Unknown

Kish and I went to see Unknown on Saturday.  We both like Liam Neeson and were in the mood for an action-adventure film.  Unknown met those requirements — but not much else.

Unknown is a story of a man who is knocked unconscious in an accident, lapses into a coma, and is surprised to learn when he awakens that he has been replaced, in every facet of his life, by another man.  It is the kind of movie that asks audience members to completely suspend their reasoning faculties and tries to maintain such a break-neck pace that you don’t have time to consider the plot holes and implausibilities.  It features a big twist toward the end, and I won’t spoil it for anyone who wants to see the film.  However, it is the kind of twist that renders the overall plot so improbable that I, at least, felt a bit cheated.

With his craggy face and physical size, Liam Neeson is a believable action hero who looks like he could throw a punch and absorb a beating.  His character is helped by an illegal alien taxi driver, played by Diane Kruger, and a former East German spy, played by Bruno Ganz.  (Ganz is an accomplished actor and turned in a fine performance, but as I looked at him I couldn’t help but think of his performance as Adolf Hitler in Downfall.  His depiction of Hitler, as Der Fuehrer is advised that the Russians are closing in, has been turned into countless YouTube parodies in which a subtitled Hitler supposedly reacts to unexpected results in sporting events.  Whenever Ganz was on screen I found myself thinking of Hitler talking about his TO Dallas Cowboys jersey.)

Unknown is no great film, but it’s not an unpleasant way to spend a few hours on a cold and rainy day.

Food Fight

Okay people, does it surprise any one that portly Rush Limbaugh took a cheap shot at Michelle Obama last week after she ate ribs at a restaurant during her skiing vacation. Rush commented that while the first lady advocates healthy eating, she doesn’t look like she follows her own dietary advice and would never be put on the cover of a Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue.

According to the owner of the restaurant the five ounce braised short ribs Michele ate were only 600 calories, not 1,500 as Rush pointed out, besides everyone knows that when your on vacation it’s a time to enjoy oneself and splurge a little.

A word of advice Rush, childhood obesity is a big problem. I just read an article last week that the sharpest increase in strokes was among men age fifteen to thirty four and there have been numerous articles recently pointing to a significant increase in type two diabetes (formerly adult onset) in children. Not to mention the fact that 75% of military aged youth do not qualify for service because they are over weight.

Of course Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman have weighed (no pun intended) in saying that the “Let’s Move” program is big government overreach. Thank goodness two of the more reasonable voices in the Republican party, Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee both said that childhood obesity is a concern and they think it’s a good goal to try to positively encourage kids to eat better.

It’s just my humble opinion, but it seems as though the government just can’t win, if they do nothing and it becomes a really big problem then it’s their fault cause they didn’t do anything, but if they see a developing problem and try to be proactive and address the problem people say they are overstepping their bounds.

So good job Michele Obama, keep on doing what you are doing, I am 100% behind you and your program “Let’s Move” because we all know that what’s now a health issue may soon become an economic issue.

S.A.D. Dance

This is the time of year when everyone in the Midwest tries to figure out whether they have Seasonal Affective Disorder — S.A.D. for short.

S.A.D. is a condition that is associated with the winter.  The symptoms will sound familiar to anyone who has experienced a Midwest winter:  weight gain, depression, increased sleep, lack of energy, withdrawal from social activities, and feeling sluggish and irritable.  They think that S.A.D. may be caused by a lack of ambient light and changes in body temperature.  Given these symptoms and causes, how in the world do they distinguish people who have S.A.D. from people who just hate the winter and grimly plug ahead through the cold, and the wet, and endless sunless days?  How many people out there love icy blasts and revel in the overwhelming greyness of a Midwestern winter?  Are there people who are actually excited about a day when the overcast sky is battleship grey rather than slate grey or platinum?

I sometimes wonder about the “discovery” of these new emotional conditions.  After all, people were dealing with winter for millennia before somebody decided there was a condition called S.A.D. Centuries ago, when native Americans toughed it out during the harsh Midwestern winters, were braves and squaws afflicted with S.A.D.?  If so, how did the chief react when Brave Eagle overslept and wasn’t able to take down a deer or buffalo because he felt sluggish?  And did the tribes perform some kind of traditional S.A.D. dance to try to convince the Great Spirit that it was high time to bring an end to the dim, frigid days?

Roll On, Big O-SU

The Ohio State Buckeyes spanked Indiana today, while Purdue crushed Michigan State.  Their victories set up what should be an interesting final week of the Big Ten regular season.

The Buckeyes close at Penn State, on Tuesday night, and then finish at home against Wisconsin on Sunday.  Purdue, in the meantime, hosts Illinois on Tuesday and then ends the season at Iowa on Saturday.  Although there will be a Big Ten Tournament the following weekend, and the winner of that tournament will be deemed the Big Ten championship for purposes of the automatic NCAA Tournament bid, every true Big Ten fan knows that the regular season title is the more important one.  There is a lot of pride involved in surviving the rugged life on the road in the Big Ten and winning enough away games to claim the regular season title.

