It’s Etymology Day!

Kangaroo Court: Attributed to a the hastily carried-out proceedings used to deal with the claim-hopping miners during the Klondike Goldrush. Also attributed to the pouch of a kangaroo, meaning the court is in someone’s pocket. kangaroowallaby-revisedScapegoat: In ancient Greece a beggar or criminal was cast out of the community, either in response to a natural disaster or crisis. In the Bible, the goat that was designated to be outcast in the desert as part of the Day of Atonement. 

911: A Foundation to Remember

World Trade Center September 11, 2014

World Trade Center September 11, 2014

911 is an odd day in New York City. Police and fire fighters are out in full regalia, making the city look strong, more New York. But there is a weight, a weight people in the city have learned to bear. They move quietly, stoic, to their work, everyone already weary. The respect for the moment is intense and religious, as is the fear that something will happen again.

Construction of the slurry wall at the World Trade Cente, without which the city would have been flooded, was supervised by Arturo Lamberto Ressi di Cervia.

Construction of the slurry wall at the World Trade Cente, without which the city would have been flooded, was supervised by Arturo Lamberto Ressi di Cervia.

Ben Johnson: The King of Scapegoats

The public’s recent kangaroo court ruling on Ray Rice reminds me of one of the greatest scapegoats in memory: Ben Johnson. sportFor years, Mr. Johnson was seen as Canada’s great hope in Track and Field. He was watched by millions as he trained for the 100 meter dash, sprinting, flexing and smiling day in and day out. He went on to set a world record in the event. Canada had the world’s fastest man.

He arrived at the 1988 Seoul Olympics with a country’s hopes on his back and won the gold medal – annihilating the competition, including hated rival Carl Lewis, and setting another world record. ben-johnsonHe was immediately coronated by the country, as much a Canadian sporting king as Paul Henderson or Terry Fox. imagesAnd then…Mr. Johnson tested positive for steroids. Suddenly there was no medal, no record and no coronation. Mr. Johnson was transformed – in less than 9.8 seconds – into an immigrant Canada never should have allowed in. He was branded a traitor. Former Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson listens to a question during a news conference held before a sports symposium in New YorkIn due course, the critical eyes turned to the doctors and coaches. However the spotlight lost focus when it came to the real problem, on why Mr. Johnson was on a mission to win at all costs. Whose idea was all that? The coaches? The Canadian Track and Field Association? The media? The public? canada-640x427As odd as it seems to me, even today, 25 years later, Mr. Johnson is considered with a collective shame. Even now. As guilty as Ben Johnson was, as guilty as Mr. Rice may be, the real crime committed here is not by these individuals, but by a society that craves blood, the crime of reveling in a public execution.

Execution-of-Louis-XVI

Under Video Review: Ray Rice and the National Football League

Ray Rice is guilty of domestic violence. No one, including Mr. Rice, disputes that. His guilt was established weeks ago when a video was released showing Mr. Rice dragging his unconscious fiance out of the elevator.

Ray Rice Video #1 (courtesy of TMZ)

Ray Rice Video #1 (courtesy of TMZ)

The National Football League subsequently did a video review and, after Mr. Rice supplicated appropriately, gave him a paltry two game suspension.

However this decision was dramatically reversed today when videotape was released – a reverse angle as it were –  showing Mr. Rice actually throw the punch that knocked her out.

Ray Rice Video #2 (Courtesy of TMZ)

Ray Rice Video #2 (Courtesy of TMZ)

The NFL’s reversed decision was radioed down to the field and Mr. Rice was terminated by his team, the Baltimore Ravens, and suspended indefinitely by the league.

The odd thing about this reversal is that the second videotape does not reveal anything not already known; he had admitted to striking her and the videotape had shown her unconscious from that blow. However Mr. Rice’s crime of domestic violence is not in fact at issue here, but rather the perception that the league endorses the crime. 20140811_UltraViolet_NFL_Logo_V4The league understands that, if they didn’t take drastic action that it isn’t Mr. Rice who punched that poor woman and knocked her out, but the NFL itself.NFL: Preseason-Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys Which begs the question of Ray Lewis, a former NFL Baltimore Raven who served time for obstruction of justice – a plea deal to avoid murder charges – and yet recently had a statue erected in his honor.

Ray_Lewis_Statue_RavensIndeed what if Mr. Lewis’ crime had been videotaped? Would that statue have been erected or Mr. Lewis ever allowed in the television booth? Ray-Lewis-3The sad truth is that, as guilty as Mr. Rice is of assault, he is a scapegoat, someone for the rest of the league to heap scorn on, so that the NFL can be left to commit business as usual. (Fantasy Football owners will just have to bite the bullet and let Ray go.)

