Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Movies: In Bruges

At the Movies with Michael5000

In Bruges
Martin McDonagh, 2008

I didn't have an official preconception of In Bruges because it was on my "optional" More Movies list. I can tell you, though, that I assumed from the title that it was a delightful romantic comedy.


Categorically, the concept of "moral questions debated among people who kill other people for a living" is both (1) asinine and (2) done to death. It has been the dumbest aspect of several excellent movies -- I'm thinking here first of Pulp Fiction and, arguably, of The Seven Samurai -- and of many really bad movies, such as the excruciating Analyze This. It was the theme of a mediocre television serial, The Sopranos, the popularity of which among the smart set was a searing indictment of how very, very bad mainstream television really is.

So here's the concept again in In Bruges -- yet the Film 4 indie-Euro look, feel, and production values save the day. In Bruges is darkly funny, darkly beautiful, and, in spite of its frequent outbursts of stark, unsentimental violence, it is witty and charming. Does this make it morally questionable? I dunno. Check with your spiritual counselor before viewing. My job is just to tell you whether I think you'd enjoy it.

The set-up is like so: we've got a dumb hit-man and a hit-man who seems like Buckminster freaking Fuller by comparison, although really he's just an average Joe. The dumb hit-man has accidentally shot a child bystander on his latest assignment, so the pair have been sent from London to Bruges to hide out while things blow over. The relatively smart hit-man is delighted to be in the exquisitely beautiful medieval city; the dumb one thinks Bruges is incredibly dull. This provides fertile grist for about a half hour of comedy, after which the plot thickens and darkens considerably. Hijinx throughout, of course.

In Bruges is beautifully acted throughout by top-notch performers like Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes. The photography, particularly the treatment of the Bruges cityscape, will make you want to book a flight to Belgium, stat. There is a surprising volume of jokes about Americans; I'm not sure if the intent is to mock my people or to pander to our market. A failure to get the North American accents right, though, is a surprising technical flaw in what is otherwise an extremely well-produced movie.

Department of Clever Clever Intertextuality: A secondary character is named "Chlöe Villette."

Prognosis: * * * 1/2 -- If you are the kind of person who can relax into a lighthearted highbrow comedy that features graphic depictions of people dying from multiple gunshot wounds and other moist forms of violence, you are likely to enjoy In Bruges! If you also have a fondness for medieval art and architecture, it'll be a hit for sure. No pun intended.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Too Iz Award-Winnin!

I am delighted to have been singled out for an award, or possibly awards, by fellow local blogger and book enthusiast Rose City Reader.  I was not able, on a casual perusal, to determine the exact nature of this award, or possibly these awards, but no worries.  I'm definitely an award winner, and that's enough for me.

It seems that my responsibility, as an award winner, is to share with all y'all a list of ten bookish things about myself.  Something like that, anyway.  So here we go:

10 Bookish Things About Me

1. One of several reasons that I left my academic career is that it did not allow me enough time to read fiction.  That's an oversimplification, probably, but it really cuts to the heart of the issue.

2. I think of my 2005ish "discovery" that I could listen to books on an ipod while exercising, driving, and doing chores to be among the most significant turning points in my life.

3. Because the Multnomah Public Library only allows 15 items to be on reserve at one time, I frequently have a "reserve reserve" list.  Currently there are about 15 items on this backup list, waiting to go on the reserve list.

4. Beyond my college general eduation classes, I have never had any particular training in literary theory.  But, since I've read David Lodge's little book "The Art of Fiction," I feel pretty able to keep up with those who have.

5. I will read pretty much any detective tale set in a cold climate: Kurt Wallander!  Inspector Rebus!  Harry Hole!  Detective Erlendur!  The Girl Who Got Tedious After the First Book!

6. I love me an epic space opera.  If not for certainly technical difficulties, I would happily change my citizenship to that of Iain Banks' "The Culture."

7. For a long time, I felt poorly read (see #1, above).  Recently, though, I went through a list of the top 100 books of the 21st Century as selected by GoodReads users, AND one of the more chin-stroking "Most Important 100 Novels of All Time" list, and found that for almost every book on each list I have either read it, actively plan on reading it, or could articulate a reasonable reason why it's not something I need to read.  I liked that.

8. I tend to be a literary conservative, in the sense that I believe that there is merit to the existance of a loosely defined "canon," that most of the "great books" (although not, to be sure, The Brothers Karamazov) turn out to be genuinely great, and that attempts to escape from what is perceived as the confines of the canon often lead to the overselling of second-rate books.

