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Lucy in the Sky

There’s a point at which this joke stops being funny and turns sad, and it’s very early in its over two hours runtime.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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I love it when I'm quoted correctly

That's from the box cover of a bootleg DVD. Here are 23 more hilarious examples from I Heart Chaos.

Thanks to Andy Ihnatko for the link.

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Jason Reitman in conversation

Jason Reitman is not only a gifted director, but a forthright and thoughtful one. After three features ("Thank You for Smoking," "Juno" and "Up in the Air"), he has achieved, at the age of 34, firm standing on the A List.

He visited Chicago on Jan. 29 to appear on the Oprah program, and stopped off at my house on his way to the airport. Having only just discovered the video capability of a new camera, I took these videos. They are hand-held, shaky and need editing. But what Reitman says is perceptive and worth sharing.

Also in the room: My wife Chaz, off camera to the left. Reitman's wife, the actress Michelle Lee, to his right. Chicago publicist Janet Hillebrand on the sofa in front of the windows. The voice on my MacBook is sometimes heard.

The sculpture is "Warrior Woman," which Chaz and found in a London gallery that holds an exhibition called "Not in the Spring Exhibition," for works not accepted in the annual show of new works by the Royal Academy of Arts. In other words, Refuseniks. Jason and Michelle are standing in front of an abstract by the British expressionist Gillian Ayres. RE • • •

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"As Penny Chenery's youngest son..."

I received this comment on my blog entry about "Secretariat" the movie, Secretariat the horse and the discussion about Andrew O'Hehir's review of the film at Salon.com. It appears under the blog, as do comments by O'Hehir and Bill Nack, author of the Secretariat biography that informed the film. But it is so well-worded and wise that I wanted to call particular attention to it. RE

October 9, 2010

As Penny Chenery's youngest son, I am fascinated by "Secretariat's" reception by critics, and the dialogue between Ebert and O'Hehir is to me the most interesting so far. Rather than taking sides about whether the movie is "good" or "bad" (I am far too close to evaluate its merits), I want to comment on the value I see in both reviewers' perspectives. From their conflicting angles, each shines a light on something I believe to be true about both the movie and the events that gave rise to it.

I understand O'Hehir's perception of something relentlessly, indeed forcedly, upbeat about the story, perhaps masking a troubling reality underneath. The movie does, indeed, glamorize and improve on my family's situation in the early 1970s, as it sanitizes the cultural context of that era. In real life, we Tweedys were more riven and frayed by the large and small conflicts of the time, and by the pressures of celebrity into which we were suddenly thrust. The wars between our parents were more bitter, the marriage more broken, and we kids were more alienated and countercultural than the movie depicts. During the pre-race CBS broadcast at the Belmont, Woody Broun interviewed my dad, my siblings and me, asking Jack whether he was the "power behind the throne." He gamely (and for me now, poignantly) replied that he was proud of his wife, his kids, "and the horse." Mom had wanted us to be all together for that interview, but away from the cameras we were each living in a separate world. The movie navigates this terrain with a combination of erasure, gentleness, and tact, and from the point of view of my family's privacy, I am grateful.

But Ebert is right that there is something more -- and something better -- at work in the movie than simply airbrushing over painful truth. My mother has always known that the "Secretariat story," and her role in it, filled a deep cultural need. While the country was convulsed by feminism, Watergate and Vietnam, Penny took pains to present as a wife and mother, offering a wholesome, western, maternal female image that paired beautifully with the heroic, powerful male icon that Secretariat was becoming. Our President may have been a Machiavellian liar, our soldiers denounced as baby-killers, and our fathers excoriated as chauvinist pigs as they commuted grimly to work. But here came Secretariat, deeply male, muscular and graceful, his chest lathered with sublimated sex. And on that day in June 1973, when he blew away the field in the Belmont Stakes, he transcended argument, rivalry, even transcended sport itself. In that moment Secretariat gave my family, and gave the public, something like grace.

Now we are again in a cultural moment of war and dissension. My sense is that the movie's creators didn't feel the need to portray the convulsions of the early 1970s, in part because today's audiences carry the burdens of our current convulsions into the theaters with them, hoping to escape briefly to a world they can believe in and admire. I think the movie is offered to satisfy the old hunger for a kingly male and a queenly female, who together strive for something beyond themselves, who seek victory, and achieve grace. Disney has long been in the business of telling this kind of story. The best such films rise to the level of archetype, while lesser ones sink into the mire of cliche, or worse. Whether "Secretariat" succeeds in this mythic leap is for critics to argue, and for audiences to decide. Personally, I'm enjoying the ride, as well as the critical dust it's kicking up.

John Tweedy

Here is my blog entry, Secretariat was not a Christian. My original review of "Secretariat." Andrew O'Hehir's article in Salon.com. var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname = "Roger Ebert's Journal"; a2a_config.linkurl = "http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/"; a2a_config.num_services = 8;

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Walt Kelly, an immortal

The creator of "Pogo" died on this day in 1973.