Miss Stollery

I made Miss Stollery a present for Christmas. I glued a rock onto a piece of wood and hammered in a nail. I was eight years old. It wasn’t art but it was from the heart. I put it into a purple box. I looked at that box, thinking it wasn’t right. It wasn’t what I wanted. I got out a big marker and wrote her name on it. And that wasn’t enough. So I wrote “I love you” on the box. I wrote it big. I LOVE YOU. But it was in red and the box was purple. I couldn’t see it. And so I wrote it again. And again. And again. Until I’d written “I love you” all over it. I looked at it again and freaked out because I didn’t want anyone else to know about how I felt. I crossed one of them out. And that looked stupid. I looked at it again and didn’t think anyone could see the words.That’s really what I thought. And so I took the box to school and placed it under our Grade Two Christmas tree. I looked at it and knew that everyone could see the “I love you’s”. And she saw them too and looked at me like I was a lost kid. I hated that. She was supposed to kiss me. And then she opened it. The rock had fallen off the piece of wood.

Werner Herzog: The Myth of the Man

20140905_072700“There are 50,000 spectators,” Werner Herzog explained to the rapt audience at BAM, the final image of his documentary The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Stein on display.Screenshot (293) “But we see only the man alone against the snow.”

In his interview at BAM’s Harvey Theater in Brooklyn on Thursday night, Herzog admitted to creating myths in his documentaries; he has often stated that “all filmmakers are liars”.

Herzog does not believe in documenting facts, offering data to support a thesis, but instead creates a nebulous thing from which a greater truth may be derived.

He uses whatever he has – everything from archival images of starving people gazing longingly at a sausage (Little Dieter Needs to Fly) to an albino alligator (Cave of Forgotten Dreams) – to make his film work; it doesn’t matter if the material is factually accurate. He has gone so far (in Lessons of Darkness) as to write down his ideas and attribute them to Blaise Pascal, just for effect:

The collapse of the stellar universe will occur - like creation - in grandiose splendor.

The collapse of the stellar universe will occur – like creation – in grandiose splendor.                – –  Werner Herzog

At the end of the talk, Herzog read from his book, Conquest of the Useless, a journal he kept while filming Fitzcarraldo:

fitz02I did not even feel my bleeding foot. There was no pain, no joy, no excitement, no relief, no happiness, no sound, not even a deep breath. All I grasped was a profound uselessness, or to be more precise, I had merely penetrated deeper into its mysterious realm.

I’m the Most Fucking Balanced Person Alive!

We had the misfortune of renting our house to a most demanding and impolite person this August. We were inundated with shrill emails, even before she arrived, that were terribly demanding, often angry, to say nothing of being typo-graphically challenged:

We ve Rented enough houses out here to know what’s acceptable and this is not. Rented us a house where there are several issues and if you would like me to leave a favorable response on VRBO which could make or break your rental business you should fix these problems ASAP. do-it-nowWe addressed every one of her concerns, sometimes three per day, and all of them minor; nevertheless the invective flow would not cease:

Could not use the pool at night due to no lights since we checked in. Had to fight to get CnN & basic cable. There  is no gas grill. We also did not expect to have to remove our own trash — this has become like camping. GC140520_CampShe sent this last message from her work email, from which we learned she was a yoga instructor, and more than that, an author of a yoga book; she in fact had a Facebook persona that promoted herself as a balanced and thoughtful individual. yoga-at-sunsetAccepting the ” what is ” of many situations allows for a lot more peace … Many times we are stressed or upset up from our own desire to make things different than they are. This applies to love relationships. friendships locations — life & The world.

As exhausting and frustrating as this person was, the difference was stunningly amusing.Dr-Jekyll-y-Mr-Hyde

Indeed she was something that is likely becoming common in our bandwidth world: a social media Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde.

“Blue is the Warmest Color”: Just Another Film That Needs an Editor

While Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color received controversial press for its stark portrayal of sexuality, the film’s only real problem is in its self-indulgence. Screenshot (276)Choked with scenes of endless dancing, staring into space and, yes, sex, the film needs an editor; at over an hour too long, the film’s essential moments and images are lost in the ego of the author. Lea Seydoux, Abdelatif Kechiche and Adele Exarchopoulos with their Palme d'OrOf course Kechiche is not alone in his onanism; many an excellent director has fallen victim to believing that everything shot is sacred, including Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Redux, Lars von Trier’s Nymphomanic, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Michael Cimino’s infamous Heaven’s Gate. heavens gateThis is to say nothing of the glut of Hollywood monstrosities such as Titanic, The Lord of the Rings and all of the superheroes piled atop each other.darkknightIt’s the simpler things that ring true, such as a director listening to his inner voice: “Cut!”