9. I think well of myself for liking difficult books and for liking books that are considered more than usually literary or intellectual in nature.  I realize that this is merely vanity.  However, I also like the way it makes me a more ambitious reader.  However, perhaps being an "ambitious reader" is merely another manifestation of vanity.  It's a real pickle, but fortunately it doesn't matter very much.  Still, I like myself just a little bit better for having been able to read and partially process Ulysses.

10. I spent the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school reading everything I could get my hands on of two authors: Kurt Vonnegut and James Michenor.  Weird.

Your Wednesday Boring Postcard from Michael5000


Cave Entrance.

Provenance: Purchased at site, August 2007.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Movable Mrs.5000

Those of you who for whatever reason were not attending the international conference of the Movable Book Society here in the City of Roses last week may not even be aware that the L&TM5K's favorite Portland gallery, 23Sandy, has just opened "An International Exhibition of Movable Artist's Books."

Mrs.5000, who as I have often mentioned before on these pages is awesome, had two pieces juried into the show.

The New Museum of Nature and Industry

The Small Museum of Nature and Industry

The Small Museum won a juror's award!  And the New Museum sold!

Which means that your only chance to see it may be while the Movable Books show is still up!  And, to be sure, there is plenty of good stuff there by people other than Mrs.5000, too.  A full catalog is available on the website.

The Artist's Reception is this Friday, October 1!  I can not make any promises, but it is usually the case that 23Sandy has good cookies at their receptions.  Maybe I'll see you there!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ann Piper is a Painter with a Very Large Cabbage

The L&TM5K has always prided itself on its depth of coverage of the art scene among people that Michael5000 knows personally, but we have to admit that hitherto there has been a strong parochial City-of-Roses bias to our arts reporting.  There's no need for this!  Michael5000 knows many people who do not live in the City of Roses.

Painter Ann Piper, for instance, lives in central Pennsylvania, where she professes art at Susquehanna University and has, apparently, been enjoying some success in the garden.

Ann works in a variety of media, but I still think of large-scale oil canvases as central to her ouvre.  These are often life size -- I have a painting somewhere of the artist, who is not a towering figure, standing with obvious habitual ease on gallon paint cans to as to be able to reach the top of her canvas.

The "typical" Ann Piper painting features Ann Piper herself in a vaguely disturbing situation or scenario.

And although it would be hard to tie her too too closely to le surréalisme, her canvases often have more than a touch of the surreal or absurd about them.

Sometimes it may take a moment or two to sink in, as was the case for me in this painting, a favorite:

The girl knows her art history, of course, and ain't afraid to use it.  (I owe my initial interest and education in art history and theory to Professor Piper.  Thanks Ann!)

She is never afraid to disturb and unsettle people, especially those of us who know and love her...

This is one of my (and her, too, if I remember right) favorites:

Interested in more art by Ann Piper?  Well, obviously there's a website, but before you surf over there at work or during mass or whatever, I should mention that I've left out a very common trope of the Ann Piper ouvre, which is nakedness.  Often vaguely disturbing nakedness! So, check it out yourself before you, I don't know, suggest to your priest that he needs some Ann Piper hanging in the vestry.  Also, if you are Dr. Kenneth Noisewater, you are only allowed to check out Ann's paintings for purposes of artistic appreciation.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Your Sunday Boring Postcard from Michael5000

Belle Plaine, Kansas

Nationally known Kansas showplace, famous for its glorious Spring and Fall Flower shows featuring tulips and mums, flowering trees, colorful foliage and rare trees for this region. Its series of landscaped gardens places it among the Nation's best. Only Arboretum of maturity between the Mississippi River and the Rockies. Often referred to as Cypress Gardens of the Plains.

Provenance: Unsure.

Want a boring postcard from Michael5000? Just ask -- he's got plenty!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Reading List: A Thousand Acres

Six different covers, each in its own way unfaithful to the content
A Thousand Acres

by Jane Smiley

After taking on powerhouses like the Homeric epics and James Joyce’s quintessential Big Hard Book, it’s almost hard to know where to begin with a book that operates in every sense at a more conventional human scale. So I’ll start with the obvious: A Thousand Acres is a retelling of King Lear played out in Iowa farm country, told from the point of view of one of the "bad" daughters. It is, to a limited extent, a celebration of the disciplined work ethic and deep occupational knowledge possessed by American agriculturalists. But to a greater extent it is an unflattering, or at least unflinching, expose of the dark underbelly of what Sarah Palin liked to call “The Real America” during our last election cycle – the small towns of farm country that we as a culture are often silly enough to assume possess some sort of virtue that the rest of us lack.

