The Guilty Party

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hi everyone. Here's a bit of an expanded album of our Hawaii trip.
Did we have a grand time?

You Betcha!

This is from the last viewpoint on the Waimea Canyon Drive.

One of the views from the Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai.

A view of the lighthouse.

One of the many, many gorgeous views at Allerton Gardens on Kauai.

North Shore of Kauai.

North Shore of Oahu.

The living room (and part of the kitchen) of our suite at Kauai Country Inn.

Visitors' Center at National Tropical Botanical Garden. (Allerton Garden)

South Shore of Oahu

Dancers on boat tour to Fern Grotto on Kauai

King Kamehameha in Honolulu

Lawai Beach as seen during approach to Allerton Garden

Anne and You Know Who at the Dole Plantation Tourist Trap

Monday, July 14, 2008

Me, Robot

Michelle, one of my MySpace friends, in a response to my little essay about the movie "Wall-E" expressed a bit of doubt as to whether a robot could hold her attention for an hour and a half. This prompted me to think just a bit (more than that and the pain kicks in) about just why I and so many others have found Wall-E so engaging. Heck, in many ways I identify with Pixar's rolling trash compactor. Here is how I replied to Michelle. I hope she doesn't mind me sharing the same thought here.

Thanks for checking out my blog. The thing with "non-human" characters, which are, let's face it, a staple in not only animated films but stories of all sorts from Greek mythology to Brother's Grimm to E.B. White, is that they actually allow us to see and feel the most fundamental elements of being human by allowing us to observe it in a different package. Wall-E is metal and treads and binocular eyes, but he is first and foremost a character with wants and needs and good things to offer in return. If you go to see the movie, notice how important it is to him to have contact, to feel connected. It doesn't get any more human than that.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

It all begins with the characters

Thank goodness it is possible to hear many archived radio programs online. There is no way I would be able to listen to any of my favorite programs if I had to catch them strictly at broadcast time. Today I am particularly thankful for the ability to time-shift the NPR show Fresh Air, hosted by Terry Gross. Today she interviewed Andrew Stanton, the writer and director of Wall-E, the latest from the extraordinary creative team at Pixar. I was particularly interested in hearing what Mr. Stanton had to say because we had just seen the movie and I had not only been entertained but amazed at its heart and soul. To me it represents the art of film in one of the purest forms we have seen since the best work of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd. And let us face it, to do something like Wall-E takes not just talent, but strength of character. This film does not bow to Conventional Wisdom as it applies to animated films. It tells a story and does it beautifully and on its own terms.

Anyway, back to the radio interview. What Andrew Stanton the Writer had to say about a couple of things particularly caught my attention. When Terry Gross quoted a couple of reviewers, one who applauded the movie as a timely parable and warning for our age and another who saw it as a tedious hour and a half diatribe on behalf of the treehugger contingent, Andrew Stanton simply said that his intention was to Tell a Story and his inspiration had not been a political or social agenda, but a Character. The last robot left on Earth. That is what he started with. A Character. It took months, much collaboration and a fair amount of serendipitous good fortune (which in my opinion happens much more frequently when open and refreshingly childlike minds are involved) in order to shape this character of Wall-E. And then it took more creative energy to form the story. But the story would not have happened without the character. That is why the film works: we care about Wall-E. Yes, the Earth has been turned into a refuse pile but the Earth is not our protagonist. Wall-E is. The story is about him. Those who can't see this are, well, either dense or can't get past the brick walls of their own agendas.

The other thing that captured me in the interview was the discussion about the repeated use of a segment from the movie Hello Dolly. As the film opens, the first thing we hear is Michael Crawford singing the joyous, upbeat, optimistic song "Put on Your Sunday Shoes". I have mentioned more than once in this blog and elsewhere that the world would be a better place if we had more musical theater about us and I must say it is gratifying to know that Andrew Stanton seems to agree with me. An undeniable factor in making Wall-E the sweet, romantic soul he has become is, in my mind, his exposure to "Put on Your Sunday Shoes" and the "It Only Takes a Moment", the other song from Hello Dolly featured in Wall-E. When Terry Gross asked Andrew Stanton about using "Put on Your Sunday Shoes" he said that he knew he wanted an old fashioned song for the opening, something very upbeat and life-affirming. He listened to many songs before trying a tune from a show he himself had been in back in his high school days. The opening lyric "Out there" told him he was on the right track and the last line "And we won't come home until we've kissed a girl!" had to have been the clincher. What more do most of us want than to See What's Out There and Find True Love? And there is no better way of conveying those needs, those desires, than through song.

