A Mind That Suits What doesn't kill me, makes me laugh... usually.

Friday, December 05, 2003 :::
Winter really is here, sort of...Iraq...Some Great Reading...

Today brings that most wonderful of things in Washington--an ice storm. Unlike snow, which Washingtonians may not see for two or three years at a time, ice is a regular visitor here. So of course everyone is acting surprised. Resting in bed this morning with the radio blaring, A Mind That Suits heard of two spinouts that that had left wrecks in the middle of our storied Beltway. Said Beltway can be up to 12 lanes across at point (6 each way), and for the four years that A Mind That Suits had a car, the tires of said car touched the pavement of the Beltway exactly twice, once when friends invited him to a party and gave him directions that way, the other time when he arrived from NC just as the July 4 fireworks were due to end on the Mall and he made a hurried calculation that the one place no one would be would be on the Beltway, and he was right. A colleague who lives in Kensington, MD, perhaps 10 minutes north of DC (the first sniper muder was there), travels a secret route through the quiet, older suburbs. All those streets have massive speed bumps, exactly to discourage through traffic, but the colleague somehow always makes it in to work.

The crush to get out of town, work his second job, and finish a reasonable amount of the translation he is working on is severely curtailing the blogging of A Mind That Suits, which he regrets. It also makes him inattentive to his friends, for which he apologizes.

There is mapped out a long set of short answers to friend Eddie's question over at One Good Turn, to whit, what kind of planning should the Administration have done for Iraq, but it will probably commence tomorrow. However, yesterday, this writer found testimony from a general that preparation for the post-war effort began in January of this year, which would be a scandal if true, as was yesterday's story in the Post about the shortage of body armor for troops who are now policemen. That certainly hints at what direction the answer is going to go in.

As per usual, hitthee over to opinionjournal to enjoy the trenchant analysis by Daniel Henninger, but also to gorge yourself on an unusually rich feast at the usually excellent Taste page. There is a very good analysis of Playboy and what it hath wraught, and an superb piece by someone from the National Geographic on how people who say they love nature often know nothing about it, which is why they have difficulty understanding the need to kill off excess animals. (He did not point out how animals die off when the population gets too large, but that is an even better argument.)

The editorial that always leads off the Taste page extolls the success of Elf, a thoroughly G movie, whose innocence even the normally shameless (though brilliant) Will Ferrell is proud of. The editorial is always anonymous, but reads far more personally than the real editorials in the main section. This writer compares Elf with kid movies that slip in swear words or leers to make themselves appear more sophisticated. But instead of citing, say, the Cat in the Hat, which is supposed to be quite vulgar and aggressive, the writer reaches all the way back to 1982 to slam the "gratuitous 'penis breath'" used in ET. Now, that particular famous expression may have been gratuitous, in that the movie could easily have done without it, and because the use of some rough language was forced on a then fledgling Steven Spielberg by the studio. (Yes, Virginia, there was a time when the mighty Steven did not have final cut.) A "G" movie just wouldn't sell, said the studio. And yet the complain misses a point: ET is not a children's movie, in the way that Elf is. It is a very sad, deeply moving tale about, in Spielberg's words, "what it's like to grow up lonely in the suburbs." And faced with an unreasonable demand from a studio, he searched within the world he was describing and came up with exactly the kind of expression that a sheltered, nerdy kid might say. "Penis" is not really a swear word, and "penis-breath" is not something anyone with any real exposure to rough language is likely to say. That is left to the 15-year-old brother, who mumbles two rather pedestrian but indisputably obscene epithets later in the movie. Yet no one complains about those. Which may--just maybe--mean that Mr. Spielberg succeeded in coming up with mot juste, if you will. And when he hears complaints about it, A Mind That Suits finds himself wondering, "how may 11-year-old boys do you know?"

The last time he saw it, A Mind That Suits was nearly alone in Washington's magnificent Uptown Theatre halfway up Connecticut Avenue, a grand movie palace from the classic days, and he found a seat dead center, in the front row of the balcony. About 1 hour into it, he began crying for no discernible reason, except that the family situation in the movie is so in expressibly sad. He was worried that he would be the object of some derision from the teenaged girls behind him until just after the movie, when a mother came over to them and said, "I'll (sniff) meet (sniff) you (sniff) at (sob) the car (sniff)," and the girls replied, "o (sniff) k (sob)." Which is why whatever cavils one may have about "penis-breath," it is far, far more important to recognize that ET is indeed one of the monuments of 20th Century American art. Elf, whatever its merits, is unlikely to hold a similar position in the 21st.

::: posted by A Mind That Suits at 11:11 AM



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