Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ Category

After we started thinking about what it was going to be like to have skunk “childbirth” going on underneath the back bathroom, we reconsidered our romantic decision to provide living quarters for them under the house. 

 We decided to change our open door policy and encourage them to move into quarters elsewhere, farther away from the Jennaire’s vent to the crawl space.   We are not averse to having them live in the barn, as long as they don’t choose the part of it that is Jim’s shop.   There are several piles of rocks that would probably serve them as well as a very nice pile of old railroad ties.   I happen to know there is already a very nice burrow under that, courtesy of the rabbits.   I suppose we could go out and acquire a nice big hollow log and move it onto the property someplace as well.

Anyway, the eviction process began with an attempt to determine just exactly how many skunks were actually living under our house.  The easiest way to determine this would be to crawl under the house and follow the trail back to where they are sleeping and visually count noses.   The risk of waking them up and causing them to feel threatened and annoyed made us unwilling to actually do this.  

We thought it more prudent to employ the next method, which is to sprinkle flour around the entrance to their den and then wait for them to wake up and go off foraging.   Then you count how many sets of prints went in and out that evening and you have a pretty good idea of how many skunks are utilizing the denning area.   

The first afternoon Jim sprinkled flour around the entrance to the crawl space, about half an hour after he did it a cold front started moving through the area.  The wind sprang up to announce this fact.   It was no pleasant vesper wafting about, but an icy arctic blast that gusted way up over 25 miles per hour.   Needless to say, the flour disappeared instantly and completely.   It was a moot point anyway, because the ambient temperature dropped to a level where the skunks went back into their estivation.  There was no foraging activity to mark.

Then it snowed all over us, and melted the next day.

(By the way, I just have to mention that I am handicapped while trying to write this post.   Marlon Brando is delivering his monologue in “Apolcalpyse Now”  on the speakers that are approximately 18 inches from my left ear.  Of course, you can imagine that the rest of the movie has been accompanying my attempts write this.  To have this post make any sense at all borders on the miraculous.  This is such an intense movie, and so surreal.  I mean surfing on the Mekong Delta?   Helicopters flying into battle accompanied by the “Ride of the Valkyries?  But I digress)

So, a few days later, the snow melted and it warmed up, so we spread flour around again.   This time we inmediately had torrential rains, with wind.   But we could see little skunk footprints in the mud around the fence, so we were able to determine that at present we were only hosting one skunk.   She had ventured out and about, hunger driving her, I suppose.  

We decided that the cover for the crawlspace opening should be modified so that once it is in place it won’t shift from side to side or up and down.   Jim took the big block of wood out to his shop and installed flanges to fit the opening.   He ran to the hardware store and got a bag of quickrete.   The weather was warm enough that it would cure before it froze.   Then he spent a pleasant hour or so digging a hole next to the foundation, mixing the concrete and pouring it in the hole.

That finished, he got the sieve and sprinkled flour around the opening of the crawl space.  Then he propped the cover up against the wall, leaving plenty of room for any skunks to get out from under the house.    Around our bedtime, he went out to see if our tenant had left the premises.   Tracks indicated the occupant had indeed gone off to look for something to eat, so he fitted the cover into place against the wall and rested the huge rock on it.   The “Notice to Vacate Premises” had been delivered.

The next morning, we went out to see what was what at the crawl space access.  We discovered that skunks are MUCH stronger than they look, are persistent, and extremely good diggers.   Madame Skunk had returned from a fine dinner/breakfast/lunch of moles, mice, crickets, and grubs and found the locks on the door changed.   She had discovered a very hard layer of clay between the foundation and the new concrete doorstep that while he was engaged in digging the hole for the conrete Jim had decided was part of the concrete foundation.  The skunk proved to us that it was not.    She dug it out, squeezed into the slot she had created, put her shoulder to the new crawlspace cover and moved it out and up enough to squeeze her way back in.  

All of this right under our bedroom window, without waking us up.

