Monthly Archives: November 2007

Name Them One by One

The following is courtesy my man Johnson Oatman. In 1897, he penned the following:

When upon life’s billows You are tempest tossed

When you are discouraged Thinking all is lost

Count your many blessings Name them one by one

And it will surprise you What the Lord has done

Count your blessings Name them one by one
Count your blessings See what God has done
Count your blessings Name them one by one
Count your many blessings See what God has done

Are you ever burdened With a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy You are called to bear?

Count your many blessings Every doubt will fly

And you will be singing As the days go by

Count your blessings Name them one by one

Count your blessings See what God has done

Count your blessings Name them one by one

Count your many blessings See what God has done

When you look at others With their lands and gold

Think that Christ has promised You His wealth untold

Count your many blessings Money cannot buy

Your reward in heaven Nor your home on high

Count your blessings Name them one by one
Count your blessings See what God has done
Count your blessings Name them one by one
Count your many blessings See what God has done

So, amid the conflict Whether great or small

Do not be discouraged God is over all

Count your many blessings Angels will attend

Help and comfort give you To your journey’s end

Count your blessings Name them one by one
Count your blessings See what God has done
Count your blessings Name them one by one
Count your many blessings See what God has done

Bad Santa

As if mandating that Santa must lose weight wasn’t enough, now we’re being told his trademark “HO HO HO!” should be changed to “Ha ha ha!” because 1) the original is offensive to women and 2) a long “o” sound can be frightening to children.

Come on, people.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Although I have a long standing record of disliking France and the French people, I find I’m beginning soften in my old age.

In January, 2006 I spent several days in Paris and found the people there polite, helpful and not smelly at all. Now, a little less than two years later, I find out they’re pretty darn smart too: Today, His Excellency, Nicolas Sarkosy, President of the Republic of France, has taken steps that further elevates France to the No. 2 position on my list of favorite countries. If I hadn’t heard these words being translated for myself, I never would have believed them. This man sounds more American than most of those in Washington.

Fry me up some French fries and remind me to send Sarkosy a thank-you card for the Statue of Liberty.

A few of his quotes from his speech today before a joint session of the U.S. Congress:
On Franco-American relations:
“We may disagree on things, we may even have arguments as in any family, but in times of difficulty, in times of hardship, one stands true to one’s friends, one stands shoulder to shoulder with them, one supports them and one helps them.”
“Our duty is to remain true to the blood spilled by our children on both sides of the Atlantic.”
On the American Dream:
“The American Dream was from the very outset a matter of putting into practice what the Old World and had dreamt of without every being able to accomplish it. The American Dreams means proving to all men and women throughout the world that freedom and justice, human rights and democracy were not a Utopia, but were the most realistic policy there is and the most likely to improve the lot and fate of each one.”
On American work ethic:
“To the millions of men and women who came from every country of the world and with their own hands, their intelligence and hearts built the greatest nation in the world, America did not say come and everything will be given to you, she said ‘Come, and the only limits of what you will be able to achieve will be the those of your own courage, boldness and talents.’ In America, failure is never the last word. Here, in your country on this soil, both the most humble and most illustrious citizen know nothing is owed to them and that everything has to be earned. That is what constitutes the moral value of America.”
On America as a beacon of freedom:
“America did not teach man the idea of freedom, she taught him how to practice freedom. And America fought for this freedom whenever she felt it to be threatened or jeopardy. It was by watching America grow that men and women understood that freedom and liberty were possible and it that that gives you a special responsibility. What made America great was her ability to transform her own dream, the American Dream, into a source of hope for all mankind.”
On the U.S. involvement in WWI and WWII:
“The people of my generation heard their grandparents talk about how, in 1917, America saved France. At a time when my country had reached the limits of its strength, at a time when France had exhausted its strength in the most absurd and bloodiest of wars, France was able to count upon the courage of American soldiers, and I have come to say to you that on behalf of the French people, never, never will we forget that. The men and women of my generation heard their parents talk about how American returned in 1944 to free us of the horrifying tyranny that threatened to enslave us. Fathers in my country took their sons to see the vast cemeteries where under white crosses, thousands of American soldiers lay; who had fallen not to defend their own freedom but the freedom of all others; who died far from their homes not to defend their families or homeland, but to defend humanity as a whole. That is why we love America. And the fathers took their sons to the beaches, the beaches where the young men of America had so heroically landed. And the fathers read to their sons, the admirable letters of farewell that those soldiers, those 20-year-old soldiers had written to the their families before battle to say to them, ‘We don’t consider ourselves to be heroes, we want this war to be over. But however much dread we may feel, you can count on us.’ Before they landed, Eisenhower told them, and we not forgotten in Europe these words, ‘The eyes of the world are upon you, young men of America. The hopes and prayers of all liberty loving people march with you.’ The children of my generation, as they listened to their fathers and as they watched movies, as they read history books and the letters of your soldiers as they died on our beaches of Normandy or Provence, as they visited the cemeteries where the Star Spangled banner flies, the children of my generation have understood that these young, 20-year men were true heroes, to whom we owed the fact that we were free people, not slave. America liberated us, and this is an eternal debt we owe America. As president of the French Republic, my duty is to say to the people of America, that you represent, in its vast diversity, that the people of France will never forget the sacrifice of your children. And to the families of those who did not come back, to those children who cries for the loss of their fathers, who they had no time to know, the gratitude of France, is forever. On behalf on my generation that did not suffer under the war, on behalf of those children who will always remember and to all your veterans, I want to express the deep, sincere gratitude of the French people.”
On modern fraternité:
“[America’s and France’s historical relationship] is more important than disagreements that we have, may have had, or any disagreement we may yet have. That sacrifice is the bedrock of America and France.”
“On one of our major daily newspapers, the headline read on Sept. 11, 2001, ‘Today We are All Americans.'”
“Every time an American solider falls somewhere in the world, I think of what the American Army did for France. I think of them and I am sad, as one is saddened to lose a member of one’s family.”
On the American Spirit:
“What is most extraordinary to me is that it seems that America emerges ever greater and stronger from the adversity and the challenges it faces. Instead of causing America to engage in self-doubt, these difficulties only strengthened her belief in her values. What makes America strong, the strength of this ideal that is shared by all Americans, and by all those who love her because they love freedom. America’s strength is not only a material strength, it is first and foremost a moral strength, a spiritual strength.”
“On [Sept. 11, 2001], when you were mourning so many dead, never had America appeared to me so great, so dignified, so strong. The terrorists thought they had weakened you, but they made you greater, and the people of America were admired world-wide for their courage. That is the truth.”
On fighting against terror:
“Today as in the past, it is together that we must fight to defend and promote the values and ideals of democracy, that men such as Washington and Lafayette coined together. Together, United, we must fight against terror.”
“Failure is not an option. Terrorism will not prevail, because democracies are not entitled to be weak and because we, the free world, are not afraid of this new barbarism. because of that, America can count on France in its battle on terror.”
Hmm. I’m beginning to think Sarkosy would make a good running mate for Fred in ’08