☑ Click to expand.

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A Labor Day concert

☑ Photo of Pete Seeger's banjo by Roger Ebert; taken at the Weavers reunion at the Toronto Film Festival in 2004. All of my TwitterPages are linked under the category Pages in the right margin of this page.

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I have no arms and I must play

This is Mary Goffeney and here is his website.

Thanks to readers Brian Ford, natalie, JessicaEve and jojo for identifying the guitarist as Mark Goffeney. (The link is to an article about him in Abilities magazine.) And thanks to Moncef Gridda for sending me the first video link. His YouTube clips do not include his name!

☑ All of my special pages are linked under the category Pages for Twitter in the right margin of this page.

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We are part of all worlds

By Mark Hughes on October 20, 2010 6:40 PM

A singularity, tiny beyond comprehension, burst forth with power and energy. In seconds, the foundation for reality and existence in our universe were created. Only Hydrogen and Helium existed as elements. They formed stars.

Eventually, those stars died. Some collapsed and became black holes, singularities working in the reverse of the one that raptured outward to form our universe, instead gobbling up all reality around them. Other stars broke down and exploded, hurtling their essence further into the universe that still grew and expanded and changed around them.

That essence, that dust from the stars, contained new elements, elements formed within the heart of the stars. This star dust, these new elements, formed everything else in the universe. Planets formed, rocks formed, water formed.

And life formed. Life composed of elements born in the heart of the first stars, stars themselves formed from the birth of our universe.

Life no doubt formed all around our universe, including probably on a planet in the Gliese 581 star system. And of course, life formed right here on Earth. Microbes, multi-celled organisms, complex organisms, in the oceans and then crawling out onto land and evolving into all manner of living creatures. On a planet changing radically over millions of years, struck by massive impacts from asteroids and comets, one so large it knocked part of the planet loose and formed our moon.

Life here evolved and became self-aware, stood on hind legs, grunted and then spoke. Looked up into the sky at night, saw the stars, and wondered about our own origins.

We were born out there among the stars, starting in that first instant when the singularity expanded and birthed stars that birthed everything else that became life that looked up into the sky and that finally understood. From a single point to a universe, from stars to stardust to life. From simple life to complex self-awareness.

And meanwhile, still out there, those stars that fell into themselves and formed black holes? They feed on this universe's leftovers, filling up one side of a singularity that many researches now strongly suspect opens up and spits back out that energy and mass into brand new universes just like our own. The laws pass from one to another, the first stars form again and then in their hearts form the ingredients for the rest of the universe, and once more forming life that will some day look up and understand it all.

Our singularity was probably born that same way, the back door so to speak of a singularity in some universe that already existed long before our own was formed. Our universe was fed by that older universe, the laws passing through to us.

Universes form, inherently forming stars that inherently form the rest of what is needed for a universe, and those stars explode sometimes and collapse other times. And some of the collapsed ones form new singularities birthing more universes, birthing more stars to birth more universes, on and on. Each time, too, some stars birth life. Life that eventually must become self-aware and must eventually comprehend these basic concepts -- the simple law of averages says life will exist, and some of that life will understand.

Life is sort of the consciousness of the universe, the way a universe can be aware of its own nature, it's own past, and you might even say it's own "purpose" -- to reproduce, to make more, to keep understanding.

Think about the odds, the complexity, the beauty and perfection in this. A singularity, a universe, stars, stardust, life, a black hole, a new singularity, a new universe, new stars, new stardust, new life, forever and ever. And we sit here able to understand it, to tell others about it, to look up into the night sky at the stars and know "That's where we came from, that's where we'll go some day, and there are other living things looking up into their own night sky out there around those stars right now thinking the same thing."

We don't have to look up and feel insignificant -- we are more significant than we can ever probably truly appreciate, as the consciousness of all that exists. We are part of it, part of not only this world but all worlds.

Now tell me -- what miracle could be more awe-inspiring than that?

Knowing and believing these things, the idea of a God having made everything would actually be a let-down, wouldn't it?

This comment was posted on my blog entry here.

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Freddie Mercury vs. the Platters & Wayne's World

Freddie Mercury was born today, Sept. 5, in 1946 in India.

☑ All of my TwitterPages are linked under the category Pages in the right margin.

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Portrait of the critic at home

Here I am at home with Foss the Cat and a steaming cup of Lapsang Souchong tea. Chaz is in our cozy cottage kitchen, preparing our breakfast in The Pot. She promises us stone-ground oatmeal with raisins and a fresh peach cut up in it. There will be fresh cream on top from our faithful cow Pauline. My bowl and spoon stand by at the ready. If Foss is a very good cat and doesn't leap on the table, she will be allowed to lick the saucer clean.

Drawing by Kestutis Kasparavicius

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