes in with all one’s heart and soul turns out to be untrue, what does that do to one’s heart and soul?
On the other hand, I could be wrong. On Saturday, millions of believers may be able to look at people like me and say, I told you so
You can believe this or not, but I actually have an open mind about this. I’m reasonably certain that tomorrow is going to be like any other Saturday, but if the Rapture does occur, I’m not going to be surprised. (Okay, maybe a little bit.)
That’s it for this week.
Whether the Rapture happens tomorrow or not, I’ll see you Monday ... because I’m reasonably sure that I’m not being swept up anywhere.