Those nominating A Thousand Acres to The Reading List were a bit vague on reasoning, but one commenter described it as “beautifully written.” I’ll second that without too much difficulty. The prose style is precise and restrained, in keeping with the personality of the first-person narrator. The characterization is strong too, and Smiley manages a nice balancing act between forging believable Iowans and creating structural parallels to the characters and action of her Shakespearian point of departure. I must say that her characters often speak with a vocabulary and a frank insight into the emotional lives of others that don’t seem consistent with their background, but this was never especially jarring.

In short, this is a good book! It is engrossing and insightful and interesting, and I have no trouble recommending it as a fine piece of mainstream American fiction. I note, though, that it won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and, for crying out loud, the Pulitzer Prize, and this it seems to me is pushing things a bit too far. It’s a very good book, not a great book. But hell, maybe 1991 was a weak year for fiction. (This may actually be true; at a glance down the Wiki’s list of 1991 novels, no obvious alternative candidates leap from the page).

This sets the stage for my inevitable crabby griping, and this will inevitably involve spoilers! So here we go. I had two specific moments of disappointment when reading A Thousand Acres. First, at roughly a third of the way in we had a strangely attractive man from outside developing a relationship with the narrator. I thought it would be a stronger and more distinctive unfolding of the plot if they did NOT become sexually entangled, and so was disappointed when they entangled sexually according to the usual timetable. As a mitigating factor, this later turned out to be plot-significant.

We also had an abusive father who was creepy and menacing, but not sexually abusive, and I felt that his creepiness and the social-critical aspects of the book would be far stronger if he was kept from being a thorough-going monster – to wit, if it didn’t turn out that he had raped his daughters. Again, I was disappointed, and this time there were no mitigating factors. King Lear doesn’t work as well if you can’t have sympathy for the King. But then, A Thousand Acres was written during a weird time when everybody and their dog was discovering through recovered memory therapy that they’d been abused in satanic rituals and what-not when they were infants – one of the more bizarre and damaging fads to have taken place in my lifetime, even taking into consideration the great lo-carb fiasco of ’06 – so in a sense Smiley was just rolling with the times.

There is a literary device that professor types probably have a name for, where the narrative is going along in a calm way about fairly routine and predictable events and then suddenly, pow! something shocking or awful happens without warning, and it is especially wrenching because it came without any buildup or a chapter break or anything. Smiley uses this device effectively in A Thousand Acres, but perhaps once too many times. There is a basic structural principle that, say, the terrible agricultural accident belongs in the chapter about the terrible agricultural accident and not at the end of the chapter about, whatever, cleaning house. Breaking the principle can mimic the way that the terrible agricultural accident comes out of nowhere and shatters the expected routine, but overuse dulls the effect.

And now I am done crabbing, and will reassert that this is a good book! It is the best I can recall, off the top of my head, to deal with modern rural Midwest. It is, like I said up yonder, engrossing and insightful and interesting. I have no trouble recommending it as a fine piece of mainstream American fiction.

Next on The Reading List: DeWitt, The Last Samurai
(Reading List Amicus): Musashi
On Deck: Ball, Bright Earth
In the Hole: Camus, The Stranger

Reading List Note: By Executive Decision, Tolstoy's War and Peace has been added to The Reading List. It will be placed in the fifth-to-last position, between the final Rabbit book and The Earthsea Trilogy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Devil's Claw

"Devil's Claw" is a typically oddball name for one of the zillions of traditional or semi-traditional American quilt block patterns. In 2007, going through a box of scrap fabric, I found a stack of 20 indigo-and-white blocks in that particular pattern. I have no clues to who made them or how they came to be in that box, but from the fabric it is fairly certain that they were made in the 1930s. They were made rather badly, too. But I loved them.

In the three years since, I've gradually put together this piece, which uses the best sixteen of the original pieces. I am frankly pretty goddamn pleased with the outcome.

Quiltheads: there are more details and pictures at State of the Craft.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Speaking of Salads...

--McCall's Magazine, September 1924.

[Update per Aviatrix's request]

Kraft Pineapple Salad

Cream together, one-fourth pound of Kraft American Cheese rubbed through a grater, and one generous tablespoon full of boiled salad dressing until very smooth. Roll into balls. Place balls in center of pineapple slices. Sprinkle slightly with paprika and serve on crisp lettuce. Mayonnaise may be added if desired.

