Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Am I getting obsessed by Lincoln, like a lot of people? Well, I don't think so, but if you are a Civil War buff you run the risk. Certainly my interest has increased recently after going to that play, and some other pretty good stuff that has been on the History Channel.

And I really enjoyed this program on bookTV which explored Lincoln and Shakespeare.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

No Movie for Old Men?

In spite of the fact our friends Matt and Marsha did not like/couldn't recommend the movie No Country for Old Men I found a copy that was selling at a discount and decided to watch it.

Well, I can certainly see why somebody would really be put off by the movie. It has too much violence for my taste. The violence is gratuitous; I just did not feel we needed to see that many people get killed, shot, etc. even if it was part of the story. You can have characters get knocked off without seeing their brains shooting across the screen every time [ironically, there were so many people getting killed sometimes we didn't see it and there was still too much of it!] And what I mean it is just too much to watch for what's good for the soul. Yep, I mean children should not watch this movie, but neither should teenagers, and for that matter, neither should somebody my age or any age. It's just not good for anybody to start to ingest that much nastiness.

I watched it today by myself when I had a chance so Sue wouldn't have to leave the room. I'd say Sue would hate this movie, but then again she liked and recommended Pulp Fiction , a movie I disliked because of the gratuitous violence and the fact it was just generally a sordid story I didn't want attached to my soul either. It was so bad I charge it was guilty of the trivialization of evil, as it sort of had a silly element as well. I had similar problems, then, with
No Country for Old Men.

But I liked the movie, overall! Perhaps on the wrong day I would have hated it. As it was, it struck me that the suspense of "what is going to happen next" was just masterful, this was on-the-edge-of-your-seat stuff indeed. And the movie [unlike Pulp F.] had an undeniable pertinence for today, now that we are seeing the current violence about drugs in Mexico and the border area. I also have the criticism that it had an element of the supernatural villain that bugs me a little; the evil guy that can't get caught, always has a leg up on everybody, etc. They actually referred to the guy as a ghost. On the other hand, John Wayne syndrome was banished from the movie entirely; the good guys were not superhuman, and when one of them seemed to be taking on the John Wayne role he was sooner or later shown to be quite fallible. I have gotten to like this in a movie. I didn't like the ending, which was handled in such a way as if to suggest they had just run out of money and had to quit filming, so that was the end! This left the status of several characters in the lurch. The Coen brothers can be irritating in a number of ways, I almost never forgave them for lying by claiming at the beginning of Fargo that it was a "true story." I refused to watch any more of their movies for years and probably it took O Brother Where Art Thou for them to redeem themselves with me. On this day at least, though, I can say I liked the movie. Overall.

PS: here was Marsha's comment on the movie from over a year ago:

No Country for Old Men - Let me emphasize that we hated, yes hated, this movie. It was violent and pointless. Tommy Lee Jones was in it and I am starting to sense a pattern here. The story was inconclusive and frankly not all that compelling. Call me crazy but I like a good story. There was nothing here worth caring about.

She gave it a "D". Link.

PSS: If you want to see a movie that rejects the John Wayne thing, see Ulee's Gold (1997)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Email to Mr. Felten

Here's an email to Eric Felten, who writes a weekly article on cocktails for the Wall Street Journal. In the past I've emailed him and seen him use some of the material, so I am curious to see if that will happen again; if he does I'll try to post it. It is pretty amazing how he can keep that column interesting, largely the trick is knowing all the history I guess. Anyway here is what I sent him.x

Dear Mr. Felten,

We continue to enjoy your columns, continually amazed how you never seem to fail to make a topic interesting, even when pretty sure we won't pursue the featured libations.

We have noticed you don't necessarily note much about seasonal things, and this is in contrast to our own lives; following and respecting the concept of seasons is something we still do now in this age of all things being available 'year round'. As an example, even though oysters can still be found in August, we eschew them; not so much because we don't think they are safe, as might have been a concern a few decades back, but because it just seems we enjoy things more if we consider them to have seasons, making it a treat. And, yes, usually prices come down as well when things are locally in season. Crabs, not oysters, are what we think of in August! The concept of seasons hasn't died (and we hope to find some strawberries today at a possible peak in flavor and low point in price).

But to get back on topic, here in Northern Virginia our mint has come in and this time for sure it is a bumper crop what with all the rain we have been getting. We are certainly delving right in and serving up cocktails that feature mint, mindful of a tactic to benefit from and fight directly the dreariness of these recent days. Mint Juleps today and yesterday Mojitos; life is good! In several months of course the cold weather finally comes in, and the mint will be waning and unattractive; it'll be time to announce our little celebration of "the Last of the Mojitos"! Another season will be ended but all the more joy for the day when the mint returns, having suffered the wait. I'd say having your own mint is somewhat similar to getting home grown tomatoes, what you can get in the store could never measure up.

In the matter of Mojito construction (likely we first heard of them from you), our current recipe got altered by accident. An accidental addition of about 1/4 ounce of blood orange bitters turned out to add a bonus in flavor, and we never make them without that now.

Perhaps other drinks feature mint, don't know. Just passing some thoughts along and looking forward to your next column.

Carl Williams
Arlington, VA

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Little Boy Crying Wolf?

From the article in the below link:

In the matter of swine flu -- and the single dumbest response to it yet -- first prize was about to go to the government of Egypt, which last week ordered a cull of the country's estimated 400,000 pigs ...

[There] is a legion of heavily credentialed panic proliferators.... the people whose terrifying forecasts you last heard during the avian flu panic of 2005 (deaths to date: 257, according to the World Health Organization) and the SARS panic of 2002-2003 (774 deaths). By contrast, garden-variety flus typically kill upwards of 30,000 Americans a year.

... science writer Wendy Orent has pointed out in the New Republic, "only the precise conditions of World War I's Western Front -- a true disease factory -- could have created a flu as virulent as the one responsible for the 1918 pandemic. . . . The virus didn't need to keep people well enough to walk about -- fresh victims were close at hand."

Sure enough, no flu pandemic has been even remotely comparable: The worst was the Asian flu of 1957-58, which killed an estimated two million people, including 70,000 in the U.S. (or about twice the annual average.)

... trend lines indicate we are better equipped than ever to minimize the effects of a pandemic.

Why? Because wealthier people tend to be healthier people, and because wealthier societies have more to invest in medicine and research, and because a higher standard of living tends to correlate with more personal space. Also, because globalization means information sharing across boundaries, and rapid adoption of best practices, and greater transparency.