To be continued. . .

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Quite a while ago I read a blog entry about a blog project regarding a movie called “The Girl in the Cafe.”  I was just intrigued enough to join the project, and commit to watching the movie and writing a review about it, and then sending the DVD on its next stop on its tour. 

I got the message that the DVD was on its way to me right before I left for Colorado.  When I got back, it had not arrived yet, and so we jumped right into processing the garden sass that is trying to inundate us.   It is an intense time of year here, much of what we eat vegetable-wise during the year comes off this place out of our garden, so when the harvest is happening, we tend to stick to business.


On Saturday morning, we had already picked tomatoes, and started a second batch of pickles after processing the first batch, in addition to putting up the serranos that Jim had picked.   When we went to get the mail, lo and behold, “The Girl” had arrived.   After we had finished fooling with garden stuff, we decided to watch the DVD. 

There were certain difficulties in playing the DVD.  It has been a lot of places and been touched by many fingers.   Fortunately, cleaning the fingerprints off of it caused it to resume playing.  

I spent most of Sunday as I was processing chard and kale thinking about what to say about this movie.   I continued my cogitations through Monday, and also today.  I have been worrying about just how unpopular I might make myself by pointing out what I consider to be a flaw in the logic of this movie.

First, I must say that I think this film is well written, and well acted.  I enjoyed the fact that it was in black and white.   I think this genre has been ignored far too much in our modern, technicolor world.  There are no chase scenes, beautifully implied sex, and a very simple plot.  The message of the movie is that one person can make a difference if they have the courage to speak up and out, even at the risk of making other people uncomfortable.

I find this laudable.   I can also see why this film has made a strong impression on many people.   It is billed as being part of the MakePovertyHistory campaign.   I am not sure that the G8 nations are going to actually accomplish this feat, even though there was much earnest and sometimes acrimonious discussion of this subject in the movie. 

However, one of the things I found most disturbing about this movie was that all we saw was talking.   I never saw “The Girl” actually DO anything to alleviate poverty, nor did I see any suggestions of actual meaningful actions a person could do to do this.  (I would have liked to see a list of things like The Heifer Project that individuals could contribute to, for example.)  The implication of the movie was that somehow it is the responsibility of the Governments of the Eight Big Powers to solve all the world’s problems by throwing money at them.  I would submit that as long as those G8 nations’ governments are being elected using money contributed to them by PACs, corporations, and lobbies, nothing is likely to be done about world poverty.

I find it ironic to watch this movie telling me that my country (The USA) should be responsible for solving the crises of poverty somewhere in Africa, when we are not even capable of figuring out how to provide health care to our own people.  We have our own starving children, right here.   We have our own homeless people, right here.  We are rather far down on the list of literacy.  Our rate of children dying in childbirth is higher than something like 30 other nations, we do not have the highest life expectancy either. 

Yep, as a nation, we are rich, and we drive our disgusting big SUVs and consume, consume, consume.   But our national debt is now in the trillions of dollars, largely because our arrogant, illegal, ought-to-be-impeached administration is burning and blowing up billions of dollars every day over in the Middle East.   I wonder why “The Girl” wants us to start solving problems for the third world.  There are times when I observe our record in Iraq that I think the developing nations might be better off without our tender attentions.  Call me cynical.

“The Girl” makes a passionate speech about children living in abject poverty dying.   They die while we grow too fat for our nice clothes.   She tells us that 30,000 children die unnecessarily every day; that amounts to one every three seconds.   What is not ever stated in this movie, and what I feel needs to be pointed out is, that the world population is growing by 78 million people every year.   That is an increase of 213,699 souls every day.   If you do the math, you discover that while one child is dying every three seconds, five are being born every two seconds.   The irony is, most of these children are being born in the very third world countries where the starving children “The Girl” is so concerned about are dying. 

