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A Whole Bunch of Schindlers

I hope you and yours all had a terrific holiday, and that you got back into the swing of things faster than I did.

Vicki spent Thanksgiving with her mother Lynne in Orinda. Marlow went to Cornell to see a high school friend and spend Thanksgiving on a real farm.

Rae and I had a blended and extended Thanksgiving at my parents' home in Oregon. In attendance were my parents and my only brother, Steve, along with his daughter, Stephanie, his ex-wife, Expedita, and their son Paul, who is 13. Expedita was pregnant when she and Steve broke up, and he didn't see Paul until last June.

The divorce was not pretty, but this weekend was. I got to know my nephew (including telling him family stories one day when he joined me for my brisk, daily hour-long walk--doubled especially for the big-eating Thanksgiving holiday). A lot of video games were played, a lot of movies were watched and a lot of Turkey was eaten, and there was no ill will visible. I got to spend time with my father and brother both, people I have rarely seen since graduating from high school, as well as my mother, whom I see rather more often.

And as a special added treat, my best friend from college, Barbara Moore, arrived with her daughter Carolyn Laufer and her husband Jack Van Woerkom for our Friday night party. Naturally, my family was impressed with this two-lawyer class act, and I don't think Carolyn was bored all the way out of her skull in a room full of people she didn't know. My folks had never met Jack, and Barb hasn't seen my dad since 1978 or my mom since 1991 (when I held my 40th birthday party a year early).

The non-family highlight of the weekend for me was my annual pilgrimage to Powell's Bookstore at 10th and Burnside in downtown Portland, the world's largest used book store (and a great web site, too, I might add, at

Thanksgiving is never my favorite time of year to travel, but the weather and the airlines cooperated more or less, and the discomfort of flying was compensated for by the joy of family.

News From Friends

I am not sure whether the guys who sent me these news items wanted me to use their names or not, so I'll just print 'em here:

This one will get your pulse pounding, if it wasn't already:

Apple breaks its traditional look-n-feel, not to mention its sacred Human Interface Guidelines and the faithful are outraged:

Sherlock: Get a Clue

So far this affects both Sherlock (aka "Find") and QT4 player.

And if you weren't already angry about encryption regulations before…

This is an interesting angle on the recent cracking of DVD encryption:

Blame US Regs For DVD Hack


Web Site of the Week


My older daughter Marlow recommends this site, and notes that it is run by an alumnus of the Columbia University Marching Band (CUMB), an organization of which she is currently a member. CUMB is known for its offbeat sense of humor. And they say you don't learn stuff at Ivy League colleges! (NOTE: This is a web archive link now, so not all links work)

Which Came First?

A chicken and an egg are lying in bed. The chicken is leaning against the headboard smoking a cigarette, with a satisfied smile on its face.

The egg, looking a bit pissed off, grabs the sheet, rolls over, and says, "Well, I guess we finally answered THAT question!"


Facts courtesy of Internet Movie Database.

Directed by: Kevin Smith. Writing credits: Kevin Smith. Tagline: Get 'touched' by an angel. Plot Outline: The last known descendant of Christ is called upon to save the existence of humanity from being negated by two renegade angels trying to exploit a loophole. Ben Affleck .... Bartleby; George Carlin .... Cardinal Glick; Matt Damon .... Loki; Linda Fiorentino .... Bethany; Salma Hayek .... Serendipity; Jason Lee .... Azrael Jason Mewes .... Jay; Alan Rickman .... Metatron; Chris Rock .... Rufus; Bud Cort .... John Doe Jersey; Kevin Smith .... Silent Bob. MPAA: Rated R for strong language including sex-related dialogue, violence, crude humor and some drug content. Runtime: USA:130

I agree with my older daughter Marlow: it is breathtaking that Dogma and Being John Malkovich opened within a few weeks of one another, when one considers that these two films stand so far above the formulaic Hollywood tripe by which they are surrounded. Both films feature incredibly solid, off-beat and original writing as well as some breathtaking acting performances, a combination as rare as hen's teeth in American movies. Both are comedies, sort of, but both also deal with serious themes, Dogma more so than Being.

In Dogma, Kevin Smith is taking a light-hearted view of the end of time and the nature of God. By the way, despite the fact that the name of the actor playing God in this film has been splashed from one end of the country to the other, I have left that credit out and won't mention it here in the text at Marlow's request. She says the movie was extra-special to her because she did not know who would be playing God.