Blame St. Nick for all Your Problems

Good news! It’s no longer my fault that I’m overweight! Forget the fact that I knowingly choose to eat fatty foods, shun veggies and perfer to watch mediocre-at-best television shows instead of exercising, no! It’s all Santa’s fault! His carbon-emitting, eight-reindeer sleigh is probably to blame for global warming, too. Santa is a role model for children; he should totally be driving a hybrid by now. He’s probably withholding the cure for cancer, too. Jerk. Where’s my lawyer?

Darjeeling Limited, 3.5/5

Rated R. Click to view the trailer.

To say Wes Anderson’s movies are quirky is like suggesting that turkey might go well with those mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce you’ve got sitting on the table. It’s an unnecessary understatement, and it should be no surprise that like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited bears the distinct Anderson touch: It’s self-aware, quietly funny and touching with just a taste of the bizarre and magical. It also bears the distinct Anderson casting call, starring, among others, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray and Angelica Houston (although the latter are relegated to fairly tiny roles).

The three brothers, Francis (Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Schwartzman) set out on a spiritual journey roughly a year after their father’s death. They have not dealt with their emotions and they tote their father’s emotional and literal baggage (Louis Vuitton baggage… Pop must have been loaded) as they journey across the Subcontinent towards what they hope is peace and a reunion with their nun mother on the Indian “luxury” train, the Darjeeling Limited.

The three of them are each damaged in a physical or emotional way. Jack suffers from a broken heart, Peter fears his soon-to-born son will ruin his marriage and Francis, well he has a broken face. Their conflict and injuries threaten to derail (weak pun intended) their journey as they lie to each other, confide in one another, share medications, and bicker about who should wear the pants – I mean belt – in the family.

Owen Wilson’s bi-polar character takes on a new realism given his real-life suicide attempt and Adrian Brody acts so well with his eyes. That I was continuosly focused on them and not his nose is remarkable. I can’t complain about Schwartzman’s performance, other than to say that personally, a little bit of him goes a long way.

At first the concept of these three very distinct looking actors as brothers bothered me, but as the story unfolds, it became very easy to believe they’ve spent a lifetime loving and hating each other. They effectively build a three-way love-hate relationship that only rival siblings can know. My second favorite line in the movie takes place as Francis and Peter fight:
Francis: I love you! I love you!
Peter: I hate you! I hate you!
Jack: I love you both but I’m going to mace you!
My favorite line is also the most clever:
Peter: There’s been a lot of Indian giving in this family.

The Darjeeling Limited is full of beautiful and straight forward yet subtle metaphors. At one crucial point, the brothers lose their way spiritually and physically as they are kicked off the train. At another, the three are spiritually reunited by a baptism of sorts and funeral that allows them to reconnect and deal with death in a way they would not or could not at their father’s. Still another is the trio’s moment of salvation (so to speak) when they finaly let go of their baggage (again, literal and figurative) and choose to truly live.

Anderson uses the setting of India and her people in a very tasteful and quiet way. He obviously made a conscious effort to avoid stereotyping and it pays off by allowing India to exist quietly in the back ground as naturally and as comfortably as if the movie took place in your own hometown.

My screening (and most screenings if I’m not mistaken) included the 13-minute “prequel” film, Hotel Chevalier. HC is a totally different type of story, even though it stars Schwartzman and the woman who gave him the aforementioned broken heart, played by Natalie Portman (Portman appears in the main feature for just 2-3 seconds). It more or less exists on its own and the information we’re given only slightly enhances our knowledge and background of Jack and perhaps makes him seem like the artificial star of the main movie. HC isn’t so much to advance the main story, as it is to allow Anderson a chance to direct a totally different type of film without creating new characters or seeking more financing.