It seems to me that while it is true that compassionate people in the developed nations ought to be concerned about children dying, perhaps we ought to be more concerned about the excessive amounts of children that are being born.  The World Overpopulation Awareness website has a great deal to say about this situation.   The following is a direct quote from their “Factoids” section.

The UN reports the world’s population is expected to increase to 9.1 billion people by 2050. The majority of the increase is in developing countries. The increase is equivalent to the combined populations of China and India today. The overall trend shows a lower rate of growth, confirming that the population is slowly stabilizing. In developed nations declining birth rates means little or no population growth except in the U.S. which benefits from a high number of immigrants, who tend to have more children. Industrial countries are expected to see little change in their population of 1.2 billion. A decline is forecast by 2050 in Germany, Italy, Japan, and the former Soviet Union. Populations in Europe would fall further were it not for immigrants, estimated at 2.2 million each year. The population of developing nations is expected to climb from 5.3 billion in 2005 to 7.8 billion by 2050. Very rapid growth is forecast in the least-developed nations. Between 2005 and 2050, the population is projected to triple in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger and Uganda. In each of these countries, women would like less children, if they had the choice.   (Italics are mine. HMH)  By 2050 India will have surpassed China in population and the two will account for 50% of the world’s inhabitants. Women in India have an average of 3 children compared to 1.7 children in China. The AIDS pandemic and other diseases are slowing population increases in about 60 developing countries. In southern Africa, where AIDS is prevalent, life expectancy has fallen from 62 in 1990-1995 to 48 in 2000-2005.      February 25, 2005   Times on Line (UK) 012959 

If this movie causes people to think about what we as a species are doing to this planet, if it causes people to rise up and speak out against political policies and religious dogmas  that block access to birth control where it is most needed (and, apparently, wanted), then it might actually accomplish its purpose. 

Meanwhile, I must pack the DVD for its next leg of its trip, to Chile.  Then I have a gallon of green beans to trim, cut, blanch and freeze.

God speed, “Girl in the Cafe”  May you continue to make people aware and make them think.

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This black and white comedy came to the silver screen in 1950.  Jimmy Stewart was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Elwood P. Dowd, a friendly drunk with a an imaginary six foot rabbit friend named Harvey.  Josephine Hull won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as his sister, who tries to have him committed to an insane asylum.

This is a quiet little classic.   There is no sex, no violence, no  mystery, no chase scenes.  It wends its way along whimsically.  The artfulness of this movie and the excellent acting in it gets you to the point where you actually start to “see” Harvey.  One begins to root for Elwood and Harvey right around the time they unwittingly disrupt his sister’s tea party.   The problem is that everyone sees Elwood as a disturbing maniac because they are not comfortable with his relationship with Harvey.

There are some deep philosophical thoughts tucked into the bon-bons of this movie.  It makes you think about a lot of things:  the nature of reality, addiction, and what friendship is.  The amazing thing is how true and pure the relationship of friendship is between this self-confessed alcoholic and his invisible cohort Harvey.  Another lovely thing in this movie is how Elwood manages to make ordinary people feel important and special simply by being interested in them.  He approaches everyone, without fail, in a non-judgmental spirit, and genuinely seems to want to know about them.  He invites them to dinner.  Not surprisingly, he ends up making friends all over the place.

There are many truly funny moments in this movie, and some classic lines.  These are a couple of my favorites.   Elwood is talking to a psychiatrist, and says “I have wrestled with reality for 35 years and I am happy to report that I finally won out over it.”  My other favorite line, and one which we would all be well advised to meditate on, comes very near the end of the movie.  Elwood says, “My mother said to me, Elwood  (she always used to call me that, Elwood), Elwood, she said, ‘In this world you must be Oh-so-smart or Oh-so-pleasant.’  Well, for years I was smart, I prefer pleasant.”

There are good reasons why this is still a popular movie:  it is sweet, it is amusing, it is wise, it illustrates basic truths about human relationships.  I recommend it.  In fact, it is one movie I believe everybody should see, in a double feature with “Singing in the Rain.”

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