Send for Free Illlustrated Recipe Book M9 to
410 Rush St., Chicago

Your Wednesday Boring Postcard from Michael5000


Built 1825-1832 by the Children of Peace. Every line of the Temple is symbolic. It is maintained as a museum by the York Pioneer and Historical Society. Open to the public daily from June 1st to September 20th 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Provenance: Gift of L&TM5K Reader Elaine, 2010.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Forgotten Lands: Al Farif

Al Farif

Capital: Mouj
Population: 4,688,000 (2001 estimate)
Area: 983,000 km2
Independence: 1943

Economy: Mediterranean agricultural products, especially citrus and dates, dominate Al Farif’s small export sector. The bulk of the population practices subsistence agriculture or animal husbandry.
Per Capita Income: US$15,700
Languages: Arabic (official), Italian, Berber languages
Literacy Rate: 78%

Almost the entire population of Al Farif lives in the thin strip of fertile land between the Karadj Highlands and the Mediterranean Sea. Hot winds blowing off the Mediterranean, a constant of life in the region, cool as they rise over the Karadj and expel their moisture in daily thunderstorms that are as regular and predictable as they are violent. “Destiny is as reckless as the wind,” goes a local proverb, and the profound fatalism implicit in this saying is not lost anyone who has witnessed an afternoon storm in the Karadj foothills.

Most of Al Farif’s towns and villages are clustered along the many small rivers that wend north from the highlands to the sea. Thus spread among dozens of river valleys and harbors, the population lacks any single dominant core. Mouj, the capital, is “not the commanding city one expects at the heart of a modern nation-state, but merely one modest town among many” (Peacock, Urban Structure in North Africa). The capital building itself, however, is remarkable for its enormous dome and its construction from local sandstone of fiery orange.

The vast areas of desert land to the south of the Karadj are wandered only by a handful of nomadic herders, with their goats and camels.

Although it had no prior history of political unity, the area that is now Al Farif remained independent during the colonial period out of sheer geopolitical happenstance. The British did not wish to see the region added to France’s Algerian possessions, and the French in turn did not relish the prospect of yet another British base in the Mediterranean. Neither country felt that the ire of its neighbor was a price worth paying for Al Farif. After only a brief occupation by Mussolini’s Italy (1936-1942), the country was led onto the modern stage by President Sheikh Abdul Mohamed. At 96, he remained in 2009 the world’s longest serving head of state.

Flag: Despite the brevity of its colonial occupation, Italy’s impact on Al Farif was considerable. Indeed, Italian can be heard spoken to this day in certain coffeehouses in Mouj. The pattern of three vertical bars on the national flag is probably another reflection of postwar Italian influence. The green of the left and right bars represents Islam. The blue of the center bar is variously said to represent the Mediterranean Sea, the many rivers on which the agriculture of Al Farif depends, or the bright Saharan sky.

National Anthem: “Onward, Al Farif, Onward.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Song of the American Road, pt. 9

Black Hills, South Dakota
Helicopter rides are a great thrill, especially the ones around Mt. Rushmore. This view was taken on one of those exciting rides.

Hi, We're having a lot of fun. Stayed in motels last 2 nites. Are staying with Arlene tonite. Was raining Mon. morning so we went to a bunch of stuff in Rapid City. Plan to see Rushmore & Custer Park today. Hope the Work is going OK there. Harold

Sincere Greetings

I haven't been to Waterville yet, I would like to go some day next week but I dont as I can. Charlie was up here this forenoon he came up with John. We are well. Gillian.


Do your tomatoes look like this. The garden looks fine. Selling lots of vegetables every day, Beans, potatos are just comeing up, planting sweet corn, water melons. Love, Will.

A winter scene at the Observation Point on U.S. Hyway 10 overlooking Painted Canyon. -21

Hi. Got here in good shape. Weather a little cool. & windy. Having a good time, only eating 5 time a day so I am going to get thin. Everything is O.K. Well and all. Hope you are the same. Your Brother Sam.

#2 gift of Heatherbee, May 2009

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Musashi Read-Along: an Invitation/Apology-in-Advance

L&TM5K Vice-Dork Jenners, who has a pop-bibliophile blog going with readership numbers that make me seethe in envy, has determined to take on the hefty Japanese saga Musashi. She has, either because she cherishes the positive atmosphere engendered by taking on an intellectual undertaking in supportive company, or because she needs someone to explain the big words to her, asked for others to read along with her.

Well, I'm always up for a project.

