Archive for October, 2010

“We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is — on the brink of catastrophe — torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do.  We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here (Washington D.C.) or on cable TV. Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done.

Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals. Most Americans live their lives that our just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often it’s something they do not want to do, but they do it. Impossible things get done every day that are only made possible by the little, reasonable compromises.”

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(Getty Image)

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Today in a science workshop I teach, we were working with bluing solution (i.e. bleach).  One of the 5th grade students got some on his hand and it turned a bright white on his skin.  He (being a white kid) shared this with his friends: “Hey, this is the solution for black people!  They can just put this on their skin and turn it white!”  WTF!  It seems like I should ask, “Where do young children learn these fucked up ideas?  They’re not born with these fucked up prejudices and disdain.”  But I already know the answer.

p.s. That’s fucked up that kid thought (and said) that!  (You could tell he really thought it was a good idea, too.)

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A giant thumbs up (Tom Robbin-level) to Andy Goldsworthy and the work he shares in the documentary, “Rivers and Tides.”  While much of the movie is set in Penport, Scotland (where he resides), his commissions take him to Nova Scotia and King’s Sculpture Park in New York State.  Using all natural materials (leaves, ice, driftwood, plant material, ground down stones), he explores the nature of transitory existence and change.  Much of what occupies his mind is what we cannot see.  At one point, when observing the coming Spring, Goldworthy remarks that Spring begins below the ground and that we see what happens above, but that is only a result of the activity that Man cannot observe.

Goldsworthy finds stones in the river and reveals their iron content, grinding them down into a find powder.  He then adds water to essentially make a “powder bomb,” lobbing them back into the river.  The slow motion filming/photography captures the extraordinary shapes and motion of both the stone powder and water.  Words do not do the spectacle justice.  In fact, many times during the film, Goldsworthy himself seems at a loss for words in talking about his work, the energy and nature contained in the metaphysics of change and how he’s attempting to illuminate it (them).  A BIG THUMBS UP to him for knowing when there are no words that will further his thoughts.  This is not a man of yakety yak.  His wisdom and mystical spirit shines here.

His admission early in the film that what brings it (his art) life will ultimately bring it destruction gave clues into the deep thinking that consumes him.  But he is not a self-involved or self-centered artist of any sort.  Goldsworthy is open and available to the interviewer, showing him his workshop, thousands of slides of past work, even inviting him into the kitchen with his family to meet his wife and beautiful children.

A hallmark of the British sculptor’s work are his “cones” or “seed” sculptures.  They are in locations all over the world, from the lobbies of corporate headquarters to the sides of mountain highway passes.  Goldsworthy addresses a wide variety of fascinating topics in his quiet, subdued way: sheep, the color of red (this in particular had me hanging on his words), the draining aspect of social/human interaction, tides, inevitability, etc.  Goldsworthy is a unique artist, bringing a lot of down-to-earth accessibility and street cred to sculpture, an art form that can often seem elusive and reluctant to reveal its purpose or “meaning.”

I highly recommend this movie to everyone.  It shows that an artist with an original philosophy and beautiful work can survive, provide a good life for his family and give something of value to humanity in a world.

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1. working @ a Wendy’s in Canton, MI

2. credit card readers on vending machines

3. Facebook’s DIY psychological “quizzes,” e.g. the Autism Spectrum Quotient

4. text speak

5. Olivier Zahm, “art critic/philosophy student”

6. e-books

7. the cast of “Jersey Shore”

8. multi-tasking whilst driving

9. Mel Gibson (post “Passion of the Christ”)

10. The Vatican declaring Homer Simpson as Catholic

14. Oxford Dictionary going solely online

15. the discontinuation of the Mickey Mouse ice cream “face” (boo!!!!)

16. individually wrapped dishwasher tablets

17. “ordering” groceries online

18. any “band” that consists of one person and a laptop

19. Glee

20. The forthcoming “D-baggers Ball” in London (and other locales around the world); created by a group of hedge-fund wankers and princes, to break the current Guinness Record for the most lavish, expensive party ever (a table reservation will reportedly cost $150,000).

21. Over the top, folksy hunky dory folks

22. The Rise of the Cat People

23. The Washington Wizards re-employing juvenile delinquent point guard Gilbert Arenas (even though he got traded to the Orlando Magic)

24. The McRib Locator

25. The Donovan track “Catch the Wind” used in a Mass Mutual Financial Group

26. Tourism Bra

27. The Kardashian Pre-Paid Debit MasterCard

28. Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” playing over an advert for the video game “Call of Duty: Black Ops”

29. The Beatles finally selling their wares on iTunes (Nov. 2010)

30. Ryan Reynolds being named People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive”

31. Black Friday

32. Target’s “2 Days of Domination” Black Friday advert campaign

33. The History Channel debuting the “American” version of the classic British driving show “Top Gear”

34. Parliament, in England, enacting a forthcoming bill that will require denizens in London to pay to use public bathrooms

35. Florence + The Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” (an amazing song) being covered on an episode…of “Glee.”