There are those folks who will tell you they found the movie to be tedious or silly or boring. Others will tell you they don't like the alarmist environmental message it supposedly sends. These people may be lovely folks with lots of redeeming qualities, but the fact here is that in one case they have allowed themselves to be dumbed down by the entertainment industry and in the other they just don't get it.

Thank you, Pixar and particularly Andrew Stanton. You are proof that Good Stuff can find the light of day. Oh, and thank you for the almost non-stop laughs to be found in the short film about the magician and his hungry bunny. Genius.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Little Bit of This. A Little Bit of That

...The other evening my wife, daughter and I were watching The Music Man. It was my call, and honestly, it had taken some persuasion to get my two favorite ladies to watch Robert Preston, Shirley Jones and company with me, but I think they enjoyed it. The next evening my daughter and I watched Disney's Beauty and the Beast. I like musicals, whether in the theater or on the silver screen. Often I have wished that life itself could be a musical. Heck, wouldn't it be cool to have an invisible orchestra setting the mood, a talented lyricist providing you with just the right words and an incredible tunesmith supplying evocative melodies on command? Not to mention the health benefits to the general population from the dance classes required of all.

...Whilst putting back a small SUV in its correct spot on the lot yesterday after a not-so-fruitful test drive, I switched on the radio to the Sixties station on XM radio. What were they playing? One of the silliest, most indecipherable and yet inexplicably compelling songs sung by a fellow who in a much later decade would become identified as Professor Dumbledore. Yes, Richard Harris was singing "MacArthur Park". It is a long song and although it took mere seconds to put the SUV in its place, I sat and listened and of course, sang along until the song was done and they had moved on to "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher. And you know what? It felt good. I still don't know what the cake was doing out in the rain and I don't care. Even though "it took so long to bake it and I'll never have that recipe again."

...I've been pondering the necessity of a role model. I think it would be a good idea. Just don't know who to burden with the responsibility. I will likely go with a person who has passed on. It will minimize the possibility of legal action I do believe.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008



This morning as I was driving to Trader Joe's to do some grocery shopping, I tuned to Public Radio in order to hear what Diane Rehm was up to. I nearly always find something informative, interesting or inspirational on this most intelligent of radio talk shows (yes, it can be done!) hosted by this most gracious and well informed woman and it irks me that my work schedule doesn't allow me to listen more frequently.

When I tuned in this morning her guest was NYU Professor Emeritus James Carse (that's a link to his Wikipedia page, evidently this learned gentleman has, for some inexplicable reason, chosen not to hawk his wares on his own website. Heck, he doesn't even have a MySpace page, if you can believe it!). Mr. Carse has a new book out called The Religious Case Against Belief. According to the synopsis of the book (nope, I haven't read the book) and the part of the discussion I listened to this morning, the good professor spends a goodly amount of time examining the Three Types of Ignorance. First we have Ordinary Ignorance: stuff a person doesn't know but can find out. Example used on the DR Show, "the weather today in China", although it does seem he could have used a more precise example like "the weather in Beijing", but we'll put that niggle aside.

Then we have Willful Ignorance which means you can get the information but choose not to. An everyday example given by Mr. Carse was "Do you know what is your teenager getting up to when he/she is out with his/her friends this summer? " "No and I'd rather not know." Willful Ignorance, from what I can determine, can run the gamut from the benign and even beneficial "Why waste my time?" (celebrity nonsense), which is just a way of editing and refraining from wasting time and energy, to "I've already got the Big Picture figured out, so I really don't need to hear your take on the subject. I am right, you are wrong, shut the hell up." That is the dangerous one. Willful Ignorance is what people trot out to make mischief on others. It is the attitude that says "I've got the Answer so there is no need for any more discussion. And oh, by the way, I highly recommend you come around to my way of thinking before somebody gets hurt."

Willful Ignorance is a most useful tool for persecuting people, creating unjust laws and starting wars.

So what is the third variety of ignorance? Well, it is called Higher Ignorance and it is actually a good thing, at least in the view of Professor Carse, not to mention Yours Sincerely. Higher Ignorance is what causes us to seek, to question, and most of all, to realize We Just Don't Know, and It's Okay. Higher Ignorance is what the Great Religions actually teach. Not a code of conduct, not an Us against Them, but a celebration of The Mystery and the neverending quest for bits and pieces of the whole that should be Man's real business. It isn't exactly comforting, but then who said we are supposed to be comfortable? When you deny the questions, you deny your own humanity and claim a spot in the universe you don't deserve and aren't prepared for.

If Professor Carse was on MySpace I would send him a nice message telling him how much I enjoyed listening to him. And most especially how nice it was to have a scholar such as himself confirm that what I have thought for so many years about certainty is Absolutely Right!

End of discussion.

Go Ye Forth and See One Thing From Somebody Else's Perspective.

A Bit About Me

My photo
I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.