Somewhat to my surprise, I'm also signing on to Jenners' ambitious publication schedule for the project, which goes like so.
September 20-28 -- Book I: Earth (106 pages) (Write a post by Oct. 2)
September 29-October 7 -- Book II: Water (120 pages) (Write a post by Oct. 11)
October 8-17 -- Book III: Fire (151 pages) (Write a post by Oct. 20)
October 18-26 -- Book IV: Wind (188 pages) (Write a post by Oct. 30)
October 27 - November 4 -- Book V: Sky (169 page) (Write a post by Nov. 8)
November 5-13 -- Book VI: Sun and Moon (112 pages) (Write a post by Nov. 18)
November 14-22 -- Book VII: The Perfect Light (124 pages) (Write final post by Nov. 30)

The invitation part is: hey, why not join the read-along! You were looking for a book to read anyway (and Musashi is actually said to be a highly accessible, non-threatening sort of read). And you can just ignore the "write a post" part.

Sign up by (1) getting your paws on a copy of Musashi (mandatory) and (2) signing up here (optional).

The apology-in-advance is for all the upcoming Musashi content. I'll keep it short, and kind of fit it into the cracks so you won't be deprived of the flag criticism, bogus countries, boring postcards, documentation of my teddy bear's adventures, and surly movie reviews that you've come to count on.

Your Sunday Boring Postcard from Michael5000

Eerie Devastation Trail running through remains of forest, smothered by volcanic ash, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Provenance: Unsure.

Want a boring postcard from Michael5000? Just ask -- he's got plenty!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flag Friday XIV

Flag Friday is a periodic discussion of the world's national flags; the project is explained and indexed here.

These discussions are about graphic design, and perhaps about nationalism and national symbolism in general. They should not be taken as critical of the countries, ideals, cultures, or people that the flags represent.


Parsons: He awards it "good colors," but calls it a "bad tricolour," which apparently rounds out to a B+, 75/100.

Michael5000: I hold the opposite opinion. The colors of the Gabonese flag are, to my eye, a bit too pastel and washed out to assert themselves with properly flaggy boldness. On the other hand, they are complementary enough and make a perfectly serviceable tricolor.

You might well come up something like this if you were designing a flag for any coastal place with forests, be it Gabon or Chile or, say, Oregon. Ocean, beach, woods. Officially, though, the gold stripe here in Gabon indicates the Equator. I can't say I really get that, either as a piece of representation (thick gold line?) or point of national pride ("visit beautiful Burma, home of the Tropic of Cancer!"), but that's nobody's business but the Gabonese. The Gabonese's? Whatever.

Grade: B-


Parsons: "Great design and colour choice," says Parsons. "Also represents the geography of the country (without being a map)." Praising "good colours," he assigns an "A+", 90/100.

Michael5000: I like the flag of Gambia. The darker green is a good companion color to the classic red and blue, and the white trim adds a distinctive note to your basic horizontal tricolor.

The common belief that it is a diagrammatic map of the country, however, is badly overstated. It's true that the blue stripe is supposed to represent the Gambia River, along which the country's territory is stretched, but there's no particular concept of a northern red or a green south involved. Also, Gambia is more than ten times as long east-to-west as it is wide north-to-south, whereas its flag is your basic world-standard 3:2.

So the cartographic nature of the Gambian flag amounts only to "we're a country with a river running through it," which I suppose is more than Nauru can say. Fortunately, it doesn't need to be a map to look sharp.

Grade (for the current flag): A-


Here's the flag of Georgia that Parsons reviewed:

Parsons: Complained of "bad colours" and assigned a "C+", 60/100.

Michael5000: I thought of that flag (which flew from 1990 to 2004) as among the world's most distinctive, but not in a good way, and would not have been as kind as Parsons in grading it. Fortunately, a new Georgian flag was adopted by Presidential decree in 2004. Here's a picture of me and some friends celebrating that exciting event:

Sweeping claims are made regarding the historicity of this flag design -- Fifth Century! -- which would put it in use many centuries before the origin of flags per se, at least as I understand the vexillological timeline. But that's OK. The important thing is, Georgia has come up with a design with some sort of national resonance, and it's not butt-ugly to boot.

The specs call for the red to be a perfect 255-0-0 fire-engine candy-apple red, baby, but I think the design works a little better if the red tends towards the maroon of the previous flag. Judging from photo evidence, everybody else does too.