36. http://omg.yahoo.com/news/chris-rock-calms-pregnant-woman-after-her-water-breaks-at-mall/52165

37. Fred Durst ditching his long played out Limp Bizkit digs to pursue a new career…as a minister/gospel singer

38. Mark Fuckerberg being named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”

39. Old Navy’s new Techno Hoodie, complete with ear buds built into the hood drawstrings

40. A recent Yahoo “news” article, with a headline reading, “Are recent celebrity break-ups getting you down?”

41. The new Taco Bell “Frito-Burrito”

42. The song “I’m Hot” by Angelina Pavarnick

43. “The Intimidator” — a “seven pound breakfast mound of meat and eggs” (available only at Lumpy’s Diner in Antioch)

44. Sarah Palin attempting to get her and her daughter’s names copyrighted

45. Foo Fighters’ forthcoming 7th studio album (for the love of God, retire!)

46. The introduction of the term “Mancession”

47. A lock of J. Beiber’s hair selling at auction for £25,000

48. Charlie Sheen suing the producers of “Two & A Half Men” for $100 million for work he never did

(this will be an ongoing list)

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Oct. 14, 1960 @ 2 am: Presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy stands outside the Union steps at the University of Michigan to boldly declare the formation of a new “corps” of young people, based on service and the idea of global citizenship.  The Peace Corps is one of Kennedy’s most lasting legacies from a presidency that was cut short upon his assassination in November 1963.

50 years have passed since this early morning rally, that attracted 5,000 people to those steps, as the nation seemed poised to turn a corner, faced with a New Frontier.  The torch had been passed.

Oct. 14, 2010 @ 2 am: I show up to the same historic location, looking forward to a celebration and to commemorate the lingering memories of hope and ambition that were hung on the walls of history that night.  Let me begin by describing the scene: under dark Autumn skies, about 1,500 people had gathered around the steps of the Union, some of the crowd spilling out onto the sidewalk.  The front entrance of the building was brightly lit up by high-powered spot lights.  There was a microphone off to the left and also a video screen to project the events further into the sea of attendees.  There was an air of occasion in the proceedings, a wistfulness that only the memory of President Kennedy can seem to evoke in those that remember him and those that have studied and followed the trajectory of his life long after his passing.
I was ready for the wave of sentiment to roll over me as his legacy and the hopefulness he instilled in Americans was once again brought to light.

I was not ready for the board room type presentation of a one Mr. Steve Weinberg, UM alum, to kick off the commemoration.  His non-profit, co-opting its name from the cardboard signs spotted at highway exits, downtown parks and Kmart parking lot entrances, Will Work for Food was angled as some kind of manifestation of the Kennedy Legacy.  Aiming to involve college students and others in local service while organizing and gathering resources to send overseas to hungry and malnourished population, the relevance of Mr. Weinberg’s work is not to be downplayed.  This fact was made glaringly obvious by none other than Mr. Weinberg himself.  Expounding upon marketing, numbers, facts, money raised, volunteers involved, he seemed on the verge of spontaneous combustion fueled by his own self-congratulatory tone and self-importance.  Upon reviewing the contents of his website the next day, I found photos of him meeting Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and wait for it—Brad Pitt!  If you didn’t notice, this guy’s a mover and shaker.

Truly, his initial monopoly of the evening was little more than a rundown of his own impressive resume and his accomplishments.  Admitting it himself, Mr. Weinberg attempted at some humor to transition to the next part of the event.  “I’m going to stop talking about myself now,” as he passed the microphone back to the evening’s MC.  I myself, standing illegally on the wrong side of the velvet rope, feeling a sense of relief, shouted, “GREAT!”  Angry heads turned, glaring me down for I had ruined their iPhone Facebook video uploads with dissenting sarcasm.  It became clear that I was in the minority in assessing this whole event as a paper ghost, full of more empty stage theatrics than the worst Warhol experimental film.  In describing the scene to my brother, I stumbled upon a new adjective: “facebooky.”  That’s what it was.  The whole event was so facebooky, subliminally overwrought with do-gooder imperialism, I had one question in my mind as I turned my back on the scene and descended the stairs, “Where is the Front Populaire to fight this subclinical facism?”

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“Cemetery Junction,” the latest offering from British comedic masterminds Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (“The Office,” “Extras”), irrefutably proves they were born to make the world laugh, smile and reflect.

Although the theatrical exposure of “Junction” was limited to U.K. cinemas, its recent U.S. DVD release will (hopefully) allow American audiences, the opportunity to see one of the finest romantic comedies of the year.

Set in 1973 (in Gervais’ hometown of Reading, in southern England), the story gravitates around best friends Frankie, Bruce and Paul (flawlessly portrayed by newcomers Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes and Jack Doolan). Whilst Bruce and Paul are content with the monotony of their lives, working remedial jobs and spending their free hours chasing women and downing pints at the local pub, Frankie clearly has a higher sense of ambition. As he undertakes a tutelage at a life insurance firm, under the guise of a sleazy yet boring mentor (Matthew Goode), his goal is to replicate the success of the company’s president (an excellent Ralph Fiennes, playing delightfully against type) and liberate himself from the confines of Cemetery Junction (an historic section of Reading), much to the chagrin of his father (a superb Ricky Gervais), a working class machinist. Along the path to success and fortune, Frankie has a chance encounter, with a love that was never fully requited, in Julie (Felicity Jones). She just happens to be his boss’s daughter who happens to be engaged to his mentor.

Despite the pervasive Britishness of “Junction,” its themes, regarding determination, passion, loyalty, friendship and romance, are altogether universal. The script (co-written by Gervais and Merchant) brilliantly weaves a coming-of-age tale, about having to step outside your comfort zone, when life comes knocking on your door, and refuses to leave until you answer.

Hollywood, please take note.

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