This year, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin clearly are the class of the conference.  Ohio State fans hoped that Purdue might stumble in East Lansing, but instead the Boilermakers drubbed the struggling Spartans.  That win means the Buckeyes will have to win out to claim the regular season title, and Ohio State held up its end of the bargain today by clubbing the Hoosiers at Value City Arena.  Indiana is a good example of a once-storied program that has fallen on hard times.  Although the Hoosiers may bounce back next year, when they have a good recruiting class coming in, right now they just don’t belong, talent-wise, on the same floor as Ohio State, Purdue, or Wisconsin.  They are cannon fodder, like the Washington Generals or the anonymous masked wrestler who gets trounced by Hulk Hogan in the run-up to Wrestlemania.

The game at Happy Valley Tuesday night will be a huge one for both teams.  The Nittany Lions need a win to build their resume for an at-large NCAA bid, and the Buckeyes need the win to stay ahead of Purdue in the race for the regular season Big Ten crown.

Caving In And Setting Up A Facebook Page

On several occasions, Richard has suggested that I set up a Facebook page.  I have resisted doing so — until now.

I haven’t joined the Facebook brigade because Facebook just seems weird to me.  The whole concept of “social networking” and having a wall that anyone can write on is odd.  I don’t know how accessible I want to be to people from my past.  I’ve also thought that there is something kind of pathetic about people who aren’t in their teens reaching out to others and asking them to be a “friend.”  It’s like high school all over again!  I’ve been afraid that, if I join Facebook and have to wrestle with awkward social issues like “friending,” I’ll probably suffer some kind of sympathetic acne breakout, too.  And, unlike, say, Bob Dole, I’ve never made a practice of referring to myself in the third person — and Facebook seems to be filled with breathless, third-party references.

Why have I reconsidered?  Many of my contemporaries (i.e., 50-somethings) have Facebook pages and have said it is a good way of keeping in touch with family and friends.  Richard also points out that it may well allow more people to check out the family blog.  So, I am willing to give Facebook a shot, for now.  If it turns out to be too weird, I’ll just end it and retreat back to my prior state of unconnected, aging “friend”lessness.

Russell And The Masters On Main Street

Today Russell will be part of a new show opening up in Catskill, New York.  Catskill is a scenic town located along the Hudson River, north of Poughkeepsie.

The show is part of an effort by the Catskill Arts Initiative to fill the empty storefronts along Catskill’s quaint Main Street with art.  The project is called “Masters On Main Street” and will feature participants from Vassar College, The Art Institute of Chicago, Bard College, the School of Visual Arts, and SUNY New Paltz.  Their work will appear in space donated by owners of the Main Street buildings.  According to the Catskill Storefront Arts Project website, Russell will be heading up a group show of 20 Vassar College artists, whose pieces will be displayed at 396 Main Street.  A piece in the Vassar Miscellany News, which features some quotes from Russell, is here.

Filling vacant storefronts with art sounds like a good way to increase interest in a struggling downtown area.  Congratulations to Russell for his hard work on the project, and good luck to the Catskill Arts Initiative as it works to revitalize a charming area that has been hard hit by our struggling economy.

Phase One of the project, including the collective Vassar College show, will run until May 31, 2011.

Venice Underwater

Venice is sinking and the surrounding sea level is rising.  In the last 100 years, Venice has sunk 11 inches.  It doesn’t sound like much, but 11 inches is a lot when every building and square is bordered by canals or open water.  If you visit Venice, you quickly realize that water is everywhere.  You cannot escape the sound of water lapping against a bulkhead, the smell of water in the canals, or the sight of water as you walk across one of the countless bridges spanning the canals.

The situation has become intolerable.  Venice now experiences 100 floods a year.  The Venetians and the Italian government have finally taken action.  Their plan involves construction of massive inflatable gates that will lie flat on the sea floor under normal circumstances, only to be inflated so as to block sea water from entering the lagoon when water levels rise.  The project is, as you would expect, controversial.  People have raised questions about its cost, its effectiveness and its environmental impact.  Amazingly, due to political wrangling it took four decades for construction on the project to get started — even though the situation is growing increasingly desperate.

Venice is a beautiful city, filled with fabulous architecture, art, and history.  Equally important, it is one of those cities that is a testament to the human spirit, human ingenuity, and human perseverance.  Imagine building a city on marshland and seeing that city grow and develop to the point where Venice was a major sea power and center of commerce!  Everyone should be interested in seeing Venice, in all its glory, preserved — and that means hoping that the project works.  Mankind would be poorer indeed if Venice, like fabled Atlantis, were to disappear beneath the waves.