Grade: B+


Parsons: Without comment, he gives it a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: Best things about Germany's flag: it's a very distinctive combination of colors, if you ignore Belgium (which Germany has an unfortunate history of doing). And it certainly stands out against, well, anything, including a blue Central European sky:

The downside is that the colors are, frankly, a little hard on the eyes. They are a little too befitting of crude stereotypes of the German personality: the utilitarian colors of industrial diagrams and signage, or the excessively flamboyant tie of a man who is ho-ho-hoing much too hard at his own joke.

We love you, Germany! Thanks for saving Greece!

Grade: B


Parsons: With an accusation of "plagiarism," he assigns a "B", 70/100.

Michael5000: OK, Ghana was the first of the "newly independent" countries to escape European rule in the late 1950s. The new flag did indeed deliberately quote the colors of the Ethiopian flag, as I described last time. A lot of other countries in Africa would subsequently join Ethiopia and Ghana in choosing green, yellow, and red for their flags, reflecting an aspiration for a united continent that, however naive it seems in retrospect, was rather noble and idealistic in its time and place. Parsons is only kidding when he reduces this whole process to "plagiarism," but it still makes me kind of sad.

The black star in Ghana's center stripe is thought to be an homage to the Black Star Line, a short-lived maritime company founded in the 1910s by the journalist, African-American community leader, and unintentional Rastafari prophet Marcus Garvey. Which is pretty far out.

Grade (for the current flag): B

Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Movies: "Juno"

At the Movies with Michael5000

Jason Reitman, 2007

Ebert: 4 Stars
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
My Official Preconception: Some sort of uplifting, socially responsible teen motherhood lovefest, I think. Sounds dreadful.


It's too bad that this movie's DVD cover trumpets Roger Ebert’s opinion that it is "The Best Picture of the Year."* Having seen that, I fought against a sense of "eh, it's not that great" for the entire film, rather than enjoying it as a lightweight but funnier-than-usual comedy. So it goes.

To say what this film is "about" -- teen pregnancy -- tells you much less than to tell you that it fits into the glib glib glib tradition pioneered by The Graduate and worked productively for many years by Wes Anderson. You've got the troubled-but-plucky misfits, a selective social critique of the bland and the conformist, plenty of self-conscious quirkiness, and, for the first three quarters of the running time, a long arm's length between the characters and their emotional lives. Oh, and you've got alternative twee-rock incidental music, a good set of songs but placed so high in the mix that once again we've got a movie that comes off as an advertisement for its own soundtrack.

For a movie about teen pregnancy, Juno is remarkably undidactic -- except for one cringe-worthy piece of preachiness (at the sonogram). The film's attitude towards two key characters, a suburban couple, is interesting. The woman of the couple is baby-crazy and the epitome of conventionality, but she ultimately emerges as somebody we are sympathetic with. The husband of the couple is a free-thinking pop-culture loving alt.dude, the kind of person who might enjoy a movie like Juno in fact, but he turns out to be a cretin. Is the movie admirable for showing us some human complexity? Or is it just confused about who and what it's making fun of? I'd like to think it's the former, but I kind of suspect the latter. Juno is chockablock with good visual and verbal gags, though, and for a comedy that might be more important than conceptual coherence.


Prognosis: * * * Funny and quietly sweet, this is a fine entertainment for anybody who feels like they were a misunderstood oddball and quietly defiant rebel back in high school. Which is to say, anyone reading these words. Probably among The Best Thirty Movies of the Year!

*DVD Box: "The Best Movie of the Year. -- Roger Ebert."
Ebert's Actual Review: "Jason Reitman's 'Juno' is just about the best movie of the year."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Six Things That, If They Were True, Would Dramatically Alter the Way You Feel About the L&TM5K

1. "Michael5000" is a complex AI algorithm designed by a team of graduate students at Cal Tech to generate random content and modify it over time in response to reader feedback.

2. Michael5000 enjoys writing but has no patience for reading. He commissions all of his book reviews from an online term paper mill.

3. Michael5000 is unmarried, and has not dated since his fiance' was killed in a tragic automobile accident 20 years ago.

4. The Forgotten Lands are fakes.

5. In the "Song of the American Road" feature, the first letters of the words in the message on the second postcard always spell out a pithy quip.

6. Frequent commenter la gringissima, the one who won all those quizzes? That's Michael5000's sock-puppet account.

Your Wednesday Boring Postcard from Michael5000

"And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them." -- Luke 2:51

God bless you on your Birthday. -- Mr. Owen
[mailed July 28, 1939]

Provenance: Gift of occasional L&TM5K reader Heatherbee, June 2009.