I need to confess here and now that I would have bet a million dollars that Silent Bob was Matthew Broderick (a few pounds heavier than usual). As it turns out, of course, he's actually Kevin Smith, the writer and director of the film. Marlow tells me if I had been paying attention during Mall Rats and Clerks, I would already know this. I am ashamed to admit I haven't seen those films yet. Thus, I also didn't recognize Jason Mewes. So shoot me. At least I knew who Damon, Affleck, Fiorentino, Lee, Hayek and Rock were.

So, you may have heard of this film; it has many members of the Catholic church up in arms for its distortions of Catholic dogma. Hello! It's a movie. Distortion is what movies do. Maybe years as a journalist have made me blasphemy-proof, but I just don't see the harm here. Basically, God casts two angels out of heaven, and they see a loophole; they can return if they pass through a plenary indulgence portal. The downside: if God is proven wrong, the universe ceases to exist. After millennia in Wisconsin (weren't Natalie Portman and Susan Sarandon running away from Wisconsin just last week in Anywhere But Here?), the two fallen angels seem disinterested in this unfortunate side effect of their quest.

By the way, let me say the scene where the fallen angel talks a nun out of her faith is tasteless and unnecessary. In case you are wondering, I have tried to imagine my own reaction to such a film aimed at my faith (Episcopal). It is a testimony either to the weak ways of my church or my own lack of commitment that I can't say it would offend me.

There is way too much swearing and utterly gratuitous violence in this film, but I guess that's what Indie directors have to do to maintain their street cred. Personally, I wouldn't take anyone under 15 to see it, and it better be a mature 15. Devout Catholics with no sense of humor should also avoid this film.

The World Is Not Enough

Facts courtesy of Internet Movie Database.

Directed by: Michael Apted; Written By: Neal Purvis (story) & Robert Wade:Tagline: Danger Suspense Excitement There must be when he's around; Plot Outline: James Bond takes position as bodyguard to an oil tycoon's daughter, Elektra, after MI6 uncovers a conspiracy; Pierce Brosnan .... James Bond; Sophie Marceau .... Elektra King: Robert Carlyle .... Renard; Denise Richards .... Christmas Jones; Robbie Coltrane .... Valentin Zukovsky; Judi Dench .... M; Desmond Llewelyn .... Q; John Cleese .... R; MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence, some sexuality and innuendo. Runtime: USA:127

Speaking of formulaic Hollywood tripe…

Shame on Neal Purvis for taking a story credit for a Bond film. I mean really, can you remember the plot of any Bond film by name? I know I can't, and I've seen them all.

The nasty put-down review in the New Yorker , in addition to suggesting that Roger Moore phoned in his last few Bond performances (true) suggested this would have made a snappy short subject (also true). All Michael Apted would have to do is wrap the film up after the opening sequence, which ran 15 minutes. Not a bad idea, really. This film certainly could have been a half-hour shorter and a half-hour better.

I'm not going to spend any time on the plot, because no one goes to a James Bond movie for the plot. It's a cookie cutter film. There's an opening chase scene, Q gives Bond some weapons (and in this film, retires, leaving R, AKA John Cleese, in charge of the shop). Things blow up. Bond says, "Bond, James Bond," there are plot complications, he sleeps with several women. There's an overlong cliffhanger scene and then Bond gets the girl. Same as every one of the other 18 Bond movies.

People really come to Bond movies for three things: the action, the cute cameos and the girls.

The action is superb. First class. Digitally enhanced, no doubt, but so subtly as to be undetectable. Breathtaking stunts from start to finish. Heart stopping in some cases. Well choreographed and well photographed. The final fight is about 20 minutes too long, but otherwise the sequences move along smartly.

The cute cameos are, well, cute. Judi Dench (M) actually gets some screen time. Robbie Coltrane reprises his role as a lovable Russian rascal. Desmond Llewelyn (Q) gave what appears to be his farewell performance in the role, while John Cleese (playing R) showed a great deal of promise in just a dozen lines, including "This must be an example of the famous Bond wit--or at least half of it…"

As for the women… well, there are only really two to speak of. Sophie Marceau proves once more that those French women can really act, and joins the very small cadre of Bond women who have proven that they have skills beyond the pneumatic. Denise Richards, on the other hand, has a couple of lovely talents and knows how to display them. Acting, or exuding sensuality, isn't among her visible talents.